He sees her in the turret, with her rippling, coppery hair and her satiny red lips and her blue, blue eyes, framed in black, black lashes.
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“Stop!” he tells his captain, and the cry is passed back through the masses. “I would stop here a while,” he says, and his eyes never leave the turret. “I would… stay.” And her lips curl.
In an audience with her father:
“The king asks your hand in marriage Gwyn.” Her eyes light.
“Yes, though I am sad to see you go. It is a great honour.”
“Yes milord. Great honour indeed.” Great honour.
Her girlish figure is clothed in white, and a white veil frames her face, held in place by a golden band. The one at the altar looks at her, with a sort of loving in his eyes.
“Hold out your hand, milady.”
“Why?” through soft, black lashes
“I shall give you something.”
“Your love, my king?”
“Yours, by right and law. I would have you give me love in return.”
She surveys, not entirely displeased, the love in her delicate hand. Her fingers close around it.
“Give you what, my king?”
That night, he looks into her eyes for love. She looks away, and removes the golden band from her head, throwing it to the ground.
“It is only brass,” she says carelessly. But it had the ring of gold.
Nights after, he looks for love, but does not find it, and so contents himself with what he has: body, but not soul. And then, another comes.
Comely, he is. Tall, slim, but well muscled, and agile, with brown hair, grey eyes, and a weary look to his face. Many a maiden would wipe that look away, and not all are hags. But she looks at him (and them) with narrowed eyes. They retreat. He comes.
“Put out your hand, Gwyn.”
“Put out your hand. I would give you something you desire.”
“Your heart, my champion?”
“Is yours, by virtue of your gentle nature and sweet heart.” And her little, white fingers curve around the passion in her palm.
“Lady?” He speaks softly, earnestly. “Lady, I would have your heart in return.”
Though her country sees her through a worship-haze, two Women see clearly (they follow the Old Ways of Crystal and Mist): Something Must be Done.
“My King,” purrs Fey Morgana, opening her green eyes wide, and twisting black hair round slender finger, “I seek shelter in your castle for a night.”
“With pleasure,” he says, and a restlessness is in his eyes. By the morning, destruction festers in the lady’s womb. And as she leaves, she thinks: I would give him what he longs for, though we are close related. Her heart aches.
Young, with almost-white hair is the other, the one they call Elaine the White; translucent skin, a dancing grace in her step and a slow smile, something like the queen’s. She looks at the queen’s champion through her lashes, and falls. He catches her. Some months later they leave the castle, she with a ring on her finger and a child in the womb, and he beside her casting looks of yearning over his shoulder at the one he leaves behind. The one whose lips now curl.
A letter. The queen’s champion returns to the side of the woman who carelessly holds his love. They stand together on a tower, and watch a boat come floating down the river, shining through the city muck. In it lies a young girl with an old face. Her almost-white hair fans out around her, and her translucent skin is cold to the touch. No slow smile now, nor dancing grace. She sleeps.
Tears are in his eyes. For all that his passion was for another, his young wife had his compassion. He saw how it hurt that he could not give her love. But then the one beside him touches his cheek lightly and he turns to her, buries his face in her shoulder.
She is found out. Caught, in the arms of one not her husband; and,
“Treason!” they cry.
Now her husband, her king must burn her. For a moment, fear is in her eyes. But then,
After the trial, the king orchestrates her rescue. By her paramour. He comes on a white steed, and his grey eyes blaze: a knight in shining armour, amour. The hem of her robe is not even singed, nor her copper coloured hair, and her lips still curl.
‘Must’, ‘must’. Moral imperatives are dangled ubiquitously for men to grasp. Where is their saviour now? Who will save them now? Of the two who tried, one is dead, and one heartsore at the fickleness of a country that turns against those who would save it. And now it is king against champion. Father against son. Queen against… whom?
Notwithstanding, the queen watches the battle, and the light flashes in her eyes. Men who take their eyes from battle see her sometimes, momentarily wreathed in flame, before they are cut down. It is only the dying who see her as she is.
Her lips curl.