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Once and Future

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Sometimes, when she was young, Jen would dream of a castle. It wasn’t a Disney castle, though. It was a real one from the Dark Ages, where people in strange rough garb spoke Latin or other long-dead languages - Gaelic or maybe some ancestor of it - languages the child Jen could not have known ever existed.

Fear permeated that castle. Jen would wake up terrified for reasons she could not explain. Her parents would frown and promise her that it was just a nightmare. But how could a five-year-old have nightmares about historical facts she hadn’t yet learned? Jen never could shake the feeling that there was something impossible, almost eerie, about those dreams. The more she read as she got older and the more advanced history classes she took, the weirder it all seemed.

She’d told Arthur, of course. Arthur, who had been the boy next door her whole life. It was just as well. He was the one person she could really confide in about her dreams, in part because she had started confiding in him when they were so young that the world still seemed full of terror and magic and monsters. Besides, he couldn’t exactly accuse her of being on drugs when they were both eight.

“Do you still have those dreams?” he asks sometimes, when they’re sitting in the park or in one of their back yards after class. “I’m not making fun. I’d believe you, you know, if something was bothering you -”

She knows he means it. Arthur has always been sincere and kind. Jen was only eleven when her half-brother crashed his car, but she doesn’t think she could have survived that time if not for Arthur. Their families always said they should date. Maybe they would someday; stranger things had happened in the world. Half the time Arthur acted like they were already dating, and was jealous enough to match. But everybody had their flaws, right?

“It’s fine,” Jen says now.

* * *

Gwenhyvar grew up with the fear. You could feel it in the halls of the caer, like a draught. It was the most natural thing in the world.  Gwenhyvar ‘s own brother had been killed in the wars, years before, in a skirmish with the Saxons at the start of King Uther’s reign, and even in times of peace the old fears lingered. Children grew up fast in the peasant houses that were the first to burn in bad times and in the fortresses that sheltered the country people alike.

Gwenhyvar was a grave young woman, and no mere child, when she rode out to tell her neighbour Lord Ectorius’s sons the news of King Uther’s passing.