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Side With Both Your Ghosts

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Ygraine looks like she’s swallowed the sun. Her belly is round, the rest of her almost comically unchanged with her pregnancy (Alice assures them it is often so with first pregnancies, that Ygraine’s slenderness is not a sign of illness), and Nimueh can feel her magic crawling under Ygraine’s skin, making a life that is waiting to get out. It’s a little horrifying and a little fascinating, knowing that her magic and Uther’s seed did this. More horrifying than fascinating, with the exchange of lives almost upon them.

Tonight, Ygraine reclines on the pillows like the queen she is while the King of Camelot kisses his way across her belly, and Nimueh finds them so as she slips into their chambers. Uther does not look up, but Ygraine reaches out. “We expected you long ago.”

Nimueh goes to them. She curves her hand around the back of Uther’s skull in an easy motion on her way to Ygraine’s side, leaning in to kiss her and then him when he deigns to look up. “And when the Queen and King of Camelot are sequestered in their chambers, who do the people go to with their problems?”

“Poor love.” Ygraine pulls at her arm until she climbs into the bed, shedding her gown as she goes with a spell, frivolous as the use of magic is. “Gaius left a few minutes before you came.”

Nimueh looks up sharply, first at her and then at Uther. “And?”

“If not tomorrow, then the next day.” Ygraine’s face is shining, and Nimueh has never hated herself like this, has never questioned her own judgment so. Ygraine is a soft heart, and would not be able to stand the thought of someone dying that her heir might live, but should they have told her anyway? What will she do if it is one of them who falls dead when her child draws breath? What price do the gods consider worthy of an heir?

(In her worst, most terrible nightmares, they lose Ygraine, but the gods cannot be that cruel. She’s the center—of their bed, of Camelot. What would Nimueh and Uther do without her?)

“And we will have a child to raise.” She kisses Ygraine again, and then draws Uther up the bed to kiss him as well. He nips at her lip, and she bites back, a little harder. This risk was his idea. Nimueh offered to bear him a child in Ygraine’s name, but she was intoxicated by the idea of a child that will be truly all three of theirs.

“A crown prince for Camelot,” says Uther, all male triumph and dynasty.

“A princess to learn the Old Religion,” Nimueh counters.

Ygraine laughs. “The two of you. Come, do we wish to spend our last night without an infant to care for squabbling? Kiss and make peace.”

Nimueh knows what she means by that. It’s something she’s asked for more, as the pregnancy makes her exhausted and too round to move comfortably. She wants to watch them. By now, it’s easy to exchange looks with Uther to see where they ought to move, and how. They may not always like each other, she and Uther, but they understand one another, and there is no denying they want each other.

Tonight, Nimueh rolls the great warrior to his back so he can keep a hand on his queen’s stomach, feel the kick of life there. He’s all scar and callus, hard as any man who takes a kingdom by force must be. He is a conqueror by nature, her king, but sometimes he allows himself to be conquered.

Uther takes her by the hips, and Nimueh sinks down on his cock, falling easily into the well-known rhythm. They are both gentle with Ygraine, unless she fights them into roughness, but they are never easy on each other. The sex is a battle, and Nimueh doesn’t care which of them wins, because tonight especially it’s for Ygraine’s pleasure. Her eyes are heavy on them.

Nimueh rides Uther and gives him neither quarter nor mercy, not that he would ask for it. Ygraine breathes heavily next to them, biting her lips until they’re red, and they give her what she wants. They’ll always give her what she wants, even a child, even the life that child will take.

I hope it’s yours, she thinks, meeting Uther’s eyes, and comes knowing Uther is thinking the same.

Beside her, she feels the magic spark to life.