Work Header

The Life That Only He Knows

Work Text:

I wake in the body of a child with that holy, demonic, orgasmic force humming at my tiny fingers, thrumming through every cell of me, refreshing and new and old all at once. The world seemed alive with it and a lifetime of memories echoed out beyond the darkness of that cruel spiral into infancy, a lifetime of sorrow and happiness…A lifetime with Arthur, a piece of time with him. A part of me knows there is nothing in this world that I want. He isn’t here I am sure, but I let myself believe and be tricked into this world. It is my fault I know, but I am desperate for hope and a bit of light in the darkness. I am weak and human and all those things that I can’t afford to be if I am to change fate in this lifetime. I think that fate is not so cruel to torture me with no reprieve. I am wrong of course, but I always knew that this would happen. I always knew. It is cold in this life, my magic is sluggish like an icy stream: slow to move but alive nonetheless.

“Who would abandon you here you poor thing,” her name is Holly in this lifetime and the village is Moravan. Her features echo to Hunith, my mother in every way, yet I am nothing more than her beloved foundling.

“A-bah…” was the best I manage by way of greeting. She thinks I am adorable with eyes like a sage.

The man that is my adoptive father was indeed Balinor in a past life… In this life, his name is Balin. How original fate, how original. But I get the parents that I never had before, the father’s guidance and the mother’s love together and uninterrupted. I hide myself and this force within me. So I live, and I continue living… I grow up, face puberty and my awkwardly spaced growth spurts again. And now they send me off to make my fortune in the city. There is no talk about magic in this one except for the witch hunts and the burning down of pagan shrines…The seats of the old power that still roar with life even after the trapping of temples are burned and its followers as well. There is nothing but the thrumming of the earth that feels as if magic is in the land still. It seems that even in our struggle, the pax of magic did not last longer that Guinevere’s reign as queen. And in this life, Uther is still as resentful, yet not for the same reasons…

He denounced his faith sometime before the time I was thrust back into infancy and joined the Christian religion believing in a life eternal with his wife after this one. Somehow, this knowledge does not phase me, nor the sight of Arthur again… As he is not the Arthur I knew, but some tainted version of him. All of that seems so unimportant now that I know that fate is a lie. There was no great Albion, no great Age beyond those shining moments beyond Guinevere, childless, ruled over Camelot...nor brightness beyond the dark flames of Cenred and the Saxons that tore that world apart. Nothing beyond my helplessness in the entire affair.

I can not sense him. I can not sense him in this life as I know I should, but I think maybe he hasn’t awakened yet… I felt Arthur and the disease growing through him immediately… and Gwen and all the others, but not him. And when I reach Camelot, what is now being called Britain, I am forced to know that it is because he isn’t here in this lifetime. He isn’t here at all… Fate had cut him out completely like an unnecessary ingredient, a side story, a distraction, or worse a tumor festering and breeding on what little joy I could have had in this long life without sun, without hope, without end.

To be honest, I do not know why I try to go on… I spend many nights drifting out into the sea to seek something beyond this world, the misty isle of the blessed where I may sleep for the rest of eternity, not dead, but not alive either.  Everything in me knows that this lifetime is not like the one before, there is no salvation, no hope… The world is bloodied with Uther’s slaughter and the fall of Camelot. I hear the screaming of former knights as I walk the blood-stained earth. I try knowing that I had faced much worse before and without Gwaine in my past life… I knew that and so I tried… to fulfill my destiny as Arthur’s loyal servant and protector. But it seemed that the great balance of the world is offset because of me…. Because I am off set without him. It happens on a simple hunting trip as Arthur loves to do… we are not friends, we are not anything really but a master and his servant under a tyrant’s reign… It has been a year with no progress. This Arthur was different, much different. Any glimpse of that innate goodness that had been in the last life is… gone or hidden away somewhere. From what I understand of this life, this Arthur is a purely Christian man, a purely anti-pagan man. Of course, the amount of magic in this lifetime is more than failing that in the last… I can hardly feel any druids left or anything that I knew of… I find Kilgarrah and Aithusa easily enough, but that is all, to be honest. There is nothing more. Something is wrong with the world… much more wrong than I first realize.

Arthur isn’t as cruel as his father, I don’t think he ever could be. But he does possess the innate Christian reaction to everything that he doesn’t understand: burn it…. In my case literally. It is night time when it happens, bandits had decided (as usual) that attacking the Prince’s hunting party was the way to go… But they are different bandits, they have magic or something akin to it… With enough skill to require a show of power on my part… They bow to me in recognition, cower in fear of what I will do, the know it was my destiny to protect Arthur though I have no faith in that reality in this lifetime.

I don’t know what happens next other than the darkness and the smell of blood and old water when I wake with Uther hovering over me, an anti-pagan sneer on his face, bigot black.

“You thought you could sneak into Britain and destroy this holy nation, you demon-worshipper!”

There isn’t much else, as usual, he isn’t very original in his speeches nor in his rule. The guards beat me and beat me some more for a confession of practicing magic… I had suffered worse at better hands… I feel something like a connection to him in the moment when they break my jaw.

“You punch like a girl,” I tell them and they continue to punch me until I can’t hear anything.

I wake again to the sound of their priests praying over me and another bread riot breaking out. The people are starving while the royal palace is filled with food. And Arthur, the great King Arthur is nothing more than a puppet on a string by a court sorcerer who can only cast dreaming spells and had no concept of the treachery he is doing. They drag me to the pyre the night before Arthur will die of an overdose by the sorcerer masquerading as a physician…. An overdose on what is now called Opium. He is there on the banister in his dream and drug haze watching them drag me up.

Uther decrees that I will die as to reverse the curse on his son’s body and the people in the crowd cry for justice and food. They want peace and a return to the world they knew…. And Uther wants me to burn so that Arthur can supposedly live. But Arthur is already dead… his brain fried and addled with drug and dreams that he can’t understand. Maybe I knew this when I woke on that cold, winter day in the village of Moravan. He’d been dead since the day he was born and even more so with the coming of the physician.

I’m not sure why I do it… maybe if he were there this all will not happen, maybe if he were there I will think of another way… or care for another way. But the only thing I can think of is him. That he wasn’t there to hold me. That he wasn’t there because something called fate decided he wasn’t important… that Arthur was the other half of my coin, not him. That someone decided without my permission that I should carry on with no relief… That I was cursed to live in the dark all my life with not a spot of light to comfort me. I saw Uther and Arthur, those blond strands like Igraine’s and the hatred like Uther’s. Those dreaming dead blue eyes staring down at me with no remembrance.

Was this to be my life? The life not to be remembered? Was I the only one to hold this memory? Did I not deserve the chance to die? I felt it burning in me, I don’t know how or what, but I wanted it all to lay flat and desolate… I wanted it all to die. So I roared, and the sky roared with me, the flames roared, the wind roared, the world roared with me until the castle crumbled crushing all inside, the battlements fell and everything was scorched dead. KIlgarrah and Aithusa arrived after it all was laid to waste, the few people that escaped were magical and trembling at powers they didn’t understand, but thanking the Goddess for the blessing of freedom.

Freedom, I thought was an odd turn. There was no such thing as freedom.

“Young Warlock… you have done something unspeakable--”

“I killed what was already dead… Spare me your lecture.”

He blinked and watched me walk and I could feel those golden eyes on me, glaring at me but understanding.

“This world is not the one that was supposed to be,” he said.

“I know. The King is dead but the Warlock is still alive.”

“You cannot continue this way…” Kilgarrah said. “You must not be consumed by your darkness….”

“I am the darkness KIlgarrah,” I told him. “I am that which gets neither love nor an ending, I am that which ends and begins all things. I am that which changes the course of history. I am that which can never be free because of the need for a light. I am that which gets abused for my gifts. I am that which is needed but needs no one...It’s taken me till now to know that… How much you’ve lied to me, how much fate has lied to me…”

“You need no one?” He asked. “And Arthur--”

“Is dead...No more important than he was, no longer alive. Should I just be happy to suffer Kilgarrah? Should I be happy to be alone and always alone? Always? Should I be happy--”

“It is not about your happiness but the good--”

“Who decides that?!” I screamed back at him in dragon tongue so rough and angry that I hardly recognized it as my own. “Who decided that he wasn’t important? Because he wasn’t Arthur? Who decided Arthur was important? Who decided that I had to serve him? That I had to bear the ridicule and the disgrace and the persecution. Who the fuck decided that it had to be me? Or any one? Who decided that we had to suffer?!”

Kilgarrah went quiet and we stood there for a long time glaring at one another. Him, seeing the turn of history that came with my doings, or the myriad of paths that I could take. I seeing the truth behind all of Kilgarrah's cryptic words. He was going to say something that would lead me down the path of the Once and Future Servant, I knew. I could feel Arthur still hanging on by a thread in the palace.

“Save him.”

I snorted and walked away heading toward the gathering of the druids to tell them the truth. I told them to head to the Isle of the Blessed to live and be free, to forget about fixing this world by their rules and to use their own. I told them to live. And they did.

It took only a few months to raid the other kingdoms and install the new rule. There was a new Albion by the time it began to get cold. I left the British Isles, Kilgarrah, and Aithusa behind to find somewhere that no one would find me, that no one would know, that I would never have to see anyone again. I arrived across the water near Rome and on the isle like a place to the west. I stopped at the sight of that great hall of knowledge the Library of Alexandria, where it once stood and built a new one. One larger than the first, inaccessible to men and somewhere in between the now and never.

Then I trekked into the forest past the small houses and cottages, the beginnings of what was to be the great city on water: Venice. I stopped at the smallest tree with something like fruit hanging from the boughs, an accidental transplant of the apple species to the place. The thing would die soon if the climate had its way… He loved apples… applesauce, syrup, wine, mead, and apples themselves. They were usually green and ripe in his hands, but this one was a shriveled wreck of an ugly red. I thrust my hand into the soil against the roots and closed my eyes. I felt the tears before I felt the storm brewing and the rush of magic flowing out of me into this tiny little sapling, until it morphed a grew in the rain into a more robust plant bearing no fruit but leaves and the intention of Gwaine green apples. For months, I did this. Pushing power and magic out through my hands and into the soil until one apple tree became two, and ten, and fifteen, and a hundred surrounded by blackberry patches and grapes. I cannot say how long it was before I laid there to rest forever, letting the orchard drain me of magic, but before I’d done so, I did bulk my library with magical artifacts I confiscated from kings and other people that would use them to do wrong. I even switched out the crown jewels for petty gems of no magical relevance. No one seems to notice the difference. The Isle of the Blessed faded into the mists with the people who lived there in something like everlasting peace for them… As for the rest of he world, well… that was none of my business anymore. There was nothing there for me any longer. And so, I slept in something like death: the Vampire Lestat way.