"My King, the Saxons make advances to our borders,"
"King Arthur, how do you plan to defeat the Saxons?"
"What will you do, Arthur?"
"Arthur, we need answers,"
"When shall this farce cease, King Arthur?"
Arturia kneaded her forehead to help ease her headache, and she leaned back in her chair, heaving a deep breath.
"Silence. My head is ringing from your endless questions that I have yet to answer."
Arturia crossed her legs underneath the roundtable and rolled her head in a circle to loosen her neck muscles.
The quietness was like a melody, a tune that played and danced in the field, a song that caressed the long grass and echoed with the wind that flowed through her hair and brushed her skin with the lightest breeze.
Then the wonderful quietude was shattered, shredded, and replaced by the sound of a deep, thick, yet a firm and Celtic voice that belonged to one of her senior knights, “If I may rise,"
Arturia glanced at the only knight that stood. Sir Agravain; tall, with wrinkles betraying his service and his cold, dark eyes that hid a lifetime of secrets before his allegiance to her.
“Do as you may, Agravain." Arturia nodded, letting him continue.
"Thank you, Arthur," Agravain lowered his head in courtesy.
She noticed his black stubble, screening his cheeks with short, stiff facial hair that grew as a result of the long nights of planning, scouting, and tracking the movement of their enemy who robbed them of their sleep, their welfare, and their peace.
"We are aware that the Anglo-Saxons have been taking more territory after the fall of Vortigern–"
"Tell us something we don't know," A voice muttered, too indistinct to hear.
Arturia, despite the low barrier, heard it, however, she let it pass.
"–And we know their numbers have been increasing over these past few days,"
"Get to the point, Sir Agravain," Arturia pressed him.
Agravain’s eye twitched, in a form of irritation, then cleared his throat, "If this keeps up, we will lose the western sea, and you know our own troops cannot hold a candle to the Saxons. It's only a matter of time until they take the piers. Rather than idling around like trapped mice, we must call out to our allied kingdoms and recruit more soldiers as soon as possible,"
“Absolutely not,” She immediately objected.
“And why is that, King Arthur?” Agravain’s hands which were neatly folded and remained at the table clenched almost imperceptibly.
"You daresay that I, King Arthur, seek another country for help against a battle that is my own?"
"You are being unreasonable, Arthur," Another rose from his seat as well, this time, it was Sir Lancelot, "We need to think of our kingdom,"
"I am thinking of our kingdom," Arturia insisted, shooting daggers at the accusing men, "But I will not show the Saxons that we are so desperate that we are ready to beg for help. We will look like fools."
"Never mind our image, this is rubbish, you believe that you can keep back their forces on your own?" Agravain demanded, his eyes bore into her, a provocation clear in his gaze as if he was prepared to take her throne then and there.
"I believe we can," Arturia admitted, meeting him with one of her own glares.
Agravain hit the table with his palm and looked around at his fellow knights, "This is nonsense, and plain suicide, are you all going to concur with this drivel?!"
Then, another knight nearby Arturia stood, aqua blue eyes blazing, young and driven with loyalty, "Still your tongue, Sir Agravain, those are the King's words that you dare to mock."
She raised her hand before an argument could break out between the brothers, smoothening her expression once more. A kingly facade and an emotionless cover masked her true self, "Sit down, Sir Gawain, this is not a place to quarrel."
Gawain obeyed her without objection and dropped his head as he took his seat.
Agravain gripped the table and dug his nails into the wood, "Then, let me ask you this, King Arthur, what will you do once those scoundrels infiltrate our harbors?"
Arturia's palms were clammy, and she rubbed them against her dress to wipe them.
"As of now, I have my men standing guard to defend those ports. We will not have to worry about being invaded from the sea, for now."
Before Agravain could think of a quick response, a loud explosion drowned his words and the knights stood from their chairs in alarm. Only Arturia remained in her seat.
"That came from Merlin's study," Gawain announced with worry.
Arturia mentally sighed. That damn magus and his idiotic experiments.
"Ignore him," Arturia advised. The knights looked conflicted. "Knowing Merlin, he's probably meddling with something he has no knowledge of. We don't have the leisure to clean his messes."
The knights stood for a brief moment before they sat in their chairs slowly.
Arturia, with much reluctance, listened to where Agravian left off in their symposium that really seemed to be pointless.
The conflict with the Saxons had always existed, but it was always pushed in the back, like an unwanted book in a shelf.
The limelight of their own prosperity had drawn the eyes of those filled with greed, so with meticulous preparation, the Saxons increased their numbers under the British noses, like rats swarming under the sewers, and they multiplied and multiplied until they had an army enough to equal thus a nation.
Arturia mused, she found it strangely and ridiculously humorous that in return for fucking Hengist's daughter, King Vortigern offered the Saxons the Kingdom of the Kentish. They used this as a foundation to expand their being there in Southern England and even when Vortigern perished under the hands of her uncle, Aurelius Ambrosius, the Saxons continued to glutton after their land, leading to a war which now was in her hands.
Really, she cursed the bane befallen to her kin. Her grandfather, for an example, was stabbed by a Pict, and one of her uncles, Constans, who was betrayed by his advisor and murdered, including Aurelius, who had not the chance to lead Britain before he was poisoned by an assassin, and lastly, her own father, King Uther, who had met the same fate as his brother when drinking from the tainted spring of which he drank from both palms.
She thought about how'd she meet her own end, whether through natural causes or foul play, but the scourge of her kindred had not echoed far, it haunted her, plaguing her with nightmares, illusions of what almost seemed to be what was waiting for her.
She was used to being awake during lonely nights, where she lay alone in bed, covered in false pretenses of fur covers which she tried to make into something which she could find solace in, but they were just empty voids of something that didn't belong.
Guinevere used to sleep with her, and Arturia missed that. She missed the warm arms that held her during those lonesome nights, she missed Guinevere's scent of pine, flowers, and the nature that had shared her time in the forest. She missed Guinevere's comforting words, like a mother to a child.
Arturia had pushed her away, the person who knew her more than anyone.
She didn't know how to compensate Guinevere for all those times she spent by her side, for all her kind, gentle words, for her presence, and even her faded redolence that sometimes Arturia could smell in her covers.
Guinevere and she were just poor souls. Damned and condemned to a fate where they’re only imitations of the hymns that seek mercy, forgiveness, and kindness from God. The church bells of nigh which seemed to grow farther and farther as she drifted away from her Lord.
She had prayed for absolution by her bed every night, sometimes all night, but the absence of answers, when no matter how much she prayed, pleaded, asked, when every time she woke with the same realization that nothing was going to change, had thus pushed her away from the light of God and from the gates of heaven, and into the bristles and thorns of a hellfire.
In some way, she understood Guinevere.
Then, interrupting her thoughts, and Agravain's lecture, the wooden doors opened with the clang of the metal handles and groaning at the hinges, as one of her young knights, Gareth, shot in with a breathless, "King Arthur!"
He panted, an obvious implication from running, and she waited wordlessly for an explanation. Counting millions of possibilities.
An official declaration of war with the Saxons? Had the harbors been overrun? Was the kingdom being invaded? How much time did they have?
"Spit it out, Gareth," Agravain ordered in place of Arturia who didn't realize she had been holding her breath.
Gareth swallowed, and pushed down his evident panic, "There is someone on your throne, King Arthur, I was not able to identify him, but he demanded that I bring you to him."
Arturia's blood ran cold, a blatant affront?
She wasted no time in gathering her knights when she hurried into the throne room where she found a man clad in golden armor sitting leisurely on her throne.
Arturia scanned her surroundings, he seemed to be the only one present, other than her knights and herself. But she couldn't afford to lower her guard, there could be others hiding, waiting for a proper moment to launch an assault.
His arms were spread across the armrests as he crossed his legs in a sluggish manner. He was pale, like a newborn babe, and his blond hair was fashioned upward, and smoothed over. His eyes were crimson, like the color of blood and he looked like he stepped out of a painting, another dimension, another realm.
He wasn't human, she deduced, but something make-believe.
“Well, now, who is responsible for calling me to this dreary place?"