Chapter 1: one: he covers the world with the color of rust
Did the king not love the queen?
They keep her guarded on the highest tower.
Igraine turns her eyes to the land and speaks to no one but the magician, the golden thread of her life shortening with each passing day.
Her belly grows to a fullness rivaled only by the moon's, and the magician is overjoyed. But it is so heavy now, and the child so strong, and he's so restless, turning and stretching and wandering in ways so different to what Morgan made her go through before she spends countless hours just sitting and resting and listening to him, hands flat over her body, tracing his movement in silence.
( For Morgan she used to sing non-stop, laughing and talking and humming through the many hours of a day with the easy tenderness of mothers, but now... )
Sometimes the king comes to her, and then they sit together, and she will not dare to look at him; for Uther's time is ending, his power fading with the fall and rise of each new sun and moon, and by now he's more beast than king, reeking of blood and iron, of sweat and smoke, and the thread of his life is so frayed and ready to snap it terrifies her to even whisper his name.
( But still, he comes. Bleeding and broken and beyond repair, but still he comes back to her. Why is that? )
So they sit and they look outside, from high above to all the burning fields and all the soldiers mapping the streets below, fighting and screaming and mangling their bodies, spraying the blackened remains of the walls with blood and guts. For there is no sight of Vortigern yet, and so the inner circle of the city holds on still, but Merlin whispers his visions against the soft shell of her ear, filling the silence of the king with the realities her heart must brace itself for.
She's so close now she can taste her own blood, at times, ready to burst and spill, all her bones and all the empty places left inside her rattling and howling and screaming, and she knows he speaks the truth, always.
( But the king, he says forgive me and never touches her, won't even look at her, and when his bones are crushed and his life spent, his body mangled beyond recognition and the golden crown melted by dragon-fire she is so relieved by the knowledge that this child won't have to carry with him the burden of the shadows they became by the end she can't even bring herself to cry or mourn or scream, she's— )
The king is gone, the knights are gone, and soon the city will follow its people, and she's homesick and abandoned, hurting in ways she never knew existed.
And so the thread snaps.
She dreamt they were whole again. Once, she dreamt that her bed was not empty and that the city was not broken and in the dream the harvest was plentiful and the stallions ran free through the country with the mares so fat and heavy with child it felt as if the world could know only of summer.
There is no one to hold her hand. Vaguely, through the tears and the blood and the smoke rising and creeping inside the room, her daughter's face comes to mind; if she were here—if her child were here by her side as she ought to have been— then she would not care about hurting. She would have been brave instead, and she would've hold her, and together they would've seen this task to the end. If Morgan were here with her, then the mother inside her heart would know how to knit a new thread.
But her child is gone, hidden and safe and guarded.
Her child is gone and so she is dying, kept alive only through the magician's power as he cuts her open to reach inside, hands and arms and robes soaking with blood and guts and ashes, and she's so relieved by the sight of it all, so infinitely grateful to know that it is ending at last.
Her labors, her choices, their ugly little gamble.
She closes her eyes, too unwilling to face the reason behind the magician's sudden delight, and prays for it to be over.
( For what kind of monsters are they, truly, to place such a bitter cup in front of an innocent? This is no dragon, this is no king, this is a child, a human child, a tender child, small and soft and defenseless and alone in the world, how could she do such a thing, how could she ever agree to it, how could they ever allow it? Uther, Uther, please, the child, it's only a child— )
"She has your eyes, my lady".
And so Igraine regrets, and cries, and dies.
But his thoughts, they are not set on the battlefield lost nor on the kingdom abandoned.
King Uther dies and he casts aside the weight of prophecy, forgets for once to care and hate himself for all the tears he never knew how to shed and all the blood that now paints the earth beneath the ruin left of the armor and his body, and what he mouths with his last pitiful breath is a name that no one hears, and what he sees with milky, bloodied eyes is the profile of a too-young girl never meant for the likes of him.
( And he wants to call out her name and hold her hand, impossibly soft and impossibly small, and he wants and wants and wants until his heart is destroyed, until his skull is broken. )
And perhaps King Uther regrets.
But he is gone now.
I'm sure he loved her.
Chapter 2: interlude: so soon may I follow
But oh, who could inhabit this bleak world alone?
Ten little toes, ten little fingers. Chubby arms and legs, a round, shameful belly.
The wizard ties a bloodied ribbon firmly around her ankle, and laughs, so drunk and merry by the fizzle of her newness. The tower of her birth is still crumbling down behind them, still the smokes of the ruin that was the capital visible, but the weight of the child against his breast distracts him from the unspeakable feast of her mother's grief. Barely a few hours old, and already a savior. How wonderful. Isn't our king grand, Cath Palug? Ah, but the beast never answers him, because all beasts and birds upon the land know better than to pay the child of flowers any mind when he gets like that.
The wizard doesn't mind.
He travels as men do for hours, walks the earth through wild, muddy roads, his robes so heavy with morning dew that flowers blossom before he's even had the time to reach them. Through day and night, the wizard roams upon the starving land, and hums, and laughs, and tells merry tales of this one faery or that nasty one, and while she's awake the child listens to him, and observes him, the very first creature she's seen in her short little life. Arturia, he starts, isn't the ocean a most beautiful sight? Ah, you won't care much for it, but it is very beautiful, you see. I once took a lass to the beach, and she sang for me these shanties her father taught her -he was a sailor, you know? But ah! Such a bad one, he lost half his boats to gambling and the other half to the sea-, and they were silly and raunchy and a little bad, but they made me laugh and she looked so pretty like that, so full and bright, like a shiny piece of glass. You won't learn this in a long, long time, but kissing feels like everything in the world becomes clear and new all of a sudden. Even Uther kissed Igraine when they made you, and it made her feel like a girl, and she was so happy!
And this is where Cath Palug, our good Cath Palug, so soft and warm and curled up against the beating heart of their dragon-child, usually kicks him in the face to make him stop, so he does that. He still gets kicked, of course, but that's just how things go between them, the stoutest, most trustworthy of friends! And besides, it makes the babe laugh, and as the wizard -to his perpetual amazement-soon discovers, there are very few things that manage that, and fewer ones still that he wouldn't try to make it happen again, and again, and again. You're a fool, Cath Palug tells him, for a thousand different reasons than those his devious mind can come up with, but the wizard already knew that, so he lets it slide.
The three of them, they'll just have to make the happiest three fools you can find!
But Cath Palug sees with eyes full of the clarity of stars, and yawns, and ignores him, as he's so talented at doing. You're an idiot, he repeats, bravest and wisest and fluffiest of all, before nuzzling against the new skin of the new life they must guard, and fall asleep to the steady beat of her steady heart.
Chapter 3: and now: a message from our sponsors
Hello! I will take a moment of your time to be an actual person and not some weird animal lurking on the comments, all for the sake of thanking you for your kind words and
immensely unexpected support. While the Fate/ fandom is truly a bottomless pit of horny and despair, I was still taken by surprise by the notes, kudos and wonderful comments accumulating on these two little chapters. At the moment of writing them, I was -as we all do- mostly trying to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for content for the one tiny little window the Almighty Mushroom decided to not bother with withhold from the pleb, without really expecting anything much beyond a random kudo every now and then.
Because, while I understand that almost 400 hits may not seem much to some, it certainly means the world to me.
So thank you. If work allows it, I will manage to upload the next chapter before March ends, with a high chance of a few short Camelot unrelated working popping in before and after. I hope you'll find those little offerings to your liking as well, and I'm excited about getting any feedback and/or comments. Everything is greatly appreciated, as it also motivates me to write more and better content.
And I think I will leave it here, before getting any more corny and embarrassing.
Take care of yourselves, be kind to one another, and try to not spend that much on the gacha!