Guinevere decided to quit her job as a queen.
Well, she couldn't actually do that, but she hasn't slept in forever and it was driving her insane.
"This will be it for today." Agravain placed a wall of papers on the desk. "Do you need anything, my Queen?"
I need you to die... she wanted to say.
It felt as if he was mocking her, handing her an impossible amount of tasks.
She shouldn't be complaining.
Artoria never complained.
But if someone finds Agravain's body at the lake, she could not be blamed.
"No. Thank you." He nodded and walked away. She leaned back into her seat, and sighed. Her whole body was sore, she had no idea how Artoria could endure this.
On top of that, Artoria did her job for her as well.
She missed her.
There were no news about her condition other than the fact that her wounds have completely healed.
There was still no sign of waking up.
"Your majesty?" Someone knocked on her door.
Gareth nervously poked her head out of the door, before walking in.
"Do you need anything, Gareth?"
"No, I thought I would check on you, see if you needed anything."
"Oh." She was always the sweetest person around with the toughest exterior. Despite Artoria's conflict with her sister, her nephews were still her pride and joy. "I'm okay, thank you."
Gareth nodded, but didn't leave. She pouted for a moment, and Guinevere would have asked what's wrong if not for how amusing her behavior was.
"My queen, pardon my intrusions, but you look a little stiff. Would you like a quick massage for your shoulder?"
"Yes." Was the immediate answer.
She needed relief so badly, one more hour and her joints might rust.
Gareth chuckled softly.
She placed her hands on the queen's shoulders and started working on the knots. Guinevere instantly felt some relief.
"Wow Gareth, you're so good at this!" Guinevere sighed with a smile. "I should have asked you to do this sooner "
Gareth perked up. "Thank you! Lyonesse taught me! She would always help me whenever I was tired from training."
"Oh? You two are very good friends, aren't you." Guinevere smirked, she could feel the knight pause for a second, perhaps blushing.
"Y-Yes! We are!"
"Gareth, could it be that you fancy her?"
"Don't worry about it! All of this work made me nostalgic for some gossip. Think of me as some village girl listening to your love problems."
"I-I can't do that!"
The knight hid her blush and continued her work.
"Are there... are there any news on our king...?" The shyness left Gareth's voice, replaced by concern.
Guinevere closed her eyes.
"Rest assured, Arthur will wake up soon. He just needs some more sleep." She forced a smile. "I think he deserves a small break, we just have to take care of Camelot until he wakes up." She turned to Gareth, who smiled back.
"Hearing your belief in him puts me at ease." The knight chuckled and then whispered. "You must really love him."
"W-what?" Guinevere's once steady expression now turned to a mess of deep red and panic. She tried and failed to regain her composure. "O-of course I do, he is my husband!"
No way. Loving Artoria? That is insane.
"Woah! I never thought I would see our queen so bashful!"
"What about you and Lyonesse? Shouldn't you make a move?" Guinevere fought back, and gained some satisfaction from hearing the knight yelp.
"W-we are just good friends!" Gareth retorted. "ANYWAY I wanted to ask for the longest time... how did you and the king meet? It was at your father's castle but how exactly?"
Gareth leaned in excitement, her eyes full of anticipation, her hands clasped together, awaiting a powerful tale of love.
"I broke Arthur's ribs." Guinevere shrugged, and the colors drained from Gareth.
"I fell on him from a tree and broke several of his ribs. He was fine."
"I've done worse to him."
"Like... like what?"
"Some things are better left unsaid but just know that it always happens by accident."
"You scare me."
"But you know... when I first met Arthur, I thought... What a pretty boy." Guinevere let out a soft laugh, unaware of the pink brushing against her ears. "I made his stay horrible, and we kept getting into trouble, but he was always kind and polite, and never once said anything to hurt me." She leaned against her desk, and rested her face on her palm, staring at a decade old memory.
"You really love the king, do you?"
"Of course I- G... Gareth!" Guinevere glared while Gareth laughed and skipped to the door.
"The queen is too shy to say it!" She sang and left the room.
And so, the queen was alone again.
She shook her head with a smile, grateful for the knight’s distraction. All she could do these days was work, and when she wasn’t working, she was thinking.
She was one of the reasons Camelot’s downfall happened, so she had to take responsibility.
She did wish to escape it sometimes, to start a new life, she sometimes thought about running away, convincing Lancelot.
But… she could not leave Artoria.
Despite all the grief that Artoria has caused her, she could not leave her.
Artoria was larger than life, but it was because she was larger than life that Guinevere could not reach her anymore.
There used to be a time when she could, a time when Artoria would smile and laugh.
She felt nostalgic, for their first meeting, for their wedding, for the first few years where Artoria was her friend.
Time rots everything though, doesn’t it?
-Back to zero-
The past month has been a slow one, and yet it felt like too much was happening.
Lancelot watched as fear and worry grew in everyone, from the knights, to the people, and yet not Guinevere.
She did not show any hint of emotion since the king’s return. It was as if the queen was wearing a mask the entire time.
He knew that the king and queen’s relationship was complicated, that the king was a woman. Guinevere confessed everything, wishing to be free of the secret.
And he, like a fool, fell in love with her.
No… his feelings were not pure, he knew. He has always been infatuated with his queen, from the first time he saw her, he was only looking for an excuse to pursue her.
Now that the king was on her deathbed, he felt disgusted by his actions.
However… he was only human, and he could not help but yearn more, he could not help but see this as an opportunity for him to take the queen away.
He made a mistake allowing himself to be selfish once, because now it’s all he could ever do, betraying everyone’s trust just for his own desires.
And so, when he started seeing the queen spending time with sir Mordred, he felt uneasy.
“Sir Mordred, what brings you to the castle? Do you not have duties elsewhere?” Lancelot asked when he saw the knight roaming around, as if anxious.
The knight remained quiet.
“Sir Mordred.” Lancelot tried again.
“I was worried about the king.”
“I’m in charge of personally protecting our king and queen, I will not let any harm come to them.” He insisted. He was the strongest knight of the roundtable, so naturally, Arthur gave him the role of being the queen’s personal guard.
“The king has many enemies, what if…” Mordred started, then changed the subject. “The queen asked me to meet her, I will take my leave.”
He did not question the knight, and instead asked Guinevere.
"My queen, is there a reason you're taking interest in sir Mordred?" Lancelot asked, and she pressed her lips in a thin line.
"Sir Mordred simply chose to support me, that's all there is to it." She turned to him, and watched the doubt and concern on his face. "Do you not trust him?"
"I am not sure... We have never seen his face, and he keeps to himself."
"But he serves loyally."
"That is true, but I remain concerned."
The two walked in silence. Gone was the comfortable atmosphere that used to surround them, and instead appeared the guilt and shame.
There was a time where they found comfort in each other, but right now, the game they used to play was threatening the peace of their country.
Only Guinevere knew.
"Sir Lancelot." She stopped, once she made sure there was no one around to see them. "We should stop seeing each other."
She couldn't turn to face him.
"Guinevere... did I offend you somehow?" He asked, concerned and hurt.
"No. Our relationship was wrong from the beginning. I have to focus on my duty as a queen." She braced herself for his reaction. The truth was, she was scared. She was terrified of his rage, the same rage he killed Gareth and Gaheris with in another world.
"What about your happiness?" But the rage never came, instead there was a desperate attempt at reconciliation. Lancelot took her hand. "You do not need to force yourself anymore, I can take you away-"
"I can't afford to be selfish!" She pulled her hand away, and faced him. She wished she could stop shaking, but whenever she was reminded of the possible future, terror took over her body. "Camelot needs me! My husband needs me!"
"Guinevere you have been neglected-"
"Stop making it about me!" She sighed. "Please respect my decision. I am sorry."
Lancelot looked at her, saddened.
She gave him a grateful smile, and walked away. He extended his hand towards her, but then stopped and took a step back.
He would not force his affection on her.
And so the queen walked alone, once again.
It was the right choice, and yet she wished to cry, she wished to curl up and drown in misery, she was truly alone.
The only thing to look forward to right now was… Mordred.
It was dangerous to get attached to a child that wasn’t hers. It was even more dangerous when the child was a weapon created by Morgan.
That woman was a mystery to her. She started out as a kind and helpful woman who would even act as Artoria’s advisor in times of need, but as time went by, she turned into a cruel witch, one who would not stop until she sees her sister dead.
However, Mordred was innocent, he had so much admiration for his father.
She smiled when the boy came into view, always hidden behind his armor.
"Mordred." Guinevere smiled, but the boy seemed hesitant. "You can take off the helmet."
"No... I'd rather stay like this."
"Is something wrong?" Guinevere sat beside him.
"Sir Lancelot is suspecting me. I don't want to cause trouble." He muttered.
"You aren't causing any trouble."
"I'm your son's bastard child." Mordred clenched his fist, his hand starting to shake from anger. "Everyone already distrusts me! If they found out... Why are you so okay with your husband cheating on you? Shouldn't you hate me?"
It wasn't the case.
Artoria was never at fault.
But Mordred already hated the circumstances of his birth, would he handle the truth well?
"I don't care. I have no reason to hate you. Didn't you already ask me this?"
"Arthur did not betray me, to me he is not at fault, and neither are you."
Mordred’s shoulders slowly moved downwards, and he removed his helmet. The boy blushed and scratched his cheek.
“You are too nice, I can see why father loves you.”
Guinevere coughed awkwardly.
“Mordred, have you tried approaching your siblings yet?” She changed the subject, and he immediately rolled his eyes.
“Mother told me to never talk to them.”
“Your mother also constantly asks you to kill your father.”
“...Okay you’ve got a point.”
“I think it’s important to build a relationship with them. They too have been hurt by Morgan’s actions, but they learned to not let their mother define them.” Guinevere smiled, and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Just say the word, and I will introduce you to them properly.”
“But… father didn’t wake up.”
“I think it would be easier for your father to not explain everything to the knights. He… really loved his sister, and wished to be family, but she kept stabbing him in the back, so much that he prefers not to speak of her.” She sighed. Mordred’s creation was truly the last straw.
"Did she hurt him knowing he loved her?"
"I don't think she ever understood his love." Guinevere answered bitterly, remembering how crushed Artoria was the day Morgan was exiled, how she laid on her lap that day for comfort, and asked why did Morgan hate her so much.
"I don't want to kill more of my family." Artoria whispered that day, pleading even.
The more she would think of the past, the easier it was to see how Artoria was slowly falling apart, and the more she cared, the more it burned her.
How cruel is it, for someone to love and be punished for it?
“I will think about it… meeting my brothers I mean.” Mordred rubbed his nose nervously. “If one of them speaks up against me I am ready to answer with my fists! I am still a worthy knight of the roundtable!”
Guinevere laughed nervously.
Mordred and Artoria were not the same after all.
“Please do not punch your siblings.”
-Back to zero-
Between the two of them, Guinevere has always been the one to dream, while Artoria saw nightmares on the rare occasions her mind would drift away.
And yet that night, Camelot was on fire, and Guinevere was on her knees, watching as Gareth’s body dropped to the ground, and Gaheris ran towards Lancelot, blinded by madness, only for Lancelot to cut his head off.
Guinevere could not look away, nor could she stop shaking. She looked at Lancelot’s darkened eyes, and could not struggle as he took her by the hand and led her outside.
She wanted to scream.
It was a nightmare, she knew it was a nightmare, but her mind would still process Merlin’s words about the events that were supposed to happen.
“Stop… let me go, Lancelot!” She yelled, but he continued to lead her. He was far too strong for her to escape.
When he opened the gates leading to the outside fire, she closed her eyes, not wishing to see it, but as a result, she ended up tripping and falling right into it.
But instead of falling right into the flames, a pair of arms caught her, and Lancelot was gone. Guinevere opened her eyes, as the person embraced her.
Only one person called her by that name.
“Artoria!” Guinevere sobbed, and hugged her tighter. Artoria ran a hand through her hair, calming her down.
It all felt too real.
“You’re safe, it’s just a nightmare.” Artoria pulled away, and that was when the scenery changed. Guinevere looked around, and was hit with nostalgia for her old home. “It’s been a long time since you’ve visited, hasn’t it?” She let go, and turned towards the river, surrounded by the greenest of trees.
“Why are we here?” Guinevere asked, taking Artoria’s hand into her own, fearing that if she didn't, then she would disappear.
“This is your dream, the river must hold an important place in your heart.”
“The river…” She muttered to herself, trying to remember why she would be pulled back to safety and to this place specifically. She then blushed at the realisation. “Wait, this is where-”
“Oh, this is where you kissed me.” Artoria casually stated, and Guinevere punched her in the arm. “Hey!”
“Don’t say it so casually! I-I didn’t know you were a girl”
“Eh? Why are you upset? It's been over a decade now.”
“Give me back my first kiss!”
“I can’t do that! I’m a made up version of Artoria in your dreams!”
“I don’t care!”
Artoria chuckled, and Guinevere was cruelly reminded how none of this was real, how it has been so long since she heard that sound.
How she missed her dearly.
Guinevere did not want to wake up.
If this dream would let her keep Artoria by her side, then-
"Guinevere. You are brave and strong, and you are the only queen I would ever choose." Artoria took both of her hands in hers. "You must not give up."
"I am not strong. I am not as strong as you. I am nothing but an ordinary woman." Gwen shook her head, and stared at her with pleading eyes.
Artoria smiled, and rested her forehead against hers.
"That is why you are beautiful. It is because you are ordinary, that you can keep a monster like me grounded."
Guinevere woke up.
She was in her bed, and it was still night. The fire illuminating the room was starting to go dull.
She turned to her side, and stared at the comatose Artoria.
Not once did something change, not a move of a finger, not a change in expression.
She almost looked peaceful, if it were not for the daily question of whether she would wake up… or die.
Guinevere moved closer, and took her hand in her own, and placed her head against her shoulder.
She needed this.
She needed to feel Artoria's warmth, to know she was still breathing.
"Artoria..." She started, using her free hand to loosely wrap it around Artoria's arm. "Merlin said you might be able to hear me."
She remembered her smile from the dream, and fought back a sob.
"Please... Please come back to me."
Guinevere drifted back to sleep, and continued to plead in her sleep.
During that time, the hand in hers twitched, hold her for a moment, before letting go to the previous state.