Love is a game for children, for dreamers, for fools…
It wasn’t for them. Never for them.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The beginning is the end. The end of everything, the middle of life, and the beginning of more sleepless nights.
They just wish they could forget everything, but it’s just the beginning and they’re only half-way through the story.
She forgets. (Or at least she tries to.)
She tries to forget the way he used to look at her, with those clear, far-seeing, honest eyes. Eyes unclouded by hate, untainted by sin, that only look at her.
She tries to forget the look of betrayal, of hurt, that flashed across those eyes when Camelot fell. Tries to forget the broken heart she left behind.
He forgets. (Or at least he tries to.)
He tries to forget the way she’d smile, the way she’d glow when she threw back her red hair and laughed. The way her eyes would see him as Galeas and no one else.
He tries to forget the only woman he had ever wanted, had ever loved so much that the sun, the stars, Orion cartwheeling across the sky, were not enough without her.
It doesn’t work.
They live long.
Open wounds remain open and fester. They don’t leave scars, but deep, gouging wounds.
They can’t bring themselves to forget.
(It doesn’t make living with the memories any easier.)
“She is one of the most evil of creatures…” he starts, his eyes of the brightest blue staring daggers at her.
“You’re not evil.” He’s no longer a boy but not quite a man, but he is still as pure and honest as the day she met him. His fingers reach out to touch her cheek, and his smile is kind. “You’re my friend.”
“Hold your tongue.” Her fingers move without meaning to, and all of a sudden she is strangling him.
He was flame, fire, an inferno blazing in a summer storm, but he was sweet, gentle, like the hearth burning merrily in a home.
Now, he is shadow.
In the past, perhaps, he was someone. Something. Some people heralded him as a Savior, called him a knight of God, the only man that could carry the burden of Camelot, the dream of Arthur, on his back.
He is left with nothing but ashes and memories and what-could-have-beens. He tries so hard to forget—Camelot, the Grail, Heaven, her…
But, in the end, he can’t. He can’t escape his past. He can’t betray his duty. He can’t. He can’t. He can’t.
Now, he is no one.
(But even he can’t run away from who he is.)
She was wind, a summer storm that flies free and destroys everything in its path, but she was kind, a sweet melody floating on the breeze.
Now, she is shadow.
She isn’t quite sure what she is, really. She is an onion, peel away a layer and you’ll find another, and another, and another… Even she isn’t quite sure where the real her begins…or if it even exists.
But she does know that she isn’t white, would never be white. Her path was always destined to be stained in faded red.
Now, she is a ghost.
(But even she has substance.)
They meet when he is seven. He is just a boy, a boy who has learned the pain of being alone. She is a woman whose heart has just been broken.
He is parentless, an orphan and bastard, all in one. The scripture told by the nuns that raise him speak of the wickedness and debauchery of man, and he knows, even then, that his touch is immoral, his very existence nothing more than a sin.
At seven, he has already bore more than others. At seven, he is burdened by the sins of his father on his back.
It follows him everywhere he goes, in the eyes of the nuns, of the townspeople, in the whispers found in shadows and hidden behind other people’s hands. He bears the mark of a bastard like one might bear a cross, so that everyone knows that he is nothing. Will be nothing. Ever.
(After all, who had ever heard of a bastard doing anything with his life?)
The children know it as they leave him alone to sit by the forest’s edge; he knows it as he watches them with eyes full of longing, full of loneliness. He can only watch as other people reach for the light and have a joy that he can never have, a secret thing God has only given those who haven’t sinned.
He is left with nothing but hellfire and burning coals and whispers of demons in the night.
At seven, he knows that he is destined to walk in darkness, destined to always be unwanted. Alone. Superfluous.
At seven, he decides that he doesn’t want to follow Destiny anymore.
He is young and foolish.
At just seven, he already finds the courage to challenge Fate.
She is a woman whose frozen heart had been thawed and then heartlessly torn out of her chest.
With Lancelot, her frozen heart skipped a beat. He was beautiful and dangerous, wore authority like he was born with it with power rolling off him in waves. She saw him and thought that this was someone who was finally as powerful, as interesting, as she was.
He told her he loved her. (Like a fool, she believed him.)
He was a liar. (She found him kissing the Queen in the corridor a few weeks later.)
When she hears about Elaine, about that man’s son, she lets her magic burn an entire forest to the ground in her blind rage. The anger. The betrayal. The unadulterated rage.
She ends up on the ground with tears streaming down her face, her nails digging into the ground, and nothing but ashes, ashes, ashes, falling from the sky. With shaking hands, she brings back life to once was lost, but the pain in her chest won’t go away.
It was tradition for the sons to pay for the sins of their father. She saw no reason to break tradition—not when it suited her. (As a child, that, of course, had been a different story.)
It was apropos, after all—he was given the almost-name of his father.
She is young and vindictive.
Revenge, she finds, is a dish best served cold.
They meet in the forest far away from the rest of the world.
He’s there to train in order to become a knight using a discarded tree branch and determination. Nothing will stop him from that dream.
She’s just there to take revenge, but something makes her stop. She doesn’t know why, but she comes out under the guise of her younger self. She writes this off as curiosity and playing before her food before she eats it.
In the corner of his eye, he sees a girl hanging out in the tree, watched his movements like they were a strategy. She’s a pretty girl, not at all like the old nuns, with red hair and beautiful brown eyes. Youth rolls off her in waves like a summer breeze.
He has a feeling that she is really a summer storm.
“What are you doing?” she asks after a while. Her feet are swinging from the tree as she raises her eyebrow.
“Practicing sword swings,” he says between strokes. Sweat is beading on his brow. He is tiring quickly, but he wants to get stronger, needs to get stronger.
She giggles. “You’re a naïve little boy, aren’t you?”
“I’m not a boy!” His cheeks flush indignantly. “I’m going to be a knight! The best knight that Camelot has ever seen!”
She laughs at him. “We’ll see.”
Most boys (and most men, for that matter) would have insulted her or done something very stupid, or do both. As annoyed as he is, the boy just continues to swing the sword with more determination. Again and again and again.
She sees something in him, something familiar in his eyes. A spark. A small kindling of flame.
(And she thinks of a small little girl glaring at Merlin, with magic at her fingertips and the wind at her every beck and call. Of a summer storm with darkened clouds, pouring rain, and the power of lightning. Of a child’s determination to show that she could indeed handle herself. That she was greater than what society said she was.)
“Good luck,” she finally calls.
It surprises both of them that she means it.
“You’re back again,” he comments when she returns to his clearing. He’s still practicing hard, still training. She settles herself on the branch of a nearby tree.
“What can I say?” She carelessly tosses her red curls over her shoulder. “I have a soft spot for fools.”
“Huh.” He tilts his head thoughtfully, but his smile is kind. “Never would have guessed it.”
He has the clearest eyes, eyes that were unclouded by hate, untainted by sin. They are the kind of eyes that bear into your soul, the kind of eyes that have known pain, known suffering, and have become stronger because of it.
He never tells her to go away, so she stays.
She teases him, calls his dream nothing more than empty hopes and wishes. She’s cruel and knows how to drag her nails against his heart, to open up every single scar. He gets heated, angry, but in the end, he just continues to try to prove her wrong.
“One day they’ll call me Sir Galahad!” he declares heatedly.
She rolls her eyes. “Only when they call me King Morgan, Galeas.”
“Stop calling me that!”
She never does.
(For some reason, he doesn’t mind.)
He has no one, except for her. She is the one person that doesn’t shirk away at his touch, the one person that listens and looks at him for who he is and not what his parents did.
With her, he’s no longer alone.
(She takes away his loneliness.)
She is a creature born of darkness, a woman seeped in sin. She has burned the hearts out of too many people, caused too much pain, too much suffering, to be called good anymore.
With him, she feels…good.
(He washes away her sin.)
Here, there is only the two of them. Here, in this clearing, in the place that they first met, the two of them are safe. Together, they dance from end of summer to the dark of winter to the early whispers of spring.
She teaches him of magic, of ancient secrets, and forgotten legends. She spins story after story, gives and gives until she has given him the world. The world of magic. The world of strategy. Everything that would make him the greatest knight in the world is suddenly in his hands.
“Who are you?” he asks her one day. They’re older now, ten and eleven, still young but more jaded. Life had beaten the youth out of them, yet, vestiges of it still remain.
“A witch.” She meets his gaze, and her old eyes are sad. “I’m the evilest creature you’ll ever meet.”
“Don’t lie!” he laughs.
“I never lie.”
He knows she doesn’t, but… “You’re not evil.” His fingers reach out to ghost over her cheek. “You’re my friend.”
“And you’re just a little boy,” she scoffs, but she presses his hand to her face.
They stay like that for a long time.
“Morgan le Fay. Sister of King Arthur, responsible for the fall of Camelot.” She can hear the resentment in his voice as he tries to contain is anger in front of the Library’s newest Guardian.
“Oh, come now.” She grins, all too eager to push his buttons after so long, rake her claws into him like old times. “We both know that's not true, Galeas.”
And that’s the truth.
(In a way, he helped bring about the end of Camelot too.)
They stand across from each other. It is their final meeting for a while, a brief parting, temporary, as they go their separate ways.
“I’m going to meet my father. My real one.” He swallows and tries to think about the truth. Tries not to falter. Not in front of her. The thought of Lancelot’s shadow looms overhead. “Then I’ll try to become a knight.”
“It’s going to be fine.” She gives his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “You’re going to do fine, little boy.”
He grins. “I’ll only come back when I’m the best knight in Camelot.”
He has nothing except for his name and the clothes on his back. He wears no armor, just a simple tunic that was frayed at the edges and terribly worn. He looks more like a peasant boy than a knight until you look in his eyes—then he was everything a knight should be. Or at least that’s what she thinks.
She laughs, and for the first time, he thinks that she’s beautiful. In a life full of piety, of devotion, of prayer, it is the first time that he ever thinks of sin. The thought passes like a summer breeze, but he still cannot help but think that this is the woman he wants to dedicate his life to.
“Travel well,” he whispers in her ear.
She hugs him tightly, her fingers tracing meaningless patterns on his back. “Travel well,” she echoes. She reaches up to touch his face, her hand lingering on his cheek just a moment too long. “Don’t forget me,” she murmurs. Because she’ll never forget him.
(He could never forget her, even if he tried.)
They meet again when he is sixteen and she looks seventeen. He’s knighted now, a real knight of the Round. She’s as beautiful as ever, even more so, perhaps.
Since he first met her, he has always looked up to her. Now, he towers over her.
He has grown, more of a man than a boy. He is no longer the same child that once practiced with a wooden sword; now, he carries steel. His once silent steps are now accompanied by the clank of armor.
She is a woman, but then again, she always was one. An old soul in a young body. A woman that was never truly a girl. Power radiates off her in waves. She is truly a summer storm now, destructive as she is beautiful and bewitching to hold.
But they haven’t changed at all.
They both open their mouths and it’s just like old times.
“Morgan!” He can’t help but break out into a sprint to meet her. He hadn’t realized she’d come to Camelot as well.
“Galeas!” She runs forward to meet him. He can’t help himself. He picks her up and spins her around. She shrieks in delight, her hands wrapping around the back of his neck. They’re grinning like madmen the entire time, spinning around in a dizzying whirl of emotions.
“Morgan…” His forehead rests against hers. “I’ve missed you.”
“Mmmm.” She runs a finger down his body before she pokes him in the chest. “I’m surprised, Galeas. I thought that the Best Knight in the World would forget me after saving all those damsels in distress.”
He flushes. “Please. As if pulling a sword out of a stone suddenly makes me that.”
“It was like that for Arthur.”
“It doesn’t mean anything to me.” His eyes find the ground. His cheeks are burning, hotter than dragon fire. “I’ll keep proving that I am the best by being the best knight I can be.”
“Idiot.” She spares him the humiliation by pointedly looking away. (But her fingers find a way to intertwine with his.)
He’s the same after all these years. He’s still the same boy who had so earnestly promised to be the best knight that Camelot has ever seen. The boy she had called fool and idiot too many times to count. The boy she had saved. The boy who had given her a golden ring.
The boy she had fallen in the love with, the boy who had fallen in love with her.
(If he had ever said, ‘I love you’ to her, she wouldn’t be a fool if she believed him.)
“Here.” He shoves the silver ring into her hands. He painstakingly made this ring—it’s delicate, but strong, as strong as the hottest fire that has forged the strongest steel. The sapphire glitters in the morning light, carefully cut to make it shine brighter than anyone ever thought it could.
He can’t meet her eyes without feeling like he’ll burst into flames.
She raises an eyebrow. “What’s this?”
“A promise.” A promise to be by your side. A promise to protect you. The ring is infused with the strongest magic he knows, bound together by faith, and sealed with his love for her.
This isn’t a promise for children or dreamers or fools.
This is his promise, a promise for a lifetime.
She is no damsel in distress but if she ever needs him, he will be there, even if he is a million miles or an entire universe away. He will be there for her, even when his bones become dust and his soul is gone. He will protect her, even in death.
It’s a promise.
She kisses his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispers because she doesn’t know what else to say. She immediately slips on the ring onto her left finger because she’s made a promise to protect him until her dying breath.
She will be there for him too.
(Even if he will be gone after he finds the Holy Grail.)
The Grail Quest comes, and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. All she can do is press a chaste kiss to his forehead and weave a charm of protection. What she wants to tell him is to not go, but he wants to, he chose to, and she’ll be damned to get in his way, even if it means she has to let him go. Forever.
“Come back to me,” she whispers. (Even though she knows he won’t.) “Alive.”
His fingers trace over the ring he gave to her. He presses her close. “Always.”
It’s a promise that he definitely keeps.
The Holy Grail is much lighter than he expected. It is humming with magic, singing its own hymn that only a few can even hear. He touches it, and he feels rapture. Enlightenment.
So this is what it feels like. This is what knowledge, what life, truly is.
When he turns around, instead of seeing his companions, he sees the gates of heavens open, hears the flutter of angels wings. They hold out their hands, beckoning him to take a step forward, to fly with them to the holiest place up above.
When they ask him if he wants to join them in Heaven, where he will be watched over by angels, he gently refuses. He doesn’t step forward to cross the line between mortal and immortal. Instead, all he gives is the chalice to return it to its rightful owners.
He gives them a sad smile. “I’m already watched over by an angel on earth.”
He thinks he sees God in their midst. He smiles, but His eyes are so sad. The last thing he feels is the warmth of a blessing before he descends back to earth.
“You came back.” Morgan’s breath catches in her throat. “I thought you wouldn’t… I thought that you’d—“
“Of course I’d come back.” I came back because I love you. He doesn’t say that because words have power. If said that aloud, it would become far too real far too soon. Instead, he gives her a dazzling smile. “I came back because I had promises to keep. I—“
She never lets him finish because she kisses him full on the lips. He’s stunned for a moment before he slowly, instinctively, begins to kiss her back.
“Such a little, stupid boy,” she murmurs between kisses. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Idiot.”
(He knows now that this means he is the luckiest man in the world.)
The end is just the beginning. Or is it the end?
(It can’t be the end; after all, they’re still alive, aren’t they?)
Camelot falls. Breaks. Shatters. The shining city of gold fades away to black.
Their hearts break with it.
He is hellfire now. Implacable. He is God’s wrath and His love all in one. When he is Galahad, he is the knight that shines the brightest. When he is this… It’s hard to see who is the monster and who is the man.
It is hard to see if His blessing is a curse. (He is God’s warrior and his weapon and instrument all his one.)
He razes the traitors and lays waste to everything in sight. His sword is a bloody arc of destruction.
He wishes he could be loved by God and still be himself, but God is as cruel as He is kind.
And He has ordered him to march.
So he marches.
She is destruction incarnate. There is a reason why she is the most powerful witch in the world. It is she, not Mordred or Lancelot, that raised an army to march against Camelot; it is she who brought about the destruction of the city she and Arthur founded by her own hand. (Easier damage control, she figured, Mordred would have tried to burn everything on sight.)
She never wanted to kill him.
Her relationship with Arthur was highly exaggerated. If they hated each other as much as the Legends made them out to be, the shining city would have fallen long, long ago. No, he was a good man, a good king, but he was just a man, just a normal man with faults.
The problem with Arthur was that he loved too much, too dearly. He loved so much that he was blind to the serpent in his own garden, the apple of knowledge growing slowly, patiently, until he was unfortunate enough to pluck it.
At the end of the day, though, Arthur was her flesh and blood. An ally. Her brother. Her friend.
Camelot could burn for all she cared. It was its Fate to fall, and no one, not even Galeas, can stop it.
She just wanted to keep Arthur and Galeas safe in the aftermath.
It doesn’t work.
Everything is gone. He may be a creature of fire and flame, but even he can't stop the inferno Mordred, Lancelot, and Morgan le Fay have caused. He couldn't possibly be the greatest knight in the world if he couldn't even protect his friends or the people he loved.
He failed everyone.
Everyone else is either broken beyond repair or dead.
Genevieve. Gawain. Percival.
Even Arthur. A lump forms in his throat. Even Arthur.
Mordred’s blood stains his hands; his father's words scars his heart. In the end, he was strong enough to end the war, but he wasn't strong enough to kill his father, to punish him for his crimes. In the end, he had let him go. (Because even though Lancelot may not be his father, he would always be his son.)
In the end, all he has left is her.
He's relieved when he finds her by the lake, King Arthur's boat far off in the distance. He reaches out for her, but she won't let him touch her.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she whispers. “So sorry.”
He doesn’t know for what until he really looks at her.
She is Morgan but not Morgan. She is Morgan but older. The magic disguising herself is gone. She is young, yes, but nowhere as beautiful, as honest, as true, as the Morgan he had loved.
He meets her now not as Morgan Pendragon but Morgan le Fay. The same Morgan le Fay that schemed against the Queen. The same Morgan le Fay who conspired to bring about the end of Camelot. That Morgan. Not his Morgan.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “So sorry. Galeas.”
“Don’t call me that.” His voice is barely over a whisper. “Don’t!”
He has the power of Heaven at his fingertips. Nothing can stop him. She can't stop him.
He should strike her down, avenge his King, avenge Camelot, but he can’t.
The sword clatters from his hands.
She had just wanted to protect him, protect Arthur. Camelot could fall for all she could care, but she had just wanted him to be safe.
They stay like this for a long time.
Finally, he sheathes his sword. Giving her one last look, he whispers, “Travel well.”
He turns away without another word.
It takes everything in him to not look back.
It takes everything in her to not ask him to stay.
Her eyes light up when she finds the library, but she truly smiles when her eyes fall on him after all these years. There’s a flicker of something in his eyes when he meets her gaze—hurt, longing, and a glimmer of what they once had.
“Oh,” he sighs ruefully, “my.”
When she was with him, she felt like she could touch the sky.
(Now, she learns how to walk on the ground.)
When he was with her, he felt like he was invincible.
(Now, he has to remember he’s still mortal.)
And both of them are trying to stay afloat, trying to reassemble the broken puzzle that was once their heart.
But it’s hard. It’s like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube when you’re color blind.
“You sent Colonel Baird, you Camelot’s best and bravest knight, sent your incompetent little Guardian to do me in.” Morgan tuts. She has a few moments before the Guardian and the little Librarians come back to the Annex. “Not a good plan. I expected better, Galeas.”
“Don’t call me that.” But the fire has gone out in his voice. He sounds so…tired, just like he had after he retrieved the Spear of Destiny, after he had burnt everything in hellfire all those years ago.
She comes closer. “I thought to myself, why ever would you do something so stupid? The man I…” She breaks off abruptly, looking down at the floor for the briefest of moments, before she continues on, “No, Galeas. You’re better than that.”
He looks away, but the glimmer of her silver ring catches his eye. After all this time, she still…
“Why?” she asks softly. “Why didn’t you come after me?”
Their eyes meet. “The same reason you wear that ring.”
His breath hitches when she touches him. The same spark all those years begins to fly between them, consuming him, consuming her.
For the first time in centuries, they feel complete.
Then they hear the clatter of the Annex door, and she’s gone once again.
Love is a game for children, for dreamers, for fools.
Not them. Never them.
The problem is that they keep forgetting that.
(But that doesn’t mean that they won’t find the courage to try again.)