Like a warm breeze, May passed through the lands of Camelot. Nature came to life all around the castle, blooming with a magnificence that only the season of Spring could bring. Before too long, the last day of the month had come, announcing the beginning of June.
And as the year grew… so did the castle’s inhabitants.
Under the warm rays of the midday sun, Prince Arthur and Gawain sparred together. They had been training together every Friday since the beginning of April. Neither one missed even a single day. What had started out as an obligation for the Crown Prince had quickly turned into something truly enjoyable… even if Arthur would never admit it.
Unbeknownst to Arthur, Gawain had taken that training a step further. Every morning before his chores, he’d go out to the alley behind his house and practice sword swings on a straw dummy. The thing was crude, but it worked.
And after almost two months of daily training… the results were beginning to show.
Arthur had gone for a slap on the wrist again. But this time, Gawain was prepared for it. He deflected the blow, knocking Arthur off-balance and finally, finally landing a hit on the young Prince.
“Hey! That’s not fair!” Arthur yelled. “You stupid saddle-goose!”
But Gawain was too excited to notice the swear, or the irony of Arthur’s words.
“I GOT you!” the red-haired boy panted, his face beaming with excitement. “You know I got you!”
“Oh, you definitely got him,” Morgana smirked from her bench. Gawain beamed at her, his face gleaming with pride.
“I did it! I knew I could do it!”
“Alright, fine. You got me once,“ Arthur admitted. Fair was fair. Getting hit had been a mistake on his part, and the boy deserved the praise… a little bit, at least. A grin spread across his lips.
“Don’t get cocky. You still have years of catching-up to do, muck-spout.”
“I will! I’ll catch up to you so fast you won’t believe it,” Gawain beamed. “I practice on a straw dummy behind the house every morning. I had to re-build it twelve times already!”
“Straw?” Arthur replied. “How amateurish. No wonder your strikes are so weak. I’ll have one of the servants bring you a proper dummy later.”
“Whoa, really?! For real?!”
The Crown Prince shrugged.
“The old ones are mostly used for firewood, anyway. We might as well leave them where they’ll see some use.”
He was trying to pass it off as something insignificant, but Morgana knew better. The slight smirk on Arthur’s face as he saw Gawain’s happy expression said enough.
“That’s so cool! Thank you so much, Arth- milord!”
At that point, the red-haired boy’s excitement was at such a high level that any more training would be futile. At it was, it actually served Arthur well. Their time was about to end, anyway. Arthur had other responsibilities. After a short goodbye, the Crown Prince made his way back into the castle.
That left Gawain and Morgana. The red-haired boy plopped down onto the bench next to her, still in seventh heaven with what had just happened.
“Did you see me?! I finally hit him! For real! Sure, he knocked me over ten times before that, but I did it! Did you see?!”
“I saw it, Gawain,” Morgana smiled at him. His enthusiasm was adorable. The boy was still holding his sword, making little practice swings with it as he sat beside her.
“You’ll see, Morgana. I’ll be a great knight in no time.”
The young princess chuckled.
“Who knows. If you keep hitting Arthur like that, maybe he’ll actually let you be one. If you can smack his pride down far enough, at least. You’ll have to swear an oath as a knight, though. Are you good with speeches? You know, you should start thinking about what to say when you swear fealty to-“
…to the King.
She turned away from Gawain, unwilling to show him her expression. The boy didn’t notice. Pure-hearted as he was, Gawain could be very oblivious sometimes. With a big smile, he held up his wooden sword.
“Oh, I know how that goes! You put your sword down in front of them, right? And then you swear loyalty, and they let you be a knight! I heard there’s a big ceremony and a feast and everything. The guards told me.”
The boy was right. Only a select number of people were qualified to become knights, and so a knighting ceremony was a grand ordeal. Even know, the castle only employed a handful of knights. All nobles, most of them the sons of a baron, earl or duke. Becoming a knight of Camelot was a great honour. If Gawain was allowed to be one, there’d be a ceremony for him, too.
“You’ll have to swear yourself to father,” Morgana muttered softly. She had intended to be soft enough that Gawain couldn’t hear it – but her friend picked up on her words, anyway. For a moment, a sliver of a frown appeared on his face.
Then Gawain shook his head, and his smile broke through once again.
“Nah. When I’m a grownup, I’ll swear fealty to you.”
“You know, swear fealty. To promise you’re loyal and stuff-“
“I know what it means!” Morgana interrupted him, making the boy laugh. “And you can’t. If you become a knight, you’re supposed to swear yourself to your lord. Not to a princess. It doesn’t work like that.”
Gawain didn’t seem fazed. He raised a single eyebrow at her.
“Well, then we should change how the rule works! Arthur is the next person to become king, right? I bet he’s going to change lots of things. Like how many sweets he can eat. And that bullies are no longer allowed in the kingdom. We’ll just ask him to change this, too. When he’s king, he can do anything, right?”
Morgana was speechless. The things that Gawain was suggesting were childish and naive – but underneath it all, he did have a point. When Arthur became king, he would be able to change whatever he wanted. Her brother would have that kind of power. She had never even considered that. As King, Arthur could change or remove any law he wished. Any of them. Including the laws on knighthood…
And the ones against magic.
“I- I… suppose so,” Morgana muttered. “But if that’s true… then shouldn’t you still pick Arthur? He’s the one teaching you sword fighting. And he is the one who would change things.”
“Well, yeah, that’s true,” Gawain replied. “But he wouldn’t even know who I am if it wasn’t for you. You’re the one that helped me, and you’re the one that believes I can be a knight. Not even my dad thinks that, you know. But you do.”
He paused for a moment… after which a warm, heartfelt smile broke through.
“Arthur will be a great king when he’s a grownup, but…”
“When I become a knight, I want to swear fealty to you, Mor.”
His childlike honesty was strangely disarming. Being so used to political games, Morgana couldn’t handle it. It was too forward. Too direct. She could feel her cheeks getting hot and her throat closed up as a warm, unexplainable feeling spread through her chest. She didn’t know what to do with it. The young princess quickly got up from the bench.
Gawain followed, interpreting her sudden movement as rejection. His expression fell.
“I- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you-“
But Morgana wrapped her arms around the boy, pulling him into a hug.
“Don’t say sorry. It’s not like that.”
Morgana had never emraced Gawain before. It wasn’t appropriate, or even decent, for someone of her station. Especially not with Gawain being a boy as well a commoner. It wasn’t proper. But in that moment, the young sorceress didn’t care.
“Thank you, Gawain. If you become a knight… I’ll gladly accept you.”
She leaned into the embrace, finally feeling Gawain’s arms around her as well. He had waited until the last moment to hug her back. Even now, the red-haired boy was still holding his sword. He awkwardly patted Morgana on the back with it. The girl chuckled, releasing him from her grasp.
“But Arthur is still a total ponce, you know,” the young princess smirked at Gawain. “He might not want to change anything. Or decide to only add the rule about eating sweets, and nothing else. Who knows what will happen when you’re a grownup. Do you really think that he’d change the kingdom for you?”
The boy contemplated it for a while. Morgana watched him think as he placed a hand on the back of his head. His expression turned serious. Then, the red-haired boy seemed to reach some kind of conclusion. He gave a small nod. When Gawain spoke, his words came straight from the heart.
“…Yeah. I think he would.”
For the second time today, Gawain’s simple words left Morgana speechless. The two of them had only spent a few months together. Gawain barely knew her brother. In terms of politics, they were worse than strangers. And yet, Gawain already had so much trust in him. He really believed in him. Enough to entrust Arthur with his child-like idea of a future. Gawain’s simple, pure heart just kept surprising her. It was naive, but… maybe that was all right. Morgana slowly came to a realization as she looked at the boy in front of her.
It wasn’t just Gawain.
It was her, too.
Desperately, more than anything… Morgana wanted to believe in her brother, too.
If Arthur could change the kingdom for Gawain’s sake, then maybe, just maybe…
He could do the same for her.
Later that day, in Castle Camelot…
“What is this?”
Morgana leaned towards the package, her hands on her back and a teasing smile playing on her face. Her brother had waiting for the two of them to be alone before placing it on the table. It was a large package. Arthur, normally smug and arrogant, actually looked uncomfortable with himself for once.
“It’s for your birthday. I know it’s not until tomorrow, but we’re always so busy with guests on birthdays that I barely get to talk to you, so… I figured I’d give it now.”
Morgana loved gift giving. She enjoyed the looks on people’s faces when she chose something that they liked, and the girl adored the joy of opening her own. Usually, gift giving among nobility was just another form of political play. It was a tool. A weapon to be used under the right circumstances.
The only exception were gifts that were given by family. And even then, only the ones that were given in private.
This was one of those times.
“So… can I open it?”
“Go ahead. Just… don’t expect too much.”
A strange remark, coming from Arthur. But Morgana ignored it. She liked opening presents too much to wonder about her brother’s words. With a joyful expression on her face, the young princess removed the wrapping and peered underneath. It was a sealed box. Carefully, Morgana took a letter opener and unsealed it. She expected one of his usual gifts – jewelry, or stuffed animals, or another ballroom dress.
But what came out of that box was something else entirely. Morgana looked upon a crude, wooden carving of a dragon. Its wings were unfurled, and she could see a pointy tail wrapped around its little wooden feet.
Ah. So that’s why his hands had been covered with bandages lately. Morgana had assumed that it was because of sword training. But as it turned out, it had been something entire different. A soft smile spread across Morgana’s lips.
“Arthur, did you make this yourself?”
Her brother sheepishly nodded.
“Well… yeah. I know it’s not valuable. But I had a talk with Gawain, and he said I should try it. I know it’s not what I usually give you…”
His expression fell.
“look, I can get you something else instead, and-“
Arthur never got the chance to finish his sentence. The young princess grabbed her brother, catching him unaware and pulling him into a very unwilling hug. The young Prince immediately began to struggle against her.
“Gah! Get off me!”
“No,” she replied.
“This is not appropriate! Morgana! You’ll mess up my hair – unhand me, you clingy mymmerkin!”
But Morgana didn’t listen. And Arthur really only struggled enough to keep up appearances. As she planted a kiss on his cheek, the Crown Prince relaxed.
“So… I guess that means you like your gift.”
“I do. Thank you, Arthur. I’ll treasure it.”
The two of them looked down on the wooden dragon. It was crude and badly made, with many chips in the woodwork and mistakes showing in its craftsmanship.
But to Morgana, that dragon meant more than all the valuables in the kingdom could have. And they both knew that. This time, Arthur was the one to place his arms around her.
“Happy birthday, Morrie.”
As the elderly physician stepped outside, he could see dark clouds gather on the horizon. He did not have to predict the weather to know what was coming. His aching joints always warned him of coming rain far in advance of it actually falling.
Gaius hated rainy days. The elderly physician had a bit of an aversion to water in general, after almost drowning as a child. But as he grew old and frail, rainy days had become the bane of his existence. He’d have preferred to not leave his home today at all – but he was out of Tulsi herb. Many of his patients came to him with colds and coughs, and a tea of Tulsi leaves what exactly what they needed.
But he’d need to get some of it, first. Gaius sighed, pulling his hood a little closer to his neck. He could already see the first few raindrops falling on his robe.
They weren’t hard to find. With the flowers around the castle in full bloom, Gaius could find what he needed easily, even with his bad eyesight. The elderly physician bent down, spending a few minutes gathering as much as he could carry in his pouch.
It wasn’t until he was already on his way back, that Gaius finally realized where his road was leading him.
The stones were in pristine condition. It was almost as if twelve years had not passed. As always, their families made sure they were well cared for. For some of them… those gravestones were all they had left.
A profound sadness spread through his chest. So many losses. All innocent, as pure as the day that they came into this world. All because of anger. All because of fear.
He would have given anything to forget about that dreadful month.
But some memories were not meant to fade.
Gaius often wondered.
If that sorceress had known all along…
What kind of hell her dying words would unleash.
“For the child born on May Day will herald the end of the Pendragon line,
its King destined to fall by their hand.“
Some memories are not meant to fade.
“Please! I beg of you!”
“She’s all I have left. You have to help me. You have to lie. It’s only a few days – you can’t let him take her away from me. Please. She’s all I have – I can’t lose her.”
“Ygraine… I can’t. What you are asking me to do is treason.”
A scream of agony, drenched with the excruciating pain of a mother’s sorrow. Haunting. Hollow. Piercing the very depths of Gaius’s soul.
“I beg of you. Please… Don’t do this.”
“I can’t lose her. Not again.”
Some memories will never fade.
The king had led the assault himself. A retaliatory attack. A punishment, for the rebellion that had risen against him out of anger. Out of fear.
Out of outrage over the slaughter that he had ordered.
Grinding that outrage into dust had not even taken Uther a week.
But in that week…
“When was it born?”
The feeling of cold, unyielding stone against his knee. Uther’s piercing eyes, the glint of a madman looming just below the surface. The heavy, crushing sense of pressure in the chamber. The deafening silence as his question hung in the air, sharper and more merciless than any blade.
And above it all… the brutal, unforgiving stare of the Watcher, bearing down on his very soul.
He couldn’t do it.
And so… he lied.
“…June, my liege.”
“Your daughter was born on the first of June.”
Thank you so much for making it to the end of the first chapter with me, guys! This was a lot of fun to make. More than I thought it would be, haha. I hope the next one will be fun, too. I for one am very excited! Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts if you like.
I’ll see you all in the next one. =)