She stood for a time watching that small boat fade into the distance and meet the other ship waiting for it. The skies once more closed over the sun and the mists shrouded the ship, enveloping it and hiding it from sight. With a sigh she turned her back on the sea, knew that those two were safe on their way to what ever the fates would hold for them. She knew that in some way, for some reason, she had been a part of keeping them safe, just as that woman that she had guided out earlier would remain safe even though she carried much doubt of it as she went on her way. That one other man who had left, she knew he was not safe… but then, he knew it as well and was prepared to meet his fate.
Now, her place was empty again and she was left yet again with the painful echoes and bitter flashes of the past to keep her company. She did as she always did… she wandered throughout the forest, and often stared out at that field that continued to haunt her. It was a lush green now, filled with clover, lavender and heather. This field looked so beautiful, filled with life and appeared untouched but for the small animals and the butterflies that darted about it. Yes, this is how others saw it when they looked upon it, when they occasionally wandered through it and stopped to spread out blankets and baskets to share a meal in that serene meadow.
She, however did not see it so when she looked out at it. She saw a field of death, of trampled bodies, some still barely alive… reaching out for someone, anyone, including their God above to help them. She heard the cries, the screams of sheer horrifying terror as men were felled, women were abused and slaughtered while infants and children cowered in fright.
Most of the time, she avoided this field and those memories that she could not rid herself of, but could not recall more of either. Today, she knew in her soul that she must recall it, she must will herself to face it for it had something to do with what ever events were coming. She called upon the heavens for some sign, for some inner strength to help her, to guide her through this for she did not know how to work her way through this on her own. It was then that she felt some other presence with her. She turned and saw the familiar form of that old Abbess who had left to the light so long ago. She was much the same but there was an even more calming peace about her now as she held out her hand and spoke,
“Do not be afraid my child, I am your guiding spirit in this and I shall ever as always provide you comfort and peace. Tis nothing but an ancient memory you are facing. You must accept it and move on, you will never truly rest until you have laid this memory to rest.” The Abbess held her hand, guided her to the field and took a step back. “You must look upon this peaceful field of life now, and relive that painful event of the past in order to know what it means for the future. If you can do that, your questions will be answered and you will know the purpose of what is ahead for your spirit.” She whispered softly, “I understand now why you could not go with me, it was not your time… there is still much left for you to do on this wheel of life even if it be in spirit form. There are others who will have great need of you in the distant future, you must be ready for that time.”
The old woman gently nudged her closer on to the field and bade her close her eyes and remember, remember all of it no matter what the horror of it. She reminded the young woman, “Tis nothing but a memory, it can not hurt you again and all of those souls have moved on to where they should. Tis only you, your tortured mind and soul that keep them returning here… when you can rest, so can they all. Give them that peace now.”
With the old woman’s guiding thoughts, she trembled as she brought her mind back to that fateful day that had gone so terribly wrong. It was an ancient battle of those would be kings. It was a battle of traitors, usurpers, pretenders and those who betrayed their loyalties to a King for empty promises of power and lands from the pretenders and resentful traitors. This battle was no usual or ordinary battle for just lands, gold or a crown. It was a battle of good and wicked, of mortals and ancient ones with powers and abilities that were on the edge of disappearing from the world… It was a battle fought to protect those ancient ones and their ways. This was a last great battle between those sworn to protect the ancient ones and those who wished to see the ancients wiped away and destroyed.
In that battle, the ones who were being protected were one who did not have such strong powers to save themselves. This group of quiet ancient ones were much vulnerable. They did nothing to warrent the attacks upon them save merely exist within the deepest forest lands. The Fairies had spent their lives in avoidance of others. When the others would encroach upon their lands and territories, they would simply move deeper into the forest realms to live out their peaceful existance with nature. There were other factions who vowed to protect them and their way of life. Then there were those who would see them destroyed just for the sake of them being different and the want of their lands and their secrets.
She thought back to that time and the memories became much clearer and much more painful. She had been a young maiden within a small but highly esteemed Fairie clan when her Father had sought the aid of the King… that King who ruled so gloriously and rightiously that his name was well known throughout the realm. Even the isolated Fairie clan knew of him and his knights who fought for what was just and honorable. Tears came to her eyes as she remembered what her Father had done, how she had raged and resented him for it at that time. She bitterly recalled how she had no say in the matter, had felt as though she was used as some pawn. It was not, never had been the fairie way to enter into such agreements and pacts in this way. Her Father had went with the others’ ways and offered her up as wife to that King. When she had heard of it, she accused him of trading her for the safety of others. She refused at that time to listen to any of his reasons for the act.
Her Father had brooked no arguements from her, said that this was the only way of ensuring safety and peace for all of them including herself. She wept bitter tears on her leaving of their secluded forest lands, of leaving her people that she thought she would never see again. Her Father brushed those fears aside, “Don’t be so foolish, Child, Of course you will see us again… You are not a prisoner or a hostage. You will be a Queen, a much safe and well protected Queen to the Glorious King of Camelot. When it once again safe, you shall return here to visit and share your glory with all of us.”
And, with those words he had sent her on her way to a new life in a strange world. Much later she had realized of course that he had been somewhat right in his decision but she did never have the chance to tell him that. She did return there one day but it was none of what she so fondly remembered…
She had arrived at that glistening white Castle of Camelot a much timid and frightened child. She still remembered well her first meeting with that man, that much older warrior king who would be her husband. He had stared down at her from his seat on his wild white horse in some frustration and irritation. His words had stung her at first, “What is this, a scrawny little ill kept, ill fed child he has sent me. What am I supposed to do with her? I can not wed her, certainly I can not bed her any time soon to produce such a much needed heir of mixed blood. Now just what in the Gods names am I supposed to do.” His temper had flared and his words were of some disgust as he waved for his servants to escort her away to a Tower apartment set aside for her.
She had been mortified and tried in vain to keep her tears of shame from falling openly. As she walked slowly away with the women put in charge of her, she showed her own spirit of temper. She had turned back to him and replied, “Mayhaps, Your Greatness, You should have asked such pertinent details as my age, my health and my breeding ability before you so willing agreed to wed me!” She had then held her little head high and her body as straight and tall as she could make it, stomped her foot and walked away ignoring his sudden laugh.
She had spent much time secluded away in the women’s tower learning the ways of this new land and how to be a proper lady and future Queen to this man, Arthur of Pendragon. Her Fairie ways must be set aside and not displayed for all to view so openly. It was enough he said, that it be known that she was of ancient blood, there was no reason to flaunt it in these times. She came to know Arthur the man, as well as Arthur the King. As she grew into her womanhood, she looked upon him with fond regard… Could she say that she loved him as she should love a husband, Nay most probably not, she would admit in later times. But, she did come to love him in her own way and fashion as he loved her in a same way.
She also came to understand her duty, her role in this life… her destiny and her purpose. She was of an ancient Royal Fairie line and her blood would go on to a future generation no matter what else happened in the here and now. Arthur made sure that she was well trained in the ancient ways even if she was not to practice them openly. He explained to her that it was their destiny, their purpose to guide these people who followed them through the darkest ages into a brighter future. He had warned her that there was much darkness coming upon them and they must be prepared for it.
When it had finally come time for them to wed, she was prepared well for it even if she did not feel such an intense overwhelming flame of passion and fire for him. She knew full well that neither did he feel that for her. He loved her but, truly not in such a passionate physical way. Their bedding had been not unpleasant, in fact she had come to enjoy the act and at least did not cringe in avoidance of it as some her ladies well admitted to feeling against their mates. But, neither did she feel any all consuming need or desire for him as a few of the ladies blushed and admitted to. She accepted it as one of the more enjoyable duties of wife.
During those times, the wars in the lands were increasing and becoming more violent. Arthur and his knights were often away fighting most perilous and deadly battles throughout all of the realm. He admitted to her that their darkest times were approaching and he was consumed with a fear that they should not do what was needed to ensure some peace and safety in their lands. They were in most dire need of an heir and it did not seem that her body was cooperating well in completing this challenge. Arthur felt guilt and said it was because she was still so young, but they could not wait much longer. She had gone to the ancient healing women for their advice, for something, anything that would help her in this most delicate matter. Those ancient women had much the same fears as Arthur. She was too young, it should be dangerous for her and for a babe to survive it. She had insisted to them that she must take the chance for the good and the future of the realm. So, it had been that they had worked their ancient, secret spells and remedies upon her and she had concieved her so dearly desired child.
It had been a much difficult pregancy and she was even more pale and wan than her normal appearance. There had been great fear that she should die even before giving birth, she was so ill that she could barely raise herself from her bed most of the days. Arthur had wept in despair at the sight of her thin, frail body swollen with child. She spent much time asleep trying to conserve what little strength she had left to put towards enduring what she knew might be a death coming experience in attempting to birth the child. It was a terrifying ordeal even for the healthiest of women in those times so she had no illusions or false hopes that she might survive it. She only prayed for the survival of the babe within her.
When her time had finally come, she had amazed all, not least herself by living through it. Her only distress was that the child was a girl and not the male heir that all seemed so intent on. Arthur had been away and she feared admitting to him that she had failed him in this endeavor by producing a girl child. She worried greatly too that to try again would surely kill her but kept those thoughts to herself. To her immense joy and relief, Arthur had returned and been so enchanted, enamoured of the tiny little girl who stared up at him from her swaddling wraps… He had dismissed any notions of this girl not being enough. Arthur was mesmorized by the sight of the child with her bluest of eyes and dark curls wreathing her face. She was a solomn little infant with such a serious look about her even then that Arthur’s main goal each moment holding her was to get her to smile.
When it was deemed that the infant was healthy and would survive for the time being, she was given the name of Ainor and was a much loved, much adored princess by everyone in the household and in the realm. For a time it seemed that her birth had indeed done what it was meant to and brought some signs of peace in the lands.
That peace was not to last though. There were those in the realm who saw the child, even if she was but a girl, as a threat to them…For Arthur proclaimed her his heiress and decreed that she should inherit his kingdom. Many did not feel it right to bow down to a female ruler, and a half fairie one at that. There were some who saw this as their opportunity to take the rule and the crown for themselves, either by cunning calculation in taking such a child hostage, wedding her, or by declaring outright war against Arthur and putting one who they deemed had more of a right to the crown than the infant, Ainor.
At that time there were so many fighting for control and power that it really mattered not who was responsible in the end… They would all fade away into tangled webs of half truths and wrongful stories told by those who survived. It mattered to her though because she had lived it, and felt such enormous guilt for her part that she could not rest.
She had been ever a head strong and stubborn girl, often unwilling to listen to warnings or heed advice given to her. As she stood there now remembering all of it, she wept for all that she had caused in her refusals to listen to sound warnings and wise councils.
During that unsteady peace, Arthur had called her into his private council and advised her that the peace was fragile, would not hold and they would face an uncertain future. He knew that there were underlying plots of rebellion taking hold in many realms and there was little he could do to contain all of it. They must be always on guard and prepared for war. He had warned her that it was coming and that she must be ever vigilent in keeping herself and Ainor safe within the Castle. She had not taken his warnings to as much caution as she should have. She had also put her trust in the wrong people. But, to her defense and her credit, how could she have known that the one who would betray them would be her own Father.
That summer, the fragile peace held steady and she was insistant on taking little Ainor to visit her Father in the Forest keep that he held. Arthur had forbade it, saying it was not safe. If she wanted her Father’s presence and his blessing of this grandchild, then he should travel to them. Her Father, being just as wary and as strong willed as the rest, had of course refused saying it was not safe outside the Forest for him any longer. He had sent long messages to her filled with love and longing to see this child. The man had played upon her sympathies and her good will… he had apologized profoundly for his previous actions, begged her forgiveness and beseeched her to come home to visit him. He had even went so far as to elude to ill health and a greiving that he should never lay eyes on her again or see the face of this precious grandchild.
She had given in to his pleadings and set about making the trip whilst Arthur was away. Little did she know that her own Father planned to use her and her daughter as hostages to gain more leverage and control of his forest lands. Her Father planned to go against the one man who had aided him in the past, provided his clan protection against those others who would have destroyed them. He fell prey to his own greed and was swayed now by promises from those others. He listened to their persuasions that he would have his daughter and his grandchild back within his realm and be left alone, that should he do this for them, they would ever leave his Forest Realm unscathed or bothered. So, her Father had betrayed her trust and her faith once again. Granted, he insisted that he did so for the rightful reasons of wanting her home… but she had seen the wealth bestowed upon him by these others and knew that it was not love of family but lust of gold that caused his actions.
Of course those others had willingly bestowed those riches on him, knowing full well that they would soon take it all back in their plan to then massacre the lot of the clan. Her Father knew little of war or battles, had few defenses against such armies coming upon them. What none of them realized either was that this was all a ruse, a minor battle set up to entrap Arthur and his knights. The others knew well that Arthur would come to rescue his Queen and his princess. They were well prepared ahead of it, as even Arthur had assumed that he was just going bring home an errant wife who had left against his warnings.
The quick battle in the forest had been nothing to the others. They had easily taken the wooded keep, slaughtered her Father and his men, and set to retrieving all of their gold. Those women who could, escaped, fled deeper into the forest and cowered silently as they listened to the last moans and wails of those left behind. The warriors had laughed, enjoyed their morning of carnage, lit the keep afire while they drank of the ale and mead that had not been spilled. They were paid mercenaries not truly loyal to anyone and forgot about their direction to ensure the capture of the Royal Queen and her daughter. Their concern was more for the share of gold they would recieve out of this wealth before them.
This was the scene that Arthur and his men came upon, the keep burned to the ground and the drunken mercenaries having their way with the few women left barely alive. Arthur’s men made quick work of these lowest of traitors then set to the gruesome task of cleaning up the devastation. They found the men, including her Father, all slaughtered almost beyond recognition. As they searched the wreckage, their fears were heightened, finding no trace of their Queen, her small daughter or the Queen’s servants who had accompanied her here. Arthur stood grimly off to the side, unable to reconcile himself to any thought that his wife and daughter might be one of these decimated unrecognizable souls left on the ground, or that they might now be in the hands of the others who brought this thing about. He stood there so silent, seemingly lost in his grief, but in reality listening closely to the faint rustling sounds coming from deeper in the forest.
He hushed his men and motioned them to stop their work and listen. He glanced towards the trees and caught a glimpse of shimmering silk. Arthur called out in a steady soothing voice, “Come out now, all of you… you are safe, it is done and you need have no more fear.”
Slowly, the brushes, the branches and leaves parted and the shattered, shaken survivors edged their way mutely back. This small group of frightened, much abused women and children made not a sound as they surveyed what was left of their home and their loved ones. They were all in shock, having never witnessed or experienced any such violence as this before. In the middle of them, well surrounded stood his wife holding their child. Her face was deathly ashen pale, her eyes glazed from the sight of the horror, tears streaming down her face as she held tightly to her child, her hand still covering the little one’s mouth to keep her quiet.
Arthur stared at her and shuddered in great relief that she was alive. He took note of the fact that the women surrounding her were supporting her. Should they have let go, she would have crumpled to the ground. These women were all in such state of panic still that Arthur tread softly, slowly towards them. They were in such anguish and fear that even those who should have recognized him and his men had trouble distinguishing that these were truly their protectors. The women drew together, clutching their young ones and forming a shield around his wife in some last effort of protecting her against they knew not what.
Arthur spoke again, softly, “Have a care for your Queen, she is my wife and I shall see to her now.” She had difficulty in focusing her eyes or her thoughts but his voice reached deep inside of her and she had managed enough strength to step out toward him, handing the child over to him as she staggered to stay on her feet. Arthur had taken Ainor in one arm, and held to her with the other, calling out to his men for assistance.
The men quickly decided that there was no point in remaining here. It was far too dangerous and the women were too much agitated by the sights surrounding them. Arthur was deeply concerned about the vacant look on his wife’s face and worried that there was something broken deep inside of her, besides that of her heart over what her Father had set into motion. He did not speak of any of it then, only was consumed by getting them to some safety.
He conferred with his men away from the women, not wanting put any more fear in them. This was but a small band of knights he had with him now. He had expected this to be merely a quick trip to retrieve his wife and child. Now, he had moments to think about it, he realized the error of his judgement. There was far more to this event and he suspected that they were facing a trap but there was little he could do about it. This group of men were his most trusted and loyal. These were not just his knights but his friends. They all knew what lie ahead for them and tried to think of some way of surviving it. It was a trap they were headed into, a set up battle with the odds massively against them. All they could do was hopefully swerve the coming battle to a place that might afford safety for this group of women and an escape route as well as a place that would be within reach of added men… Arthur sent one of the men on ahead to reach their greater army of knights. A most able rider who could make it through anything on his own, a Northman of the Vampyre faction, Eric had been ever his trusted friend. He knew that if any man could make it to their reinforcements, it would be Eric.