"Dying is easy. Coming back will be hard. Are you sure you have the skill for this?"
I'm a huger lover of any Arthurian legend and I have always been fascinated by Guinevere especially, but she is usually very one dimensional, only seen as the love interest or the pawn between Arthur and Lancelot. So, I have a story idea about Guinevere's life, her family and her country before Arthur enters the picture (even though she has known him most of her life).
|Princess Gwen in her last happy moments at home.|
Guinevere is a sixteen year old princess living in the tiny island kingdom of Lyonesse, with her father, King Leodegran, her older sister Princess Wynefria (or Neffi) and Neffi's fiance, Mordred. Guinevere's mother is dead and her younger sister, Evienne, died in a terrible accident a year before. Camelot has been at war with another kingdom for the last year and a half, and now Arthur has called on King Leodegran's help. Leodegran allies with Arthur, allowing him to settle his troops in Lyonesse in hopes of finally ending the battle.
Guinevere stays with her father, acting as a nurse and a spy and eventually finds herself in Camelot. However, things go horribly wrong when she is caught and slain by the enemy, and her body is thrown into the river. There Gwen's body travels down deep into the heart of the Lake of Avalon. Battling for her life, but only expecting death.
Gwen was gasping for breath. She was a good swimmer, but her body felt like lead. The wound that the enemy gave her across her back was searing with pain. The water kept on pushing her down farther and farther. Great waves seemed to get stronger and heavier and soon Gwen was pushed all the way under water. The bright full moon shone down through the water, glistening and white. Gwen could feel her her lungs about to burst and soon her mind began to lose conciseness. The last thing she saw was the full moon, bright and beautiful. Soon her young body could take no more and Guinevere's life began to be measured by small, still heartbeats. Darkness began to cloud her mind and eyes closed.
One last heartbeat.
Then darkness. Peaceful darkness.
"Gwen. Gwen, you need to wake up?"
That voice, it was so familiar...where had she heard it before?
"Gwen. Guinevere, please, wake up."
Evienne! She knew that voice! Of course it was her sister! How could she not have noticed it before?
Gwen slowly opened her eyes. She was in...well she didn't really know what or even where she was in. It was a large round room....that was completely underwater, yet everything there was dry. The walls were dry, the chairs, the books, she was dry!
"Is this...magic?" she finally said
"Yes, it is," came Evienne's voice.
Gwen turned around and saw her sister standing right before her, completely alive and human. She was still as beautiful as ever with her long golden hair around her waist and her sweet smile that could brings tears to the most hardened of men. Only fourteen; so young when she died. So innocent and pure, and full of hope and life. She had drowned a year before when the girls got caught in a horrible lightening
"Evie? Oh, Evie is it really you?" Gwen asked in a whisper.
Wait..was she dead too? Was this some sort of magical resting place for souls? Surely something Arthur's dull old crow Merlin would create.
"Yes, it is me," said Evie reaching out her hand to her sister, "and yes, this is some sort of magical resting place, but believe me, this was created long before Arthur's old crow was born."
Guinevere smiled though tears and took Evie's hand. It was still soft and warm; as if she had never been gone.
"So I am dead then?" Gwen asked.
If this was death than how bad could it be? Her sister was here with her! The sister that knew her better than anyone. The sister she couldn't save and she would live with that guilt for the rest of her life.
"That's your choice," said Evie.
Now Gwen was confused. What idiot would choose to die?
"No one chooses to die," Gwen said, "I would assume everyone would want to live forever if given the chance."
"And is that what you want, Gwen? To live forever? Even after death has truly taken you?"
"I don't understand, Evie? What are you talking about? How can someone just choose to live or die?"
"Not many people do get the choice, but you do, because the fate of Camelot is wrapped up in your fate as well. Whether in life or in death, Camelot, her king and his people are now bound to your decision to either live and return from this watery grave or to stay here...with me."
Gwen's mind was spinning. She had a heard a great deal of magical nonsense from Merlin 'the crow,' but never did she think that she would be caught in the middle of it! Who was she to Camelot? A simple Lyonessian princess that loved reading and horseback riding. That really...well really had no future plans for her life; they had all seemed to die with Evienne the year before.
And Arthur? What was she to him? To her, he was a king, good king, a wise and brave king, and a handsome king. He was eleven years her senior and had lost his wife three years ago. Loved by his people, Arthur rose from his obscure beginnings as Uther's secret son with the widowed Queen Igraine and became the king that brought Camelot out of Uther's ashes and into a golden age of peace and plenty. That had been twelve years ago, since Uther died and Arthur had pulled the great sword out of the stone, proclaiming his right as Camelot's prophesied king. Of course, that old crow had his hand in all this. Gwen believed that Merlin really ran all things and was only using Arthur and his royal blood to wield his own black magic.
Camelot, Arthur, the people, herself. What about her family? What about father and sweet Neffi and Mordred, the only brother she ever knew? What of their fates? Were they bound to her as well?
"I don't have all the answers, Gwen," said Evie, breaking her sister's racing thoughts, "I am only telling you what I know."
"And what is it that you know?" Guinevere asked.
Evie looked up to where the moon was shining and then looked back at her sister. Her once blue eyes were now silvery and now seemed to be staring right through Gwen.
"If you decide to die, you will stay here in the Avalon Lake as a spirit. You will have great powers, but they will not always be easy to control. You will see darkness and pain, but you will also witness hope and happiness. You will always be young and always be beautiful, but you will never return to the earth. If you die then Camelot will continue on until Arthur's death, but he will have no heir and eventually that kingdom will fade into obscurity. Camelot will not be remembered. Arthur, his great deeds, his knights, their stories will all be forgotten."
Gwen felt a sick feeling in her stomach. How could Arthur be forgotten? And this beautiful kingdom simply fade away?
"However, if you choose to live...then Camelot will be ushered into its most golden years, but nothing beautiful will last forever. There will be great anguish and suffering. You will suffer and so will Arthur in ways that are unimaginable. And Camelot will eventually fall when Arthur himself falls."
"Then what's the difference whether I live or die!?" Gwen cried, "Camelot will fall anyway?"
Evie smiled at her, "Yes, Camelot will fall. Yet, in its place will rise a kingdom far greater than any kingdom ever known on earth. And Camelot will live on in legend and song. Arthur will be revered, his knight's stories will be read to children and their children and their children's children. And you, Guinevere, you too will go on in legend."
"Me?" Gwen said, "I will become legendary like Arthur? And Kay and Gwaine and Percival?
"Very much so," replied Evie.
For a few seconds Gwen pondered what Evie had just told her. A reincarnated life as a water spirit where she would be immortal and beautiful, but obviously forgotten. And yet, if she lived...what is it that would make her great, make her legendary? And for Arthur, to go down in legend and myth, for Camelot to be remembered in history? How would she accomplish any of that? Yet, Evie talked about great pain and anguish for both her and Arthur? Would she bring that pain and anguish to him?
Would she bring down Camelot?
"If I choose to live and go back, I will be mortal. I will die again?" Guienevere asked.
"Yes," said Evie.
"Yet, if I die, I will become immortal...it all seems to work backwards."
"Nothing ever works normal in Camelot," Evie said.
Gwen looked up at the moon. It was beginning to fade. Morning was coming and she had two choices upon her.
Die, live, forget.
Live, die, remember.
"What is the pain and anguish you were talking about?" Gwen asked a little nervously.
"That I cannot tell you," Evie said, "I've already told you enough about your future, but I can tell you this. Dying is easy. Coming back will be hard. Are you sure have the skill for this?"
"What skill?" Gwen asked
"The skill to live, not just survive, but to truly live. Once you have made your choice, you cannot go back."
To live, to truly live. Ever since Evie died, Gwen felt that she was just holding on, trying to survive. Now she had a chance to stay with her sister in peace, but now that she knew where Evie was, maybe this was a second chance at life. To be able to live again on earth and to live on in time and legend and myth. What person ever got that chance?
"I want to live," she finally said, "For so long, I've felt dead to the world and if this is a second chance for me to start a new life, then yes, I will live and I will not see Arthur or Camelot fade away."
"Even if it means that you will suffer?"
"I am no stranger to suffering, Evie. I survived and now I want to live."
Evie took both of her hands, "Then go, dear sister. Go and live."
Gwen felt herself become lightheaded and Evie's face became blurry.
"Evie," she said.
"Go and live."
~ ~ ~
Gwen opened her eyes, the first thing she felt was pain. A searing pain across her back where the soldier had struck her down. She was freezing cold and was lying flat on the ground right next to the lake. She pulled herself up and saw the sun beginning to rise over the mountaintops.
"Evie?" Gwen said. She looked around but saw no one.
She sounded like she was coming from the lake...Gwen looked over and in the misty rippled she could make out Evie's face.
"One more thing," Evie said hurriedly, "I don't have time, but I have to tell you, be careful in who you put your trust in. All kingdom's are filled with spies and betrayers and some will sit at Arthur's table. And of these, you know one, but you cannot reveal him to anyone or his wrath will do great damage to all around him."
"Who?" Gwen asked.
"It's Mordred, Neffi's fiance."
Now Gwen was incredulous. How could it be Mordred? She and Evie loved him, he was wonderful, an older brother they always wanted."
"That's impossible!" said Gwen, "How could Mordred, of all people, be a threat?"
"Because Mordred is the one that killed me; he was Merlin's secret apprentice."