Ladies of the Lake

So I wanted to do another teaser for Tuesday. We have so many stories we are working on,  and I want to share them all. So I asked Sam for a suggestion as to what I should share of ours today. She, with very little hesitation, said “Ladies of the Lake”. Now as you have probably guessed this first-draft-writing-in-progress is part of the Shadows of Avalon and is in fact a flashback to times gone by and the days of Arthur….

**

She came from the lake, water spilling from her body as the wet cloth clung to her. She glowed in the twilight as she moved towards the party, the men on horseback waiting on the shore. She knew each by face and by name though none knew her, not yet. The sun had vanished behind the clouds as it set though the hint of its light remained setting the lake and sky to a deep blue the lake rippling with dark shadows and in the water she stood there in her silver gown, the retrieved sword in her hands, though it was not the one that was promised to this man who rode at the head of the pack, his would come in time but that time was not tonight and she would not be the one to bring it to him.
This sword belonged to another who rode to join them now, he alone knew her face, though many who looked on her now knew her soul in the lives that had come before them.
“Madame, you will catch a chill.” A young knight jumped from his horse and came forward once he had tugged a cloak free of his belongings strapped to the horse. “Please, take this, we will cast our eyes away and let you change from these sodden clothes. It would not do well for you to catch your death.” The man came closer to her and noticed first the sword in her hands and then the mark on her forehead that denoted her as a priestess of the Isle. He dropped to bent knee before her and held out his cloak, head bowed in reverence. “My lady I did not know you for who you were.”
“And yet you showed me kindness and respect, your heart is ever pure Bedevere. I thank you for the gesture.”
“You know me lady?” He tilted his head and looked up at her, the others remaining silent on their horses but all looked on curious as to what was transpiring that one of their own would drop to bended knee before her.
“I know you all.” She smiled kindly at him and then as she touched a hand to his to raise him up she turned her eyes to the others. “Please, you are all welcome at the lake. You may rest here as you planned to for the night.”
Their leader jumped from his horse and strode forward, wearing his crown well for all his youthful years and short months upon the throne.
“You know us lady, but please let us give our names and greetings as if we were strangers to you, as you are to us.” He unsheathed his sword and set it into the ground before him and knelt before it. “I am Arthos, or Arthur as the people all me.”
“Be welcome Arthur, I am Niniane of the Lake and I have been sent to bring this to another of your party who lost it many years ago in an argument with a young priestess.”
“A young priestess who was ever stubborn and would not cast aside duty.” A figure broke from the darkness of the trees, leading a horse that favoured it’s front right hoof.
“A young priestess who fought with a stubborn young priest who would not cast aside his own duty either. Hello Myrddin.”
“Hello Niniane, the years have been kind to you.” Myrddin let his horse free as another knight left his own to tend to it. He moved to her side and bent his head to kiss her cheek. “I have missed you.”
“And yet you have not come to call on me.” She chided him gently though there was still accusation in her words. He had not returned to the Isle in seven years since they had argued and he had thrown the sword she had given him into the lake in his anger. He had left her then, left the island and not returned until this night when he brought the new king he had chosen over her, to find blessing with Lord and Lady of the Isle and the great Gods who blessed this place.
“I have been busy.”
“I have seen.”
“You have watched me then?”
“Often do I go to your sanctuary and let the cave of crystal show me you as you have been and are. We both submitted to our duty this does not mean my heart turned as cold as that crystal against you.” Niniane spoke with no embarrassment as she admitted that she still loved the man who now wore grey in his beard.
“It seems there are stories to be shared, but perhaps camp might be made and dinner prepared if we are to spend the night here, the light will fade soon and we are without the moon tonight.” A handsome young knight moved from his horse.
“Gwaine is right, you should all be about your business as if I did not disturb you. If you would be willing to share your meal with me I should repay by sharing a story or two.”
“It shall be as you say lady.” Gwaine bowed low in her direction and all the knights and their king followed suit, the only one who did not bow was Myrddin, he stood fixed in place his eyes moving from her face to the sword and Niniane fought to not laugh at him. Though he would have known that he might see her in this journey he clearly did not expect to find her so soon.
“Will you walk with me Myrddin?” She asked in a soft voice, still holding his sword in her hands.
“Forgive me lady.” Arthur took a step closer to them, clearly feeling he was intruding and seeming almost bashful for it.
“Yes my king?” Niniane turned her gaze to the young king from his mentor.
“You are still dressed in your wet clothes and it still stands that in this cool night air you might take a chill and become unwell and none here will allow such a thing to come to pass and rest on our conscience. Please let us give you dry clothes before you and Myrddin take your leave to continue your reunion.”
“You are quite the silver tongue my king and I will gratefully accept the lending of clothes, I was foolish in that I did not think beyond my quest to retrieve the sword from where it lay hidden to what my state would be after. The Lady would chide me for it, though it would not I believe surprise her that I would act so, especially not when this one is involved.” Niniane spoke in a low conspiratorial tone and gave Arthur a wink that caused him to look even more self-conscious. It amused her that he in such a position as he held would act in such a way. It gave her more hope for his reign after the bloodshed and destruction of his father.
Arthur was all king though as he waved his hand for others to bring to him the clothes he had offered but she did not begrudge him that, he was after all king. Bedevere came forth and offered his cloak to go with the rest and she accepted it with no hesitation. She knew their pride would not allow her to say no and she wished them to be at ease with her.
“I will change over in the trees.” She turned and began to walk only to pause at the sound of footsteps on the lake stones behind her. She turned back to face the way she had come and found Myrddin close behind her. “One might wonder where you think you are going?”
“I will not spy while you change but I will not allow you to enter the woods with no escort nearby nor will I let you too far from my sight this evening.” He gave her a smile that she had missed all too much and one she could not resist.
“Very well.” Niniane continued to walk to the trees and finding one with a trunk of suitable girth she moved behind it to shed her damp dress and change. She had to admit once she had secured the pants around her with the rope belt and pulled the cloak around her shoulders that it did feel better to be dry, the slight breeze did not seem to move through to her bones in the same fashion now. She retrieved her wet dress and undergarments from the forest floor and held them in one hand while she picked up Myrddin’s sword in the other as she came forth from behind the tree and into his sight once more.
“Do you recall the night you gave that to me?”
“I do, in vivid detail including the moment you cast it away and broke the promise between us.” Tallking of the memory brought it to mind and the feelings of that night burned as strong as the image burned bright in her mind.
“You would not come away with me.” Myrddin replied, his tone defensive.
“And you would not stay with me.” Niniane tried not to react to the tone but though years had passed the hurt still remained between them. “You had your duty and I had mine and we are hardly strangers to it being this way.”
“Your lips.”
“My lips?” Niniane blinked her eyes at his reply to her words, they were not expected.
“I would kiss them.”
“You are not free to give me the promises that your kiss has always held Myrddin, we might not either be strong enough to survive it.”
“And yet standing there all I wish for is to kiss them again, to know you again, your body and pleasure as is my right as your chosen.”
“You chose me Myrddin, claimed me but you left me and it near destroyed me, I come to make peace, not to make love.”
“You do not feel the same as you once did.” His words accused her even as his eyes turned cold and hard in anger.
“I feel as I always have, I loved you before you claimed me and I love you still, my body still stirs for yours Myrddin as it ever has, there has been no other I have lain with in ritual or in pleasure.” Niniane looked down at the sword in her hands, tears stinging at her eyes and she tried to blink them away before they could fall and betray the sadness in her heart. “I gave you this sword six moons after you claimed me as the wolf to my dragon, it was to be the gift of our betrothal and when you threw it away you threw with it my heart. I give you back your sword and give you always my heart, but I can never be yours as you cannot be mine. We have been given our tasks and will shall do them because our lives are only two compared to the many that will be blessed and the peace that will hold these lands if we do as we are tasked.”
Myrddin did not reply but took her by the arms and pulled her to him, his arms locked around her and he held her tight in his embrace. No words spoken though any watching could see from the shaking of their bodies that both wept for what they had between them, for what had been and what could be and would not.
Niniane was first to break their embrace though she did not wish to but she was not strong enough to remain in his arms and not be moved, not relent and let his lips taste hers once more. More nights than she could count had passed as she wished to kiss him again, to lie with him again and she knew that she would relent far too easily and perhaps even turn her back on her task.
“I promised the king and his companions a tale for my supper, I should pay the debt.”
“There is no debt, you have not eaten and even if you had already not one man expects anything for the gesture of hospitality.” Myrddin said and let his hand rise to wipe a tear from her cheek but his hand froze in place between them without reaching her cheek. For a moment her heart had sped up as she thought he might so tenderly touch her and she turned aside when he did not so he would not see into her eyes.
“Come let us eat supper together and let me share in the hospitality offered.” Niniane drew her eyes from the ground to look briefly at Myrddin and then handing the sword into his keeping once more she turned and made her way to the fireside, taking a place offered to her at Arthur’s right side. It was a position of honour and she accepted it with a smile keeping her eyes from seeking out Myrddin in the firelight once more.

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