Beyond the Silver Veil

Chapter 2 - Awaking to the End of the World

Decades and centuries passed. Time slowly moved forward. Arthur lived and died again and again. The world changed.

"Arthur, fetch me some water, would you?" The woman sitting by the fire motioned to a pail against the wall. Arthur nodded and grabbed the bucket, heading out of the cottage to get water from the pump in the center of the village.

It was his birthday today, but so far no one had drawn much attention to the fact. His mother wished him a happy birthday, but that was it. He wished even she had forgotten, but how could she? He was her son, she wouldn't forget his birthday. Even if she could forget that, she couldn't forget that Arthur's sister died this same day just four years ago.

As he passed a small alley between two buildings he nearly smacked someone in the face with the pail that he was swinging carelessly. "Sorry." The girl he nearly hit shrugged indifferently and continued on her way. "Alisset?" She turned back and gave him a questioning look. "Are you alright?" Alisset merely rolled her eyes and turned back around, walking off. "Weird girl."

"Arthur!" Arthur looked right as he heard his name. Lance was running down the street waving at him.

"Lance, what's the matter?"

Lance grinned brightly. "Nothing. Happy birthday!" Arthur grunted and did not return Lance's smile. "Er... right... sorry."

"It's fine."

"What are you doing?"

"Fetching water."

"Oh..." Lance looked down at the pail in Arthur's hand and then back up at the boy's face. "Gwen was wondering where you were and what you were up to."

Now Arthur grinned. "Gwen was asking about me, eh? Hmm, perhaps I'll go find her after I bring the water back to my mother."

"You should go find her now. I'll get the water for the High Priestess." Lance grabbed the bucket from Arthur and shooed him off, "Go on."

Arthur nodded and headed off, calling back over his shoulder, "Thanks, Lancelot!"

"Yeah, yeah."

At the end of the street Arthur took a left and headed down a grassy slope for the farmland where Gwen's family cottage was. As it came into view he could see Gwen standing outside hanging laundry with her sister, blonde ringlets blowing in the slight breeze of the day. "Gwenivere!"

Slowly the girl turned and smiled at him, "Arthur!" He approached and she neglected the laundry to meet him halfway. Once she came within reach the boy pulled her in and planted a kiss on her lips which she returned as she threw her arms around his neck. "Happy birthday!"

Arthur forced a smile for her and tucked some stray hair behind her ear, "Thank you, lovely."

"How old are you now? Twenty summers? My, you're ancient!" She laughed and pulled away, returning to the laundry.

"Twenty-one and I am. I've very old and you so young. May and December, you and I."

"Ah yes, because being eighteen makes me oh so much younger than you." Gwen grinned and winked.

"Of course." Arthur shrugged and picked up a sheet and two clothes pins, helping her with her chore.

"Lughnasadh is coming up soon." At those words Arthur fumbled with the one clothes pin left in his hand. He looked over at Gwen, whose smile faded a bit, then to her sister Etain who looked curious.

"Is it? I've lost track of the days, goodness." He cleared his throat and fastened the clothes pin to the line over the sheet he was hanging.

"Yes, it is." It was clear she wanted to say more, but instead she allowed herself to go silent as the awkwardness grew. She hadn't meant to startle Arthur, but everyone was wondering when the two of them would take part in a Handfasting. It was clear to every person on the isle that they were together and in love, so they wondered why Arthur was waiting.

The truth was that while yes, Arthur loved Gwen, he wasn't sure he was ready for a Handfasting. It only lasted a year and a day, but Arthur looked at that like a lifetime. So many things could go wrong in that time and besides that, through the years things had changed. Twenty-one wasn't as old as it once was, but it seemed the people of Avalon had yet to catch on to that. There was plenty of time for marriage and families later in life. On top of that, other people, such as Lancelot, had yet to take part in a Handfasting or have children and they were not pressured, but Arthur was for some reason and he hated it. It was all very hypocritical... or like they expected him to live a short life.

"Gwen... I-" Arthur started to try and explain, but the bells of the town sounded and distracted him. As he looked back he could see a procession of priests and priestesses making their way to the tors.

"I wonder what's happened?" Gwen questioned, also staring at the line snaking toward the hills.

"I don't know, but that bell and procession mean the Faerie are coming for more than a friendly visit," Arthur put down the shirt he had been about to hang, "I'm sorry, Gwen. I have to go. I'll speak with you later."

"Arthur, wait! Let me come with you if you're going to eavesdrop when you shouldn't be," she protested.

He sighed briefly and then nodded and motioned for her to follow before taking off quickly across the fields. As they reached the great tor they stuck to the trees and climbed their way up to the top, hiding in the shadows and watching as balls of light race around the altar. Before their very eyes those balls of light grew, flickered, and changed into gorgeous beings. Specifically four gorgeous beings - the Faerie queens of old legend Arthur guessed, the ones who protected Avalon from the Roman conquering by separating it from the Mortal Realm.

While they watched Arthur's mother Morgaine arrived, followed but the other druids who filled in the empty space of the top of the tor. "Aine, Tianna, Cliona, Fand - you have not appeared before us so urgently in more than one thousand years, what might we do for our protectors and sisters?"

"Sister Morgaine, High Priestess of Avalon and daughter of our Great Goddess, we appear before you to finally ask your aide. We need the druids of Avalon to help us defeat an evil which threatens the peace of Annwn and in time the Mortal Realm. We need the King of Olde awakened." The four spoke as one, a fact that sent shivers up Arthur's spine. It was unnatural.

"I do not understand... What can he do for you? I know he is to one day save and reclaim the Mortal Realm as his kingdom as you four predicted, but never was it said he would aide Faerie, Annwn. He is not prepared for such a task." Morgaine seemed as nervous as Arthur felt.

"Arthur, you don't think they mean to resurrect the dead... they said they need the King of Olde, but his bones must be dust by now." Gwen whispered, frightened and confused. Arthur shushed her and returned his attention to his mother and the Faerie queens.

"We could not foresee this, it was one of our own who turned against us. We can predict the future of humans and bend their future to our will, but only so long as our own kind is not involved, we have no power there." This time it was only one who spoke, one with long black hair who felt and looked vaguely familiar.

"How could the King of Olde possibly help with your plight? He is of mortal birth and not of Faerie, he is not strong enough to battle your kind."

"He is, as are you, a child of the Great Goddess and he has within him all the powers of Faerie despite his being born to mortals. The Great Goddess does not often choose to create humans so you must realize that when she does they are more than that."

Morgaine was silent. She knew the words Aine spoke were true, but she didn't want to believe them. She wanted to protect the King of Olde, she wanted to save her child. "He is not ready, Aine and he has no help."

"The Faerie will aide him. They will fight beside him."

"He will die."

"He has died before, Morgaine. I understand your worry -"

"How could you?" Morgaine's voice turned cold as ice. "How could you understand how I feel? How could you understand having to hand over a child knowing he would die?"

Arthur's blood froze in his veins. A child? She didn't mean him, did she? "At least you were able to raise your child, Morgaine. I had my child taken from me after her birth and I know nothing of her, I have never met her or set eyes on her. They say it is best since she will live a life of lies and then die horribly. They say it's best to save myself the pain."

There was silence around the tor, even Gwen who tended to ask questions in confusing times such as this merely gripped at Arthur's forearm without uttering a word. Finally, Arthur's mother spoke, "Then you do understand. You must, as I do, wish that you didn't know what would become of your child. It would be so much easier to let them go."

"If it makes you feel better, High Priestess, he was not originally your child, but your brother."

"I know this. He was the brother who saved my life, time and time again."

"Until recently. Does it not make you wonder that your daughter Morgan, who you knew by all accounts was you and would one day take your place to raise Arthur, died?"

Once again there was silence and Arthur's chest constricted painfully at the mention of his sister's death and at his name. "I knew then that you would come for him soon. If she died that meant she was not needed. If she was not needed that meant the time for Arthur to take his last stand was near. I knew you would call for him and he would have to go to his final death. That does not mean I was prepared for it, no one can be prepared to send their child to be killed."

Aine's stone facade, which had not even broken upon speaking of her own lost child, finally gave way for a moment. Arthur caught it as her eyes filled with unmistakable pain and longing. "No, no one can be prepared to give their child up knowing they will die. No one can be prepared to live with the knowledge that somewhere their child was suffering. That does not change the fact though that you have one year from today until we take him. Possibly less if things progress too quickly in Faerie. He will come, Morgaine, whether you wish him to or not. If you refuse, Fate will see to it that you are taken out of the picture just as Morgana was when she would not name her son in the hopes he could avoid his destiny. It cannot be avoided."

Gwen's grip on Arthur tightened and he grabbed her hand, pulling it away and rubbing his arm. "Arthur, they're talking about you!"

"I know," was all he said before he rose and headed back down the hill, the fair-haired girl in tow.

"So what will you do about it?"

"You heard the Faerie queen, destiny cannot be avoided." Arthur shrugged nonchalantly, but the fear in his eyes bellied his calm words.

"So you'll go with them and fight knowing you'll die?" Gwen sounded outraged and astonished.

"What choice do I have?" The boy managed a laugh as he turned to her and swept her up in his arms. "It's destiny Gwen. I'll tell you what though, I will marry you this Lughnasadh. We will take part in a Handfasting and make love until morning, until I am carted away by the Faerie to fight their war to my death."

"You will leave before next year's Lughnasadh..."

"True... so we will not be able to make the marriage official or ever-lasting, but in my heart it will be. It's best that it won't be legally binding for you though so that after I am gone you can find another to love and raise a family with." Arthur's smile was cold though he did his best to seem at ease. Gwen said nothing, no assurance that she would never love another, no arguments for his leaving. She only stared at him in disbelief until he released her from his hold and walked away. She could not even bring herself to follow after him. She just stood in the street, watching him grow further away.

A/N: So here's the second chapter. Hope you liked it and if you see any mistakes, let me know. I also realize this might not fit with common myth or legends or traditions surrounding King Arthur and druids and such, but it's not really meant to. It's pure fantasy though I did research and I continue to research ancient pagan rituals and such so there is some truth to the goings on. If you know anything about ancient pagan beliefs and rites and see I've made any obvious errors in my writing, please let me know immediate what and how I might fix it.