Beyond the Silver Veil

Chapter 8 – The Leaving Kind

Arthur watched as the two tore away from each other as if they were on fire. A part of him found it amusing, another part of him found it infuriating because it knew that meant they felt guilty and everything he thought about the situation was most likely true. He managed to remain relatively calm while they scrambled to straighten their clothes, their hair, and their thoughts.

"Arthur!" Gwen squeaked, seeming to find her voice. She struggled to say more and failed.

Lance took his turn to try, "Arthur, we… it's not…"

"It's not what I think? I'm pretty sure it is. There's no mistaking what I saw. You were kissing Gwen and she was happily kissing you back."

"We didn't plan it… it just… happened," Lance offered.

Arthur chuckled bitterly and threw his hands up. "Well, that makes it all better then, doesn't it?"

"Arthur…" Gwen was trying to speak again, but she paused when Arthur turned his stony gaze on her. He noted a spark in her eye and then she was suddenly snapping at him, "Oh, don't look at me like that! Yes, alright, I kissed Lancelot. I kissed him and I liked it and I'd do it again. He's always there for me; he's not leaving me like you are! And I've… sort of had feelings for him for a while now."

Both Arthur and Lance looked surprised at that last confession. Lancelot turned to Gwen and gave her a weary smile while Arthur was rendered speechless momentarily. When he regained his senses he muttered, "So how long have you two been together behind my back?"

"We haven't, I swear. This was the first time and I really didn't mean for it to happen. I'd never hurt you like that, Arthur. You're my best friend. You always have been." Lance couldn't meet Arthur's eyes as he spoke.

"Some best friend you are, huh?"

"Stop it, Arthur! Stop being so cruel!" Gwen protested, but Arthur merely shot her a nasty smirk.

"Cruel? Is that what I'm being? I should think I have every right seeing as I just walked in to find my best friend and my girl wrapped up in each other's arms. You wanted me to wed you and yet all this time you've been lusting after Lance here. If you think I'm cruel, then tell me – what exactly are you? You lead a man on for years to what end? Was all your talk of marrying me a game or did you really intend to marry me, but for some deceitful reason? I know - you hoped that by marrying me you would have a better chance of becoming the High Priestess when my mother passes on, is that it?" If Gwen had thought him cruel before, the cold, emptiness of his eyes and tone now surely made him crueler.

"How dare you! I wanted to marry you because I thought I loved you," she muttered, just barely above a whisper. Arthur could see the tears in her eyes, but he held no remorse. "I was wrong. I love Lancelot and not you. I'm sorry that that hurts you, but it's the truth and I only just realized it."

"You said you've had feelings for him for a while now, so that's a lie isn't it? The fact that you just realized your feelings for Lance, I mean." Gwen didn't reply. Instead she averted her gaze and bit her lip. "Thank the Goddess I found out now before the hand fasting ceremony just how much of a whore you are."

Arthur expected the tears to roll when he said that, but instead a kind of smirk graced Gwen's lips right before a fist connected with Arthur's jaw. He staggered backward and rubbed his chin as he stared in awe at the boy he had once called his best friend.

"Don't you ever speak to her like that again," Lance hissed with hands still balled up at his sides. "I don't care how angry you are, you have no excuse for treating her like that. She made a mistake. I made a mistake. You made a mistake."

"You're right. I never should have trusted either of you, what a huge mistake that was. No matter, I won't have to see either of you for much longer. That's what I came here to tell you when I interrupted your little moment. I'm leaving before the week is out and I doubt I'll be back before I fulfill my destiny and die to save a world – actually several worlds and innumerable people – I could not care less about." Lance paled and even Gwen briefly looked regretful, but Arthur looked at them with disdain and then without another word, and before either of the other two could speak again, he turned and left.

Lance called out to him, but he didn't turn. He had no intentions of suffering their company any longer. Lance didn't come after him either so it couldn't have been that important, probably just another trivial attempt at making amends for something the man didn't really feel bad for.

The boy wandered aimlessly around the island for a while after leaving Gwen's house. He felt like there was somewhere he should be, but he didn't know where. The whole island was covered in places that reminded him of Gwen or Lance so everywhere he turned he felt anger bubble up or regret, sadness. Everywhere he turned he saw places where he once felt at home, but from which he now felt estranged. It wasn't until Arthur found himself at the Great Tor that he finally felt peace. He climbed the craggy hillside until he found the entrance that lead to a network of tunnels and caves beneath and entered within, glad to have one place where he had never shared a memory with Lance or Gwen.

It was cool within the tor and only got cooler the further into the dark recesses that he traveled. Just as the light from outside faded he turned a corner and was greeted by torchlight instead. Without missing a beat he continued on until the tunnels gave way to a cavern with a small pool in the middle. Torches still flickered along the wall, but at the center of the cavern ceiling was a rather large crack that ran up to the surface and allowed rays of light to seep down and reflect off the water beneath. Ripples of said reflection danced on the walls, shifting as the water shifted. Arthur moved to the edge of the pool and sat down with his legs crossed, staring at the water and taking a deep breath.

"It's nice down here, isn't it?" A voice startled Arthur and he whipped his head around to take in the form of Merlin, standing in the entry way and looking about the cavern with approval. His eyes landed on Arthur and he smiled goofily, meandering over to his side and plopping down. "So, you're not hiding out, are you?"

"I am actually," Arthur grumbled, turning his attention back to the water.

"Not from me I hope."

"No, from my girl… ex-girlfriend and ex best friend."

"Oh." Merlin sighed and patted Arthur's shoulder. "I'm sorry to hear you lost some people close to you."

Arthur rolled his eyes, "I'm sure you really care. It makes your job of getting me away from this island all the more easy."

"If you really hated them then yes, it would, but you don't and either way I don't want to force you away from here, I want you to come willingly."

"Sorry to tell you, but it'll never fully be willingly because I would never willingly throw my life away which is exactly what leaving means. It means I've gone off to die." Arthur shrugged and looked over to the wizard beside him.

Merlin smiled slightly as he met the boy's gaze, "It'll mean you've resigned yourself to fight despite the fact you believe you'll die. You wouldn't willingly give up your life to save those you love though?"

Arthur was quiet a moment and then he shrugged again, "I'm a selfish person. The only person I'd die to save would be my mother, but she would never let me."

"What about your girlfriend? Or your best friend there?"

"Ex-girlfriend. Ex best friend," Arthur corrected. "I might have considered giving my life for them once upon a time, but I don't think I would have actually done it. I would have fought for them and protected them and if I died in the process then fine, but if someone said I could choose to die instead of them I would have passed."

"Interesting…" Merlin regarded the boy with amusement, which Arthur found unnerving since he had basically just admitted he was a heartless coward who valued his own life over that of anyone else. "Well, I just came to check in on you and make sure you were still here. I'll let you get back to staring at the water and doing whatever it is you were doing. I'll be back for you and Alisset soon."

"She's not coming."

"What do you mean she's not coming? Of course she is."

"I told you before that I don't want her coming with us. She freaks me out. I refuse to let her accompany us. If you've got a crush on her then you deal with that on your own time after I'm dead and gone and don't have to be around her anymore."

Merlin smacked Arthur in the back of the head rather hard and grunted, "You don't have a choice, Arthur. She is coming with us and that is final. I don't care if you don't like it. This is about more than the fact I find her beautiful. You need her, even if you don't think you do. I won't be with you constantly, I can't. She will stay with you and protect you when I'm away."

"I can protect myself!" Arthur rubbed the back of his head and cast a livid glare at Merlin.

"You do not have the magical ability you will need to defend yourself against your coming foes – she does. Until you can harness your magic to a suitable degree you need her."

"Why her? There are plenty of other capable magic wielders around!"

"Because I won't be missed."

Arthur and Merlin both glanced over their shoulders at the doorway where Alisset stood. She had her fingers laced before her, but her head was held high and her eyes were as empty as usual. Even her tone was empty, flat. Despite the fact that she just admitted no one would miss her, she spoke as if she were commenting on the weather or reciting mathematical equations. Arthur frowned and looked to Merlin who was smiling sadly at the girl.

"Not here you will not," Merlin agreed. "Do you wish to come with us?"

"If you ask me I will come. It's my duty."

Merlin's sad smile progressed into a smirk, "The two of you are so amusing."

Arthur furrowed his brow in confusion, "How so?"

"That's for me to know and you to figure out. Anyway, I'll let the two of you be for now. Arthur, she is coming with us, whether she freaks you out or not, so I suggest you get used to her quickly." With that Merlin snapped his fingers and poofed in a cloud of smoke.

"What a show-off," Arthur mumbled, waving smoke out of his face. He turned to Alisset who still made residence in the doorway, "If I can help it you won't be coming with us."

"You won't be able to help it. If Merlin wants me to come along I will have to." Alisset moved closer until she was beside him. There she dropped to her knees and looked to the water before turning to look at Arthur, "I need the use of the pool so if you plan to do anything but sit there then please do it quickly. If you only intend to sit there then may I proceed?"

Arthur raised an eyebrow at her and scooted a bit further from the strange girl, "I just want to sit, please, go ahead." He swept his hand toward the water, indicating what he was saying – for her to do whatever it was she had planned. He then sat back and watched her work.