Title: Amor Vincit Omnia
(Love Conquers All)
Author: Rose Freeman
Fandom: Arthurian legend
Pairing: Guinevere/Morgan le Fey
Rating: PG-13
Summary: What if Guinevere *didn't* fall in love with Lancelot?
Archive: I'd be honored. (yes)
Email:  delenn2@juno.com
Series/Sequel: Maybe later
Web Page: Nope. not yet...
Disclaimer: They are as much mine as Malory's.  Wha-ha-ha!  MIIINE!
Warnings: Slight religious commentary.  Don't be alarmed.

Amor Vincit Omnia

by Rose Freeman



A squire knelt before Arthur with his hands uplifted and palms together.
The gesture, recently adopted for prayer, was a beautiful symbol of
righteous submission. Yet, whereas the Lord in Heaven can only touch a
soul, Arthur placed his palms over the new knight’s uncalloused hands and
kissed peach-fuzzed cheeks, affirming the oath of fealty.
The boy reminded me of myself—innocent, trusting... both of us were given
to Arthur unwittingly, perhaps unwillingly, because others sent us. My
eyes glazed over in thought. Arthur spends so much time with his men and
so little with me. He brings me jewels and treats me well, but Arthur is
apathetic to me as a human being. This lad also reminded me of Sir
Gawain. Our good King loved Gawain so much that on my wedding day, when
every bud in the land, even those too young to be rightly plucked, had
been stuffed into the sanctuary, Arthur knighted Gawain.
When the ceremony ended, a messenger dashed from behind. "Sire, your
sister approaches."
Arthur whispered to himself, "Right in time for May Day. Beltane. Just
her style."
Gazing out the window, my jaw clenched in disapproval as the sorceress
approached. The scent of finest venison, prepared in honor of our guest,
angered me. Morgan le Fey. Damned temptress, corrupter, witch, murmured
my mind. Sighing, I called for Lanette to dress me. I chose my worst
gown, and bound my hair into two perfectly restrained braids. Wrapping my
braids tightly into a crown, I thought, I will show this harlot the
discipline a lady should have. Morgan sat at Arthur’s right hand, so I
threw myself down in the chair to Arthur’s left. My stare threatened to
cut off Arthur’s nose as I thought, She’s in my seat. I studied the
enemy’s features. Unfashionably tanned and leathery, Morgan’s skin was a
sharp contrast from flame-red lips that corroborated her reputation of
unholy attractiveness. If not for the silver laurels at her temples, I
would never suspected she was Arthur’s senior.
Morgan smiled playfully. "What’s wrong, my queen?"
I smiled back politely. Damn fairy.
After many courses of dinner, Arthur asked, "Sister, what brings you
here?"
"I have foreseen a grave thing, Arthur. Lot of Orkney raises a small
force against you."
"Oath breaking dog," I commented, eyes affixed to Morgan’s dark locks,
rising and falling with each breath. They were like a mesmerizing tide,
and I wondered if it was witchcraft.
"Confront Lot, and he cannot struggle. Also, Lance will be ill soon; he
will die if he fights."
"Lancelot, I leave the day after tomorrow. I do not wish you harm, the
choice is yours."
When Morgan stood, she was imposing. It must be her magic, I thought, for
she seemed stronger, surer, taller and nobler than me; I envied her for
it.
"Good night, brother, and sweet dreams, my queen."
I felt powerful arms around me. A strong and steady hand wiped away a
tear, caressed my cheek and rested over my heart. Warm and reassured, I
rested in those arms as long, dark locks settled on my face. Maybe then I
realized it was not Arthur’s embrace; maybe I knew all along.
Arthur rose for breakfast. I stayed, tired and guilty for my dreams, but
decided to confront my tormentor. Why then, my best dress? That did not
matter, only the large, gilded cross.
Morgan still sat at Arthur’s right. Angry, I moved a chair to reclaim my
place. She said nothing, looking me over. Suitors of my youth, their eyes
tracing the curves of my face and body, had never been so thorough. For
the rest of our meal, I smiled at Arthur and fingered the cross over my
rebellious heart, racing for no apparent reason.
I had heard what Morgan’s ilk have said of Roodmas, but sitting beside
me, she seemed polite. Isn’t it strange that the loving Almighty would
require blood, same as the heathen we condemn? No, I cannot think that.
Halfway through the service I realized that Morgan was staring at me
intensely. She had the same veneration in her eyes as I did, though
surely not for the cross and its sacrifice. Why does she gaze at me like
that? I not think of that, either...
Against the backdrop of the domed white ceiling, Morgan’s body seemed
even more beautiful, soft and sensual; I had a sudden revelation of why
men fight over women. All of its lines met to create the perfect
composition, toned just enough to create an elegant shape the eye could
hardly believe.
The same breeze that tickled our bare skin and played with our hair
brought the sweet smell of apple blossoms, and an occasional petal. I
reached up to pick the whitish-pink frailty from behind Morgan’s ear, and
my arm was met with the most tender kiss I had ever received, warm like
sunshine and soft as a butterfly’s touch.
The memory of a dream seared my cheeks. I was afraid, as though Arthur
might catch—what? A dream, nothing more, I begged myself to believe.
Arthur woke drowsily and turned to my side of the bed. "Gwen, I must
leave for battle before morning, lest Lancelot’s obligation brings him
with me. I cannot lead my men if I am missing your love, my queen."
"Arthur, no...." My rare pleading had only worked once, and it was not
that night.
Angrily, he mumbled, "When will you realize that I am King? You cannot
refuse me!"
My mind fled. He does not give a damn what I feel.
At long last, Arthur dressed for his long ride and consciousness
returned. I hope he never comes home, I thought against my will. If I
could, I would kiss him good-bye, and loosen the belt of that scabbard,
that he might die.
In the morning, I still felt as though I had been run over by scores of
horses. At breakfast, Morgan sat at the absent King’s right hand. It
cannot be familial attachment, only pride. "Lady Morgan, a word with
you?" Just two rooms from the feasting hall, I snarled, "Witch!"
"What have I done, your majesty?"
"Besides stealing my seat? You bewitched my dreams, you thrice consigned
fairy!"
"Certainly, I did not. Though, I could accuse you of the same."
"You most certainly did, harlot. I did not will myself to Avalon, nor
your arms!"
"I did no such thing. By what right do you call me that?"
I colored with embarrassment. "They say you take as many ‘friends’ to bed
as a man might."
Her smile lines deepened. "Friends, you say? Do you think it’s true?"
Without thinking, I replied, "Very well could be. Who’d say ‘no’?"
Morgan stared pointedly at me. "The only one who matters."
Ignore that, I carefully enunciated my parting words. "Stay. Out. Of. My.
Seat."
That afternoon, I needed fresh air. I dozed on a blanket in the shade of
the castle, but I woke while being lifted by a great blue giant. His
gauntlet alone was as wide as a stocky maple. When he secured me in his
armpit, I drowsily observed that Morgan shared a similar fate. A great
blue hand knocked upon the wooden door of the castle and the slats
groaned at the touch of its knuckles. "I demand a challenge," the
gigantic monster roared.
Lancelot looked ready to fight, until his sneeze rattled his helmet. Just
the same he shouted, "Who dares me, and why?"
"I am the Blue Knight. I seek the most virtuous soul in the land. If your
goodness defeats me, all shall live and I will help you I am most needed.
If not, one of you three will die."
The battle tore a long trail, but Lance lost at last. The victor
demanded, "Who shall die?"
I did not want to be the one to doom any of us. Perhaps the Lord would
place the blame for murder on me. Lancelot was bleeding to death; he was
the logical choice. Yet he had fought to save us all and he was not
beyond recovery. I expected that Morgan would take this opportunity to
end my life and exert a larger force on Arthur, instead.
Instead, her words were, "If you demand blood, let it be mine."
That is when I knew the Morgan was not what others said of her. Her heart
was as good as any knight’s. I felt gratitude that she saved my defender
and me, but also something else.
The Blue Knight set us down. "You are the purest of the land and you will
see me again when what matters most to you is at stake." He vanished,
along with Lancelot’s body.
"Now we won’t have to carry him," she said, trying to cheer me. I was a
few shades paler than usual while staring at footsteps three times
greater than those a man makes. "At the castle, they’ll tend to his
wounds. Please, do not let it upset you. ‘Tis a bonny day, walk with me…"
"I don’t suppose you spend much time outside the castle walls."
"Little time, because this is no place for a lady. Surely, there are
snakes and lions seeking those whom they may devour. And few get anywhere
without encountering highwaymen."
"Nay, it isn’t that bad."
"There is great danger here." I hated how childish that made me sound.
"Then I shall protect you." To this endearing reply I could not answer;
we walked in silence.
Upon reaching a meandering creek Morgan suggested, "Perhaps it would be
best if we rest here." She laid down her mantle down. That is so sweet.
We listened to the water’s babbling, but there was an awkward gap of
wordlessness.
Eventually, I faced her to speak, forgetting the stray streamlet drying
on my cheek. Morgan probed my face with great, grey eyes. "I can’t help
the tears or the pain I feel. I may as well tell the rain not to fall.
Evil has taken root deep in my heart; I feel for someone. I care as I
should only for Arthur." With a sigh, I placed my hand on Morgan’s and
tears welled up anew, altering her image into a mystical blur.
I could see Morgan’s hesitance. "I cannot picture you evil," she said at
last. "Many say that you look at Lancelot as more than your champion." I
tried to cut in, but my voice was too broken. Morgan wiped away another
pair of my tears and continued. "The heart does as the heart does,
precious Guinevere. Does your God fault this creek for running to the
sea? Of course not; ‘tis only its nature. Likewise, why should He fault
His living creations for pursuing what He has set down for it to seek?
Guinevere, love is the answer to life’s ‘why.’ So if you desire Lancelot,
the wedding vows forced upon you should not quash the truth of your
spirit."
Some other entity, one with great courage, moved my lips. "‘It is not
him, it’s you."
Her radiant smile warmed my heart. "I like your heart all the better,
then, my queen."
Shame constricted my throat and bled every tear. What have I done?
Affection for Morgan was wrong, and to admit it was evil, according to
the Church. I’ll talk to the abbot. At the far end of the castle, I sat
down in the confessional to begin. "Bless me Father, for I have
sinned..."
"May the love of Our Lord be upon you; his grace and mercy are infinite."
"O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee," I began
reciting, but it was mechanical, a function of memory, not soul. "...I
firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and to avoid
the near occasions of sin." The priest waited, but I could not speak;
sobs suspended every syllable. I calmed and said, "I accuse myself of all
the sins of my life, especially of those against the sixth commandment."
"Adultery?" Captivated, the priest hunched forward, making him look even
older. "But that’s treason for the High Qu-- any person. Treason against
the will of our Lord," he recovered.
"‘Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her
in his heart.’"
"Or a man, you assume? To think of any man but your husband in this way
is evil. What God has brought together, may no man tear asunder.
Strengthen your resolve against a wrongful deed." The priest watched me
nod, then resumed. "God, the Father of mercies..." he droned, and I
waited for the words I needed. "I absolve you from your sins in the name
of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Even if it had
calmed me, absolution was not fated to last.
The stones of the mosaic beneath us allowed canals of summer air under my
bare back. Her face came into focus, every detail down to the rare
wrinkles and the first grey hairs. I loved the way time had softened it.
My hand reached up to touch those laurels of wisdom, to rake through dark
locks, and body followed without a thought. I was neither in control or
out; fate was not driving me, but allowing me to come so close, letting
our breath mingle, guiding our lips to meet.
We barely saw the brightly shining stars, whiter than the marble pillars
holding up this open-air room, familiar to my soul but foreign to my
eyes. It did not matter; it could be the furthest land because we would
always know where we belonged, as long as we were together.
I woke grinning with contentment, which lasted until I remembered the
amoral nature of my dream. To "avoid the near occasions of sin," I vowed
to lock myself away until I regained purity of mind. That is easier said
than done. Despite repetitions of "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" ad
nauseum, I could no more purge my passion for Morgan than I could keep
the moon from waxing by shouting at it.
That evening, Lanette came in with a bowl of water for washing shortly
after dinner. I glanced at my reflection for a moment and before the
surface could calm, the eve’s first beams of moonlight played upon the
ripples. Though no one would believe me, I swear it true—I saw Morgan and
myself sitting on the shore of the lake, watching the first dawn and last
dusk of the world. Well, names and faces change, but at that moment I
knew that our souls had always been connected as closely as waves are
bound to the sea.
The mosaic of the zodiac stretched across the entire surface of the
tower’s highest landing; the eyes of those stony beasts and men were our
only witnesses. The last sliver of my fear finally waned away as Morgan’s
lips whispered "I love you" into the sinews of my neck.
On the third night, as I recited the Hail Mary in a whisper, I heard a
sound at the threshold of my chamber. I dared not look up until I
breathed, "In nomine Christi, Amen." Dressed in a revealing gown, Morgan
stood spotlighted by half-strength moonbeams. After being deprived of her
presence for three days, I knew "absence makes the heart grow fonder" to
be the truest phrase on the earth. I could only gape, thinking, What a
creature! In that instant, all the training—today, one would say
"brainwashing"—of my young years in a convent were jeopardized; my
Christianity was making its "last stand" against the callings of my
heart, spiritual and emotional.
I clutched my gilded cross and began another recitation. My eyes were
captured territories. "Our Father, which art in Heaven," my words trailed
to a mumble, but still sounded hollow. "...thy will be done... lead us
not into temptation... deliver us from evil...."
She watched and waited. When I stopped, the avatar of seduction said,
"Good evening."
All right, Morgan, you win. So does my heart, if not my soul. I dropped
aside the gilded cross.
That was all the invitation Morgan needed. She strode from the doorway
while carefully watching my face for any sign of rejection.
Instead, I sunk to a kneeling position and lifted my hands together
before Morgan, as I had seen knights do, hands united prayerfully, but
the invocation had changed. "Queen of my heart, forgive me. By the faith
of my body, I should never have rejected you, and I shall never do so
again."
As Morgan lowered herself to my level, I felt ripples of terror and joy.
She clasped my hands and kissed either teary cheek. Her hands were so
warm and secure that I could believe that everything was going to be all
right. When she kissed my lips, I forgot what could be wrong.
When my mind returned from paradise, I whispered, "The priest is coming
to check on me soon." It grieved me; I never wanted to be so far from
Morgan that I could not hear her breath.
Sunlight filled my window, and all the birds sang. I winked knowingly at
the robin on my windowsill. I, too, understood what flight was—to be
unprotected and falling, and yet above the rest of the world, away from
all cares, uplifted by a breeze of a word, "love."
At breakfast, I sat in my place of honor, and Morgan sat beside me.
"Lancelot, how is your condition?" I asked politely. His presence at the
table again was a sign of improvement in itself.
"Much better, thanks to our good King’s sister."
My face soured for a moment, and then containing myself, replied, "I am
glad of it." "Our King’s sister." It is not bad enough that I had to fall
in love with someone other than my husband, that the Church forbids that
I might love a woman, or that Morgan believes differently. Why Arthur’
sister? Fie on me, four times! I glanced over at Morgan and observed, but
none of those things matter, as long as you’re here. Hiding my thoughts,
I asked, "So, Lance, will you be at the picnic this afternoon?"
He smiled at me, but I could see frailty. "Perhaps, milady."
A picnic at Camelot seemed to be everything moved outside to enjoy the
fresh air. However, I was sullen because of Morgan’s absence. Lancelot
approached and knelt before me in greeting, I began to ask why he was
wearing a cloak in summer, but stopped and blinked. Strangely enough, I
could see the illusion of Lancelot’s body, and the manifestation of
Morgan’s spirit.
"Tell no one," she whispered as I grinned.
By late afternoon, when the mead ran out, I lay my head against
Morgan-Lancelot’s knee and ate the grapes the lady-knight fed me. A young
page, toting a wooden sword, ran up to us and asked, "Sir Lancelot! Oh
boy! Sir, do you know when the King and his knights will return?"
"Nay, why don’t you go on lookout?" Morgan answered. The boy charged off.
Soon enough, servers were carrying remnants inside. "We should go in," I
noted.
"Let’s stay here, Gwen. I don’t want to go in; I want to stay here with
you."
"We can’t. Someone will notice Lancelot inside, and wonder which of you
is the changeling. Besides, we need not get the entire court whispering
about ‘Guinevere and her sworn protector.’"
"As you wish, milady," Morgan teased, kissing my hand like a proper
knight.
As the great red eye of day closed, and the gibbous moon became more
visible, I wished that I had not been so rude to my soul mate. After all,
I had told the priest that the conflict was over; he would not visit
again. I could have brought Morgan up to her room to share tea, at least.
"Stop it! Stop it, I hear someone coming," I begged half-heartedly.
Morgan’s eyes sparkled with mirth. "You’re not afraid of footsteps, are
you?"
"Nay. I’m not afraid of footsteps, just terrified of whispers, and what
they might bring." At this, I saw Morgan stiffening with fear. "What’s
wrong?"
"You’re right; I should never endanger you like this. I am sorry," she
said, turning away.
My heart shattered. "Please... don’t go. I’d rather spent five minutes
with you and be quartered than watch you walk away, even for a little
while."
"You don’t mean that."
"Yes, I do. Love does funny things."
"That it does, milady." Morgan did her quirky Lancelot impression again,
kissing my hand, just as one of my attendants walked by.
"Lanette, dear? Take tomorrow off. I’m sure you could use the rest."
"Yes, milady. Goodnight, milady. Goodnight, Sir Lancelot."
"See? I might be good as dead now," I said. "But I don’t care, Morgan, as
long as I have you."
Rain had made the next day, which would have been dull anyway, positively
dreary. I wandered about the castle with Lancelot, who had recovered
partially. He insisting on pestering me about what news he had missed. It
was not until mid-afternoon when Lancelot retired.
Wandering the castle halls, I sought Morgan. At last, studying the purple
sky, I found her.
"Guinevere," she said. Just the way she said it filled me with warmth.
"I don’t have your silent feet," I replied playfully, bliss filling me at
the sight of my beloved.
"Come here," Morgan’s hushed voice beckoned. She set her hands on my
shoulders, guided me in front of her, and pointed. "See the little dot?"
I nodded, rubbing my crown of braids against Morgan’s shoulder, loosening
strands.
"That’s Venus. The planet was named for a goddess of love, and viewing it
is a very good sign." For hours, she told me of all the constellations
while I simply enjoyed her touch.
Rather than part, I suggested that Morgan should accompany me for tea.
One cup led to another, and when the pot was empty, the last excuse was
gone. We had sipped slowly, talking more than drinking. That one pot had
lasted us until the pregnant-looking moon stood at the very top of the
sky, unconquerable. Up there, no one could touch it; no man might shake
his fist and demand that the moon be duller, or smaller, or a different
shade. It ruled the sky in majesty, and there could not even be any god
that mortals imagined that could condemn it. Drinking the last drop, I
mentioned, "I’ve always seen you wearing that broach, but I don’t know
what it is."
"It is just moonstone, though it seems unusual, doesn’t it? Here," Morgan
held it out to me. "See for yourself." That was soon discarded, along
with society’s rules. Kissing, the world around us ceased to exist, which
is why neither of us was aware of Arthur’s return until we heard his
voice.
Flickering candle in hand, he was practically standing over us when his
cracked utterance alerted us of his presence. "Guinevere, my pure
beauty—nay, filthy whore." By the time he could clearly see Morgan, her
guard had already raised subconsciously. "Lancelot, you thrice damned
filthy bastard! Damn you both! By my life, I never thought that the two
purest souls in my kingdom could... never thought that my most trusted
knight and my beloved bride would... nay, nay, nay...."
I thought Morgan was torn, until our eyes met. Even if you would never
expect me to be honest, Guinevere, I have to. There was no way that I
could abandon you now. Her eyelashes fluttered closed as she broke the
spell. "I’m sorry, brother. Truly."
Arthur looked away and masked a laugh of astonishment with a cough.
"Though you both have been treacherous beyond my ability to speak it, you
are both very important to me. My wife, stop your tears. Sister, do not
fear me. I will never avenge this betrayal, for my heart is dead."
I threw my arms around Arthur, knowing that he had always been such a
good friend, though I never loved him. Morgan found it convenient to
search for her broach, and not see us embrace.
I was respectably clad also by the time Mordred entered with sword drawn.
"My lord? I heard you shout. But where is the treacherous Lancelot?" We
all stood silent. Mordred stepped closer to his mother and looked as
though he would ask her business in all this.
I had to act fast. "He left. Through the window."
Mordred dashed out the door. The children of Ygerne stared in disbelief
at me, my very first lie still fresh on my tongue. Even as guilt began to
register, I explained, "To save the life of a beloved, one manages." I
turned to Arthur and pleaded, "My life is forfeit, my lord, but please
spare Morgan."
With freshly chopped wood piled up to my knees, I wished for the
frightful thunderstorms of the last two days. A few commoners shouted to
bring out Lancelot, but Arthur claimed his best friend had fled. Though
the King knew where Lancelot was, detained in the dungeon for his own
protection. Who then, was riding from the hills, in Lancelot’s armor? I
saw the glint of shining metal from afar. Maybe, thought I, this is only
escapism; my legs are burning, I cannot take this...
Suddenly, the crowd hushed in alarm as the Blue Knight manifested, man
sized. "I demand an ordeal for Guinevere’s innocence. Arthur shall fight
me." The blue entity drew a sword eloquently. It eased my heart to know
he would call off the duel at surrender, and Arthur would live.
I looked off to the hills. Yes, someone was approaching. As the Blue
Knight captivated everyone’s attention with battle, my savior dismounted.
I gasped, "Morgan!"
She only smiled, and picked the knots cutting into my wrists. "Love,
could you see about the fire, first?" Morgan looked at the fire
scornfully and the flames died. She helped me limp away.

Later, Arthur’s doctor treated my burns, then Arthur smuggled us back out
of the castle at sundown. He gave us two of his best horses, saying,
"Please, go."
"Thank you, my hus—um, your Majesty," I fumbled.
"Do not thank me or return. I am out of mercy. For the rest of my days,
be gone."
Morgan’s lips twisted to withhold irony. "You will not see me until it
relieves you to do so."
Arthur’s last words to us hung heavily on my heart as the fled that
night. We urged our horses on through the next day, and took refuge at
Glastonbury early in the next evening.
There, Morgan discovered that Lancelot was lodging as well. "I am truly
sorry, Lancelot. There is no way that to offset the dirtying of your
name, but is there anything I can do for you?"
When I tried to chime in, he said, "In truth, I wished to go questing but
I could not leave Arthur. You have set me free. Now I set you free."
Indeed, he did. I slept like a newborn babe.
The next thing I remember, Morgan was cradling me, on a barge. I slept
again, and did not stir until I realized how strange it was that Morgan
had the strength to carry me. Maybe it was just something about Morgan’s
home, the isle between worlds. Upon the crown of the great hill stood a
magnificent tower. I remembered how old superstitions—old wisdom?—held
hills as places closer to the spirit world. With a tower such as this,
touching the sky, it had to be important, even without the energy in the
air and a processional path humming with power. Yet, the things that
mattered were honeybees, apple trees and moonlight that welcomed us as
the royal couple of Avalon. I felt its magic strengthening my legs. "I
can walk," I noted.
"Yes, but I won’t let you." The tower went up forever, even higher by
foot than the eye had imagined. These walls of stone seemed older than
humanity itself, and every step my soul mate took on the never-ending
spiral staircase resonated whispers of "welcome home."
Quite a way up, the exterior wall fell away. Beyond the stairs, there was
only the blessed isle and the lake. Below us, a robin danced on air. In
her arms, I really am flying.
"Pretty moon," I mentioned, almost awake now.
"It never wanes here," she replied, reaching the top. Until Morgan put me
down and I could stand on it with my own feet, I could not believe it.
Everything was as I dreamt it, even the view.
While our clothes fell, and obscured the detailed mosaic of Pisces, one
timeless soul said to another, "I love you."
Her strong and steady hand wiped away the last tear, caressed my cheek,
meandered to rest over my heart. Warm and reassured, I rested in her arms
as long, dark locks settled on my face.



 


 

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