The King and Her Queen

Chapter 2:  The Lady of the Lake


Somehow, it had come to this.  Shiro still could not believe how far they had come.  Despite all his misgivings, somehow, the pieces just steadily fell into place as they tried to reach their goal.  There were times that their research reached a dead end.  But some way or another, something cropped up to put them on another lead.  It was as if some invisible force was lending a hand.  If there was such a thing as karma, then Rin must have done something good in the past.

When he first heard of Rin's idea, the concept seemed simple, but the execution seemed impossible.  Rin's words echoed in his mind as he took his place on the glowing arcane glyphs.  "The servants were summoned here by magic, right?  What if we can reverse that process;  i.e.  'summon' ourselves to where they were in space and time?"

He watched apprehensively as Rin finished the last glyph.  The arcane circle was complete.  Rin walked over and took her place in the circle. 

"So... are you ready?"  Rin smiled slightly.  "I really appreciate you coming this far with me.  If... if you don't want to do this, I'll understand."

"Geez, Rin!  Why are you saying this now?"  said Shiro with mock exasperation.  He held out his calloused hands.  "I didn't do all that work just to let you reap the benefits.  I'm with you on this one.  No matter what."

"Thanks."  Rin smiled widely. 

Shiro felt that this was one of the few smiles that Rin gave from the heart.  The sight of it eased his anxiety a little bit.

Rin raised her hands.  "Shall we begin?"

"Un."  nodded Shiro. 

Rin wove her hands and chanted the incantation.  Shiro swept his eyes across the landscape around them.  The lake shimmered like silver under the bright sun.  Above the distant hills, a lone eagle glided across the clear sky.  Above them, the willow trees bent their crooked branches to give them shade.  Here and there, small irises waved in the gentle breeze as if to bade them farewell.  As Rin started the last stanza of the incantation, Shiro hoped that whatever luck had led them here would bring them back as well. 

Finally, Rin drew the last glyph in the air with her finger and spoke the activation spell word.  The arcane circle burst into a cacophy of light and energy.  Shiro unconsciously balled his hands into fists.  As the landscape faded into the light, he wished with all his being.  "Please let us find you... Saber..."

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Rin floated in a dimensionless space filled with light.  She could not tell which way was up.  But her honed magical senses alerted her that the spell was nearly complete.  It was do or die.  Rin adjusted her body slightly and prepared a levitation spell just in case they materialized too high from the ground.  Then the spell faded into darkness.  Rin's first sensation was pressure and a dull ache in her ears.  An attempt to breathe resulted in an unpleasant sensation in her sinuses.  The horrible realization caused her to panic.  They were underwater.  She flailed for a moment and noticed a dull light coming from above.  Holding her breath, she swam upwards toward the light.  Soon, she could see the surface of the water.  She reached out her arm as if to grasp her way to safety.  As her arm broke through the water's surface, something cold landed on her hand.  Her hand closed on reflex, thinking that it might be something that could help her float.  Instead, her arm drew backward and sank back into the water.  She turned to see what it was.  It was a sword.  Her fingers loosened to let go of such a heavy object, but her mind emerged from its panicked state to identify the sword.  She willed her left hand to grab the hilt as the sword began to slip from her grip.  Now with both hands on the hilt, she kicked upwards again to get some air.  Her muscles and lungs burned as she attempted to reach the surface.  She felt something slide around her waist.  She looked down and saw a yellow inflatable tube around her.  Shiro was nearby in a similar tube.  Rin grabbed the tube gratefully with her left hand and together they broke through the surface gasping for air. 

"Haaah... haah... Th- thanks, Shiro.  Haaahh... You saved me."

"Haaah... yeah... haaah... no problem... haaahh..."

After swallowing several lungfuls of air, Rin held up her right hand.  "Hey... check it out..."

Shiro's eyes grew wide.  "Where'd you get that?!"

"Found it."

"No!  Seriously..."

"It just fell into my hand."

Shiro gaped at her, speechless.  When he finally found his voice, he growled, "Rin... don't tease me..."

"Hey!  I really did!"  Rin put forth her most serious face and menacing tone.  "Think about it!  If this is the lake where Bedivere threw the sword back, where's Saber?"

In his mind, Shiro quickly scanned through his research on the legend of King Arthur.  His eyes grew in alarm.  "He threw the sword back, because Arthur asked him to.  Rin, we have to find Saber fast!"  Shiro thrust out his hands and an outline began to form from it.

"Hey!  Wait a sec!"  cried Rin.  They had agreed to conserve mana for the return trip.  Even as Rin kicked toward Shiro, she knew it was too late to stop him.  However, when he finished, Rin had to admit that she was impressed.  "A jet ski!?"

"Yeah..."  Shiro hauled himself onto the seat and reached out towards Rin.  Rin grabbed his hand and climbed up to sit behind him.  She pulled off the tube and was about to throw it away when Shiro stopped her.  "Don't.  We might need it..."

"C'mon, Shiro!  We don't need it anymore.  Besides, we're too old to be using rubber ducky tubes."  Then something dawned on her.  "Hey, if you could make something like this, why didn't you make a life vest or something?"

"..."  Shiro turned away from her.  "It was reflex, okay?  It was the first thing I could think of!"

Rin noticed that Shiro's ears turned red.  One side of her mouth curved up to a lopsided smile.  "Fine... I'll hold yours and let's go."

Shiro revved the engine and headed toward the shore.  Meanwhile, Rin sealed Excalibur and cast a masking spell.  When they were halfway to the shore, Shiro turned left.

"Umm... can you sense her?"  asked Rin.

"Yeah... sort of.  I feel a slight pull."

Rin hoped that Shiro was right.  Finally, they were almost at the shore.  However, the jet ski was still moving too fast to get off. 

"Hey... we're moving too fast..."  Rin grabbed Shiro's arm.

"Oh, sorry."  The jet ski slowed down, but showed no signs of stopping.  Rin gripped Shiro's arm tighter.  Shiro only replied, "Yeah, it might be a good idea to hold on."

"Eh?"  Rin felt the jet ski scrape the sandy bank near the shore.  Rin cried out in alarm, "Shiro!"

"Just a sec..."

The jet ski became semi-transparent and its lines began to morph into a different shape.   Rin readied herself to jump off when her seat didn't feel solid anymore, but she didn't have to as the jet ski transformed into a stout dirt bike.  It took several moments before the shock was replaced with awe as they sped across a field.  "Pretty impressive, Shiro..." thought Rin.

They continued across a meadow and went up a hill.  At the top of the hill, they were appalled at the grisly scene before them.  There was no doubt that a gruesome battle had taken place.  Shiro was so shocked that he stopped the bike.  Rin covered her mouth to control herself from retching while Shiro gripped the handlebars angrily.  After a moment, Shiro turned the bike around so that the battlefield was behind them.  "Let's keep going." he said.

Rin nodded and they went around the battlefield.  They rode across a small meadow and into a forest. Eventually, they came unto a leaf-strewn path.  The soil and leaves on the path were torn up in a stream of patches.  Rin and Shiro shared a glance as each came to the same conclusion that someone on horseback rode here recently. 

"Let's get off the bike."  suggested Rin.  "We shouldn't be seen on it." 

Shiro nodded and dispelled the bike and the tubes.  They continued cautiously along the path until they saw a grassy clearing about thirty feet ahead. 

"She's close..." whispered Shiro.

Suddenly, the silence of the forest was broken by a deep, resonant command. 

"Halt!"

Shiro and Rin stopped in the middle of the path.  A tall knight stood where the path ended at the edge of the clearing.  The knight's flaxen yellow hair was braided in the same way as Saber's except for a pair of braids held in place by a pair of silver cylinders.  A gloved hand rested on the pommel of a sheathed sword.  The knight held a red shield that had a bronze bar with 3 fleur de lis on the top half of the shield.  A sword with its tip pointed down adorned the bottom half of the shield. 

"Art thou friend or foe?"

Rin gasped in surprise.  She wasn't sure then, but she is sure now.  She cleared her throat and took one step.  The knight slid her hand onto the handle.  Slightly alarmed, Rin replied haltingly, "We come in peace... Sir Bedivere.  We mean no harm."  Rin faltered at the salutation, since she did not know if Bedivere should be addressed as 'Lady' or as 'Sir'.  She settled on 'Sir' since Bedivere was a knight.

"Thy speech... seemst not common."  Bedivere's eyes narrowed.  "Yet thou knowst me by sight.  Who art thou truly?  Art ye Mordred's spyes?  Speak plainly, lest I yield to grimly means for thy truth."

Rin swallowed visibly and thought fast, then spoke quickly.  "We art travelers, Sir.  And have traveled far.  Thus thy tongue is not our own.  But thy prowess is well known in our land."  Rin gestured her hands extravagantly.  "I recognized thee by thy device on thy shield."  Rin smiled as charmingly as she possibly could.  Beside her, she could sense Shiro gathering his will.  She could only hope that Bedivere would buy her story and that she and Shiro wouldn't be forced to do something rash.

"And from which land that thou hast hailed from?"

She did not expect Bedivere to ask that.  A drop of sweat trickled down the side of her forehead.  "It is the land just beyond the eastern seas."  As soon as she said that, she felt a sense of dread wash over her.  On instinct, she curled her middle, ring and small fingers and straightened her index finger to form a pointing hand. 

Bedivere's face darkened.  "So ye art spyes!  Saxon spyes!"  Bedivere advanced toward them and drew her sword as she approached.  "Before I banish thee from this kingdom, know that thy kind art not ---"

A black bolt of energy struck Bedivere on the chest and she collapsed face down on the path.

"Rin!  What did you do?!"

Rin lowered her pointing finger and observed Bedivere for any sign of consciousness.  "Don't worry.  I didn't use full power.  It'll only knock her out for a bit.  She'll feel a little sick when she wakes up though.  Can you carry her off the path?"

Shiro resheathed the sword.  He put Bedivere's arm over his shoulder and put his arm around her waist.  "Ugh... she's heavy.  Yeah... I think I can."

Rin took the other arm and lifted the shield.  "Ohmigod... it must be the armor."

Together, they half dragged Bedivere into the clearing.  When they entered the clearing their eyes rested on the large tree at the opposite side of the clearing.  There, resting under its shade, was Saber.

Quickly, they laid Bedivere on the grass and ran to Saber's side.  Rin felt her forehead and her pulse. 

"Is she...?"

"... no... she's not all dead... just mostly dead..."

"Mostly?!  Can you save her?"

"Yeah... I think so...  Help me take off her armor." 

After they removed her armor, a thought occurred to Rin.  "Now go over there and stay with Bedivere.  Or better yet, take the time to change your clothes.  Just don't look over here."

Shiro bore a confused expression on his face, but he obeyed.  He walked over to Bedivere and selected a thicket to change his damp clothes. 

Rin unbuttoned Saber's tunic.  When she finally undid the tunic, she was horrified at the sight of the bloody bandages and serrated flesh.  An initial scan indicated broken ribs, severe internal bleeding and several ruptured organs.  She steeled her resolve and  reached into her pack for medical supplies and her pouch of jewels.  Rin worked steadily as she removed the crude bandages and attended to each broken bone and wound. She had anticipated the possibility of treating Saber's injuries, but her imagination did not even come close to the severity of her injuries.  Rin grew a bit apprehensive when she went over her estimated jewel allotment for this treatment.  As jewel after jewel was used, Rin bit her lip.  There would be fewer jewels to use for the return trip.  She entertained the possibility of doing enough to keep her in a coma.  But a part of her reviled the idea.  "Either I will have all of her or none!"  she thought.  With her determination renewed, she set out to finish her task.

At last, she bandaged the last wound and chanted the spell to help it heal.   She pulled the tunic close.  Then she leaned against the nearest tree.  She closed her eyes and sighed.  She should be safe now.  She glanced over to Saber.  Something was not quite right.  Her skin color was still a shade of gray.  She knelt over her and passed her hand over her body for a scan.  Her heart skipped a beat when she discovered that the bile spilled from her organs was polluting her bloodstream.  Even worse, Saber had lost a lot of blood.  Rin cursed herself for not noticing.  She took out the ceremonial dagger that she got during graduation and drew it from its sheath.  She used the tip of the dagger to etch glyphs on the skin of Saber's palms.  Rin gritted her teeth as she etched similar glyphs on the skin of her palms.  She dropped the dagger and straddled Saber.  She quickly interlaced her hands with her and chanted the spell to perform a blood cleansing.  When the spell activated, Rin stifled a cry of pain as Saber's blood flowed into her left hand while a mixture of her own blood and her purified blood flowed out of her right hand.  Rin's body sagged and she tried to balance herself on her knees and elbows.  Already, she could feel goosebumps all over her body. 

"I'm going to break out in hives after this..." thought Rin as she panted heavily.  She licked her lips and tasted something bitter in her mouth.  She spat out a curse.  There was some sort of toxin in Saber's bloodstream.  She hoped that it was something she could deal with.  "I'm in for a bad time..." grimaced Rin as she gritted her teeth while her innards began to ache. 

"Uh... Rin... are you done?"  asked Shiro from a distance.

"Don't look..." said Rin hoarsely. 

"I'm not looking.  Just... just wanted to know if you're finished."

"No... ask me later."

Her body temperature had risen drastically and beads of sweat began to form her brow.  She swallowed the bitter taste in her throat and concentrated on keeping the spell going.  After a few minutes, Rin felt like retching again.    
"Ugh..."  thought Rin.  "I don't think I can go on much longer..." Rin shifted her grip slightly.  "I'm sorry, Saber...  I hope that this was enough..."  she mumbled. 

As if in reply, Saber's eyes opened slightly.  Her green eyes seemed to focus on Rin's face.  Rin gasped in surprise.  As she was about to call out to her, she was interrupted by Saber's hoarse whisper, "Guinevere...?"

Rin's jaw dropped and her eyes widened.  She stared back at Saber's sleepy face and watched as she drew a shallow breath through her trembling lips.  Then she smiled slightly and closed her eyes.  Alarmed, Rin drew close and positioned her ear near Saber's nose and mouth.  "Thank God... she's breathing better now..." said Rin with a sigh of relief.  She released her grip on Saber's hands and rolled over to lie next to her.  Her exhausted body was coaxing her to sleep.  Rin shook her head slightly in an attempt to keep herself awake.  There were things that still needed to be done.  "Shiro... come over here."

Shiro came over and took one look at Saber.  "Damn... she looks pretty bad."

"Yeah... tell me about it..." 

Shiro's gaze shifted to Rin.  "Rin!  You look awful!  What happened?"  His eyes rested on Saber's upturned palm.  "Did you use that spell?"  Shiro asked, his voice laced with concern. 

"Yeah... s'okay... I'll get over it..."  Already, she could feel the itchy rashes forming on her skin.

"Is she okay?"

"She's stable... for now.  I think there's some sort of poison in her body." 

Shiro knelt next to Saber and put his hand over her palm.  "Trace on... analyze composition..."  Shiro moved his other hand over her wounds.  His brows knitted in anger.  "Dirty bastards!  There was poison on their weapons!"  Shiro stood up.  "Wait here... I think I could make something for it.  I'll be right back."

Before Rin could reply, Shiro left.  Despite her exhaustion, Rin pushed herself up on an elbow and looked at Saber.  Then her gaze moved over to Bedivere who was lying at the opposite end of the clearing.  To her alarm, Bedivere shifted her head to the right and moaned.  Rin prayed that Shiro would come back soon.  It would not be long until Bedivere regained consciousness.  They must think of a plan before then. 

About ten minutes later, Shiro came back with a bunch of flowers.  "I could do this the quick way or the long way.  The long way will take about twenty minutes."

Rin thought for a moment to consider Saber's condition.  "She's a bit stable now.  We can take the time to make the antidote.  However..."  Rin gestured to Bedivere.  "Bedivere's gonna wake up soon.  We have to move somewhere else and make the antidote there."  Rin stood up and leaned against the tree for support.

Shiro watched her curiously.  "Rin... how do you feel?"

"Sleepy and a bit stiff.  Why?"

The corners of Shiro's mouth drooped.  "I'm sorry to say this, Rin.  I think you're poisoned too.  Drowsiness is one of the symptoms of Belladona poisoning.  It also attacks the nervous system and causes numbness and paralysis." 

"Oh, great..." muttered Rin.  "Hey, how do you know it's Belladona?"

"Grynberg likes to talk a lot while he works."  Shiro put the flowers down and went over to Rin.  "I guessed I picked up a little bit from him."  He put his hand over Rin's palm.  "Trace on..."  After a few moments, Shiro sighed with relief.  "It's not as bad as Saber's.  But you'll have to take the antidote too." 

Rin nodded.  "Let's get out of here.  I'll tell you my idea and you can tell me how to make the antidote."  Rin slowly reached over and shouldered her pack.  "Can you carry Saber?" 

"Yeah.  Give me a second."  Shiro put the flowers in his pack and slipped his backpack on.  Then he knelt next to Saber and carefully lifted her into his arms.

Together, they left the clearing to locate a suitable thicket.  On the way, Rin told Shiro about her idea on how to deal with Bedivere.  After hearing it, Shiro balked at the thought of executing Rin's plan by himself, but he could not think of any alternative, and so he agreed to do it.  Finally, they found an adequate thicket.  Shiro laid Saber on Rin's sleeping bag and then instructed Rin on how to prepare the antidote from the bulbs of the flowers.

"Well... I'm off."  Shiro picked up a bundle of clothes wrapped in a towel.

"Have fun."  replied Rin.  "I have the utmost faith in you."

"Gee... thanks.  That makes me feel so much confident."  said Shiro with a hint of sarcasm.

"You'll do fine.  You're a magician, right?  So go out there and show your stuff!"

Shiro straightened up a bit.  "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"You better.  Someone has to check if the antidote is good."

Shiro smiled.  "Yeah, I will.  Later..."  With a small salute, Shiro exited the thicket.

Rin sat still for a few moments and then yawned.  "I better get started on that antidote before I fall asleep."  she thought.  Rin reached for the flowers and the tin pan.  "I hope the plan works out."


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Bedivere woke up with a start and berated herself for collapsing.  She looked about her anxiously to ensure that they were still safe.  Reassured, she knelt beside her king.  She took off her right glove and felt for a pulse on Arturia's wrist.  She sighed with relief.  It was not too late.

"Milord... I hath the strangest dream.  In it, I beheld a tall maid appareled in splendid guise rise from yonder lake.  Deep forest green eyes adorned her bronze face while fairy scarlet locks framed that elegant visage.  Might it be the Lady of the Lake as such as thou spake?" 

Bedivere paused for a moment to regard her king.  "Ah, forgive mine idle prattle, Milord... so earnest was I in telling thee mine dream that I overlooked thy slumber.  Pray that thou pardon me once more."

Bedivere gently lifted Arturia into her arms and was surprised that she seemed heavier than before.  She grunted as she carefully positioned Arturia foremost on the saddle of her horse, Haut.  Then she mounted Haut and sat behind Arturia. "Pardon mine weariness, Milord.  I fear the battle hath taken mine strength."  She gazed fondly at Arturia as she cradled her in her arms.  "Thou sleepst like a log.  Thy dream must be most enthralling."

She spurred Haut towards the direction of the lake.  "If the Lady in mine dream spake true, then thy wounds can be attended to in most haste.  Until then, please endure this brief journey."  She patted Haut's side.  "Fly like the wind, Haut."  With a slap, she urged Haut to a gallop.

Bedivere tried to minimize the amount of disturbance that the ride would cause to Arturia and let Haut gallop as fast as she dared.  When they reached the shores of the lake, she dismounted and carried Arturia in her arms once more.  Over the lake hung an unusual fog which was not there when she threw the sword.  Out of habit, she looked about to spot any possible threats.  Once assured, she ventured towards the lake until its waters lapped at her boots. 

She peered into the fog apprehensively.  To her delight, she discerned a shape coalesce from within the fog.  With great anticipation, her eyes followed an unmanned boat as it glided away from the fog and toward them.  The boat stopped about fifteen feet from where she stood. 

"Tis just as the Lady saith, Milord."  she said as she waded into thigh deep water.  "Fret not.  The Lady saith that this boat will carry thee to Avalon.  There, the Lady shall minister to thy wounds."  She laid Arturia unto the satin cushioned cot in the boat. 

"Aggrieved am I, that by the Lady's behest, I am not permitted to accompany thee."  She reached over and caressed Arturia's cheek.  "When thou art well, come unto us in all haste.  I will await thy return."  Then she bent down and kissed her gently on the lips.  She stared at Arturia's face for a moment before whispering, "Fare thee well, Arturia, and farewell."

Bedivere drew away and the boat slowly departed into the fog.  She watched until she could no longer see its outline.  She stood for a few moments and turned to her horse.  As she stepped onto the sandy shore of the lake, her steps began to falter and her body slouched forward.  Eventually, she fell upon her knees.  Then with a great shudder emanating from her very core, she expelled a cry of grief and wept.

Inside the fog, Shiro was startled by a distant cry.  He quickly cancelled the transfiguration spell on the log and tipped the boat to let it sink.  He carefully swam to the edge of the fog and focused his gaze at the hunched figure near the shore.  His ears caught the sound of faint weeping.  For a few moments, he watched mournfully from the edge of the fog.  A part of him wanted to go over to Bedivere and console her.  He steeled his resolve and swam in the opposite direction of where Bedivere was.




Chapter 3
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