[personal profile] inthetapestry
"Someone has come," Flidais says, sudden and grim in the stillness of the Anor, "and Galadan is on his way to this place even now."

Jennifer feels herself go pale. Galadan -- and someone else, whose arrival has Brendel and Flidais both tense, who can only be there because of her. And so she insists on coming down with them. If it's a friend, all to the good; if not, as she tells Brendel, then the Anor is no safer than the beach.

But the boy standing there as she leaves the tower cannot be called friend or enemy. And that, of course, was the idea.

Her Wild Hunt. Her random chance. Her son, standing pale and small and offering her a dagger.

"Will you . . . will you take a gift?"

She looks at him, and draws on her memories of Guinevere, proud and commanding and as hard as necessary, queen and abbess, over and over.

"Is it yours to give?" And, though he stumbles back from her tone, and sounds small and frail and young when he protests, she continues, "What are you doing here?"

"I -- she told me. The one with white hair." Kim, of course. "She said you were . . ."

And Guinevere pushes him away, as he calls her mother, as he throws his father's name at her, as he rails at her; because the choice must be his. It must be. For a moment, it seems that he will see that, accept that.

"Finn told me . . . before . . ." he says, "that my mother loved me and made me special."

And oh, it nearly all shatters and collapses then, and she can't stop her own whisper of "Acushla machree" -- my heart's dear one. But she controls it, fiercely. To falter now would destroy it all.

"He was wrong . . . about making you special," she says. "You know that now. Your power comes from Rakoth when your eyes go red. What you have of me is only freedom and the right to choose, to make your own choice between Light and Dark. Nothing more than that."

She hears Kim scream -- she hadn't known she was there -- but the wind is louder, and Darien's bitter cries are loudest of all in her ears.

Then he turns and runs, straight into Pendaran Wood, and the storm breaks over them.

She had been outside by Ysanne's lake when Jaelle and Sharra found her, after Darien had left, bearing Lisen's Light and the dagger Lokdal. There had been a very great deal to tell them, after that.

It had been Sharra who had seen through to the heart, though, who had realized the loneliness in Darien's actions-- How should I go to my father without a gift?, he had cried-- and as soon as she had said it, Kim realized that she was right. And so she had called aloud into the quiet air, telling Darien where his mother was, telling him to go to her--

--and then had begun the race to reach the Anor Lisen themselves, to warn Jennifer. They had gone with Jaelle to the temple, where the red-haired priestess had linked to the circle of the Mormae in Gwen Ystrat and tapped the earthroot, the avarlith, for the power needed to send herself, Kim, and Sharra across the land, to the rocky shore of the ocean by Lisen's Tower.

It hadn't taken very long at all, by any measure of such things, but they had been too late in any case.
*     *     *     *     *

From the edge of Pendaran Wood, white hair blown wild by the gathering storm, Kim watches in horror as Jennifer Lowell stands, tall and proud and golden, and confronts her son, offering nothing of warmth or welcome. As Darien lashes out at her and then flees into the forest, Kim confronts her oldest friend.

"What have you done!" she screams, her words barely heard above the wind's howl and lashing rain. "I sent him to you to keep him from Starkadh, and you drove him away! All he wanted was comfort, Jen!"

"Comfort? Have I comfort to give? Have you?" Kim shuts her mouth as Jennifer-- as Guinevere-- speaks, stern and unyielding. "You had no right to send him here, and you know it! I meant him to be random, to be free, and I will not back away from that-- if we bind him, or try, he is lost to us!"

Oh, Jen. There is no more anger in her, Kim finds, no more fear. Only love and sorrow and now, finally, understanding. Oh, Jen. Oh, love. I hope you're right.

She opens her mouth to say something else, but for the rest of her life, she will never know what it would have been, for--

"Excuse me." Kim looks down at the gnomelike man-- one of the andain, she recognizes through her inner knowledge, even as he gives his name. Flidais. "I take it you are the Seer of Brennin?" At her nod, he continues. "I should tell you that Galadan is very close to this place-- minutes away, at most."

There is a sudden roaring in her ears, even as she sees a shudder run through Jennifer, who has gone bone-white beside her. On Jen's other side, Kim notices, Brendel of the lios alfar takes a step closer, as if to guard. Kim knows why. He won't let her be taken again. Neither will I-- I can't, we can't, there has to be something--

Flidais is still speaking to her, and although they have so little time, still it takes a moment for her to make sense of his words. "I can be of aid, I believe. I can divert him from this place, if I go fast enough. Or I could do nothing, as the andain usually do. Or, if I choose, I could go to Galadan, and tell him exactly who just left the glade, and who is here."

As Brendel explodes in fury, as the others react all around her, Kim stands very still, and her disconcertingly clear gaze locks with Flidais's. Something is happening here, she feels it, something almost beyond fathoming-- she can almost see the shape of it, can almost--

"What do you want?"

The wizened andain smiles, tenderly. "Only one thing. A small thing, the last. It is the only riddle left-- I know all the other answers, save this. Save only the name. The summoning name of the Warrior."

"No," Kim says, and as Flidais's jaw drops, "No. I swore him an oath when he came, that I would keep it secret, and I will not break it."

"You must!" Flidais moans, his hands twisting together in desperate, frantic pleading. "You must! The Weaver and all the gods know I will never tell, but I must know! It is the last thing, Seer, the very last, the wish of my heart!"

Kim looks up at the sky, into the storm, away from the helpless yearning in his face. There are no stars now, not here, but she can almost see them as they had been over Glastonbury Tor the night Arthur had answered her call. So many stars, falling through the sky and through his eyes as well, falling and falling as he himself was brought once more to earth by the weight of her summons and his curse, of so many long weary years of war. She looks back toward earth again herself now, here, and catches Jennifer's gaze.

Jennifer, who is Guinevere.

And who says, softly but clear enough to be heard, "Give it to him. Even so is the name handed down; it is part of the long doom. Broken oaths and grief lie at the heart of it, Kim. I'm sorry."

I'm sorry, too.

And so Kim nods, and after taking Flidais aside and charging him to guard both the name and the secret of Darien's existence and their presence at the Anor, does yet another thing she had once thought she would never do. When it is over, with her promise now forsworn, she walks back to rejoin the others as Flidais departs with all speed.

She doesn't want to speak to any of them about it, not even Jen, and so Kim looks out to sea-- and it's there that she sees the ship being driven helplessly before the storm, into the bay.

Paul had known from the first rising of the wind, and the first glimpse of the dark cloud that is now blotting out the sky, what was coming.

They have fought the storm for as long as they could; after that, they tried to run with it. They all know now that it will not be enough. Paul and Diarmuid are clinging to a rope lashed to the mainmast. Other sailors, around the ship, are doing the same thing. Many are praying, but Paul of all people knows that prayer will do little. This is not a natural storm, nor does it belong to any of the gods that Paul knows, can deal with, can on occasion master.

This storm is the Weaver's, and it falls upon Arthur Pendragon, who is standing, with Coll, at the front of the ship, attempting to guide it to safety.

Arthur and Coll; and then a third. Lancelot grapples his way to their side, and the three men stand in a tight not, gripping the tiller together, guiding the ship into the bay of the Anor Lisen -

- and onto the jagged rocks that guard its entrance.

They are moving so fast that none of them have even seen the shore, let alone the rocks, between the blinding sheets of rain. There is no time to cry out a warning, no time for anything.

It could be that Paul hears ravens. It could simply be his own intuition; afterwards, he will never be shore, but in that moment as the
hits he lets go of the rope and cries out in his voice of thunder, in Mornir's voice, "

Everything falls apart. Masts, sides, deck, all crack like twigs under the combined force of the storm and the rocks.

But in the second before the
collapses around them, they are all, each and every one aboard that ship, catapulted over the sides.

As he cartwheels in the air, flying, however briefly, for the first time in his life, Paul hears a voice in his mind:
I will pay for this, and pay, and be made to pay again, before the weaving of time is done. But I owe you, brother - the sea stars are shining in a certain place again because you bound me to your aid. This is not binding; this is a gift. Remember me!

Each and every man lands safely in the astoundingly calm waters of the sheltered bay of Anor Lisen.

It is a miracle, Kim knows, even as silent tears begin to fall. Beyond the curve of the bay the storm rages still, but where the swimmers are the water is like glass, and the rain that falls from the overcast sky is soft. A miracle, no question, and perhaps later there will be time to be thankful for it.

But not now, for there are three of them after all, and Kim can find no space past the anguish in her heart to do anything but watch as Lancelot du Lac reaches the shore, Cavall at his side. His hair is dark, as are his eyes, and in his arms he bears the unconscious body of Arthur Pendragon.

There are five of them on the beach, but four remain still, Kim among them, while Jennifer moves slowly forward through the gentle rain to meet the two men that she has loved and who have loved her in return, the three of them, through so many lives, in so many worlds.

For the children, and for love.
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