“Come, bid the men to ride with us,” snapped Regis Fontaine, King of Lorraine. The shieldbearer bowed and walked away, I took another step forward, just behind my liege.
“You’ve served me well, Renaud Gautier, your father would be proud. More is your due than what I could pay.”
“Thank you, my king, my service to you grants me more payment than you could imagine.” I bowed my head and waited. The king, now mounted on his white steed, surveyed the aftermath of the battle. I had been one of the captains who had led the charge against the Polish invaders. My valor and bravery had seen me well towards the enemy commander, who I had slain with a decisive blow.
“In fact, I do believe it’s time for a new Knight Commander, the last one disappointed me, see that you do not.” I bowed, “You are dismissed, Knight Commander.” The king wrapped his ermine cloak around his armoured form and rode away, his men trailing behind. The sun glinted on my own similar, but darker armour. Walking down that ancient hill, I got on top of my own horse, my aide, Jean, close behind me.
“Sir you know this peace won’t last, new threats appear each month thanks to our enemies. And what of you and Queen Guine-“
“Silence, Jean, let me rest.” Jean frowned but stayed silent. I smiled, today had been a long and bloody against an army larger than their own. That just made victory all the sweeter.
<<Later that night>>
“Good evening, my lord.” She and I had met again under the stars, I knew the risks we took, she did too; it changed nothing.
“My Queen, I am not so sure we should continue this, you husband, the king, my king!” I was left stunned as she moved in and pressed her lips against mine, her raven tresses shone brightly in the moonlit night. We stood together, hands clasped, outside the keep and surrounded by trees in a meadow. Our false faces when in public were unveiled when our true hearts met in close.
I was worried, the accomplishments of the day washed out by the troubles of the night. This affair would not last forever unseen. Even Jean knew the secret, though luckily he kept his mouth shut – most of the time at least. Guinevere opened her mouth to say something, but horror and recognition flushed in her eyes, something was behind me!
“Who goes there?” I shouted. A figure ran away from a tree too far for me to be able to catch him. Guinevere fainted onto me as I caught her. I knew what I had to do to secure my love, guilt stricken as I was. King Regis would not be allowed to deprive me of my beloved.
<<The next day>>
I stood in the centre of the throne room, guards surrounded me in a wide circle and courtiers tittered to their compatriots. The king looked down on me atop his marble throne, condemnation in his steely grey eyes. Guinevere in chains beside him and Nicolas Fontaine, Prince of Lorraine and son of the previous queen, now deceased, sneered at me on the other side.
“How do you plead for this treasonous act? I must profess with mine own eyes I saw you with the Queen!” Nicolas had never liked me; he had even better reason to do away with me now.
“Enough! Guards, take Renaud away!” I looked straight into the king’s eyes then, and smiled, a sad forlorn smile, one foretelling the events ahead. For it seemed that fate would have it no other way, and the only for my love for Guinevere to remain was to kill the man who had ruled and guided this land for years.
“I’m sorry, your Highness, but I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” I drew my sword and threw away the cloak around me, revealing to the occupants my plate armoured form. I raised my arm and dropped it. A signal for my cursed treachery. As I did so my own knights shouldered their way through the doors and engaged the guardsmen. I personally broke through and went for the king, tears in my eyes obscuring my vision and sorrow etched on my face. Nicolas escaped past me and screamed obscenities; I ignored him and went on. The king, face expressing shock, moved to speak. I cut him off. Literally.
“This ends here, my liege. I am sorry. For there is blood on my hands, and to look again I dare not.”
<<A few days later>>
Now it was I who sat on the marble throne, Guinevere on my left sitting on her own throne and Jean on my right standing nearby. It had been, no, is still difficult for me to sit or even stand in the presence of this room. A beloved king had died here, all because I had loved his wife beyond compare. A most treasonous act.
Many more crimes had occurred since, Regis’ old guard had to be removed forcibly and new ones set in place. Guinevere and I talk nightly now about our fears and tribulations that have plagued me since. They have not ceased, and even now relentlessly stalked me.
I sat alone in my throne room, or did I? It appeared that I wasn’t alone as I had believed. The speaker had arisen to begin his daily remonstrating. “You who trouble me so, can you not be banished from whence you came?” I spoke to it, reminding myself that it was merely a figment of my inner guilt. It didn’t calm me.
“Kingslayer and great betrayer! Do you feel the murders on your hands?” The apparition wailed at me. It was Regis in his royal robes of the time I slew him. Those same steely grey eyes stared right back at me, filled with hatred and promising unending torment. In his hand was the same sword that had ended his life, one that was in my hand currently.
“Begone unreal mockery!” I yelled through gritted teeth, sword in hand I swung right for the wraith’s head. It flew off to the left, laughing in my face. Its dark humour finally silenced with a swish of my blade, I kneeled, my hands on the ground and face sweating.
Will it ever be easier? I do not know, and I hope that it won’t for me as time goes on. Fate was cruel and the days never properly ended for me. It was a reminder of my black crimes and bloody usurpation of the throne. There was no hope for my conscience, but I wished for there to be hope for Guinevere and our descendants. My want and ambition for Guinevere had been the first step towards this unending trial.
<<One month later>>
“My King! My King! Nicolas rides to Lorraine!” Jean ran through the court nobles, arriving at the foot of my marble throne. I sighed and turned to share a kiss with Guinevere. Hopefully it would not be my last. My guilt was mine to bear. I would see it to fruition, this ambition of mine. A future with my lady and the baby she was carrying. I rose from my throne and bade my assistants to help me strap on my armour. Drawing my sword, the same one bathed in the blood of my old liege, I proclaimed to the onlookers and participants of the court.
“To arms! Call the mighty warhost! We march to defeat Nicolas, last of the line of Fontaine!” The men standing by roared, I smiled that same old smile, my wretched condemnation will only be ended when I deem it to be so, and certainly not by Nicolas. For the blood will never be cleared.