Arthur always hated ceremonies. As the King’s son, he was often idolized by the government officials. They seemed to think that if they showered him in gifts and praise, that somehow he would convince his father to promote them.
But this ceremony was even worse. It was his younger brother, Abel’s coronation. Arthur should’ve been the one to become King, not his brother. But somehow he had gained his father’s favor enough for him to decree that Abel would become King instead of Arthur.
His father probably thought he was lying when Arthur said he could, and often did, speak to Set. If he had been King, he would think that the ability to speak to the god was a good asset for ruling the Kingdom. His father, evidently, did not. Either that, or he didn’t believe him. Probably the latter.
“Master, is something wrong?” someone whispered in his ear.
Arthur didn’t jump, but he turned to glare. “Alfred, what did I say about doing that?” he hissed. He grew even more annoyed at the little smile that upturned the corner of Alfred’s mouth. “And to answer your question, yes there’s something wrong. That should be me up there.” he gestured to Abel, who was at the front of the room, adorned in creamy white silk and intricate gold jewelry.
“Well, if you’re going to take the crown for yourself, then you probably don’t want to scowl so fiercely. It looks pretty suspicious.” Arthur stared hard at Alfred as he said this. Was he going to take the throne? That would mean killing his own brother.
He turned to look back to his brother, who was smiling at the small crowd that had gathered about him, worshiping him. Hatred flared up in his chest. Abel had always been the better liked of the two brothers, and now he had stolen what was rightfully his.
Yes, he decided, he would take the crown from his brother.
I loved him with all I had. No one could deny that. Though they might have said that I lusted for power and the White Queen’s spell was just an excuse, they could not deny that the tears were real.
It had happened in the dungeon. His own guards had dragged him down there, knowing by the cruel and twisted look in his eyes that this was no longer their King. In fact, they had still been struggling with him when I had sprinted down the spiraling staircases, my black cloak billowing out behind me and dragging on the steps.
It had taken nearly twenty men to force him down here, and most of them now were laying either unconscious or dead on the stone floor. The few left were being easily fought off by the King’s strength.
“…Alfred?” I asked, my voice uncertain.
He looked up, and sighed, “Arthur.” He took the neck of one of the few men still trying to restrain him and snapped it with a horrible crack. The man slumped and fell to the ground. Alfred took a step towards me, but I, eyes wide in horror of what he had just done to his own men, stepped backwards, back up the stairs.
“Arthur, what’s wrong?” he asked, moving towards me steadily.
My eyes flicked towards the guards who were ready to leap towards the King, and I shook my head slightly, telling them not to attack. I couldn’t allow Alfred to kill any more of them.
“You just slaughtered your own men, that’s what’s wrong!”
He drew closer, his voice low, “They were traitors. They brought me down here, thinking to imprison me! I’m their King! I cannot allow that.” He brought a hand up to carress my cheek, leaving a bloody smear. “You know this.”
“I know no such thing!” I jerked away from his hand, the very hands with which he had committed such a horrible act. “What has happened to you, Alfred, that you would have such a disregard for the lives of your own men!”
“I’ve become stronger. The White Queen showed me how weak I was, and I improved on my weaknesses.”
“Love? Mercy? Kindness? Those traits aren’t a weakness, Alfred!” I could sense the magic on him; the white magic of the White Queen. The spell was meant to trade hate for love, ruthlessness for kindness, cruelty for mercy, and all in all evil for good. But used on Alfred it had the opposite effect—turning everything good about him into evil. What the hell had the White Queen been thinking? I knew. He’d been thinking that it would be an advantage towards the White Kingdom in the War if the Black Kingdom’s own armies turned against their King—seeing as he would become evil.
“What use are any of those things if you can’t get the job done?”
I shook my head as I stared into his eyes—they were now a purple-ish blue, just as Matthew’s were. Arguing with him would get me nowhere; he was just as set in his new ways as he was in his old ones—meaning that no amount of convincing would change his mind. I knew what this meant, what I had to do, of course. It didn’t make it any easier. “You aren’t my Alfred,” I whispered.
“What are you talking about,” he said. “of course I am. Just better.”
My eyebrows furrowed as I reached for the hilt of my sword. “You were perfect the way you were.”
He gripped my arm, “What are you doing? Surely you aren’t thinking of betraying me too?”
I winced. “Alfred, you’re hurting me.”
His expression didn’t change, and he tightened his vice-like grip. I paused—this wasn’t the same Alfred, I told myself. This just layed it out in concrete—my Alfred, who was so gentle with me every night, worried that he might accidentally cause me harm, would never do this.
“Alfred!” my voice turned sharp, but he still didn’t loosen his grip.
I wrenched my blade out of its sheath with my free hand—my left hand—and stabbed it towards Alfred while I could still reason with myself. The blade narrowly missed my own arm, but my aim was true. It pierced neatly through his chest. Alfred’s eyes—cerulean blue eyes—were wide as his hand went slack around my arm.
“Arthur…” He leaned heavily on me, “Thank you…for doing that.”
Already I could feel his magic power streaming to me—once a King or Queen died, all of their magic would be syphoned to their counterpart. “Don’t thank me, you fool.” I sat him down on the steps, as his blood seeped out and stained the stone.
“It was like…I was watching myself from outside—killing all of those people…” Alfred croaked.
“Just shut up.” I said, “This is going to hurt.”
He spasmed when I wrenched my sword out quickly, before tossing it towards the guards, who were still keeping their distance. “What…are you doing?” He asked, his voice quiet.
“I’m going to heal you, obviously.” As I said this, I pulled my magic forward.
“Arthur.” Alfred’s voice was firm as he grasped my hands and pulled them away from his chest. I glared at him.
“Do you want to die?!”
“No. But we both know that Black Magic can’t heal.”
“I have to try anyway!” I thrust my hands forwards again, ignoring that his were covering mine. “I should be powerful enough by now to heal something like this.”
The black light swirled around my hands as I brought forth my magic, but nothing happened. If anything, the wound began to bleed faster. I snatched my hands back. That was all Black Magic was good for; harming living things.
Alfred smiled softly. “See…?”
I could feel the still warm blood pool and soak through my black clothing—turning them even black-er, if that was even possible. My hands were sticky and wet with his blood.
There was nothing that any of us could do—there were no clerics in the Black Kingdom—as our King bled out on the staircase.
“I love you.” It was little more than a whisper, but I could still hear it. Those few words were enough to send me over the edge.
I could feel a lone tear streak down my face. “I love you too, you fucking idiot.”
The fiftieth Black King died with a smile on his face, while the Black Queen—I—sobbed into his chest.
Arthur stared blankly out to the sea, which seemed to stretch out endlessly to the horizon, where it met the setting sun. How had this happened to him? How had he ended up here? He knew the basic concept, of course—he caught onto things quite quickly, it wasn’t as though he was stupid. But what he couldn’t understand was, why had it been him? Out of all of the people at his little high school in England, how had he been at those coordinates? At the exact time that had been input into the machine?
And now, here he was. In the year 2200; in a time where not a single book existed.
Rain. It was raining again; for quite possibly the twentieth time this moon.
After living here in the palace for years and being subject to the damp climate, Alfred had decided that he thoroughly disliked rain. He was stuck inside, miserable, and there always seemed to be a gloom hanging over the otherwise beautiful castle.
The only reason he was anywhere near it was the sound of hooves in the courtyard below that had drawn him to his window. It appeared that they had a visitor; and judging by the crest on carriage, it was someone from the Kirkland family.
The sun had set long ago, but he could just barely catch a glimpse of someone stepping down from the carriage with the assistance of one of the palace servants. The sound of splashing drifted up to his ears as this visitor sloshed through the puddles that littered the ground.
“Your highness,” Alfred turned as his door slid open. It was another of the servants. “You have a visitor. He asked specifically for your father.”
He stood. “Tell him that my father cannot see him right now. And if he still persists, tell him that I will speak to him in a few moments.”
The rain came down hard, displacing the soil
Lightning flashed, illuminating all
The washed out land, destruction of their toil
Nobody answered, to that young man’s call
Thunder rolled, booming loudly in his ears
The dead lay all around, his men, his friends
Their scarlet lifeblood mingled with his tears
It was far too late to ever make amends.
Cerulean eyes filled with grief, he stared
At the pathetically sobbing man
He moved closer, came as far as he dared
Crushed his anxiety before it began
He felt the emptiness nothing could sate,
But his words were steady, “You used to be great.”