Chapter 18 - Epilogue
Jules sobbed for over an hour after her son was born; Tristan was becoming concerned “My Little Bird, do not weep so; he fares well, as do you - what is it?"
“I….I have never really held my babies before Tristan….I have never been allowed to. They have all been killed by now….he is two hours old, and I can hold him and cuddle him and I love him so much...” she whispered as she smiled through her tears.
Tristan’s heart lurched in his chest; as did the other knights, who were welcoming their newest member. Arthur could only close his eyes to the brutality she had suffered and been made to watch; the children she had lost. By rights this should be her fifth child, not the first.
The scout wrapped his arms around her and their small son tightly “Will you marry me now?”
She turned swimming eyes up to him “How could you ask again, when you know I will always say aye?” she smiled.
He kissed her gently and sat on the bed with her. Lancelot turned to Rozhanitsa and smiled sadly “She seems very happy…..”
“You could be too Lance, if you tried.” She smiled at him.
He started, the only other one who called him Lance was Jules “One day……”
“Well, when you decide you want to be happy, come find me; as a friend I am sure we can raise a laugh together.” She leant closer to him and warned him lightly “But I will not be one of your tavern whores…”
“I would never treat you like that…..” he replied earnestly; and he meant it. He liked her, she was a lot like Jules and yet not like her; she was a lot tougher than Jules for one thing.
“True…. You have not been near them much for a while have you?” she grinned.
He smiled at her, his first real smile in six months. In fact since he had found out about Jules’ pregnancy; it had been the final nail in the coffin of his feelings for her - he knew then without a shadow of a doubt that she would never be his.
He had nursed his heart since then; even meeting Rozhanitsa had not really helped. But she had been nice to him and sat with him when he came to the tavern, helped him back to his room; held his hand and listened to him while he laid on his bed, crying away his drunken tears and rambling about lost love.
He looked at her more closely; she was a good person. He had not realised what an idiot he had been. Jules’ words came back to him “She is so like my sister it is quite odd.” Mayhap that is what he needed; to get to know her other than as a shoulder to cry on.
Tristan lay down that night with Jules and Chad “I want us to marry as soon as we can Tris; I really do.”
“Why? Frightened I will change my mind?” he smiled against her neck.
“Nay, but I think we have waited long enough; I do not want you to think I have changed my mind!” she grinned in the darkness.
“You would not, would you?”
“Nay, no more than the sun will not rise on the morrow; you have given me so much Tristan - my life, my sanity, and now my son. On top of all that you gave me your love; I could no more leave you than I could stop breathing, or ask my heart never to beat again.” She caressed his cheek with her hand.
He pressed his lips against her palm “I am glad to hear it; and you mean full as much to me - for have you not given me the very same things?”
They hugged each other into the night, both marvelling at their small son. Tristan watching in raptures when Jules fed him; Jules just grateful that she finally had a son she could hold and love, let alone be a mother too.
Time moved on and six months had passed, and Jules was pleased to see Lancelot spending a lot of time with Rozhanitsa; she liked the girl, and she was indeed much like Tabiti. She and Jules had become fast friends and, along with Van and Guinevere, were given to wild games and lots of laughter.
Guinevere and Jules were teaching the other two women how to use swords and daggers as well a bow. They were teaching them to ride too “If you are going to be with the knights then you ought to be able to fight your own corner!” laughed Jules.
Rozhanitsa pulled a face “I am a friend only; why should I care?”
“Because I think you lie more to yourself than me!” laughed Jules.
The other girl poked her tongue out and they all fell about laughing. Lancelot was watching from the gallery and felt his heart lift. Tristan noticed that he was no longer watching Jules……
As the dark knight walked down to watch them, Rozhanitsa glanced up at him and blushed. Lancelot suddenly felt the urge to talk to her, he was not going to lose her as he had Jules; though in truth he had never really had Jules, he knew deep down she had been Tristan’s from the first moment the scout had found her, mayhap that was why he had encouraged them at the start.
But Roz was different; he realised now that he could not be without her. When she was working, he would make his way to the tavern – though not to get drunk now.
If she was not, he would rather spend his time with her doing other things than being there and drinking. He had not looked at another woman for so long, he had forgotten that he ever had.
He loved her - there he had said it. If only to himself, but he had said it. But he did; he loved her, and he was going to tell her - she had to know he thought more of her than as a friend.
He called her over and drew her away from the others; Guinevere looked at Jules “about bloody time!” The other women smirked.
“What is wrong Lance?” Roz glanced at Jules and then at him “I can stop, if seeing her is upsetting you?” she offered quietly.
“What? Nay, nay - nothing like that….” He seemed bothered “I need to talk to you that is all.”
“Do you want to walk?”
“Aye….that would be good – let us walk” so she took his arm and he walked her to the battlements.
He told her he loved her; that though they had started as friends, he loved her now as more than that. She had helped heal his heart and as he had suspected, he did not love Jules the way Tristan did, for he had loved again - she.
Roz stood with her mouth open; Lancelot gently reached out and pushed it shut “I take it this is a bit of a shock? Though hopefully not an unpleasant one?” he murmured.
She could hear the pleading in his voice, the underlying entreaty, ‘please do not hurt me too – please do not break my heart as well’.
She knew she would not; she had been waiting, not as patiently as he might think – many nights had been spent pacing her room, wondering whether to go to him and speak of her feelings – for him to show his hand…..his heart; and now he had.
She had come to love this dark knight; this sarcastic, violent, flirty man. For she knew this was all a show, a front to cover the real man beneath; the sad, lonely and desperate shell that lived there.
He was loyal and honourable when it mattered; and she knew that she saw a depth to him, a different side that few others did.
She knew about Jules and what had happened to her; the girl herself had told her some, and Van had filled in the rest. She baulked at what she had had to endure, but then saw she had survived with the help of their scout.
Jules’ eyes would seek him out whenever the knights were about; she would be the first to the gates on their return from a mission, he riding eagerly forward and pulling her and their boy onto the saddle in front of him. Only then would any see him relax. They could finish each other’s sentences, and would know when the other entered a room…..
The love that burned between the two was fierce, and she knew that Lance would never break it. Not that he would try, and that is when slowly her tough façade began to break with him. Any other man, who loved as he appeared to, would have merely tried to win the woman he felt for. Not Lancelot; he hid his hurt and no one saw – save she.
She stepped forward and pressed her lips to his “it is a surprise Lance, but a very welcome one…..”
He gathered her to him with, it seemed to her, infinite relief “I would never do aught to hurt you Roz; you know I am yours, do you not?”
She smiled and hugged him “Aye, as I am yours my dark knight…”
The dancing at Lance and Roz’s wedding, six months later, was frantic; and Jules was twirling Van’s No.12 like a dervish. Both were laughing and giggling as they darted about.
Dagonet walked over to Tristan “She is a lot different now to when we first found her, is she not?”
The scout nodded “She still mistrusts the Romans though. Arthur is the only one who can approach her and, you know, she still flinches slightly if he has his armour on…”
He sighed “She will never truly be ‘right’ Dag. That saddens me, that I will never know her without the darkness….”
“But you still love her” it was a statement of fact, not a question.
“Aye, that I do; more than my own life.” He hoisted his one year old son in his arms “Shall we go and get Mama, go for a ride on the horse?” the boy bounced in his father’s arms.
“Aye, Daddy, Aye!”
“Do you think you will have more?” Dag indicated the boy.
“I hope so, for she is such a good mother; my heart bleeds for the children she lost…..she would have loved them so much, been so good to them.” He looked down and shrugged “but if it happens, it happens; if not, we have him and I am happy. So is she….”
“What is it like being married?”
The scout looked at him hard for a very long moment “wonderful….” He murmured with feeling.
Dag turned to say something else, but he was gone. He looked across and saw Jules running towards him and their son. Nay, she would never be without the darkness, her darkness – but she would also bask in the light; his light.
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