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Novel

Ocean's Embrace

Tintagel, Cernwis

The Year of Our Lord 543

Elyna, my love,

I fill these long nights with the memory of your face on the first night we met, here at Tintagel. My only tranquility is the solace this castle brings me; the heart’s ease the old ones have spoken about; the peace that I find only here, or with you.

I take up my quill and trace out our story, when indeed I would rather be tracing the sweet contours of your lips with my fingers.

Let me say at once that I was a fool, Elyna. A fool to be persuaded by de Grance, when he insisted I put you aside and marry Guinevere. A fool, indeed. I might excuse myself by saying I was young, or I had not yet the wisdom that would come, or that my head was filled with the notion of duty from the day I pulled the sword, Excalibur from its mooring. I was King of the Bretons, chosen to rule over and protect the land first; a man second, or so I believed.

Do you think of the night we met, Elyna? I think of it often. I persuaded you to slip away from the feast and go down to the ocean with me. We walked through the shallows and I showed you how the water shimmers and sparkles there, where the castle ramparts cast their shadows.  As though the sky had been upended and all the stars tipped into the sea. You called it ocean fireflies, and so it was, since the constellations were above us yet, inflaming the heavens as we danced together, and your laughter like morning rain.

Do you think of our wedding night, Elyna? The late evening sun glowing about your shoulders, and the apple blossom slipping from your hair, as you stood by the window. Did you notice how my fingers trembled as I reached for you?

Do you think of our last meeting, these seven years ago, Elyna? The night I asked you to release me from our marriage bond. You said that I must follow my conscience. As you took your leave of me, you were never lovelier, Elyna.

I slept not, that night. At dawn, I went to your chambers, to tell you another way must be found. To tell you I would not sacrifice your love, even for my kingdom, that without you my life would be a broken shell, cast on the beach. Imagine my despair when I discovered you’d slipped away, and none knew whence you’d gone.

It is fully two years, come the winter solstice, since Guinevere and I parted. You warned me that Lancelot might not be trusted. It was after their secret love was revealed to me— I speak of Lancelot and Guinevere—that the whispers of my heart became too loud to ignore. I begged Merlin to free me from the burden of my crown.

He granted me a favor: my supposed death at the battle of Camlann, at the hand of my half-brother, Mordred, so I might begin my own quest, the one that will lead me to you. Merlin told me only that I would find you where oceans embrace. I will not falter, though it takes a thousand years.

Do you come to me in my dreams, Elyna? I thought I saw you last night as I slept. We stood together at the Tor, but instead of lush fields, a vast sea surrounded us.

I will go down to the ocean and bid your fireflies send this letter to you. Surely they will show me some mercy.

I am yours, always, my love, always.

Arthur