Hours before Tristan is slated for execution, he imparts some big brotherly wisdom upon the downtrodden Gawain. Prince Gawain knows Morgan is responsible for the death and destruction that’s plagued Tintagel Castle, but still…he’s in love with her. It doesn’t make any sense.
The Knights with No Lords
Chapter 24 – A Single Ounce of It
By Rock Kitaro
Gawain peered around the corner. The gigantic dungeon master was watching Tristan only for a moment. Then he turned and walked on, exiting from a large wooden door and closing it behind him.
Finally, Gawain approached. One hand was resting on the hilt of his katana. The other was raised, letting his fingers graze the cold wet bars as he walked to stand front and center.
Tristan’s blond hair was wet, stringy, and stinking. The wool blanket was wrapped around his torso and tucked between the wall and his shoulders. His legs were sprawled out from the wooden bench he sat on and his steel blue eyes…those blue eyes from whence such ferocity, such authority once exuded, it was as if his soul had already passed on.
Then, without blinking, his sights elevated to settle on his visitor. Gawain smiled. Then he pouted, overwhelmed with hopelessness as his forehead and sweaty bangs pressed against the bars.
“Christ, not you too,” Tristan groaned.
With a shaky voice, Gawain said, “You’re the closest thing I ever had to a big brother. I suppose that’s a stupid thing to say, considering I’m the one who got you into this mess.”
“Gawain, stop. It’s annoying to see you so hard on yourself. I need you to be strong. Now that I’m gone, you’ll need to defend Tintagel. Lothian can wait. King Lot’s not going anywhere. I need you to promise to protect Dumnonia from her enemies.”
Gawain nodded, closing his eyes as the tears began to trail down his cheeks.
“Gawain. You have to know. You’re so much stronger than me in so many ways.”
“Don’t,” Gawain whimpered. “Everyone talks about how strong and honorable I am. They have no idea. If I was so strong, so virtuous, why does it hurt so much? Why is it so difficult to simply be alive and bear it?”
“You rather it’d be you on the chopping block?” Tristan asked.
Gawain chuckled before biting down on his lower lip with a defeated sulk.
“Gawain…Just love her. Take her and embrace her with all your heart. If she means so much to you, your brothers will understand. Morgaus, Elaine, the duchess, they will all understand. Who cares what everyone else thinks? Your character shines through. Truly, it does. Besides. What warlord’s gonna be crazy enough to wag his tongue at you with that mad dog Agravain chomping at the bit,” Tristan said, drawing another chuckle from the disheartened Gawain.
“Tristan, during your hearing you couldn’t answer any of the queen’s questions about the princess. You claim to be in love with her but you don’t know anything about her. She likes bumblebees. They’re fuzzy. For hours almost every day last summer, she tried to collect them like marbles. She made me help. I must have gotten stung like twenty times. It was extremely irritating.”
“Bumblebees, huh. I had no idea,” Tristan snickered.
“That’s my point. How can you be in love with someone you barely know, and more importantly, all the sudden? Tristan, I’m trying my best to come up with some other explanation but the obvious truth is staring me right in the face. I can’t ignore it.”
“You think Morgan cast a spell on me,” Tristan nodded.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
Tristan leaned his head back against the wall and stared up at the blotchy gray ceiling. A soft chuckle expelled from his nose before he said something that left Gawain speechless.
“So what if she did?”
“What?” Gawain whispered.
“Say, Morgan did cast some magical aphrodisiac on me. If she did, I confess, I probably need to thank her,” Tristan smiled.
“Tristan, no! You’re about to die and you’d thank her for it? You’ve gone mad. That’s the magic talking.”
“It isn’t,” Tristan said. “Listen to me. All my life I’ve heard the choirboys, the squires and knights talk about love and romance, that beautiful someone. I’ve seen ladies from hundreds of castles and I’ve never felt anything for any of them. When I see people, I see them as animals in which I’ve always felt like an entirely different species. They all have the same features. Everyone has a head, a pair of eyes, hair, nose, and lips. I never saw any of that and said to myself, this is attractive. Until a few days ago.
“Gawain, these past seven days have been the best days of my life. Contrary to how it seems, I’ve never been happier. Even when I pulled you from the black sea, fully aware you’ve come acting as marshal. I came back to Tintagel accepting my fate. It was worth it. It was worth it just to feel, just to feel an ounce of it. That thing they call true love. If giving my life means she can go on…it’s worth it. I know you don’t understand now. To be honest, I hope you never have to find out.”
Gawain gripped at the cell bars with that emphatic rage he tried so hard to suppress. Grinding his teeth, Gawain uttered, “How am I supposed to love a woman who starts wars, creates monsters, and sets about the destruction of so many innocent people?”
“Gawain, I know that sounds horrible? Truly. But do everyone a favor and shut up about it.”
Gawain shook his head in confusion.
“Now that I know what love is, I know what jealousy is. You might be the only man on earth who has a woman who’s willing and capable of starting wars, creating monsters, and devising destruction if it means keeping you all to herself. You’re like the male version of Helen. And Morgan is both the Greek and the Trojans. It’s kind of amazing, actually.”
“I can’t condone that!” Gawain barked.
“Yes you can, you idiot. Because you love her. You say can’t condone it now, but if ever you’re put in the position where you have a split second to choose between her or your own brothers, I guarantee you’ll choose her.”
“Then I guess you are right. I am stronger than you,” Gawain said with a fierce gaze.
“Don’t be salty. I meant no offense. Besides. Just because you’d choose her, doesn’t mean you’d actually defeat your brothers,” Tristan mused.
Spit flew from Gawain’s lips as he laughed helplessly. “You really think my brothers will be the death of me, don’t you.”
“Between them and Morgan, God knows,” Tristan smirked. “You could always join me on the chop block.”
The two laughed even more when Gawain imitated banging his head against the bars. The boys chuckled in their mild amusement before silence entered and made itself at home. Gawain would stay with his sullen head pressed against the bars for a full hour. Then the Dungeon Master entered.
It was time.