Chapter 1 : Prologue
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- amazing chapter image by nymeria at TDA -
The village burned.
The fight – no, the slaughter - was all over now. One hollow cry pierced through the subdued whisper of the fire. A few hours ago it dripped with a rage of retribution, as the overflowing river of Saxon riders came down upon the villagers, carrying blood and death. They had poured out from the forest with their thundering mounts, clutching their heavy weapons of steel. Huge men, perhaps two hundred, took their revenge. Garbed in skins and leather, they looked more beasts than men.
The edge of the forest claimed her cloistered shelter, but it could have easily been leagues away for all the good it did her people. A woman was running to it and she was closer to salvation than anyone before her; the path was littered with bodies. She dared not look of fear of recognising them. That would have been the end of her, she knew. So, she ran and ran, until finally two riders caught up with her. Her screams went unheard, as they took her to a bulky man, as tall as a horse, rested against his monstrous longsword, dripping blood.
“Please,” she pleaded. “Please…”
At first it seemed that the Saxon King had not heard her. A lone man, pained and isolated from the terrible massacre. When at last he looked up, the dancing light revealed eyes like dirty rubies, deep in his sockets. They held no conviction. It was the look of a beaten man. Yet, when he spoke his clear voice carried through the battlements.
“Anything!” she sobbed as she fell down on her knees, tears streaming down her ashen face. It might have been a beautiful face, the Saxon thought, but did not care. He resented beauty.
“A pregnant woman gave birth to a child in this village. Where are they?” The King had neared the weeping woman, never letting go of his longsword. It had to have been heavy, yet the King carried it as if it had no weight, as if it were a part of his arm.
“Yes, yes! They were here! She gave birth to a boy!” the woman hurried to answer, hoping that her collaboration would grant her life.
His son. His firstborn. In spite of his best efforts, a part of him felt a hint of pride.
“Where did they go?” He took a breath, then asked again, “Was she alone?”
“She was alone, milord, I swear it!”
It was a small relief. At least she had not betrayed him for another man.
“Did she say where they were headed?” There was no need to ask, the King knew that she would not be as stupid as to reveal their destination.
“No, no… I don’t know… Please, please,” the woman started crying again. “Please, I have told you everything. Please…”
“She is telling the truth, my King.” A man spoke. The weeping woman had not noticed him before. He remained half hidden in shadow, but she could see his soft features, sharply contrasted by the cold in his eyes. Much skinnier than the Saxons warriors, he looked nothing like a Saxon or a warrior. The dark tunic wrapped around him was of simple wool. In fact, had he not spoken, she would not have noticed him at all. Yet, now that he had, she drew back from his soft voice; it was as cold as steel.
“Is she?” The King asked, slouching against the cart behind him. It did not seem a question, though. More like a beaten statement. Twisting the bloody longsword in his hands, he finally looked up towards the man dressed in black. “And you still cannot see her?”
The man shook his head in regret. “I am afraid not. She is clouded from me.”
“You useless pig,” a sore laughter came from the King, but it soon died out.
The woman, who had stopped crying, was now following this strange exchange. This new man was much younger than he first appeared; he must have been around thirty, at most. When he spoke again, it was only to say “My King,” and bend his head in submission.
The dying red flames cast their last feeble dance against the King’s stiff face. It did nothing to soften his sharp edges and stern lines. If anything, it highlighted his barbarian nature. A wounded beast.
A warrior stood behind the woman, concealed from her sight. The handle of the axe he held had an intricately woven pattern which came together at the tip in the shape of some animal. All it took was a nod from his King, a swift blow, and the woman felt the ice cold steel at the back of her neck.
She never even got to call out for mercy.
The child was heavy. She had been walking for hours, days perhaps, and she had barely rested. Her arms were numb, wrapped around the small bundle, trying to ward off the cold. The dress she wore was barely even a dress. Torn at the edges and rugged, it was already a frozen ice. For a brief moment her mind sought comfort in the thought of building a fire, but she knew it would be too dangerous, even if she could conjure up the strength to do it.
Robbed off the imaginary fire, she had no choice but keep walking. It was dark, but the snow reflected the glow of the moon, so she knew where she was going. All she had to do was reach the castle. There she could sleep. The child was quiet in her arms, and had been so for the past few hours. She could not bear to look. Her arms felt the cold and limp bundle as she held it even tighter, but her eyes never left the ground. She had to believe her son was alive. The other option was simply unbearable to even consider. Knee deep in the ruthless snow, she battled on.
A distant sound of a river reached her and she knew the castle was not far. She had kept the pain of the birth at bay; the cold had helped. Now, the cold was all she felt. It was the only thing left in the world. Sleep threatened to overcome her. No matter how much she struggled, all she wanted to do was rest forever.
Something warm trickled down the inside of the thighs and she almost sighed in pleasure. It felt years since she had last felt anything warm. It gave her strength to approach the huge wooden door, yet she felt weaker and weaker with each new step. Why was the warmth keeping her from walking? Was it not there to help?
She did not remember falling to the ground, just as she did not feel the snow that fell on her slowly cooling body. She had not realised that she had kept the child close, giving him the precious heat of her body. By morning she was as cool as ice, and when Lady Slytherin found her old friend at the very doorstep, the young woman was covered in a crimson snowy cape, darkened thus by the blood of her own womb.
Yet the child lived. Godric, they called him. Godric Gryffindor.
Author's Note: This story is bassed on the cannon Founders, as well as parts that have only been hinted at. Also, the idea of Avalon as such (as shown in the next chapters) is based on the book The Mists of Avalon.
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