Forging a Bond

Note: Watching the Director's Cut again, I had the sudden urge to write a fic set in the early days of the knights, using the tidbits of background story the movie gives. Several pairings implied, if you're so inclined. 🙂

They were already a group when Arthur joined them. The shared memories of their homeland, the long trek through the Roman Empire and the hard training that had awaited them after reaching Britain had bound them together. Then the Roman Centurion that had overseen their training so far announced that the son of the fallen commander Artorius, whose name they had heard being spoken of with great respect many times since their arrival a year ago, had finished his schooling. As had been expected by many, he would be stepping into his father's footsteps and assume personal command of the Sarmatian knights. This had caused some grumbling and doubts among the young men.

They all had seen young Arthur around, watching them with eyes that appeared to take in everything, and he had seemed hardly more than a boy. Not that many of the Sarmatians were older, as Dagonet sensibly pointed out – but, as Bors replied with a satisfying spit that barely missed Dagonet's feet, Arthur was no Sarmatian. He was not even a real Roman, if the rumors they had heard in the taverns were true, and had been raised a Christian by a Roman philosopher after his father died. What could this boy possible know of war, and how could they expect him to lead them? To everyone's surprise, it had been Lancelot who raised his voice in favor of giving Arthur a chance.

When Percival, never one to let things lie, had questioned his reasons, even going so far as to imply with an insinuating grin that Lancelot's generousness might have something to do with Arthur's pretty eyes, it had only been Tristan's threatening presence that kept Lancelot from breaking Percival's jaw. Not that the impulsive Percival appreciated Tristan's protection, but by then everyone knew better than to argue with Tristan, even Percival, who was closer to him than anyone. But it had caused Lancelot to tell them why he was so uncharacteristically willing to wait and see.

They all knew about the Wode attack on the village, of course, after all it had been the first real combat for most of them, happening shortly after their arrival in Britain. They had also heard that Commander Artorius' Briton wife had been killed in that battle, one of many victims, although the young knights had only paid attention to the loss of their first comrades -- three young lives unnecessarily taken because they had been poorly trained. Their deaths had united the Sarmatians even more and made them train even harder, because they now knew that fighting was a matter of survival. What they hadn't known, but what Lancelot had heard from a Briton woman he'd been seeing, was that young Arthur had ran to his father's grave and managed to wrench the dead man's sword from the ground. He had been too late to save his mother, but he had killed his first man that night and had apparently trained for battle like a man possessed in the months since.

"Sounds as if there's fight in him after all," Lancelot had finished, and the others had been inclined to agree, although Galahad had continued making some jokes about having prayer breaks in the middle of battle. To everyone's surprise it had been Gawain, the youngest of them all, who had shut him up decisively.

"I might not remember my mother's face anymore, but I do remember that she taught me that a man's religion is his own." Gawain, hardly more than a boy despite his fierce fighting, had fixed Galahad with a stare -- and to everyone's even bigger surprise, Galahad had accepted the reprimand almost meekly.

So it was that Arthur joined them as their commander. It took several training sessions in which he neatly defeated every single one of them, but they learned to respect him. This was made easier by his obvious willingness to respect each of them in return and by the appreciation he showed for their individual strengths. He did not disapprove of their wildness, their unwillingness to let themselves be romanized, although he expected his own firm principles to be accepted. He did not even lose his temper when Lancelot disagreed with him, loudly and in front of everyone.

Then Arthur led them into battle for the first time, and it was a glorious victory, leaving them all light-headed with satisfaction and relief. Arthur did not join in the boisterous festivities that followed, but the warmth and pride in his eyes as he sent them off to celebrate were real. No one said anything when, later, Lancelot refused all female attention and disappeared into the direction of Arthur's quarters – not even Percival, who was competing with Tristan in a knife game of their own devising, the stakes of which they kept carefully secret from the others. Only Galahad nudged Gawain meaningfully and grinned, causing the younger man to blush.

Life was good to them for a while after that, or as good as it could be in exile. But then came a battle where victory was not sweet. Not with several of them wounded – and Percival lost forever, hit by an arrow Tristan had been too late to intercept. The next day they shoveled Percival's grave and tried not to see the wild, hopeless look in Tristan's eyes. It was then that Arthur joined them, not offering the empty comfort of Christian heaven but carrying his sword.

"May his soul find peace," he simply said and pushed the blade into the fresh mound, his eyes fixed on Tristan.

It was then, standing around their fallen comrade's grave, that Arthur stopped being an outsider and became one of them.

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