The Shadow Where True Meaning Lies
Title: The Shadow Where True Meaning Lies
Category: BTVS/Arthurian Legend
Disclaimer: Don't own any of them.
Summary: "Oh, show me the shadow where true meaning lies/So much more dismay in empty eyes" . . . One blade to protect the land, one blade to destroy it, and only one man who can control them both.
Spoilers: S7 Finale.
Notes: Title from the Evanessence song, "Exodus".
Notes2: I have read many versions of the Arthurian legend, and this story is inspired by many of them. Most notably: "The Mists of Avalon", "Heart of Valor", and "Tales of Camelot."
"Are you sure this is what you want to do?"
I started at the sound of the unfamiliar male voice behind me, and turned around to see who had intruded on my plea to the Goddess. At first, I saw only the beautiful British landscape of the secluded location Giles had sent me to, and the rain clouds gathering to the north that threatened to bring the nice weather to an end. When I did locate my unwanted companion, I was frightened to find him but three feet from where I knelt in the green grass. He wasn't that tall, a guy with a medium build, blonde hair, and sky blue eyes. He was young, maybe even younger than me, and he was currently looking down at me with humour in his eyes.
"W-who are you?" I managed to ask, slowly trying to put some more distance between me and this strange man.
"I asked you a question first," he reminded me. "You give me an answer, and I shall give you one as well."
I failed to reply, instead narrowing my eyes and taking a good look at the man in front of me. I took in the blue jeans, rumpled black shirt, ratty sneakers, and knew in an instant that this was all long. I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck when I realized what he truly was, and then felt irritation run through my body.
"Be gone spirit," I muttered with a wave of my hand. "I've got more important things to worry about then some teenaged Casper looking for a shaky human to scare."
"Is that what you think I am?" he threw back his head and laughed good and hard. "Oh dear! And you are the supposed new witch of the century? You're naught much more than a child, with only the slightest clue what she means to accomplish here."
"Hey!" I snapped, my face red with anger. "I so have more than a little clue, and besides, what would you know about it? You're just some dead guy who's wasting my time!"
"I'm a little more than that, my sweet," he grinned at me, eyes dancing with mischief. "In fact, I'm just what you came looking for."
"What?" I shook my head. "You've got to be joking me. I beseeched the Goddess for a guide, not some snot-nosed teenager with an attitude problem."
"And I assumed I was going to meet with a powerful wise-woman," he retorted. "And instead I find you, a speck of a girl messing around in something that does not concern her."
"Doesn't concern men?" I repeated lividly. "Doesn't concern me? Do you have any idea about what's going on out there? Or do you dead people fail to keep tabs on the living world? It's hellish out there!"
"Ah yes," he nodded, seemingly talking to himself as he rubbed his chin. "Well, the sword does tend to bring out the worst in people-"
"And an apocalypse when in the hands of a demon!" I hissed angrily.
"Oh come now," he laughed. "It's not quite an apocalypse next."
"That's it," I growled, dropping back onto my knees and muttering another prayer under my breath.
"What are you doing?"
I ignored him and continued to chant. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he tapped my shoulder, and gave a good scream when I realized that he had in fact touched my shoulder. A spirit that had been remade flesh-something that was definitely high up there on the freaky scale.
"I asked you what you were doing?" he gave me a look. "You know, you're probably the only witch that ever had the Goddess answer her prayer for a guide, and then request an exchange. Some people might call that sacrilige. You should be happy with what you got."
"Because you're being ever so helpful?" I demanded. "If you truly are the guide I asked for, then why aren't you taking me where I want to go? And why are you made flesh? There's no reason for you to be made flesh."
"The Goddess does as she wills, it is not for you to question her," he replied simply. "Besides, I thought things might be better this way. I do my best work in a hands-on sort of manner."
"You're hands better stay on yourself," I warned him, only to have him laugh again.
"Well, at least women haven't changed much in all these years," he chuckled. "But seriously, I did ask you a question. I cannot begin this journey with you unless you give me my answer."
"What answer?" I asked, baffled.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" he asked me slowly. "Think hard on it, little Willow, for there is no going back once you start."
"There's no reason to think hard on it," I shot back. "I have to go, I have to see if the legends are true. It's the only chance we have to stop Logriz. The legends say that only he can control the Sword of Death, and if that's the case, then I have to do this."
"And why did they send you and not the Slayer?"
"Buffy's a great warrior, but she wouldn't be able to do this," I answered. "And besides, we can't spare her, or any other Slayer, at the moment. They're the only things keeping the demon hordes at bay. Giles sent me because of my magic-"
"Incomplete and childish as it is," he interjected.
"And because they could afford to spare me," I finished venomously. "Look, you can either stand there and make fun of me all day, or you can do what you were sent to do. I have to find him, I have to wake him."
"But could you handle the hardship of this task?" he asked me seriously. "I can see that you think you know what awaits you, but you know nothing, child. The story is far more complicated than you know."
"What's complicated?" I asked. "He was king, he was killed by his son, and he lies in a coma on that island. And the wizard Merlin was pretty important too."
"Yes, and so were many others," he murmured. "Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgan Le Fay, Vivianne, Mordred, and all the others. And what you think you know of them, it's all false. Things are not so black-and-white as the legend would have you believe. And some people not as evil, or as good, as you might think them."
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked quietly. "Can't you just tell me if he lies on Avalon or not? That's all I need to know."
"There is much more that you need to know," he corrected me. "And the true story of Arthur is what will help you find that which you desire. If you think you could bear it, then step in."
I blinked and suddenly we weren't in the grassy field just outside Glastonbury any more, but rather on the shore of some lake I had never seen before in my life. All around me was fog, and so I couldn't even see my surroundings. I let my eyes fall on the small boat that he pointed out to me and felt the first stirrings of true fear start in my belly.
"Will you undertake the journey to Avalon, Willow, daughter of the Goddess?"
I couldn't make my mouth work to say the words, and for an instant I wanted to refuse and run away. This was not turning out to be what Giles said it would be, and yet, if I left, what would we do then? Logriz couldn't be defeated whilst the sword was in his possession, and there was only one known way to get it back from him.
"I will go," I managed to croak. I got to my feet, ignored the hand he held out to me, and clamoured into the boat on my own. I scrambled to the furtherest end away from him, keeping a wary eye on our surroundings and my guide. I watched as he climbed into the boat more gracefully than I had, and picked up the sole wooden oar that would row us away. I still knew nothing of him and remembered something in a flash. "You never gave
me my answer."
"And what was that?" he asked in return.
"Who are you?"
He laughed, the sound bitter this time, and shook his head. "For now, you may call me Emerys."
"That doesn't answer my question," I pointed out.
"The answer will come in due time," he assured me. "But for now, lay back and don't think to touch the water. You are a visitor here, Willow, and we have yet to see if Avalon will even accept your company."
"Why wouldn't it?" I blurted out.
"You know the answer to that, but I will not give voice to your past crimes," he replied. "I have quite a few of my own, as you will see. But it is always better to start at the beginning . . ."
I frowned and wanted to ask him what he meant, but suddenly my eyelids felt too heavy to remain open. I knew in my mind that he had enchanted me into sleep, but there was nothing I could do to fight it now. I surrendered to the spell and was soon lost in a haze of visions.