Flash Fiction Experiment in Second Person: Riothamus

As a writing exercise today, I was inspired to experiment with writing in second person. This was heavily inspired by the similar sections in Matt Stover’s Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith Novelization, which may be the greatest novelization ever written- certainly a massive improvement on the film.

It was also inspired by my interest in history and myth, giving a brief look at some of my interpretation of the Arthurian tradition, which is a little more influenced by the original Welsh than most, though I did include elements of the later stories- primarily Lancelot. I also linked Arthur to the historical figure of Riothamus, one of the candidates for the “real” King Arthur.

Again, this was just a quick thing I did for fun, not a fully polished piece. Regardless, I hope you enjoy it.

Riothamus

This is how it is to be Arthur.

You are constantly afraid that you will not be enough. The kingdom is fragile, fragile like an eggshell. A single strike and it will fall apart. Every battle, every dispute, you wonder: will this be it? Will this be the day you finally fail?

You hear the roaring and the cheering and you know you cannot show your fear, your weakness. You must be strong. You must be their hero. They call you Riothamus, High King of the Britons, dux belli, Hero of Mount Badon. They look at you like a saviour and you know you cannot let them down.

That’s the outside, the shell. Inside, you are still that scared young boy, pulling a sword from a stone. You are still just Arthur, still just a child.

You are alone even though you are surrounded.

Your friends… They are separate from you, as if kept out by a wall as great as Hadrian’s in the north. They see you as a king, a sovereign, not an equal. Even Kai, who was like your brother, sees you like that. Gawain, Lancelot, Bedwyr… they all see you like that. You have no friends, only subjects.

Your half-sister… she is your enemy. Morgaine, the sorceress, the servant of the faeries… She sees you only as an obstacle, opposing her rule. You are a boulder in her path, nothing more.

Your old mentor, the wise man, the Myrddin… He’s gone now. You can’t rely on him anymore. It’s all on you.

Your lords and your vassals would kill you the moment your back was turned. They would stab you and claim your land for theirs.

And your wife… Your beloved Gwennhywfar… She does not love you. You know that and you have always known it.

You have known it from the moment you were wed, when her father Leodegrance sent her to your court. You had never met her, never known her. She was a stranger to you and you were a stranger to her. And when you were wed, it was not your eyes she met. It was his- the dark rider, the greatest of your knights.

Some days you hate him as a Saxon. Some days you love him as a brother.

And every night as you lie by Gwen’s side, you know that it is him she loves and not you. As you watch her breathe softly in and out, see her chest rise and fall under the sheets, you know that is him she is dreaming of and not you. She is bound to you by duty, by law, by bonds she cannot escape, but she is bound to him by love.

And you know this.

This is your world: fear and loneliness and responsibility and jealousy.

This is the world you cannot let them see. To them, you are Riothamus, King Arthur, and that is all you can be.

That is your crown and your prison.

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