a/n: title that is quite possibly too long for a ficlet this short is from The Wanderer and major brownie points if you can tell me which real life anecdote inspired this. Thanks to burningqueen for looking this over for me.
The news travels in whispers across the battlefield, uttered in shocked tones and hoarse voices. Arthur is dead, Bedivere says and from the pale, drawn look on his face, Leon knows that it must be the truth. This is the moment where he could lose himself, Leon realizes. This is the moment where he could give into that inner voice crying out for him to snap, to succumb to the grief that is threatening to overwhelm him, and to let the courage and determination that he has clung to so desperately throughout this battle to wither away.
There is no king left living whose praise could cause his shoulders to straighten with pride, and with Lancelot long since fled with Queen Guinevere at his side, the core of the Round Table is in shambles. It would be all too easy to give up and he sees this in the faces of the men surrounding him, because without Arthur, what is Camelot?
"Where do we go from here?" Bedivere asks, and never has Leon heard the characteristically bull-headed knight sound so indecisive. Abruptly Leon thinks of another field on another, much brighter day. Arthur had put together a small hunting party and taken them deep into familiar forest for no reason other than for the knights to have some fun in land that they all knew like the backs of their hands. Arthur had pointed out a corner of one of the fields that was overshadowed by an ancient willow tree and had declared it the most beautiful spot in all of Albion.
Leon sheaths his sword and strides towards the opposite end of the battlefield, towards a cluster of soldiers and the low sound of wailing that he knows must mark where Arthur's body has fallen. He thinks of that willow tree, that one place that Arthur had declared so beautiful, and vows that that will be the final resting place of the king who belonged so much more to the land than any who had come before him.
He wonders at his own resolve and knows that there is a very real possibility that it will all crumble into nothing at the sight of Arthur's fallen body. It is an image so awful that he had never dared to imagine it before, not even in their gravest of battles. The worst that he will ever lay eyes on, Leon knows, and so he bites his tongue to preemptively keep from crying out. When the sea of clustered soldiers part before him, instead Leon only sees Merlin huddled on the scorched earth beside an empty space, shoulders hunched in despair. There is no body, Kay whispers out of the corner of his mouth, not anymore. Ushered away by the mad Morgana before a word could be spoken against it, and so they were left here with only the memories of the man to bring them comfort.
There will be no burial in that beautiful place and the knowledge of this is far worse than anything Leon could have imagined.