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To my shame, Lancelot seemed to have slipped past all the guards and gotten clean away. I felt depressed at this, and hated myself for letting him go, though Guinevere insisted that it had not been my fault, and she had not thought of keeping him around either. In any case, Arthur would be home that evening, and once he was back, he would decide how to sort out the problem with Lancelot.
I stayed with the queen all that day, anxiously hoping that news would come of Lancelot’s capture, but no word came, and all we could do was wait for Arthur.
He came riding back with Gawain and the others, laughing and happy, with their kills slung over saddles and the hounds yapping at the horses’ heels. It seemed they had had a productive hunt. Both Guinevere and I went to meet the hunting party and Arthur greeted his wife with a fond kiss.
“Ah, my dear Guinevere, I trust young Mordred has taken good care of you in my absence?” He then looked in my direction with a wide smile.
“He looked after me very well indeed,” Guinevere said and Arthur caught the serious tone of her voice.
“Guinevere, is everything all right?” he asked.
“My lord,” I stepped in. “Lancelot forced his way into the castle last night to get to Queen Guinevere. I was forced to fight him off, and I am sorry to say he escaped.”
Arthur’s countenance went from worried to angry, his blue eyes flashing as cold as ice. “That man has finished his days as one of my knights. Fear not, Mordred, we will find him and kill him. Gawain, Bedivere! Rest and eat then we’re off again. We have another hunting to do. Merlin, you stay with Guinevere, please.”
The sorcerer nodded and took the queen back into the castle.
“My lord,” I called as Arthur strode off. “Please take me with you. It was I who allowed him to escape.”
He turned to me, looking me up and down before he nodded. “Very well, don your armor and saddle your horse. I think you have earned the right.” He was about to go off again when he turned around and faced me, putting a hand on my shoulder. “You did well, Mordred. I will remember this when it comes time to consider you for the knighthood.”
My heart glowed, but there was no time to muse on that further, I had let the knave escape, and I would help get him back if I could.
We rode out and paired off, riding all through the town and the surrounding forest. I was with Gawain and he coaxed the story out of me as we hunted, embarrassing me with his praise.
“Only a month in Camelot and already you have fought for the honor of the queen,” he said with a grin, reaching over to punch me in the arm. I yelped, doubling over and he watched in concern as I bit my lip, embarrassed at my impulsive outburst.
“You were wounded?” Gawain asked. “How sore is it?”
“It is little more than a scratch,” I told him, still swallowing the pain, but trying to laugh it off. “The queen saw to it herself last night and said it would heal well.”
“Let me know if you get tired, and I mean that,” Gawain said sternly. “No false bravery. Wounds like that can trick you, and I don’t want you overworking yourself and getting a fever.”