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Chapter Twelve


I tried to forget. I tried to stop myself from thinking, dreaming of the scenario where Merlin hadn’t stopped my blade and I had plunged it into Arthur’s heart. I began to take sleeping drafts just to get to sleep, unable to do so for my worry, but sometimes even taking the drafts didn’t keep the dreams away and they were so much worse than anything I could imagine in my waking moments, that I almost wished to forgo sleeping all together until I literally dropped with exhaustion.

            And for a few months, I thought I had escaped it. The dreams got fewer, I was able to sleep, and because of that I felt better. Arthur was busy, I was busy with keeping up my knightly training and hoping to work up to a place at the Round Table. I began to look for opportunities to better myself, quests that needed to be done, but nothing came up at the time, and I began to fall into the doldrums again. My companions thought it because of my lack of occupation and happily beat me in the lists and took me out onto the town at night, but they couldn’t know what really plagued me, and I could not tell them. Merlin was still the only one I could talk to on the matter, and he had been researching for weeks, sometimes locked in his rooms for days with neither sleep or food as he delved into ancient tomes and practiced magics that had been long lost to the world for centuries. But still, he found nothing.

            But before long, I was able to push the things to the back of my mind a bit, though the curse was still a dull ache of anguish plaguing me, it was no longer the gaping sore it had been after my knighting ceremony. Until one day on the training field where it was opened all over again.

            Arthur had been so busy with new treaties and such with other kingdoms for the past week that he was going stir-crazy as he normally did when forced to work indoors for long periods, and so one day he strode out onto the lists to challenge his knights, thrashing them all soundly to work out his frustration. I tried to keep up with my duel with Bedivere, but Arthur called me over almost instantly.

            “Mordred, you and I have not dueled since your ceremony. Let us see if I can best you this time and win back some of my dignity.”

            I grinned, striding over to join him, but my heart was ice and my legs were jelly. I glanced around for Merlin, hoping that he was somehow on the sidelines watching as he usually was. But that day he was holed up in his rooms researching to break the very curse that might jump upon me unaware any second. Please, I prayed silently. Let this not be the day I kill Arthur. Please.

            We took our positions and as usual, Arthur wasted no time in attacking. I blocked quickly. I was using the sword he had given me. It was my prized possession, for what boy does not love a gift, especially one that signified manhood, from the man he loves and honors most? Even if that man is not his father by blood. It had not left my side since the night he had given it to me, and I vowed that I would never let Arthur’s sword taste his own blood. I could not allow that to happen.

            We traded fierce, heavy blows. I was already wearied from my practice of the morning, and I felt myself flagging early on in the fight. I was glad of it. I did not feel the odd surge of adrenaline that I had during the last fight right before I felt the sudden urge to stab Arthur.

            I knew I was nearly finished, and was preparing to yield, when my sword nearly took on a life of it’s own. I felt a force driving at my arm, and it took all the willpower I had to control it. It was determined to head toward Arthur’s chest. I panicked, blocking the blow Arthur threw at me clumsily, and hauling back on the sword with huge effort, to keep it from stabbing him. As Arthur swung forward again, I did the only thing I could think of, foolish though it was, and dropped my sword, having to nearly wrench my fingers from the hilt, but I saw the blade fall, and felt one moment of relieved euphoria before I felt a burn across my ribs, and suddenly Arthur was throwing his sword down as well, stepping forward the two paces between us to grab me by the shoulders and I threatened to fall to the ground.

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