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Chapter Thirteen

Desperation

I knew it was childish to run away, but I was still only a boy of seventeen at the time, a man in rights, but still not in heart entirely, and I sought to fix my problems in the way of children: by running away from them. But I had no mother to know where my favorite hiding place was and come and take me back home when I was tired and thinking I didn’t want to run away any more once the supper hour hit. I was alone, and a knight at that, so I would take care of myself. I had made my decision, and I would have to make the most of it.

            So many thoughts ran through my head that night. I thought of going on a quest, selling myself as a mercenary, maybe even going North or to Ireland if I was really desperate. I just knew I needed to get as far away from Arthur as possible. It hurt so much to think of never seeing him or my other friends again, but I knew it was for the best, and my sacrifice was out of love.

            I did decide that my first course of action would be to find Morgan la Fay. Perhaps I could force her to uncurse me. I knew it was a lost cause, but perhaps I could slay her instead and surely then my curse would be lifted.

            As the first light of dawn came to the world, I stopped Elith in the woods, exhausted from grief and the fact I had slept so poorly of late. My shoulder throbbed so much I could hardly hold the reins anymore, and I fell from Elith’s back, unable to catch myself. I didn’t want to eat, though I had had the forethought to bring food, and so I simply lay my bedroll down and curled up on it, laying my cloak over myself. Elith grazed a bit beside me and I drifted off to his soft crunching.

            Sleep came, but only lightly and I was startled into full wakefulness sometime later, about midmorning by my reckoning. Elith whickered softly, looking off into the distance, his ears straight up. I sat up slowly, my hand already on the hilt of my sword. My shoulder was a dull throb, feeling swollen, and I grit my teeth as I forced myself to my feet. I half expected it to be Lady Morgan, come to see why I still hadn’t killed Arthur. I was ready for her. I would not let her defeat me this time.

            Before I even saw my stalker I barely had a chance. I just caught the hiss of sound before an arrow flew out of the foliage and buried itself in my side right above the hip. I fell to my knees in shock. Elith whinnied in fear but did not bolt, for he was trained as a warhorse and would not desert me in the prospect of a fight. I broke the shaft off close to my body, groaning as I hauled myself to my feet, readying myself for a fight.

            Several men showed themselves, coming out of the trees. Bandits by the look of them; hooded, rough men. The one who had shot me, held his bow level, another arrow nocked and ready. I held my sword in front of me, knowing I hardly had a chance against them, but prepared to go down fighting if I must.

            Another man stepped forward, black and arrogant and even before he tossed his hood back from his face in a theatrical fashion, I knew who he was.

            “Lancelot,” I snarled.

            He smiled slightly. “Ah, young Mordred. I hoped we would meet again, though I’ll admit I didn’t expect to find you out here all alone. Not after you were knighted. Already think you can replace me. Tell me, how is the dear Queen? Still as deliciously enticing as always?”

            “You have no right to ask after her, especially not in such a vulgar manor!” I told him, anger boiling in my blood as I remembered the last time I had seen him, carting Guinevere off after he had wounded Arthur in foul play. I could not let him get away this time.

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