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Chapter Eighteen

Sword Point

I still slept poorly that night, but I am glad to say it was for a different reason than the one that normally seemed to be keeping me up of late and plaguing my dreams when I did manage to fall asleep. I retired early from the feast, unable to apply myself to having a good time, thinking far too much on the second half of the tourney the next day and what I would do, and how I had to defeat Lancelot or it would only bode ill for everyone. But at the same time I felt light and joyful, happy to once again be on good terms with Arthur. I was willing to start over and re-think everything from the time I ran away and make my life with the curse work. Besides, if fortune was on our side, Merlin would be able to break it. I wondered briefly where the sorcerer was, but didn’t worry for him overmuch. I knew that if anyone could take care of himself, it was Merlin.

            The next morning after I woke, Miles came to help me prepare for the day. I wore my lighter armor that consisted of simply a mail tunic and arm guards so that I would be able to move. I wore a tabard with Camelot’s colors on it as I did not yet have my own personal coat of arms. I took up the sword, sadly not the one that Arthur had given me, for it had been stolen by Lancelot’s outlaws, and took a deep breath as I waited for Miles to finish buckling my bracers on.

            “Don’t worry, Sir Mordred, I’m sure you’ll do fine,” the boy said with a smile. “I’ve seen you fight and you’re awfully good. I wish I could fight as well as you.”

            “One day I’m sure you will,” I told him, smiling back as I sheathed the sword once again and took up my shield to inspect it. “I am just thinking of other things. Of duty. That is certainly something that weighs heavily on one at times, Miles.”

            He nodded sagely and then gave me my helm, which I tucked under my arm and started out of the tent. The stands were once again full up, but now the jousting field had been turned into an arena of combat. There was a roped off area in the middle where the knights would face each other using their choice weapon.

            Gawain came up to stand beside me. His injured arm had been put into a sling and he watched the knights practicing off to one side of the field with regret.

            “I wish I hadn’t hurt myself,” he sighed. “Aye, well, it shall give you a chance, Mordred.” He grinned and I smiled back and that seemed to please him all the more. He put his hand on my shoulder. “I hope you have figured out what’s been bothering you.”

            “I will,” I told him firmly. “I’m sorry I’ve been so dark of late, Gawain. It’s not very kind of me.”

            “As long as you are willing to admit that,” he replied sternly and then smiled up at the stands. “They’re filling up, it’s time for me to go. Arthur offered me a seat in the box. I’ll be able to see everything from there. Good fortune in the fight, Mordred. I know the fight you wage this day is far more important than for just the sake of proving your knightly manhood to the ladies.”

            “Yes,” I replied grimly, clasping his arm.

            “Of course,” Gawain added before he left. “One can always accomplish more than one thing at once. You defeat Lancelot and I’m sure you’ll get several beautiful admirers by the end of the day.” He winked.

            I grinned back. “The only one I have time for right now in the queen.”

            Gawain made a face. “You’ve got to learn to live a little, Mordred. You’re still young.”

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