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Chapter Twenty-Two

Death Bell Tolling

We met Morgan la Fay at the gates as soon as she was pulling up on her horse. Arthur was there already with the other knights to meet them as I ran up with Merlin; our hands on our sword hilts and my belly as cold as ice.

            Lady Morgan swung down from her horse in a flurry of cloak and skirts, not seeking help from her vassals, and simply strode purposefully over to Arthur, pulling long black gloves from her hands.

            “My dear brother,” she said and took a surprised Arthur by the shoulders, kissing his cheek mockingly. “How kind of you to come and greet me.”

            “Morgan,” he said slowly, his brow furrowed in many expressions I could hardly name. “Why are you come here now?”

            “We have many things to discuss, brother,” she told him, still using his familial title mockingly. Then she turned her cruel, dancing eyes onto Merlin and myself and gave a slow, jeering smile. “Ah, Merlin, it seems I could not hold you after all.”

            “Yes, it appears that I am still stronger than you, Morgan, contrary to popular belief,” the sorcerer said, a small smile flickering on his own lips. “And I am notoriously hard to kill. That’s why it’s my duty to protect the king.”

            And then there was a horrifying, breathless moment when Morgan la Fay turned to me and gave me a smile so cold, it froze me to the spot. “Hello, Mordred,” she said as if condemning me to all the demons in hell.

            I would have taken the fiends over Arthur’s face when he looked at me with confusion and disbelief and then back at his sister, but he didn’t say anything. I wanted him to, I wanted everything out, and I knew in my heart that it would be by the end of the day, but it seemed to want to lurk a while longer and torment me for my deception. It was nearly too much to bear, but I had to bear it all the same.

            Arthur turned back to Morgan. “If we have much to speak of, let us not stand out here with the storm coming. We shall speak in the hall.”

            As we proceeded to the castle, the first roll of thunder pealed across the sky and I shivered, as it seemed to mark my doom. Guinevere was waiting just inside the castle as we came in and Arthur cast her a silent look as he made his way toward the council chambers. Guinevere followed, and I noticed she glanced toward Merlin for explanation before she saw Morgan and fear quickly replaced by understanding washed over her. I wished I could comfort her, but I was in no position to offer comfort to anyone at that moment.

            Once in the hall, Arthur climbed to the dais where his throne was, but did not sit on it. Guinevere and Merlin were on either side of him, and I took my place below the dais, in a respectable line of the other knights between Gawain and Percival. Morgan and her men stood before us in the place people usually stood to seek the king’s help or to be condemned. Looking at the confidence in Morgan’s stance, I began to wonder who really had the upper hand in the room.

            It seemed like the silence would go on forever, but finally Arthur spoke up. “Merlin tells me you wish to have war, Morgan,” he said calmly, slowly. “I have heard rumors of it. Is that why you are here? Or do you come to make truce and seek peace.”

            “Truce?” Morgan laughed in a very unwomanly fashion, throwing her head back, the sound deep in her throat. She flung her hands to her sides as if appealing to her half brother. “I will accept a truce, Arthur. As long as it comes with your throne and your head on a pike.”

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