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Chapter Twenty-Three

Broken

I stood still, unable to move, my heart pounding loudly in the sudden shocked silence that had descended upon the room. I was torn between the need to fight and the need to run, and I ended up just standing there as if my feet were rooted into the ground, with too much inner turmoil to speak and a lump in my throat so large, I thought I would choke. Arthur was staring at me in horrified shock, seeming as unable to speak as I and as if he hardly knew what to think at all. Finally, he turned back to Morgan.

            “If there is no agreement we can come to, I am finished,” he said sharply, his voice low and dangerous. “If it is battle, so be it. I will meet you gladly on the field.”

            “Very well, brother,” Morgan said and motioned for her men to leave. “I shall see you in a week’s time. You will know where when the time comes.”

            As she left she smiled at me, and I glared at her with all the hatred I could muster. She stopped in front of me and reached out a hand to stroke my face and leaned close, her breath on my neck, as she whispered in my ear. “Oh Mordred, didn’t I tell you it wouldn’t end well? That’s what you get for disobeying me.” And she leaned in further and kissed my cheek and her lips felt like a death knell.

            After the door closed behind her and she was out of sight, Arthur finally regained his power of speech.

            “Everyone out,” he commanded. As everyone came back to life, I tried to force myself toward the door, but his eyes caught mine and held me still. “Not you,” he whispered, but I still heard him. I wanted to collapse but couldn’t. I didn’t deserve the pity such an action would gain. I hoped Arthur would run me through. It seemed the only thing that would make me feel better. Perhaps a real wound would keep me from hurting so much on the inside.

            Guinevere hesitated, looking between Arthur and me, her hand on his arm, but he gently removed it and spoke to her too softly for me to hear what was said. Merlin stayed by Arthur’s side and I met his eyes, pleading silently with him to do something whatever it might be. He looked to be in great mental turmoil himself, and stared at me as if not really seeing me, but into my very soul.

            Everyone was gone now but the three of us, and Arthur finally turned to Merlin. “You too, Merlin.”

            “Arthur,” Merlin began but Arthur cut him off.

            “I will speak with Mordred alone,” he snapped.

            Merlin looked as if he would protest, but he did not. He strode away, past me, and slammed the huge doors of the hall behind him. I felt suddenly very small and young, though I was now nearing my eighteenth birthday, and could only stare at the floor at my feet. The silence was deafening, and finally I could take it no longer and had to speak first.

            “My lord,” I began, my voice empty and small in the large room. Arthur spun around, startling me, as every line of him was taught, anger and grief clearly warring inside.

            “What do I possibly say to this, Mordred?” he cried, throwing his arms wide. “I don’t rightly know what to think. What am I supposed to say? Tell me!” the last was shouted, his fists clenching as he strode to a few feet of me. I startled at the sudden movement.

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