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chapter twenty-four

where it all began



I rode for a while until I found my way into one of the outlying towns and decided that it was as good a place as any to stay for the night. In the state I was in, I wouldn’t have cared whether I slept in an actual bed, on the floor, or on the side of the road somewhere, but I decided that with the rain and the cold weather, it was probably best to find some shelter for the night.

            So I stabled Elith in the town stable and went to the inn next door to get a room and something to eat. It was a dark, unwelcoming place, with a surly keeper, but I cared little for it. I was in no mood to do so, and between the sword on my hip and the dark expression I wore on my face, no one seemed eager to give me trouble. I paid for my room and took a bowl of stew and an ale over to a corner table where I could watch the door. I didn’t think anyone would come for me, but I didn’t know. I hoped—oh how I hoped—that Arthur himself might stride through that door; or Gawain or even Merlin, perhaps, and fetch me back to Camelot, saying it was all a misunderstanding.

            But it wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t. I knew, I always had from my first day in Camelot, that the price would be a high one to pay, and now I paid it surely enough. But the important part was that I didn’t blame Arthur. I couldn’t, in fact. It wasn’t his fault. The fault was all mine for putting him into that position in the first place. For all the time I had called him father, wishing with all my heart that it was indeed the truth, how could I profess that I loved him so if I had done that to him in the end. It seemed that holding back the truth had only made things worse. I wished through every fiber of my being, that I had told him everything when I had been cursed. If I had, none of this would have happened, and Lady Morgan probably would have been brought to justice long since.

            But if I had learned anything in my life, it was that there was no reason to think of things that could never be changed. Perhaps the things Merlin had said of destiny and fate were indeed true, though I had never really believed them before. He had said I was destined to kill Arthur, and Lady Morgan had said the same, but perhaps, after all, it would not be because of the curse she had laid on me, but because I was simply not there. I prayed that was not the case, but I was tied expertly, sure enough. I could not go back to Arthur in fear of killing him under my spell, but could I leave him as he went off to war and to a fate that might very well turn out to be the same? There seemed to be nothing but a paradox about the whole situation, and I found I could think on it no longer else I break myself beyond repair. If that had not already been ruthlessly accomplished.

            I finished my supper though I had little appetite and went to my small, dirty room to sleep. I did not think I would sleep, but oddly enough, my body simply seemed finished, and as soon as I slumped onto the bed, I gave in to something deep inside me and I fell into a dark stupor that I don’t think I really cared whether I woke up from or not.

            The next morning, I woke before dawn and left with Elith to go farther outside the kingdom.

            I traveled for several days feeling very alone after I had been a knight and a comrade for so long, realizing for the first time, how much I really enjoyed the company of my fellows. I didn’t really know where I was headed, I had no real path in mind, but I just knew I wanted to get far away from Camelot and Arthur, even though, ironically, those were the only things in this world that I truly wanted.

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