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chapter Twenty-Six

Evil’s Embrace

“Mordred, you must wake now.”

            I started from my stupor into unfamiliar surroundings, trying to take everything in at once and also remember what had happened prior. My head ached, and I recalled the fight I’d had at the inn but had no recollection of how I was where I was now, which seemed to be a tent of some sort.

            I tried to reach up a hand to feel the wound on my head, but found I could not move it. I was bound hand and foot, my arms wrenched painfully behind me and my hands numb from being tied so long. A hand descended to my hair and stroked it back from my face, brushing lightly over the bruise on my temple.

            “Shh, you’ll be fine,” a voice whispered.

            It was a soothing gesture, but as soon as I heard the voice shivers went down my spine. I struggled around until I was looking upward and saw Morgan la Fay smiling down at me. My head was resting in her lap and I seemed to be lying on a cot in the tent; likely hers judging from the elegance of it. I struggled to get away, but she swiftly grabbed a fistful of my hair and yanked my head down against her thigh again, causing me to wince.

            “Let go of me,” I growled at her as she tutted before resuming the petting motion through my hair.

            “Hush, Mordred, that is no way to treat me. I have saved you twice now. Once when you were a child, and now I have saved you from Merlin. You should thank me, not try to run away.”

            “I didn’t need saving from Merlin,” I told her firmly.

            “But did he not want you for his own purposes, laboring under some delusion that you might be able to aid in defeating me?” She laughed, that loud, wry guffaw that made goose pimples fly up the back of my neck. “As if you would ever do that.” She slid her hand down to my chin and turned my face upward to look at her. I shuddered in disgust as she traced a finger over my jaw. “You would never do that, would you, Mordred?”

            “I think you are the one laboring under delusions,” I told her with a sneer. “If you think I would ever do anything for you after all you have done to me, everything you ruined, then you are mad, Morgan.”

            She sighed and shifted on the cot, pushing me to one side so she could stand up. I breathed a sigh of relief, hating the close proximity. I pulled myself with some difficulty into a sitting position so I could face her. She paced back and forth across the tent.

            “Why did you bring me here?” I asked. “I know you’re too smart to think that I would ever help you.”

            She smiled, stopping to come back over to me. “Mordred, I don’t think you realize just how important a piece of this puzzle you are. As much as I wish to claim the right, you are the one destined to kill Arthur. It was written long ago.” She lunged toward me and startled me as she grabbed my arms. “Take up a sword and do your duty, Mordred! It will happen anyway, whether you want it to or not, so you may as well do it for me. Did I not raise you?”

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