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chapter twenty-seven

love and hate

I had never been in a battle before, and I had no idea what it would be like. Certainly, the press, the noise, and the tension that was almost tangible in the air were far more than I had ever expected. I could hardly get my breath, and I only wanted to drop the sword and stop, no matter that I might be killed, but I could not. I was not in control of my body. I seemed to be moving as a puppet, Morgan la Fay’s puppet, as I strode across the field, pulled by an invisible force. It had never been this fierce before. I remembered the first time I realized something was wrong, when I had fought Arthur at my knighting ceremony and found out what the curse actually entailed. This was twenty times as powerful as that and every time since had been, and I doubted even Merlin could stop me now.

            I cursed Morgan inwardly and outwardly and shouted it for anyone who could hear, even though no one was listening to me. The two armies had met, and I could hear the sounds of sword on sword, metal clashing and screeching together, and the screams of the wounded and dying. But I could not be bothered with this. I pushed forward, avoiding the other fighters, seeming to be charmed in my advance for no one tried to attack me. I was a shadow. I had crossed through Morgan’s army and was somehow into Arthur’s. I saw several of the knights, my former comrades, holding off Morgan’s mercenaries, and wondered where Gawain and Percival and the others who were my dear companions were. Perhaps I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want them to see my betrayal of everyone that I had professed to love dearly. I only hoped that if I killed Arthur one of them would have the mercy to do me in if Merlin didn’t first, or if I didn’t decide to fall on my own sword.

            It was then that I saw him. He was mounted on his war horse, in the thick of the battle, because of course he would be leading his men from the front, unlike Morgan who would do her wicked deeds from the back. I stopped upon seeing him initially, he was so majestic and fierce I knew that I wanted to fight beside him, would have given anything for that chance. He had still been the only father I had ever known, no matter what had come between us. But my body would not obey these thoughts. The sword in my hand tugged me forward once more, thirsty, and I knew it would not be stopped until it was sated with his blood.

            The knights, the closest of Arthur’s court, his round-tablemen, stood around him, fighting to hold off the enemy from their king and brother. I saw Merlin there too, fighting with sword and magic both, and then Arthur, with his great sword, turned and spotted me standing there and we stared at each other, gauging what the other was thinking.

            “Arthur,” I said softly but he seemed to hear me, even though I knew the sound couldn’t have traveled over the fighting. Run, please run I pleaded, but Arthur didn’t. In fact, he dropped from his horse, handing the reins to a knight and came to me.

            I tried to back away, to force myself to run if he would not, but my feet were planted. We were out on a knoll above the fighting. There were no men here, and they didn’t seem to notice that their king had gone from the fray. Rain started to fall from the grey sky, and it dripped onto my head and shoulders, sinking into my mail, and it clinked off Arthur’s armor as he drew nearer. His sword was bloody in his hand, but he did not hold it threateningly. He didn’t know. How could he not know? Why did Merlin not tell him?

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