A Genius in King Arthur's Court - Ch. 5

A Genius in King Arthur's Court - Ch. 5

A Genius in King Arthur’s Court

 

Ch. 5 – Darkness Approaches

 

As Dave awoke the next morning, he smiled at remembering that he had no lessons today; Merlin had given him the day off for self-study. Productive as he intended to be, he also planned to spend his every waking moment with the beautiful redhead snoozing next to him. Still, to accomplish both of these things would be difficult, as someone would likely come by to tend to Madeleine and bring them some food, thereby spoiling his plans. Slipping out of bed without a sound, he pulled his Incantus from his backpack and enlarged it with his ring on a nearby table.

Let’s see… there’s gotta be some way to make sure we aren’t disturbed…

Dave perused through the enormous spell book for some time before finally finding a chapter entitled “Traps and Protections.” This chapter contained the ring-binding spell he had performed yesterday, as well as a host of other enchantments and protective measures. Many of these were beyond his skill level, but one in particular caught his eye. It didn’t appear too hard, and would serve his needs brilliantly. Before he could research further, he heard Madeleine sit up in bed behind him.

“Good morning, my love,” she sighed, stretching her arms high.

“Morning,” he grinned.

“I suppose you must leave for your lesson soon?”

“Actually, no. Merlin gave me the day off for self-study, and I plan to spend all of it with you,” Dave replied.

“Oh, that is wonderful! But… would someone not discover our relationship were I to spend all day in here?”

“I am actually working on a solution to that as we speak. Why don’t you go back to your room and get ready for the day while I take care of it? Bring a traveling cloak; I think a trip to that secluded lake nearby would make for a perfect place to practice my sorcery.”

“That sounds lovely.”

Almost the instant he had levitated Madeleine back over to her balcony, a knock came at Dave’s door. Upon answering, he found a castle servant who had come to bring food for the day for him, which Dave accepted happily. After closing the door, he could hear the servant do the same for Madeleine next door. Once he was gone, Dave turned his attention back to the Incantus. The spell he had found was one designed to cause anyone attempting to enter the protected room to forget what they were doing altogether. A note from Merlin indicated that the old sorcerer had affectionately dubbed it the “Forget-Me-Knob” spell.

Focusing on the door to his room, Dave summoned his aura and took a hold of the door handle. He followed the instructions from the Incantus and transferred some of the power of his aura into the door handle while also focusing on the power of memory. A flash of light, and the handle returned to its normal appearance, causing Dave smiled with pride at his new spell. He then changed his clothes into a period-appropriate set of garments, including a long traveling cape for their ride out to the lake. Finally, Dave packed his food and Incantus into a satchel and slipped his bow onto his back before levitating himself over to Madeleine’s balcony.

“Madeleine, are you ready?”

“I am. I suppose we should bring the food with us?”

“Sounds good to me,” Dave agreed, holding up his satchel of fruit and bread.

“Splendid. But I still do not understand how none will know we are gone?”

“Watch.”

Approaching her door, Dave repeated the same spell he had performed on his own door. Once the familiar flash of light had occurred, he turned back to Madeleine with a knowing grin.

“Madeleine, would you take hold of the door handle please?”

“Of course.”

As she did so, she immediately stepped back, appearing dazed and confused for several seconds before looking surprised at Dave’s presence.

“Oh! David?”

“Relax, it is the security measure I have put into place on our rooms. What is the last thing you remember?” Dave asked.

“That… we are to go to the lake together…”

“But you had forgotten that I had come to collect you for the journey, correct?”

“Y-yes, that is true.”

“That is the protection I have put on both of our rooms. Anyone who touches our doors will immediately forget what they were doing and walk off in confusion. None shall know where we have been today,” Dave grinned.

Madeleine sighed and shook her head a bit. “You really are the most clever man I have ever known.” She took a black cloak and flung it over her shoulders, covering her hunter green dress. “Shall we go?”

On the balcony, Dave took Madeleine tightly in his arms and levitated them down to the ground several stories below. Now in an empty area of the castle’s outer courtyard, the pair hid behind the stables to make sure they were alone. Dave peered into the barn and saw that they were almost completely empty, causing him to scratch his head in wonder. Still, one horse remained, an old, grey one with what appeared to be a calm demeanor. Dave slipped inside and quickly befriended the creature with a carrot from his food bag, allowing him to escape with hardly a sound. Outside, he helped Madeleine into the saddle before mounting up himself.

“Put your hood up,” he said. “As long as we steer clear of Arthur or his knights, we should be able to ride out the gates without a problem.”

The pair rode through the courtyard at a trot, soon approaching the open gate leading to the drawbridge. Before they could exit, a guard held up a hand and brought them to a halt.

“Where ye off to, son?”

“To hunt, my good man,” Dave replied, gesturing to his bow.

“Ah. And the girl?” he asked, eyeing a hooded Madeleine.

Dave grinned. “It may well be a long day for me. The woods can become quite lonely at times.”

The old gatekeeper chuckled at this. “Methinks you are right. Best be on guard; there are wolves in these woods.”

“My thanks.”

The gatekeeper opened the gate and watched the two ride off across the drawbridge. As they disappeared down the hill that Camelot was situated on, he caught sight of one of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table making his way towards him.

“Ah, Sir Lancelot. Any news from His Highness?”

“None as of yet, Charles. Sir Ector has just given the order to close the gates at sunset today, rather than after nightfall.”

“Aye, though I did just allow a young huntsman and his lady to leave. Will there be a problem if they do not return before then?”

“Perhaps a problem for them,” Lancelot replied with indifference.

“I… of course,” he replied.

Sunset… not much time, but it will have to do, Charles thought to himself.

*****

Madeleine squealed with delight as they galloped through the woods, her arms tight around Dave’s chest. She felt so safe and secure with him, no matter the setting. Not even the potential threat of wolves frightened her; she knew Dave would protect her from anything. Soon, the trees began to thin out, and they arrived at last in a clearing with a lake expanding out before them.

“And here we are,” Dave said, hopping to the ground.

“Why thank you,” Madeleine replied, accepting his hand to join him.

After hitching their horse to a nearby tree, Dave put his supplies on the ground and began preparing his mind for working on his sorcery.

“I am so excited! I shall finally see all the feats of wonder you are capable of!” Madeleine said, bouncing up and down with giddiness.

“You will like this,” Dave smirked, taking off his traveling cape and hanging it on a nearby tree branch with Madeleine’s.

Stepping to the middle of the clearing, he began with a basic refresher on each of the elements. Fire was almost perfect, and water was coming along nicely as well, though he still needed more practice with it. A few gusts of wind confirmed his near-mastery of the element once again, though earth still needed a lot of work. He held off on lightning until his next meeting with Merlin, as dangerous as the element was. All the while, Madeleine sat on a nearby rock, her jaw open in amazement.

“Incredible…”

“Oh, we are only getting started,” Dave replied.

Shifting his focus to fire, he conjured up a ball of flame in his hand, manipulating it to form it into a snake. The stream of flame danced through the air around him in such a way that made it both dangerous and beautiful at the same time. With great effort, Dave even managed to form this stream of fire into a whip, taking a page from Merlin’s playbook. Maintaining its shape was more difficult than when he had created weapons with his aura, but Dave was still able to keep the weapon formed for several minutes. Soon, he allowed the fire to dissipate and turned his attention to the lake.

With great effort, Dave managed to repeat his feat from a moment before, forming a stream of water from the lake and dancing it around in the air. As it encircled him, he contemplated how to get better at conjuring water, since he would not always have a lake nearby to assist him. Glancing around the area, he noticed the blades of grass still glistening with dew, and the solution hit him like a bolt of lightning.

“Water is everywhere!”

“Pardon?” Madeleine asked.

Flinging the stream of water back into the lake, Dave jogged over to sit next to her on a log.

“I was thinking of how to get stronger at conjuring water, as I will not always have a lake nearby to assist me, and I just realized the truth. Water is everywhere, even when it does not appear to be!” Dave explained.

“How do you mean?”

“Watch.”

Reaching out his hand, Dave focused on the tiny droplets of water adorning each blade of grass before them. At first, the area only appeared to be becoming misty, but he soon started to combine the droplets to form several spheres of water, each the size of a basketball. A flick of his wrist, and each one froze solid, crashing to the ground with a thud. Seeing a nearby daisy, Dave found that he was able to extract a surprising amount of water from the plant, wilting it in the process. Altogether, this water was about the size of a golf ball when combined.

“David… this is amazing…” Madeleine marveled.

“It all comes down to science. That is the only reason I am able to progress this quickly,” he replied.

Dave went on to explain in layman’s terms the basic scientific concepts behind the elements he had been using, showing how everything was made up of smaller particles invisible to the naked eye. Madeleine sat in quiet awe for the most part, yet understood most everything he was saying when she did speak. This pleased Dave to no end, further cementing her as more than just a pretty face in his mind.

Skipping the element of wind, Dave stood and turned his focus to earth, the one element that had given him the most difficulty. As he worked to connect with the ground beneath his feet, he began explaining to Madeleine about the relationship between the elements. She was fascinated by the concept of each element being strong against one of the others and weak against yet another. As she continued asking him questions about his sorcery, Dave managed to break a nearby stone up into rubble. As he was about to try using the levitation spell on the pile of rocks, Madeleine had a sudden stroke of brilliance.

“Do you remember what you just told me? About wind scattering earth?” she asked.

“Of course. Wind is strong against earth,” Dave replied, not sure where she was going with this.

“It occurs to me, since you are so strong with wind, why not use it to help you more easily manipulate earth?”

Dave stood in stunned silence for a moment. “That… that is genius!” he finally exclaimed, rushing to give Madeleine an enthusiastic hug and kiss.

“Genius?”

“Oh, a term for incredible brilliance from my time.”

“Ah, how kind of you,” she replied, blushing a bit.

Returning to the pile of rubble, Dave first levitated the stones, then created a small pocket of wind around him. He allowed the wind to draw the rubble in and cause it to circle around him, having a similar appearance to the rings of Saturn. With this combination of two elements, Dave could quickly use either or both of them with ease. This was also far easier than levitating the rubble, as all he had to do in this case was keep the wind around him moving in the same circular pattern. After a few moments, he fired off the pebbles in rapid succession using a high-speed blast of wind, each shot like a blast of shotgun pellets.

“Madeleine, where would I be without you?” Dave marveled.

“With a gorgeous backside such as yours? In the arms of another lucky girl, I would imagine,” she replied with a giggle.

“Good thing you seduced me while you could, I suppose.”

“Seduced?” she said with mock indignation. “I did no such thing. I certainly did not do anything that you did not desire within your own heart.”

“Hah! Tell the truth. I am just one of many time-traveling heroes that you have had your way with, yes?”

The pair erupted in laughter at this point, unable to continue their banter any longer. Seeing it was nearly midday, Dave took his traveling cape and transformed it into a blanket, spreading it on the ground. He then beckoned Madeleine over and began to spread the food from their bags out before them.

“In my time, this is called a picnic,” Dave said. “Eating outdoors on a blanket, often in a picturesque location.”

“One of your many oddities that I am swiftly becoming accustomed to,” she smiled back. As they ate, she wondered, “David, tell me of the future. What manner of things shall I see there? How has the world changed in the course of a millennium?”

Pausing from his apple, he replied, “Probably the biggest changes have been in technology. All the technology of this time is man-powered, wagons, drawbridges and the like. Most of these things were made possible by your ancestors learning to use the elements to their advantage, namely fire. In my time, we have managed to harness another of the elements: lightning.”

“You can control lightning?!”

“Not control, no. But lightning is a powerful form of what we call electricity. We have been able to duplicate this power on a much smaller scale. Have you ever walked on a carpet for a few seconds only to shock yourself the next time you touch an object or person?”

Madeleine giggled. “It was one of my favorite ways to play with Father as a child.”

“That is the same power as lightning, just far weaker. We have managed to control and prolong that energy, using it to power all manner of machines. I could begin to describe them, but there are simply too many, and it would be quite overwhelming. It will be much easier to show you.”

“Oh please, tell me of just one!” she pleaded, putting a pitiful whimper on her face.

“Very well,” Dave sighed with a laugh. “We have a device known as a telephone, which allows a person to speak with any other person that has a telephone of their own, no matter how far away they may be. The first telephones were invented almost one hundred and fifty years before my time, using a series of wires and cables to connect the devices. In my time, the technology exists to connect telephones without wires, allowing people to bring these devices with them wherever they go, instead of leaving their telephones at home.”

Madeleine sat in stunned silence for a few moments. “You mean to say… you can speak with someone in a different city than your own in an instant?”

“Yes, and even as far away as a different country.”

“Incredible,” she marveled. “With such technology at its disposal, please tell me that mankind has managed to eradicate the worst parts of life? War, famine, disease… do they still exist?”

“They do,” he answered with a frown. “Disease has been kept under control for the most part, though it does still exist. But thanks to modern medicine, only the most rare and aggressive of diseases pose a significant threat to a person’s life, and some of these can even be treated if they are detected early. Famine has been significantly reduced, though not eradicated. And war… well, I am convinced that humans will always find reasons to go to war with each other.”

“Do you mean to say that the wars of your time are unjust?”

“It depends. Sometimes, war can be necessary, such as one in which my grandfather fought. It was known as the Second World War, and involved many nations across the world taking sides against each other. At the center of it all was a man known as Adolph Hitler, now thought of as the most evil man the world has ever seen. He not only had aspirations of world domination, but also murdered millions of his own people for no other reason than the religion they practiced.”

“That is terrible!” Madeleine exclaimed in horror.

“It is, and you can see why war was necessary to stop him. Even so, nations still war with each other for more frivolous reasons, such as land, power, or political motivations. Some even refight battles that are centuries old, always refusing to accept the results of the previous war. It can be quite tiresome to hear of such events. Even with all our advancements and achievements, we humans remain the embodiment of vast imperfection.”

“It is our fallen nature, I suppose. Still, with men such as you leading the way, I know that our future shall be a bright one,” she said with a smile.

Feeling the warmth of her hand on his, Dave leaned in close and planted a long, sensual kiss on Madeleine’s lips. She reciprocated in kind, cupping his face in her other hand and allowing him to slip his tongue into her mouth. Their lips locked for quite some time before Dave rolled onto his back, pulling Madeleine to land on top of him with an excited giggle.

“Should we be worried… that someone will see?” she asked between kisses.

“Doubtful,” he replied. “This clearing is rather out of the way.”

As she straddled him, she untied the strings on the back of her dress, allowing the green fabric to slip below her shoulders. The more passionately she kissed Dave, the more the dress began to fall, soon exposing her full breasts to him.

“Decided not to wear your dressing gown?” Dave asked with a smirk.

“I had hoped something of this sort might happen,” she grinned. “I take it you are pleased?”

“Very.”

Madeleine stood for a moment, allowing the last of her dress to fall to her ankles before kicking it aside. Seeing the tented shape of Dave’s pants, she playfully untied the strings at his waist and pulled them off, exposing his hard cock. Her pussy was already glistening with moisture, anticipating what was to come. As she kissed him, Dave held his cock up straight, allowing Madeleine to impale herself and slowly sink down onto his length. She moaned at the feeling of her lover filling her up.

As she took him into her, Dave was in blissful agony. Madeleine had never ridden a man like this before, and he was content to let her do as she pleased while he simply enjoyed the ride. Her movements were small yet purposeful, finding the sweet spots within her tunnel that she could use his cock to hit. This resulted in a slow, teasing experience for Dave; he was harder and more aroused than he had ever been in his life, yet could last for quite a while without cumming. As she tormented him, he couldn’t resist reaching up to fondle her jiggling breasts, tweaking the nipples a bit as he did so.

Madeleine’s eyes bulged at this, and she felt some sort of primal instinct awaken within her. Where she previously had been tentative and unsure of herself in this new position, Dave’s ministrations to her breasts were now causing her to hump him with determined purpose. It was as if her body knew what to do well before her mind could conceive of it. She now bounced on his pelvis with reckless abandon, moaning her way through one orgasm without pause.

Dave was in awe of her body, writhing in ecstasy, her porcelain skin glistening with sweat, and her perfect breasts heaving with every move she made. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled Madeleine down to kiss her, muffling her cries of pleasure a bit. Even so, she refused to let up, continuing to ride him with fervor and determination, bringing Dave ever closer to his climax. Now realizing he couldn’t hold back much longer, he gave in to his own primal instincts and began to jackhammer his cock into her as fast as he was able. This triggered another gasp from Madeleine; this was so different from their gentle sessions of lovemaking. Despite how barbaric it seemed, the animalistic nature of their actions only served to arouse her further. As he pounded his last into her, the couple unleashed a simultaneous moan of pleasure and climaxed together.

Madeleine collapsed onto Dave’s chest, panting from the strain of their activities, not that she was complaining. In fact, the huge smile on her face told Dave everything he needed to know about her enjoyment. As she looked up into his eyes, she saw the same look that had captured her heart day she met him. To him, she was the only woman in the world, and certainly the most beautiful. They said nothing in those moments, only moving to kiss each other tenderly every so often. After a few minutes, Madeleine had recovered enough to stand and help Dave to his feet.

“You are quite a fun adventure, my love,” she admitted.

“Uh huh.”

Despite the strenuous exercise he had just been through, Dave still found himself horny and wanting more. Madeleine’s gorgeous body only furthered those desires, and he soon got a devious twinkle in his eyes.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, seeing his demeanor change a bit.

“Oh, I just realized that you managed to become sweaty and dirty in the last few minutes,” he replied with a grin. Scooping her up into his arms, Dave whispered, “Methinks you need a bath.”

“A bath? What do you-”

Madeleine gasped as she realized he was heading for the water’s edge.

“No! You would not!”

“Oh, I most certainly would.”

Madeleine kicked and squirmed in a vain effort to get free, but Dave’s strong arms had her trapped. She giggled and slapped him playfully, but nothing had any impact. Dave stepped onto a large rock jutting out into the lake a bit, peered over to make sure it was deep enough, and tossed his lover in.

“AAH!” came Madeleine’s squeal as she hit the water. After a moment, she surfaced and stood, the water coming up to about her belly button. “You bastard! It is FREEZING in here!” she screamed through her giggles.

“Is it? Perhaps I ought to come warm you up.”

Though she looked confused at this, Dave quickly shucked off his shirt and tossed it on the shore before eying the water of the lake.

“CANNONBALL!!!”

*****

“Damn you to the fires of Hell, Mordred…”

Arthur grimaced as he surveyed the damage of the village. The attack had come swiftly and without warning; the poor people here never stood a chance. By the time Arthur and his men had arrived, it was late afternoon the previous day, and it had taken them all night to extinguish the fires. Several of the dwellings were too far-gone and could not be saved from a fiery demise, but some others were intact enough that they could be contained and the deceased pulled from the rubble in time. Arthur’s only concern was the bodies of the dead, desiring to give a proper burial to as many of the villagers as they could. All morning and early afternoon today, the priest had performed last rites and prayed over the deceased, while the solders had dug graves for each of them. As each was laid to rest, Arthur had personally walked by and touched each forehead, apologizing that he had been unable to save them.

“Your Highness!”

“Sir Kay, what did you find?”

“Tracks outside the village. We believe them to belong to Mordred’s men.”

“Excellent! Which way are they headed?”

“That is the confusing part, Sire,” Bedivere said as he joined them. “The tracks appear on every road leading from the village, seeming to go in all directions.”

“Hmm… he is attempting to mislead us,” Arthur realized. “There are three exits to this village. We shall each gather a third of our men and take one of the exits, following the tracks. Report back here in one hour.”

And so each group did just that. They remained on guard as they followed the tracks, anticipating an ambush around every turn, but none came. Soon, Arthur found the tracks were leading into the woods nearby, and he heard the sound of footsteps approaching. He and his men drew their weapons in preparation for battle, but saw that it was only Sir Kay and his men.

“Sire?”

“Your tracks lead here also, Sir Kay?”

“Indeed.”

“Mine as well,” said Sir Bedivere, appearing from a group of trees. “What could this mean?”

“It means that Mordred’s army wishes to hide their next destination from us. They first exited in different groups before converging in these woods. Come, let us see where they lead next.”

The group soon reached a small clearing with signs of encampment. Burned-out fire pits encircled the area, and Arthur managed to find a tattered flag bearing the golden dragon of Mordred’s army. They had been here.

“Sire! Look here,” called Bedivere.

Joining him atop a large rock, Arthur asked, “What is it?”

“Look. From here, Mordred’s men would have had a perfect view of that road down there.”

“That… that is the road we came into the village on!” Arthur realized.

“They were waiting in ambush!” Kay exclaimed.

“Perhaps… but why then did they not attack us?” Arthur wondered.

“It would seem that ambush was not their goal,” Bedivere surmised. “I can see more tracks leading back up the road we traveled yesterday.”

“But the only thing in that direction is-”

“Camelot!” Arthur gasped, interrupting Kay. “Quickly, mount the horses! We have not a moment to spare! If we hurry, we can trap them between us and Camelot.”

*****

Mordred crept steadily through the woods with his men, knowing they were nearing the castle gates. They had traveled as late as they were able the previous day before making camp. Feeling the heat of the afternoon sun on their backs, Mordred knew they would need to remain hidden for a while before they could effectively begin the operation. Still, they could not dawdle, or they risked becoming pinned from behind once Arthur’s forces caught up to them.

“My lord.”

“Lieutenant Gregor, what is it?” Mordred replied.

“Look over there.”

Mordred followed the man’s finger, peering through the trees to spy a beautiful redhead bathing in a nearby lake. Though the water was up to her shoulders, it was clear from the clothes strewn about the clearing that she was naked, and quite beautiful. Hell, even Mordred, typically focused on nothing but his goal and mission, couldn’t help but admire her.

“Permission to introduce myself to her?” Gregor asked with a wry grin.

“Denied. We are on a vital mission, Lieutenant. No distractions.”

“With all due respect, my lord, the attack cannot begin for quite some time, until nearly nightfall. And besides, such activity would only increase my ferocity in the battle to come.”

Mordred sighed at the man’s persistence. “Very well, but you had best catch up with us well before the battle begins. If you do not, you shall not live to regret it.”

“Of course. Thank you, my lord,” Gregor replied.

As the rest of Mordred’s men pressed onward, he broke off from the tail of the pack and picked his way through the trees to the nearby lakeside. The beautiful redhead had her back to him, clearly distracted as she hummed a joyous melody to herself in the water. As he approached, Gregor got a wicked idea of how to coax her onto dry land without much issue.

“Good afternoon, young lady.”

She spun around, startled by the unfamiliar voice.

“Who are you?!” she demanded, sinking down to her chin to remain covered.

“Just a passing soldier. I am quite weary from my travels, and require a place to camp tonight. Might you be willing to accompany me? It is quite lonely out here in these woods.”

“Certainly not! I do not accompany strange men, and my intended would ensure your demise all the same!” she replied with fire in her eyes.

“Ah, the old ‘intended’ excuse. Forgive me, but I have heard that story from far too many women over the years, dear lady. All the same, I believe you shall wish to accompany me… if you wish to recover your dress,” Gregor said, smirking as he picked up the green garment.

She did not say a word, glaring at him as he laughed. Despite the embarrassing situation, she refused to play his game, remaining in the lake without moving a muscle. After a moment, the water began to bubble beside her, and Gregor fell silent at the sight of a young man rising from beneath the lake’s surface.

“You have made a grave error,” the girl said quietly.

The young man strode up to the water’s edge naked as the day he was born and eyed Gregor with fury.

“Please return the lady’s clothes,” he said.

“Hah! Funny. And who might you be?”

“My name is David of Brighton. I am her intended, and I do not take kindly to your treatment of her thus far. I say again: please return the lady’s clothes.”

Gregor began to size up the situation. Though the young man was taller than he by a bit, and quite strong as well, he had no weapons of any kind. The only thing Gregor saw on his body was an ornate ring on his right hand. Dropping the dress to the ground, he drew his sword with a grin.

“Methinks the lady is about to lose her intended.”

Before he could move to run the young man through, Gregor’s sword suddenly began to smoke with a searing heat. He tried to ignore it at first, but all too soon his hand was singed from the blisteringly hot metal. Gregor dropped it to the ground blowing on his hand as best he could. Looking up, he now saw Dave walking towards him, his body enveloped in a white glow.

“Wha… what are you?!”

“Your worst nightmare.”

Gregor swung a fist at him, but Dave was too quick, dodging in the blink of an eye. Dave’s retaliation was swift, disorienting Gregor with a haymaker strike to the jaw and following with a targeted jab to the abdomen. He gasped for air and lunged forward in a vain attempt to strangle the young man, but to no avail; he caught nothing but air. Now seeing how outclassed he really was, Gregor turned and sprinted for the trees, hoping he could lose him in the woods. As he reached the edge of the woods, Gregor suddenly found himself immobilized by a glowing white arrow striking his uniform just above the shoulder and pinning him to a nearby tree. He struggled for a moment, trying to dislodge the arrow, but soon his other shoulder had been struck in the same fashion, rendering him helpless as David approached, bow in hand.

“Who do you work for?” he growled.

“Piss off!”

Dave stood face-to-face with the man and grabbed his throat. “I will only ask once again. Who. Do. You. WORK FOR!!!”

Gregor began to struggle to breathe as Dave squeezed, managing to choke out, “Lo… Lord… Mordred…”

Dave relaxed his grip at this, continuing, “Where is he? What is he doing here?”

“He… prepares… to attack… Camelot…”

“My thanks,” Dave said with a grin, knocking the man unconscious with a conk to the head. “Madeleine, get dressed. We have to move quickly,” he continued, slipping on his shirt and pants.

“Of course,” she replied, drying off with Dave’s picnic blanket. “What do you know of this attack? Does history tell you anything of this?”

“No. This seems… incorrect. I cannot say for certain why, but this cannot be the final battle for Camelot.” Seeing the sun sink in the distance, he mounted their horse, helping Madeleine to join him. “Keep your head down.”

“I shall.”

As they took off on their horse, Dave smirked and glanced over his shoulder, saying, “You did lie to that man, Madeleine.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

“There is one strange man that you agreed to accompany having only just met him.”

Madeleine huffed a bit. “Are you saying I should not have done that? I judged his character far better than that horrible man’s.”

“Oh, I am thankful you did.”

*****

“Take over for me, Robert. I must search for the huntsman that left earlier, tell him to get back to Camelot before sundown. I shall be back before then.”

“Aye. Safe travels, Charles.”

Charles rode off down the hill, cursing himself for what he was about to do. He considered himself a man of honor, one that would never betray his King. Ah, but how quickly such notions are cast aside when it one’s own family that faces certain peril. No, he would die from this, as well he should, but Elizabeth would be safe at the very least. He would ensure that. Reaching the woods, he rode through the trees while looking for any sign of opposing forces. After a few moments, his horse fell to the ground in pain, struck by an incoming arrow. Charles scrambled off the animal and reached for his sword, but was already surrounded by three armed men, ready to end his life.

“I am here to meet with lord Mordred!” Charles shouted, knowing it was his only chance.

“Hah! And why would he wish to meet with you?!” one of the men scoffed.

“I can get him into Camelot. Him and his soldiers as well.”

“And how do we know this is not an elaborate assassination attempt?”

“Your lord shall know this the moment he sees me.”

“Fine. Bind him,” the soldier huffed.

The three men took hold of Charles and led him through the woods on foot, arriving at their camp after about five minutes. As they escorted him through the mass of people, Charles took note of the men preparing their weapons for an upcoming battle. Swords, maces, bows, everything they would need. It sickened him to think that they would be using said weapons to kill his friends, but it had to be done; it was the only way. Soon, he was brought into a tent, fact-to-face with Mordred himself.

“Found this man in the woods. Says he must speak with you.”

“Who is he?” Mordred replied, looking up from his maps.

“I am Charles, gatekeeper of Camelot,” he growled. “You know of me, yes?”

“Yes… I do,” Mordred hissed, lost in thought. “Leave us be.”

“Sir?”

“I said leave!”

“Aye!”

The three soldiers hustled out as quickly as they could, leaving Mordred alone with his prisoner.

“It would seem you received my message,” Mordred began. “Elizabeth did say you would certainly reply.”

“I did. You attacked my daughter’s village some weeks ago and took her prisoner. My Elizabeth… she is alive, yes?”

“For the time being. Whether she remains that way depends on what you are offering tonight. Can it be done? Can we enter the walls of Camelot undetected?”

“What of her husband, Michael?”

“Dead,” Mordred said. “He tried to fight us off, so we replied in kind. Now, you had best stop delaying and answer my questions.”

“Y-yes… I can get you into Camelot undetected.”

“How?”

“Wait until nightfall, after the drawbridge has been raised. At that time, ready your men and light a torch, waving it thusly: right, left, then overhead in a circle. I shall know then to order the gates to open. Under the cover of night, all shall think you His Highness until it is too late.”

“And what assurances do I have that this is not a trap? I suppose you are the only man that will be able to do this for me?”

“I am,” Charles replied. “But before that, I must see my daughter and know that she is alive.”

“Impossible. She is being kept in my castle. Charles, you must realize that in any deal of this sort, a certain amount of trust is required on both our parts. Rest assured, if you deliver what you have promised tonight, then I shall release Elizabeth back into your care. All I can give you at this time is my word of honor to that, nothing more, nothing less.”

Charles debated for a moment, soon realizing he had no other choice. “Fine. If you shall cut me loose and give me a horse, I shall be off. If I were to arrive back in Camelot without my ride, it would raise suspicion.”

“Very well,” Mordred replied, pulling a knife to cut the man’s bindings. “Be warned, Charles, that if you fail or betray me, there is nothing in this world that can spare your daughter from the pain she will experience before her inevitable demise. Do I make myself clear?”

“Inescapably.”

*****

“There he is! Charles is back!” Robert shouted to his men. “Sir, did you have any luck?”

“No. Not a sign of the young huntsman. I fear he is on his own for tonight. Robert, if you will man the watchtower up top, I must deliver my report to Sir Lancelot. You remember the signal from His Highness, yes?”

“I should think so. A lit torch being waved right, left, then in a circle.”

“Excellent. Raise the drawbridge and close the gates.”

After exchanging their customary head-slap, Robert climbed up to the top of the guardhouse to begin his watch. For nearly an hour, all seemed quiet, and darkness had soon fallen. As he peered out into the night, he could have sworn he saw movement in the trees. Though he at first feared an attack, a lit torch suddenly appeared, waving in the specific pattern indicated to him by Charles.

“That is the signal that His Highness has returned!” Robert realized. “Open the gate! His Highness is back!” he shouted down to his fellows.

Down below, Charles sighed at this and locked himself in the closet without a single person realizing it.

*****

Mordred sat alone on the edge of the woods, waiting for night to fall. Once all light had disappeared from the sky, he ordered his men to form ranks and lit a torch, waving it as Charles had instructed. There was no movement at first, but the drawbridge soon began to lower and the gates creak open.

“Stay calm, men. Do not attack until my order. They shall not know until it is too late who we are.”

The group of two hundred marched in formation up the road, keeping all insignias hidden for the moment, as those would give away their true identity. As they approached, Mordred raised his hood to hide his face, spying a guard riding to meet them. The men halted just at the edge of the drawbridge.

“What has happened? Where is His Highness?” the guard asked.

“Fell behind for a moment, but he will be along shortly,” Mordred replied in a muffled voice.

“Our orders were only to allow you in if His Highness is with you,” the guard insisted.

“My good man, do you think I would know the signal to lower the drawbridge if His Highness did not intend me to use it?”

“No… I suppose not. Very well, you may enter.”

“Thank you.”

Mordred signaled his men to move forward with a wave of his hand. As they filed past the guard and through the gates, the man caught a glimpse of the insignia on one of the soldiers. It was faint, but a nearby torch gave off just enough light for him to make out the outline of a gold dragon.

“Wait… that is the symbol of…”

“Me.”

In a flash, Mordred drew his sword and skewered the guard in the stomach, dropping him dead to the ground.

“NOW!”

On his order, Mordred’s men drew their weapons and began attacking anything nearby that moved. In spite of the surprise, the soldiers of Camelot had their weapons close at hand and began to retaliate. Still, almost all of Mordred’s men had made it inside the gates, so pushing them back out would be nigh impossible.

Taking his honor guard with him, Mordred turned his attention to the guardhouse. After breaking the door in, he found the three men inside still scrambling for their weapons. Mordred quickly downed the closest one with a slash across the chest, and a pair of mace-wielding soldiers dispatched the other two. Once the room fell quiet, Mordred’s men moved to the gate controls and began closing the gate and raising the drawbridge. As they did so, Mordred heard a sound coming from a nearby closet.

“HAH!” he shouted, flinging the door open.

“It is I!”

“Ah, Charles the gatekeeper,” Mordred said, helping the man to his feet. “My thanks for your assistance. You have made our operation far easier.”

“Of course. Now when may I see my daughter?”

“Ah yes… I shall make those arrangements posthaste.” With that, Mordred grabbed the man by the shoulder and plunged his sword in to his gut, whispering, “Say hello to Elizabeth for me. She is waiting for you on the other side.”

“You… bastard…”

Charles tried to find the strength to strangle Mordred, but to no avail. He grasped and clawed at his assailant’s chest before falling to the ground in a puddle of his own blood. After another moment or two of struggling, he at last succumbed to the blackness of death.

*****

Dave and Madeleine rode up the path to Camelot just as the drawbridge had finished closing. Though Madeleine wondered how they would get in, Dave had a plan in mind. Circling around the castle walls, they arrived at the rear of the structure, as Dave had surmised that the fighting would not have made its way there yet. Seeing no other choice but to leave the horse, he then levitated the two of them over the wall and into the outer courtyard. The townsfolk were barricaded in their shops and took no notice of their arrival, or of their subsequent levitation up to the balconies of their rooms.

“Stay here out of sight, open the door for nobody,” Dave instructed. “I will keep the enchantment on your door until it is safe.”

“Of course, but where are you going?”

“I must help Merlin.”

“No! David, the danger is too great!”

“I will be fine. Just keep your head down until I return. I love you, Madeleine.”

“I love you too. Be safe. I trust that God shall deliver you back to me once more.”

With that, Dave levitated back to his own room and deactivated the memory enchantment on his own door before leaving with bow in hand. The castle was relatively quiet, and he realized that the fighting must have been contained to the courtyards. As he rounded a corner, he almost plowed straight into Lancelot.

“David? What the bloody hell are you doing out here?!” he demanded. “You should not be here; this is not your fight!”

“I must go help Merlin,” Dave replied.

“You shall do no such thing!”

“If he dies, my hopes of returning home die with him!” Dave shouted. “I am going, whether you like it or not!”

“Bah… very well.”

*****

Merlin worked frantically, ensuring his most precious books were securely locked away. He knew the soldiers outside would need him before long, so he had not a moment to waste. A part of him worried for Dave’s safety, but he knew his apprentice was smart enough to avoid this conflict; he had nothing to gain, and everything to lose in this. As he was about to head out to the courtyard, he felt the presence of another join him in his workshop.

Turning slowly, Merlin gazed upon a strikingly beautiful middle-aged woman. She was nearly as tall as Dave, and wore a flowing, black cape and dress. Her raven hair stood in stark contrast to the pale, moonlight color of her skin, complimented by her bright purple eyes. Try as he might, he could never in a thousand lifetimes forget this woman.

“Morgan le Fay.”

“Merlin. It has been far too long.”

“Indeed. When last we met, you made it quite clear that you wanted nothing more to do with Camelot. Yet, I sense something has changed. What have you come here for?”

Morgan strolled about the room, examining the various knickknacks on the shelves. Soon, her lips curled into a sneer.

“You.”

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