A Genius in King Arthur's Court - Ch. 9

A Genius in King Arthur's Court - Ch. 9

A Genius in King Arthur’s Court

 

Ch. 9 – A Dark Secret

 

“This is all there is?!” Mordred demanded.

“Here in town?  Yes,” Robin replied.  “Most of my forces are out in the surrounding areas to keep the peace.”

“And how precisely does that help me?”

“I have sent word to those men; they are massing to the east of here.  I would estimate they are just over a day’s march away.  I have also instructed them to begin their march in this direction, allowing you to meet up with them sooner.”

“How many are there in addition to these men?”

“I have about seven hundred and fifty men in the field.  When combined with your forces and these men here, your army will be over fifteen hundred strong,” Robin said.  “I trust this meets the requirements for our bargain?”

“I suppose.  Very well, you may go.”

Mordred then gave instructions for his lieutenants to begin assimilating Robin’s men into their army.  Though Mordred had kept part of his army hidden away until after his attempted takeover of Camelot, their bolstered numbers were still not where he knew they would need to be.  Arthur’s forces were powerful and well trained; Mordred would need numbers and position to defeat them.

“Mother, are we ready?”

“All the men are in formation,” Morgan replied.

“Good.  We march east to join with the rest of Robin’s men.”

They marched at a brisk pace, forming a long train four men across and two hundred long.  For several hours, the only sound aside from the soldiers was the chirping of the birds.  But around midday, a pair of scouts came riding up to the front of the train.

“Lord Mordred!”

“What did you find?” he replied.

“An army gains on us from the rear.  Arthur is leading them!”

“Damn, they are fast,” Mordred muttered.

“Shall I greet them?” Morgan asked.

Mordred thought for a moment before replying, “No.  Merlin is assuredly with them, and a direct assault by you would be met with resistance from him as well as the entirety of Arthur’s army.  It is a losing proposition from the start.”

“What are your orders, sir?” one of the lieutenants asked.

Doing a few more mental calculations, Mordred answered, “Tactical retreat.  We continue along our intended path, but shift to eight abreast.  Every second row shall merge with the row in front of them, pass the word back.”

“Aye!”

Turning to another lieutenant, he continued, “Have the spear wielders move to the end of the line.  How many have we?”

“Fifty spear wielders, sir.”

“Good.  Do nothing to engage Arthur’s men directly.  They shall provide the buffer on our tail and march backwards the rest of the way.  That should keep Arthur’s forces at bay until we can join up with the rest of Robin’s men.”

“But what if we are overrun?  Will it be enough?”

“Mother shall ensure it,” Mordred replied, turning to Morgan.  “Focus on our defenses.  If you can erect some form of protective barrier to shield us from arrows, that will be best.”

“It will be done,” Morgan replied.  “Nothing shall penetrate our defense.  And Merlin would not dare break off to attack me whilst surrounded by your forces.”

“Excellent.”  Finally, Mordred signaled the two scouts.  “Ride ahead and find the rest of Robin’s men.  Tell them to up their pace; we need them as soon as possible.”

“Aye!” the men shouted before galloping off.

*****

“There they are…” Arthur muttered.

“What are your orders?” Bedivere asked.

“Hmm… we cannot send in Merlin just yet, not with Morgan le Fay surrounded by Mordred’s men.  Archers.”

“Yes, Sire.  Archers!  Take your positions!”

The men drew their weapons and took careful aim at the soldiers marching ahead of them.  It was a fair distance, but these men were experts; they would not miss.

“FIRE!” Bedivere shouted.

No less than a hundred arrows flew into the air, careening their way towards Mordred’s army.  But as they approached, a dome of light appeared, melting the arrows away before they could do any damage.  Unfazed, Mordred and his men pressed on.

“Merlin?” Arthur asked.

“It seems Morgan le Fay is taking defensive measures.  Our archers will not be able to assail them in that fashion.”

“It appears they wish to delay our assault.  But to what point and purpose?”

“Unclear.  All I can say for sure is that she has made it so we cannot attack them with archers or with sorcery,” Merlin replied.

“Hmm… Sir Kay?”

“Sire?”

“Send our spearmen down.  Let us see if they can soften up their rear defenses.  Merlin, if you will join them in a defensive capacity.  Do not engage directly, but protect our men from Morgan le Fay’s sorcery.”

“Understood.”

What are you up to, Mordred? Arthur wondered to himself.

*****

“David, are you certain you do not wish me to come with you?”

“Not at first.  I need to make sure the spell is mastered before you come.  I will not put you in danger, Madeleine.”

Dave focused with all his might on the clearing near the lake that he and Madeleine had been to a few days before, attempting to teleport there.  While teleportation was present in many stories and science fiction films from his time, the concepts presented there were quite different from sorcery.  In those stories, teleportation usually involved deconstructing a person or object into smaller particles for instant transport to another location.  But in his Incantus, Dave found teleportation to be more akin to faster-than-light travel.  By focusing on a destination and using a quick surge of power from his aura, he would be able to instantly travel anywhere he could imagine.  As in time-travel, he needed to have a clear vision of his destination for it to work, which is why the clearing was the natural choice for his first attempt.  He took a deep breath, felt a sudden rush of energy, and opened his eyes to the serene lakeside.

“I did it… I did it!!!”

Dave danced around the clearing for a few seconds before returning his focus to his bedchambers.  A few moments later, he stood once more in the presence of the gorgeous redhead that had fallen in love with him.

“You managed to do it!” Madeleine squealed.

“Yep!  Come on, try it with me!”

“Is it safe?”

“According to the Incantus, it does not matter how many people come with me, just as long as they are all in physical contact with me,” Dave replied.

“Physical contact?!” she said in mock disgust.  “Well, if I must, I must…”

Before Dave could respond, Madeleine had already flung herself into his arms, giggling as she laid her head on his shoulder.

“Ready?” he asked.

“I am.”

After the now-familiar sensations, the pair stood in the clearing, seeing the midday sun reflect off the clear lake’s surface.  It was a calm, picturesque scene; perfect for training.  As Dave began his exercises in combining his newest spells with his previously mastered elemental ones, Madeleine gazed at him wistfully.

“He really is the best of men,” she sighed.

As he ramped up the intensity of his training, Dave used his aura to create a protective dome around him extending about fifty feet in diameter.  This ensured that he would not harm Madeleine or the woods in the process.  Madeleine sat in stunned silence as he tossed off his shirt and began to mix his various elemental powers, switching between them so quickly that it seemed he was using them simultaneously.  He then began to incorporate his aura and even his archery skills.  Though he trained alone, Madeleine envisioned him assaulting a horde of opposing soldiers, taking every last one of them down single-handedly.  Such thoughts were quickly making her undergarments quite wet and sticky.

“Whew… that’s a workout,” Dave panted, flopping down next to her.  “How did I look out there?”

“Awesome,” Madeleine sighed.

“Awesome?  Since when did you start talking like that?  You sound like a modern woman!” Dave laughed.

“I… I don’t know,” Madeleine replied.  “It’s as if something has awakened in my mind.  I can hear the way people speak in your time, and it… calls to me.”

“Huh.  I wonder if this is a side effect of the mind merge?”

“It could be.  It’s like… my mind is going a thousand miles an hour, yet I can keep up with it all.  It feels second nature to me.”

“A thousand miles an hour?!  That’s a modern phrase!” Dave realized.

“Oh my, it is!  It just… appeared in my mind.”

“Sounds like your transition to the modern world is going to be easier than we thought it would be.”

“I hope so.  It is frightening, yet also exciting.”  Laying her head on Dave’s shoulder, she asked, “How is it you have become so powerful in such a short amount of time?  Merely a few days ago, you were still grasping at the raw power of the elements, yet today you used all five of them as if they were nothing.”

“Just hard work, I guess.  I feel like I’ve been growing constantly since I first arrived here, and Merlin’s teachings are all starting to make sense.  This morning it felt like… I had a guide within my own mind, helping me use my powers more quickly and with greater variety than ever before.”

“However you managed to do it, that display was most impressive.”

All too soon, Madeleine’s baser instincts began to get the best of her, seeing her lover shirtless and sweaty from his training.  After planting a long kiss on his lips, she rolled to the ground and yanked him on top of her.  She could feel his length hardening against her thigh.

“Make love to me,” she breathed.

Though Dave wanted nothing more than to bury himself in her pussy and satiate his desires, he remembered something from a few days ago.

“One moment,” he said, summoning his aura.

“Is something wrong?” Madeleine asked.

Without a word, Dave focused his power on Madeleine’s abdomen and pelvis, connecting with her body through his aura.  After a few seconds, he looked up at Madeleine with a face of disappointment.

“We can’t have sex right now, Madeleine.  If we do, you’re going to get pregnant.”

“Whatever do you mean?  Don’t you wish for me to bear your child?” she asked, close to tears.

“Of course I do!  Just… not yet.”

“Not yet?  What is there to wait for?  Mother was my age when she bore me.”

Dave began to explain.  “There are a couple of reasons.  First of all, it would be foolish for us to do anything towards starting a family while we are still trapped here.  I know we will find our way back to my time, but I have no idea how soon that will happen.  Bringing a child into the world in this time period when both his mother and father shouldn’t be here is out of the question.

“But beyond that, there is no hurry to do this, Madeleine.  Yes, your mother was your age when she had you, largely because she knew she would not live that much longer.  In this time, the average person can expect to live about forty years, if that.  The fact that Arthur has lived as long as he has is incredible.  But back in my time, people frequently live past seventy, eighty, even ninety.

“My point is that we have our whole lives ahead of us, Madeleine.  And in my time, that’s a longer proposition than it would be here.  There’s no rush for us to start a family so young.  When we do find our way home, I want to take time for just the two of us.  We should enjoy each other for a few years before starting a family.  And when the time is right, it will happen.”

“I see… is this mindset common amongst young lovers in your time?”

Dave shrugged.  “Pretty common.  There are still some who want to start families young, and others who become pregnant by accident, but most couples do want a few years for themselves before that.”

“Very well.  If that is your wish, I shall trust you.  But please do not make me wait forever, David.  I would love nothing more than to be the mother of your children.”

“Don’t worry.  I definitely want kids someday.”

Sitting up, Madeleine said, “I suppose my intentions were all for naught.”

“Not so fast, my dear,” Dave replied, pinning her back on the ground.  “Just because we can’t have sex doesn’t mean we can’t do… other things.”

Madeleine shuddered as Dave lowered his face to her pelvis, bracing for the agonizing pleasure that was to come.  The next several minutes were a whirlwind of passions as he licked and teased her again and again.  Each time she thought he was done, Dave simply redoubled his efforts.  Eventually, Madeleine had no choice but to admit defeat.

“David... oh David, no more!  Please!” Madeleine cried, pushing his face away from her womanhood.

“What’s wrong?  Three orgasms enough for you?” Dave chuckled.

“Quite enough,” she sighed with a grin.  “You… are so amazing.”

“I’m glad you think so,” he replied.

Dave rolled onto his back, stretching out on the blanket they had brought with them.  Madeleine soon joined him, laying her head on his chest and listening contentedly to the chirping birds around them.  Soon, she couldn’t help but notice the immense bulge in Dave’s pants.

“Oh my… did I do that?” she gasped.

“What are you talking about?  Why would I ever become aroused by the sound of my lover’s voice crying out in orgasm over and over again?” Dave laughed.

“Hmm… may I ask an odd question?”

“Of course.”

“I have heard stories of some women who use their mouths on men in the same way that you used your mouth on me.  Is this a normal practice in your time?”

Dave grinned at the direction the conversation was taking.  “I can’t speak from personal experience, but yes, I’m given to understand that many young women do that for their boyfriends.”

Tilting her head to look into his eyes, Madeleine asked, “Do you want me to… do that for my boyfriend, as you put it?”

Placing a light kiss on her forehead, Dave replied, “I would love every second of it, but only if you want to do it.  I won’t ever force you to do something you aren’t comfortable with.”

“I think I want to,” she said with a nervous giggle.  “Do you wish me naked?”

“That’d make for a fantastic show,” Dave grinned.

After a quick kiss, Madeleine rose to her feet and disrobed, hanging her dress on a nearby tree branch.  Her slow walk back over to the blanket only made Dave even harder than he already was; every curve of her form was sublime.  He especially enjoyed watching her breasts jiggle as she knelt down before him.  As she pulled his pants down, a thought occurred to him.

“Um, before we start, should we go ahead and figure out how you want me to… finish?” Dave asked.

Madeleine cocked her head at this.  “What do you mean?”

“Well, if your mouth plays with me for long enough, eventually I’ll spurt; it’s only a matter of time.  I know some girls don’t like the taste, so I don’t want to finish in your mouth if you don’t want me to,” Dave explained.

“Ah, I understand.  How very considerate of you,” she replied with a smile.  “Are you able to know when the time is drawing near?”

“Within a few seconds, yes.”

“Hmm… and I do not wish any surprises the first time around…”

“Here’s an idea: you could suck on me until I give you the warning, then finish me with your hand.  How does that sound?”

“That is what I’ll do,” Madeleine agreed.  “Please tell me if I am doing anything wrong; I don’t wish to harm you.”

“Of course.  Just be careful of your teeth.”  Seeing the uncertainty in her face, Dave realized he’d have to coach her through this.  “Um, why don’t you start by kissing it?”

“Yes, that seems a good place to start.”  Lowering her face, she gave a soft kiss to his bulging tip.  “Like that?”

“That was very nice,” Dave grinned.

This bit of encouragement seemed to spur Madeleine on.  Taking a tentative grasp of his length, she began to kiss him from top to bottom, savoring the spongy texture of his cock.  Dave focused on his deep breathing; the last thing he wanted was to lose control and explode in the poor girl’s face.  Once he felt he had enough self-control, he decided to encourage Madeleine a bit more.

“You’re doing great.  You can use your tongue, if you like,” he whispered.

Madeleine said not a word, but grinned at this prospect.  She trembled a bit as her tongue moved forward, taking in her first taste of Dave’s manhood.  He moaned in pleasure as she flicked it up and down his length, which only excited Madeleine further.  She had never imagined that she could have such power and control over a man, yet she did, and crazier still, he wanted her to have this power over him.  It struck Madeleine at that point just how completely Dave trusted her.  In this position, she could do anything she wanted to him, including dismembering him with her teeth; the wife of one of her father’s friends had advised her of that possibility in the event Madeleine ever found herself being taken forcibly.  With a cheeky grin, she moved to the tip of his erection once more and parted her lips, taking about half his length into her mouth.

“Holy shit,” Dave muttered.

Madeleine only giggled in reply.  As she sealed her lips around him, she remembered his earlier warning about her teeth and made sure to keep her jaw open wide.  She now realized she had three “weapons” at her disposal in regards to pleasuring Dave like this: her lips, her tongue, and the suction of her mouth.  In addition, every movement of her head served to enhance each of these actions even further.  Catching his wits for a moment, Dave did the gentlemanly thing and pulled Madeleine’s hair out of her face.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile before returning her attention to his cock.  “I am doing this right, yes?”

“Definitely… oh yeah… try swirling your tongue while you suck,” he moaned in reply.

Doing as he suggested, Madeleine was pleased by his reaction.  Dave was already beginning to babble like a madman, his hips bucking slightly and his hands holding the blanket in a death grip.  Playing into this, she adjusted the speed of her motions to match that of Dave’s involuntary pelvic thrusts, seeing it almost as a game.  Of course, there was only one logical end to that game, and it was almost upon them.

“Warning… warning!” Dave managed.

Madeleine released him from her mouth and began to stroke his saliva-coated length with her delicate hand.  She now kept her motions simple and unchanging, knowing how close he had to be to finishing.  All it took was a few seconds of this to have Dave spurting his cum onto his stomach.  Madeleine couldn’t help but become even further aroused at the sight, and especially by the amount of semen he produced.  She realized this was the first time she had seen him orgasm outside of penetrative sex; every other time, he had finished inside her.  As Dave recovered, curiosity got the better of her.  She scooped up a drop of his seed with her finger and licked it off to sample its taste.

Interesting… not what I would call savory, yet not completely unpleasant.  Perhaps a bit… salty?

“That was… amazing,” Dave panted.

“It was the least I could do, after all the kindness you have shown me today,” Madeleine giggled, moving to lay her head back on his chest.

“You’ve got quite a talent for that, Maddie,” Dave replied.

“Maddie?”

“A nickname I just thought of for you, like how my friends call me Dave.  What do you think?”

Madeleine repeated the name in her head a few times before answering, “I love it.”  Kissing him passionately, she continued, “Have I ever told you that you are the best of men?”

“Once or twice.”

After several quiet minutes of making out, Madeleine at last withdrew and retrieved her dress from the tree branch.  Almost the second she and Dave had finished dressing, they heard voices approaching.

“Someone is coming!” Madeleine whispered, a look of terror on her face.

“No problem.  Grab onto me,” Dave replied.

Wrapping his arm around Madeleine’s waist, Dave focused his power on the pair and turned them invisible.  A few moments later, a giggling and shrieking Guinevere came running through the trees, followed closely by Lancelot.  As both Dave and Madeleine were under the same invisibility spell, she was able to see him raise a finger to his lips, instructing her to be silent.  She nodded in reply, but it became quite difficult for her to do as she watched the scene unfold.  While she at first wondered if Lancelot was attempting to ravage the queen, but her willful participation and laughter soon made clear the truth: they were having an affair behind Arthur’s back.  As he lowered his pants to take her, Madeleine gave a look of disgust to Dave that begged him to take them away.  Nodding, he teleported them back to Madeleine’s quarters in Camelot.  Alone once more, she was at last able to release her emotions.

“What do they think they’re DOING?!” she screamed.  “Those lecherous, adulterous swine have betrayed His Highness!”

“It is sickening…” Dave muttered in agreement.

“We must do something.  We must find a way to alert His Highness!”

“No!” Dave replied, stronger than he had intended.  “I’m… I’m sorry for shouting, but we can’t do that, Madeleine.”

“And why not?” she asked, incredulous.  “We have a moral duty to do so!”

Sighing, Dave saw he would have to admit the truth.  “Because… Lancelot and Guinevere are supposed to have an affair behind Arthur’s back.  According to the stories I know, it is a vital part of the Arthurian Legend.”

“You’re saying that just because the stories you know tell it this way we cannot tell anyone the truth?!”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.  Madeleine, events have now been set in motion that will determine the outcome of this war.  Lancelot’s actions are part of those events, and they cannot be discovered until the time is right.  Arthur will find out, make no mistake about that, but if we alert him too soon, it could change the way these events play out, possibly altering my future in the process.”

“But do you not see?  A betrayal such as this could cause Camelot to split in two, some supporting Lancelot for his history of courage, others remaining loyal to Arthur.  If this is allowed to happen, Mordred would certainly be able to capitalize, perhaps destroying Camelot once and for all!” Madeleine protested.  But instead of worry or concern, she only saw in Dave’s eyes a look of resigned understanding.  “No… no, it cannot be.  Please tell me it is not so, David!”

“Madeleine…”

“It cannot be that Camelot is destined for destruction!”

Dave looked down in shame.  “It is.”

Madeleine’s face began to twist into one whose reality had just been shattered into a million pieces.  “You knew?  All this time, you knew this is how it would end?”

“Yes.  I’m sorry, but I had no choice,” Dave whispered.  “Believe me, I wish it were different…”

“Leave.”

“Huh?”

“I said leave.  I do not wish to see you right now,” Madeleine said, pointing to her balcony.

Sighing, Dave nodded and walked out the door to the balcony.  “I love you, Madeleine,” he said before leaping back to his room.

Madeleine said nothing in reply, collapsing onto her bed and sobbing for what seemed like an eternity.

*****

“What do you make of this, Sir Bedivere?” Arthur asked.

“Unclear.  It does seem that Mordred’s forces are in retreat, yet escape does not seem to be a priority for them.  Were that the case, Morgan le Fay would be able to provide ample cover for them to disappear altogether.  Instead, she focuses her power on providing close-range protection while the army makes steady progress along this road.  Our spearmen have attempted to penetrate their defenses for hours now, but with no luck.”

“Indeed.  I still cannot place my finger on why, but something is amiss here.”

“Then perhaps we should attempt to change the terms of the engagement?” Bedivere suggested with a sly grin.

“Ah, I know that look, my friend.  What do you propose?”

“We send in a few horsemen to attempt to attack their flank.  As long as they are far enough ahead of the rear of Mordred’s forces, they will be safe enough from Morgan le Fay.”

“Hmm… normally a bit reckless, but we do have the advantage of numbers,” Arthur commented.  “Very well, send in the first division of the cavalry.  Still, we shall need their strength to ultimately end the threat of Mordred’s army, so advise them not to be careless with their lives.”

“At once, Sire.”

*****

“Lord Mordred, look.”

Squinting, he saw something in the distance.  “Damn, it seems Arthur’s cavalry is attempting to flank us.”

“Shall I send word to your mother?” the lieutenant asked.

“No, she has her hands full.  What news have we of the rest of our men?”

“We should be able to rendezvous with them in the clearing up ahead.”

“Very well.  Up the pace of our march and shift the heavy shields to protect our flank until then.  We will draw the horsemen in, then trap them from all sides with our bolstered numbers.  Send word for them to be ready,” Mordred ordered.

“Aye!”

*****

Arthur watched as Mordred’s forces continued along their intended path, never once wavering in their pace and perhaps even moving a bit faster.  The soldiers of Camelot had applied pressure to the rear of his army throughout the day, but neither side had taken significant losses yet.  As the path began to widen, Arthur could see the men approaching an expansive meadow in the distance.  The first of Mordred’s forces soon arrived and turned with weapons ready.

“They intend to make a stand here?  Why?” Arthur muttered.

All too soon, Arthur had his answer.  From the trees surrounding the meadow burst a group of soldiers with weapons raised.  Before any could think to react, the newcomers had charged Arthur’s horsemen, surrounding them all with ease.  Arthur’s eyes went wide as he realized the truth.

“It is a trap!  Bedivere, Kay, send in the rest of the infantry, or they will be slaughtered!”

By the time the whole of Camelot’s forces had charged into the fray, the first cavalry division had already been cut down.  Arthur’s men arrived in the nick of time to cut off these interlopers from attacking the spearmen on Mordred’s rear, allowing them to disengage safely.  As the two armies descended into melee combat, Arthur watched in horror as more and more men emerged from the trees.  Where his men had an advantage of three men to two against Mordred’s initial army, the arrival of these new soldiers had flipped those odds against Camelot.  Taking a deep breath, Arthur knew what had to be done.

“Sir Bedivere, you are in command of strategy.  Sir Kay, take the archers.  I am going in.”

“Sire!  I cannot allow this!” Bedivere protested.

“The battle has but begun; it is far too soon!” Kay agreed.

“Mordred has laid a trap for us, and now has our forces outnumbered.  I must render aid if we are to turn the tide of this battle.  Fear not for me, my friends, for Excalibur shall protect me and lay waste to our enemies!”

With that, Arthur rode forth on his horse, his sword raised overhead.  While Mordred’s men focused on Camelot’s soldiers, Arthur arrived like a bolt of lightning, beheading three enemies before any knew what had happened.  His own men cheered in approval, latching onto the momentum he now provided them.  Though outnumbered, the brave men of Camelot began to push Mordred’s forces back further into the meadow.  As Arthur led the charge, it was not long before an arrow struck his horse, downing the animal and throwing him off.  Before Arthur could leap to his feet, a searing pain burned his shoulder.

“AAH!”

“Hah!  That ought to teach you,” an enemy soldier sneered, pulling his sword from Arthur’s arm.

As the man applauded his own efforts, Arthur slowly rose to his feet, keeping a tight grip on his sword as he faced this enemy.  The man soon saw that his prey was not down for good as he had thought, and even caught a glimpse of the wound in Arthur’s shoulder healing itself.  Before he could comprehend any of this, Arthur lunged, striking at the man with such ferocity that he never had a chance.  After several disabling slashes to his limbs, Arthur at last ran him through with Excalibur.

“What… what are you?” the soldier choked through his own blood.

“The one true King of the Britons,” Arthur replied.

As he dropped the man to the ground, Arthur could feel the last of his wound being healed, indicated by the glowing scabbard on his belt.  He couldn’t help but smile at the irony; his enemies feared Excalibur itself, yet most were oblivious to the healing powers the scabbard held.  Shaking his head, Arthur readied his sword and charged into the fray, attempting to assist his men wherever he possibly could.  He moved at incredible speeds and with reflexes unheard of in ordinary men, thanks to the semi-sentience within Excalibur.  Every time one of Mordred’s men thought they had an opening, Arthur would be there to parry and counterattack.  Soon, he and his men began to drive back Mordred’s men in spite of being outnumbered.

“Press on!  Forward!”

Elsewhere on the battlefield, Morgan le Fay worked to maintain Mordred’s forces.  As the group of soldiers around her broke up and descended into chaos, she tried as best as she could to keep them covered with her power.  But the tenacity of Arthur’s men was impressive, and she found it difficult to remain within a mass of friendly soldiers for very long.  Soon, she had no choice but to take to the air in the hopes that her increased maneuverability would allow her to turn the tide back.  Those hopes were quickly dashed.

“Morgan!”

Before she could react, Morgan found herself bound at the waist by a glowing whip.  She now saw her error: Merlin was using it to pull her closer to Camelot’s forces.  If he succeeded, she would be hopelessly outnumbered and overrun by the combined strength of Merlin and the soldiers of Camelot.  In desperation, she thought of one idea crazy enough to work.

After charging an enormous amount of power in her hands, Morgan grabbed onto Merlin’s whip as tightly as she could, attempting to discharge her power into the weapon.  Merlin retained control over the whip’s energy, of course, but Morgan now found that she had a degree of control over the whip itself.  Before Merlin knew what was happening, she had taken off in the opposite direction, dragging Merlin through the air behind her.  He struggled to deactivate the weapon, but it was no use; Morgan’s influx of power had created a feedback loop in the whip, preventing him from disconnecting the weapon from either of them.  Soon, she had dragged Merlin through the air and into the nearby woods, slamming him into a tree.

Merlin grunted in pain, but there was no time for him to catch his wind.  The impact had managed to deactivate his energy whip, allowing him just enough time to roll away from a barrage of fireballs.  He retaliated with a few blasts of his aura energy, but Morgan evaded with ease, landing on the ground near him.  She instantly summoned her flaming staff, her assault driving Merlin back into a defensive stance.  As she continued her offensive, Morgan remained oblivious to Merlin’s countermeasures.  Ever so slightly, he began to manipulate the roots of a nearby tree, beginning to unearth them.  Just as Morgan was about to strike a decisive blow against the old man, the root sprung forward and grabbed her by the ankles.  After flailing around for a few moments, Merlin flung her through the air, causing Morgan to hit her head on a stone as she landed.  Seeing her crumpled, unmoving body, Merlin approached with caution to determine if she was indeed finished.  As he drew closer, he was shocked at what he now heard from Morgan le Fay: she was crying.

“Merlin… save me…”

“Save you?!  I owe you no such kindness, Morgan.  Not after all the pain and suffering you have caused,” Merlin spat.

“I have not… caused it,” she gasped.  “I… had no choice… please…”

Standing over her, Merlin saw something in Morgan’s eyes that he had not seen in such a long time.  He saw fear… and possibly regret.

“You are saying Mordred forced you into your actions?” Merlin asked.

“Not he… but another…”

“Then who?!” Merlin demanded, his patience running thin.

Using what little strength she had, Morgan grabbed him by the collar and pulled his face closer to hers.  Charging her aura in her hand, she placed two fingers on Merlin’s forehead, granting him one of her darkest memories.

*****

“My… daughter…”

“Be still, Mother,” Morgan pleaded.  “Save your strength.”

“Ah, my child… my time is near.  Soon, I shall pass from this world.”

“I know, Mother,” Morgan choked out, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“I pray that peace shall at last come to me… in reuniting with my beloved Gorlois.  Ah, but so many regrets remain, I fear peace shall never come.”

“Shh, speak no more of the troubles of this world,” Morgan said.  “You go to a place of greater power, a place where God’s power reigns supreme.”

“Yes… but was it not He who made that vile man King of the Britons?”

“Yes,” Morgan sighed.

“Thus, it was God’s will that such a man should ruin my family, take me from my home, and rape me to bear his son.”

“Do not say such things!”

“It is the truth.  Yea, he even managed to keep me from you, my beloved daughter.  You were the only one who ever wished to help me, and he banished you for it.  And now… it is too late.”

“It is never too late, Mother.  You know of my son, Mordred.  He is the key to at last righting all the wrongs that have befallen our family.  I swear to you that he will ascend the throne of Camelot.  On that grand day, all shall be made right once more.”

“You are kind… but you may yet fail.  Even now, that accursed offspring of my captor seeks to discredit your son and take his birthright from him.”

“Mordred is young and brash, but possess unrivaled potential,” Morgan replied.  “I assure you he will be king!”

“And you would do all in your power to ensure this?”

“Of course!  You think I would not?”

“I trust your oath in this moment, my daughter.  But if, to ensure Mordred’s future, you were required to strike down Merlin, would you do so?”

“I… Mother, I…”

“Say no more.  You still care for the old man.  I love you, dear Morgan, but there is nothing you can do to ease my regrets.  If you would not destroy all who stand between Mordred and his rightful place, your oath to me is meaningless.”

“Perhaps… there is one small thing I can do for you,” Morgan said.

“What is that?”

“For years, that vile man kept us separated.  But I have learned a powerful magic that shall allow a part of each of us to reside within the other.  With this, nothing can ever keep us apart again, not even the veil of death.  Is this your wish, Mother?”

“I… am truly touched.  I can think of nothing more suitable for my final act.”

Gazing into the green eyes before her, Morgan said, “Relax, Mother.  Empty your mind of all your troubles and fears.  Think only of me.  Gaze into my soul, and we shall become one.”

As the white glow of Morgan’s aura surrounded the pair, a pair of light beams formed and connected their eyes.  Bit-by-bit, their minds began to merge, solidifying a bond that would last forever.  Even so, her regrets would not rest, and in her final moments of life, her thoughts turned to the one she despised with her entire being.

“Curse you… Uther Pendragon…”

Morgan held her mother close, trying desperately to complete the spell before her life slipped away.  Soon, a pair of sparks appeared from each of the women’s foreheads, dancing in the air before entering the other.  But as the spark entered Morgan’s mind, her aura blurred, twisting from the pure white it had been into a black smoke.  As her aura disappeared, she looked down in awe at the lifeless body lying on the bed.

*****

“Father Almighty… now I understand,” Merlin gasped.

“Please…” she whimpered from the ground.

“Morgan…”

As Merlin reached down in an attempt to comfort his former pupil, she suddenly grabbed his wrist, her eyes flaring up in rage.

“Do NOT touch me, old man!” she screamed, blasting him in the face with a fireball.

“AAH!”

Merlin’s face stung from the direct hit, but he managed to extinguish the flames quickly enough that there would be no lasting damage.  Before Morgan could rise to give chase, he summoned up the tree roots once more, wrapping them around her prone body on the ground.  Restrained enough for him to escape, he turned and flew at high speed back towards the battlefield.

*****

“Lord Mordred, our forces are weakening!”

“How is this possible?!” Mordred demanded.

“It is King Arthur!  He fights with the strength of ten men!”

“Excalibur… very well, it seems it is time for me to enter the fray.”

As Mordred prepared to charge into battle, the sound of a bird of prey overhead caught his attention.  After a few moments, a beautiful falcon landed on the ground near him.

“Alexander!” Mordred said, recognizing the bird.  Taking the note tied to the animal’s leg, he mused, “Oh my… that is quite interesting.  Well done, Audrey.”  After attaching a note of reply to Alexander, Mordred released him once more to return to Camelot.

“Sir?” one of the lieutenants asked in confusion.

“Nothing to concern yourself with.  You have command until Mother returns.”

“Aye.”

Drawing his sword, Mordred began to wade into the battle.  Each soldier of Camelot recognized him straight away, but found that they could do him no harm; Mordred had long ago asked his mother to enchant his chainmail to make him nigh invulnerable in battle.  Such power would be needed for him to have a chance against Excalibur.  As he sliced through a few more soldiers, he at last came face-to-face with King Arthur himself.

“Father,” he sneered.

“Mordred,” Arthur replied with equal disgust.

Mordred struck first, swinging his sword overhead in a power strike.  Arthur parried this with ease, sidestepping to gain better leverage.  Arthur knew well that he would have a disadvantage to Mordred’s youth and energy, but Excalibur had never failed him before.  Trusting in the sword’s power, Arthur lunged forward, throwing Mordred off-balance and striking against his mail armor.  While Excalibur would normally have no difficulty piercing such defenses, his strike had barely left a scratch.

“It seems your mother has enhanced your armor,” Arthur grinned.

“We shall both stop at nothing to end your reign of tyranny.”

Mordred resumed his offensive, bent on distracting Arthur long enough for his forces to turn the tide of the battle.  Arthur defended each strike, looking for an opportunity to counterattack, but Mordred gave no opening.  So practiced was he that each of his strikes flowed seamlessly into the next.  Realizing that his men would lose momentum without Excalibur, Arthur began to circle Mordred, prodding at his defenses whenever he could.  Though he could not strike him, he did force Mordred to become more restrained in his actions.  Just as Arthur feared his forces would be driven back, Merlin came flying out of the nearby woods.  He saw at once that Camelot’s soldiers were in trouble and began to aid them with his magic, targeting Mordred’s forces with attacks of fire and lightning.  Before long, Mordred knew they would not be able to win this battle.  Still, he had one last hope.

“It seems your men have failed,” Arthur taunted, his sword locked with Mordred’s.

“A minor setback for me, Father, and a meaningless victory for you.  You are blind to the truth: the traitor against Camelot is not here, but in Camelot itself.”

“An amusing trick,” Arthur replied, brushing off Mordred’s words.

“I only speak the truth, Father,” Mordred grinned.  “Even now, the real traitor to your throne resides in your bedchambers and lays with your wife.”

“Silence!  You will NOT speak such lies of my wife!”

“I speak no lies.  Do you really think I would not have sources of information in Camelot to keep me apprised of the happenings there?  You raised me better than that, Father,” Mordred chuckled.  “Indeed, Guinevere was so grateful to Sir Lancelot for stopping my men from harming her that she would do anything to repay him.  Anything.”

Arthur gasped at Mordred’s words; only those within Camelot itself knew of Lancelot’s rescue of the queen.  For Mordred to have knowledge of it could only mean he spoke the truth; he did have sources in Camelot.  As he pondered this, Arthur lost concentration for a moment, allowing Mordred to deliver a nasty gash across Arthur’s chest.  He winced in pain and fell back on his behind, but Mordred had no chance to deliver the killing blow, as Merlin was readying a direct attack on him.

“Retreat!  Into the woods!” Mordred commanded the last of his men.

Though Merlin could have caught them, his concern was for Arthur.  Landing beside his friend, he inspected the wound in his chest.

“Arthur, are you alright?”

“Aye… the scabbard is doing its job,” he replied.

“Rest.  I shall send a party to give chase.”

“No!  We must… return to Camelot,” Arthur protested.

“To Camelot?  Whatever for?” Bedivere asked as he and Kay arrived.

Sitting up, Arthur continued, “Mordred told me of further betrayals within the walls of Camelot.  He told me… that Lancelot has seduced Guinevere.”

“Lancelot?!  Impossible!” Kay snorted.  “He is a devoted member of the Round Table; Sir Lancelot would not betray us in such a manner.”

“Aye, but Mordred’s description was… quite vivid.  He knew of Lancelot’s rescue of the queen from Mordred’s men.  That information would only have been known to someone who resides in Camelot.”

“Dear God… how could he have known of that?” Bedivere wondered.

“I know not for certain, but Mordred claims he has sources in Camelot to inform him of the things that are happening there.”

“What are your orders, Your Highness?” Kay asked.

“We ride for Camelot.  I must know the truth of all this,” Arthur replied.  “When we draw near to the gates, the army shall remain hidden so as not to arouse the public of our presence.  Merlin and I shall enter the castle and pay a surprise visit to my wife.  That should tell me if Mordred speaks true.”

Merlin said nothing at this, but gave a heavy sigh of resignation; he knew what was to come of this course of action.  Still, no man, not even Merlin, could change Arthur’s mind.

*****

With weariness in her eyes, Morgan trudged through the woods, seething with rage at losing to Merlin once again.  It boggled her mind that the old man could constantly best her.  She had the advantage in youth and power, yet still he persisted.  And now, he knew of her secret.  He knew, and there was little doubt in her mind that he would endeavor to target her.  How could she use this knowledge to end him once and for all?  As she arrived at Mordred’s camp, the answers seemed lost to her.

“Well, you look a sight,” Mordred sneered.

“Hush,” Morgan replied with a glare.  “You know not what I have been through.”

“Whatever it was, I hope it was worthwhile.  Without you, Merlin was able to attack my men unhindered, forcing our retreat.”

“Yet you still have a plan.  I know that look in your eyes.”

“Indeed.  I believe I have planted the seeds of the strategy that shall lead to our final victory over Camelot.  For now, we shall be tracking Arthur’s men from a distance until the time is right to attack anew.”

“Really?  And what strategy would that be?”

“That knowledge is for me alone,” Mordred said.

“You would keep secrets from me?” Morgan asked, incredulous.

“Aye.  You have been… slipping, Mother.  Ever since our attempted takeover of Camelot, you have been less reliable than usual.  Thus, I think it wise to maintain some air of mystery.”

Morgan turned and stormed off, finding a quiet place of solitude for her to gather her thoughts.

Beware your arrogance, my son.  You may yet sit on the throne of Camelot, or you may die trying.  Either way, such arrogance could be your downfall.

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