Reversal of Fortune
Mordred, his jaw set, his muscles tight, hunted for Arthur in the sea of bodies like a cat might stalk its prey.
Emrys was wrong. The prophecies were wrong…it was all wrong, Mordred seethed. King Arthur was never going to accept magic…and people like him, people like Morgana…were never going to be free under his rule.
Even Emrys, who had stood faithfully by the King’s side for ten years, would not be free while Arthur lived. Honestly, rather than being angry with Emrys…Mordred pitied the fabled warlock. He truly believed that Emrys meant well, but after hiding his gifts from the world for so long, he had lost sight of the world he was meant to create. He had stopped believing in his own destiny, and in so doing, let down all his brothers and sisters that had been counting on him to lead them to a new day, a Golden Age.
Well, if Emrys could not affect the change that needed to happen, then Mordred would.
~ ~ ~
It was not long before Mordred, cresting a small hill, found the object of his quest. He was kneeling about thirty yards away, checking the pulse of a fallen Camelot knight on the ground before him. He watched in silence as the golden mane of the king’s hair flowed in the summer breeze as he shook his head sadly and pushed himself to a weary stand.
Mordred took a sure-footed step, and then another, as if pulled by a magnet…and then a disturbance in the magic of the Old Religion caused him to stumble to one knee, gasping for breath.
And just like that, he knew: Morgana was dead. Emrys had killed her, as had been foretold. Rage unlike any he had known before flooded Mordred’s bloodstream. How dare he? How dare Emrys kill the only other person who understood his quest, who loved him like a sister, like a mother?
Emrys had taken the person most precious to him in the world…and now, he would return the favor.
Staring down at his quarry, Mordred saw the king had noticed him, was watching him…waiting for him, almost as if he were expecting him. Well, who was he to keep his liege waiting?
As Mordred approached, Arthur said nothing. Instead, he twirled Excalibur in his hand once before taking his familiar battle stance.
Mordred walked faster, just kept coming, right into Arthur’s space and swinging his sword around his head as if he might lop the king’s head right off. Of course, Arthur parried and shoved him forcibly backward.
“Why? Why are you doing this, Mordred?” Arthur asked in a voice that sounded weary, more mentally than physically.
“You know why!” Mordred declared, taking another swing, this time at the Arthur’s midriff. It was also blocked. Mordred grunted in frustration. “Magic users have the right to be free, and you will never give them that freedom!”
“Why? So that sorcerers like Morgana can use it to destroy and corrupt? What right do people like that have to be free?” Arthur did not attack; instead he waited for Mordred’s next blow.
“Not all magic users are like Morgana…but she has only become what you and your father made her! She was once good and kind…and you destroyed her with your hatred and your judgment!” Mordred thrust forward and then turned on his heel, the pommel of his sword connecting with the side of Arthur’s head, making the man stumble sideways.
Arthur shook his head as if to shake away water from his hair. “She never told me! She never confided in me! She could have trusted me…I would have helped her, if I could.”
“What kind of hypocrisy is that? You would protect your sister but not change the laws governing those like her? You would allow sorcery only when it suits you?” Mordred’s voice was little more than a growl and his blade whirled and twisted, singing in the breeze as it whistled just past Arthur’s arm, clanging off his chainmail as it went.
“I have only ever seen sorcery used for evil purposes,” Arthur countered, panting a bit now. “How can I trust such a thing to be good if I have never seen it be such?”
Mordred’s face turned red with fury and his anger made his eyes glow a steady gold. “Never seen it used for good? You have been surrounded by it and protected with it for the past ten years! If you cannot see that, then you did not deserve the honor; you are not worthy of the title ‘The Once and Future King’!” Mordred darted his leg out and swept Arthur’s legs from under him, dropping the king to his knees.
Mordred he raised his sword and went in for the kill. “And now I end this farce, Arthur Pendragon… I end the ‘Golden Age of Camelot’…I end you!” Mordred put both hands on the pommel of his sword and pierced the king’s armor, spearing the man through the stomach with mortal force.
The young knight gasped as he felt an electric jolt vibrating his sword, even as it remained pierced through Arthur’s side. Raising his head, Mordred’s astounded eyes met not the cobalt blue eyes of Arthur Pendragon, but eyes that were so gold that they burned brighter than the sun.
Emrys! Mordred thought, stunned, as he watched the glamour of King Arthur fall away from the warlock impaled upon his sword…and the real King appeared at Mordred’s side, safe, albeit a bit dumbfounded himself.
However, it took only a hairsbreath of time before Arthur realized what Mordred had done and buried Excalibur into the young man’s gut to the hilt and then roughly shoved the traitor backward onto the ground to die.
As Mordred’s hand slipped off the pommel of his sword, Merlin slowly slid backward, but Arthur had his arms around him before he could fall.
“Merlin!” Arthur gasped with tears in his eyes. “What happened? Gods…what did you do?”
Merlin’s breathing sounded unnaturally thick, but he wheezed with a hint of a grim smile, “I saved you, Arthur. I saved you.”
Lying his old friend gently on the ground, Arthur swept back the ebony hair that was plastered to Merlin’s clammy forehead. “Dammit, Merlin, you’re not allowed to die!”
Merlin coughed…a hacking, squelchy noise. “You know I never do what I’m told…”
Tears blurred the king’s vision as he snorted a half-laugh, half-sob.
“Don’t leave me, Merlin…” Arthur begged. “Please…”
“Can’t help it,” the warlock wheezed, “but you’ll be all right now. I fixed it.”
“Fixed what?” Arthur demanded, but already Merlin’s face grew pale…he was fading fast.
“Destiny,” Merlin murmured.
Arthur gasped as Merlin’s eyes glowed gold; and in front of the king an achingly familiar blue orb appeared, floating and twisting just as it did long ago in a faraway cave.
“Oh, Merlin…” Arthur gasped, understanding at last what he had never seen, had never even dreamt of before that moment.
“Magic can be used for good, Arthur…” Merlin whispered, his eyes closing for the last time. “Others can—and will—just like I did…if you let them.”
Tears spilled fast and unashamed onto Arthur Pendragon’s cheeks as he watched the beautiful blue orb flicker for a moment before vanishing softly into the mist.