Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Voices Beneath: Chapter Thirteen-- Desperation

Well, here we go with the next chapter. Hope everyone still reading this is enjoying it =)

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chapter thirteen

I knew it was childish to run away, but I was still only a boy of seventeen at the time, a man in rights, but still not in heart entirely, and I sought to fix my problems in the way of children: by running away from them. But I had no mother to know where my favorite hiding place was and come and take me back home when I was tired and thinking I didn’t want to run away any more once the supper hour hit. I was alone, and a knight at that, so I would take care of myself. I had made my decision, and I would have to make the most of it.
            So many thoughts ran through my head that night. I thought of going on a quest, selling myself as a mercenary, maybe even going North or to Ireland if I was really desperate. I just knew I needed to get as far away from Arthur as possible. It hurt so much to think of never seeing him or my other friends again, but I knew it was for the best, and my sacrifice was out of love.
            I did decide that my first course of action would be to find Morgan la Fay. Perhaps I could force her to uncurse me. I knew it was a lost cause, but perhaps I could slay her instead and surely then my curse would be lifted.
            As the first light of dawn came to the world, I stopped Elith in the woods, exhausted from grief and the fact I had slept so poorly of late. My shoulder throbbed so much I could hardly hold the reins anymore, and I fell from Elith’s back, unable to catch myself. I didn’t want to eat, though I had had the forethought to bring food, and so I simply lay my bedroll down and curled up on it, laying my cloak over myself. Elith grazed a bit beside me and I drifted off to his soft crunching.
            Sleep came, but only lightly and I was startled into full wakefulness sometime later, about midmorning by my reckoning. Elith whickered softly, looking off into the distance, his ears straight up. I sat up slowly, my hand already on the hilt of my sword. My shoulder was a dull throb, feeling swollen, and I grit my teeth as I forced myself to my feet. I half expected it to be Lady Morgan, come to see why I still hadn’t killed Arthur. I was ready for her. I would not let her defeat me this time.
            Before I even saw my stalker I barely had a chance. I just caught the hiss of sound before an arrow flew out of the foliage and buried itself in my side right above the hip. I fell to my knees in shock. Elith whinnied in fear but did not bolt, for he was trained as a warhorse and would not desert me in the prospect of a fight. I broke the shaft off close to my body, groaning as I hauled myself to my feet, readying myself for a fight.
            Several men showed themselves, coming out of the trees. Bandits by the look of them; hooded, rough men. The one who had shot me, held his bow level, another arrow nocked and ready. I held my sword in front of me, knowing I hardly had a chance against them, but prepared to go down fighting if I must.
            Another man stepped forward, black and arrogant and even before he tossed his hood back from his face in a theatrical fashion, I knew who he was.
            “Lancelot,” I snarled.
            He smiled slightly. “Ah, young Mordred. I hoped we would meet again, though I’ll admit I didn’t expect to find you out here all alone. Not after you were knighted. Already think you can replace me. Tell me, how is the dear Queen? Still as deliciously enticing as always?”
            “You have no right to ask after her, especially not in such a vulgar manor!” I told him, anger boiling in my blood as I remembered the last time I had seen him, carting Guinevere off after he had wounded Arthur in foul play. I could not let him get away this time.
            “That’s a nasty wound,” Lancelot said, motioning to the bit of shaft still sticking from me. “If I had known it was you, I wouldn’t have told Arnulf to shoot. I was hoping this would be a better challenge. But maybe I have no real intention of killing you at all. I don’t really feel like it today. Why should I sully my hands on a whelp? I’ll leave the wilderness to do the job for me.”
            “You coward,” I breathed and lunged forward as he began to turn. I might be striking him in the back, but I hardly cared at that moment. I would do what I needed to, no matter how dishonorable.
            I never made it that far. One man struck me across the shoulders with a quarterstaff and I was thrown to my knees, my arrow wound and shoulder protesting in pain from the jarring. I struggled back to my feet, my sword raising for a blow, but the men converged on me and began to beat me with whatever weapons they had at hand, and though I got in several good cuts with my sword, I gave no mortal wounds, and they were content to leave me battered and bleeding on the forest floor, too exhausted to move and in too much pain to do so. Lancelot strode over to me, a mock worried expression on his face. My sword had been kicked out of my reach, but I strained for it. Lancelot only stepped on my wrist and ground his heel into it painfully enough for me to grit my teeth to keep from screaming.
            “How pitiful,” he said. “Not so heroic now, are you, you little maggot. Not while you have no fair lady to protect. I doubt I will see you again, and I hope you provide the wolves with a good feast this night.” He kicked me in the jaw and my head snapped back, half dazed.
            I heard them leave, rummaging through my things, and stealing everything of value, even my sword—the one Arthur had given me—but I was too weak to protest and if I had tried, they would have taken it anyway. They didn’t take Elith though, for when one man tried to grab him, he received a hoof in the gut for his trouble. Then they departed, leaving me alone and hurt, barely able to even help myself. I did fear I would die there. No one would come to save me.
            I finally managed enough strength to pull myself to my knees and whistled to Elith. He was not far away and he came readily now, nudging my shoulder with his head. I grabbed the stirrup and pulled myself onto my feet. I leaned against him for a few minutes, catching my breath, then I tried to heave myself onto his back, but I couldn’t use my left arm and when I tried my right, the arrow dug into me and as soon as I brushed the broken off shaft against the saddle I was done. I simply put my arm around the horse’s neck and leaned against him, making my way slowly in a direction. I didn’t even know where I was going. I didn’t care.
            I fell too many times to count, and each time, it was harder to get back up. I finally fell and stayed down, hardly conscious. I curled up on my unwounded side breathing raggedly, and felt tears of frustration and pain leak from my eyes. I would die here, I was sure of it. Then Elith knelt down beside me, nuzzling my hair and mustering the last of my strength, I grabbed hold of his mane and pulled myself onto his back, laying down carefully so as not to thrust the arrow deeper into my side. He stood back up and took a faster walk down the path. I didn’t know where Elith thought he was going, but he obviously had some destination in mind. If I had been in my right mind, I would have known, and I do not know whether I would have been glad or not, whether I would have stopped him, but I can make no protest now to the result.
            I did not know how long we traveled, but I was eventually aware of vague noises around us. I fought to lift my head and see what they were, afraid we would be under attack again, but Elith did not seem worried, and soon enough I heard Gawain’s loud voice over the others and I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I could hardly hold onto Elith’s mane anymore. I felt myself falling but was too past caring. Impact jarred me awake for a moment before I felt myself fading again into a peaceful blackness. Feet pounded against the ground and suddenly I was aware of someone kneeling over me. A warm hand was on my face and I opened my eyes to see Arthur’s worried expression.
    “Mordred,” he said as if from afar, and I cared not that he had been the one I was trying to run away from. I couldn’t hurt him now in this state, surely. I lost all my resolve and reached out to him like a babe, tears chocking me. He bundled me up into his arms and cradled me close to his chest while I didn’t even try to control my emotions. I heard another voice and running footsteps from behind Arthur.
            “Did you find him?” It was Merlin. I buried my face against Arthur’s tunic. I could not face the sorcerer now. Not after I had done exactly what he had told me not to do.
            “I found him,” Arthur said, his voice rumbling in his chest. I heard Merlin curse and offer thanks at the same time. “We need to get him back, he’s hurt badly.” I heard the worry in Arthur’s voice and wanted to contradict it, but couldn’t, for I knew I was. I was hurt worse than I had realized and was sure I had lost a lot of blood. Arthur slipped an arm under my knees.
            “We’ll get a stretcher,” Merlin said.
            “No,” Arthur replied quietly and lifted me up into his strong arms as if I weighed nothing. I tried to protest but I was too weak. He began to stride off, and I could hear the exclamations of the other knights as we passed. Merlin had apparently run ahead to prepare for my care. I was still sobbing gently, my face not having left Arthur’s tunic.
            “It’s all right, Mordred,” he said kindly. “You will be all right.”
            “I-I’m s-sorry,” I forced out. “S-so sorry…father.” I could not help but add the last word. Not now while he was carrying me like a child as tenderly as if I were only a sleeping babe. And I knew now, even if I hadn’t before, that all I had wanted when I had been hurt was to see him. For him to come for me. He had come, not out of the duty he must have to protect his subjects, not even for the sake of brotherhood he shared with his knights, but because he believed I was his son and he genuinely loved me. And for once, perhaps because of my weakened condition, I didn’t think of the curse. I just knew I loved this man as my father, and I wanted him to know that.
            He stopped at my words, and I realized that had been all he had ever wanted to hear from me. He touched my forehead with his and I felt a tear fall onto my cheek that wasn’t mine.
            “You have no need to apologize, my son,” he whispered. “Everything is okay now.”
            And I took that to be true, for I finally allowed my body to give in to itself and slipped into the blackness that I had fought for too long already.

©Copyright 2014 by Hazel B West


I was also extremely excited to get a piece of fanart of Morgan la Fay by Abigail Leskey =) Check it out!


  1. What will happen to poor Mordred next!

    Waiting for Wednesday,

    Warrior Poet

  2. It actually starts looking up in the next few chapters ;)

    1. Now that's right joysome tidings!


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