Chapter Twenty-Five

I ran until I reached the cabin, panicky. I wanted to be sure and reassured that Mordred was alright. A bitter taste entered my mouth at the name. I had named my child after a demon. Heaven preserve us all.

As I approached the cabin I slowed. It occurred to me that I was a filthy mess and that I was naked. This realization caused me to hesitate only a moment though, and I entered the cabin.

I needn’t have worried. Mordred had fallen asleep playing, and he sat on the floor with his head on his chest and legs crossed, the blocks Devin had given him at Christmastime scattered around the small room.

Quickly I dressed myself in a shift from the near-by mending pile (I had torn the hem on it the other day, and hadn’t gotten around to fixing it yet) and knelt to pick Mordred up. I carried him to the bed in the other room and carefully removed his outer garments, so that he could wear them again.

He didn’t even stir once as I got him ready for bed, and I envied him. I didn’t want to sleep, and i don’t think I could have even if I’d tried.

Instead, I sat up most of the night, thinking of what had occured and what I would do now. With everything, I couldn’t even consider staying.

The question now was, where will we go? The demon had been right about one thing- I had been defiled by Merlin. My mind ran over the horrors of the night, and I rubbed my arms, feeling like there were bugs- millions of tiny, invisible bugs- crawling all over my flesh.

I’m contaminated, I thought, shuddering. Violated. I felt like I was going to throw up, but I couldn’t bring myself to step outside to do so.

My mind reeled through my options. You could stay here. No, you couldn’t. Not if there’s a demon that haunts here and your landlord is a sorcerer. You could go to either Kellan or Devin and beg their permission to live with them. No, you can’t live off of their family’s wealth. Not anymore.

I paused as I heard Mordred cry out in his sleep, and I looked into the other room, afraid that somehow Merlin had gotten in. Mordred sighed softly in his sleep, and I listened as his breathing evened.

It’s alright, I thought, trying to calm myself. He’s alright. You need to calm down and think through this rationally. Now think, Morgan. Where can you go to live?

Suddenly I knew where I could go, seeking aid. The thought made me even sicker to my stomach than I was, but so far as I could see, it was my only option.

I was going to return to Camelot, to my father’s palace of Avalon, and seek the aid of my brother. Surely he’ll help me, I thought.

With a sigh, I rested my head in my hands, well aware of all that I needed to do. I had to pack up our belongings and clean the cabin. I would also need to write to Merlin and terminate our agreement, and make arangements for Mordred to stay with either Kellan and Cyric or Devin and his wife.

My return to the courts of Camelot would be humbling, and I grimaced at the thought. I had sacrificed everything because I had escaped with my mother at the age of ten. Now, at almost thirty, I would enter the courts to seek my half-brother’s aid.

At least everyone believes that he couldn’t possibly be anything like your father,  I thought to myself. They describe him as good and just. Maybe he will show compassion where Father would have shown disdain.

A single tear ran down my face, and I rose and made my way to bed. I was tired and I knew that I ought to sleep, but I didn’t want to let my guard down. Quietly I laid down beside Mordred, wanting to hold him close and keep him safe from all evil. He looked so sweet and innocent in his sleep, like a little angel, I thought.

Somehow I fell asleep that night, and I slept soundly until Mordred woke me at daybreak, needing to make a trip to the latrine. I rose and walked with him most of the way, and as he relieved himself I hurried down to the stream for the clothing I had left behind.

I paused as I stepped onto the bank, looking around curiously to see if there were any signs of the previous night’s skirmish. A small part of me hoped that it had only been a bad dream, but as I surveyed the scene I could tell that it hadn’t.

A ring of scorched earth marked where the hellfire had been. There were places in the turf that had been kicked loose, or scuffed up, and I could see a bloodstain in the middle of the circle.

My fear returned, and I ran back to the latirne, clothing in hand. Mordred saw my reaction and was worried for me.

“Morgan, are you alright?” he ased me as I took his hand to walk back to the house.

“I’m fine,” I said, forcing a smile. I couldn’t let him know the truth of last night. “Mordred, do you want to go visit cousins Kellan and Cyric?”

“Yes!” he said, instantly forgetting that I was ever upset. “When, Morgan? When?”

“We’ll go today, and surprise them,” I said. The evil feeling wasn’t present at the moment, but I was edgier than ever. “After breakfast, alright?”

“Alright,” he said, beaming. I smiled slightly, aware that while he wouldn’t be coming home again, I would have to, to clean and pack up. For him, this was his last morning here.

“Let’s go see about that breakfast,” I said, smiling. We quickly returned to the house, and I prepared a meal for Mordred. As he ate I rushed around frantically, trying to pack.

As soon as Mordred had finished eating I cleaned up the mess and put out the fire, desperate to go.

You ought to bathe before you go, I thought briefly, aware that I was covered in all manner of things. Kellan and Cyric will be worried if they see all the dirt.

I stifled a shudder at the thought of returning to the stream. I’ll wash once we’re off Merlin’s land, I decided. I knew that the stream curled around Merlin’s property, craddling the cabin and the forest surrounding it on the one side.

“Morgan, are you sure you’re alright?” Mordred asked, jerking me out of my thoughts. I looked up at him, surprised.

“I’m fine, Mordred,” I said. “Let’s go.”

I helped him to mount the mare, and handed him the sack of clothing to hold while I climbed up behind him. The morning was still young as we rode to my cousin’s home, and the sun was bright. The events of the night before seemed to be almost surreal under the light of the day.

We made good progress, and arrived there by mid afternoon, pausing only once as I washed my face and arms. As we rode through the gates of the palace, I felt as if people were watching me. I felt as if they somehow knew of what had happened.

I left my mare with one of the stable boys, and a guard showed Mordred and I inside, bringing us to the crowded great hall, where Cyric was holding court. A hush fell as we entered.

“Lady Morgan,” he said, rising from his seat. “What are you doing here?”