Chapter Twenty-Four

We returned to Cyric and Kellan’s palace, and Cyric drew up the appropriate documents. It was agreed that Mordred and I would move in on the fifteenth of the next month, which was about three weeks away at that point.

After Merlin left, I sat down and wrote to Devin, telling him the news of he house and asking him to send Mordred as soon as possible. I hesitated as I wrote of the house, and the lands it was on, uncertain as to how I should word it without betraying my feelings of wariness and uncertainty. In the end, though, I was satisfied with the letter and its contents, and I sent it off with the next post.

Devin’s eldest son arrived with Mordred and a return letter at the end of the week, and Kellan and I fussed over my son and her nephew that evening, plying them with food and begging for any news of Devin’s household. Apparently there was little to tell of, for it was little we recieved.

Lent was well underway by this point, and I realized with a start that it was the first year in a very long time that I haven’t observed the period of time before our Lord’s death and ressurection. I decided that I would make up for it by fasting and praying steadily for two weeks before Easter day, and I began my atonement, if you could call it that.

Finally Mordred and I moved into the house. Mordred was excited by the new house, by the woods, by the stream, and even by the stables and the latrine. I, on the other hand, still felt uncomfortable, though I couldn’t figure out why, no matter how hard I thought about it.

Merlin came to help us move our few belongings, and when we had finally finished he pulled me aside. He had barely looked away from Mordred as he had run around investigating all there was to investigate, and over the course to the day he had paled little by little, looking as if he had seen a ghost.

“You said that you adopted this child, Lady Morgan,” he said seriously, his eyes searching my face with a hint of desperation. “Do you know who his parents are, or were?”

“No,” I said, surprised by the question. “His mother came to us in the middle of the night, already in labor and deathly ill. I tended her that night, after she had given birth to Mordred. She never recovered, and the only thing she said was ‘Mordred’, which is why we named him that.”

As I had spoken, Merlin had paled considerably, and her returned his gaze to Mordred. I turned to walk away, but he caught my upper arm.

“Lady Morgan,” he said, returning his gaze to me. “Is the child’s mother dead?”

“Yes,” I said, once more surprised by his question. “She died close to dawn. Now, would you be so kind as to unhand me?” He stared at me blankly for a moment before realizing that he held my arm still. Merlin released me and tilted his head curiously before walking away without saying another word.

That night, after everyone had left, I made supper for Mordred, and he ate in peace. I couldn’t stop feeling edgy, though Mordred didn’t seem to feel the same discomfort I did.

Three weeks passed, and Easter came and went. I made a point of bringing Mordred to the masses held at the local parish, both on a weekly basis in order to continue his education and for the special Holy Week services. I can’t say that he understood the services, as they were all in Latin, and although I had been trying ot teach him Latin, he hadn’t seemed to understand much.

About two weeks after Easter, I found myself down by the stream shortly before sunset, bathing away the dirt and sweat from earlier that day. I had been working in the garden, attempting to coax some life from the ground, and I was exhausted.

After I had gotten Mordred his supper, I gave him instructions to behave, to not make a mess, and to not get hurt. I knew that he would listen to me so long as he remembered, but my fear was of him forgetting.

I hurried out of the cold water, shivering. I had hung my clothing on a nearby treebranch, and I hurried for it. As I reach my arm out, something (a bag, I think) was forced over my eyes, and a hand clamped over my mouth.

A scream died in my throat as my attacker put a blade to my neck. My hands flew up to my face, frantically trying to pry his hand from my mouth and to remove the bag.

“Now, now, pretty,” the attacker whispered, bringing his blade a little lower, tracing my breastbone with the tip of it. “You need to play nicely. Be a good girl and don’t sream, or I’ll have to cut your… lucious… body to bits.” I whimpered slightly,and then gasped as the blade knicked my chest slightly.

He lowered his hand from my mouth, pulling the material lower, stuffing the filthy cloth into my mouth, gagging me. The blade left my skin for a moment, as he tied the cloth at the back of my head.

His tongue came into contact with my jaw roughly, and he licked me down my neck. His hands caught mine as I tried to fight him, and he forced me against a tree.

“You want to behave, Lady Morgan,” he hissed. “I don’t know what your poor son would do if you were to mysteriously vanish into the woods.”

He knows of Mordred, I thought, panic and revulsion rising within me. I fought harder, kicking and hitting. I’m pretty sure I connected with something important, because he cursed at me before hitting me hard over the head.

I fell limp, barely conscious. That must have been when he did it- when he defiled me- because my next non-fuzzy memory was of the bag being removed, and me laying on my back on the bank of the stream. Oddly enough, I remember thinking that I had been there too long, because the sun had gone down completely.

He wasn’t done with me then. He kept toying with me, murmuring different things, never letting me see his face.

I lay there limply- guilt, revulsion and shame all roiling withing me. Finally I heard him rise to his feet, but I couldn’t bring myself to look into his face. My will to fight had abandoned me completely, and it didn’t matter who had done this horrible thing to me.

“Gran Espirito, aceptar a mina oferta desta muller, cuxa virxe sangue Tomei esta noite,” he intoned. I stirred, not recognizing the language. “Gran Epsirito, aceptar a mina oferta desta muller, cuxa virxe sangue Tomei esta noite. Aceptar a oferta do seu servo puxo diante do ti!”

As he said those last words, a cloud shifted above, blocking the moonlight, and blue flames sprung up in a circle around us. I heard the man fall, and I turned in fear, terriefied of what was going on.

My heart lept into my throat at what I saw. Merlin knelt before me naked, his chest heaving and head thrown back. Sweat poured down his body, and every vein stood out.

Finally he fell to the ground face first, limp. I crawled away, panic building within me. It felt like the temperature had dropped drasctically in the last several seconds, despite the fire, and the evil prescence I had felt since my arrival had tripled in intensity.

Merlin raised his head, staring at me in a way that I had never seen any mortal look. Malice was on his face, and his pupils had enlarged, eclipsing the whites completely and turning the eyes completely black.

An unearhtly laugh tor from Merlin’s lips, insane and maniacle, yet rusty and without any real happiness, joy or humour fueling it. Merlin rose to his feet and approached me where I lay, as close to the fire as I could get without being in the fire.

“The druid’s choice in women never ceases to amaze me, from the common prostitute who is with his child to you,” Merlin said, though the voice didn’t belong to him. “One of the Enemy’s this time… Well…” He laughed again, and I shuddered.

“Who are you?” I asked, my voice a mere whisper. “What’s happening?”

“Inquisitive, too,” Merlin said with apparent approval. “I have many names, woman. You may call me Mordred, though.”

“Mordred,” I whispered weakly, feeling sick. Suddenly everything was falling into place- Merlin’s interest in my son, the name I had given my son, why his mother had murmured it, this Merlin-who-wasn’t-Merlin. I turned away and vomited, tears streaming down my face.

“Oh God almighty, save your servant,” I breathed, my fear rising. “God save me!” The demon inside of Merlin let out a hiss like that of a snake. I closed my eyes, verses coming to my mind.

“Domini est terra et plentitudo eius orbis et habitatores eius quia ipse super maria fundavit eum et super flumina stabilivit illum,” I quoted the twenty-third Psalm, finding peace in the words of God as I spoke them. “Quis ascendat in montem Domini et quis stabit in loco sancto eius…”

The demon screamed, retreating from me. Rage flashed across Merlin/Mordred’s face, and I could see the muscles working in his jaw.

“Stop!” the demon shrieked, causing the blue flames to blaze higher and more hotly. “You dare intone the name of the Enemy? You who left His holy order? You who have been defiled by my servant?”

“… innocens manibus et mundo corde qui non exaltavit frustra animam suam et non inravit dolose,” I continued, screaming louder, trying to drown out the demon’s words. “Accipiet benedictonem a Domino et iustitiam a Deo salutari suo haec generatio quaerentium eum quaerentium faciem tuam Iacob semper…”

“Stop, stop, stop!” he screamed, his skin shiny with sweat in the light of the demonic fire. For some reason I knew that if I stopped to listen to this demon that had possessed Merlin, I would not live through this night.

“Levate portae capita vestra et elevamini ianuae sempiterae et ingrediatur rex gloria quis est iste rex gloriae Dominus fortis et potens Dominus fortis in proelio,” I screamed, covering my ears. “Quis est iste rex gloriae Dominus exercituum ipse est gloriae semper.”

The demon seemed unable to speak any longer, and was screaming wordlessly. I crossed myself, feeling confident that I would be protected by God.

“Lord in heaven, help me,” I prayed aloud. “Lord, banish this demon to the pits of hell. Break his hold on this man. Lord, save me. Oh my God, save me.”

Merlin fell to the ground, convulsing and foaming at the mouth. The blue flames sputtered out, and I turned and ran into the darkness, leaving Merlin and my clothing behind.