Arthur had left Mithian with his guards.
The Crown Prince ran as fast as he can, sprinting through the halls of the castle and onto the surrounding ramparts. He could hear the panting of Gawain and Lancelot as they dashed behind him, struggling to keep up. He could hear screams. He could smell smoke. The pale moonlight from above illuminated his way forward as the future King of Camelot ran to the edge of the castle, desperate to look down onto the city below.
This wasn’t happening.
This couldn’t be happening.
This couldn’t be happening.
Guinevere stood frozen, breath caught in her throat as her eyes widened in shock. She couldn’t tear herself away from the dark treeline in front of her. From the hundreds of small torch lights that flickered in the distance. They were slowly coming closer. Circling the city.
Closing them in.
Guinevere watched, paralyzed, as a trail of people from the outskirts stormed through the gates. They’d abandoned carts and wagons partway, dragging partners and crying children with them. Guinevere could hear the screams. She could see their expressions, wild and desperate to get inside.
Desperate to get to safety.
“Everyone, go to the second wall!” the guard next to the gate yelled, his voice low and commanding. “Do not stay in this district! Leave your belongings behind!”
“Keep moving! Go, go, GO!”
Guinevere didn’t realise that those words were also meant for her. That she, too, was in danger. The girl watched as more guards made their way up the ramparts, armed and armoured, running to the cannons that were positioned on top of the city gate. One of them placed his hands on the edge. She could see him leaning over the wall, squinting as he got a good look at what was coming their way-
And the guard immediately froze.
“…Watcher save us all.”
“Father. They’re all in position.”
The King of Cornwall narrowed his eyes as he looked past the stone walls in front of him. His eyes trailed over the ramparts, towards a lone tower that stood next to the castle. The small shapes there were almost indistinguishable in the surrounding darkness.
But Gorlois knew he was there.
The day had come.
The day had finally come.
“Morgause. Begin the assault,” Gorlois ordered. His daughter gave him a single, determined nod in response.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
“This will be over quickly. Ygraine will be avenged tonight.”
“By daybreak, you will have your sister. You have my word, Morgause. No harm will come to her.”
For as long as Morgause could remember, the King of Cornwall had honoured his promises. Always. Gorlois had never gone back on his word – not once. She trusted him. Amidst all of the carnage that was about to commence… Morgause had the reassurance that Morgana, at least, would be spared. No harm would come to her. Gorlois wouldn’t allow it. She wouldn’t allow it.
She should have bartered for both of them.
Morgause knew that she was supposed to care about Arthur Pendragon. She knew that she was meant to care. It had been written. It had been foretold – Emrys had told her what was at stake. The four of them were destined to finally free their kind from persecution. To reunite the Old World with the New. According to Emrys, Arthur Pendragon was a vital part of that. Morgause was supposed to take what Emrys had said to heart – she was supposed to forgive, and build bridges where she could. She was supposed to work towards peace.
But she couldn’t. Muiri’s visions hadn’t accounted for the promise that Morgause had made to her father. And even if it had… it would not have made a difference.
She didn’t care what happened to Uther’s son. She didn’t want to build bridges.
She wanted to destroy them.
Deep down… the Dragon Priestess didn’t want to forgive.
Morgause wanted revenge.
Morgana would understand. Morgause would make her understand. There’d be no more secrets. No more hiding the truth. As soon as this was over, Morgause could finally tell her.
She could finally tell her everything.
As soon as this was over… they’d both be free.
But if someone must become stuck in my brother’s cage…
Then it will not be me.
“Go to the market! The artisan’s district! You’ll be safe past the wall – MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”
As the town guard prepared to physically drag some stragglers inside, he was interrupted by the voice of his colleague. The man’s scream was high-pitched and laced with panic.
“BARDEN! CLOSE THE GATE! NOW!”
“But there’s still people out there!” Barden protested, only to be shut down immediately.
“THERE’S NO TIME! DO IT! DO IT NOW!”
Guinevere was barely able to keep her balance against the crowd of people that forced their way past. She was supposed to go with them. She was supposed to get out of her, running as fast as she could – but her legs wouldn’t move. She’d heard the guard’s words. Her eyes widened in horror as Guinevere realised what was about to happen.
“Miss! GET BACK!”
“Wait, but he said there’s still-!”
Guinevere could see them. In the distance, lagging behind the other villagers and dangerously close to the legion of burning torches behind them, were three people. A family. Guinevere could see the woman pushing two redheaded boys in front of her, herding them towards the wall in a blind panic.
Guinevere knew that woman.
She knew that family.
They weren’t going to make it.
“WAIT! WAIT FOR US! PLEASE!”
Guinevere watched in horror as the guard dashed over to the gate wheel. He wasn’t waiting for them. He wasn’t going to let them in. If that gate closed on them – if they got stuck on the other side, then they wouldn’t be able to get into the city. They’d be caught between armies.
They wouldn’t survive.
She couldn’t let that happen.
“Wait!” Guinevere screamed, moving towards the guard. “You can’t—“
She never got to finish her sentence. Guinevere could feel a hand clasp around her wrist, grabbing hold of her from behind and yanking her back. Hard.
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?! GET TO SAFETY NOW!”
“No!” the girl yelled, struggling against his grip. “You can’t lower the gate – there are still people outside! You have to let them in!”
The guard was too strong for her. She could feel herself getting dragged backwards. To her left, Barden had reached the gate wheel. Guinevere screamed in protest as his hands clasped around the wood, forcefully turning it to the right. She could see the metal grate rapidly begin to lower—
“NO! WAIT! PLEASE!”
“NO! Let them in! They’re almost…!”
It was no use.
They weren’t going to make it.
“STOP THIS AT ONCE!”
Startled, Guinevere and her guard turned around. It actually took her a second to recognise the voice. She had never heard Lionel speak in such a harsh, authoritative tone before. In the chaos, she’d completely forgotten that Percival and him were even there.
She wasn’t the only one. The guards did not seem to recognise him, either. Guinevere didn’t know if it was ignorance or sheer panic- but from above her, the girl could hear Burt’s gruff voice angrily snap at the nobleman.
“Are you daft?! The army is on our doorstep! Like hell am I stopping for some no-name knight—“
He never got to finish that sentence. Behind her, Lionel instantly detonated.
“SILENCE!” he roared, his voice thundering through the air. “I am no knight. I am Lord Lionel of House Gaunness, future Duke of Moonwood! You will show me respect or you will hang!”
The guard flinched, eyes growing wide.
“D-D-Duke! Sir! A-apologies- I- I didn’t realise-”
Lionel didn’t give him the chance to finish his sentence, interrupting him a second time.
“Tell your man to open that gate. Now.”
Burt blinked. He glanced behind him, confusion rapidly turning into fear.
“B-but- but sir, the armies—“
“I said open that gate. If you don’t, I will have you executed.”
The stone-cold threat in Lionel’s voice left no room for doubt. He really would. Guinevere watched as Burt took a step back, gulping fearfully. He couldn’t refuse.
“I… yes, milord.”
With a heavy groan, the metal grate was lifted back up. Guinevere watched it raise just high enough for a person to slip through. She could see the torches in the distance getting dangerously close. She could see the gleaming of armour, the glimmer of hundreds of swords being drawn. She could hear the thundering of armoured boots.
The gate stayed open just long enough for Gawain’s family to run in. They were the last. All of them were panting, red-faced and out of breath. Guinevere could see Gisele double over, arms placed on her legs, desperately trying to catch her breath as the heavy gate fell shut behind them.
They’d made it.
They were safe.
“Hurry, now,” one of the guards said, nervously corralling them away from the city gate. “To the artisan’s district. It’s not safe here-”
“You shall accompany them,” Lionel interrupted him. “Do your duty and make sure that they get there. Evacuate anyone else that you see along the way. Bring them right to the castle if you must.”
“I- yes, sir.”
At the word “castle”, the two boys turned towards Lionel. Their eyes started to glimmer with excitement as they realised where they were going.
“Wow, the castle?! We’re going to the castle?” Gaheris asked, with Gareth giddily moving closer.
“You look like a prince, mister!” he yelled. “Just like Prince Arthur! Are you family?”
“He came over for dinner once! Honest! He said he’d come again – are you friends with him, too? Can we all play together?”
“Err… certainly,” he said, deeply confused. “Whatever you say, little peasant. Off with you, now. Shoo.”
The two children beamed at him in response. They practically skipped with glee as their mother pried them away, herding them in the direction of the castle.
“Another prince! We know two princes now! Angmar is going to be so jealous!”
“He said he’ll play with us too – do you think we’ll learn sword fighting, mum? Do you?”
“Can we go see the throne room, mum? Can we? Pleaaaaase?”
As their voices slowly trailed off, Guinevere breathed a sigh of relief. They were safe. The guards had let them in. Under protest and while being threatened with execution, but they had. Guinevere would never have forgiven herself if something had happened to Gawain’s family. And if not for Lionel, that’s exactly what would have happened. His mother and brothers would have ended up stuck on the other side of that gate. They wouldn’t have survived.
Lionel had saved their lives.
She’d never have thought that the pompous noble had it in him. He hadn’t even hesitated. Over the years, Guinevere had always wondered why the Crown Prince had picked types like Lionel and Elyan to become knights. They were arrogant, and rude, and self-centered. Especially Lionel. She’d never really liked him. Now, she finally began to understand.
In that moment, Lionel reminded her of Arthur.
With a grateful smile, Guinevere turned towards the young noble.
“Thank you. That was… really knightly.”
As soon as she complimented him, Guinevere watched Lionel’s tell-tale smirk reappear on his face.
“Of course!” the future Duke grinned, puffing out his chest proudly, like a prancing pidgeon. “You peasants must expect nothing less of a future Duke of Moonwood! It is only natural – I have been raised specifically for dire situations like this, so I may act with exceptional grace and chivalrousness and-”
He’d never change, would he?
Stupid pidgeon! Pidgeon, pidgeon, pidgeon!
Hey, he was really brave just now-
“-is the most basic of basics of chivalry, after all!” Lionel continued, completely oblivious to the insults that the voices in her head were slinging his way. Guinevere tried her hardest to keep a straight face. But Lionel noticed her attention fading, anyway. For a moment, the future Duke hesitated.
“Ah. Well. It… is much like what you so courteously reminded me of the other day,” he tried. “It’s… who we wish to be. Isn’t that right, miss Guinevere?”
Her smile returned.
“…Yeah. It is.”
She opened her mouth to say more, to praise him again – but she never got the chance to. At that moment, Sir Percival nervously interrupted them both.
“I’d hate to be rude, but did you two forget that there’s three whole armies coming our way?” he growled through clenched teeth. “If they have crossbows, we’re all in firing range. We need to get out of here. Now.”
“Ah! Of course! Let us retreat with poised strategy and—”
Sir Lionel looked up, frowning in confusion as a single water droplet dripped down from his nose. Then another. And another. There wasn’t supposed to be rain tonight. It wasn’t possible. But the three of them watched as, in a matter of seconds, the clear night sky above them rapidly changed. Stars vanished from view. The sky closed up with dark clouds, gathering above their heads. The soft wind around them began to howl. Droplets turned into rain, then storm. Guinevere could hear a rolling thunder in the distance—
“What in the name of-?!”
It was too sudden. Too quick. The weather above them changed without warning, turning into a howling thunderstorm so rapidly that it was unnatural. Guinevere could feel her stomach turn. The look of dread that slowly spread on her face was reflected on the two men in front of her as, one by one, they realised what was happening.
What they were really up against.
“We’re…. not going to win this, are we?” Guinevere whispered, locking eyes with Lionel. Just like that, the girl was so far out of her depth that she could feel her limbs grow cold, instinctively looking to the nobleman for reassurance. For a sign that they would be all right.
But all she found was fear.
“I don’t think we are.”
6 thoughts on “3.60 – Reckoning”
Aaaand I’m all caught up, just in time for all hell to break loose. 😬It really feels like all the subplots and foreshadowing you’ve laid out have cumulated to this moment… but there are still so many questions!
I wonder whether Gorlois and Morgause are thinking of anything beyond revenge at this point. If they’ve been allied with Cenred this whole time, and Morgause accepted her role as a dragon priestess, what happens to their own kingdom if they win? Their people?
It’s interesting how Morgause sees Morgana solely as Ygraine’s daughter, and Arthur solely as Uther’s son — makes you wonder how differently the war might have played out if Ygraine never had another daughter to pass her magic to. Morgause’s anger at Uther is well justified, since it’s clear at this point he abducted her mother by force, but she’s letting it supersede reason — given all that Morgana has sacrificed and played and manipulated to get Arthur’s ass on that throne, I think Morgause is veeeerrrry much mistaken that she’d be forgiven for killing him. And she’s about to get a lot of innocents caught in the crossfire, from the looks of it.
Luckily Camelot has their own resident witch to… aaaand, she’s down. 🙀
At least Mithian seems to imply that her intent was to incapacitate, not kill, if they mean to hand Morgana off to Richard (who I have a nasty feeling has different plans for Morgana then the rest of his allies.) I haven’t written off Mithian entirely yet. She’s clearly better at the game than she lets on, and poisoning Morgana wasn’t, uh… nice 😅… but she may be acting out of self preservation more than malice. She’s probably well aware that Camelot is facing a force they have little chance of winning against and is doing what she needs to survive.
Safe to say the engagement is off, in any case. 😅
The situation is bleak enough already… who’s going to tell them about the dragon in the castle? 😱
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Haha, right in time for the chaos, yes! I hoped you enjoyed the journey to get here 😆
What happens if they win, indeed… will it get better? Will it be worse? Do they know they’re allied with a dragon?
I think you’re quite right there – Morgana’s chances of shrugging and forgiving Morgause for taking down her brother and undoing all she’s done over the years probably are not very high. She’d need exceptional circumstances for that. Aaaaand Morgana is down, indeed. Rolled terribly to resist the poison, too. She was down in one gulp.
Mithian is a complicated one, yeah. Personality and personal plans aside, she really is very much stuck in a situation beyond her control. Nothing but potential pitfalls for Mithian, no matter where she turns.
Shh… No-one tell them about the dragon in the castle 🤫
I really love the screenshots of the armies < 3 and the reactions to all that's going on, especially Gwen, when she doesn't realise the words are meant for her and the sudden horror of a dawning conflict. It's all good that Morgana will be spared, but if harm comes to her brother / Gawain etc. I have no doubt she'll retaliate. More or less repeating what I said last chapter here, but you can't entirely blame Morgause for not wanting to forgive Arthur, even if she doesn't realise that he's trying his hardest to not be anything like Uther, it's going to be hard to believe for her.
MITHIAN!!!! YOU SLIMY FUCK
Oh fuck no, not Gawain's family…FIRST SARAH AND NOW THIS??? Good on Lionel for telling Burt to eat shit though at least. Oooohh that moment when the lightning strikes…Lionel's just like 'huh weird weather' but Gwen knows exactly what and I could almost feel that cold horrible butterflies in stomach feeling alongside her. Even pompous 'chivalrous' Lionel is like 'yeah we're fucked lol'. The shot straight after that with the lightning circling is SO FUCKING GOOD HOLY SHIT. I am excited for magic war!!!
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Haha, I actually ragequit over those shots twice. Darn game crashing right when I was about to start taking pictures 😣 Morgause, like most people in this story, is missing some crucial information that would help her act differently. It’s a thing with that whole family 😅
When even pompous Lionel comes close to swearing in fear, you know things are about to get dicey. And they did. I rolled for all of it. Strap in. 😅
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I apologize. I don’t know why it took me four to five days to discover that a new episode of Tales of Camelot is out.
And now I don’t know how to comment on the chapter?
Except….Please. No more revenge and wars. I can’t stand it! 💔
Your narrative is vivid and engrossing, so don’t take it as a criticism of your writing, but more as a temperature reading of my mental state.
So great that I also get to immerse myself in Kip’s universe and his glorious manageable challenges. Thanks 💖
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It’s a good thing that Kip is there to distract from the mire that is ToC at the moment, ha. If only they could all just be happy. Unfortunately my dice (and messed-up brain) have something else to say and they demand misery right now 😅 there is light at the end of the tunnel, though. Not everything ends in darkness.
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