Ahh… we’re here, guys. The final chapter in arc 2. For everyone who has made it this far, thank you so much. It means the world to me. See you on the other side. ❤
Also, thank you MercuryFoam for the knight’s poses!
By pure luck, Bayard’s blade had missed Lancelot’s heart. The three knights were kept under careful surveillance by Gaius, until all three of them were declared to be out of mortal danger.
Their road to recovery would be a long one.
And their injuries had consequences. As soon as he found out, the King of Mercia threatened the kingdom of Camelot with war, enraged over the assault on his oldest son. Morgana and Arthur were forced to resort to every trick in the book to keep the peace-
Right after they explained what had happened to Uther, whom Arthur had purposefully kept in the dark.
To say that the Iron King was displeased was an understatement.
War with Mercia was barely avoided. Deals were made, and relationships were strengthened, manipulated or coldly broken apart. Over the course of the next week, things slowly returned to normal. Most of the Court of Camelot remained blissfully unaware of just how close they had been to annihilation.
Those who did know… would never forget again.
Arthur and Morgana had climbed up to the city’s ramparts, looking out towards the distant horizon. A thoughtful silence lay between them. They were each lost in their own thoughts, processing everything that had happened. Everything they had learned. Everything they wished they hadn’t. And everything that they still did not know.
That unknown now felt heavier than ever.
Since that night… Cenred of Essetir was nowhere to be found.
“Morrie… do you think he’s an enemy?”
Morgana looked away, avoiding eye contact with her brother. The Crown Prince had expected her to reply in the same way that she always did – with encouragement, or scathing warnings.
But her answer ended up surprising him.
“To you? Or to me?”
“Both, of course.”
A small silence fell. Then, his sister let out a long, weary sigh.
“… I don’t know.”
That afternoon, Arthur Pendragon came to a halt just outside of the entrance to the church hall. The Crown Prince took a deep breath. In the back of his mind, Arthur could hear the echoing voices of Gawain and Guinevere.
“You need to care about your people. All of them, not just the nobles. You can’t be like your uncle. Promise me that you won’t become like that. You have to be a king that does right by his people.”
“Even witches get buried, my lord. They’re still people.”
They were right.
They had always been right.
It was time to keep his word.
As the Crown Prince stepped forward, he could feel his nerves fade away. His heart stopped pounding. A strange sense of calm washed over him as Arthur felt his anxiety evaporate, transforming into a cold, steely resolve. Arthur made his way through the stone hall with purpose. The sound of his boots echoed across the chamber, bouncing off the walls and loudly announcing his presence.
He found his uncle at the altar, as always.
“Arthur,” Agravaine greeted him, not bothering to turn around. “If you’ve come to attend the sermon, I’m afraid that it has been cancelled-”
But the Crown Prince cut him off.
“I’m not here for a sermon. I’m here for you.”
That got his attention. The Jacoban priest turned around, placing his book on the altar behind him as he raised his eyebrows at his nephew. Arthur could see that familiar, calculating gleam in his eyes. He straightened his back in response.
“…Very well,” the royal adviser spoke, giving him a single nod. “How can I help you, Arthur?”
The Crown Prince wasted no time in getting to the point.
“I will keep this short and simple. I am taking over part of your responsibilities.”
“Starting today,” Arthur continued, “any investigation regarding the use of sorcery will go through me. You will not arrest, interrogate or execute anyone suspected of sorcery without my permission again.”
The Crown Prince could see a brief flash of irritation cross his uncle’s face – a faint glimmer of anger, quickly hidden behind his priestly mask. Agravaine shook his head at him.
“…As I said, Arthur, if you disagree with my methods, then feel free to take your reservations up with the King-”
But Arthur cut him off again. This time, his voice was cold and unyielding, not showing a single trace of his usual youthfulness.
The Crown Prince rose to his full height, calmly looking at the man before him. In that moment, Arthur Pendragon greatly resembled his father. A sense of absolute authority radiated off of him, rivalling that of the Iron King. That same dominance lay in his eyes, their gaze burning into the person before them. That same strict, unyielding tone amplified his voice.
But where Uther’s authority was fuelled by wrath and fear, his son felt no rage. No anger. The Crown Prince did not need it.
In time, Arthur’s cold determination would become his greatest weapon.
“Agravaine du Bois. Allow me to clarify your position, so that you do not misunderstand. You are not talking to your nephew. You are not speaking with the Prince.”
“You are addressing your future. And you shall do as it commands, or it will leave you in the past. Permanently.”
Arthur watched as a crack appeared in Agravaine’s carefully cultivated mask. For a split second, an expression of absolute rage shone through, as the Jacoban priest balled his fists in response to his words.
Then, that moment passed. His uncle lowered his head, bowing to Arthur in resignation.
“…Yes, Your Highness.”
“Good,” Arthur replied. “I expect your reports on my desk first thing in the morning. All of them. You will never arrest, interrogate or execute someone suspected of sorcery, without my permission, again. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Agravaine had never called him by that title before.
It felt heavy.
Back in the courtyard, two figures could be seen underneath the branches of the large ash tree.
It was a familiar sight for many of the guards. Ever since they were children, Morgana had taken it upon herself to keep track of Gawain’s injuries.
This day was no different.
The princess was kneeling in between the fallen autumn leaves, positioned directly in front of Gawain. She knew that it was not a dignified look. Or proper. But there was nobody around – and if she was being completely honest, the sorceress didn’t really care.
When it came to Gawain, she never did.
“I told you, I’m fine, Mor. It barely hurts when I talk.”
“I don’t care,” Morgana replied, her voice strict. “I’m looking at it anyway. Now stop fidgeting and sit still.”
She grabbed onto his chin, gently lifting his head as she examined the cut on his lip.
“Do you think it’ll scar? Gaius thinks it’ll scar,” Gawain said. The young redhead couldn’t help but smile a little at the idea, much to Morgana’s chagrin. She huffed at his expression.
“Yes, Gawain. It will leave a scar. And you’re not supposed to be happy about that.”
“But it’s a battle scar! All the veteran knights have battle scars. Sir Betrand did. And sir Bedivere. And Elyan, too. Did you know? He has one running all the way across his thigh!”
“I am not interested in Elyan’s thigh.”
Gawain chuckled. Then, his expression fell. Morgana could see his eyes cloud over.
She did not have to guess what he was thinking about.
“Do you think he’ll be able to walk again?” Gawain muttered.
“I don’t know. I hope so.”
“Gaius said that it was really bad.”
“I’m sure that they’re doing everything they can for him, Gawain. Have some faith in our physician. Gaius can heal almost anything, remember?”
The young redhead let out a sigh. When he spoke, it sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as anything.
“Yeah… yeah, you’re right.”
Morgana finished her examination. She stepped back, reasonably satisfied with what she’d found.
“It’s healing well,” she said. “As long as you take care of it, you should stop feeling pain very soon.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Probably by the time you have a proper beard,” she teased. Her mouth curled into a smile as she poked at the hairs on his chin. The young redhead frowned.
“Does it look dumb? I’ll shave it off if it looks dumb.”
“Not at all,” Morgana answered. “I like it. It makes you look manly.”
That was the right answer. Morgana watched as the insecurity vanished from Gawain’s face, instantly replaced by relief.
“Heh. Thanks, Mor.”
“Are you ready for today?”
“I think so,” Gawain nodded. “Marcus said that lots of people are coming to watch. Half of the tavern placed bets yesterday night, and apparently we’re not supposed to gamble with that much money, so it’s all being paid in ale afterwards.”
Gawain frowned, thinking back on the previous night.
“But… they didn’t tell me who they bet on. I wonder-”
“Of course they’re betting on you,” Morgana replied, quickly cutting off his train of thought.
“You think so?” Gawain asked with a nervous smile on his face. The budding witch gave him an encouraging nod.
“I know so. You’ve worked really hard to get this far, and everyone knows it. Of course they’re going to be cheering for you.”
“What about you? Are you going to cheer for me?”
The hopeful, almost puppy-like expression melted Morgana’s heart like snow on a warm summer’s day.
“Are you kidding? Of course I’m going to cheer for you.”
“Wait, really? But… what about Arthur?”
The princess let out an amused chuckle.
“Gawain, did you forget who you represent in the tournament? I love my brother, but right now, we are enemies. Of course I’m going to cheer for my own knight. Plus, Arthur is used to getting scathing comments from me. He can handle it.”
“Oh, yeah,” Gawain answered. “You always did that when we were children, too. He didn’t mind it back then, either. Arthur was a good teacher, too. Do you remember when he gave me a whole dummy to practice on?”
“Oh, I remember,” Morgana said, a teasing smile spreading across her face. “You were so cute with your little wooden sword. You and Arthur used to talk about what changes you’d make to when you were adults. Remember? You wanted Arthur to banish every bully from the kingdom, and Arthur wanted a mandatory pastry buffet… what was it? Every Tuesday?”
Gawain chuckled at the memory.
“Yeah. I’m not sure about the bully plan, but I think Arthur might still try to get that pastry buffet.”
The young redhead stood up from the bench, looking at the leaves falling from the tree above him. There were only a few left. Very soon, the tree would be completely barren, and Winter would set in. The world around them would go dormant, waiting for the return of Spring.
It had been an eventful year.
“To be completely honest… I didn’t think I’d get this far.”
“But you did,” Morgana smiled, getting up from the bench as well. “And you did that all by yourself. Arthur might have taught you, but the skills you have now came from you, and you alone. That is amazing. You should be proud, Gawain.”
The young redhead smiled. He straightened his back, standing just a little taller at Morgana’s praise.
“Oh! That reminds me,” she said, suddenly stepping back. “I have something for you.”
Gawain watched as Morgana reached into her dress, taking out a small, dark blue ribbon. With a smile, she held the item out to him.
“Here. For luck.”
The average commoner was not aware of the different meanings behind gift giving in court – but even Gawain knew what this gesture meant. For a moment, the young redhead looked completely dumbstruck, staring down at the ribbon in Morgana’s hand.
Then, his shoulders sagged. Morgana watched as Gawain deflated. His expression darkened as his face pulled into a dejected, wistful expression. The young redhead let out a sigh. He hung his head.
“Mor… I… I can’t accept this. I’m not a real knight.”
Morgana could see the hurt in his eyes. The sorceress took a step towards him, placing a single hand on his arm. When she spoke, her words came straight from the heart.
“Yes, you are. Gawain. Listen to me. You have as much right to this as anyone else. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.”
She placed the ribbon into his hand, softly closing his fingers around it.
“Don’t you see?” she spoke, her voice gentle. “You’re one of the bravest, kindest, most selfless people I know. You always jump in to protect people in need, no matter who it is. No matter what happens to you, or how badly you get hurt in the process. If that doesn’t define a true knight, then I don’t know what does.”
A small, heartfelt smile spread across her lips.
“I may not be able to formally knight you, Gawain. But you are a knight to me. You have been ever since you rescued me at the bridge.”
Morgana watched in surprise as Gawain unsheathed his sword. The young redhead sunk through his knees, scattering the leaves on the ground and kneeling before her as his eyes filled with tears.
But the rest of her sentence never came. It didn’t have to. The words got stuck in her throat as the sorceress finally remembered.
“Nah. When I’m a grownup, I’ll swear fealty to you.”
“I pledge my loyalty to you, lady Morgana,” Gawain spoke, his voice raw with emotion as he placed his hand on his heart. “I swear fealty and service to your name. In peace or in war. In living or dying. My life is yours to command. From this day forward, until you release me…”
“…or I breathe my final breath.”
Morgana was at a loss for words. The sorceress could feel a strange, warm feeling spread through her chest. Her throat closed up. Her vision blurred as she felt her eyes grow misty. She tried to speak – but all she could manage was a teary-eyed chuckle.
“So you did prepare a speech.”
The sorceress stepped forward and placed a hand on Gawain’s shoulder. Her heart leapt at the pure, unwavering trust that lay behind his eyes. He had never looked at her any other way. He had never worn a mask. Not once. Even now, everything about Gawain was completely genuine.
Ever since they met, more than anyone, Gawain had felt real.
And Morgana loved him for it.
“I accept,” she whispered, her voice overcome with emotion. “Of course I accept.”
Morgana couldn’t stop herself. Before she knew it, words started to pour out, washing away her own mask as the sorceress allowed her true emotions to show.
“You’re a wonderful man, Gawain,” she muttered. “You can do anything – never forget that, all right? You’re kind, and strong, and brave, and you have a purer soul than any of us.”
“I want you to remember that. No matter where you go, or who you meet, or what they tell you. I think you’re amazing. I know you’re amazing. Never forget that, all right?”
“I-I won’t,” Gawain croaked. Morgana nodded, a single tear slowly dripping down her cheek.
“Good. Now please get up… sir Gawain.”
He did – but not in the way that she had expected. Gawain ended up catching her by surprise. The young redhead dropped the sword and lunged forward, pulling the sorceress into a bear hug. Morgana had not anticipated that. She could feel his arms wrap around her and pull her close. She could hear his breathing, breaking into sobs as he held onto her.
He was shaking.
“I don’t want you to leave.”
Morgana smiled. She pulled his head against her shoulder, stroking his back and making soothing noises as she wrapped her arms around him.
“It’s okay. It’s all right. It’s not forever.”
“I don’t want you to leave. I’ll miss you, Mor.”
“I know,” she muttered. “I’ll miss you too. Don’t worry. I know we’ll meet again.”
That afternoon, the Knight’s Tournament was officially resumed. Semifinals were cancelled. With Bayard and Elyan both unfit for battle, the match was declared as a mutual defeat.
That left only the finale.
And, against everyone’s expectations… the unthinkable had happened.
For the first time in two hundred years of history, a commoner was allowed to face off against the reigning Champion.
Arthur slowly unsheathed his sword. He had left his usual rapier behind. Instead, the Crown Prince had chosen an old, rusty, well-used blade, damaged and chipped from use. It was no better than a mercenary’s blade.
It was perfect.
“I hear that my sister gave you a gift,” the Crown Prince said, taking a single step forward. He raised his weapon, pointing it directly at his friend as his lips pulled into a smirk.
“Lose this fight, and I take that from you.”
Gawain’s shoulders relaxed. Just like that, the noise from the audience around them faded away. They might have been in the arena- but in that moment, the two of them were back in the courtyard. Sparring with each other and trading quips in the same way that they had beein doing for years. A smile spread across Gawain’s face. He drew his weapon as well, swinging it down as he got into a fighting position. The young redhead let out a chuckle.
“With all due respect, Arthur…”
“Over my dead body.”
A gasp echoed through the crowd above. Nobles pressed their hands against their mouths in shock. Nobody had ever talked to the Crown Prince like that before- and especially not in public. It just didn’t happen. It was unheard of. Dozens of eyes flicked over to Arthur, searching for signs of a noble’s rage-
But it was not anger that lay in Arthur’s eyes.
It was pride.
“Bring it on, muck-spout.”
And he did.
No-one knows the real story of the great King Arthur of Camelot, for there is no such thing as a true tale.
Truth has many faces, and all of them are real.
Truth is like the long, ancient road to Avalon. Where your path takes you, what truth you reach in the end, depends entirely on your own will. Your own mind.
Your own soul.
But this is my truth. My path.
I tell you this tale as Morgana. Priestess of the Isle of Avalon, and one who was once called Morgan le Fay.
Please remember my truth.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. ❤