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Camlann, Lingering

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Mordred, son of Arthur and Morgause. Mordred, brother to the knights of Orkney. Mordred, villain.

 

Mordred, hero.

 

What is a hero? What does it mean to be heroic? Is it simply the desire to do good ? Is it actually performing such actions? Is one’s fate predetermined? Can one live the best life possible, doing good to the best of their ability, and still be evil? 

 

Is it possible to be born evil?

 

Mordred Pendragon, son of the king, rightful heir. Is it usurpation to take a throne that is rightfully one’s own? Is it so wrong to want to keep a throne that was rightfully given to you? That you were meant to have?

 

The blood staining Mordred’s sword will speak no words, offer no answer. He lays dying slowly, mortally wounded but in such a way that it is a slow death. He lifts a hand skyward, rivulets of lifeblood dripping between his fingers, colors matching the sunset’s warm hues. He knows he won’t last the night, and yet hope , cruel and soft, fills his chest. The regret settles deeper, in his stomach, in his heart, in his head. What is death to a rightful king? Usurper, usurper, usurper, his conscience calls to him. Usurper, usurper, usurper, he is not. It was his to begin with. Justice means nothing on this hill, first edges of night easing over Camlann, chilling the knight-king. 

 

He yearns for…something. What it is, he does not know. What can he want now? He is bleeding out, blade through his gut and stuck where he is. No one will save him, and perhaps he doesn’t deserve to be saved.

 

But was it such a crime to want acknowledgement? 

 

The throne was given to him, take it, keep it safe for my return, I trust in your judgment, and he cared for it. He was not a bad king, no cruel despot or monstrous fool. Mordred is no child, true, but he is also not an adult. Twenty-some odd years of life and still he knows no love, personal and intimate and purely for him . What is it to be loved? To be cared for, solely upon your own merits? 

 

He thinks of Agravaine, of Gawain, of Gaheris, of Gareth, of each corpse that he hasn’t allowed himself to process, to feel guilty over, all in the name of kingship. It wasn’t, isn’t, will never be worth it. 

 

Is he guilty? He can’t deny it. He can’t argue with any accusation thrown at him now. But can you blame him?

 

Bastard child of a bastard father and his accursed sister, the alien, the other , the forgotten son. The one who understood is gone to heaven, like the sun—

 

Galahad couldn't, wouldn't forgive him for this. Another bastard son, but the opposite, lily-white to Mordred's tarnish, angelic and pristine. Mordred envied him, loved him, and railed against him in equal measures. Intolerably pristine, intolerably beautiful, and worst of all--intolerably kind

 

Lily-white, huh? Just like the moon, peeping up over the horizon, the blues of night overtaking the oranges and reds of the day. The slow setting of the sun feels gauche, the sort of thing a subpar storyteller would add for drama. 

 

Mordred thinks about his family, vision going fuzzy over the course of-- an hour? Ten minutes? He doesn’t know. He misses arguing with Gawain, reading with Gaheris, play-fighting with Gareth. He almost misses Agravaine, although the world’s likely better off without him. 

 

He curses God, the Grail, all the saints and angels, every person that led him to this point. Mordred, the fallen, the knight of treachery, the boy who took Camelot; even he cannot escape death. 

 

More than anything else, he curses himself. He had been told long ago by the witch Morgan le Fay, loathe as he is to speak her name, of his fate. He had laughed, sworn that he would be chivalrous, that he could not be consigned to what a mere mortal sorceress had said.

 

He hates himself. He hates what he has done, he hates that there is only himself to blame. He wishes he could blame all of this on Arthur; and it’s true, the ex- king does carry some of the burden. Mordred, most of all, wishes that Galahad were here. 

 

Galahad was not omnipotent, nor was he perfect, but he always knew what to do. Mordred doesn’t know what to do. He opens his mouth to scream, to cry his rage aloud, to vocalize all the pain, but all that emerges is a gurgle. His throat burns; he tries to cough, but he can’t manage it. Blood drips from his mouth, his nose, as he convulses. 

 

What was his sin, he wonders. Pride? Envy? Wrath? What will hell be like? Certainly he did not live virtuously enough to see heaven. How apt, he thinks, that he will never see his brothers or Galahad again, when he did not care enough for them before. 

 

Perhaps this is all apt. Perhaps he deserves this. He can’t tell if the sun has simply gone down, casting the evening shade over the world, or if he can’t see at all anymore. Mordred Pendragon, rightful heir to the throne of Britain, left in the dark. 

 

Traitor, impostor, thief, usurper. The blade he’s impaled on traps him against the trunk of a tree, vertical and slack. He’d tried struggling in the beginning, but he’s weak. Reflecting, he can’t tell how long he’s been here. 

 

Camlann is a pretty village, for such a cruel fate. 

 

He wonders if he’ll be buried here. He wonders if he even deserves a burial. Maybe they’ll just throw him into the river. It would be fitting. 

 

He wonders what they did with his father’s corpse. A gleaming marble tomb, buried with Excalibur, as soon as they removed it from his guts? The idea of a piece of him buried with the person who he loved and hated most appeals to him. 

 

He is stuck alone in his head as the sun sets over Camlann, the air chilling. Mordred is already so cold.