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the darkness will rise from the deep
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Gaiane was sleeping. Mordred had done as expected and lingered by her bedside through the night, stretched out in an ornate armchair. He'd wake up when the nurse came in, ask after his wife's health, enquire after the child. Eventually one of the doctors had suggested strongly that he retire to a proper bed. Mordred had agreed with a show of reluctance and had departed the bed chamber. He had not however returned to his rooms. The baby, his son, had been taken to the nursery so his infant's cries would not disturb his mother. Mordred paused in the doorway and knocked on the door. The nursemaid looked up, startled, her eyes cow-like and dull open in alarm. She made to jump to her feet, but Mordred raised his hand to stop her. He had just come to look.

He approached the crib and peered down at the boy. The child was sleeping. If Mordred hadn't known whose blood flowed through his veins he would have been inclined to call him unremarkable. All babies were unremarkable. The tiny chest rose and fell rhythmically, the little mouth puckered unpleasantly. Mordred forced a smile for the girl's benefit. She was watching them with a simpering expression, reading into the scene what she hoped to find there.
"He's feeding well?" Mordred asked her, angling his head fluidly to one side.
"Yes, your Grace," the girl confirmed eagerly, "he's strong." The king's answering smile was genuine. That, at least, was to be expected.

Finally he did sleep, spending a dreamless night in the king's apartments. He'd finally finished having them redecorated, peeling out the reds and golds. He felt more comfortable with blue and the cool sheen of silver. Arthur's possessions had not been entirely evicted. He had kept a few on display for appearance's sake, momentos of a beloved brother, and had ordered what remained packed away in trunks. A few he had saved for Morgana, and had left them in her room for her to find.

His family could not complain that he was inattentive.

Mordred returned to Gaiane's room the next morning. His entry was delayed by an older matron of at least fifty, who insisted that the queen be left undisturbed whilst she finished feeding the prince. Mordred leaned back against a desk in the antechamber, drumming his fingers against the table top. The same woman remerged ten minutes later, muttering something out it being improper for a queen to be feeding her own child at all.

Whatever Gaiane wanted, she would have.

He stepped through the door and smiled at his wife, closing the distance between the entrance and the bed in a few long strides. He perched on the edge of the mattress and kissed Gaiane's forehead, before pressing his finger into Loholt's hand. The prince gripped hard.
"You're both well?" the king asked her, his blue eyes swimming with concern, "you have everything you need?"

---

Tristan was still free. There had been sightings, glimpses through the trees, but nothing concrete. Shaman wasn't big enough for two kings, or two princes. It would need bringing to an end sooner or later.

He set out in search of his other captive dove.

Thoth had slipped through his fingers during the raid on the castle, but he had managed to keep his grip on the next best thing. Alethea was not in her rooms. He reached out with his mind, searching the most likely locations for her thought pattern. Of course he thought to himself with a smile, where else?

Mordred took the central staircase to the fourth floor and traced the old route to his nephew's room. He reached out for the rich oak of the door and pushed it ajar with a creaking of hinges, his expression laced with sympathy.

"My lady," he said, stepping across the threshold. He surveyed the room sadly, noticing with some satisfaction the cobwebs which had started to build in the corners. Dust gathered on Tristan's memory, relegating him to history. The important thing now was making sure he stayed there. "The queen is asking for you," he said gently, tracing the bedpost with his finger. "She will need some extra help for a while until she recovers. And, I think she would like you to meet the prince." He injected his final sentence with a father's pride, the smallest of smiles tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Glancing up, he studied Alethea closely.

"You miss him," Mordred said simply, looking around the room again with a sigh. "The castle feels so much emptier than it once did."



Mordred
the darkness will rise from the deep


photo by jannis at flickr.com






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