Pleasure to meet you, better to bleed; Murphy Wyvern

Mordred stood at the great window of the west gallery, peering through the glass at the forest beyond the castle walls. The trees remained inexplicably steadfast, keeping their prince hidden and safe. The king rested his long fingered hands on the windowsill and leaned forwards, shifting his attention to the courtyard below. It bustled with activity. Grooms led horses across the cobbles, maids hurried back and forth, their arms piled high with laundry, and two of the castle children played football in the far corner by the stables, getting under everyone's feet. It had been much the same in Arthur's day; if it hadn't been for Tristan, the transition would have been smooth.

Perhaps it was time for more drastic measures, time to erase what remained of Arthur's legacy and replace it with his own once and for all. He had allowed loose ends to endure for far too long. He was stronger now. The majority of his kingdom seemed to have accepted him and had fallen into line. There was time, finally, to deal with everything he had left to gather dust.

He glanced up at the sound of approaching footsteps. Guards wandered along the corridor towards him, flanking a pair of caretakers who carried a large golden frame between them. Smiling, Mordred turned to face the wall behind him. A blank space stared back at him, the paint on the walls darker than that around it. Tristan's portrait had hung there once. He'd had it removed almost immediately after Arthur's death, and the gap had remained empty ever since. To its left hung a striking of his mother, feeding her hare with daisies from a basket, and beside it Morgana dressed for hunting, Kraar perched on her shoulder.

As the men set-up their ladders, Mordred shifted his gaze to the right, and stared up into his brother's face. Grey eyes looked back at him, patient, wise, tinged with a heavy sadness. It was an excellent likeness. He held the portrait's gaze until his line of sight was obscured by the caretaker's back as they hoisted the new painting into place. It was an equally splendid likeness. He looked up at himself on his throne, with Gaiane beside him their dragons looking over the back of their chairs. Loholt sat at their feet, his arm thrown around his familiar's narrow shoulders, a small golden crown encircling his mop of dark hair.

Satisfied, Mordred nodded to the man supervising the installation. The man smiled back, and hurried forwards to help the men on the ladders finish securing the frame to the wall. Mordred left them to it. He walked the length of the corridor before taking a sharp right, then a left, and another right. Without breaking his stride, he walked through an archway, obscured from view by a tapestry. He continued on his way in darkness until he reached a small alcove. The gap he was looking for was narrow, barely narrow enough for him to fit through, even when he flattened himself against the wall. He edged along the stone until the hidden corridor opened out again, and the king continued on his way.

The door at the end of the passageway swung open with a creaking of hinges. Mordred stepped gracefully down into the space beyond. It was a small simple little room, but it was comfortable. Books lined the walls and many of the flat surfaces, and a work bench littered with potion bottles and test tubes lined the far wall. A large fire crackled away in the hearth, casting a warm glow across the two high-backed armchairs on either side. Mordred crossed the room in three long strides and helped himself to a glass of wine from the decanter on the high table by the window. He took a sip and turned slowly to face the man in the opposing armchair.

"Hello, brother," he smiled, "I have a couple of tasks for you."

M o r d r e d
photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin at unsplash.com


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