as the world comes to an end IP: 220.127.116.11 Posted on October 17, 2018 at 03:42:21 AM by Alethea
Mordred was a good teacher.
It shouldn’t have surprised her – Mordred was good at everything, and especially good at maintaining the appearance of a generous, patient and gentle leader. So Alethea wasn’t sure what she expected, instead. A glimpse of suspicion, maybe? Prying questions? The barest glimmer of judgment? It occurred to her that day, sparring with him, that perhaps it wasn’t an illusion. Maybe he really did feel generosity towards her – gentleness. Maybe it wasn’t an act.
The idea did not make her feel better.
And anyway, it was impossible. Even with the walls built up around her mind (a new power that Mordred had surely noticed, but not commented on, in part because she had likely stolen it from him), he had to know she would never accept the narrative of Tristan as a murderer. Alethea did not know what had really happened that night, but she knew it was not that. It could not be. Her Tristan would never, could never have done such a thing; she had not known him to be bloodthirsty, or even ambitious. If anything, it seemed he could have remained a prince his whole life and been content.
He certainly would not have killed his own father in a fit of pique.
But she never raised these questions with anyone. Because she did not know what Mordred was capable of, and that mystery weighed on her, hovered over her shoulder constantly. She was guarded as closely as a family member, or a prisoner, and Alethea could never tell which one she really was. He’d seemed reluctant to take up the crown when it was offered, but slipped into the role as seamlessly as if he’d been training for it. As if he’d been waiting for it. He’d married and produced an heir in conveniently short order…and Alethea had not missed the thrum of power she felt around her queen, nor dismissed her powerful familiar and lineage.
It was all too perfect. Too exact.
Did Gaiane know? Did Morgana? It seemed impossible that they didn’t.
Her mind was racing as she scaled the castle stairs, taking them two at a time, ignoring the guards’ eyes as they surreptitiously followed her. The worst of it was that she was getting used to it. Accustomed to pretending, to wearing a mask, to feigning blithe acceptance of the state of Shaman and her place in it. She was getting good at playing this dangerous game…part of her might have even enjoyed it.
She was becoming just like him. Maybe she already was.
She recoiled from the mirror, where she’d been drawn by autopilot – where she’d arrived without thinking, without even being aware. And that was the gist of it, wasn’t it? The life she lived on the outside did not match the one she was living within. If she kept pretending, would the two converge? What then? Would she forget about him? She could not forget about him.
Her back slid down the wall. She felt detached from the tears she brushed away, the quick breaths her hands attempted to still. It would pass – it always did. Her fingers found the crucifix, drew it from her pocket carefully. You have to give it to him, she reminded herself. You have to hold on long enough to do that. Her thumb smoothed the central gem, her breathing growing still. She heard her name from far away, like a reminder.
No, that wasn’t a reminder from her own subconscious. That was an actual voice. Someone had taken her hand. She jerked her head up.
Opened her mouth to scream.
A hand closed over it, and there was a rush of wind…then a dark room, cool and still. Storage? Gods, it was the basement storage she’d slipped into with Tristan, the first day they met. From the looks of it, nobody had been in here, since; the boxes were draped in cobwebs so thick they looked like sheets, and the dust coating everything muffled any sound. Alethea leapt to her feet.
“S-Seba'iqer” she stammered, finally recognizing who had…well, abducted her, really. Into another part of her home. She pocketed the crucifix hastily, dipped into a belated curtsy. “I’m, uh…I’m sorry I screamed, I…ah…wasn’t expecting you…” Well done, her thoughts intruded unhelpfully. She wiped the remaining tears from her face, dropped her eyes to the floor. What did Mallos want with her? He didn’t seem hostile, but why had he appeared in her room? How long had he…
Her eyes lifted, fixed on him warily.
“Forgive me for being blunt, but...how can I help you?”