its always darkest before the dawn; closed

How could he sleep so soundly?

Tristan's fists clenched at his sides. His uncle slept on. Mordred breathed slowly and steadily, his face a picture of tranquil serenity. Tristan couldn't remember the last time he'd enjoyed such a peaceful night. His nights were restless, his mind unsteady. He snatched at sleep, flirting with it for a couple of hours at most before some new monster reached up to pull him under.

Whatever he'd done, he'd done to keep himself alive. They'd invaded his home, cornered him, and meant him harm.

And yet, Mordred, who'd betrayed his family's trust, who'd murdered his own brother in cold blood and stolen his crown, slept through the night.

How? Tristan demanded of the darkness. The injustice rankled.

Mordred shifted, exposing the pristine paleness of his throat. Tristan glanced down, his gaze settling on his uncle's adam's apple. It would be so easy. All he had to do was reach out, let his grandfather's magic lend him strength. It would be over in moments.

He has a wife, a voice reminded him, pressing itself gently to the front of his thoughts. But what did that matter? What did that change? He'd left Ciara with nothing but a tree to leave her flowers by.

And a son.

What if I don't care?

And he didn't. He didn't. Mordred deserved it. What was justice if it doling out exactly what everyone deserved?

There were so many ways he could do it.

Tristan reached out into the darkness with an invisible hand. A dagger formed between his fingers, the shine of the blade obvious despite the gloom.

And how will this help you sleep? the insistent voice asked.

I have nothing to be sorry for, nothing to regret. He pushed back, tightening his grip.

Are you sure?

He hesitated. Peace and chaos closed in around him. What was he doing? Where was Thea? Where had he left her? He had to get her out of this place.

Yes, later. This first. We could end everything now. Then she wouldn't need rescuing, would she?

There was a logic to it, a sweet, easy kind of logic. Shaman would thank him. He'd be doing the world a favour, wouldn't he? He tightened his grip on the dagger again, raised it.

And then Mordred's eyes flickered open. He blinked, and then smiled.

"Good evening Mallos," he said silkily, eyeing the blade with wry amusement. "Is there something I can do for you?"

Oh God. Tristan's stomach turned over. His heart pounded. Those eyes!

Mordred tipped his head to one side, reminding Tristan of the raptors in the marshes.

"We both know you can't do anything to me," his uncle continued, unphased. He pushed himself into a sitting position, pressing his back against the bedstead. "So why don't you put it away, and we can sit and have a civilised conversation."

Tristan's hands shook. He took a step back, the handle of the dagger cold against sweaty palms. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe.

Mordred's eyes narrowed. He pinned him in place with that stare, keeping him still like a fly trapped in a web. The corner of his uncle's mouth perked slowly upwards.

"You're not Mallos, are you?" he breathed, the words poison-laced.

A tightness built in Tristan's chest. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think.

"Oh Tristan," Mordred laughed, throwing back the bed clothes. His eyes flicked pointedly from Tristan's face, to the blade, and back again. "What on earth would your father say?"

Tristan staggered backwards with a grunt, putting as much distance between him and his uncle as possible.

"I should kill you," Tristan stammered.

"You should," Mordred agreed, unflinchingly, "but you won't." He sat up, moving slowly, deliberately, his blue eyes intent on Tristan's face. His expression shifted into a perfect imitation of empathy. "Oh Tristan," he said again, his voice hypnotic. "You just don't have it in you. It'd cost you more than you know."

Mordred stood, unfurling himself. He raised his hands in calm surrender and took a steady step forwards.

"Put the knife down, Tristan," he said, "you can't hurt me, and right now, I can't hurt you."

Tristan wasn't sure that was true. His heart felt ready to burst from his chest, and he didn't think he could have put the blade away even if he'd wanted to. His hand was frozen, locked in place. All he could do was stare as Mordred edged another few inches closer.

Tristan... a new voice pushed its way through, cutting a path through his jumbled thoughts. A strength spread through him, warm and reassuring like morning sunlight. Its alright. He felt magic move within him, but it was not listening to him. The dagger dissolved into the air, as if carried away by an undetectable breeze. That's better, the voice smiled.

"That's better," Mordred said, nodding sympathetically. "Will you sit?"

He gestured to the chair a little to Tristan's right. Tristan held his ground.
We should go, the comforting voice said. Tristan?

Mordred sighed.

"How long do you think you can keep doing this, Tristan?" Mordred asked. "You hide in your forest and...do what exactly?" He tipped his head to one side again, invoking the raptor anew. "I keep waiting. The revolutionary, the rebel king, the promised prince, and all I get is silence. How long do they think they'll follow you on Arthur's name alone? On friendship? How long before they realise they want their lives back? How long before they leave you, disappointed?"

"Shut up," Tristan breathed through clenched teeth. "You don't get to say his name, you don't..."

"But I do!" Mordred insisted, as if coaxing a reluctant child, "I do. I get to say whatever I want. I won, I get to decide what truth is. If I say you're a murderer, Tris, then that's what you are. Do you understand how this works?"

Tristan," the warm voice urged, stronger, sterner than before, come away.

"This isn't over," Tristan insisted, his voice shaking. He cursed himself for showing weakness. The warming magic spread through him again, enveloping him like a blanket.

"Not yet," Mordred agreed, "but soon."

The room started to fade, and Mordred along with it. His uncle smiled, almost sadly.

"Be seeing you, nephew," he half-laughed as the world fell away.
put all your faults to bed
you can be king again
Kasper Rasmussen . Taylor Devereaux . Grant Whitty

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