Her Highness

Once, the Five Kingdoms of Albion had been at peace, but that peace had started to shatter when the Court of Camelot was broken by the treachery and evil of one Knight, Mordred, and his greed for power.
Now, it’s been almost ten years since Mordred slew Arthur Pendragon at Camlann, ten years since Ygraine and Duran fled Camelot in search of safety. It’s been six years since Mordred found and captured them.
But Ygraine Pendragon is bordering on twenty years old, and she is through with the whole of Albion thinking her and her brother are dead. She is the daughter of the great King Arthur, and she is done with allowing her cousin to sit on the Throne of Camelot, the throne which he usurped.
When bonds are broken, betrayal occurs, hard decisions are made, and lives are lost, who will lose and who will conquer? How will the Princess, a lost heir to Camelot, fair when this become more than just an effort to rid the Kingdoms of Mordred, and instead become a war between light and dark?

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14. 12

 

 

 

 

12

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The rain hammered down on the field, but it didn’t falter the flames burning. Banners plunged into the earth wavered in the wind. The ground was washed red with the blood of the dead who’d fought and fallen here, the ground covered in body among body, some with mere stab wounds, some with arrows and swords still impaled in their flesh . . . others were bodies missing heads or limbs or torn in half.

    I weaved carefully through the maze of bodies, staring up at the sky above and the rain that did not touch my skin, until I stopped in my tracks at the foot of a long set of marble steps that seem to climb into oblivion.

    With a deep breath, I drew the skirt of my dress up in my hands enough to place my bare right foot on the first step, and from there ascended. The steps stopped at the edge of a ruined Throne Room, shrouded in darkness with no light coming through the broken windows, but not dark enough that I couldn’t see. Ivy climbed up the pillars and walls, tapestries hanging on by mere threads. A carpet ran down the centre of the room up to the steps of a raised platform where an ornate mirror stood, and stood at either side of the carpet were rows upon rows of people that I both recognised and didn’t—Duran, Cyrus, Robert, Merlin, Lochru, Gawain, Aoifa, my mother and father among others.

    I walked down the carpet, glancing at either side of me. No one turned to look; they are just stared forward to the end of the room. When I reached the platform I climbed the few steps until I was stood directly in front of the mirror, glancing straight into it. Only I and the room appeared in it, void of anyone and anything else.

    Only then did I realise what I was wearing. I knew I was wearing a dress, but that much was obvious. My reflection showed that I was wearing a glistening gold brocade dress with off-the-shoulder sleeves that stopped just before my elbows, tight fit and unlike anything I’d ever worn before, the train turning from brocade to lace and flowing down the aisle until it spilled down the steps. My hair spilled down my back in curls, but my face . . . it looked almost feral, my eyes surrounded by gold and red, my lips the colour of blood.

    I didn’t understand. What was this? What was I—

    “Ygraine,” a voice called from the darkness.

    “Mordred,” I whispered, peering into the mirror to see his reflection. He stood at the base of the steps dressed all in ivory. Gold and ivory  . . . the two traditional colours of—no! NO! It couldn’t be, no it just couldn’t be! Gold and ivory were the traditional colours of marriage in royal families. But it couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be.

    “Turn around Ygraine,” he said calmly, stepping onto the first step. “Take a look around you, Ygraine.”

    I was gripped with fear. “No.”

    “Turn around, Ygraine,” he repeated slowly, taking another step.

    “So I can stare at nothing?”

    He smiled wryly, standing just to the side of me now. He grabbed my upper arms with both his hands, tight, and forced me to turn around.

    I let out a cry at the sight before me, mouth opening wide in anguish as tears stung my eyes. I lurched forward from the waist with a scream and crashed down onto my knees, my elbows falling on the wooden floor. “No!” I screamed out, my left hand flying to my face.

    Where the people had stood whilst I’d walked to the mirror . . . they now lay mangled on the floor, the ones I knew had their eyes open and were either staring lifelessly up at the crumbling ceiling or, like Cyrus and Duran, open-mouthed at me. Cyrus had his throat slit, blood trickling from his mouth and neck, whilst Duran had been stabbed several times.

    Blood trickled thickly down the floorboards, pooling at the bottom of the steps. It covered the train of my dress.

    I glanced up at Mordred, at his impassive face staring down at me. “How could you?”

    He laughed. “I didn’t do anything, little Pendragon girl,” he said and bent down to clamp his hands back on my upper arms, pulling me up onto my feet. “I am not the one with blood on my hands and arms and dress. I am not the one with the sword in their hand. Here, I am the pure one.”

    I looked at my hands, which were shaking frantically, and gasped when I saw they were covered in blood. And then I realised that in my right hand I held a blood-stained sword. With a sharp cry I threw the sword away and spun around, facing my reflection was more.

    The whole front of my dress was marred with dry, dark blood that smudged my arms and face and pooled at the hem of my dress.

    “You have a dark heart inside you, Pendragon,” Mordred whispered, leaning into my ear.

    I glanced over my shoulder again, slowly, to see that I was back on the battlefield of the dead, but we were still stood on the platform and the bodies of soldiers had been replaced with the bodies in that Throne Room. The sky, I saw, was now red and it rained blood, splashing down onto my skin.

    “Don’t you see, Ygraine?” Mordred asked, his warm breath tickling my face as he pulled my hair back and over one of my shoulders. I flinched instinctively, my eyes closing. “You kill everyone you love . . . have loved . . . will love.”

 

I bolted up right in bed and scrambled with my hands and the kicks of my feet to sit up against the headboard, screaming into the air above me. Hands worked gently around my wrists, so with those arrested I started to kick again.

    A muffled “ouch!” followed by a whispered “Ygraine, it’s me” sounded from the darkness. “It’s me, it’s Cyrus. Ygraine, open your eyes.”

    Until then I hadn’t realised I had my eyes shut, but then I opened them. And when I did I saw Cyrus sat on his knees on the edge of my bed, staring at me worriedly with his hands in mine.

    “It was just a dream,” he whispered and let go of my hands to cup my face.

    “No.”

    His brow furrowed. “It wasn’t real,” he murmured, stroking my cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. My hands wound around his wrist and I nodded.

    “I know,” I said, “but it wasn’t a dream, it was a nightmare.”

    “You want to talk about it?”

    “No.”

    “Alright.” He started to move away, but I tightened my grip on his wrists.

    “Please don’t leave me,” I pleaded.

    “I won’t,” he said and moved so that he lay beside me, his head rested on my pillow. I shifted from the headboard to lie on my side in order to give him more room and, slowly, rested my head on his chest. I could feel his measured breathing, the beat of his heart.

    I was aware of his fingertips running through my hair in a soothing motion. I fell asleep to the feel of that motion.

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