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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I was acutely aware of the door slamming shut and the lock sliding home. I lifted my eyes from the floor and stared ahead with another deep breath. In truth I wasn’t afraid of Mordred—far from it—but instead I hated him with every fibre of my being, and therefore I took deep breaths only to calm and quell my anger in order to appear compliant.

    Straight in front of me was a long, dark oak table, situated between six columns—three on either side of the table—that led up to a vaulted ceiling. At the head of said table was seated a man no older than twenty-seven, peering down at some scrolls that were laid out before him. The rest of the table was adorned with platters of food: pigeon pie, woodcock and pheasant, griddled trout to name but a few. There was also a few jugs of what, I presumed from the colour of the liquid sloshing around in the goblet, appeared to be full of wine.

    Before I could take even a small step forward, the man glanced up, fixing his gaze on me through the strands of tousled black hair that had fallen in front of his eyes. He sat up further, leaning against the back of his chair, and a smile crept upon his face. “Ah, Ygraine,” he said sweetly, the facade of innocence and humbleness.

    “You requested an audience with me, cousin,” I murmured, taking another step forward.

    “Indeed I did,” he said, reaching forward to pick up an apple from the fruit bowl just off the centre of the table. He rubbed it against his tunic until the red skin shone, and then brought it to his mouth and took a bite out of it. My mouth salivated at the sight; I had not taken a bite out of an apple in nigh on four years.

    “May I ask as to why?”

    He smiled around the apple as he took another bite, then placed it down sideward’s on the table, lifted his knife, then brought the knife down hard straight through the apple, pinning it to the wood. “Can I not simply talk to my darling little cousin without a reason?”

    “There is always a reason with you, Mordred,” I snapped, staring at him squarely and apathetically. “You always want something. It’s usually power or money. Alas, it seems I cannot give you either, for you stole the title of King, which rightly belongs to my brother, and then stole both our inheritances in order to make it all yours. To the people of Albion, my brother and I are dead. You have everything that is ours.”

    His black eyes glinted in the light of the burning fire to his left, reflected the orange of the flames. For a second he looked like some demonic creature. “That much is true,” he said, raising himself to his feet. Mordred was a head-and-a-half taller than me at the least but, due to the distance between us, I, gratefully, did not have to strain my neck to look at him.

    “What was the web of lies you spun to the people of Camelot?” I murmured, placing my hands down on the top of the back of the chair in front of me. “Ah, yes. First you told them all that you were the protector of both my brother and I, that you had brought us back to Camelot for our safety. Next you announced that after two years, I had contracted a bout of ill-health and therefore tragically died from it, and that my brother died shortly afterwards from grief of his younger sister. You even stole two children—a ginger girl and a brunette boy, of similar age to ourselves—and killed them so that there would be bodies to burn on the funeral pyres. Clever lies you weave, cousin.”

    “That I did,” Mordred muttered, rolling up the scroll in front of him. Before he did so I caught a glimpse of mountains and rivers and hamlets. A map of some Kingdom. “For if they still believed you to be alive, and me to have been the one to capture and imprison you—instead of looking after you as a protector should—they doubtless would not have accepted me as their King.”

    “They do not accept you regardless,” I scorned, “half of them have still swear fealty to my Father, King Arthur Pendragon.”

    “Then they are foolish. Arthur is dead and I am alive.”

    “Evidently.”

    “And so they have no choice but to address me as their King,” he continued as if I hadn’t spoken. “Speaking of titles, you should address me as sire.”

    I shook my head and chuckled. “You are not my King,” I hissed. “I shall never call thee sire, so long as I breath.”

    “You would do well to learn to accept me as your King.”

    “Why, pray tell?”

    A smile turned up one corner of his thin mouth. “I can easily starve you if you do not comply. Then we’ll see how you fair, Ygraine.”

    My eyes narrowed, and I swallowed the hatred-induced bile that rose in my throat. I would not allow for him to grasp the upper-hand. “I already starve on the gruel you give me. How can I fair worse?”

    The fire glinted in his eyes once more. “Would you rather I give thee but a small square of stale loaf once a week, like I do all other prisoners? You have one meal each day—be thankful for my hospitality, little Pendragon girl.”

    There was a knife laid out in front of me. If only I wasn’t bound, I thought absently, I could throw the knife directly into his eye . . . but he is a Warlock, he would easily stop it . . . I would have no chance at all, and it would only suit me ill.

    Mordred must have seen me peering at the knife, for he chuckled and manoeuvred around the edge of the table and started towards me, but when I threw my head up to stare at him he stopped in his place. “I never wanted you bound, you know? It was never my intention to bind your wrists together every time I request to meet with you—it was entirely my idiot of an elder brother’s idea.”

    “Do you truly think your loyal brother an idiot?”

    He smiled and picked up his goblet of wine and brought up to his lips, tipping his head back slightly as he drank. I caught the flash of the ruby of the ring he wore on the middle finger of his right hand. I recognised it instantly; it was my Father’s ring. Rage fuelled up inside me once more—how dare he wear my Father’s ring?

    “The biggest idiot I know,” Mordred murmured, breaking me from my reverie.

    I stared at him as he placed his goblet back down on the table and poured himself out more wine. “Do you not like your brother?” I was curious. How ironic would it be if Mordred did not care much for his brother, yet Agravain stayed loyal to him?

    “Not particularly,” he confessed. How ironic indeed. “Honestly, I must tell you that I’m looking for a reason to slay him.”

    “Then why don’t you?”

    “Strategy,” he said. “I cannot be killing him forthright—my men would think I was planning on killing them all one-by-one, and then I would lose their loyalty. I need their loyalty; it keeps me strong and on the Throne. Surely you know that the strength of magik is directly linked to the strength of the belief in it?”

    I nodded, twisting my wrists within my bounds uncomfortably. I did not like the small distance between us much. “Of course.”

    “Then you’ll be aware that if my men start to lose their loyalty, their belief in both me and the magic I hold, then my magik will start to deteriorate?”

    Why is he telling me all this? Doesn’t he realise that I could so easily use it against him in the future?

    “Let me see if I have got this right,” I said, taking a step backwards. “If your men lose their belief in what you can accomplish with your magik, then your magik starts to weaken?”

    “Yes. Now, enough of this subject—I fervently wish to speak with you about why I requested an audience with you in the first place.”

    I glanced up at him, but his apathetic face gave nothing away. “And what, pray tell, is that?”

    He stabbed a slice of pheasant and popped it into his mouth, chewing slowly before swallowing—all the while never keeping his eyes off of me. “I’ve been pondering over this for a couple of months . . . but to show you my unconditional generosity towards you, I am allowing you to be moved from your cell into a more comfortable room.”

    “By that do you mean a room in one of the towers, or the room that had once been my chambers?”

    “Whichever you so desire.”

    My teeth gritted together. Did he believe that, if he were kind and generous just long enough, I would forget all the wrongs he had committed to my family? He had slaughtered my father on the field known as Camlann. He had stormed Camelot only a number of weeks later, driving all who had managed to escape into the wild or into sanctuary. After hiding with a Druid camp for four years, he had tracked us down and had said camp killed. He had captured my brother and I and thrown us in the dungeons beneath my beloved castle.

    He had destroyed all I had known. He had set it all to flames. He had turned it all to blood and ash and distant memories.

    I had had enough of false pretences on my side of all of this, of feigning compliancy and kindness towards the bastard. I had had almost six years of it. Today was the last day.

    “That sounds like something you want, for whatever reason there is behind it. Better access to talk to me, or do whatever you want with me—I do not know, nor do I so much as care,” I said, laying my hands down as flat as I could on the tabletop, leaning forward towards him with a flat expression. “But what about what I want?”

    He sighed and leant against the chair beside him. “What could you possibly want, Ygraine Pendragon?”

    A cold smile split my face, contorting the features of my face into that of shaped ice. “What do I want?” I asked. The venom was already coating my voice, but it was about to increase. “I want you dead,” I spat lowly, swerving the table in order to start to step towards him as I continued to talk. “I want your head on a spike. I want to dance whilst the crows feast on your eyes, and strip your skin away from your facial bones.” By now I was stood in front of him, and so reached up on my tiptoes so that my face was level with his, my hands sprawled together on his chest. He stared at me with an unreadable face, but his black eyes burned like black fire. “That, sire, is what I want.”

    Mordred stared at me and I stared at him squarely for a couple of more minutes, both of us in complete silence with the only thing that was audible being that of our breathing, but then grabbed hold of my wrists and pushed me back harshly. I stumbled and fell down onto the stone floor hard on my knees. My wrists were bleeding now from the burn of the rope, and the blood was starting to soak the material of my lilac dress as my hands were bundled in my lap.

    “Unfortunately, my dear, that is not something I can give you,” he hissed, walking forward to lean down in front of me. He grabbed my chin and forced my face skywards to look at him. “You cannot kill me Ygraine; you do not have the guts nor the power to do so. You would not darken your soul by killing another; it is not in your nature. For that, you never would have been a good Queen—you should be grateful I ever stopped that from happening, due to the decisions one would have to make; the lives you would have to put in dire danger.”

    I spat on his face, causing him to coil back. He released my face, but then raised his hand back up and slapped me across the face with bruising force.

    “You are a bastard, Mordred,” I whispered with both cold force and a scowl.

    He smiled. He smiled. What was there to smile at?

    “More so than you know, little Pendragon girl.”

    I spat out of the blood that had formed in my mouth from my split bottom lip; Mordred’s slap had been harder than I had initially thought. Now pain swelled in my lip and all I could taste was the copper of the red liquid. “What do you mean?” I asked, bringing my hands up to wipe my mouth.

    “Only time will reveal secrets. Allow things to come to the boil first,” he said as he stood up on his feet. “Agravain!”

    With half-a-second I heard both the doors behind me burst open. I didn’t have to turn around to know that my cousin stood there, he obeyed and came to the aid of Mordred like a dog called by its master.

    “Brother?” he questioned, confusion heavily layering his rough voice.

    “Take Ygraine back to her cell,” Mordred said sternly, peering down at me with a look of thunder. I scowled back up at him from my place still on the floor. “She will not eat for four days. Usually a threat to kill the King would be seen as treason—”

    “It cannot be treason, for I never swore fealty to you,” I interjected as Agravain grabbed my arms and pulled me harshly to my feet, not caring at all for any gentleness.

    “—and result in death, but I shall be lenient towards my dear little cousin, and allow you to live.”

    “I don’t want your kindness, dear cousin; I would rather be drowned in a butt of wine.”

    “A fool’s death. That can be arranged. But not right now, there are more important matters to attend to.”

    I didn’t speak back to him, for I had nothing to more to say to him. Instead I allowed Agravain to take hold of my upper right arm with his large left hand, for he did not bother with the other rope, and started to drag me out of the rope until Mordred spoke up again.

    “Oh, Ygraine,” he said in a calm voice. I half-turned to look back at him. He sat atop the table, weaving a knife over his knuckles as one would a gold coin. He glanced up at me after stopping with the knife, but instead took to pointing it at me. “The way you were a few minutes ago, knelt like a commoner on the floor—don’t you see that that is where you belong? You are the Princess of Camelot no longer, little Pendragon girl, you are nothing more than a peasant that begs for a morsel of bread now. Sooner or later you shall accept me as your King, and you shall bow to me.”

    I spat blood out of my mouth again, spraying the stone floor with it. “I shall never bow to you, or anyone like you. You are the False King, and one day you shall be destroyed.”

    “You would never dare to raise an army against me.”

    “You will destroy yourself first, Mordred. Your endless need for power is your bane,” I said squarely, gesturing with a small jut of my chin to the papers on his table. “But I will have a hand in your death; I can assure you of that.”

    “And am growing tired of your empty threats, Pendragon, and am starting to wonder whether I should countermand my leniency. Perhaps I should just be done with you now, since you prove to be like a steadfast pest, and simply stab you in the heart right now.”

    “Why don’t you, then?”

    He stared at me coldly for a few seconds before he shook his head. “Take her to her cell. She shall not eat for six days.”

    I snapped my head back to look at Agravain, but he was looking over my shoulder at Mordred. “Brother, do you not think that a bit harsh? Look at her; she is a twig as it is. She’ll starve to death in no time.”

    “Then allow her to starve. Six days.”

    Agravain bowed his head in submission. “Very well, sire.”

    Mordred moved back to his chair and sank down into it, leaning against the back and bringing his hand to his forehead as if he had a headache. “Now leave me.”

    “Of course.”

    I managed to take one last look at Mordred, silently cursing him in my head, before Agravain dragged me out of the room and pulled the doors shut one at a time. After that he pulled me with a bruising grip back down the corridor we had been in I don’t know how long ago.

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