It was night, the coldest one he had seen in a month. Wearing a thick coat and a large scarf, the young Mordred was making his way towards the hovel that had been his home for the last three months. But this was not an ordinary home: he was certain that soon he would have to leave this place again. This was how his life had always been like. He had always been on the run, afraid that he would lose his life if anyone ever found out he had magic.
Ever since he had discovered his abilities he had been told that he was special. He possessed a rare gift that many did not: the gift of using the mind to communicate with others. He was sure that this had been the reason he had been taken away from his family, snatched away before he ever could have a change for any kind of life at all. He did not remember his parents, and did not know if he had any siblings that were still alive. His early life was shrouded with darkness, and he did not remember anything before his life with the Druids.
He often thought of his parents and wondered who they were or if they were still alive. As a child, he had sometimes even wished to have the gift of a Seer instead of the ones he had, because then he could have known at least something about his parents. But as years passed, he started to treasure his gift more and more, and realise why he indeed was special. His gift was after all very rare: he had never met anyone else with such an ability.
„Mordred, wait!“ he heard a male voice speak behind him as he was nearing the hovel. He turned and faced his friend Frederick, his companion for the past year. His lips moved, giving a small hint of a smile, while his eyes remained as cold as before. He had not smiled much for the past ten years. Smiling disgusted him, as it reminded him of that horrible man he had met a long time ago. A man that had taken away all the joy from his life and wiped away all the happyness he had left. But for Frederick he could make an effort. He was a friend after all.
„Yes?“ he asked with a husky voice and couched a little. It was easy to catch a cold here.
„I have important news.“ Frederic said, sounding happier than usual. „Ragnor is once more on a quest for more men. He was sighted not far away from here. And same goes for Arthur Pendragon.“
„Arthur?“ Mordred asked with a suspicious look on his face, „How can this be? He never goes this far from Camelot. Was anyone with him?“
„Yes.“ Frederic said. „A tall man with short black hair.“
Emrys... Mordred thought to himself. A young man whose face he could barely remember, but who had never vanished from his memories. He stayed there as surely as Lady Morgana did: both of them being two people he knew he would never be able to forget, even if he wanted to.
He knew well that Arthur and Merlin alone would be defenseless against Ragnor and his men. He had met Ragnor before, and knew well how hungry he was for money. The King of Camelot would surely be a prize he would be wanting to recieve. And having Arthur at his mercy was an honour Morgana would pay handsomely for.
„We must go find them before it is too late.“ Mordred said, „Saddle the horses, and pack as much food with as you can. We have a long journey ahead of us.“
He then opened the door of his hovel. „I will go and take some good swords I retrieved a while ago. We may be attacked and we must be prepared for that.“ Having said that, he stepped into the hovel and closed the door behind him.
As he looked around in his tiny hut, he felt a bit nostalgic. This had been closest to a home he had had in a long time. The Druids had been like a family to him, but living with them hand never been safe, as Uther Pendragon had hunted them as if they were animals. They always had to be ready to leave at once and sense danger before it had a chance to get too close. 'Till this very day he could be woken very easily and always had his sword by his bedside.
Mordred took some leather cloth and put on it the three only swords that he owned. They did not look like something special, but were made of good iron and were very sharp. They were valuable weapons in battle, as cutting skin with them was fairly easy. He wrapped the leather around them and took them up with his right hand. Before he headed towards the door, he took one more look at the hovel. He knew this was most likely the last time he was here and he felt a bit sorry for that. But this had to be done. He had to head towards his destiny, towards Camelot. There was no way back now. He opened the door and left the hovel without looking back once again.
Frederick was already waiting for him, the saddled horses, one white and the other brown, carrying at least three bags on both sides by him. They were ready for their journey.
Mordred smiled for a moment, and handed him the swords, which Frederick put in an empty bag fastened to one of the horses. They both then got on the horses: Mordred on the white and Frederick on the brown, and rode away.
As hours passed, the weather got colder. The wind was harder and harder, blowing a flow of snowflakes against their frozen faces. Soon it was hard to see where they were exactly going.
„We cannot continue like this.“ Frederick yelled, „We must stop the journey until this storm is over.“
„Frederick, there is no need for us to not continue our journey.“ Mordred said and raised his right hand. „Ablinnan se dynge!“
The moment after the golden glow had vanished from his eyes, the snowflakes disappeared and the wind itself was suddenly silent. It was as if the storm had vanished into thin air and had gone away much faster than it had appeared. „Mordred.“ Frederick said, the look on his face clearly saying that he did not approve what had just happened. „We must be very careful not to use magic unless our lives depend on it.“
„We also have to find Arthur as soon as possible.“ Mordred replied. „He has slipped from my fingers more than once. I will not let this happen again.“
„Being careless with magic will do you no good when you do find the King.“ Frederick then pointed out.
„And it is also my destiny to kill the King.“ Mordred replied, his voice indicating he was getting more annoyed by the minute. He was confident in his fate, and he did not like when someone questioned it. „I do not fear him or his Knights.“
Their journey then continued in silence. Mordred and Frederick did not have much to talk about as magic was one of the few things they had in common. During those silent nights they had spent together, not saying a word to each other had been the times that Mordred had often thought of his friend Alvarr. Three years had passed from the day he was finally captured by the Knights of Camelot, and executed publicly in Camelot. He had never quite recovered from losing him, as he considered him the truest friend he had ever had. It was then that he had lost all the respect he had ever had for Arthur. Since then his life had but one goal: to eliminate him and all others who stood in his way, until he would have Camelot at his feet. And this day was now closer than ever before.
In the next few hours they came close to the forests surrounding the Fortress of Ismere, the high stronghold standing in the middle of the snowy wasteland. Ragnor often lurked around in these woods, searching for new men who would work for Morgana. Mordred knew that she was looking for the Diamair or the Key to All Knowledge as the Druids knew it, but knew nothing more of her quest. He had often wondered what she planned to do snd what it exactly was that she wished to know from the Diamair. Many had said that she too was eager to kill Arthur just as he had been all those years. Was Alvarr's death her reason for hating him as well, or was there something else that had caused the hatred? When he had seen her for the last time those many years ago, he knew that they had still been on good terms at the time. But there had to be something else that made Morgana hate him so, as he knew well how much she had cared about him before. And as he noticed the the large fortress in the distance, Mordred knew that his questions would soon be answered.
„Let us look around in the forest.“ he said to Frederick and turned his horse to the left. „Ragnor never goes too far from the fortress. He must be around here somewhere.“
Frederick followed him and they rode further to the west. As they came closer to the heart of the forest, the could hear the sound of two men arguing over something. At first it was quite hard to hear exactly what they were saying, but as the distance between them shortened, Mordred could hear that they were fighting over some food.
„Let's go closer,“ Mordred said and lightly touched the right side of the horse with his boot, making the animal move faster. Now every word of the men before them was clearly hearable.
„Do we have any more meat?“ one man with a lighter voice asked. It was clear that he was annoyed. „I am hungry.“
„Ragnor told us that we can only use the rabbits as bait.“ the other man with a voice more husky and rough said. „He will be very angry if we keep them for ourselves.“
„How can we be sure that these are Ragnor's men?“ Frederick whispered to Mordred. He sounded a bit anxious.
„I would recognize the clothing of a Saxon anywhere.“ Mordred quietly responded. „And the Saxons mostly are the ones to ally with Ragnor.“
„Oh for heaven's sake, put that rabbit down!“ the husky-voiced man yelled to his companion. „And we must go now: Ragnor expects us soon.“
„Fine.“ his companion moaned and they left, leaving the two rabbits on the ground. The rabbits looked fairly young and had clearly been well fed, which made them a perfect bait. Being someone who knew these forests well, Mordred had learnt to be careful, as here danger could be lurking just around the corner.
„What do we do now?“ Frederick asked Mordred.
„We wait.“ he quietly responded and hopped off his horse, landing on the ground without barely making any sound. From a young age, he had been taught the art of escaping, from which moving quietly was just one skill. During the years, he had become as skillful escape artist and no one had managed to catch him for years.
He waved his right hand, signalling Frederick to get down from his horse as well and a moment later he did. They both then tied their horses to two large trees nearby, and sat on the snowy ground. It was not as windy as it had been before and the weather was fairly warm for a winter day. Their back opposite, they warmed each other when the weather went colder, because both of them sensed that this could be a long wait. And so it was.
As night came upon them, Frederick soon fell asleep while Mordred stayed awake for the whole night. He was used to being awake for a long time, as he had often been the one guarding the Druid camp at nights. Because of his gift, he was able to quickly warn the others from danger without making a single sound. Because of his actions, many of his kind had been saved from danger. But although most of them still lived 'till this day, they were never really safe from harm. When Uther had died and his son Arthur had taken over the kingdom, many of them had hoped that things were going to change. There were prophecies about him, that he was going to be the Once and Future King, a fair and just ruler who would bring peace to the land. Mordred and many others had hoped that this would mean peace to their kind as well. But they had been wrong: 'till this very day, magic was still outlawed in Camelot and the Druids and many other sorcerers still lived in constant danger.
This had made Mordred realise that there was no other way to bring peace to them but to take over Camelot and end the reign of the Pendragons. And so when Arthur had married Guinevere, he knew that it was his time to act.
And so he, Alvarr and a group of bandits made their way towards Camelot. They were well trained, heavily armed and altogether a very great danger for the Knights of Camelot. On their way, they eliminated many Knights, but lost some of their own men as well. Before they were able to get too close to Camelot, all of them but Mordred were captured. He was once again left on his own as he often had during his life.
Mordred knew well that he would never see Alvarr again after that, as going to Camelot alone would have meant his death. But on the night before his execution, Mordred used his gift for once because he wanted to, not because he had to.
His friends last words to him had been „Goodbye, Mordred! I know that one day you will make me proud and that the day will come when we see each other again.“
After that, all Mordred could hear were his own thoughts. It was as if a storm had begun inside him, as suddenly many thoughts of remorse, anger and sadness filled his head. This day had changed him even more than he had realised himself.
„Mordred! Mordred!“ he suddenly heard Frederick whisper. A few moments lately he shoke him. „Mordred, they are here! They have been caught! It's time to wake!“ Mordred opened his eyes and stared at his friend with a shocked expression. When he realised what had happened, he was angry because he had fallen asleep despite all his efforts, and scared that Arthur may have slipped from his fingers once again.
He quietly stood up and looked around in the forest. It was now morning, and the sun was already high up in the sky. He immediately noticed Arthur and Merlin caught in a trap together with the two rabbits that had been earlier used as baits. It seemed that no one was in sight: if there ever was a moment to act, it was now. Mordred took out his sword and started walking towards them.
But before he could do anything, the trap with Arthur and Merlin was cut loose. A moment before the King and his servant hit the hard snowy ground, they were surrounded by Ragnor and his group of Saxon men. Ragnor pointed his sword at Arthur and smiled. „I'm sorry. Did we wake you?“ he asked, his voice clearly showing how happy he was of being able to catch the King of Camelot.
Now that they had been freed from the trap, Mordred could see Arthur and Merlin much more clearly. Both of them had not changed much and looked only slightly older. And although both had tried to safe his life before, the sight of them disgusted him. Each time he had heard prophecies of Emrys, the man destined to become the greatest sorcerer of this world, something inside him froze. To him he was not a great magician, but a fraud, a wolf inside lamb's skin. The fact that he had stayed in Camelot after what Uther and Arthur had done to their kind was a proof to Mordred that he was not on his side.
When he stayed with Arthur after Alvarr's death, Mordred decided that he would kill him as well as Arthur. After all, it was certain that Merlin would not hesitate to end his life when he had the chance.
Mordred then stepped closer to them. „Not so fast. The King of Camelot. You will fetch a handsome price. Alive or dead. Any last requests?“ he heard Ragnor say after Arthur tried to escape.
„Let my servant go. He doesn't deserve to die like this.“ said Arthur, still laying on the ground. Merlin, who was already standing, had a helpless look on his face, as if he was waiting for someone to come and save them.
„If you're going to kill him, you'll have to kill me first.“ he said. Still smiling, Ragnor now pointed a sword at Merlin. Mordred was not surprised to hear those words, as he was well aware how loyal he was to Arthur. Alvarr's execution had proven that very well.
„Merlin! Step aside.“ Arthur said with an annoyed tone.
„You know I never do as I'm told.“ Merlin replied.
Mordred was now but a few feet away from them. He knew that this was the moment to act: it was either now or never. Although both of those men utterly disgusted him, Mordred knew well that he would regret it for the rest of his life if he would let anyone else but him to end their lives. This was his call, his honour – and it was not to be taken away by anyone, especially by a worthless bandit like Ragnor.
„Stop!“ Mordred yelled as loudly as he possibly could. He had now come out behind the trees and was clearly visible to everyone present at the clearing. One of the first things he noticed, was the look of fear on Merlin's face. Yes, it was clear that he had recognized him and was scared of what he would do next. Mordred knew he had all the weapons: he was the in control, he could reveal to all who he really was. And he knew how afraid Merlin was of that, especially with Arthur present. Arthur dying while knowing that his best friend had lied to him surely would have pained Merlin for the rest of his short life.
But in one short moment Mordred realised that Merlin could also be useful to him. If he ever wanted to have Camelot under his power. Although he would kill him in the end, he still needed him to gain a position of high power in the kingdom. Looking at Merlin with his cold eyes, Mordred came closer and stopped near him.
„Shouldn't we leave it for the Lady Morgana to decide their fate?“ he asked, looking straight at Ragnor who had a surprised look on his face. Ragnor then smiled and put away his sword, as did all the other men. They left, leaving Mordred alone with his newfound old friends.
He now turned his gaze to Arthur, and offered him his hand. The King looked at him with a confused look in his face. It was clear that he did not remember who he was. Still, he accepted the help and Mordred helped him to stand again „You don't remember me, do you?“ Mordred asked, „You saved my life once, many years ago.“
„Mordred.“ Merlin said. His voice trembled a bit and it was clear that he was shocked to see him again. Mordred turned and looked at him, forcing his mouth to form a wide smile, while the gaze in his eyes only lightened up a little. The great game had begun and now it was time to pretend. He then turned once more and gazed at Arthur.
„Hello, Arthur.“ he said to him and smiled for another moment, after which he let the corners of his mouth fall again. This certainly was an unusual reunion.
Although Mordred was more than happy that he had succeeded in finding them, Merlin surely was not happy that they had met again. It became more clear with each passing second that convincing him would take a lot of time and effort, and making the King trust him surely was no easy task either. But to be friends with the people he loathed with all his heart was the price he was willing to pay for his freedom, for the freedom of his people. The great game had begun.