The only thing that was missing in the festive mood the banquet hall was in next night was Uther Pendragon. Although Arthur wanted him to join the celebrations, the king was far from being mentally well enough to participate. Although Gwen made him company through most of the night, somewhere at the ending of celebrations Inis excused herself as being tired and wanting to retreat but she did confide to Arthur she was going to see his father.
Arthur was not oblivious to the icy glares Inis and Agravaine exchanged during the entire evening. He still vividly remembered the conversation he shared with his aunt earlier in the afternoon when they went horse riding without escort but close to Camelot’s walls.
“Why are you so distrusting towards Agravaine?”
“Agravaine and I never got along, even when we were children. I am perhaps too perceptive and since his early teen years Agravaine started to lust for power and always found a way to get what he wanted. But despite that we loved each other dearly.”
The way her eyes turned into misty haze, Arthur could tell she was remembering their childhood and early adulthood.
“Ygraine always played peacekeeper between us. When she died…Agravaine blamed your father for her death as did Tristan. And after Tristan was killed in a duel, Agravaine and I had our last conversation and fallout because I did not wish to exact any sort of revenge on Uther.”
“Wait…My uncle was killed in a duel? With whom?”
“With your father of course. You did not know?”
“Well, I am not surprised. You did not know I existed until four years ago. But you mustn’t hold that against your father.”
“Why would I not? He has caused so much suffery and pain because he could not live with what he has done to my mother!” Arthur exploded.
“Arthur! Calm yourself.” Inis ordered in firm tone, one he was used to hear from his father.
“Yes, Uther did go to Nimueh for help but I warned both him and my sister what will happen if she drinks the water from the Cup. Your mother knew what she was doing and was willing to give up her life for you. And Uther was naïve enough to believe the Old Religion will take someone else’s life in exchange for yours. I am not saying that he is not guilty of what followed after your mother’s death but he does not hold all the blame of Ygraine’s death. Ygraine knew very well what Nimueh meant when she told them life for life. After all, I am magic. She was bound to know the deeper intricacies of the Old Religion.”
“Does Agravaine know this?”
“He does but he still holds Uther responsible because he wanted an heir so badly. If I were you, I would keep Agravaine away from Uther.”
“You think he will try to kill him?”
Arthur was surprised to hear this even after all the warnings Anwen gave him. His uncle had not said a word against his father and was nothing but helpful so far.
“I would not put it past him.”
“Why do you not hate my father?”
“There are days that I want to hate him. But I can’t. I just do not have it in me to hate him as Agravaine does. Besides…I do not think Ygraine would want that.”
Inis smiled fondly when she mentioned Ygraine that it made Arthur long for his mother even more.
“She was so happy…When she found out it worked and she was pregnant. She knew right away you would be named Arthur if you were a boy. During those months, there was no one happier than her. Even me and I found out I was pregnant just two months later.”
“Did she name me after someone?” he asked curiously.
“Yes…there was a boy when I was around twelve. He was a good friend of your mother’s. Almost like a third brother to us. One day he left with his father hunting and they never returned. Few days later a patrol found their bodies in a lake, full of cuts and bruises. We never found out what exactly happened to them but Ygraine was sad for months after their deaths and she promised that one day if she should have a son, he would bear her friend’s name. And here you are.”
Inis gave him kind smile when she finished the small story.
“At what price though?” the young prince mused, making Inis sigh.
“Arthur…your mother loved you more than her own life. She wanted you so badly that she did not care about the price she would pay. For you to question her decision would be disserving her memory. I knew my sister like the back of my hand and you wallowing in this self-imposed guilt is not something she would approve off. So do us all a favour and snap out of it. There is so much you can accomplish with your life. And that is what every mother wants for her child; to use that potential and achieve all that is possible to achieve. Do not linger in the past young one it has never done anyone any good.”
The description of wise princess was never so accurate to Arthur. Of course, through their entire conversation he did notice underlying tone of sadness whenever she mentioned his mother but she also smiled at every mention of his mother’s name.
Arthur shook his head as he snapped out of his reverie and returned his attention to the celebration that was unfolding before his eyes. Merlin was not serving tonight and as a guest he was flanked by Cara who was eager to learn everything there was about him, it was obvious she respected the friendship her sister and his manservant shared greatly.
The two ladies that arrived with his aunt and cousin were engaged in animated conversation with Leon and Percival, which was strange because they barely ever heard the knight speak. Gwaine was oddity though. Ever since his conversation with Inis, he was not as chattery as he usually was and he was actually mindful of his drinks. But he did flirt shamelessly with Kyna who returned in equal measure.
And then there was Anwen, his cousin he came to consider as sister. Though daredevil most of the time, she was enjoying Lancelot’s company in isolate corner and did not concern herself much with what was going on around her. Her eyes were fixed on Lancelot alone and Lancelot only had eyes for her the entire evening. Part of him was relieved that Lancelot obviously no longer had any lingering feelings for Gwen but there was that brotherly part of him that wanted to let Lancelot know what would happen if he harmed Anwen. Not that Arthur thought Lancelot would ever do that; he knew man well enough to know such thing would never cross Lancelot’s mind.
Arthur smiled fondly and took a sip of his wine before setting his eyes on Gwen and plucked up the courage to ask her for a dance. The absence of his father may have been the only hindrance in these celebrations but all in all, today…life was good.