Title: THE PENDRAGON'S SON
As I hurried down the castle’s vast stone corridor to meet my half-brother for the first time, his name echoed around me, whispered like a curse: Mordred.
The vaulted doorway of the Great Hall loomed ahead, and my steps slowed then stopped. Pushing back my shoulders and making my back straight, I marched toward the raised dais, careful to keep my pace steady. As calm and collected as a prince should be. My muscles strained as my legs urged me forward. Every step was still too fast. And the dais seemed so far away.
Armored Knights and soldiers had filled either side of the high-ceilinged hall, and I passed, my gaze focused ahead. Poisonous words infused the room, burning my ears and making my jaw set.
“How is that bastard still alive?” one said.
“Vermin never did die easy,” a knight said, sneering.
Yet another said in a trembling voice, “It’s the prophecy, I tell you! It protects him! It won’t let him die, not until he slays the king and rains death on Camelot as foretold!”
I bit my tongue, not for the first time this day. Such disrespect, all over an unfounded—and unreliable—prophecy made decades ago. My steps clipped the stones, leaving the boorish speakers behind. My brother was still a prince—the son of Queen Morgan LeFay of the Orkneys.
All of the rumors were whispers on the breeze compared to this resounding truth—I had to meet him, had to know my only brother.
Light cascaded through the arched windows lining both sides of the hall. The ornate tapestries hanging between the windows depicted the accomplishments of the Round Table’s most prominent knights. With more training, I would one day join their ranks as a valuable asset to Camelot and become more than a sheltered prince—a mere fixture on the castle walls.
A stained-glass window displayed the image of a red, flaming dragon directly behind the throne, behind the mighty Pendragon himself—King Arthur. My father. His stern eyes did not meet mine once, even as I stepped onto the dais and walked past him. I cast my gaze down as I took the less decorated seat to his right, studying the tiled floors and struggling to maintain a detached expression despite my churning stomach.
Merlin, the king’s advisor and my mentor, strode through the Great Hall toward us, his blue robes trailing behind him. As he passed the bystanders, they gave a respectful nod or bow.
Before he assumed his place beside King Arthur, the white-haired wizard approached me with a relaxed smile. “I trust you will be ready for training today, Vaeldhei? You’ve been unfocused as of late.”
Only since I received word of Mordred’s return. But I’d not let excitement prevent me from practicing my magic again. “Today will be different.”
“Indeed.” His smile faded and his voice dropped an octave. “But we shall speak more later.” Then he walked toward the king, his steps slower.