Time waits for no man, and all those unclear of mind will one day face their own demons, both material and physical. This was a cycle akin to karma and recompense: Good will facilitate good, and evil will facilitate evil.
Unfortunately for Agravain, he'd never been in much of a position to dictate his life's choices. In this regard, he had full authority to do as he wished, but as for the things that mattered, there had always been a firm shackle latched over his ankles since young forcing him to mature early. He brooded, and bemoaned the nature of his station, but upheld his own beliefs and ideals for the sake of things that actually mattered.
It is only with courage and resolve that he may free himself of such shackles, but the subsequent cost was one even he did not dare imagine until now. There were worse things in life than being a puppet to the machinations of another, and the betrayal of everything that he'd come to stand for was unbearable.
His hands were folded crossed behind his back while he gazed solemnly down upon the window of his office overlooking the castle's courtyard and down the scenic hill of the kingdom's slopes. It was vibrant, breathtaking, and the embodiment of all the efforts placed by the colleagues and fellow knights that had somehow wormed their way into the category of 'friend.'
Emotions will only hinder one's objective.
There was no truer statement than this, and it was something drilled into him since young from a woman he'd once respected before she too fell pray to the hypocrisy of her own words: From fair maiden to witch, from cherished mother to merciless oppressor.
Yes, everything had changed so long ago that he could no longer look back and remember anything worth reminiscing in his adolescent years.
He was Agravain, Knight of the Roundtable and Camelot's head of management.
It was both a position of pride, and bitter sentiment for it was exactly the position of power he'd been orchestrated to obtain from the beginning. In his hands lay the authority to dictate Camelot's lines of supply, relations, and military management with but a wax stamp as a seal of his authority.
Worse yet, it was with this very stamp that he'd set off the beginning of his regrets. The letter he'd received prior to everything informed him of what was to befall the cherished kingdom created from the efforts of his fellows, and it sickened him to think that someone who thought herself deserving could just usurp everything.
It was…unbearable, yet with a stamp, more and more able Knights were being positioned further and further away from Camelot on the premise of strengthening the border: Gaheris to the east; Mighty Bors to the west; the Knights of Wolfred to the far north platoon; Percival to fort Gleinn; Camelot's internal forces dwindled by the day, yet all were assured in their trust in him.
I will never hope for you to understand my intentions, I don't expect anyone to.
Agravain let out a sigh, his broad-shouldered back slumping over the weight of his own burdens and their ramifications.
Gawain alone now defended Camelot's gates.
Dear Tristan, the one who's perception was the greatest among the Round was sent to his death, a kill order placed on his head. Tristan had looked so joyful at the premise of meeting up with his lover once again that his eyes had widened in earnest gratitude.
The last Agravain had heard of Tristan before he left was that the hopeless romantic was going around playing melodies to find the perfect one to play for his beloved.
Agravain felt the swell of grievances build up within him again, twisting his already consternated features into a darker scowl. He'd signed the death papers that would kill a brother in arms. Why? Why had he done it?
Agravain's hands slowly balled into fists while his ears perked up to the sound of his office door creaking open.
-All of it was for this.
"Agravain, dear child. It's been too long."
He schooled his features in a way befitting of his station and stared down at the Witch Morgan. He carefully noted her state of duress and injury. Her hair was disheveled and patches of blood and ash stained the exposed areas of her skin. He took sick pleasure at the sight of her missing arm whose bleeding was hardly staunched by a piece of cloth. How unfortunate that the attacker hadn't put just a bit more force in the swing to just end this miserable creature's existence.
Agravain's black plate-armour clinked as he knelt down on a knee, the blue mantle draped over his shoulders dragging over the floor as he inclined his head. It was all he could do to hide the curve of his lips as he relished in Morgan's misfortune.
"I have done as instructed," he said robotically. He composed himself before staring back up at Morgan with a neutral façade.
"Truly you are the best of my children." A grin crept up Morgan's face, pleasant and beautiful. It was the face of Camelot's former King now Queen, bastardized by the sheer vindictiveness in Morgan's eyes. "Never as strong as Gawain, or kind hearted as Gareth and Gaheris, but the shrewdest of all. Tristan has been dealt with?"
A slow nod, and nothing more. Besides, he could tell that Morgan wasn't really asking. She must already know that Tristan had left Camelot through the use of her familiars.
Morgan laughed, one of content and victory as her well placed plans finally started on the road to fruition. "Good, and what of Lancelot? Have you dealt with him as I've asked?"
Agravain was stone faced. He knew full-well that Lancelot was nowhere near Camelot and that Morgan had no idea of this. Lancelot had the protection and blessing from the Lady of the Lake and Lady Vivian didn't take well to random familiars eyeing her adopted child.
Waiting for an answer, Morgan peered intently at Agravain who opened and closed his mouth before releasing a weary sigh. A small scene played in his mind, one that was quite recent and the subject of interest. It was a meeting held with utmost secrecy that not even Gawain was made aware to discuss with Sir Lancelot only a single topic.
"You must save Sir Tristan."
Agravain had half-a-mind to believe that Merlin may have known his intentions, but seeing as Morgan was around and Merlin wasn't, the Wizard must have failed in his endeavors somehow. The situation was now up to him.
"I've no clue where he could be," Agravain shrugged while tentatively standing up onto his feet. He towered over Morgan by an entire head but it was Morgan who proved more intimidating. "The blessings of the Lady of the lake grant him an abundance of good fortune."
"True enough," Morgan frowned while humming in thought. "Did you at least keep tabs on where it is that he's likely to go? Of the Knights of the Round, only Lancelot can oppose my Gawain under sunlight."
Therefore, he must be disposed of, right?
Agravain could accurately follow Morgan's line of thought which didn't speak much for his character, but at least he had his own form of honour he upheld. Besides, Lancelot wasn't the true obstacle in Morgan's path. This role belonged to the current King.
In truth, Agravain had never seen Morgan so wary of anyone before. The knowledge granted him assurance in his new King's capabilities, but the problem was that Morgan would never reveal herself in front of Shirou. Therefore, any thoughts of confiding with the new King were dashed as he knew Morgan would only appear in Shirou's absence like she was now. Of course, the King could have granted him a trump card of sorts born from the weapons it was said that he was able to create, but anything of magical nature would set Morgan off instantly. She'd be aware that he was compromised, and that was something he couldn't risk.
This was a matter he'd have to resolve on his own, and he'd been planning it out for years.
Presently, he'd never seen Morgan reduced to such a sorry state, and if her lessons on magecraft were anything to go by, he could feel that she was running dangerously low on magical output. Subtly, he fingered the hilt of his sword.
"Tabs?" Agravain continued to play his game of deceit and lies. "Of course. They're hidden on the top shelf of my desk."
Morgan grew pleased, strutting closer to Agravain and affectionately cupping his face in the same manner she would a prized possession. For a moment, he felt like he was a child again in the warm embrace of his mother, Morgan the Fair, yet the moment passed quickly.
"Truly, at least my own child would not betray me."
A flicker of the same maddening jealously that corrupted his once beloved mother marred any endearing sentiments of the gesture. Betrayal? The word left a bitter taste in his mouth, but did his mother truly not know? It was her that had betrayed her children first.
As Morgan turned her back on him, the full weight of the realization that she actually 'trusted' him at this moment felt like a punch in the gut. There was no magic, no defence, and no caution. This was it; the very moment he'd been waiting for all these years.
Agravain's hands subtly balled into fists as he preserved the image of the mother he once knew, and shunned the witch before him now. In truth, his mother had died long, long, ago.
His sword was swiftly drawn from his sheath, his body inclining forward into a stab meant to kill in a single strike. In slow motion, he watched as Morgan perked up at the sound of steel, turned around, and leveled him with such an utterly devastated expression that it hurt knowing that she had no time to react at all. Some sort of light seemed to die from her eyes, and in that moment, a voice played in his head born from a time ages ago.
"My precious child, Agravain."
When did it all start to go wrong? Harsh lamentations welled up from deep within his sealed off consciousness, but all he could feel was regret. He'd once promised to protect his fair mother, but never imagined that he'd have to be the one to protect her from herself.
In a panicked bid to avoid his attack, Morgan pushed off her feet, yet the difference in stature made the motion irrelevant. There was no avoiding the blow, the sharp edge of steel mere inches away from Morgan's heart, and yet, the harsh clang of steel resounded.
A shower of sparks matted the ground, leaving small black pockmarks on exposed parchments sent flying from his desk.
Agravain turned a startled expression to Mordred of all people who intercepted his strike with a drawn sword. Something about her was utterly off. She wasn't speaking, nor was she making any expression of anger, sadness, or anything. Her features were deceptively blank, hollow.
"You may think of her as an obedient golem," Morgan answered the question in Agravain's mind while shakily regaining her bearings. She used the edge of his desk to prop herself straight on her feet while an air of madness rapidly began to consume her.
She was chuckling, a hoarse cacophony of choked sobs and unsettling whimpers. "Must she take everything away from me!" She growled out through gnashed teeth.
Agravaine closed his eyes, unwilling to see his mother's descent into further madness. In pursing her own ambitions, there was only one undeniable truth: No matter how hard she pushed and justified, the only one suffering more and more was her. In his failed attempt to grant her, her own peace and solace in death, he'd effectively pushed her over the edge in which there was no turning back. This wasn't how it was supposed to go.
His eyes opened; stern brown irises unblinking at the face of his failure.
Just another thing he had to rectify, and now there was even Mordred.
His sword grated against Mordred's own before he added strength and disengaged from her. She didn't move to pursue, but instead just stood in place, a puppet on strings. Mordred had likely only reacted due to the danger directed at Morgan.
This wasn't right. None of this was right.
A scowl worked its way over his face while he looked at Mordred. He'd watched her grow from a young brat to her current self, and in truth he was proud that she was finally settling into her own place in Camelot. To have it all ripped away from her at the hands of her own mother was even more reason that he had to put a stop to Morgan.
The image of Morgan the Fair grew blurrier and blurrier by the day.
"Agravain," Morgan's voice had become deceptively calm yet a brittle undertone was apparent. "Tell me this was a mistake."
The mistake was believing in Merlin and allowing Mordred to be reduced to this state. She may not be able to convey her thoughts and feelings through words, but the eyes themselves can be the most expressive.
Mordred was hurting, screaming, and drowning all at once.
The truest evil, the vilest of women was already standing in front of him.
He and his siblings deserved a better mother.
"I refuse." He denied her fully knowing the consequences. "I will not allow you to torment this child any further either. She is better off being the brat she is calling me a 'shitty old man' rather than a pawn to your schemes."
He gripped his sword. He was never the strongest of the Round, but he would stand his ground either way for the country and the people that he wished to protect. His blood brother Gawain would have to forgive him for breaking an oath. Gawain was the Knight of the Sun while he was the Knight obscured in shadow. Each of them had their own roles, but the bond between brothers was strong.
Should ever he end up in a battle beyond his capabilities, the shadow would step back and allow the light to triumph.
Agravain let out a wry grimace. Gawain really was more of a brute with an honest heart than a strategist, which was all the more reason why he as the elder brother had shielded his naïve views of their mother's true nature from him.
From a secret compartment hidden in a book shelf, Agravain pulled out a set of papers and documents pertaining to the treason committed within Camelot at Morgan's orders. "You will release Mordred from your grip or I will reveal evidence of your tampering in Camelot," he threatened, causing a flicker of light to cross Mordred's pupils.
Morgan didn't answer. Far from it, she looked anguished before it all just disappeared in the same way his mother always buried her sorrows behind a mask of anger and ruthlessness.
"At your own expense? Well, go ahead," she spat, glaring and causing a chill to travel down his spine.
This wasn't quite the response he was expecting; however, he understood the reason for Morgan's disregard as soon as he took a good look at the sword Mordred had used to protect Morgan.
It was Caliburn, the Sword of Choosing: The King Maker.
His expression grew solemn. Even if Mordred wasn't herself, it didn't mean that she wasn't worthy of the sword which was why she could still wield it in her grip. As for being able to use its full capabilities, that was another topic. At the very least Caliburn was still a sharp sword.
"Oh? Were you unaware that Caliburn was passed to dear Mordred?" Morgan goaded, a hand running through her hair and fixing her dishevelled appearance. "Go ahead and reveal your documents, but whose word will they believe? Yours or Mordred's?"
Damn it. This wicked cur.
Agravain felt trapped like he always had when dealing with the witch Morgan. His stance was unsteady, and he looked warily between Mordred and Morgan in case either of them were to make any sudden moves.
He'd always known that his own underhanded methods would be the death of him.
"Now I'm willing to forgive small acts of rebellion as any mother would, so will you not hurry and come to your senses?" Morgan offered another olive branch.
Should he be concerned that she was still trying, or wary that it was all a ruse? In any case, he already had his answer. "No. Your treason cannot be permitted any longer."
He swallowed audibly in the silence as Morgan digested his words. Then she sneered in outrage. "And who are you to decide that when I should have been made ruler but was overlooked?! Father and all those that followed his will are the treasonous ones!"
Yet they knew what was important.
It was true that King Uther had sent off Morgan to be married, yet could it not be said that he did so with his blessings as he wished for his fair daughter to live a docile life away from burdens? Uther may have done the same for Arturia had it not been for the prophecy spoken of by the Court Wizard.
The circumstances were different from the start.
Agravain shook his head resentfully at his mother's repetitive argument while slowly tensing in preparation for battle. He took a breath and let loose his resolve.
"I am Agravain, son of Lot and mothered to Morgan the Fair," he spoke calmly, sternly. "I am the eldest brother of two righteous Knights, a sister smitten with a damn fop of an ignorant lady's man, and a half-brother to a fool of a younger sister too scared to realize the care others had for her to seek out help."
Mordred's dull eyes widened at Agravaine's words, a lump forming in her throat.
Agravain pointed his sword forward at Morgan. "And you, dear mother- You have reached too far!"
Morgan swallowed back a pained flinch. Words may not break bones, but they could cut just as deep. "You would oppose your own mother?" How much more would she have to concede for her own son to realize how much pain he was forcing her through? Maybe he never would.
Agravain frowned at his mother's response. Indeed, there was once a time he'd called her by that title with affection and genuine praise, but no longer. "My mother stopped being my mother when she drowned in her own jealousy and envy to use her own children to further her means!" He rebuked, shocking Morgan into muted silence. "I would stand for you no longer, but for the sake of my siblings and this kingdom you wretched witch!"
Regardless of who ruled, Agravain had once chosen not to care as the well being of his siblings was guaranteed should he ensure that they remain uninvolved in this game of sororicide. Now though? His resolve had long since hardened after months of doubt and indecision. In the end, more than just his obligation to his siblings, it was loyalty to the King in his heart that prevailed.
He didn't serve the King for the Kingdom, but the Kingdom for the King, or in this case, the new Queen: a reflection of what Morgan could have been should she had bested her own inner demons.
This was the answer he came to after months of consideration.
Therefore, the light of Shirou and Arturia's rule must be kept shining at all costs… Even without him. His preparations had long since been made. Life or death no longer mattered.
"Enough words mother. You know that you can't convince me. Not after what you've done and put us through on the basis that it was for 'our own good.'"
"Indeed," Morgan said softly, grudgingly, before a frigid cold froze her features blank and uncaring. "Mordred, kill him."
Agravain grunted. The fact that Morgan made no move to attack him herself meant that he was correct in his observation that she was low on magical energy. This meant Mordred was going to be his main concern. Worst of all, he didn't actually wish to kill her which placed him on a heavy handicap.
He side-stepped as Mordred lunged forward with a heavy swing, cutting straight through the sparsely laid furniture in the office. She pulled, and rounded on him again, the strength of her strikes augmented by a natural physique similar to Arturia's. It was the strength of dragons.
Wood splintered, and brick crumbled with each impact.
Agravain leveraged his sword against Mordred's inner armour in a bid to disarm her or risk injury, but he faltered when he noticed Mordred's disregard for safety. He hurriedly ducked, strands of his hair cut loose from a horizontal sweep before he swept off Mordred's feet from beneath her. She tumbled on the ground, but was up immediately, causing him to frown.
Sparks flew once more as they exchanged a flurry of blows.
Agravain was no stranger to sword-play but even he knew that Mordred outmatched him at any instance. Her strikes weren't refined or graceful like Lancelot's, nor overly brutish and overpowered as Gawain's, but Mordred's strikes were feral and unpredictable.
He'd never openly faced Mordred in a duel before, but he already knew the outcome: He'd lose.
Beads of sweat trickled down his face while he parried and shoved Mordred roughly with his shoulder, leveraging his height advantage and forcing her back. His fingers were growing numb, and each vibration of their swords clashing weakened his stamina further.
The thing was though, he was the one winning the exchange. It was entirely out of prediction, and there was only a single reason for it. This wasn't 'Mordred' who he was fighting. This was simply a golem making use of Mordred's own natural prowess too pressure him.
The swings were clumsy and telegraphed, and no thought was spared for any fatigue Mordred's body accumulated. From the looks of her, Mordred had already been through a fight before challenging him. Her body was lagging, and Agravain could see the embers of defiance burning within Mordred's gaze.
Mordred had always been a fighter. Perhaps even now she was attempting to wrestle control back from Morgan?
With a single swing, Mordred overextended her reach, and he used the opportunity to swerve around her and jab the pommel of his sword over the back of her head. She slumped, her knees wobbling before she tilted forward into collapse.
He moved to catch her lest she strike her head on the floor, yet his eyes narrowed when Mordred recovered and moved to strike him again.
The blow was horrendously executed. It was slow, ineffective, and simple to bypass. He could strike a lethal blow on her right now, and she'd have no way of retaliating. In truth, he'd long since been able to read the quiet and desperate 'kill me' plea in Mordred's eyes.
Yet he wouldn't. He'd never do such a thing.
He'd often been cold and stern towards Mordred, but that was because he didn't want her involved in the machinations of their shared mother. He was her elder brother, and what elder brother would seek to harm their own siblings?
Agravain moved to step passed Mordred's strike and raised his pommel up in an attempt to knock her out again, but he was forced to reconsider when she tried to throw herself onto his blade.
Morgan knew he didn't want to kill Mordred.
He moved to evade again, but was forced into a dilemma.
"Honour is for fools."
This was never a one on one. A restrictive force abruptly anchored his legs in place. Low on magic didn't mean out of magic. Morgan panted while sealing Agravain's movements.
Of all the times he ever cursed his own existence, this was perhaps the worst. Agravain's thoughts ran a mile a second in his brain. His legs were stuck in place, but it spoke of his mother's fatigue that he could still use his upper body. The stabbing thrust Mordred was leveling at his stomach was slow at best and left her remarkably defenseless. Worse, he didn't have enough room to bat her stab away. Either it was going to stab him through the chest, or into his left or right lung if he tried to deflect the blow. He knew this, and Mordred knew this too.
For a moment, he peered into Mordred's eyes, watching the growing horror flood inside them as he made no move at all to cut her down. In the end, Mordred may have believed that he never cared for her, but Agravain's fatal flaw was that he cared too much for those that mattered. This was why he'd even forsake his mother's fragile trust for Arturia and the kingdom she'd help create; this was why he alone shouldered the burden of handling Camelot's darker aspects so his siblings would not get drawn into Morgan's conspiracies.
To all who ever truly knew Agravain, he was a good man, and an even better sibling.
One person had known this all too well, and chose to enact a failsafe.
The changes born from the rippling of time manifested their effects here. Unseen to all, but ephemeral rose petals swirled at the base of Agravain's feet and swept across his body originating from a hidden engraving over the sole of his greaves.
It's only in the fleetingness of dreams that when the dreamer awakens, all nightmares end.
Nothing was truly as it seemed.
Mordred just stared and stared and stared as blood gurgled up Agravain's mouth from the sword lodged straight through his stomach, not registering the arms that wrapped around her in a hug.
Agravain could see the depths of despair colouring Mordred's once vibrant irises; could feel the way her sword trembled in her shaky grip, and hear her inaudible wailing as his body fell limp over her own. Caliburn clattered over the floor, slipping out from his chest as Mordred lost her grip on it.
Agravain inwardly grimaced bitterly at the situation. In the moment that it counted, he'd refused to cut Mordred down, but even still, there was one thing that would always be true. He struggled to make sure Mordred's eyes were on him as he rasped for breath.
"I-It's…no..t…yo…ur….fa..ult…" He forced the words out through mouthfuls of blood before his head lulled forward into a slump, his eyes closing shut.
His name was Agravain, brother of Gawain, Gaheris, Gareth, and little Mordred whom he'd never had the chance to show he cared.
"Ahh… ..a… aaah….." Garbled words escaped Mordred's lips while her hands subconsciously wrapped around Agravain's body.
"And so, falls, Sir Agravain." Morgan whispered lowly, letting silence stretch. Her gaze lingered on Agravain longer than normal, but she eventually shook her head and assumed an indifferent attitude. "A pity."
A tool? A tool?
Memories of a tiny Agravain filtered to the front of Morgan's mind back when she was still known as a fair lady: Her little boy. Her eldest. "A broken tool is of no use," she mumbled. The memory was trampled and smeared under foot.
The times had long since changed, and after her latest betrayal, she no longer cared for morals or bonds. Instead she would make use of them in her own way.
Suddenly, she grinned.
"Pin the body to the wall." Morgan ordered of Mordred. "Oh, and use this."
A bastardized copy of Lancelot's sword appeared in Morgan's hands using a form of paltry magecraft known as Gradation Air. It allowed her to materialize objects in accordance to her own thoughts, but it was a highly inefficient and incomplete craft. Objects made were crude in the crudest sense, but the glaring differences may as well be overshadowed by the anger and prejudice that was sure to corrode her youngest son's senses.
The righteous were the simplest to corrupt, and there was no longer an Agravain to act as a shield.
"Gawain should be visiting soon," Morgan whispered. Her children always did have a strong bond. This would surely drive Gawain to the point of being unreasonable. The bloodier the better, and it only helped that Lancelot was mysteriously missing from Camelot after such a heinous murder.
"See to it that it's done Mordred, and then meet me at Camelot's audience hall." Morgan left in preparation to have Mordred occupy the throne, leaving Mordred alone to complete her assigned task.
Robotically, Mordred stood up on her feet and hauled Agravain's corpse up. Grabbing the bastardized fake of Lancelot's sword, she thrust it through Agravain's neck and pinned the body to the wall.
Yes, this was what she was now:
A Knight of Treachery.
Warm blood splattered across her face, marring her tormented features as the squelching gurgle of a spasming body haunted her to her core.
She wept in the confines of her own mind for a brother she now realized had always cared.
Author's note: You know, I had a chapter of alternative records planned to go with this update, but after writing this update I realized tagging it on would ruin the tone of the chapter. I'll add it on next chapter. The pieces are beginning to fall in Camelot and truer words have not been said that Agravain's death marked the beginning of the end in the original Camelot time line. Things are coming to a head as everything wraps together, and the main story line will be continuing from here on.
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