Arthur had returned to his own quarters shortly after Gawain's revelation of Terence, but the king did not sleep. He'd secluded himself in his library, away from all others to think about what he'd learned and the full implications of what it'd meant.
Terence. There had always been something about that boy. How he bowed to Arthur from the waist, and how Arthur couldn't make himself give twopence about it. How he was braver than most of the Round Table, but sank into the background anyway. How he smiled that smile, so mischievous and kind and timeless. How he always, always seemed to be at the right place at the right time, despite any physical or rational obstacles. His loyalty, his wit, his good heart. The boy was uncanny.
Arthur realized then that, although he hadn't always been conscious of it, at some point, not long after the lad first came to Camelot, Terence had earned a certain special place in Arthur's mind; not a knight, but not really a squire. He had always been just that much different. And now, he knew why, and it all made sense.
A faery. A faery prince, in his court; a squire. Arthur thought back to the dream he'd had years ago with Morgause and Gawain and Terence, back to the few times when Gawain and Terence mysteriously disappeared for months, years at a time and came back not a day older. He thought about those secret looks that passed between them sometimes, when they thought no one else could see. Finally, he thought back to the time when he'd bested Terence jousting in a wood, and later awarded him the title of Champion, Sir Wozzell. He'd known who it had been since that very moment, but he had long wondered where Terence afforded the horse, the armor, the page. They certainly weren't Gawain's. And now he knew: Avalon.
It all made such wonderful, unbelievable sense that Arthur wanted to laugh. He didn't, though, because for however surprised and thrilled he was over the revelation of his nephew's squire, the situation that pressed the revelation was dire. Terence was still unconscious and in a bad way, and Gawain was too wrapped up in worry for Arthur to ask questions, to express his wonder about the whole affair.
Arthur returned to Gawain's rooms early the next morning. Predictably, the knight was restless and irritated.
"Physician says there's nothing wrong with him," Gawain told Arthur when the king asked after Terence, "The magicians aren't so sure, but they've no idea what's been done. Oh, I wish Morgan were here. She'd know in a heartbeat."
Arthur was frowning, watching his nephew pace across the room and back. "Surely, if he was enchanted in any way, our magicians would know. Merlin handpicked them all, before he left."
Gawain nodded, but sighed. "Yes, but it's… complicated. If what Terence told you – that the gates are traps to his kind, it may not be the kind of magic that we're used to. It could be… deeper. It could have to do with his faery blood, not any normal enchantment that's been put on him."
"How do you know?"
"I don't," Gawain admitted, "But we've encountered something like it before." He rubbed his beard. "Nearly killed him, once," he muttered. Arthur looked alarmed.
"Killed him? What happened?"
Gawain looked as though he wished he could take the comment back. He sighed. "The faery world… You probably know, my liege, it's not entirely good. The Seelie and Unseelie courts, they're called."
"I've heard something of them."
"Yes, well… They can be very alien to what you and I know of court life, but not all that alien. There are just as much politics in that world as in this one."
Gawain grunted in agreement. "Indeed. Terence would agree with you, no doubt, but there's nothing for it. The Unseelie court can be especially tumultuous, as you might expect, and Terence is quite the figure among the Seelie Court, and, well… there have been… attempts…" Gawain looked uncomfortable.
Arthur was nonplussed. "Attempts? Assassination?" He asked.
Gawain shrugged. "Once or twice. You might have figured, your Majesty, Terence has earned a reputation as one of the more meddlesome agents in the affairs that pass between Avalon and England. After his father knighted him and appointed him to a position of power, such validation of his interference has angered the Unseelie Court, and provoked some to… measures." Gawain finally sat down as he thought back. "Skipping the details, it appears that the Unseelie Court has concocted ways to harm those with faery blood to the point of death. Even I was affected by the attack, though miniscule in comparison to the blow they dealt Terence. He was recovering for months."
"What exactly did they do? Wouldn't it harm them, being faeries themselves?"
Gawain shrugged. "I don't know. It was a spell done on us both, but it didn't seem to affect our attackers – the Unseelie faeries – at all. I couldn't explain it, nor could Robin."
Gawain waved a dismissive hand. "One of Terence's more irritating subjects. A helper at the best of times, an imp at the second best."
"He tends to know things in that uncanny way that faeries do, and always shows up at just the right time, as faeries also do."
Arthur raised his eyebrows. Yes, that was Terence, all right. "And this Robin fellow, he didn't know what had been done?"
"No, and he seemed greatly put off for the fact. Terence and I both think he reported it straightaway to Terence's father, but neither of us ever heard a second word on it."
"Is that normal?" Arthur asked, a small frown in his eyebrows.
Gawain stroked his beard again. "Faeries keep secrets easily, and frequently. Not for harm's sake, but for safekeeping. Still, usually, amongst Robin, Ganscotter, and Terence, there are few secrets that don't come out within a few months' time. This one, if it exists, has been festering for years."
They were quiet for a moment, and Arthur chewed on his lip. "Do you suppose this is another attempt on his life?" He asked quietly. Gawain shook his head immediately.
"No. If it were, Terence would have said so, or made up some excuse that sounded similar. 'A plot to purge England'? No, that's not assassination talk. That's something much bigger." Gawain looked suddenly frightened. "And I haven't the slightest idea what it means."
Eventually, Arthur convinced his nephew that he should lie down and rest. He was tempted to do the same but something kept him from it. He stayed in Gawain's chambers, his mind still too active to wander back to his normal routine. Instead, he went in and sat by Terence's bedside, where the magicians and healers had left him hours earlier, to go and scour their libraries for an answer.
Arthur squinted at the boy, wondering if he could somehow see it, the faery blood, coming up to the surface. Terence's white face shone starkly against his dark curls, and at that moment looked anything but enchanting. But Arthur knew that it had to be there. He squinted at the face harder, trying to remember all of the things that Terence had ever done for him – and they were numerous – and wondered if how much more there was that Arthur didn't know about. He wondered if he'd ever hear about all of it.
A loud knock brought him out of his thoughts. He looked up. More knocks, from Gawain's front door. Glancing at Terence one last time, he rose and answered the door. There, blonde hair perfect as always and looking as stony as a statue,
"Morgan?" Arthur asked, surprised.
"Arthur," She clipped in that lofty, no-nonsense voice that meant that something had gone wrong, "where is our nephew?"
"Asleep, at the moment, actually. Please, do come in."
Morgan stepped into the room without a hint of formal air in Arthur's presence. "Sleeping? At this hour? Surely even a pup like Gawain has outgrown his naptime."
Arthur sighed diplomatically, realizing she was in a mood. "Spare him a little thought, Morgan. His squire came back last night and collapsed nigh dead in front of half a dozen knights."
And suddenly, Morgan looked almost frightened. She rounded on him. "Terence?" He nodded. "Why? What happened? Where is he?" She demanded. It suddenly occurred to Arthur that, of course, Morgan would know about Terence. In a tongue-tying revelation, Arthur also realized that Morgan was probably one of Terence's own subjects. He stuttered a bit before he could say,
"He's just in there, on the bed." She darted for the room, and he followed. "The physicians and magicians say they don't know what's wrong with him. Gawain isn't so sure."
Morgan said something under her breath that sounded like a curse, and she sighed. "Of all people." She stood gracefully. "When did you say he collapsed?"
"Last night," Arthur said.
"Good. Then there's still time." She glanced back at Terence.
"Before he did, he said something… something about gates turning hostile, and a plot to 'purge England'," Arthur told her. Morgan paled and straightened her spine.
"Your majesty, would you sit with me? I need to… explain a thing or two."
"I know, Morgan," He said before she could usher him into the living room, "I know about Terence." He nodded toward the unconscious squire and then added, "Or should I say, DukeTerence of Avalon." His mouth twitched. "Gawain explained last night."
Morgan stood very, very still for a moment, and then blinked. "Good then, less for me to do. Unfortunately this is all much bigger than his grace alone," she looked at Terence, "though I'm sure if word gets out of his condition, both courts will be put in an uproar. We need to move quickly. Wake up Gawain, will you?"
"Morgan," Arthur tried to use the kingly voice that never seemed to work on Morgan, "what is going on?"
"I don't know," She snapped, and sounded bitter about it, "I'm only a messenger."
"For whom, exactly?"
"One of many. I was given a warning two days ago, a warning to not stray near the gates to Avalon, for fear of something worse than death. I was also instructed to pass the warning on to Lord Terence." She looked sourly at his door. "It appears I am far too late for that. But the second half of my message still stands."
"Second half?" Arthur was growing irritated. He wasn't used to being put in the dark about important matters such as this, and even though Morgan didn't seem to know much, he wished she'd explain what she did know. "What message?"
"Wake up Gawain, so I don't have to explain twice."
Arthur was quick about it, eager to hear what Morgan had to say, and soon it was the three of them sitting around Gawain's table, all too preoccupied to touch the tea that Morgan had conjured up.
"A message?" Gawain asked, "Well why didn't you come sooner?" He demanded, growing angry, "Why didn't you go to Terence straightaway?"
"I tried, nephew," She said, "he was already on his way back from Avalon by the time I had time to move. I was afraid I would be too late. My fears have been realized, and he may not have much time."
"Time? Time for what? What is going on?" Gawain asked, sleep still making him irritable and impatient. "Terence spoke of a plot to purge England – what does that mean?"
Morgan stared for a moment. "If Terence was able to discern a plot, then perhaps he deduced more than I about all of this before he collapsed. We cannot be sure. But members of both Faery Courts have been suspecting a ruse for some time."
"Wait," Gawain put out a hand, "you mean the Unseelie Court isn't behind it?"
Morgan arched a thin gold eyebrow at him. "I know you'd like to use them as a scapegoat for all of your problems, nephew, but no, as far as anyone knows, they were not behind this plot, whatever it is."
"You don't know?" Arthur seemed surprised.
"Reports have been rising in number for months. Disappearances, deaths, even, of faeries that cross between worlds. Namely, Avalon and England. Each court suspects the other. I have been only a bystander, but in the past month, unease has doubled." She heaved a sigh. "If news of Terence succumbing to the attack reaches Avalon, all hell will break loose." She pressed her lips into a fine line. "Ganscotter has a riot on his hands as it is, trying to keep tensions in check."
Arthur had his arms folded across his chest, trying to take and sort out the information with a cool head, even as what he heard spelled foreboding in his mind. "And if he learns that his son has been mortally wounded?" Gawain's eyes shot over to Arthur hotly at the word 'mortally', but Arthur didn't look at him.
"I'd be surprised if he didn't already know. But Ganscotter would never let that information cloud his judgment. Keeping the court in order has taken up all his time, and he is in no position to seek out answers, even if he does harbor his own suspicions."
"How do you know all this?" Gawain asked. Morgan gave him a look.
"I don't. I'm drawing from what I do know, what I've been told by the one who sent me here."
"And that is?"
"I believe you've met him – Robin, he called himself." Arthur's eyes lit up, pleased at himself to understand at least one thing they were discussing. Gawain only blinked. He wasn't sure whether he ought to be pleased or upset. "He sent a message to me from Avalon warning me against using the gates and urged me to protect his Grace and warn him. I was too late. But he also told me that Ganscotter has charged me to help him."
Gawain's eyebrows shot up into his hairline at that. Of all people, Morgan never aligned herself with either of the Faery courts. He thought that Ganscotter must have been somewhat desperate to call on her for help, but couldn't help wonder if there was as reason behind the decision. Arthur didn't quite catch the same line of thought, but voiced the question that Gawain would have asked anway.
"He sent me to find you."
King and knight looked at each other in surprise. "Me?" They asked simultaneously.
"Yes to both, actually, which is why I believe he sent me," She said somewhat smugly, "I am family, after all."
Arthur in particular looked rather dumbfounded. "But… why? Why me? Gawain, of course, because he's… but me?" He thought he had never felt (nor probably looked) less like a king in his life.
Morgan looked suddenly soft, a grace not given to many. "You may be surprised to learn, Arthur, that the faeries have always held a keen interest in the world of men, and, out of them all, you and your kingdom." Her eyes shone of something just alien enough for Arthur to notice. "They never forget their own, not even centuries after their blood is lost in that of men."
"But what does he want us to do?" Gawain wanted to know.
"As I said, Ganscotter is not in a position to find answers," She said meaningfully, "but I believe he harbors his own suspicions. Which is why he has sent me to call upon you both."
"He wants us to help?" Arthur raised his eyebrows. Morgan actually mustered a smile for him.
"And so, your Majesty, you are granted your first true quest. I know our dear nephew has had his fair share, perhaps Ganscotter thought it was your turn to take part." She looked between them. "I cannot say why he has chosen you both, but my instructions were clear.
You, King Arthur, and you, Sir Gawain, and no one else whoever, are to ride with haste to Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall. There, you will be met with one who will assist you further on your quest. She paused, and when the king and the knight look sufficiently ready to question her some more, added, "that is all I have to give you. Do you accept?"
Arthur sighed and sat up a little straighter. "It seems we have little choice but to accept," He said, looking at his nephew. "Only, what is it that we are doing, Morgan?"
"I cannot say. As I said, Ganscotter himself has sent my word to you, but he nor his messenger explained anything to me. I assume this help knows more than I."
"And, should we fail?" Gawain ventured. Morgan turned to him with a grave expression.
"That again is something I cannot begin to predict. But if your squire was right, Gawain, if this is the beginning of some nefarious plot, it is a plot that has turned Avalon herself on her head. Matters threaten to only grow worse until peril breaks out – across a people or a world, I cannot say. But if we have any wish to prevent war or worse, we must move now - even when we do not fully understand."
An ominous, uncomfortable silence ensued. Eventually, Morgan looked down at the cups sitting untouched in front of them. "The tea's gone cold," she stood from her seat, "and I believe you have many arrangements to make before the morn, my lord," She bowed slightly to Arthur. The king nodded and left. Morgan turned toward her nephew and when she saw him staring irresistibly at Terence's bedroom door, her eyes grew uncharacteristically understanding. "I'll look after him while you're away, nephew," she told him.
"You don't know what's wrong with him? What this is about?"
"No. But I can do my best to learn. I will help Terence in any way I can, but you must do your part, away from here."
Gawain sighed. "It'll be my first quest without him," he said to no one in particular.
"Then make haste, and ensure it isn't the first of many," She said. He thought he should feel hurt about that, but didn't argue. Turning away, he began to gather his gear.
A/N: Whew! It's been a long while, hasn't it? I did say I was going to continue this, though, and continue it I shall. I'll admit, I was holding a grudge against this particular story because I'd actually written the entire second chapter when my computer decided to let some of my documents disappear into the netherworld of lost data. I don't remember my harddrive crashing with that still on there, but I can't find it anywhere. At any rate, I actually like this re-written version a good deal more than I liked the original.
Also, I've been drawing inspiration for this fandom once more, because I've decided to re-read the series. I've just finished The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady, which is my personal favorite of the books, and have moved on to The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf. I'm so excited to be reading these gems again!
Hope you've enjoyed so far!