Tristan is put on trial for murder and treason. Gawain and the young lads prepare for an ambush that’s sure to happen. And Morgan finally confronts Isolde, woman to woman, about what happened one steamy night when Isolde was alone with Gawain.
artwork by WLOP for his “Ghostblade” series
The Knights with No Lords
Chapter 23 – Despair
By Rock Kitaro
High up in one of the sky piercing towers, a woman in black attire came marching with purpose around the torch-lit corridors. Morgan came to pay a late night visit to the Princess Isolde. She approached the four soldiers guarding the bedroom door. Algayre was with them. His black eyes widened with excitement and rage.
“Oh, you have some nerve showing your face here! Witch!” Algayre seethed.
“And you have some nerve calling me a witch. I take it your mother was one. It’s the only explanation for those cheap parlor tricks you call magic. Not to mention having a face only a mother could love. Except she didn’t, did she. They’d never accept a wretch like you in Avalon and I suspect they don’t have schools of sorcery in Hibernia. Shssh! Listen. Hear that? It’s the sound of a hundred innocent women burning at the stake. They’re screaming for vengeance. They beseech me. I hear them. And rest assured, one day I will grant them their request.”
Algayre stood stupefied. Never before in his life had he ever been so deeply insulted, and worst! Morgan was correct in assuming his mother was a witch. But was it an assumption? Or did she peer into his past? Before Algayre could regain his senses, Morgan was no longer standing in front of him.
Somehow, she slipped by the four guards and easily opened the door to the room. It wasn’t until the light from the room came pouring out into the hallway that the guards realized their perimeter had been compromised. They crossed their spears to block Morgan’s path but it was too late. Morgan was locking eyes with a resentful Isolde.
“Let her through,” Isolde commanded.
“Buy milady. Your mother gave us explicit orders…”
“For the love of God! She’s just a child!” Isolde snapped.
Isolde was alone in the bedroom with nothing but old books to keep her company. She wasn’t in chains or tethered to the wall. To escape through the window meant jumping from a sixty-foot tower to the nearest roof. It was brightly lit with the wicks of every candle burning from a hanging chandelier. Morgan entered with her hands clasped behind her back. Algayre followed, his cheeks quivering with rage.
“I’m sorry but I’m going to have to insist that you keep your dog outside,” Morgan said as her purple eyes traced the cherubim tapestry adorning the wall.
Algayre drew his rapier with a metallic chime. Morgan’s back was turned to him. It would’ve been so easy to give a flick of his wrists and sever the spine at the base of her neck but Isolde came between them.
“Algayre please. She’s harmless,” she beckoned.
“I don’t care if she’s a fucking fly on the wall. My blade hungers for her blood!”
“And it may very drink, but not now. Outside. If you please,” Isolde urged with a stern gaze.
Morgan kept her back to the pair as she approached a counter that displayed a variety of the queen’s emeralds. Their texture was exquisite. She wanted to rub her fingers across their facets but she resisted. It wasn’t until she heard the door close that she turned around and faced her nemesis.
Morgan and Isolde wore the same defiant look of mutual disdain. Both loved men who valued useless things such as loyalty and honor above their own selfish desires. In fact, the acknowledgment that they had so much in common only made them hate each other even more. “In this world, there can only be one,” was the sentiment deep in their depths of their despair.
“Why are you here?” Isolde scoffed.
“Because I want to know what exactly Gawain saw in a scrawny thing like you.”
“Gawain! UGH! If I never hear that name again, I swear! After everything I’ve done for him. I trusted him! I confided in him. He knew. He knew! Tristan was all I ever wanted and he robbed me of my prize. I told him things that I never told anyone!”
“None of your business, wench! Why don’t you go ask him?” Isolde snapped.
Morgan’s fingers coiled into a fist as her chin tucked down on that seething heat rising from her chest. “Did you have your way with him?”
“WHAT?!” Isolde shrieked with absurdity.
“I’m asking you, did you ever lay with Gawain? In the stables. Years ago at Oherth Castle.”
Isolde erupted in a fit of laughter before staring at Morgan as if she had just spilled a tray of pastries all over the front of her black dress. Isolde poured herself a drink of water. She took a sip from her tin goblet before returning to Morgan with a look of absurdity.
“Gawain is the most boring dolt I’ve ever met. He behaves as if the Holy Spirit is always just hovering over his shoulders, watching his every move. As if lightning would strike him at first sin. I’ve disrobed before him many times and not once has he ever allowed himself to feast his eyes on this. He’s a eunuch for all I know. Good luck trying to bed him. You’ll be a bleeding skeleton before he’s good and ready.”
As Isolde’s bold rant filled the room, Morgan crawled back into her shell. Morgan’s teeth began to rattle and with bated breath. Then a cringe flashed over her face, a cringe of anger and resentment as she recalled the vision of Gawain and Isolde. Her heart started to tremble and before she knew it, Morgan was biting her thumb.
“Oh my gosh. You don’t know, do you?” Isolde smirked. “You think there’s something going on between Gawain and I. You ask what Gawain could possibly see in me. Ha! I stand wondering what he could possibly see in a plump little gnome like you. Hahaha! What kind of girl distrusts the most honest man on earth?”
“Careful…” Morgan warned.
“Or what? Hmm?” Isolde dared as she stood over the shorter Morgan. “You’ll glower me to death? I should call you Medusa.”
“You should call me Morgan Le Fay,” Morgan grinned. “I thank you for your honesty. Here’s some back. You’re a fool if you ever believed Tristan loved you of his own volition. If it weren’t for a blend of truffle and Xice, he’d barely know you exist. And rest assured, after his head is mounted on a spike, no one else will know you exist either. They’ll write songs about the nameless woman trapped forever in the tower, whose beauty faded under a layer of dust and mold, only to be seen by the moths and rats, watching her grow old and old.”
Tears began to well in Isolde’s eyes, “My Mother…”
“Your mother will live out what’s left of her days in Oherth Castle. Morholt and that skeleton of a man Algayre will soon fall in battle. I know they think Tristan is our only lord and savior but my boys are more than enough for your lot. And even should they fall, I won’t. The fury in my heart screams, begging to be unleashed. I am wrath incarnate. And you are but dragon ash, destined to fade and wither in the wind.”
Isolde was shaking. She let the goblet slip from her fingertips before swinging for Morgan’s left cheek. Morgan ducked and punched Isolde in the stomach. A groaning Isolde staggered back and collapsed against the dresser.
Algayre came barging into the room. He drew his sword and charged at the smirking Morgan. Ever so calmly, Morgan covered herself with the hood of her black cloak. Algayre’s rapier plunged into Morgan’s chest, but Morgan was no longer there. All Algayre got was a vacant black cloak that he slung off of his sword.
He scanned the room. He knew she was still there.
“You started out so courageous!” Algayre shouted. “Where is your courage now? Come out and face me, witch! I know this is all your doing!”
“That’s right! You’ve all made the most entertaining pawns. I’ve enjoyed you immensely!” Morgan said, her voice emanating as if it came from all corners of the room.
“It’s only a matter of time before I catch you! Go ask Gawain! Ask him what I do to the—”
“—Toys that he tries to keep to himself?” Morgan finished. “Do be more original. And sadly you’re mistaken if you think I’m anyone’s plaything.”
“COME OUT!” Algayre shouted.
“I am out.”
Algayre’s eyes darted to the door. Morgan was standing in the hallway just behind the unsuspecting guards, dressed in her black gown with a smug grin.
“AAAAAAH!!!” Algayre bellowed as he charged for the door.
Just as he dashed forward in that mastered lunge he was known for, the door slammed shut. His sword drove through the wood and ended up stabbing one of his own guards. As Morgan started off down the winding corridor from whence she came, she could hear Algayre struggling to remove his sword.
Morgan’s smirk belied the heartfelt regret that she’d never allow anyone to see. With a stern gaze, Morgan’s mind blazed with stern conviction. “What’s done is done. They only have themselves to blame.”