Camlann, A. D. 539byBlackShanglan©
I know how little chance my words have now of moving you in any way. Yet I pray that you read them through, and not cast aside this last chance for the peace of all our peoples. I beg you, Mordred. Do not make them suffer for the sins of their king.
I see you again as I close my eyes. I see the youth you stood before me, making your way in the forest that day. It was your own hand, Mordred, which hid from me the secret of your birth. Can you blame me, that I fell unwitting in the trap you had laid? Will you not take what joy you wish from having wrought so neatly my destruction, and leave my people to live in peace? Must you tear down the very stones of the castle, when you have torn asunder the heart that raised them?
For I have loved you, Mordred, make no mistake. No man or woman has had my heart as you have. Was no passing whim that brought me to you, shaken in my limbs as I came down from off my horse and found you there upon the deer paths, where the wood meets the water. You have me in your power. Can you look upon me with those eyes that move my very spirit, and tell me otherwise? Can you have wrought my soul to fire, and not have known?
I knew you not. And now, I rue it. You have brought mortal sin upon me. Have done with tormenting my people, for my body and soul are in suffering beyond any you could have hoped. I know you rejoice in my very damnation, the fire and torment that will pay me in full, that I did glut my lust upon flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. But can you know, in truth, what agony that is, to one who has always striven to do right, to live by the cross of God, to find even in that strangeness that makes my nature a goodness, a duty, an honor and purity of love? Can you know how the sin of it sears me?
Mayhap you can. It was your aim. Yes, I know this thing. And yet I forgive you. For listen, Mordred, as my pen whispers these words to your ear. This was not the worst of it. No, my beloved. My little roe deer. My hawk’s fledgling, that I did find wild in the wood. My sin is not the worst of it.
Even now, I dream of you. Though your heart is filled with bile; though you weave the snares of my destruction; though you believe what madness you will of Launcelot, who never looked upon me but with contempt. Though you would strike me as I stand, still I feel your touch. I feel your warm heartbeat and the curve of your naked skin. I see you as you met me that day, come flushed from the chase in the depths of the wood, no man’s eye upon us – only flesh met to flesh in the silent glade, and the tender arch of your body beneath me as we met and made ourselves one.
Can you forget this thing? Can you deny what your eyes told me that day? I saw the shadow back of them. I knew something lay hidden there, some thing you would not give me, some words you would not say. But Mordred – you took my words. You took my love. I beg you yet, forgive me. I could not know who you were. I could not know what love I owed you, a father’s duty – can you even guess how it scalds me, to write those words? But you took what love I gave you, my son whom I did not know, my sweet ranging hound who ran by my stirrup, and came to my castle, I swear, with a light of joy in his eyes.
What agony it is now, I cannot say – to think of the nights we lay together, to feel again your lips upon me, your hands on my body, your limbs twined with mine as we loved sweetly through the night. Can it all have been a lie? Can you never have loved me, even for a moment? I will not believe it. There is too much gentle nature in the soft brown eyes of my beloved, in the warm touch of his hands as they have stroked this aging body and given grace and peace to it. In the long watches of the night, when your mouth wrought heaven on my trembling limbs, when I ached under your touch like a maiden to her lover – will you tell me you stayed for no other reason but my undoing? How is it you loved so well, my sweet dog-fox? How is it you stayed so long?
You tore me to the heart when you told me what you were. Not that you would come at first to betray me, my son. What good had I ever done you? What love could you ever have learned? But that you would know me, and betray me still. That you would love with me through the golden summer and the first fall of the leaves, yet leave me to weep your passing and eat my heart in endless remorse.
But no. I whisper to you again, Mordred, my words from off this parchment: I cannot regret you. I cannot regret that I came to you under the silent glade. I cannot regret how we joined there, your body beneath mine a leaping stag. I cannot regret, Mordred, that night I first knelt to you, your king by your feet, and tasted the sweetness of your clean straight body. I am damned for it. I know this. But I cannot unsay the words we shared, nor push from my mind the sight of your body, naked and warm in the dim light, a thing of joy to me every moment that I had you.
Think upon this, Mordred. You have cause to hate me; I cannot deny it. But I beg you remember that you have cause to love me as well. I have loved you better, my son, than any man, ‘ere I knew you my son, and even now. What has been between us, you chose, my Mordred; you chose that you would meet me thus, and your vengeance indeed is well taken. The dawn finds me a broken man, a king without heart or strength to his sword-arm, a man without purpose or hope in this life. I have no pleasure in this kingdom, though I feel still my duty; I have no joy in this life, though my heart beats yet. I have no future before me, son whom I have loved, but to sit by the fire, grown old and deep in my sorrow, with only the sweet brown skin of my little roe deer flashing in the silence of my mind’s eye, forever lost to me in the paths between the wood and the water.
Let it be enough, Mordred. Let there be an end to it.
Given this year of our Lord 539 under his own hand,