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Two hours later, Gavin pulled the car back into the driveway of the academy. He and the others hadn’t spoken much on the drive back. They all felt the same level of hopelessness. They’d been miles away when they’d slipped back into their spirit alter egos on the interstate. King Arthur didn’t know how to drive a car. It was amazing they hadn’t killed themselves. Grimly, they’d gotten hold of themselves and decided to turn back around. However the spirits had gotten hold of them, they were riding their bodies now, not the house. They weren’t safe away from it. They needed to go back and try to figure out how to stop the haunting.
They got their stuff out of the car and trudged inside. Gavin followed Wyn and Reese. They went directly up the stairs, but for some crazy reason, Gavin felt hungry and headed for the kitchen. Madame Braith was waiting for him. She lounged by the table, wearing the same white nightgown she’d worn the first night. Her long hair hung free. Goddammit, he still thought she was beautiful.
“You shouldn’t have tried to aid their escape, my bear,”said Madame Braith.
Gavin laughed hollowly. “So you aren’t going to deny it now, then? You aren’t “˜cured.’ You’ve still got the spirit of Morgan le Fay controlling your body as much as the spirit of King Arthur’s controlling mine?”
She laughed. “I told you I had bound our souls together for eternity, did I not? I told you that I would make sure that you and I were together and that we would raise our child together.”
Gavin blanched. “So David is Mordred, then. It’s all true.”
She got up from the table and moved toward him, lithe like a cat. Her hand snaked up to cup his cheek. “Oh, my bear, it will all be perfect this time. You’ll see. The others won’t get in the way. You, I, and our child will be together forever.”
Gavin shook her off. “Don’t touch me.”
Madame Braith/Morgan smiled mischievously at him, unbuttoning the first button of her nightgown, exposing her creamy flesh. “Fine, my bear. You touch me, then.”
Gavin turned away in disgust. He headed for the door to the kitchen. She wedged herself in front of him.
“Don’t you see?”she said. “I’ve waited for hundreds of years for this chance. I ensnared that Braith woman. She was weak and idealistic. She had no idea what she was unleashing. And now, you and I are together again.”
Gavin narrowed his eyes. “You think you’re the real Morgan le Fay? It can’t be. The legends don’t even agree that you were the sister Arthur was involved with. Some of them say that Morgause is Mordred’s mother. And King Arthur probably didn’t exist. Lancelot was made up by some French writer. None of this is real. You’re a confused spirit. You’re believing your own misguided ideas. You can’t–“
She melded herself against him. “I’m real. You’re real. And it’s real that I love you more than life. It’s real.”She pressed her lips against his.
He felt his brain begin to grow foggy again. He struggled against it. I am Gavin. Gavin, he thought. But his thoughts grew wispy like smoke, and her lips felt so good. Before he knew it, he was kissing her back hungrily, murmuring Morgan into her mouth.
She grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him back into the kitchen. Sitting down on top of the table, she slowly unbuttoned the buttons on her nightdress, gazing into his eyes the entire time.
God. She tortured him. He moved forward, seized the edge of the flimsy fabric, and ripped it aside, exposing her flawless skin. She shrieked in delight and arched her back, offering herself to him. There was no way he could turn her down.
Gavin burst into Wyn’s room. She looked up at him, noticing that his hair looked disheveled and his shirt was on inside out. She was reading her Workman assignment, trying to distract herself from the fact that everything was going wrong. “Gavin, are you okay?”
“Get Reese,”he said, slamming the door.
Wyn put down her book and left her room, just in time to see Gavin disappearing into his own. She knocked on Reese’s door.
Reese opened it. At the sight of him, she was struck by a wave of longing. She wanted to throw herself into his arms and cover him with kisses. Instead, she took several steps back. “Gavin wants to see us,”she told him.
Together, they went to Gavin’s room. He motioned for them to sit on the bed. He paced on the floor in front of them, hugging himself. “She thinks she’s the real Morgan le Fay,”he said.
“Madame Braith is still possessed by a spirit?”asked Reese.
“She’s possessed all right,”said Gavin. “She’s insane. She thinks she did this–all so Morgan and Arthur would have a second chance.”
“Wait a second,”said Wyn. “Back up. How do you know this?”
“She was waiting for me when we got back last night,”said Gavin. “I just got away from her.”
“Just now?”asked Reese.
Wyn felt her stomach turn over as she understood. Gavin had spent the night with Madame Braith. It shouldn’t bother her. Gavin didn’t want to do it, and she was sleeping with Reese, but it was still galling to think of Gavin and Madame Braith together. A detailed picture flashed in her brain. She shook herself.
“I dreamed that Morgan told Arthur that she had the Sight, and that she had powerful magic and stuff,”said Gavin. “She told him that she’d cast a spell that would ensure that she and Arthur’s souls would be eternally entwined. When I talked to her, she claimed that what was happening now was a fulfillment of that.”
“But that can’t be true,”said Reese. “I mean, that’s not what spirits are. They aren’t people. Are they?”
“No,”said Wyn. “No, the spirit that’s controlling Gavin just thinks she’s Morgan le Fay. She’s an incarnation of her, that’s all. An impression.”
“But it doesn’t make sense,”said Gavin. “We’ve all contacted spirits before. Generally, they’re like a snapshot of a person. A week of their lives, maybe two. These spirits are forcing us to live out the entire lives of the people they think they are.”
“People who aren’t real,”said Wyn.
“Exactly,”said Gavin. “I mean, I did research on King Arthur. He probably didn’t exist, and if he did, his name wasn’t actually Arthur. It might have been this guy named Ambrosius Aurelianus, but that’s as close to a historical figure as it comes. Morgan le Fay, Guinevere, Lancelot, Elaine–those are all fictional characters.”
“It doesn’t make any sense,”said Reese.
“Especially because they’re here,”said Wyn. “Why would they come to our school?”
“Morgan says that she used her power to tempt Madame Braith to calling them here,”said Gavin. “That ritual we did after Reese showed up brought them to us.”
“From where?”asked Wyn. “From England?”
“Is it possible that what she’s saying is true?”asked Reese.
“No. There’s no way she’s the real Morgan le Fay,”said Gavin.
“Not the real Morgan le Fay,”said Reese, “but as close as you could get. What if these spirits have sucked up all the King Arthur legend that they could for hundreds of years?”
“You mean they’ve held these incarnations over time?”asked Wyn. “Spirits don’t usually do that. They take on the impression, use it, and then discard it when something else comes along.”
“But maybe these spirits haven’t discarded it,”said Gavin. “Maybe that’s why they’re so strong.”
“They believe that they are ghosts,”said Reese. “They act as if they actually are real people.”
“I guess it’s possible,”said Wyn. “How would we fight them, then? If they’re stuck to these incarnations, then they can’t be convinced to let go of them, which is what we’ve always been taught to do.”
“Maybe we have to fight them by following the cycle of the incarnation, then,”said Reese. “How does King Arthur vanquish Morgan le Fay in the legend?”
“He doesn’t, remember?”said Wyn. “We saw this when we were looking up stuff about Mordred. After Mordred stabs King Arthur, Morgan le Fay and two other women take him away on a barge to Avalon, so he can come back and be king of Britain again.”
“Oh, right,”said Reese, “the messianic influence on the legend.”
Gavin sat down at his desk. “Well, I’m not getting killed.”
“No,”said Wyn. “That definitely won’t work.”
They sat in silence for a few moments. Wyn absently reached for Reese’s hand. He took it. Then they both looked at Gavin and recoiled, ashamed.
“It’s okay,”Gavin muttered. “Believe me, I get how weird this all is. I still smell like Madame Braith’s perfume.”
Ugh. Maybe that was more information than Wyn really wanted. She needed to distract herself. How could they fight the spirits? “Maybe, if they really think they’re the real spirits of the legend, we need to show them that they’re not.”
“Like how?”asked Gavin.
“We could draw other Arthurian spirits to us,”said Wyn. “There have to be a lot of them, right? Maybe if the spirits saw that they were one of twenty Guineveres and Arthurs, they’d let us all go.”
“Huh,”said Gavin. “That’s not a horrible idea.”
The sun was setting outside the academy, and its orange glow filtered through the windows of Wyn’s room. Wyn, Gavin, and Reese sat on the carpet in front of Wyn’s bed, holding hands. Their eyes were closed. In the center of their circle, a lone candle burned. Together they whispered the words that Wyn had worked out a few hours earlier–a chant they hoped would focus their energy and bring the spirits of King Arthur closer to them.
“Over seas and through the air, bring your swords and maidens fair. Knights and ladies, kings and queens, court of Arthur, now be seen.”
So, it wasn’t the best rhyme ever. Still, Wyn hoped it would work. As they chanted the words over and over, they relaxed together, climbing the invisible staircase to the spirit world. Once they burst through, Wyn could still hear their chanting, but she felt absent from it, like it was happening in another room and other people were doing it. She could still see her body chanting and hear her body doing it, but she didn’t feel herself doing it anymore.
The spirit world seemed strangely empty and dark. Usually, upon bursting through, Wyn would see the multi-colored ribbon-like spirits dancing in the air. There were none now. Instead, the air was dense and foggy, as if a gray gloom hung over the entire mansion.
And the other spirits of King Arthur didn’t seem to be showing themselves. Wyn cast a look down at the circle of their chanting, and then she pushed off, floating through the air. In the spirit realm, she was weightless and free. She could travel where she pleased. She floated through the ceiling above her bedroom, passing through the wood as if it were mist, and into the attic of the academy. She pushed higher, knowing that she could burst right through the roof of the building and from there be able to focus their call for the Arthurian spirits like a beacon that could shine out across the spirit realm.
She passed through the roof easily, but when she tried to move her spirit higher, so that she could call for the spirits, she collided with some unseen force above the mansion. It was solid, and she couldn’t get through. How was that possible? Wyn pushed at it again, feeling only resistance. Her spirit floated along the edge of the solid barrier, which was like a bubble over the mansion’s property. She couldn’t get farther than the stream where Sophia had disappeared. Everything was blocked off.
Panicking, Wyn’s spirit flitted back into the lower level of the mansion. As she was floating back up into her bedroom, ready to slam back into her body and bring Gavin and Reese back too, she saw David coming out of the den. Most aspects of the physical realm now seemed detached and distant from her, like they were shadows or echoes. But David was vibrant and alive, almost as if he were part of the spirit realm itself.
He looked up and saw her. “What are you up to, Wyn?”he asked.
Wyn shot back through the floor of her bedroom and into her body. She pulled her hands away from Gavin and Reese and stopped chanting.
Within a few seconds, their eyes opened as they too came back from the spirit realm.
“We’re trapped,”said Gavin.
“Nothing can get in,”said Reese.
“I know,”said Wyn.
And then the door to her bedroom burst open, and David walked in. He was smirking. “Now why on earth would you three be in the spirit realm without Madame Braith and me?”
Wyn stood up. “What are you, David? You aren’t like us. You aren’t possessed by a spirit. When I saw you just now, you were part of the spirit realm. Are you a spirit? Fully a spirit? How do you manifest in the physical realm the way you do?”
“I think I was asking the questions,”David said, grinning. “What were you doing?”
Reese and Gavin both stood up as well.
“We were trying to get rid of these damned Arthur spirits that are ruining our lives,”said Reese, folding his arms over his chest.
“But this house is sealed up tight,”said Gavin. “No spirits get out. No spirits get in. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?”
David leaned against the door frame and inspected his fingernails. “I did it after you tried to run off last night. Once I had you back, I wasn’t going to miss out on any more quality time…Dad.”He leered at Gavin.
Gavin’s face drained of color. “I’m not–“
“Sure you are,”said David, sauntering over to Gavin. “You and Mom and me finally have a chance to get this right. We’re family. We need to be together. And these guys–“he gestured to Wyn and Reese–“are in the way. Get rid of “˜em, Dad. For me?”
“How?”said Wyn. “How can you be pure spirit?”
“Well, it’s all kind of the right ingredients, you know?”said David. “With the Sensitives here, we’ve gotten more and more powerful as the years passed. Eventually, there was just enough power surging through here to make all of this possible.”He spread his arms wide. “And isn’t it grand? Isn’t it wonderful?”He grinned an awful grin, then he threw his wide arms around Gavin. “I missed you so much, Dad. I missed you so much.”
Gavin shoved David off of him. “Stop calling me that.”
David’s eyes darkened. “You’ve never been very nice to me, have you? I’ve never been good enough for you, have I? Why is it always about that barren bitch?”He pointed at Wyn.
Wyn felt a stirring inside her gut. She tried to fight it, but it was hopeless. David seemed to have the power to turn on the Guinevere spirit inside her, to make it come alive. She shook for a second and then burst into tears. “If only I could have borne you children, Arthur. I’m so sorry.”
“You do not insult the queen in that manner, Mordred. You may be my son, but it doesn’t mean you have the right to hurt her,”said Gavin.
Reese had gone rigid. His jaw was set tightly. “Speak again, and I will rip out your tongue.”
David laughed. “You?”He looked sidelong at Gavin. “Correct me if I’m wrong, Father, but did we not just find this man in bed with your wife?”
Gavin hung his head.
“Arthur,”sobbed Wyn. “You can’t let him–“
“I have no choice, Guinevere,”Gavin interrupted. “You and Lancelot have committed treason against the crown. You must be punished.”
“Death!”said David gleefully. “It does have to be death, doesn’t it, Father?”
Looking agonized, Gavin nodded.
David pulled a length of rope from his pocket. He went first to Reese and began tying his hands behind his back. “I know how painful this must be for you, Father. Don’t worry. I’ll make sure to get them to their cells.”He went to Wyn next and tied her hands as well.
David led the two away. Wyn looked over her shoulder to see Gavin crumple to the ground, his body wracked with sobs. So. It had come to this at last.
Reese tugged at the ropes that bound his arms above his head, but they held fast. Across the room, he could see the queen, similarly tied. They weren’t in a typical dungeon. Things seemed far too plush and soft. There was even a bed in the room. But it didn’t matter to Reese. No matter what he saw, he understood what had happened. He and Guinevere had been captured by Mordred, and Mordred was going to force Arthur’s hand. Arthur would have no choice but to kill them both. Not for the first time, he cursed himself for having been so careless. How could he have let himself be caught with the queen?
He tried to capture her gaze with his own, but she wasn’t looking at him. She was still crying. She stared at the floor, looking miserable.
She still didn’t look at him. “We betrayed him, my love.”
She was right. But he couldn’t let this happen. He knew that Arthur wouldn’t want his queen to die. This wasn’t the doing of their beloved king, it was the fault of that sniveling bastard Mordred. There must be some way out of this. “We must escape.”
“No, Lancelot. We deserve this punishment. What we’ve done is beyond forgiveness.”She raised her face, and he looked deeply into her red-rimmed eyes. She was so sad. What he wouldn’t give to find a way to wipe that sadness away. He loved her so much.
“Our king does not wish our death,”he said. “I know it.”
“Perhaps he should,”she said. “How could we have done this? How could we have been so utterly selfish?”
And there was no answer for that. No answer at all.
“This is no way for a king to behave,”said a female voice.
Gavin looked up from the place he lay on the floor of Wyn’s room. “Morgan?”he whispered.
She towered over him, severe and cold. Her lips were pressed together in a thin line. This was the woman he’d loved so deeply? What had happened to her? How had she become so cruel?
She circled him, glaring down at his crumpled frame. “Our child has done his job well enough, hasn’t he, my bear? I taught him well. But we were both adrift, without you. He without a father. I without the love of my life. And you never acknowledged us at all.”
It was his fault in the end, wasn’t it? He had abandoned his true love and his child. He hadn’t wanted to. He’d waited for that mantle, all those years ago, so eagerly. He’d wanted out. He’d wanted to be with Morgan. Even now, she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, and his heart sang to be close to her. But somehow, because he hadn’t been able to love her the way she’d deserved, she’d shriveled inside. Become this husk of a woman, who didn’t give love. Only pain.
“Get on your feet, my king,”she ordered.
He struggled to stand. Facing her, he looked for signs of her age. They were both old now, far past their prime. But oddly, she didn’t look older. She just looked different. Her hair was the wrong color, and she–
“Are you not pleased, my bear?”
“Pleased?”he said. “That you have contrived to have my dearest friend and my wife killed? Why would that please me?”
“Because we will finally be free to be together. After all these years.”
He turned away from her.
She grabbed his chin and turned him back to face her. “Or don’t you want me anymore, Arthur? Have you outgrown me, while I pined for you in the wilds of Orkney, laboring to bring your child into the world and to teach him to be a man when there were no men present?”
Her words stung. She meant them to. His guilt was deep. He had wronged her. He knew that. “It doesn’t give you the right to destroy Camelot,”he said. “My kingdom was about more than my own selfish loves. It was about ideas, about the light of goodness and fairness shining into the savagery of a dying kingdom.”
“Is that what you told yourself when you thought of us?”she asked. “Is that how you massaged your conscience, great king? A man has a responsibility to the people he loves first and foremost. If he is a terrible father, he cannot be a great king. You are nothing more than a fraud.”
Perhaps she was right. “If you despise me so much, then why bother trying to be with me? Leave me if I am so despicable.”
She took a step back from him, biting her lower lip, and her eyes filled with tears. In another moment, she was in his arms, and her lips were pressed against his own. He kissed her hungrily, as if she were sustenance for a starving man. He had forgotten how wonderful it felt to hold her.
“I cannot hate you, my bear,”she whispered between kisses. “No matter what you do, I am always yours. Always.”
And he knew, that deep down, he belonged to her also.
“They are the only obstacle,”she said, looking up at him. “Tomorrow, we’ll burn them at the stake. The whore and her paramour. And we will be together at last. As we should have been long ago.”
She kissed him again. He loved her still, no matter what she had done. But it didn’t mean he wanted Lancelot and Guinevere dead. He didn’t want that at all.
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