The king stumbled down the tunnel, trailing blood. He had ridden for three days without stopping, and he could barely stand. His queen was dead. So were his sorcerer, and his best friend, and most of his capital city. His own son was hunting him, with traitors and foreign mercenaries. His dreams of uniting the land again under one pax, one law, were dead as Alexander.
Sometimes, it sucked to be the king.
His sword whined and muttered as he dragged himself forward, begging him not to sheathe it, to wield it once again for justice. Of course, it was the sword that had gotten him into this mess in the first place. It had taken him out of the stables, made him king, given him the power to do any bloody stupid thing he liked. A giant circular table! A Perilous Seat that only the pure could sit in! A Britannia-wide manhunt for a four-hundred year old cup! What had he been thinking?
And the sword was still making it hard for him. The prince, his appalling son, had enough pure meanness to force the sword into obedience, no matter how the sword itself felt about it. That was the one thing the king could not allow. So instead of expiring peacefully on a couch of shimmering samite, surrounded by weeping damosels, he was limping down a Welsh burial mound, leaking fluids, hoping desperately that he'd get there before-
"Hello, your Highness."
It was Hwyll son of Kaw, a nasty piece of work who loved knives and hated soap. The king had disliked Hwyll even before the knight had gone all Ostrogoth and woven those shark's teeth into his beard. And behind Hwyll, filling the rocky shore between the tunnel mouth and the lake, were a dozen private military contractors. Saxons, by the look of them.
"Why, Hwyll, what are you doing down here? Come for the waters?""The sword, Your Highness. Give it here." Hwyll extended his hand...