This is the ten minute play that I wrote for my creative writing class during fall semester. It does not take place in the Heart Universe in any way, shape or form and should be regarded as a separate storyline.
The scene starts at a castle wall at a battlement, looking out away from the castle and towards a port. It's late in the evening and there are lit torches hanging on the wall. The wall is all stone. The set shows two merlons with a crenel large enough for two people to stand side by side. The wall is angled out, and you can see under it several masts of ships from the port.
Mordred is standing in the crenel, leaning against the wall with his hands out over the edge. In his hands he is playing with a small wooden dragon pendent attached to a leather string. From behind him you can hear footsteps onto the wall. Arthur finally arrives and stops a few feet behind Mordred. The King is obviously angry. Mordred closes his eyes and lowers his head, and neither speaks.
Arthur: (Finally) Is this what you wanted?
Arthur: (Takes a trembling breath, visibly battling his temper) Don't lie to me.
Mordred: Two of my brothers died today, so no. This isn't anywhere near how I wanted things to turn out.
Arthur: They were only your half brothers. I doubt they were anything more than a foreseeable casualty to you.
Mordred: (Lifts his head, but doesn't turn around) That proves that you know absolutely nothing about me.
Arthur: I know all I need to.
Mordred: You know what Merlin's told you.
Arthur: All of his prophecies have come to pass. I don't see why this one should be any different. You've already created a rift in Camelot, one that I don't believe I shall never be able to fix. You should have left them well enough alone.
Mordred: They were hurting you.
Arthur: You've hurt me.
Mordred: That seems to be the way our relationship works. You hurt me, I hurt you. One big circle. In fact, that seems to be the way our family works. Your father kills my grandfather and leaves my mother and aunt to die. Then, as revenge my mother sleeps with you in order to conceive an incestuous bastard child who can ruin you, and you retaliate by setting me out on a boat to die when I was a baby.
Arthur: So you come here and reveal the adultery of my wife with my best friend, forcing me to order her execution.
Mordred: Do you ever think about all of the other children who were on that boat with me? They all died you know. My foster father told me it was the most horrible sight he had ever seen. He couldn't close his eyes without seeing it again.
Arthur: I see it all the time. It was one of the greatest sacrifices I ever made as a king, and it all came to nothing.
Mordred: (Turns to face Arthur) I hate you.
Arthur: You do?
Mordred: No. You're my father, but sometimes I think that if I say it enough I can make it real. It would be easier to hate you.
Arthur: I hate you.
Mordred: You can't mean that. You don't even know me.
Arthur: You took Guinevere from me. Because of you I am about to go to war with my best friend and Merlin's prophecy says that you will kill me. I have every reason to hate you.
Mordred: And because you didn't have the backbone to deal with Lancelot when you had the chance, Agravain and Gareth were killed today. So I do believe you could call us even.
Arthur: (Shifts uncomfortably) Gareth's death was a tragedy. He was one of the finest knights in the realm, and he shall be greatly missed.
Mordred: You're only saying that because of Gawain.
Arthur: Gawain's anger at his brother's death is an understandable consequence of what happened. As the eldest of the Orkney Clan, Gawain has every right to ask for Lancelot to be brought to justice for killing Gareth.
Mordred: (whispers) And Agravain.
Arthur: Yes, and Agravain. The Orkney Clan has always been close.
Mordred: I find it interesting that you don't include me when you speak of the Orkney Clan. As I have told you several times, they are my brothers. I did grow up in Lot's house.
Arthur: But Lot is not your father.
Mordred: (smiles cruelly are Arthur) No, you are. (An uneasy silence settles between the two, and Mordred is the first to break it) She's cruel, isn't she?
Arthur: Who? Your mother?
Mordred: No, Fate. (Turns away from Arthur again and returns to playing with the dragon pendant)
Arthur: What's that? (Moves forward and stands next to Mordred, leaning against the wall as well) I remember giving you that, right before…
Mordred: Right before you set me out to my death?
Arthur: Yes. Merlin said I should give you something so I could identify you, just in case you survived and came to Camelot. I think he knew, deep down in his heart, that you wouldn't die out in the ocean. He just didn't want to admit it to himself. So I gave you that pendant. Perhaps I knew as well that one day you would return.
Mordred: Why do you say that?
Arthur: (Reaches forward to take the pendant, but thinks better of it when Mordred's hands close protectively around the pendent and withdraws his hand) That was mine once, when I lived as a foster in Sir Ector's home. It was a gift from my father, so he would know me if he ever saw me.
Mordred: So what once was a gift of hope now becomes a gift-
Arthur: (interrupting) -of mistrust.
Mordred: I wasn't going to say that.
Arthur: You weren't going to finish that sentence. You wanted to know what I was thinking when I gave that to you.
Mordred: Stop pretending that you know who I am. You don't.
Arthur: I know enough.
Mordred: Merlin's prophecies only tell you what I will do, not my reasoning behind it.
Arthur: Your mother is your reason. She has twisted you into her own little pawn, playing out her revenge for something that happened years ago.
Mordred: I am no one's pawn, except perhaps Fate. Although I would like to think that I've made my own way in this life, instead of just blindly following a path someone else created for me.
Arthur: I suppose you would take that view.
Arthur: (interrupting) That's not what I meant. We have both lived our lives based on this road that fate has set out for us. It is only natural that sometimes we feel the desire to rebel against this path we have to travel. I was young once too, Mordred, I understand how harsh the reality of fate can be.
Mordred: Merlin says… Merlin says that in the future there will be stories about you. Grand stories which many people look to as a sign that once in history there was a leader who cared more about others than himself.
Arthur: Yes, Merlin has told me the same thing often enough, when I would ask him why…(pauses)
Arthur: Why we were doing all of this if I was going to die so early in my reign, with no heir to follow in my footsteps. He said it was never about what we accomplished in this time period, but that we made enough of an impression that we would be immortalized in the tales that came after us.
Mordred: I don't want that kind of immortality.
Arthur: I don't really want it either.
Mordred: They'll twist me…
Arthur: I'll become more of a god than a man…
Mordred: … into what you see me as, someone else's pawn…
Arthur: … I suppose I'm already halfway there…
Mordred: … more concerned with what I did than why I did it…
Arthur:… Gwen saw it, that's why she went to Lancelot…
Mordred: … because the stories will be about you, and every hero needs an arch-rival…
Arthur:… so I let her, because she deserved someone better than a god. She deserved a man…
Both: …but that's not who I am.
(Arthur jumps and turns to look at Mordred, who let's out a long sigh and shakes his head, almost as if he had been expecting that.)
Arthur: I'm sorry, what were you saying?
Mordred: It doesn't matter. (pauses) So is that why you let Guinevere and Lancelot continue their affair even though it hurt you? Because you felt like Guinevere deserved better?
Arthur: She does deserve better. She deserves better than all of this. I'm so relieved that Lancelot rescued her before the fire…
Mordred: I wish I had caught him before he had a chance to escape.
Arthur: (angered) You would have seen Guinevere and Lancelot burn at the stake?
Mordred: No, but I wouldn't have seen my brothers die today. It would have been better for all sides. Then you wouldn't be going to a meaningless war to protect your honor and see to it that Gawain has his revenge. Lancelot and Guinevere were fools and created their own fate. I feel no pity for your queen and her champion.
Arthur: (whispers) I love them.
Mordred: Then it seems we both lost something today.
Arthur: So this part of our ongoing battle of hurting each other?
Mordred: This has nothing to do with you, this has to do with the brothers I lost.
Mordred: What are you talking about?
Arthur: There was something else to that. We seem to be clearing the air between us right now. Just say whatever you want to say to me and get it off your chest…
Mordred: (Turns to face Arthur and yells) It isn't always about you! My whole life has been center around you, with my mothers sick and twisted visions of revenge. I came here to try and escape it, and this whole place is all about you. All of your men love you and would do anything for you, making me an outcast before I even arrived because of Merlin's damn prophecies. I can't escape you and according to Merlin I never will. Can you imagine living your life around someone else? I've always been on the edge of your life, never having a moment where it was just about me and the people I care about… (trails off and looks away) I hate you.
Arthur: I think we've already established that you don't.
Mordred: (laughs) I'm getting there.
(Arthur places a weary hand on Mordred's shoulder and pulls the younger man into a hug. Mordred flinches and tries to pull away, but is eventually forced to give up and accept his father's gesture of affection)
Arthur: I wish I could understand you, Mordred. I don't want to be your enemy, but everything we do seems to pull us farther and farther apart. It is time for us to set these petty differences aside before we destroy the kingdom that depends on our unity.
Mordred: If you find my beliefs petty, then you never will understand. (struggles more violently and is able to push the other man away)
Arthur: Mordred… (He pauses as there is a commotion from behind them on some section of the wall. Both men turn towards the noise, listening for anything that could possibly pull them away from the conversation)
Mordred: It sounds like some more of Lancelot's followers have been found. I should go. (Turns to leave)
Arthur: They don't need your help with that. Stay, please.
(Mordred turns back to facing the port. He crosses his arms and is clearly more defensive about this conversation than he was originally. Arthur hesitates, as if he is no longer certain about what he was going to say.)
Arthur: You come up here a lot, I've noticed. Always the port side?
Arthur: Any particular reason for that?
Mordred: You were going to say something. Just say it, I'm tired and would like to retire for the night. It's been a long day.
Arthur: I know it has been, but please. You're right, I know nothing about you, and perhaps I have been a little hasty in my judgment of you. I am beginning see what a mistake that is. You are my son, no matter what the circumstances surrounding your conception were.
Mordred: (groans and leans forward with his fingers through his hair and his palms over his eyes) Don't talk about that.
Arthur: I'm sorry. It is a scar upon my soul and like any other wound I cannot stop bearing it to the world.
Mordred: If it is a scar upon your soul, than mine was born deformed.
Arthur: (Hesitates again, but tries to salvage the conversation) Why do you always come to the port side?
Mordred: Because of the sea. It's so peaceful and calming… I need this steady reassurance, especially after a day like today.
Arthur: I'm surprised you think of it that way after… I'm sorry. I keep forgetting…
Mordred: No, it's all right. It is strange. My would be murderer has become one of the most comforting aspects of my life. Do you think the future bards will remember that I would go to the sea to find comfort, or do you think it will slip away with everything else?
Arthur: I wouldn't be surprised if they remembered it. Your name means 'of the sea' after all. They should connect you to your name in some way. I personally wouldn't be surprised if the Pendragon banner fell into obscurity in lieu of a bear.
Mordred: They won't forget the Pendragon. It's the best part of the story. 'On the eve of Aurelius' death, a great star shoots through the sky. The tail of this star was spread across the heavens in the shape of a dragon. After the star appeared three times, Uther summoned Merlin, and the old wise man informed him that the star represented him, taking the steward of kingship now, and the dragon represented his son, who would be the greatest leader Britain will ever see.' Do you think there was a patch of darkness in the sky that night representing me? Do you think Merlin saw the destruction of your kingdom that night as well?
Arthur: No, I don't think Merlin saw that until Uther chose Igraine to be my mother.
Mordred: I'm surprised he didn't drop dead from the shock of such a vision.
Arthur: Mordred. Merlin is a highly respected member of my court and his prophecies have aided this country several times.
Mordred: I didn't mean anything by that, just that he should have kept this one to himself for once.
Arthur: What good would that have done?
Mordred: Have you heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy? (Arthur shakes his head). I didn't think so. It was a term my mother would use. It's the idea that, when you hear a prophecy, particularly one that isn't favorable, by doing everything in your power to make sure it doesn't come true you actually create the perfect circumstances for it to come true. She's got all sorts of stories that prove-
Arthur: (interrupting) I intend to name you my heir when I go to war with Lancelot.
(The statement is enough to startle Mordred into silence. His hands open up and the dragon pendant drops from it, only to be caught by the leather rope twisted around his wrist)
Mordred: You what?
Arthur: I'm backed into a corner, Mordred. I have to go to war with Lancelot, he committed treason with the queen and now he's taken her into his custody. And of course there is Ga-, your brother, Gawain. I'll lose any respect I once had if I don't assist Gawain and allow Lancelot get away with this. Tomorrow I will call the army together. In a few days we will march out on Joyous Guard…
Mordred: (interrupting) You know that's not what I meant.
Arthur: You are my only son.
Mordred: I am a bastard born of incest.
Arthur: You are still the only child I have. I couldn't name you before because of Gwen… because she still held on to the hope of one day bearing a child. Well, she will bear me no children, and I can't marry again. Gwen… I will never stop loving her.
Mordred: You can't do this. My mother will be on her way down from Orkney the moment you depart. You'll seal your fate by doing this.
Arthur: You are my son, Mordred. As such you can have her arrested the moment she sets foot in this city and send her as far away as you'd like.
Arthur: Of course there are some legitimacy issues that the other kings might not be too pleased with… Ah! I know. A betrothal. What do you say to Caw, the Welsh King's daughter? What's her name?
Mordred: I don't know.
Arthur: Don't lie, you've worn her colors at the last three jousting tournaments.
Mordred: Arthur please…
Arthur: A betrothal between you and her should be enough to subdue any objections the other kings may make to you as my heir. Caw would quickly become our greatest ally, since he has everything to gain and nothing to loose. What do you say to such marriage?
Mordred: I would be honored to marry the Welsh Princess, but…
(He is interrupted by someone calling out for the High King. Arthur frowns and looks apologetically at Mordred.)
Arthur: I should probably go see what's going on. They probably just want to know what they should do with the men they've captured, it shouldn't take long.
(Arthur leaves the stage, and a baffled Mordred watches him go. Once the king is off stage, Mordred turns and pounds his fists against the wall with a yell)
Mordred: Of all the infuriating… by the gods he actually had me believing that he understood… but he doesn't. He's still as high minded as ever, convinced that he's got it all figured out. It doesn't even cross his mind to ask me if I want his kingdom. He wouldn't even care if I told him that I had plans to go leave Camelot. He would just continue on blissfully with his plans. (Lifts the dragon pendant up this his face) How dare you do this to me now, when I finally had my life and place in the world figured out, when I finally knew what I wanted. Now you ask me to take your kingdom, and I can't help but wonder which path won't lead to our destruction, or if both paths lead to the same place.
Arthur: Mordred! (Reappears on stage and smiles) Come on, if you are going to rule in my absence, you should probably help deal with this. (Mordred slowly turns, and Arthur notices the pendant) You should wear that now. If you think about it, it truly is a gift of hope again, would you not agree? We forged ahead and created a bond of kinship between us, on a night when we were so very, very close to stepping apart once and for all. That can be a symbol, of everything we have done tonight. Don't you agree?
Mordred: Yes, of course. (Arthur nods, now excited and turns to leave again. Mordred looks back over the wall and starts unwrapping the leather string from his wrist) It's a symbol. (Mordred holds his hand out over the wall and pauses, before opening his hand and letting the pendant drop. Hearing the noise, Arthur turns back to see what it was.)
Arthur: What was that?
Mordred: Nothing. (Steps away from the wall and up next to his father) Now, you said that I should start learning? So I'll know what to do when I'm ruling in your absence?
Arthur: Yes of course. Today is a new day, Mordred. I understand now, I really do.
Mordred: (smiles politely) Than I pray that each day brings about a new wave of understanding for you, dear father.