AMR Amr had no doubts and no fears. He knew what he was doing from the beginning.
His mother, a Saxon slave, died of starvation under his young eyes, and before the end she repeated over and over again what her son would have to do.
Amr was not tired of hating. He hated the Celts and the Romans who cruelly and without mercy watched the Saxons suffer without doing anything. He hated Camelot and the Round Table, an old bearded group of nobles too nationalist to think about a different future. He hated Guinevere and her aristocratic air and perfect hands.
And, above all, he hated Arthur, his father. Arthur, the man who had let a young Saxon slave be forced upon him by overzealous friends. And who was now trying to erase the guilt accepting the child conceived that night.
But his mother had taught Amr well: be obedient, serve your enemies with kindness and no one will suspect the blade that is hidden in your heart.
And so he did. He was nice to everyone and blindly obeyed his father, seemingly the perfect child, a man without a soul that follows all the orders given to him without protest. The people of Camelot had stopped looking at his blond hair and his stature as something barbaric, and soon they began to accept him.
With the mask of the most devoted of sons, Amr reflected on the blind and senseless politics of Arthur, designed to maintain power rather than accept the inevitable changes: the arrival of the Saxons.
One day, however, Amr would remove the mask and that day he would do what his mother had taught him
MORDRED Mordred grew up in the cold castle of Orkney, knowing nothing of his own birth. Morgause treated him like she treated all her other children: with complete indifference or with exuberant passion. One day she cuddled him, the next she ignored him, completely intent on ritual magic or adultery that took all her passion and energy away from her little boys.
But there came a day that seemed to permanently remind Morgause of Mordred. The day when the family of Orkney arrived at Arthur's court and the king saw the skinny little boy, born lame and too tall for his age, with dark eyes identical to the king's. Arthur was shocked and Morgause had laughed, hugging her (and his) son. From that day she never forgot Mordred and took him with her everywhere. She taught him everything she knew about herbs and curses, hatred, and how to seduce a man with only the eyes as a weapon.
That is until Mordred's fifteenth birthday, when Arthur, convinced by his wife Guinevere, decided to take the child away from the clutches of the vengeful Morgause. Mordred arrived in Camelot alone, looked at with suspicion by everyone except his bothers: the impetuous Gawain, the proud Gaheris, the unpredictable Agravaine and the naive Garteh.
He stuck to them, waiting anxiously for Arthur to acknowledge him or to truly speak to him, but from the day Mordred was brought to Camelot Arthur stopped to being interested in him.
Gawain tried to make him understand that it was not his fault but, because of his birth, Mordred reminded to everyone the sad events and unspeakable acts that the king and his half sister had done many years before. The king would never have been able to recognize and call him his son.
Mordred hated his father. He tried to become the best rider, at least, to get close to him that way, but the limping leg prevented him from reaching the ability of a gentleman or to surpass mediocrity as a knight. And they all passed before him: Lancelot, who had no blood ties with the king, Gawain, Arthur's adored nephew, the lovely queen, Amr, the first child as cold as the ice, Loholt, the spoiled kid, and finally, the two puppies just recently born from Guinevere.
All ahead of him, all more important than him, and he who had twice the blood of Igraine and the ancient Celts in his veins, was ignored.
But one day he would be passing in front of everyone: to the front line. And that day Arthur would admire him and call him son.
LOHOLT The first time his mother, the beautiful lady Lisanor of Scotland, had revealed that his father was the great King Arthur, Loholt was filled with relief.
It was a relief to discover that Lisanor's husband did not hate him for who he was, but because he was not his real son. It was almost satisfactory: he was the son of Arthur, the great king of Britain, and no one else.
The idea of having a king as a father arrived shortly after. He vaguely knew that a king was someone terrible and dominant, but he knew one thing for sure: the title of king passes from father to son.
Lisanor tried to dissuade him; Arthur had other children. Lisanor tried to distract him as she could: with horses, with new hunting dogs and hawks, even a beautiful woman when he passed the age of sixteen.
The mother finally could no longer distract him from the idea of being a prince and she was forced to take him to the court at Camelot. Once there Arthur recognized him as his son, but it was a disappointment to the young Loholt when he discovered that Arthur had already a first-born bastard: Amr. And as if that was not enough the king also had a secret second born son, Mordred, a limping abomination born from incest that would never be recognized.
Arthur tried to get close to Loholt and, awkwardly, Loholt let him, curious, hesitant to see what his real father would do.
Arthur began to teach him about weapons and politics, things that Loholt did not even know about. It seemed that the king did not trust the perfect Amr. Everyone in the court believed that Loholt was now the king's favoured, and was destined to become the rightful prince. Only if, people whispered, if Mordred did not poison him in his sleep.
Unfortunately, Guinevere became pregnant and gave birth to the little and lovely Llacheu, a skinny kid identical to his father Arthur.
Loholt found himself abandoned and stripped of the only hope he had strenuously cultivated for years: to become king.
He protested and Arthur, as did his mother Lisanor, tried to calm him down with horses and objects, gifts and luxuries. But Loholt was tired of these useless things and promised himself that one day he would take the greatest gift owed to him: the kingdom.
LLACHEU and GWYDRE Arthur had just turned fifteen when Ector, his adoptive father, decided it was time to for him to become a man. He gave Arthur a tall and beautiful girl, with thick blond hair and without any knowledge of the English or Latin languages. Arthur never knew her name but later he often thought about her, her fearful eyes and the mark of a slave upon her left shoulder.
Forever this memory remained in his life: the thought of having forced a woman to do what only he really wanted. It was with joy that he accepted the delicate hands of a consenting stranger at a party, a stranger who seemed to embrace him and love him. Only later Merlin revealed to him that the stranger was none other than his half sister Morgause.
He swore that he would never approach a woman again, terrified now of the seductive look that his sister had given him. And then came the beautiful Lisanor, lady of a remote Scottish castle where Arthur's army was forced to take refuge after an attack from the Saxons.
Lisanor did not resemble any of Arthur's relatives. She was not shy or cruel, she had no air of danger or poisoned beauty. She was a big-boned, sincere and simple woman, with a wonderful smile.
The two were lovers for a month and when the King left, Lisanor was married to a Scottish gentleman, her father worrying about the weak rule of Arthur's kingship. He preferred his daughter to have a secure husband.
The reign of King Arthur, however, strengthened after winning the battle of Badon Hill. Leodengrance, a powerful king of Wales, offered his troops, his loyalty and his daughter to the new king.
So Arthur was married to a stranger, a small and fragile woman named Guinevere, with long red curls and the look of a smiling little mouse.
It did not take long for Arthur to madly fall in love with her laugh and her sincere and direct intelligence. But Guinevere seemed sterile and the king lost all hopes of having a child from her.
And then came Amr. Amr arrived with a caravan of ex-slaves, with a blonde Saxon sister and a dying mother. Amr and Arthur remained inside the king's chambers for hours, and no one ever knew what happened. But everyone knew that when they left, Arthur recognized Amr as his son.
The king was convinced of his decision for years. Amr was intelligent, skillful with the sword and loved fighting on horseback. He was reserved but not unfriendly.
The king was secure in his decision to make Amr his heir until one day when he saw his son sitting at his window. Amr was motionless, impassive and Arthur saw something cold and terrible in his eyes, something he had seen before only in the eyes of his sister Morgause.
While his mind was assailed by doubts, Arthur met Mordred, a small child with a look identical to him, limping, always hiding behind the skirts of Morgause. There were no doubts about who Mordred s father was. Some years after their first encounter, Guinevere managed to clear her husband's concerns and let him know that the only way to make Mordred a harmless child was to remove him from Morgause's care.
Finally, Mordred came to court and Arthur did his best to give him what he wanted, but not create suspicions about Mordred s birth from anyone. He watched with joy Mordred s attempts to become a knight, the strongest knight of all, but Arthur could do nothing else. So when Mordred began throwing acid, direct and terrible comments to him, it was too late to go back and embrace him.
Arthur knew he had another son, Loholt, the first born of the young Lisanor. For years he was afraid of ruining the family equilibrium of his former lover, and he waited till the woman spontaneously asked Arthur to bring Loholt to court. The boy was curious, lively, cheeky and he always obtained what he wanted from anyone.
Loholt joyfully went to Arthur, attracted to him like a moth to the light, learning everything he could. Arthur publicly recognized him as his child and heir in a time when Amr was fighting in Ireland.
Some malicious voices said that Mordred tried to poison him while he slept but Arthur did not believe such rumors.
And one day it happened.
One day the thing that Arthur had always wanted happened: his own child, a child who was not raised in a cesspool of despair or in a cloud of contempt away from him.
Guinevere became pregnant and she bore the little Llacheu, a skinny kid identical to him. Sadly, Llacheu lived for only two years, his death destroying the light and hope Arthur held for himself and Camelot. Arthur forgot everything and everyone, he left for the longest campaign ever and tried to make war against the Roman emperor.
Amr merely obeyed his father, but Arthur knew how much the coolly intelligent son despised his actions.
Mordred ignored him, nearly driven mad by the death of the mother and the idea that it had been his own brother Gaheris to kill her.
And Loholt simply did not understand, trying to recover the attentions of his father with new desires.
It was at that time that a new born son arrived: Gwydre. And even if all the knights at the court were wondering who the real father, Arthur or Lancelot, the king decided to have no doubt and embraced him as his own legitimate child.
He hoped that the little tawny-haired boy could give everyone the hope they needed. He hoped to give Gwydre his kingdom and his dreams.
But he didn't remember that he had more children and sooner or later he had to pay a tribute to each of them.