Chapter One Hundred and Fourteen: The Tiger of Albion

On a peninsula they called an island, Myrddin Wyllt sat in front of a cave. The seer had visited the place many times. Spent hours squatting in its dark mouth waiting for the tide to come in, a seed daring to be swallowed. For when the cave drank the sea, the future washed over him. Not today, though. Right now, Myrddin needed the winter-weary sun. A pile of books lay in the sand next to him. They were strange to the grain. They were written in a script Myrddin had until now glimpsed only in visions. Their paper was white as pearl, yet painfully thin and flimsy. His fingers kept tearing the page corners. He could tell the text within wasn’t the work of human hands. A monk could spend a year on the thinnest volume and not produce such miniscule, immaculately consistent marks, with less than an ant’s width between each letter. And some of these books were more than a thousand pages long. Myrddin knew this for a fact. They put numbers on them. Had men forgotten how to count? 

Myrddin did not like much of what he read. The world he’d slept through was a swamp of pain and violence. Wars that would once have consumed hundreds or thousands now boasted deaths in numbers Myrddin had never needed to know. Human craft now surpassed even his greatest magics. Now men could end the world by accident. Worse still, some would do it on purpose. Who should be able to boast that power but God? One god, though men today were afraid to use the word, had tried to take away that power. Tried to save every man, woman and child in this world.

They’d killed him for that.

Right now, Myrddin was reading about himself, albeit under the name the Romans had given him. When he was young, he would have been thrilled to hear men sing of him. Every bard wished for that. To be transfigured from singer to song. Now it was a cruel joke. It wasn’t even the slander. Calling him a cambion, the fruit of diabolical outrage. People had been whispering that behind his back for years. Fools who could only think what their priests told them. The kind who couldn’t name what came between day and night. It was what had happened after Nimuë put him in the earth. 

Myrddin watched the dusty silver waves crash onto the shore. He remembered the morning they’d carried a naked babe to his feet, warm and alive in those cold waters, his red shock of hair a flame they could not extinguish. He remembered raising the child to the sky and weeping. “Here is an heir for Uther!” Tennyson had him shout. 

The poet was wrong. Uther—Uthyr—couldn’t have been further from Myrddin’s mind. All that mattered was that he had a prince. A prince who would bring peace to the land. Myrddin wasn’t surprised that people called him a devil. Easier to believe his power and madness—and Myrddin had gone mad—was born from the pit, not mere human violence. From watching his lord and his brother be slaughtered in front of him. Myrddin’s allies and beneficiaries claimed his visions came from God. That He had given Myrddin leave to practise his magic. Myrddin couldn’t believe that. Not unless God lived in the shadows of trees. In silence so deep, Myrddin could hear his tears hit the ground.

All his efforts. All his sins and miracles. They had not lasted a single lifetime. 

Myrddin felt something rushing towards him across the sea—  

A boy with a mask like a bandit stood in the surf. His skin was concealed by short, black-striped orange fur, a cat’s tail waving behind him. He was holding a sword shakily above his head. Caledfwlch. Myrddin slowly got to his feet, dropping the Idylls of the King. His mouth fell agape. In the same moment, Caledfwlch slipped out of the boy’s clawed hands into the water.

“Sorry, sorry!” cried Billy St. George. He looked about the beach. “Um, excuse me, sir, am I still in France?”

Myrddin ran into the water, embracing the strange child.

Billy patted the man’s side awkwardly. “Ah, hi.”

Once more, the world had delivered Myrddin a prince. Once more, he wept.

“Are you okay mister?”

⬗ 

The gaol on Bròn Binn wasn’t meant for long-term confinement. It was a simple brick building with five cells, each with an old-fashioned iron barred door. Any member of Roundtable could’ve torn it apart all on their lonesome. Metropole could even politely ask the cell doors to open themselves. It was a drunk tank, a place for hot tempers to cool. If the Ministry of Paranormality needed to properly imprison a superhuman, they had another island for that, a bleak place between the Outer Hebridees and… somewhere else. Today, though, escape was impossible. At least, if Allison Kinsey said it was.

Sir Cai sat brooding on the cell bench. They hadn’t given him back the helmet. He liked the helmet. Sir Cai itched without it on, like there were archers aiming for his head. A weakness inherited from the flesh he wore. He’d spent a few minutes experimenting with the strange water-powered latrine, until he heard the red-eyed girl laughing at him. He had tried to stop for the sake of his dignity, but it became a compulsion as urgent as breath. His actions weren’t his own. Sir Cai could not even beg for release. He was only able to pull himself away when the witch-child tilted her head and wrinkled her nose, as though a ghost had whispered a bad joke in his ear.

“Come on,” said Allison. “Just tell us what you were doing in the forest.”

The girl looked like Nimuë’s spawn. Bloodless as a fish. Bending men with only a touch and her voice. Sir Cai wanted to see the girl’s bones break from the weight of the air on her shoulders. He wanted to bury her in the rubble of this building. But his new magic lay still inside him, as though an iron horseshoe had been hung around his neck. Glaring back at the girl and her black-clad companion was all the spite Sir Cai could muster.  

Allison rolled her eyes. Alberto was going to gloat for days. “Spit it out.”

“I was left to guard the sword,” Sir Cai blurted, unable to stop himself.

“And why did Merlin stick his magic sword in a French rock?” asked Mistress Quickly. “Seems like a waste of good metal.”

Sir Cai grit his teeth. “His name—isn’t…” He screwed his eyes shut, tremoring, before the answer fled his lips. “…It was our land before the whore put Myrddin in the earth. He didn’t realize that had changed until he drove Caledfwlch into the stone. Said he didn’t have time to pull it back out…”

Sir Cai flinched at Mistress Quickly’s laughter. It was the mirth of wasps. “Oh, I’ve been there, mate.”

“And they just left you. All by yourself.”

Sir Cai stood tall. “Only I was worthy.”

“Did they tell you where they were going?”

Sir Cai frowned. “Great Britain, of course.”

Allison huffed. “Did they tell you where in Great Britain?”

“…I did not need to know.”

“Course not.” Allison squinted at Starry Knight’s mind, bricked up behind the edifice of Sir Cai. Anthony Peake was trapped in a ship that shouldn’t have existed for nearly fifty years, beyond the reach of one world and falling short of another. The stale, four day old air stank of sweat and fear. Warning claxons blended with screams. Over and over, they fell to Earth. A memory prison built of despair and self-recrimination. Merlin hadn’t lacked for building materials. 

“You know,” said Allison, “I’m not surprised Myriddin left you to guard the sword.”

Sir Cai smiled. “I see my reputation has not withered with the ages.”

Allison shrugged her shoulders. “You mean people still remember you’re a prat? Yeah, they do.”

Anthony Peake’s lips and eyebrows twitched as Sir Cai searched his host’s vocabulary. His face went red when he realized what the girl called him. “Mind your tongue, you pale little slattern!”

“Oh come on, everyone knows you were a dickhead.” Allison glanced up at Mistress Quickly. “Mistress, do you remember what Robert Graves called our guest?”

“Afraid I don’t, Allie.” It was the truth, but Maude tried to make it sound ironic.

Allison smiled acidly at Sir Cai. “A buffoon. The chief of cooks.”

Sir Cai’s hand flew to a sword that wasn’t there. “I’ll have his head!”

“Remember when Percival broke your shoulder? Because you slapped a lady!”

“She had it coming!”

Allison tutted.

“No wonder your dad liked Arthur more.”

“That’s a lie!”

That was one use for precognition: knowing what insults would land. 

“Is it?” asked Allison. “While you’re answering questions, why’d ya kill Loholt? Your own nephew<a title=”A piece of genuine slander found only in Perlesvaus, an Old French Arthurian romance from the 13th century.” href=”#fn1″ id=”ref1″>1…”

Sir Cai stammered. The red rage in his cheeks became white hot. An old wound opened inside him. He remembered his brother’s son fading away, after what they did to him at Din Guarie2. How Arthur and Gwenhwyfar had wept… 

“As I live and breathe, girl my sword shall be your bridegroom.”

Mistress Quickly grimaced behind her mask, but Allison just giggled. “I bet Arthur only let you in the club because he felt sorry for you. You bent the knee to your own squire.”            

Sir Cai roared. “I am a prince of Dyfed!”

Allison folded her arms and raised her chin. “You’re a Welsh warlord nobody even remembers, gone a thousand years.”

Jack Lyons stood guard outside the gaol block, shaking his head at what he heard. This wasn’t interrogation. Just childish cruelty. He heaved a sigh. It wouldn’t be working so well if her words weren’t true. Sir Cai probably deserved every word. He wished he could let his mind slide off it, like the children cavorting in the air above him: one spectral, the other icy mist.     

They were playing tag. While their friend tore her way through a dead man’s psyche. While their friend was God knows where, probably in the company of a murderous wizard. No wonder the Catalpans hadn’t seen him as strange. He was the least of it.

“When did this all get so normal for you?” he asked, more to himself than to them.

Miri stopped mid-air.

“What do you mean?” she asked. “This is normal.”

Jack chuckled.

“No, little miss. It really isn’t.”

David dropped out the air, bare flesh again, and shrugged. “Says you.”

“Says reality, precedent,” Jack countered. “Behind me, a little girl is interrogating a man from a fairy-story for the Crown. I’m a dead man recreated by alien technology again and again in a lighthouse basement, and even to me, this is too much. When did you get so numb to it all?”

The children looked at each other.

“I mean,” Miri said, “An alien made me too. It’s not that weird.”

“All of this got pretty normal after some arsehole shot my mum,” David added. “Hard to top that. Besides, who wants to be normal? You’re like, immortal. Even more immortal than me!”

Jack shook his head. “No, Mr. Venter. I’m not immortal. I get to die as many times as Queen and Country ask of me. And if someone wrecked the contraption under our feet, Jack Lyons would be gone forever in less than five weeks, even this animate cadaver that stands before you.”

“You’re a Frankenstein?” asked David. “Neat.”     

“You mean the monster?” Jack corrected3. “No.” Never use metaphorical language with children. Especially ones who forgot to dress. “I’m more like one of Miss Henderson’s creations. Simply one that can only be sent away by time.”

There was a quiet, then Miri spoke.

“Um,” she asked. “What does dying feel like? I think I died once. I kinda wanna be sure.”

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised. “The first time—when the real Jack Lyons died—was like being turned inside out and set on fire.. Machinery commiting my cells and atoms to memory with basilisk eyes.” 

David frowned. “People used to call my dad that. Dumb name.” 

“My apologies. Never mean to offend. Dying is not a standardized experience. In France—after my scrape with Mr. Rivers, of course—Jerry dropped a bomb on me. Didn’t feel a thing. One second there was a whistle in my ears, the next someone was handing me a towel and some trousers in the cavern. I believe they were sending me to Suez.”  

“What’s it like when you just… don’t die long enough?” asked Miri. 

Jack sighed. “I grow numb, Miss Kinsey. I’m told for most dying people, touch goes last. For me it’s the first. Sometimes I think it’s purgatory washing over me. My echoes only last a month or two. Most of them are spent in airplanes and offices. How can they merit paradise or damnation?” Jack Lyons shook himself. He was getting poetic. Never a good sign. He looked sharply at the fae children. “I must ask, how can you two play while your friend is missing?” He pointed at David. “And where did your costume go?”

“Got bored of it,” David answered, running into Miri’s own reply:

“You heard Allie,” she said, again, perplexed. “Billy’s fine. His futures are still pretty much okay.”

David kept talking, “And I don’t get cold anyway. Well, I do, but it’s fun.”   

Jack Lyons almost envied the boy. Not so much the shamelessness—Jack was proud of his tailoring—but these days, differences in temperature weren’t even interesting to him anymore. As relevant to his well being as his elevation above sea-level. He remembered being seven years old, heading to boarding school in Scotland for the first time. He’d felt like his bones would shatter from the cold. He missed that. 

“Way I see it,” said David. “You’re lucky. You got off the human train, and now you can take bullets to the chest—”

Miri thrust her arm through David’s head. Jack winced at the sight.        

“You’re it!” she yelled, plunging through the scrubby ground.

David swore gleefully. “Bitch! I’mma getcha for that!” 

The boy collapsed into water, his remains soaking into the cold soil like it was the height of summer. 

Maybe that was his problem, thought Jack Lyons. He was a man with a monster’s life. These children resembled only themselves. Perhaps that was a blessing. 

Allison and Mistress Quickly exited the gaol. Allison had a peeved satisfaction, like someone who’d swatted a spider but now had to clean it up. 

“Doesn’t sound like you had much luck in there,” commented Jack. 

“Nope,” Mistress Quickly replied with mechanical flatness. 

“Was hoping he’d lose control if we got him really mad,” said Allison. “But he’s wedged inside Mr. Peake pretty tight.” She looked up at Jack. “You ever had to open a drawer, but it’s so full of junk it gets caught?”

“Afraid I haven’t had the pleasure, but I think I understand the principle.”

“Let me guess,” said Mistress Quickly. “The kitchen was the domain of the servants?”

“…Yes,” admitted Jack Lyons. 

Allison continued, “And you’re afraid if you pull too hard you’ll break something and your dad will smack you…”  She trailed off, eyes snapping to Maude. “Couple of nights ago, could you see me in your bedroom?”

Jack Lyons glanced sideways at Mistress Quickly. She tried not to meet his eyes. “…Yes. Yes I could.” She tapped the lenses of her mask. “Contacts.”

“Can you see ghosts?”  

“Yes, actually.” Maude titled her gloved hand. “Ghosts kind of live on the border of science and magic. Bit like jaffa cakes.” She looked between Allison and Jack Lyons. “I mean, are they cakes, or biscuits? Does it matter?”

“I believe the answer’s in the name,” opined Lyons. 

“They’re biscuits,” said Allison. She would’ve argued the case further, but there were more pressing matters. “Can you catch ghosts, Maude?”

Mistress Quickly rubbed her chin and clicked her tongue. It sounded like a soda-tab being pulled. “I had been looking into making Miri a timeout corner…”

“And then what happened?”

Billy shrunk slightly in his chair. The thing nobody told you about round tables was how easily everyone’s eyes fell on one person. It made Billy ticklish. All these heroes—these real knights—staring at him, waiting for him to speak like he was Jack Lyons. Or King Arthur. Billy swallowed. “We made the prison disappear with everyone in it. Then we built our town around it.”

The knights let out a great cheer. Some were still in their new superhero gear, a bit grubby after two weeks of continuous use. Others had tried to adapt modern fashion, to limited success. Sir Gawaine, clad in the flesh of the Welsh hero Rock Cannon, had covered himself with belts; around his waist, his shoulders, and across his chest. He slapped Myrddin on the shoulder. “Now why didn’t you ever pull that trick for us?”

Merlin—Myrddin, Billy didn’t want to be rude—wasn’t what the boy had expected. Billy had always pictured the legendary wizard as a spindly, white-bearded old man in a blue robe and pointy hat. Sometimes the robe or hat (or both) was bedazzled with stars. But Myrrdin… well, he was old, Billy supposed, but only as much as Mr. Rivers. His beard was short and black, with only the smallest flecks of grey. Solidly built, too. He could have been mistaken for a knight himself. Unlike them, though, he was dressed quite acceptably for his place and time in a brown tweed suit. If Billy had been more exposed to the world’s stereotypes, he might’ve said he looked like a secondary school maths teacher. Myrddin sipped his wine evenly. “Clearly our young king’s powers are beyond even mine.”

Billy felt himself blush beneath his fur. They kept calling him that. King. Far as he knew, neither his mother nor father were any kind of royalty, even if they were rich. The sword must be broken. “It wasn’t really my powers,” he insisted. “Mau—Mistress Quickly was the one who disappeared the prison. A lot of people made it happen.” He shrugged. “I didn’t do much…”

Disbelieving laughter.

“Do not sell yourself short, William,” said Myrddin. “By the sounds of it, this Mistress Quickly wouldn’t have been able to smuggle in her tools if it weren’t for your bravery. No, you did not liberate the fortress alone, but no king rules without a retinue. Arthur didn’t. Your modesty and generosity with credit due speaks well of you.”

“Uh, thanks,” said Billy.

A few seats down from Billy, Sir Bedwyr raised Ironclad’s hand. With Sir Cai and Starry Knight absent from the table, Sir Bedwyr and the form he’d stolen most looked the part of a true knight, clad in armour seemingly shaped from old British automobiles. “If you’d pardon the request, your highness, could you show us your alchemy again.”

Billy had gathered that meant his matter-mist. He nodded. Billy didn’t think saying no would be smart. These people were baddies—even if they had the same names as brave knights—and Billy supposed he was their prisoner, even if they thought he was the king of… something. Besides, saying no would be rude. “Sure.” He spread his arms and wriggled his fingers. A ribbon of shiny fog weaved between Billy’s hands. He squinted, tongue poking out the corner of his mouth. Red, blue and green plumes of flame whistled out from the mist, flaring rhythmically to “Click Go the Shears.”

The knights applauded. Sir Bedwyr had his hands under his chin in awe. “I spent years trying to transmute the elements. Our king does it on a whim…”

Billy found himself smiling. In a city of wonders, it was easy to forget you were special. He shook himself. Bad people, Billy reminded himself. He’d seen what they’d done to those people in Brocéliande. Billy looked straight at Myrddin, trying to channel some of Tom Long’s steel into his gaze. “Mr… Myrddin, why did you kill all those people? In the forest I mean. Dr. Merlin had freed you, and you killed him.”

A hush fell over the table. A few of the knights hung their heads.

“Your highness,” said Myrddin, “Dr. Merlin and his compatriots did not wake me out of kindness. They wanted to use me. Make me into a weapon in a swollen, far away war, waged not for the good of the Britons, but that of their rulers. I would not be made a tool of selfish men. I’m sure you can understand, if what you’ve told me of this Lawrence is true.”

Billy guessed he did… sort of. He knew Lawrence’s plans made Allison and David mad. Billy knew it should’ve made him mad. But the idea of married days had never scared him. Babies were cute. There were a bunch of girls at the Institute he liked hugging and playing with. The prospect was too far away to even be real, like old age or the year 2000. 

“I will admit that I perhaps… acted hastily,” said Myrddin. “But rest assured, your highness, I and my knights have not shed any innocent blood since then, either here or in the forest.”

“You sure?” asked Billy. “Starry—Sir Cai seemed… mean.”

“Do not trouble yourself. I ordered Sir Cai not to harm any civilian he came across. One of the conditions of his new life—for all your knights, William—is that they cannot disobey my commands.”

Some of the knights muttered assent. 

“He tried to kill Arnold,” Billy said.

“He attacked first. I couldn’t leave a knight unable to defend himself.”

A thought occurred to Billy. “Wait, if I’m the king, shouldn’t they be listening to me?”

“Our king has a good point,” said Galahad. He had been sleeved into the form of Gloriana—a lady super of considerable strength. Her white body glove had gone grey with grime. Galahad held himself incredibly stiffly, Billy thought. He (she?) looked like David when made to wear… most things. “We swore our oaths to Arthur, not you.”

Myrrdin nodded. “An oversight, yes. When I put your souls into their new forms, I didn’t know if anyone living was still worthy to pull Caledfwlch free.” He looked earnestly at Billy. “But do not worry, your highness, I am sworn to your service, and through me, your knights.” 

Lanslod4—lodged in the body of Weathermonger—slapped Billy on the shoulder, almost knocking him out of his chair. “Your highness, you haven’t touched your wine!”

Billy regarded the dark red glass next to his dinner dubiously. “I’m a kid. I’m not s’posed to drink wine.”

The knights all laughed, bar Galahad. “Wine is a vice,” he said. “Our king is wise to avoid its influence.”

Lanslod laughed. “Do loosen up, daughter.” He leaned to his other neighbour. “My, this new tongue has such funny phrases.”

Galahad suppressed a grimace. “I am not your daughter.” Under his breath, he added, “And you’re still loose enough for the both of us…” 

“What do you drink then?” Lanslod asked Billy. “When your tongue bores of water?”

“Orange juice?” offered Billy. “Coke?”

“I’ve tried that,” said Bedwyr. “The bubbles sting the tongue.”

Billy struggled to imagine a knight being hurt by coke.            

“Come on, your highness,” said Lanslod. “A little wine has never hurt a growing boy.”

Billy glanced around the table. Everyone was looking at him expectantly. Even Myrddin was cooly observing him. Billy gulped. Didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of the evil fake knights. He snatched up the glass of wine and threw it down his throat. It tasted like cough medicine. Burny cough medicine. Billy sputtered, pink spit splattering against his dinner plate. The knights cheered and laughed. It didn’t strike Billy as cruel, though. More like how Betty would laugh when he messed something up. Like he was telling a brilliant joke. Billy noticed he was smiling again, and again, he tried to banish it. This wasn’t real. They were like Lawrence, pretending to like him—  

Except Lawrence had never been good at pretending he liked Billy. He’d seen how the old man refused to look directly at him. He knew he’d wanted Miss Żywie to change him. Make him look normal. That idea had scared Billy way more than married days.

Myrddin raised a hand. The mirth subsided. “I shall leave you good knights to your revels,” he said. “Your highness, if we could talk in private?”

Billy nodded. “Okay.”

The pair left the knights to sing and drink at the King Arthur’s Castle Hotel5’s replica roundtable. It was actually more accurate than most such recreations: it was made of wood. Centuries of treasure-hunters had been searching in vain. Of course, King Arthur’s roundtable had never rested anywhere near Tintagel. The Pendragon in fact hadn’t spent much time in the area at all: only his conception and a few days after his birth. But pilgrimage sites and tourist-traps had been built with less reason. The hotel was fortunately in custodianship for the winter. As they made their way through the halls of the hotel, Billy wondered if he should be trying to escape. It seemed like what Allison, or David, or especially Tom would be doing. Stupid idea, Billy decided. Allison could fly. David could slither through water-pipes or swim through the ocean. Tom could just walk right through the walls. Billy didn’t even know really where he was, aside from probably England6. And he couldn’t well ask for directions, looking the way he did. Best sit tight and wait for the others to save him. 

The thought of that made him angry with himself.

Billy sat on the four-poster bed in the hotel’s most expensive suite. Myrddin had occupied it until he arrived, but he was eager to hand it over to his liege. At the moment, he was gazing out the room’s window, into the night.

“Mr. Myrddin,” said Billy. “What do you want me for?”

Myrddin was silent for a moment. “William, do you know why I put the first Pendragon on the throne?”

“You mean Arthur? Because he was the rightful king.”

“But why was he the right king?”

“…I don’t know? He seemed like a good bloke.”

“He was,” said Myrddin. “But he needed to be strong, too. To unite the Britons. To protect them from the deprecations of invaders and the petty tyrants within our borders; and sometimes, to protect the people from themselves. From their own pride and ambition. These islands once ruled more of the world than Rome at her height.” Myrddin shook his head. “So much cruelty. And for what? So they could moan over past glory while their country rots around them.”

Billy suspected Myrddin was talking about Grown-Up Stuff. He could just make out the corners of what the wizard was saying. “Um, sir, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but England still has a king”—Billy shook his head—“Queen, now. It changed last year.”

Myrddin grit his teeth and tried to ignore the part about England. Far too late to do anything about that. “I am aware of the House of Windsor, William. Layabouts. Had to change their name so people wouldn’t notice they were German. Is it true that each year, their current chieftess reads out a speech written by her ministers and pretends they’re her words7? Her ideas? She is a figurehead. A puppet worked by very small men.”         

“Maybe?”

Myrddin strode over to Billy, kneeling so he was eye-level with the boy. “There’s a war coming, William. One that will engulf this country and the rest of the world. It will drown these islands in fire. Sour the sea and soil. Poison the people’s very bones. More folk live in the British Isles now than any other time. I can save them all, but it will mean… a change in the way they live. In the country itself. They’ll need a leader to guide them through it. A ruler; kind, strong, and wise I know you’re kind, Billy. It drips from your words. You’re strong, too. And I can help you be wise.”

Billy gulped. “But I’m just a kid.”

Merlin thought he was strong. Merlin. Wasn’t he supposed to be smart?

“Your friend Allison, she’s not much older than you. And she’s protecting her own corner of the world.”

“You… like what Allison’s doing?” Billy asked. 

“She is trying to build a better place. It is admirable. I only wish all the peoples of the world had someone like you or her to guide them. It is providence you two met. You have seen how one so small can bear the burden of power.”

“…I don’t want to leave them.”

“We all must make sacrifices. I’m sure Allison has.”

Allison had. But she also had one thing Billy didn’t. “Myrddin, you know stuff, right?”

“Many things. Never enough.”

“Could I ask you something?”

“Of course, William. I am your servant.”

“Betty. The lady who took care of me. I’ve been waiting for her to come to Catalpa for ages. Can you—can you see if she still wants me?”

Myrddin closed his eyes. “I will try, my king.” Omens put on mystery plays behind the wizard’s eyelids. He sighed. “I see a woman with a pink-skinned child in her arms. She is… content.”

Billy sat there on the bed. He blinked. His breathing lost its rhythm as he started to sob. Myrddin put his arms around the child. Sometimes, Myrddin wondered, if things had turned out differently, could he have been kind?

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1. A piece of genuine slander found only in Perlesvaus, an Old French Arthurian romance from the 13th century.

2. A Celtic fort in Northumberland, later the site of Bamburgh Castle.

3. A distinction without a meaning, as clearly the creature from Frankenstein would bear his father’s surname.

4. Commonly rendered in modern English as “Lancelot.”

5. It was later renamed Camelot Castle Hotel—an even less accurate name.

6. Specifically the Atlantic coast of Cornwall.

7. Myrddin is referring to the State Opening of Parliament, which includes a speech by the current British monarch detailing the government’s plans for the coming year.

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