The knights had noticed a change in Chris ever since Briar Bend. His usual gruffness had turned to a biting anger that alternated with a black cloud of despair. Something had happened to day he’d fought Fowler. Vin could tell Buck knew what was bothering Chris by the way Buck kept watching him. The tension was getting to everybody. They were all sitting around the table eating supper when Vin decided he’d had enough.
“There something we should know, Chris?”
“About whatever’s bothering you. It’s eating you up inside. We can all see it. You going to tell us what this is about?”
Chris got up from the table abruptly and went to stand by the window. This was something he really didn’t want to talk about, but they had a right to know. Ella wasn’t going to quit her plans just because Fowler was gone. She’d find some other way to strike at him and his kingdom. He and his men would be fighting her schemes sooner or later. This just wasn’t something that was easy to talk about.
He caught Standish looking at him. The man’s face showed nothing. He’d proven himself courageous in Levinshire, but could Chris really trust him? There was still something about him that seemed…off. Perhaps there was another way to test Standish’s character. He drew his sword and handed it to Vin, indicating he should look at it and then pass it along. “Excalibur was given to me the night after my coronation. I’d gone down to the lake to think when a strange woman rose up out of the water. That was Viviane, Lady of the Lake. She said that I alone among the rulers she knew understood the people and the land. She also believed my pain and loss would drive me to protect others from experiencing the same thing. Excalibur was entrusted to me for as long as I used it to serve the people.” He tried not to hold his breath as the sword was passed to Ezra. It was a secret known only among his knights that Excalibur was enchanted. It could never be used for evil or even wielded by evil. The metal would burn the hand of any evil man or woman who would hold it—even through a gauntlet. The others realized what Chris was doing and also watched Ezra surreptitiously, waiting to see what would happen.
Ezra held Excalibur with awe, turning it over and over in his hands. It was magnificent. The metal shone like new, glinting even in the low light. And the feel of it! It was incredibly light, yet looked stronger and more finely made than his own sword. It was strange, though. He could almost hear it hum when it moved. “It is a beautiful weapon, Your Majesty. Fit for a king, indeed.” He reluctantly passed it down to JD.
Chris knew he’d hear about that later from Buck, Vin, and Josiah. They would say it was confirmation that they were right about Ezra all along. Now Chris would have to talk about Ella. Where to begin?
Buck saw the tension in Chris’s face. He couldn’t help but think of the night he came back upstairs at the tavern in Eagleton to find Chris crawling across the floor of his room screaming “Ella” at the top of his lungs. Chris’d had a hard time telling him what happened and they’d known each other ever since they were boys. “You want me to start, Chris?”
Chris nodded after a moment. Buck was better at this sort of thing. Sometimes his big mouth was good for something.
Buck made sure he had everyone’s attention. “It was about eight years ago. Me and Chris were celebrating his last night as a free man at a tavern in Londinium.” At the puzzled looks on everybody’s faces, he thought he’d better explain that. “Chris was going to be crowned king the next morning. He’d be tied up with figuring out all his new responsibilities and such after that and wouldn’t get to drink it up at the taverns with me anymore for a while. I met this woman…she was something else! We went off to get to know each other a little better. I left Chris in his cups. I probably shouldn’t have left him alone, but he wasn’t acting too sociable. When I got back, he was in his room, but he wasn’t okay. He was laying on the floor yelling for someone.”
Chris came back to the table and sat down, his hands clenched together in front of him. “I was well on the way to blind drunk when this woman propositioned me. I wasn’t interested. She slipped something into my ale. I don’t know what kind of potion it was, but after about ten minutes I could hardly stand up. I remember stumbling into my room. There was a woman… I was delirious. I thought… I thought she was Sarah come back to me. Sarah was my wife. The one Fowler burned up with my son, Adam. But it wasn’t Sarah. It was the lady from the tavern. She made me think she was… Then she laughed when I came to my senses and saw who she really was.” He slammed his hand on the table and got up to pace. No one said anything for a long time.
JD finally broke the silence. “Why? Why would somebody do that?”
Buck still watched Chris. “Revenge, JD. And power. Her name was Ella Gainsborough. Her father and Chris’s wanted the two of them to marry. When Chris ran off with Sarah, it destroyed all their plans. She blamed Chris for ruining her life. Chris and Camelot didn’t mean a