Within days, Ezra was pretty much running Camelot. The queen was sequestered in her rooms, Vin was in and out of the castle, Nathan was busy with something in his study, JD and Buck had disappeared, Josiah was still gone, and the king…the king was in his rooms dead drunk. He started drinking the day he found Buck and the queen and didn’t stop until he passed out. Then he woke up and started all over again. No one was speaking to anyone. The servants turned to the only person available—Lord Ezra Standish. Even though a few of them, such as the head cook, Madam Nettie, still didn’t trust him, they really had no one else to seek orders from. Morgan was pleased with the turn of events. Even though he couldn’t tell him the truth, Ezra had tried to console the king…at least until Morgan told him to leave the king alone in his misery.
Vin had tried to talk to Chris, get him to listen to reason. The king was in no mood to listen to anyone. Several times the frustrated knight considered breaking down the king’s chamber door and making him listen, but that was probably a good way to get run through. He wanted to make sure they really had something to say to him. Vin would wait until Nathan could tell him for sure about the food and wine. Then Chris was going to listen—whether he wanted to or not. Until then, he would just stay down at the tavern for a few days and see to Buck. Vin knew how bad Buck was going to feel when he came to his senses and remembered what he did. He was going to need someone to talk to. Besides, Ezra was doing a pretty good job keeping things together at the castle. Vin wasn’t needed here.
That night Ezra reassigned the guards at the gate and those on tower watch. They probably thought someone else would be taking their shifts. Little did they know that no one would be there to see Lady Morgan’s soldiers—gifts from King Lot—slip into the castle.
A headache the size of all England throbbed in Chris’s head. He reached up to rub at his temple, but his hand wouldn’t reach. Something restrained him. His gaze fell on the short chain that ran from a manacle around his wrist to the wall beside him. Bewildered, Chris looked up to see a woman standing over him, smiling. Ezra stood slightly behind her.
“Really, Dear Christofer. We must stop meeting like this. You drunk and in my power.”
He gritted his teeth, understanding coming to him. “Ella Gainsborough.”
“That’s Morgan now. Morgan le Fey.”
Ezra knew that if the king had been free, he would’ve run both of them through.
“And you already know Lord Ezra Standish. Or do you? I’d like you to meet your son. He’s grown quite a bit since we last met.”
“Don’t you remember what I told you that morning? I did all I promised. I went to the Sacred Isle and studied the ways of magic. You have no idea what I’ve learned—spells forgotten in the outside world. One to keep a woman young and beautiful…” She touched her face, smiling at Chris. “…and one to make a useless little boy into a knight.” She caressed Ezra’s cheek. He was hard-pressed not to flinch at her touch. “I decided I couldn’t wait for him to grow up on his own.” She laughed at the look on Chris’s face.
The king turned his fury on Ezra. “You were working for her this whole time. Waiting for your chance to betray us.”
It was Ella who spoke. “Oh, yes. He was quite useful to me for once.”
Ezra had always longed to hear those words from her, but now they cut at his heart.
“And now Camelot is mine. It took a few years, but it was worth the wait. It makes my triumph so much sweeter. You know your good and loyal friend, Sir Buck? He didn’t betray you after all. It was a potion I had Ezra give him and the queen. Stronger than the one I gave you years ago, but just as effective. I just want some of your last thoughts to be on how you accused and drove away your oldest friend when he was completely innocent. I hope the guilt keeps you warm for the next few nights here in the dungeon. I’m going to route out your remaining knights and kill them like dogs while you watch. Then I’m going to kill you last. You’ll live just long enough to see everything you worked for turned to dust. Come, Ezra.” She turned with a flourish, Ezra reluctantly in her wake.
Chris jerked his head around—and regretted it instantly when the room seemed to spin. Nathan sat against the opposite wall, chained as Chris was. “Right about what?”
“Buck didn’t betray you. The food he and the queen ate in the throne room was tainted. I’ve been examining it ever since that day. Vin and I tried to tell you.”
“But I was too stubborn and too drunk to listen. I know. Me and alcohol don’t mix well. I should know better by now.”
They were both silent for a while. Then Nathan brought up what both of them were thinking about. “So… Is it true? Is Ezra your son?”
“She wouldn’t have any reason to lie about that. It explains why he’s been helping her. And…it explains some things about him that unsettled me. He has my mother’s eyes. I’ve never met anyone with eyes that color before except for her. Yes. I think he’s my son. By blood anyway. She’s had years to make him over into her image and it looks like she’s done a masterful job. He’s as ruthless, cold, and manipulative as his mother.”
“So it was Ezra who betrayed us? Who put the potion in the food and let Morgan’s men in?”
“I shouldn’t have let my guard down. I was starting to trust that conniving snake. It looks like you were right about him all along.”
Nathan looked thoughtful. “Maybe.”
“What? Now you’re having second thoughts?”
“He didn’t look happy.”
“What do you mean?”
“For a man whose goal was to destroy us and take Camelot for his mother, Ezra certainly didn’t seemed too pleased about it.” Nathan rubbed at his eyes. “I don’t know. Maybe I was starting to believe in him, too.”