One of the guards already on duty handed the keys to the tallest of the two new men. He stopped suddenly. “Hey! You’re not Roderick!”
“No. I’m a whole lot better looking!” He punched the other guard, knocking him against the wall and into unconsciousness. The smaller guard whacked the other man with the flat of his blade before he could yell for help.
“About time you got here, Buck.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“The way you walk.”
The other guard took of his helm. JD. JD gave Buck a little shove. “Told you you strut like an old rooster.”
“Hey now, Boy. It’s a masculine swagger—and it makes the women quiver with desire.”
“Are you sure they’re not shaking with laughter?”
Chris folded his arms and just glared at them. “If the two of you are finished playing around..?”
Buck and JD proceeded to open all the cells, letting out Chris, Nathan, and all of Chris’s loyal soldiers who’d also been imprisoned in the dungeons.
Chris shook his head. “I must say I’m surprised.”
JD looked hurt. “You didn’t think we’d come rescue you?”
“It’s not that, JD. I’m just surprised you and Buck didn’t rouse the whole castle doing it. You learned how to be quiet for once.”
JD just grinned at that.
Buck was looking a bit nervous. “So, uh, Chris. Are we okay? You know I’d never…”
“I know. Nathan told me about the potion. Ella, too. She bragged about it in fact. Sitting sober in the dungeon for a while made me realize that you’d never do something like that. It was just seeing it…”
“So you don’t want to rip my head off anymore?”
“Not today. I’ll let you know about tomorrow.”
Buck clapped his shoulder, a goofy grin on his face. “Well, alright! Let’s get out of here!”
They found Josiah on the steps standing over the bodies of several more of Morgan’s men. Vin was in the hall keeping watch. Chris and his men made their way to the nearest of the secret entrances to the hidden tunnels that ran throughout the castle and below. The tunnels had always been a secret known only to him and his Round Table. He didn’t like revealing them to so many, but there was no helping it. Perhaps it would work to his advantage. He could station small groups of his soldiers throughout the castle, hidden in its walls. They could plan and coordinate a surprise attack from practically everywhere. Ella Gainsborough and her treacherous son better watch their backs.
A short time later, Chris had his men garrisoned in select hidden rooms, awaiting further orders. He needed to talk to his knights first. They had to know what happened. This was something he didn’t want to talk about in front of all his soldiers.
His retelling of the events leading up to his capture left the men stunned. They hadn’t wanted to believe it was Ezra, but now they couldn’t refute it. He was the traitor—and he was Chris’s son.
Chris was angry at himself for letting his guard down around Standish. The man had played them all quite well. If he’d been eager and friendly, Chris would’ve suspected him of being a spy from the start and never trusted him. Instead, he’d been smug and irritating, but also respectful with servants and gentle with children, never speaking harshly or angrily with them. He quietly insinuated himself into their group. One by one almost all of his men had fallen under his spell. Had it all been lies? His own uncertainty about Ezra had made Chris vulnerable. As time passed, he’d found himself questioning his original assumptions about their new knight. Then to find he’d been a traitor all along. Ella’s son. His anger rose again at the thought of that woman. “If I get within sword’s length of Ella or that demon-spawn, I’ll run them through.”
“Chris. He’s your son.”
“No! He’s not mine! He’s hers. She’s made him all hers! She’s raised him to be a cold, treacherous monster just like her. They’re probably sitting in the throne room right now laughing at us and drinking a toast to what they’ve done!”
“I don’t think you’re the only victim here.”
“He was in on it with her. It was probably his idea to give Mary and Buck the potion.”
Josiah clenched his fists in frustration. “How old is Ezra, Chris?”
“He’s a man, Josiah. Unnatural, but still a man.”
“In years he’s still a child. Morgan’s aged him magically. Don’t tell me he hasn’t suffered. She’s stolen his childhood from him. And if you had ever noticed the pain in his eyes or the way he hides his emotions, you’d realize she taken a whole lot more than just years. When I saw him earlier, spoke to him… He was trying to warn me, but there was something holding him back. I know he truly wanted to help us, Chris.”
Chris turned to the quiet knight who’d been even more silent than usual lately. “You, too, Vin?”
“Ezra saw me, Chris. He was standing not ten feet away from me. There were two guards coming and he didn’t say a thing. Just one word could’ve brought them down on me. Instead of raising the alarm, he distracted them for a few minutes so I could get away. I don’t know what’s going on with him and that woman, but I know where his real loyalty is. I feel bad for even doubting him for a little while. You’ve been waiting for him to betray you ever since he got here, though, so that’s all you looked for. He never had a chance with you.”
“You haven’t noticed the things he did unless they were bad. If he was all hers and evil like you want to believe, why’s he rush to help JD when he thought Buck was hurting him? He was willing to fight him to protect JD. Why’d he risk making enemies of all of us to ride off and save that woman and her child? What about your sword? Evil can’t touch Excalibur without pain. He held it and it didn’t hurt him at all. And why’d he waste his time entertaining a bunch of sad little kids in Levinshire? He didn’t get anything for that. He was sore and tired and bleeding and he stopped to make them happy.”
Josiah nodded. “We’ve all seen the way he is with children. Perhaps he feel an affinity for them, being a child himself in some ways.”
Vin was wrong. He had seen all those things. Chris just didn’t know how much of them he could trust. That’s what had made him waver. Had all Ezra’s acts of kindness and integrity been just that—acts?
Nathan couldn’t believe them! “He’s no child! He’s a grown man who betrayed us! Doesn’t that make you angry?”
“Of course it does! But I think we need to direct our anger at the real target—Morgan le Fey.” Josiah held Chris’s gaze. “She’s used him as surely as she’s used you. I don’t think he wanted this. At least not at the end. Like I told Nathan, it’s all in the eyes. Everything he feels is there. He didn’t want to betray us. I don’t think he had a choice.”
No one spoke for several minutes. Buck finally broke the silence. “So what do we do now?”
Chris’s expression was like one of stone. “We need to have a little talk with Ezra. Find him and bring him here.”