Ezra left his horse by a stand of trees, knowing he wouldn't wander. He'd trained his horses better than that. The young lord walked down to the water. The others didn't know that he came here when he was upset or confused. Something about the calm, cool water soothed him. And then there was the Lady of the Lake. Since the day he'd thrown himself into the lake in a fevered delirium, he'd returned often to converse with her. She was very easy to talk to. It seemed lately she was the only one who really listened to him and understood what he said and, more importantly, what he didn't say.
The placid surface of the water began to bubble. She knew he was here. A beautiful woman dressed all in blues and greens rose up from the water. Her smile was impossibly warm on such a cool day. "Ezra. Pleasant day to you."
"And to you, Lady Viviane."
"What brings you to the lake today, my friend? Not going to jump in again are you?"
"Good Heavens, no! It's much too cold for a swim today. No. I'm just taking a walk to clear my head. The lake always seems to help. I don't know why."
Viviane shook her head at him. "You're hiding from them."
Ezra sighed. She could read him so easily. "You're correct. Quite childish, I know."
"Well. You are technically only eight years old. Perhaps a small allowance could be made."
Ezra smiled for the first time in days. "Why are you so easy to talk to?"
"It's my natural charm."
He smiled again.
"You know very well I can hear the thoughts of others, Ezra. However, in your case that wasn't necessary. You're wishing the others were as easy to talk to--especially Chris."
"I wish I could read his mind. I don't know what he wants from me, what he expects. If he would just tell me..."
"Now that he knows you're his son, the relationship has changed."
"Yes. Sometimes he talks to me as if I were a child. and there's a wistfulness in his eyes... I do know one thing now that I didn't before. He wishes I were a child. Then he'd know how to treat me. He could start over and mold me into the kind of son he could be proud of." Ezra hung his head. "The one thing I can't give him."
"Is that what you want?"
"Is that what you want? To be a child again? It would be difficult, but I could manage such a spell. I would ask that you speak to Chris first. And if you both agree..."
"How...how would this work?"
"You would physically become an eight-year-old child again, of course. And you would also still retain your early childhood memories, but the spell would wipe away the knowledge Morgan infused you with and the memories you've made as an adult."
Ezra thought about that. He would still remember Maude, Lot, and Morgan and those lonely early years, but her spell would erase so many painful episodes--and his betrayal of the king.
But... to be a child again. Surely the knights would treat a child kindly. The king would finally have a son to raise properly. And all Ezra had to do would be to give up his very existence--the man he'd become.
He wasn't a good person. He knew that. But he'd come to value himself to some degree since no one else seemed to. Chris and the others had said they were proud of him and wanted him to stay, but Ezra still felt unworthy of their camaraderie and unsure of the sincerity of their words--especially in light of their recent behavior towards him. What if he became a child again and the king changed his mind? What if he still didn't want him? A child was such a burden after all. He'd heard that often enough from Queen Maude.
To be vulnerable to the cruelties and whims of the adults around him...helpless, alone, useless. At least as a man he could take up arms and fight for the king--or fight to defend himself.
The king had wanted a child, had searched for a child. Then found a grown man instead. He must have felt so angry, cheated. What should Ezra do?
"Ezra. Relax. You don't need to decide this very moment. I'll always be here when you're ready. Take some time to think about this. Most importantly talk to Chris. Make him understand how you feel. If you both really want this..."
Ezra nodded. "Thank you, Milady."