14. Bloodlust

A heavily armored knight cried out to a robed man, who was staring at the ashes and darkened, smoky ground in front of their home that marked where their home once stood. Where his father, Lord Bradán, once stood.

“I will avenge you father,” Sir Craig Bradán declared. “I swear by the grace of God will murder the moor who did this. I shall find her and flay her.”

The sound of footsteps caused Sir Bradán to spin about.

“Ah!” Sir Bradán said with a weak smile. “Balin! Or should I say, Sir Balin! Have you come to help us?”

Balin deftly drew his sword—a dark sword with a smoky pattern on its blade that made it look as if it were smouldering—and caught the Sir Bradán off-guard, plunging the blade hilt-deep into young knight’s chest. The knight gurgled as he looked on in horror at Balin’s ruthlessness.

“What… what is this?” Sir Bradán managed to say before Balin placed a foot upon the knight’s shoulder and pulled his sword. Sir Bradán crumpled upon the ground with a heavy thud.

“It’s the boy Balin!” one villager cried out as he pointed at the bloodied figure of a man dragging his sword behind him on the ground. “He’s gone mad!”

The villagers screamed and fled, leaving the figure with the still bodies of Sir Bradán. With no one in sight, the Damsel dropped the illusion and transformed back into herself. She uttered a spell that made the replica of Tyrfing vanish into a puff of smoke. Then, she grinned as she walked away.

‘The trap is set,’ she thought to herself as she left the grisly scene. She continued on walking for some time until she chanced upon the real Balin, also walking by himself.

“Ah, Sir Balin,” she called out. “So glad to run into you!”

“Oh,” he said nonchalantly. “I’m not giving it back to you. That’s final.”

The Damsel clenched her jaw.

“Oh no, that’s not what I wanted to speak with you with.”

“Then, what is it?”

“Lady Viviane has gone mad with envy,” the Damsel said to Balin as she aimed the ouroboros at the young man’s eyes, dazzling him. “She knows that your brother is now in love with me. So she has asked Sir Balan to prove his love and murder her own family, her own father and brother, so that they can elope together. She plans to accuse you of the murder of her brother Sir Bradán so that she can leave with Sir Balan while the king and his court are distracted. And…”

She lowered her head to hide her grin under her hood.

“She’s just sentenced your mother to die,” she said tearfully.

Balin froze.

“She’s done what?” he asked.

The Damsel focused the glint of ouroboros at Balin’s reddened eyes.

Balin felt his blood begin to boil, and his vision grew cloudy with fury.

“Murdered,” she repeated. “Your mother.”

Balin felt the sword upon his back call for him to spill blood.

Meanwhile, at King Arthur’s court, there was great pandemonium.

“My liege!” one of the guards cried out as he burst into the great hall at Camelot and knelt before King Arthur. “Grave news! Sir Balin has gone on a killing spree! He has just murdered Sir Craig Bradán in cold blood.”

“Sir Bradán?” King Arthur exclaimed. “Dead like his father?”

Lady Viviane, at hearing these words, howled as she collapsed, utterly devasted at the news that her family is gone. She sobbed in fetal position for some time before she crawled before the king’s throne and prostrated herself before him.

“Sire, the sword has driven Balin insane,” Lady Viviane shouted, sending flecks of spittle flying through the air. “Both he, and that damned damsel who gave him that sword, must be stopped!”

She looked up at King Arthur as she fumed heavily, flaring her nostrils as she spoke.

“For my loyal service, I ask that you bring justice to the murderer of my family,” Lady Viviane begged King Arthur. “I thank you for avenging my father’s death, but now avenge my brother’s too.”

Sir Percival stepped forward furiously. His brother, Sir Lamorak, did his best to hold him back.

“You forget yourself, woman!” Sir Percival cried out. “This is the King you’re speaking to. The Rex Britannium. Not some lapdog for you to push about! You are asking for too much spilt blood in his name!”

“My king,” Sir Uflius said, trying a softer angle. “Surely you have already fulfilled your promise to this lady by avenging the death of her mother.”

Lady Viviane stared unflinchingly into the king’s eyes.

The barons and knights looked at the king.

The king pursed his lips, then straightened up on his throne.

“The gift of Excalibur is so great that one promise is not enough to reciprocate the act of its return to me,” the king declared.

Sir Percival placed his face in his palm.

“My liege, you are too soft on this one,” he grumbled into his hand. “Had Adam not obeyed Eve, we’d still in Eden.”

“Lady Viviane is a loyal supporter, I wield Excalibur again thanks to her,” the king continued. “It is but a small favour to avenge the destruction of her family. That strange damsel has brought a cursed weapon to this land. For this, she shall pay with her head. And for the murder of Sir Bradán, we will have the head of that treacherous Balin.”

“Hear, hear,” some of the barons begrudgingly rumbled from along the walls of King Arthur’s court.

Balin burst through the doors of the great hall.

“Lady Viviane!” he roared. “Is it true?!”

Balin watched as Lady Viviane, the woman he loved, falsely accuse him of murdering her father and brother after she successfully accused his mother of murder and got her executed.

“You’ve gone too far, Balin!” Lady Viviane screamed. “How could you kill my brother!”

“I did not kill your brother, Viv! Your games are over,” Balin growled. “You, who have sentenced my mother to die. You have killed your own father and brother. You who has poisoned my brother’s mind and intend to elope with him!”

From the shadows, the Damsel held her ouroboros pendant steadily at the frenetic young man, leaning in slightly with a crazed look in her eyes.

“Lies!” Lady Viviane defended herself, shocked at these false accusations. “None of this is true? Balin, where did you hear these things?”

Balin’s frenzy overtook his senses and he drew the dark blade Tyrfing. A look of fear crossed Lady Viviane’s eyes, but Balin was blind with rage. He swung the wicked blade, lopping Lady Viviane’s head clean off from her neck.

The lady’s head dropped to the ground and rolled a short distance before coming to a full stop. Gasps ran through the court. The Damsel hid her pendant.

King Pellinore was horrified by the Lady’s head on the ground next to her motionless motion. He howled as he drew his sword.

“What have you done?!” King Pellinore screamed with a raised sword. “What have you done?!”“What…?” Balin asked himself softly, feeling the court spin around him as he regained his senses, and blood sank from his head and his eyes back to his feet. He felt control return to his fingers, and his sight under his control once more. He unclenched his jaw, and starred stunned at the head of the lady he loved.

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