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      Dismissed, the servant turned on his heel and quietly exited. He had already carefully laid out Uther’s clothing for the day: breeches of soft black wool, with dragons ramping up and down the legs in gleaming gold embroidery; a tunic of bleached white linen; a doublet of deep crimson, studded with bronze, its fastenings shaped like dragons’ mouths and tails. The luxurious pieces of cloth lay spread out over the King’s bed. Normally, the servant would have remained to help dress him in such finery, but not today. Instead, he had been sent downstairs to help with the final preparations in the great hall.
      This morning, Uther would dress himself. He wanted to be alone.
      As he passed his mirror, something about the reflection didn’t seem right. He glanced up, and gasped at the visage he beheld in the glass. It was not his own reflection that he saw, but that of a woman.
      She was dressed in a dress of fine, snow-white linen. He remembered, suddenly, how it had felt, under his fingers; so soft and light, as if he could tear through it with one well-placed fingernail. Yet it was also well-woven, and reinforced with embroidery; flowers adorned her in a lattice of golden leaves and blooms. But neither the fine gold thread nor the gold circlet on her brow could outdo the glowing radiance of her own golden hair, which fell about her shoulders, where it had not been gathered into tight, coiled braids at her temples. She was pale, but not with the pallor that he last had seen in her; she glowed, as she had in life, like the sun shining through alabaster.
      Ygraine. He mouthed her name; no sound would come from his dry throat.
      She regarded him, it seemed, with a piercing sort of sadness.
      And then, her voice came to him, though her lips did not move. Was it worth it, Uther? That bargain you struck? With her?
      “Oh, Ygraine.” His voice came back to him, but only as a rustling whisper. “If only I could have you back again. If only…” He traced along the edges of her reflection. “I would do anything.”
      You would do anything. Breathy laughter echoed in his skull. Those are easy words to say, when you are not the one who is to be sacrificed. The sound was getting dimmer, as was her reflection.
      “Don’t leave me,” he begged, his fingers curling against the glass as if to catch the waning radiance of her in the mirror. She seemed to reach out to him, as well, and her lips moved; they did not seem to sync with the voice in his head, but it was hard to tell. His vision was too blurred with tears.
      Remember me, when you reap what you’ve sown.
      “Ygraine! Forgive me, my love!”
      In his head, only his own thoughts and memories. In the mirror, his reflection stared back at him, weeping.
      He drove his fist into the glass, and it shattered.

      It took a long while for him to stop weeping, but it took even longer to staunch the bleeding cut he had opened on his hand. When he had finally brought everything under control, he went to his wardrobe, and brought out the hairshirt that he kept there, hidden behind a secret panel. He was the only one who knew it was there. He was the only one living who needed to know that he wore it every year on this day, in memory of her. The rough goat’s hair itched against his skin as he belted it on and put his fine clothes on over it. Now, especially, he wished that the hair would rub him raw and pierce straight through him.

      Morgana was waiting at the foot of the stairs, staring up at him.
      Uther cleared his throat. “I thought you would be down in the great hall, already,” he said.
      “I was headed that way, but I thought I heard your voice. Is everything all right?”
      “Of course. Everything is fine.” The cut on his hand throbbed underneath his doeskin gloves. To his relief, she accepted his words with a shrug.
      “Then we can go down together, and wish Arthur a happy birthday.” Her hand settled lightly atop his arm, and she led the way, smiling.
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josephine_marrs: Colin Morgan wearing a dark-colored beanie, apparently at night (Default)

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