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Chapter 32
By Setcheti Posted in Story on 27 March 2022 1357 words
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In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 32

King Hugin, ruler of the Isle of Odinson, perked up from his funk when something flew in through the tower window and landed in his magician’s hand—anything for a not-unpleasant diversion, these days. “Is that paper?”

“Yes.” The paper bird unfolded into a letter, which the Royal Magician read with a frown on his angular face and then thrust at his king, going back to the window. “That boy, I swear…”

Hugin read the letter, which was really more of a note. We received your message and have worked out a way to get some supplies to you. Still looking into the larger problem. Go to a window and look for our ship in the harbor. Merlin. “Well…it sounds promising?” His magician just huffed. “What’s the problem, Alf?”

Alf didn’t turn around; he was waving from the window. “And there he is, on a ship, right in the middle of the harbor. Does he not know they can swim…oh, I guess he does now. And apparently being cursed for over a year didn’t cost him the elemental fire he’s always throwing around like confetti at a child’s party…”

Hugin was getting the feeling that his magician was jealous, and normally he wouldn’t have poked that with a sharp stick but he was bored half to death and he was—relatively—certain that Alf wouldn’t curse him. “Elemental fire?”

“He was most likely born with it,” Alf said sullenly. “I don’t know what his fool parents were thinking. Having that many children wasn’t tempting Fate, it was running up behind Fate and pulling his pants down, maybe slapping him on the ass for good measure.”

“Now there’s a situation I doubt anyone’s ever thought of before.” Hugin frowned at his back. “Seventh son of a seventh son, eh?”

Alf snorted. “And the thirteenth child on top of that. Not that he advertises it, of course, but it’s obvious in his magic. Which he’s all but oozing with and doesn’t use even a tenth of, just ran around the islands for years with the rest of the Fearless Seven rescuing princesses and throwing lightning at monsters.”

That perked Hugin up. “Wait, Merlin as in the leader of the Fearless Seven? Merlin Emrys, King Uther’s ward?”

Alf turned halfway around, looking annoyed. “Yes, that Merlin. And I suppose, what of it?”

Hugin rolled his eyes. “If you’d ever met Uther, you’d know. The only magic they have is the Sword, and she doesn’t come to every king of Avalon—she didn’t come to Uther, and she’s not found his son Arthur worthy to wield her yet either. So whenever Uther got that boy, that’d be the day the boy’s magic lessons stopped.” He raised a thick eyebrow. “None of you ever asked him, I take it.”

Alf made a face. “I never thought to, not that I’ve ever had what amounted to an actual conversation with him. I mean, it’s obvious someone trained him, at least to do the party trick, and rumor has it he’s been adding to his repertoire since he moved into the Black Castle, but…no, honestly I don’t think that would have occurred to any of us.”

“But giving Fate a smack on the ass did? Magicians are strange, strange people.” Hugin got up and ambled over to the window just to have something else to do, and Alf rather grudgingly made room for him—quite a bit of room, as Hugin was half a head shorter than he was but nearly twice as broad. There was a smallish ship, it looked like a trading ship, in their harbor, and he did get to see a blast of blue fire hit something—someone, most likely—and send them flying back into the water. “Hmmph, nice trick. I’d like to learn that one myself.”

Alf just snorted. King Hugin’s line had a bit of magic in it, but not enough for him to do anything with; his great, great grandfather had supposedly been able to turn into a large raven, but he’d been the last in the family born with that talent. They did occasionally pop out a magician—Alf was the king’s cousin, after all—but that was pretty much it. Hugin’s intuitive leap about Merlin’s probable lack of training did make sense, and it could explain some things. Alf grimaced. It didn’t change the fact that the boy was royal, ridiculously pretty and just stupidly powerful, though. He squinted. Something was happening on the ship. Something large had been brought out on deck, but then everyone moved away from it and it disappeared rather abruptly and now…he pulled Hugin away from the window. “Incoming,” he said. “They’ve sent something else, and I don’t think this one’s made of paper.”

It wasn’t. It was still an artificial bird, but this one was made of wood and brass and was making a whirring noise as it glided in and landed in the middle of the room atop a canvas-bound package about the size of a loaf of bread. There was another note held fast in its beak, which Alf carefully extracted and unfolded. “Unhook the bird and put him on the windowsill, then put the package in the center of a large empty room and hit it with a small pulse of magic,” he read. “And stand back.”

Hugin was already removing the bird from the package, and he laughed when it wiggled its wings in a sort of bow before launching itself off the windowsill and heading back to the ship. “Now there’s something else you don’t see every day.”

“No.” Alf suspected the bird, while obviously mechanical, was actually being guided by magic, but he didn’t say so. He frowned at the tower room, decided it wasn’t large or empty enough, and took the package down two flights of stairs to a somewhat larger room. He placed the package in the center, sent a small pulse of magic into the knotted string holding the canvas together, and then retreated to the doorway. The package shivered, like water trembling in a glass, and then it started to grow. It grew and grew until a very large canvas-covered bundle held together with strong rope was sitting there, and then he and Hugin set about getting the knots undone—supplies were scarce right now, so even rope and canvas weren’t to be wasted.

And inside the canvas were sturdy sacks and bags full of grains, fruit, vegetables, cheeses and salted meat; casks of oil and wine and honey; a box of candles, and another box filled with pastries and cake that had a note on top which said ‘For the children.’ Alf wasn’t at all surprised when his king broke down in tears at the sight of it all—honestly, his own eyes weren’t entirely dry either. Hugin staggered back up to the tower and grabbed some parchment, writing out a note of sincere thanks which may or may not have also included a declaration of royal friendship for as long as both of their kingdoms should exist. “Being a bit generous, aren’t we?”

The look Alf got was a perhaps timely reminder that Hugin may be his cousin but he was still the king. “They remembered my children,” he said, voice breaking. “I’ll never hear another word against Prince Consort Merlin from you again, Royal Magician.”

Alf dipped his head. “Of course, sire.” He folded the note and summoned a bird which he then enchanted to fly directly to Merlin…and when the bird reached its destination and the younger magician looked up, he waved. An alliance with the Black Isle wouldn’t be a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.


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