menu Menu
Chapter 46
By Setcheti Posted in Story on 17 July 2022 1065 words
Chapter 47 Previous Chapter 45 Next
Previous Chapter Story Index Page Next Chapter

In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 46

They stayed at the ruins for several hours, and took their leave when the sun was a bare handspan above the cliff walls with the excuse that they needed to get back to their camp. Merlin had said almost nothing all afternoon, and he said nothing on the walk back either which was worrying to just about everyone. It wasn’t until they reached the other end of the valley where they’d come in that he indicated they should go back up the rope rather than making camp at the base of the cliff wall again, although he didn’t say anything else until they were not only all up but also out of the narrow passage. At which point he sighed and slumped down next to his wife. “I finally realized it was me setting him off,” he explained for everyone’s benefit. “Not me personally, I think it was my magic he was reacting to. But he was fine once I stopped talking.”

That was true. King Adam had been friendly and gracious all afternoon, and it was easy to see why his servants had loved him enough to stay with him. “We noticed,” Noki told him. “And the reason we could not make camp in the valley?”

Merlin smiled, but it was humorless. “They may or may not be able to leave the ruins, but they can’t leave the valley. And neither can anything else.” He waved it off. “Don’t worry, I charged the kettle when we made tea. And I checked when we all left the passage. Nobody brought any taint out with them.”

“The marble?” Jack wanted to know.

“All but lit up in your hand,” Merlin told him. “I’m not sure what that means, but keep it safe, I think it’s important.” He covered a yawn and started to get back up. “Right now, though, we need to make camp and then I need some sleep.”

Kio pushed him back down. “Sleep now,” he said. “We will wake you when it is time to eat.”

Noki overrode Merlin’s automatic objection to that with a frown. “No! The rest of us just walked, and sat, and drank tea.”

“You, however, did a great deal of magic,” Pino agreed. “I was surprised the elves let you have a blood quill.”

Merlin shrugged. “I explained why I thought I might need it, and Rose gave me one,” he said. “I was glad to have it today, believe me. The ghosts didn’t know what the quill was, which meant none of them had any suspicions about what I was doing with it the way they might have if I’d gotten out a knife and pricked one of my fingers to get blood. The circle I made was to keep them from taking the stone and hiding it from me, or worse, from taking it to their queen.” He shrugged again. “Given King Adam’s reaction to me, I thought it was a reasonable precaution.”

“It was,” Hans said. “The expression on his face, it changed when he even looked at you. I do not know what that was, but it made me uneasy.”

“You and me both,” came from Arthur, who was making a pit for the fire. “Go to sleep, Merlin. We can talk this to death when we’re on our way again in the mornin’.” When there was no answer, he glanced over and saw that Merlin was already asleep with his head on his wife’s shoulder. “Dammit.”

“He was holding on until we made it out of the valley,” Snow said quietly, easing her husband down so his head was pillowed in her lap. She ran her fingers through his hair. “I think he was afraid to show any weakness in front of King Adam and…whatever else is in there. I’ve seen him do that back home when he doesn’t feel safe. He fainted just outside the throne room’s door so many times that the guards put a cushion out there for him to land on.” Arthur couldn’t help but wince at that. “Stop. We all did what we had to do. And now we have to do it again, but this time to save the whole world.”

“You don’t know how much I’m wishin’ that someone else could save the world,” Arthur grumbled. “I hate to say it, but I’m startin’ to get tired of adventurin’.”

“You think we would not rather be back home with our workshop and our beautiful, passionate girlfriend?” came from Pino. “But the shadows…that has to be stopped, or none of us will be able to settle down and simply live.”

“Yeah, I know—and my betrothed is back home with your girlfriend,” Arthur told him. “Not that it’s quite the same thing, but I still worry.”

This time Jack snorted. “Of course you do, since the two of you already have a bond which is nearly equal to that of marriage.” He rolled his eyes when Arthur pretended surprise. “You know I am just teasing you when I speak of her choosing someone else. I would never have signed the contract with your father if I did not think you would make an excellent husband for her, and I also do not like that we are away while she and Elana are all but alone in the castle. But it turns out to be a very good thing we did not bring either of them with us. We can guess what the taint and the remnants of such curse magic may have done to a quarter-fairy, but to a Moon Princess? That could have been very bad as well.”

Nobody disagreed with him. They finished setting up camp, made dinner, and then as soon as it was dark a watch was set and everyone turned in. More than one person dreamed of naked sea kings and haunted forests that night, but Jack’s dreams always came back to a little jewel of a kingdom at the foot of gray granite cliffs, her fields golden with summer’s bounty and her trees heavy with the largest, reddest apples he’d ever seen.


Previous Chapter Story Index Page Next Chapter

fanfiction In the Land of Stories Old

Previous Next

Have something to add?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: