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Chapter 59
By Goth Kitty Lady Posted in Story on 21 November 2022 1471 words
Annual Barbarian Melee Day 2022 Previous Chapter 58 Next
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In the Land of Stories Old

Chapter 59


The next morning, surprisingly, Merlin was up with everyone else—he was moving like he was a hundred years old, but he was up and sitting in the kitchen cradling a mug of tea in his hands. He was also quite apologetic. “I must have put up quite the fight yesterday,” he said. “I didn’t hurt anyone, did I?”

Arthur shook his head. “No. Did we hurt you?”

His brother shrugged, holding back a wince at the movement. “That was not a ‘no’,” Jack said. He reached over and pushed up the loose sleeve of the old shirt Merlin was wearing—a very old, very soft shirt that laced up in the front instead of buttoning, one he usually only wore for gardening. The bruises on his arm were already quite dark, and Merlin pulled the sleeve back down. “Merlin…”

“I know how strong I am,” Merlin rebutted calmly. “What choice did you have? And I wasn’t actually…there for most of that, even if you all may have thought that I was. I started blanking out as soon as we walked through the castle gates.” He took a sip of his tea. “It felt like…like someone was pouring tar into my head.”

Arthur poked Noki’s arm. “Told you.”

“That still does not change the fact that you are in pain,” Hans pointed out reasonably. “You should go sit in the bath for a while.”

“I’m relatively certain I can’t actually do that,” Merlin said. “The sides of the baths are…rather high.”

Jack gave him an overly patient look. “How did you get your pants on, then?” Merlin’s cheeks went red, and he laughed. “Ah, I see—you had wifely help.” He stood up. “Come on, I will help you. In fact, it would probably do all of us good to just sit and soak for a while. It is not like we are going to get anything done today.”

Nobody argued with him, and soon they were all sprawled in steaming tubs drinking tea and making rather nonsensical conversation. They were all so relaxed that nobody so much as twitched when Snow and Serena came in with their hands full of little corked phials full of clear liquid. Jack nodded to them; they’d gone with the guard to fetch seawater earlier. “How is the water?”

“Still clear near the shore, but I saw some patches further out that looked a little funny,” Serena told him.

Merlin blinked at the ceiling. “Shadowy?”

“Yes.”

He motioned with one hand, obviously not wanting to move the arm it was attached to any more than necessary. “Let me see.”

Snow frowned at him. “Merlin…”

“I’m not in any way low on magic, my love, I’m just tired and sore,” he said, smiling at her. “I’m probably better off than Elana is right now, in fact. I can easily purify seven little phials of seawater.”

“But don’t you need…” he took one phial from Serena, it glowed, and he handed it back, “…ink to mark them, and I suppose not.” The rest of the phials were handed over and he kept the last one and uncorked it, pushing himself up in the bath enough that he could pour the seawater over the Mark. “Oh, that feels much better.”

Jack just dumped his into his bathwater, figuring it couldn’t hurt. “I would have gotten some last night, but I felt it would be too dangerous to go down to the shore for it in the dark.”

“It would’ve been,” Arthur agreed, sighing as the seawater took the sting out of his own Mark. “How is the town, by the way?”

“Quiet,” Serena said. “There’s only one ship docked, and there weren’t many people out on the streets.”

“Probably because trade has fallen off again, due to the sickness running rampant through the islands,” Merlin said. “I know we need to find out how everything is going…but I just can’t today. Tomorrow will have to be soon enough.”

“Tomorrow will be soon enough, or even the day after,” Snow told him, giving him a kiss. “I’m going to go play with my father in the garden.”

Merlin blinked up at her. “He likes to chase butterflies. I can animate a paper one…”

“Once you’re out of the bath, maybe you can join us,” she told him, kissing him again. “Serena made a little ball for him out of yarn, she said he likes to chase that too.”

“That sounds good,” he agreed.

 

It was about half an hour more before the water began to cool too much to be comfortable, and then everyone started reluctantly getting out to get dressed. Merlin managed to lever himself out of the bath on his own, stretching carefully before drying himself off. He frowned at the little pile of clothes on the stool, then wrapped a dry towel around his waist. “I’m going upstairs—no sense getting dressed just to get undressed again, especially as we’re the only ones in the castle.”

He was already out the door and headed up the stairs before anyone else was dressed enough to follow him—the hot water had helped a great deal, apparently—but they heard him meet Snow on the stairs. “Merlin, why are you only wearing a towel?”

“Because I’m too sore not to be wearing one?” The leer was audible in his voice. “I’m willing to give it a try in our rooms, however.”

“Oh you…”

“Hey, the wall is cold…oh. Mmm. Well hello there, wife.” And then he squeaked, meaning she’d probably picked him up. “Snow!”

“Hush—your feet will be black if I let you walk barefoot all the way up to our rooms. And I have other uses for your…energy.”

“Well, if you put it that way…”

The rest of them just looked at each other, and a general shrug went around the room as everyone else finished getting dressed—although the triplets did look a little wistful, as their girlfriend was still sleeping off her efforts from the previous day.

Snow appeared in the kitchen not ten minutes later and began unhurriedly fixing herself a mug of tea. She rolled her eyes when everyone stared at her, the question nobody wanted to ask hanging in the air. “You’ve been Merlined,” she snorted. “You watched the show and missed the performance—he was asleep before I even got him into bed.”

“Which is why he did not want to put forth the effort to get dressed, of course.” Jack was smiling too. “I will go down and get more seawater this afternoon, perhaps in a jug this time so we will not have to keep making the trip.” He frowned into nothing. “It should only take…a few days for the Marks to settle.”

“Good to know—I’m glad we did it, but it hurts like hell.” Arthur glared at Hans, who was snickering. “You screamed too!”

“Yes, but I screamed like a man, not like a pretty pretty princess,” Hans teased him. “Who would have known your voice could go that high?”

“Shut up,” Arthur grumbled. He ran a hand through his damp hair, which had gotten longer than he’d realized it had. “I know we have to be gettin’ on with things…but Jack was right earlier and so was Merlin, there is no way I’m gettin’ anything done today.”

“Me either,” Hans agreed placidly. “Supper will most likely be what is left of our travel rations, I’m afraid, as the elves have not come back from our old home yet. Or perhaps we could have some porridge, if I am hungry enough to force myself to cook it.”

“I would not say no to a good pot of porridge,” Kio told him. “I will help you make it.”

“Or I could just bring back a few roasted birds from the cookshop in town when I go down to get the seawater,” Jack said. “It would give me an excuse to see how things are in the town, perhaps to hear some gossip. I can stop at the baker’s as well, she is good for that. And she will be so very happy to hear that Prince Hans is back in residence.”

Hans snorted into his tea. “She is old enough to be my mother—not that I object to older women in the general sense, but I have a great many objections to that one in particular.”

Snow smiled behind her mug. It was good to be home.


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