Chapter 38

After assuring Gwen and Arthur I am fine, they leave me to fend for myself. Using a basin and cloth, I clean my face, the scabby texture and blisters almost fading away ever moment. Much to quick to be natural but I assume it is a magical disease. I smile, holding the cloth up to my face again-

-Why am I alive? A sudden intake of breath and shock cause me to drop the cloth. It lands on the floor but I don't take notice. I'm supposed to be dead, so why am I not.

"Gaius? Merlin?" I cry out. Gwen hadn't said anything about them, only that they left hours ago for supplies. No, they couldn't be out for supplies. The only other person who knew about this is Castor.

"Merlin?"

But there's an emptiness inside that I hadn't felt in six months. Disconnection. Alone. My hands encircle my face, digging my nails into my scalp. He can't be dead, or I would be dead. But I was dead. I try to make sense of the situation in my mind – to play out all the variables but I can't think straight. I must make sure Castor is here, rule him out of involvement.

I sprint out of the physician's quarters, my legs still weak but enough to keep me from falling over. It's the morning so they are likely down at the training grounds. I know Castor well enough to know that he would be doing his best to ignore it, because it is something he can't control.

True to my prediction, Castor and the rest of the knights are there and I continue walking forward to watch. Said knight is fighting against Arthur in a way I've never seen before. His moves a fierce and barbaric, unlike the knightly way of skill and precision. Arthur holds a defence, Castor not allowing him to attack but leaves himself open in return. Seeing an opening, the Prince strikes towards him, low on his torso. Castor throws his sword to the ground in frustration.

"What's his issue?" Leon, who is waiting in the crowd asks aloud to anybody nearby. Castor turns to glare at him, but his eyes shift to me as I walk up behind them.

"Sorry," I call out catching their attention. "I insulted him yesterday and his ego is deflated," I finish with a smirk. Leon and the other knights laugh. Arthur eyes me, silently asking if I'm ok and I return it with a subtle nod.

Castor on the other hand looks at me, not believing I stand here still alive. He almost certainly has no idea what's going on. I spare a glance to Leon, who has no idea that only an hour or two ago I was on my deathbed.

"I'll see you boys later," I bid. Castor picks up his sword.

"Wait!"

I stop, waiting for him to catch up. I almost expect Arthur to say something about one of his mean missing training but by the look on his face I think he knows that Castor knew something as well, so he doesn't make a move to argue. Castor comes into step with me and we walk away silently. Once out of the view of prying eyes, his arms engulf me in a hug before pulling away.

"I thought you were dead," he hisses, clutching my shoulders and shaking them.

"And I was," I tell him. "But now I'm not and I'm trying to figure out why. Merlin and Gaius are gone and I've think they've done something."

"Where are they?"

"Possibly the Isle of the Blessed – but I don't know how to get there, I didn't exactly pay attention last time," I rant, rubbing my arms. Castor's hand grabs them, holding them still.

"It's ok-"

"No, it's not, Castor. My friends are missing and possibly dead and- "

"You mean those friends," he interjects with a smile. He points behind me to two people riding on a single horse. They are, indeed, unmistakably my friends. I let out a cry of relief and run towards them.

Merlin dismounts, jogging towards the castle but I am running to them from a side entry. He seems frantic, like he's lost something precious. What would be the matter? He and Gaius have saved me… but who has taken my place?

"Merlin!" I shout over the Square. Hearing my voice call his name, his head spins, eyes locking with mine. He halts in his step and we stand there looking at each other. Then we both sprint, meeting in the middle in a crushing hug that I'm surprised didn't send us to the ground.

"Elena," he whispers in my ear. "I couldn't feel you; you wouldn't answer. I thought you were dead," he admits softly, his face buried in my hair while mine in his scarf. I shake my head.

"No, I was there, I felt death but then I came back," I explain, small trembles in my hand from adrenaline. I register the rest his words. He feels the same I do – nothing. I pull back from him, searching his eyes. "I can't feel you anymore either. The bond- it only ends in death. It may have been only for a moment, but I was there."

"You think it's broken?" Merlin whimpers, his eyebrows scrunching together. "We can do the oath again right? Just need to mix our blood," he rambles.

I nod, agreeing on the outside but inside me is tumbling. I am no longer connected to him; I have nothing physical keeping me here with him. Merlin is one of my best friends in the entire world, I've shared every part of my life with him. But leaving to Ealdor had awoken something in me, something that I never brought up as I thought it wouldn't be possible. There is so much in this world I have yet to see. Amazing cultures, people. Places where magic is freely used. I want to see it, so desperately. I've broken free from the fear of the unknown out there.

But then something has always kept me grounded. Leon, Castor, Torj, Merlin, Gaius, Gwen. My family is here. But it wouldn't be forever; I would come back sooner or later.

I greet Gaius with a much softer hug and Castor walks up, greeting them both but gives no indication that he knows about anything that just happened. Merlin informs me as we walk back to his chambers that he had killed Nimueh, exchanging her life to end the cycle of everybody volunteering for each other. I am glad that he found a solution, joking that I would have had to go back out and volunteer myself to save Merlin, who was saving Gaius, who was saving me, who was saving Merlin, who was saving Arthur. At least, I think that is how the chain goes.

I spend the day catching up on my job, getting to hear Arthur bag out Merlin for being away and letting his chambers get horrendously messy. Gwen keeps her promise and doesn't speak of the events over the last twenty four hours, Gaius explaining that they feared it would spread fear at the idea of being contagious, which he assured her it was not. My skin had almost completely healed, a few red marks visible but I pass them off as sunspots when the oblivious Leon questions it.

I wander through the town, entering back into the Square. I see Leon and Arthur in one of the open corridors speaking with a Lady of the court. A beautiful woman, who holds power, money and influence. She looks so right next to him. I am not jealous, that has never been my style, and Leon is much to honourable and loyal to even look at another let alone be forward but I do feel discontent with my own position.

While she carry's power, I carry somebody else's laundry. While she is donned in jewels and pretty clothes, I am covered in sweat and freckles from the sun. Leon should have someone like her standing next to him. I love him enough to want him to have what he has earned.

I mark this as the moment my decision is made.

After speaking with the King on the matter, who is disappointed but understanding, offers my position back as soon as I please.

"I adore your clothes that you have brought me," he said, giving a rare smile.

So that night, I spent helping Merlin with Gaius' chores, scrubbing the floor. I wait till he is done, putting down my own brush. "Merlin," I call, his head turning to me. "I'm leaving Camelot."

END OF BOOK 1

BOOK 2 PUBLISHED ON PROFILE (18/05/2020)