Author's Notes: Once upon the time there was this writer with plenty of time on her hand. Sure, she had a job, and a social life, but that didn't prevent her from writing on the off hours, just to relax. Then this writer's life, oh… let's call her Kreek, got a new house mate in the form of a puppy. And low and behold, GONE were the relaxing hours!
Instead down time was filled with raising this 8 weeks old wriggly 10 pounds of doggy life both days and nights. Walking, feeding, running after him, teaching him right from wrong, fishing him out of neighbours yards and ponds. Now shy of sleep and the dog finally being somewhat house broken and rudimentary trained, I can leave him alone for a few hours, and I actually managed to write something. It's not much, but it's something. I prided myself on always answering my reviews, but it just wasn't happening. So thank you ALL so much for your encouraging words, and for you pressing me to continue this. I will, but chapters will be shorter and intervals longer. Thanks as usual goes to my beta Strut. So here's chapter 13 part 1.
Chapter 13 part I.
Illuminating the deserted market place, a lone torch light flickered as rain's attempt to douse it was met with a hiss, followed by the flame brightly flaring in the next moment. Set in a small leeway a few paces away, the torch seemed to laugh in the face of so much water pouring from the skies. Rain's slippery fingers dripped down Merlin's cheeks, down to his chest where it squeezed his wound with cold tenacity. But two could play that game. He focussed on the flame, on its red hot fiery core to fight the ice swelling within him using inner strength alone, no magic, and kept from sagging on the stock's soaked wooden dais.
At this time of night only Camelot's guards did their rounds, but even they must have found an alternative route out of the rain, because he hadn't seen any of them. Either that, or they'd been told to avoid him. A shadow moved into the circle of light, soundless in the rush of rain hitting the cobblestones. He knew who it was, even before the boy showed himself. Wide eyed, Elliot looked as pale as a sheet, his hands clenched in fists by his side, lower lip trembling. He looked exhausted and whispered something inaudible over the down pour. The flame flickered in a gust of wind. Braced by the stocks, Merlin craned his neck, glancing at the kitchen boy. "Why?" He'd not meant to sound so judgemental because Elliot was not to blame, but with stiffly frozen lips, he could barely croak out the word.
Elliot lowered his head and stood, looking utterly miserable. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I know Tagan's methods of persuasion. You did what you had to do to stay alive." He would never have forgiven himself if Elliot had resisted long enough for the scribe to kill the boy. "Now get out of here before you get into trouble."
With a sad heart, Merlin watched him go. He went over his fast dwindling options and thought of earlier that evening, when he had waited long enough for Arthur to get a head start and had made his way over to the stables.
Merlin quietly saddled his mare feeling pretty sure he could follow Arthur with his eyes closed, even without this empathic link leaving a trail as bright as day. Over in the next stall, a horse's breath left its nostrils in a plume of smoke. One last tug at the straps, and then he backed his mare out of her stall. A scraping noise sounded close. He stiffened.
"Going somewhere?" Tagan spoke behind him.
He whipped around, startled to not only find Tagan near the stable doors, but also to see the kitchen boy standing next to him. He stared at Elliot, numbly letting Tagan take the reins from his hands.
The boy looked away, hunched with guilt. "I'm sorry," Elliot mumbled. "He had me keep an eye on you."
Merlin turned his attention toward the scribe. He should have known Tagan wouldn't shy away from using any force necessary to get what he wanted, and that obviously included terrifying little boys into doing his bidding. The man's vicious grin told him he was right. He clenched his fists to keep from magically shoving the scribe into the nearest wall.
"Go ahead. It will drain you instantly."
Anger empowered his instinct to survive. But in that instant his need to protect Arthur overwrote this mindless urge to protect himself. This wasn't his strength he used. It was Arthur's. The last thing he needed was for his friend to fall unconscious with just Mathylda for company. Tagan was right. Not only that, using magic now would prove that he was the sorcerer the scribe was looking for. Despite his strong suspicions, Tagan still wasn't certain and he had to do everything in his power to keep it that way. He couldn't keep his struggle from surfacing though, so he looked away.
Tagan towered over him. "No? A pity." His voice dropped to a whisper. Merlin felt the scribe's breath in his ear. "Because right about now I could have used your powers." He straightened and nodded at two guards behind him. They shoved Elliot out of the way and stepped into view. "I can only think of one or two reasons why you would disobey orders and break house arrest," Tagan continued. "Either your loyalty to Arthur borders on the absurd," he gave another foul smile. "Or you are running."
Merlin tightened his expression.
Looking frustrated, Tagan waved at the guards. "Take him away, let's see if the stocks will get me the answers I need."
At first Merlin shifted on his feet, strained his neck and hands, a sign he ploughed through this experience with his usual gusto. But as evening moved on, he stilled up to the point where Gwen hadn't seen him move in ages. Drizzle had turned into a full out down pour and darkness now clouded her view of the stocks a ways off to the side. Hidden beneath a wooden canopy Gwen stared around the corner, her face a mask of worry.
Unable to see Merlin suffer like this, she'd snuck him some food an hour ago, but was at a loss as to what more she could do. She'd asked for an audience with the king but was refused. Maybe that was just as well, because Uther's drive to find this all-powerful sorcerer probably didn't let him contemplate the possibility that it was Merlin's loyalty that drove him to go after his son. She wasn't even sure Arthur would be able to help should he be here. But then Merlin wouldn't have left in the first place. Gwen shook her head. At least the rain made it easier to approach her friend unnoticed. She gripped her cloak tightly around her and was about to step out when a chorus of footsteps announced a contingency of guards approaching the market place. Quickly, she pulled back in the shadows, watching two of the men taking up positions close to the dais. Her heart sank. They would surely see if she went up to Merlin now. There was nothing she could do but head home, and hope Merlin would be set free in the morning.
Worry for Arthur sat like a deadweight in the pit of his stomach. His power swelled within him, pushed itself passed his frozen core up to the surface where it sat just beneath his skin. He felt it throbbing behind his eyes, beneath his fingertips, warming him up a little. One word, and the stocks would open. He could stretch his trembling legs, could stop the ache in his back from this forced position, and could rub sore wrists from bearing more and more of his weight as his strength gave way. Or if he went for the dramatic, he could manipulate the flame and set the leeway ablaze. People would come running. He could use the distraction to escape. Most likely though his magic would either siphon off toward Tagan's crystal, or, instead of causing the torch light to flare, the spell would burn up Arthur instead. With a sigh he let go, felt his magic retreat like waves from a shore toward his shoulder where it drained away in a nauseating spiral of diminishing strength. His legs buckled, but once again, he gritted his teeth, and kept standing.
I Know it's been a long time. I'm still hopefull that I will finnish this. So, I will not give up on this story, or give it up for adoption. Thank you all for reading and expressing your interest in this story.