Chapter Twenty-Three

The ride to Merlin’s land was not a long one, although his stiffness made it rather uncomfortable for me. Cyric spent the entire ride glaring at Kellan behind Merlin’s back, making it obvious that he was not happy about her behavior. Kellan, on the other hand, was as happy as a lark, and kept a constant stream of conversation with both Merlin and I.

“The weather is rather nice just now, don’t you think?” she asked Merlin cheerfully, seemingly ignoring the fog that surrounded us. It wasn’t a heavy fog, but it succeeded in making our surroundings almost completely invisible in and ethereal sort of way.

“Let’s hope that the sun burns some of this off,” Merlin said seriously. “Before the water spirits believe that dry land is a suitable home.”

“Water spirits,” I repeated doubtfully. “If they exist, better on dry land and content than in the water and angered into a bloodlust.” Merlin turned his head to study me.

“You know little of the spirits, then,” he said, his dark eyes glinting. “Each spirit dwells where they were placed by the gods. If even one spirit were to leave its given dwelling place of its own volition, all of the boundaries set by nature and by the gods would be eradicated, and there would be war amongst the spirits.”

“War?” I asked, my tone sceptical.

“Indeed,” he said. Suddenly a slight smile appeared on his face as he returned his stare to the road ahead of us. “Do you doubt me?”

“No,” I said. “I doubt the existance of the spirits, and even of your so called ‘gods.’”

“So you’re of the Roman religion,” he said, the disdain evident in his voice.

“Yes,” I said, calmly. “It is not common knowledge, but I spent nearly two decades in a convent, serving the Lord.”

During this discussion Kellan had remained silent, listening to what we were saying. Now she could no longer resist the urge to speak.

“That is why my dear cousin has begun her search for a home,” she said. “Her return was joyous, and now she’ll be leaving us again.” He lower lip stuck out slightly in a childish and playful manner.

“You returned with a child?” Merlin asked, his eyebrows raised. I tilted my head, knowning what he must be thinking of me.

“I adopted  my son,” I said. “Now, Merlin, would you be so kind as to tell me, how do you know Sir Cyric?” I longed to divert Merlin’s attention from me. I needed no tales of me and of my life before to spread throughout Camelot.

“We are both servants of the good King Arthur,” Merlin said simply.

“Merlin was the one responsible for placing Arthur on the throne,” Cyric said, pausing in his silent glaring to speak with me.

“Was he?” I said, surprised. Merlin couldn’t be much older than I, and although Arthur was eleven years younger than I (or there about), Merlin would have had to be too young to do everything people credit him for today.

“Indeed,” Merlin said. “My master, who bore the same name, had placed Arthur with a different family, not one of Uther Pendragon’s blood. Before he died he told me were Arthur was, and also that I was to bring Arthur to power only in a time of great dispair.” I nodded.

“Does Arthur know of his father’s daughter?” I asked, unable to prevent the question from slipping out. Merlin eyed me curiously.

“The illegimat daughter of King Uther?” he asked. “No, Arthur believes her to be dead.”

This filled me with rage, but I forced myself to betray no emotion. So my father denied my existance to the grave, I thought bitterly, my hurt and remorse mixing with the anger. Kellan eyed me with sympathy, but I refused to acknowledge it in Merlin’s prescence.

“Of course,” I said, staring directly ahead. “How silly of me to doubt that.”

“You share her name,” Merlin said, not looking at me either.

“I know I do,” I said calmly, feeling like I was caught in the middle of my net of lies. Merlin said nothing more on the subject, and within a half an hour we had arrived.

The house itself was a small two room cabin, set well back from any road. A stable was built off of the wall, although it seemed to be empty. A foot bath lead away from the clearing that the cabin sat in, while a small gardensat behind the structures.

All-in-all, it looked like an idyllic home, and yet a slight prickle of unease ran up my spine. I didn’t know what it was, but something didn’t feel completely right.

Don’t be silly, I told myself as I dismounted from my horse. She was a very sweet tempered mare that Gavin had given me, and she was also the last thing he had given me.

“What’s the path to?” Kellan asked Merlin, sliding down into her husband’s arms as he helped her dismount.

“It leads to a stream that flows to the south,” he said, catching the reigns of mine and Kellan’s mares and Cyric’s stallion and leading them to the stable. “The water is clean and healthy, although it’s usually cold.”

“That’s good,” I said. “Is there a latrine, for relieving oneself?”

“The path branches off to the left a ways before the stream,” he said from within the stable. “If you go to the left you’ll fine the latrine. If you stay to the right you’ll come to the stream.”

“Good,” I said, satisfied by his answer. A cool breeze blew around the clearing, stirring up some of the wet, dead leaves that littered the floor, and I shivered again. I felt like someone, or something, was watching me from just out of sight. I pulled my cloak around me, waiting for Merlin to finish tying up the horses, which seemed to be just as uncomfortable as I was.

“Shall we go inside?” Merlin asked, reappearing from the stables.

“Absolutely,” I said, fighting the urge to shiver. There’s nothing wrong with the land, Morgan, I told myself. A moment later surprise registered as I realized that I had specified “land.” How could land be evil? You aren’t one to be superstitious. It’s all in your mind. It has to be.

Merlin crossed the clearing and opened the door to the cabin silently while I was having this inner conversation with myself, and I stepped inside the cabin. It was small, but not too horribly cramped, and I looked around curiously.

A fireplace, made of stone, took up most of the back wall, and a small table sat in the center of the room. Two three legged stools sat by the table, and a third sat closer to the fireplace. Shelves lined the walls, and I turned, taking in the room.

I could see the entry to the cellar easily, as the leather hinges were on the top side of the trapdoor, and a large metal handle had been placed perfectly for it to be lifted easily. Shutters covered the winders, also hinged with leather, I noted as I walked the parameter of the room, examing the workmanship.

I found nothing showing shoddy workmanship. All of the nails were perfectly placed, the wood had been properly treated, the thatching on the roof secure. From there I turned my attention to the second, smaller room, in which there was a large bed.

When I had finished my search, I sighed. My unease was still there, and it was greater than before, but i had had even less of a reason to feel as I did.

“I’ll take it,” I said to Merlin, my reasoning winning out over my emotions.

“Good,” he said smiling a genuine smile for the first time since I’d met him earlier that day. “Very good.” With that he turned and left the cabin.

I hope I haven’t just made a big mistake, I thought as I looked around my new home one last time before following him outside, closing the door behind me.

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