fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

A Vampire’s Christmas

BCR Christmas Story

This Christmas story uses the characters and world from my latest WIP – Blood Cursed Rose (a Vampire Beauty and the Beast Retelling). I hope you enjoy!

The front door banged, rattling the study windows behind heavy drapes. Lola caught herself smoothing down her jacket, brushing over the pencil skirt that would never dare to get wrinkles. Her pulse thumped.  She twisted her hands away and placed them flat on the table. Listening, but refusing to admit who she was listening for.

Cullen’s voice rumbled through the hall, his sister’s bubbly happiness rising around it. The damned dog barked and yipped. She closed her eyes at the sounds of claws scrabbling on the parquet floor. Horace’s voice rose, her loyal factotum attempting to remonstrate with the humans. A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips as silence fell, and she sank back in the deep leather chair.

The silence rolled up the stairs, heavy and expectant, broken by the snick of a latch. She tapped her nails on the desk. If it was important, Horace would come. A dark red ledger thumped as she dragged it open, the numbers fading under unseeing eyes. There was no need for her to go find out what was happening.

In her own house.

A giggle rose through the air, floating in the open window, and she pushed back her chair and strode to the door.

Her heels clattered on the wide wooden staircase. She slowed her stride until they sounded a strong measured tap instead.

Music came through the door of the library, and she stumbled to a stop. The library. How dare they!

She flung open the door and the horrific strains of jazzy Christmas tunes curled around her. Cullen stood in front of a massive tree, glittery snakes in his arms, and Annette rose on tip toes to hang a sparkling orb on a branch.

“What the devil is this?”

Wullie barked and ran at her jumping and licking. She hissed, baring her fangs, and he danced in a circle, wuffing again.

Horace appeared behind Wullie, his smile twisting and an unusual flush ridging his pallid cheeks. The reindeer horns on the normally dapper vampire’s head were ridiculous. Bells. The horns had bells. She refused to pay attention to Wullie sitting quivering in front of her, one paw raised, his eyes fixed on her jacket pocket.

A slow grin spread on Cullen’s face. “I think he’s expecting something.”

“That’s because he has more hair than brain.”

He raised one of those perfect eyebrows and his lip quirked. Heat flushed her cheekbones and Wullie whined.

“Fine.” Avoiding Cullen’s eyes, she dug into the pocket of her suit and pulled out a small piece of dried liver. “Traitor dog.” She tossed the treat down to the ecstatic terrier and strode towards the tree, ignoring Horace’s smothered smile even as her heart warmed to see it. He’d been sinking into the darkness, losing his clawed grip on eternity, and if the dog and silly sweet Annette could bring him out of it she’d do more than toss liver at Wullie each time she saw him.

“What do you think you’re doing with this forest in my library?”

Cullen stretched up an arm, draping a tinselled stream over bristly needles. She kept her eyes on his face, resisting the urge to watch his muscles shift under the thin sweater.

“Hardly a forest, Lola.”

“It’s my house, I’ll hyperbole if I want to. Explain this.” Her arm swept out to encompass the music, the tree, Horace helping Annette pick out baubles. Wait a minute. “Where’s Aden?”

A shadow flitted over Cullen’s face before he rearranged it into a blank calm. “Worried about the whereabouts of your hostage?”

She pushed away the spike of hurt in her chest. “No, just wondering how he managed to escape this madness.”

The door opened behind her and Aden’s heartbeat filled her ears. The sense of him sat at the base of her skull. She looked over her shoulder at the young man with the tray of some revolting looking drink.

“He didn’t escape. He was getting eggnog.”

Heat flushed her chest, a burning shame that made her press her lips together. It hadn’t been her fault. Aden cut a rose.

Horace appeared at her shoulder, his eyes pools of dark understanding in his pale face. He handed her a delicate glass orb, suspended by a crimson ribbon. “My advice? Join in, it’s a big tree and it’s not as awful as you think.”

She lifted the bauble. Cullen’s gaze burned a hole in her back as she stepped forward, her scalp prickled and the ornament slipped through her fingers. It tumbled to the floor, smashing against the wood. Annette gasped and Lola’s hand curled against her skirt. They thought she’d done it on purpose.

The music twisted around her in a taunting dance, winding through the scent of Annette’s nervousness behind her laughter, the rigid hostility rising off Cullen, and Aden’s sullen resentment. Bile rose at the back of her throat. Ridiculous. None of this was for her and they’d ruined her library.

She spun on her heel, ignoring Horace’s outstretched hand, and stalked through the door, down the hall, and straight to the small white door that led to the garden. Her heart pounded a rhythm in her chest matching each step. Fool. Idiot girl. Fool.

The door flung wide as she thrust her way out into the chilled air, inhaling the scent of the roses. The blooms shuddered and whispered and she tried to draw it in, tried to drive out the memory of delicate glass smashing at her feet. Cool earth met her knees as she sank down near the closest bed. Her hands pushed into the soil and she focused on breathing, on the life passing through the roses and the dirt and up her arms. Her fangs lengthened and she squeezed her eyes shut. Control. She could control it.

Aden’s heartbeat pounded at the base of her skull and she swallowed more bile. But it was Cullen’s face she’d run from.

The roses hushed and nodded and batted at her head.

After a long moment she pulled her hands from the dirt and shifted to sit, the pencil skirt smudged and marked with dirt. She regarded the toes of her stilettos and pretended she wasn’t listening for the strains of that awful music coming from the library.

The chill of the ground didn’t bother her as it seeped through her suit. A hot ball lodged in her chest.  

After what seemed to be forever the music and laughter stopped. The light turned off in the library. Not until all the lights went out did she stand, catching her heel in the cobbles. She walked the opposite way to the library, toward the small red door on the other side of the mansion and the stairs to her room.

She sat curled on her bed, her head resting on her knees, watching the moon outside the window. Having humans in the house really disrupted her sleep patterns. She thought of reading but each word on the page reminded her of the travesty sitting in her library.

Christmas tree. Who brought a Christmas tree into a vampire’s house?

Cullen. With his smirk and his daring and his complete knowledge that she wouldn’t harm him. He’d brought his family first, then his annoyingly cute dog, and now a tree. She drew her knees tighter to her chest, sparking blue eyes playing in her mind. Having a hostage was supposed to be easier than this. They weren’t all supposed to move in and change things. Confusion twisted her thoughts, as it had done for the last two weeks.

With a huff, she stretched out her legs and hopped off the bed, reaching for the light switch. Colours twinkled outside and she paused, her heart catching. She padded to the window.

Floating out from the library window below were multihued flashes and flickers.

Christmas trees had lights.

A deep urge uncoiled deep inside her. Centuries of dark winters, of decrying the pagan rituals that turned into Christian holiday, sat heavy in her mind.

A Christmas tree with lights was in her house.

Right below her.

She should check it out.

Make sure it wasn’t going to set fire to the books.

She padded from her room in bare feet, grabbing a woollen cardigan to drape over her shoulders. The stairs creaked once and she froze, before reminding herself it was her house and she could walk where she wanted. She crept down the rest of the stairs.

Light danced through the library door in stealthy twinkles of bright colours. She bit her lip and tugged at the soft fleece of her sweatpants. With a tight flick of her fingers she summoned the darkness, arming herself in shadows instead of a suit. Each step into the library sent prickles running under her skin.

Looming and stinking of pine, the tree dominated the room. Ridiculously garish, it beckoned as much as it repelled. Her hand stole up her sleeve to her elbow and she cocked her head, but no sound other than the excited hush of the roses through the window casement disturbed the silence. The lights mesmerised her. Draped in chains around the tree, they both adorned and confined it.  Her eyes dropped to the base and she caught her breath. Boxes with bows and ribbons and shiny paper perched under the lower branches.

Time flowed like sap. Wispy shadows drifted away as her hold on them loosened, her mind enraptured by the colour and the promise sitting at the end of the room.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Cullen’s voice by her ear made her jump, her foot caught in the long hem of her sweatpants. His hand grabbed her elbow, his touch burning like flame through the chunky wool.

A snappy retort pressed at the back of her teeth, driving to get out, to put distance between her and this glowing tree. She looked up at his face, the strong line of his jaw softened by the coloured lights, and swallowed the words.

“Yes.” she whispered.  

A smile spread on his face, crinkling around his eyes, and her pulse hammered through her veins. His fingers slid down her arm, lingering over her hand.

“I realised we forgot something when we were decorating. The most important thing.”

His heartbeat fluttered in his throat and she drew taller, his nervousness giving her strength.

“So important it couldn’t wait til morning?”

He kept his eyes on hers, so blue, so fierce. His hand pulled a squashed piece of plant out of his pocket, the spiky leaves catching on the denim. “I didn’t think so, until I heard you come down the stairs. Then it was all I could think about.”

“A plant?”

He stepped closer. “Mistletoe.” Her breath came faster, and the heat from his body set a flame in her own.

“Cullen, this isn’t a good idea.”

He held the mistletoe over her head, his other hand rising to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “I know. And tomorrow no doubt I’ll remember you’re a beast and I’m a hunter, but tonight is Christmas Eve.”

Her thoughts whirled, freezing her in place. So many reasons humans were off limits. Good reasons. This man in particular. But the smell of him reminded her of a garden in summer, his soft eyes twinkled in the light from the tree, and she rose on her toes to kiss him anyway. As their lips met and his arms tightened around her, she pretended tomorrow didn’t matter. The whispered hush of the roses filled her head. Tonight she would steal a little moment of magic.

fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

weekend story snippet sharing – Merlin and Arthur are attacked.

ricardo-cruz-31577 sword

The cafe had emptied except for a few patrons, and Merlin was hardly through his second coffee. He listened to Arthur reading out some of the more outlandish things from the paper when his friend’s voice was interrupted by a sharp tingle running up his back. Slowly placing his cup on the table he cocked his head, motioning for Arthur to stop talking. Arthur took one look at his face and his hand went down to his hip, only to come up again more slowly, his face a twisted grimace.

 

The door exploded in fragments and splinters of wood, dust circling through the air.  He was already on his feet, arm flung out to try to ward off the heat of the blow. From the corner of his eyes he saw the waitress flung across the room. The crack of bones and Sally’s anguished cry as she landed shot steel down his spine. Arthur stood at his back, fists clenched.

 

“Tell me what to do, Merlin, I don’t know how to help.”

 

“We need to leave, get away from any civilians, there’s a back door.”

 

“Do you mean the one over there with the big scary man blocking it?”

 

Merlin risked a glance. Bugger.

 

“Okay, new plan, slightly different from the old plan, we get rid of the big scary man and then we go out the back”

 

“Right.” Arthur scanned the room. “I need a weapon, Merlin, something I can be useful with.”

 

Merlin’s arm was barely shaking with the power needed to hold back the onslaught of the women from the hospital. It would be easier if he was just covering himself and Arthur but the remembered crack of Sally’s bones and her frighteningly still body pushed him to extend the shield as far as he could. His eyes darted towards the fireplace. Brilliant, he thought he’d seen one before.

 

“There, Arthur, by the hearth”

 

“I see it, thanks Merlin!”

 

Arthur ran, barely pausing to snatch up the heavy iron poker from beside the fire. Whirling it, he charged through Merlin’s barrier, striking the big man on the side of the head. Although he stumbled, he didn’t go down and Arthur ducked as Big Man swung his own baseball bat, narrowly missing Arthur’s head. Merlin edged his way slowly towards the door – if he could block the magic of the two women, Arthur might have a better chance.

 

Movement caught his eye. Lance, forgotten in the furthest corner, stood with his mouth open, staring at Arthur.

 

He bit his lip. “Oh well, as good a time now as any I suppose,”  With a flick of magic he sent a lampshade flying towards his assistant. Lance snatched it out of the air and knocked the lamp off the wooden pole before hoisting it like a javelin. He froze, eyes wide.

 

“Oh come on! Lance! Get on with it! You need to help Arthur!”

 

Lance dropped the wooden pole like it was on fire, stumbing back, his hand reaching out behind him to the wall.

 

Merlin cast a glance around the cafe. Apart from Sally’s still figure they were the only non-assailants left in the room. He risked it, switching all his power from his shield, thrusting it towards his cowering assistant.

 

“Lancelot! Awaken and serve your King!”

 

The force of the energy bolt hit Lancelot, knocking him into the wall. Shattering pain drove Merlin to the ground as a blast from the nurse hit him full in the chest.

 

He gasped for breath, winded, and pushed himself up, shaking his head to clear it. His eyes flashed gold and he sent a blast of power towards the approaching women. The matron was flung backwards but the other, the one who seemed in charge, flung up a barrier that held against his. His eyes narrowed. She had power indeed to stand against him.  He cast a glance over to where Lance had stepped forward and taken up the makeshift spear. His former assistant met his eyes and lifted the lamp stick in a salute. After years of looking into Lancelot’s face and seeing only Lance, his friend had returned.  Exhilaration swam like fire in his blood. A smile quirked the corners of his eyes and he left Big Scary to the two best knights in Camelot. The witches were his.

 

He moved closer to them, picking his steps carefully over the broken table legs and upended chairs.

 

“Who are you?”

 

“Who we are does not matter so much as what we will do, which is kill you and your king”

 

“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” He flicked a hand and she staggered back but did not fall. He paced slowly closer to her.

 

“I have to say though, you do seem familiar. I’ve seen you before, but I don’t think it was this century.” He frowned, trying to catch the elusive memory. Her teeth bared in a snarl and he felt the memory slide past again. “At least tell me your name, I’m guessing it isn’t really Kelly”. Something pinged in his mind as he said her name and he shook his head. “No, not Kelly, but like it”

 

She shouted wordlessly and jumped at him, fire shooting from her hands. He smiled. Effortlessly, a wall went up from his outstretched hand and her flames dissipated around the edges. The magic flowed from him, through him. Fierce joy at the magic teased at his mind.  Her fire sputtered out and her hands dropped to her side, her chest heaving. Her chin sank down and when she looked up through her lashes the shock of recognition caused his own shield to fall.

 

“Keliandra?”

 

Her lips tight, her eyes burned him more than her flames. He stepped back, shooting a glance at Arthur. Her laugh brought his hand up again.

 

“Emrys. It has been so long. Youth suits you.”

 

“You look well too. Unfortunately.”

 

“Oh, always so snarky! I must admit I rather hoped you would have had some regrets but it appears not.”

 

He kept his guard up, trying to ignore the pounding of his heart. “You never did understand the true purpose of magic.”

 

Her eyes flew to Arthur and he refused to follow her gaze despite the noises coming from behind them.

 

“So, this is the man you spent eternity waiting for? Well, we have been waiting for him too.”

 

“Who is ‘we’?”

 

“You’ll find out in due time. Of course, you might not last that long.”

 

Her eyes flashed but he was faster. She flew across the room, colliding with the wall. He strode towards her as she dragged herself up and stumbled out the door before he got there. He looked down at his clenching fist, memories swirling.

 

She had always been strong.

 

***

 

Arthur twirled the poker. What he wouldn’t give for Excalibur. He’d have to remember to ask Merlin what he’d done with it. His first hit against the giant in the doorway crunched satisfyingly into the side of his head, but the big man just shook it off and glowered at him. Bugger. He swung the poker in a tight figure eight.

 

“You could make this a lot easier on yourself and just leave,”

 

A wooden post sailed through the air, knocking his assailant sideways and slamming him to the floor. Arthur swung the poker smacking the big man on the side of the head. This time he stilled and stayed down, his eyes closing.

 

Panting, Arthur turned to thank Merlin for a well-timed throw but saw him closer to the other door confronting one of the nurses. The man who walked towards him was dressed in the jeans and sweatshirt everyone seemed to wear now but there was no mistaking the walk, or the eyes. His heart stopped.

 

“Lancelot? Do my eyes fool me or is it really you?”

 

The man dropped to one knee in front of him.

 

“Sire, it is indeed and my heart is full that I should see you again”

 

He laughed,  delight a flame inside him.  He moved to draw Lancelot up to embrace him but memory came crashing in and he froze. A vision of Guinevere wrapped in Lancelot’s embrace, the soul-destroying pain of betrayal. He stepped back, absently trying to put the poker back in a scabbard that did not exist.

 

“Well. This is all unexpected. Merlin didn’t tell me you were here.”

 

“I didn’t know myself, sire. I have but now awakened.”

 

Despite the sense of betrayal still churning his gut he reached out and cuffed his former knight on the shoulder.

 

“Good timing as always Lancelot, you always seem to be there to save the day”.

 

The other man’s eyes darkened but he nodded. “My destiny has always been to serve you Arthur”

 

“Yes, destiny seems to be pretty busy really.”

 

He looked around for Merlin and saw him kneeling beside the still body of the pretty tavern girl. Waitress. She was a waitress.

 

“Come on Lancelot, let’s see if we can help”.

 

It was pretty hopeless but the stricken look on Merlin’s face tore at his heart.

 

“Merlin”. He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Is there anything we can do? Is there a healer nearby?”

 

Merlin shook his head, tears making streaks in the dust on his face. “There’s too much damage. I’m going to have to try, I’ll need you to stand guard in case Keliandra comes back.”

 

“Keliandra? You know her then?”

 

“Later, Arthur, I need to do this now. Sally was always kind to me, even when she thought I was a grumpy old sod who drank too much coffee.”

 

He tightened his grip on Merlin’s shoulder briefly then stood back. “Of course, do what you can.”

 

When Merlin’s eyes turned gold and he began chanting he had to restrain himself from a sudden movement. He’d forgotten about the magic. He’d assumed Merlin would use the healing arts Gaius had taught him. Casting a glance at Lancelot he was surprised to see his face relaxed.

 

“I did not think you of all people would be so comfortable around magic, Lancelot.”

 

The other man smiled. “I have known about Merlin’s magic for a long time. He used it many times to save lives. His healing power doesn’t surprise me at all.”

 

Arthur looked blankly at him, his mind focused suddenly on one thought. “You knew? You knew all the time that he was a sorcerer?” The hurt was new and it stung.

 

He looked down at Merlin, his friend’s hands gentle as they stroked over the girl’s head as the words of magic surrounded them.

 

“When did he tell you?”

 

Lancelot shook his head gently. “No Sire, he never told me. I guessed. I did not betray him because I knew deep in my soul that he would only ever use it for good.”

 

Arthur inhaled deeply. “And indeed he did”

 

A moan from their feet brought both men’s eyes down. Merlin was smiling as he lifted Sally to a sitting position. Merlin’s tale of a gas explosion, whatever that was, seemed to satisfy the girl and they left her calling the police and the insurance company, the body of the dead soldier covered by a table cloth. The arrival of the nurses who were clearly witches was worrying, but he couldn’t deny a certain exhilaration in the midst of the fight.

 

Blue sky and green hills lifted his heart. So much had changed but some things were eternal.

 

“Where to now, Merlin?”

 

“You and I are going to my place, in London, and Lancelot – I need you to do a couple of things here and then join us.”

 

His smile was quiet, but fierce.

 

“It’s time to waken the others.”

 

________________________

From my Merlin fanfic i wrote in 2016. I tried to improve it a little before posting but it still needs a lot of work!

 

fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

Weekend Story Snippet Share – Escape from Enstam – from Redemption

Redemption Collage Brave Jelena

Daegal saw Jelena hesitate in front of the chest. Her rapid breathing and white knuckles on  the dark wood of their escape tugged at his heart, and at his memory. Anton had told him of a time in their training when some of the younger men, fed up with being beaten by Jelena, had taken her and locked her in a cupboard. Anton freed her, thinking she’d be furious but had opened the door to a white faced and trembling young girl. Something happened in her childhood, Anton had gathered; but he’d never asked.

 

Her beautiful face set rigid and harsh with self control. What would it feel like for her to turn to him for comfort? A grin sparked and he pushed it away. It would feel like someone other than his Jelena.

 

“You know”, he said quietly “It’s a very deep chest. Even your long scrawny legs won’t cramp up in there.”

 

She took a breath and turned to face him. Something that might have been gratitude flickered in those big eyes that he saw when he closed his own.

 

“Are you sure your big head will fit though, Daegal? I’m quite concerned about you.”

 

He grinned. ‘I knew you cared, really. Here, let me be the gentleman for once.”

 

He gently peeled her hand from the edge of the chest and stood ready to hand her in. She froze, tension running down her arm and into his.  Muffled complaints from Malinda that her hair had caught on a splinter floated over to them, as did Alaea’s attempts to convince her brother that he wouldn’t fit in there with her and she would be fine without him.

 

He pulled Jelena closer to him and, surprisingly, she let him, “We’re all a bit anxious, but it will be alright.” She nodded stiffly and he stroked her wrist, his heart melting. “I’ll have to go in a minute, rescue Malinda from her hair.”

 

She smiled a bit uncertainly and let him hand her in, her breathing shallow and her legs shaking.

 

“I have to put the lid on now Jelena.” he said, wincing inside at the panic that darted across her face before her control wiped it away. “I’ll be right back after sorting Malinda out so if you decide you need anything or the lid isn’t sitting right just bellow and let me know.”

 

She nodded again, her lips tightly pressed together, and he smiled at her.

 

“That’s my brave girl” he said, and closed the lid on her indignant snort.

 

The tedium of waiting, holed up in a small cramped space, was shot through by constant worry over Jelena and the fear of betrayal.  Despite this, he fell asleep on the wagon trip as the chests bumped and jiggled their way along, waking with a guilty start when they stopped.  He had to fight himself not to just burst out of the chest. When he heard Marius’ voice he heaved a sigh of relief and kicked upwards with his feet until the lid came off. He was greeted with the welcome sight of twilight glinting off soft tendrils of mist winding through dark trees. He heaved himself out and into the forest clearing, wincing as cramp hit his calf, limping in a beeline for the chest he had marked down as Jelena’s.

 

He hauled the lid off and made sure he stood so he hid her from the others. She sat, still and white and quiet, her hands clenched so tightly he’d be surprised if there weren’t nail marks in her palms. A foul smell rose from a puddle of bile in the far corner. She looked up at him through tight wide eyes and his heart stopped at the shame he saw there. He held out his hand and she looked at it, but didn’t take it. He was sure she was trying not to cry.

 

“Come on then, sleepy head,” he said, “I know it’s comfy in there but some of us have work to do, towns to flee, can’t hang around for you all day.”

 

She took a shuddering breath and took his hand, for the second time in a day allowing him to help her. Her legs shook slightly as her feet hit the ground and he held on to her hand, stroking his thumb over her wrist as he made inane comments about the trees and complained a bit about the cramp in his calf while they watched Malinda clamber out, fall onto Tiernan’s neck as he helped her and ask for the privy.

 

Eventually, the trembling in the hand he held stopped and Jelena gently disengaged. She didn’t meet his eyes as she adjusted her vest and tightened her braid. Settling her hand on the pommel of her sword she took a deep breath. He smiled, seeing her poise return. She took a step towards Marius, who was shaking the hand of a large man who bore a strong resemblance to Finn, and then stopped. She didn’t quite glance over her shoulder at him, but he could see the effort it took her and didn’t mind.

 

“Thank you, Daegal.”

 

She walked off, straightening her shoulders and holding her head high and he didn’t think he could have felt this proud or this sad.

fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

Weekend Story Sharing – magic and pain and loss. Malinda tries to help.

fantasy woman in forest

Malinda ran to the top of the hill overlooking the battlefield, her long stole and the tails of her tunic whipping in the wind. Her foot slipped in the gravel but she pushed herself off and scrambled onwards.

 

Alex’s face was all she could see. She would do this for him, and for her brother. Her eyes were dry. She had not been able to weep yet, not even when she had told Alaea what Baelmah had said about Anton’s fate and the other woman had seemed to shatter in front of her eyes. She was right to do this. They wouldn’t let her help, they refused to believe that she could be strong. What use was healing when the dead and dying kept rolling in? It was like a wound. Better to cauterise it at the source than keep trying to mop up the blood. She would take care of Arrik. Burn him out.

 

The hill top gave her a view all around. She could see the armies below, wind carrying the sound of their booted feet and the clash of metal. She fixed her gaze on Arrik’s standard. Malchor she would leave to the others; he was not a good man, but he was not an evil one. She reached inside herself, tapping the energy. She gasped, the power rising in her as it had never done before. It filled her body, her soul, lifting her to a feeling perilously close to omnipotence. She raised her arms to the sky, magic crackling emerald green around them. Casting her eyes back to the soldiers below she narrowed her focus, her jaw clenched. Slowly extending a hand out in front of her she concentrated the flow of energy, feeling it move down towards her fingertips as it did when she used it to heal. But today there would be no healing. Only destruction. The heavens parted with a thunderous clap, shattering the air and reverberating around the cliff tops. Emerald fire erupted from her fingers in a long arc, heading directly towards the centre of Arrik’s massive army.  Not to be outdone, the sky unleashed a raging tempest which swept down on the army, engulfing it in a chaos of storm and wind

 

She could feel the magic rushing through her, and part of her recognised that it was draining her own life force. She could not stop it. She didn’t want to. This man was evil and would create more evil if he was allowed to succeed. He had taken her brother and her friends. The thought of them lying dead or broken on a field somewhere flashed into her mind, adding fury to the energy spilling out of her fingers. She thought she heard a soft voice cry out but ignored it

 

The first burst of fire had wreaked havoc on the army below, but she could see now that it was being turned aside as if there was a shield over the soldiers. She pushed harder, her knees shaking and her eyes and face drawing tight as she put everything she could into breaking that dome. Her breath ripped out of her and still she tried.

 

Distantly she was aware of movement near her, someone calling something. Was it her name? She could no longer hear sounds clearly, the magic filled her mind with a crackling rage. A body hurtled into her side, knocking her hard into the ground. The shock of the impact jarred something inside her and the energy died like a tap had been turned off. The sudden loss of that emerald glow ached like something had been severed and she whimpered

 

A strong arm lifted her into a sitting position and a hand cradled her head. She sobbed as a gentle voice murmured her name. She turned her face towards his white coat and tried to breathe

 

“I couldn’t do it, Ger. I couldn’t stop him” She trembled and gripped the lapels of his coat to try and steady herself. ‘I thought if I just stopped him then it would all be over. I thought it was working but then it stopped, I don’t know why!

 

“Sshh, sweetheart. Just breathe. Be still.

 

She tried to keep talking but he got his hand in between his coat and her mouth and put his hand over her lips

 

“You did something extraordinary, Mali. But the power of the gods is not a weapon to be used lightly or for too long

 

Her gaze fell on his strong hand, pale against her dark skin, calloused against her smoothness. He calmed her. He always did. The pain and the screaming was still there, but it was now deep inside, and she could control it.

 

She took a shuddering breath. “I just wanted to be strong, to help end this stupidity”.

 

His face burrowed into her hair and she felt his lips move against her head. “You are incredibly strong Mali, you are just not a killer.”

 

She let herself soak up the feel of his arms around her. He sat back and regarded her with a little laugh. His hand trembled as it stroked back her hair from her face.

 

“We should go. I need to get you back to the camp and to safety.”

 

He stood and pulled her up to him. She smiled wearily up at him but her brows drew together as his grip tightened and his face clenched.

 

“We need to go now” he said in clipped tones, his eyes like daggers looking over her shoulder down to the soldiers below.

 

Jerking her head around she saw Arrik riding towards the hilly outcrop on which they stood his helmed gaze fixing her in place.

 

“It’s like before” she whispered “He is coming to find me”. She should have known, how could she have been so foolish.

 

Racing down the steep path, hand in hand, feet slipping on the loose gravel, hope bloomed –  they might make it to the other side before Arrik arrived, perhaps throw him off. They turned onto a small plateau and reared back as the sorcerer flew up over the edge, floating with his arms out, riding the wind.  Gerwyn thrust her behind his back and drew his sword. Her heart raced; he was a pretty good swordsman for a churchman and had often trained with Anton, but he was no match for a sorcerer. She could see from the set of his shoulders that he knew it but would die protecting her anyway. Too fast for her to stop him, he ran at their enemy. Hands to her mouth she watched as each man slashed at the other. No fancy spins or footwork, just pure hacking. She could see the strike as it came and reached her hand on a scream.

 

Gerwyn fell on his knees at her feet, blood pouring from a gash in his abdomen. His hand went to the wound, trying to hold in the blood, even as he tried again to stand, to protect her. Arrik laughed and with a flick of power knocked him onto his back. She rushed forward and collapsed to her knees beside him, reaching out to cover his wound, waiting for the magic to come, to heal him. But nothing came. Panic flared in her eyes and she tried harder, pushing until her skin stretched. She felt nothing, not even a flicker.

 

“No! Why won’t it work!”

 

Gerwyn reached out a shaking hand. “It’s alright Mali. It’s alright”

 

Marius’ words flashed into her head The world has more than enough fighters, what we need more of is healers. Kindness. A gentle hand. Don’t try too hard to join the battle; you might lose more than you gain. Her face crumpled and tears spilled out. Now, when it most counted, she couldn’t heal. She held Gerwyn’s hand tight and pressed a kiss to his palm. His eyes widened as he realised what she was going to do.

 

“No, Mali, don’t!”.

 

She shook her head sadly. Picking up his sword, she stood and faced the monster. She would not let him harm this man.

 

The sorcerer pouted at her then flashed his blade in a gleaming arc.

 

“So, little bird, you think to be a falcon. I will have to teach you how to appreciate the falconer’s jesses”.

 

She heard the sound of scoria falling and what sounded like someone scrabbling up the hill face behind her. She bit her lip, sweat beading on her brow. Did she turn to see this new threat or keep her eyes on the bigger one in front of her? Arrik’s frown decided her. If he wasn’t sure what was coming then she would trust it to be better than him. She took advantage of his distraction and lunged clumsily, aiming for his belly. His gaze whipping back to her he easily parried her blow and used her momentum to push her off her feet. She rolled, hoping the long blade wouldn’t cut her, and scrambled to her feet. She shook her hair back, blowing upwards to get the last errant curls out of her eyes. She could see Gerwyn struggling to get to his feet and despair filled her. It was as if history was repeating. She would fall to Arrik and then he would murder her friend. A roar sounded in her ears and a blast of pure white energy shot past her and knocked the sorcerer over. He fell heavily and lay gasping. She turned to see Anton walking from the top of the hill, his black coat flaring behind him and such a fierce glow of power around him that until he smiled at her, demons dancing in his eyes, she wasn’t sure it was her brother. He stopped in front of her and cupped her jaw with his free hand. “I wasn’t too late this time Mali.”

 

Her arm dropped and her lip trembled. “Gerwyn…” her voice broke and she looked to where she had left him struggling to get up. Her eyes widened. Anton’s hand stroked her face as he left her to stalk his prey. “We are all safe. Go and stand with Reinaldo and when they say to leave, you leave, no coming back for me do you hear?”

 

She grabbed his hand. “Be safe then my brother or I shall have to”

 

He gave her a lopsided smile and focused back on his prey, unleashing another bolt of power that flipped Arrik onto his back again. She ran to the little group huddled on the edge. Daegal was wadding what looked like the bandages from Gerwyn’s belt bag onto his wound. His eyes lit as she knelt next to him behind the curtain of Jelena and Reinaldo’s blades.

 

“Here is our healer! Over to you Malinda”

 

The light in his face dimmed as her mouth turned down and her head shook. “I am empty Daegal, I cannot heal”.

 

“Ah.” He frowned. “Then we may have a problem.” Daegal glanced over at where Anton was pounding Arrik with bolt after bolt. Her eyes stayed fixed on Gerwyn’s pale face.

 

She smoothed the hair from his brow and his warm brown eyes smiled at her even as his teeth clenched down on the pain. She could see the effort it took him to speak.

 

“Daegal, I won’t have much longer unless I get to a medic tent”

 

The other man turned and Mali marveled at his ability to keep smiling. “We will have to get you to that tent then my friend. Mali are you strong enough to help me?”.

 

She nodded emphatically.  “What do you need me to do?”

 

He was all speed now, tucking in the wadded bandage and holding Ger’s hand down on it tightly. “We’ll take a shoulder each and head down the scree. Should be easier than coming up.”

 

He paused and looked at Jelena, her back straight and her gaze straight ahead at where Arrik had managed to get to his feet and was flicking invisible bolts at Anton, whose shield was holding but flickering. “Jelena…”

 

“I heard.” She didn’t turn her eyes away but she moved her head slightly towards them. “I will see you back at the city. Look after them, Daegal”.

 

Mali’s eyes flicked to Daegal. He seemed like he wanted to say something more, then he shrugged wryly and knelt down to help her hoist Gerwyn up. They staggered slightly but Ger found his feet and managed to take some of the weight. Not for the first time, Mali found herself cursing her short stature. They headed carefully out on a lopsided lean when Jelena’s voice floated after them.

 

“If you die for real this time Daegal, I will hunt you into the next life and slap you”.

 

She looked across at Daegal in surprise and saw him grinning. Meeting Gerwyn’s eyes she saw a tender amusement behind the pain and, on impulse, leaned to kiss his cheek.

 

*****

from REDEMPTION, old completed first draft, awaiting revisions shortly.

fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

Weekend Story Snippet Sharing – Morgana Remembers

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Merlin returned to the barrow with a stack of dry wood, smiling as memories of other times so long ago danced in his mind. Winking at Gwen, he placed the wood down next to her and then let his eyes drift over to where Morgana was.

Where she should be.

His gut twisting slightly, he eyed Leon, who sat closest to where Morgana’s jacket lay. It was clear that Leon had been guarding Morgana, no matter what they all said about trust.

“Where’s Morgana?”

Leon stood up slowly, placing his hands on his hips. “She had a nightmare. Another one. Seemed bad, she said she needed to walk so off she went.”

“And you just let her, without following? Doesn’t seem like you to relax your guard, Leon.”

Leon’s face was stone and his eyes were dark. “She didn’t seem like she was in any state to make trouble. I’m not her babysitter to follow her to dry her tears. I’ll leave that to you, Merlin”

His jaw tightened and a fist curled around the first touches of magic that disappeared when Gwaine rushed into the clearing.

“Merlin, I think you need to go find Morgana.”

There was something in his friend’s voice that made his heart sink.

“Where is she?”

Gwaine pointed to the east. “She was running that way, headed to the river, looked mighty upset. I tried to call her back but she either didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear. I came to find you.”

His blood like ice spreading through his body, he ran. He had a terrible feeling about the river. The magic had been particularly strong in this forest. If Morgana’s nightmare had brought everything back he didn’t know what she’d do.

Tripping over a root on the path he cursed and his eyes flashed gold, lending speed to his steps.

He found her by the water hole. Her hand was over her mouth and her hair streamed behind her as she waded into the water. Her long woollen jumper dragged at the surface and even at this distance the tears streaking down her cheeks were plain to his eyes. He thought his heart might burst but he sped up, his legs moved faster than he ever remembered running. She was up to her torso now and he made the bank and plunged straight into the water, calling after her.

A hand flung out behind her back and she looked at him over her shoulder

“No Merlin! Stay back! It’s too late. It’s much too late now.”

“Morgana! No! I won’t let it be, not this time!”

He was so close now and when she fell into the water, eyes on his until the last, he took a deep breath and dived after her. She fought him but his eyes flashed gold and he drew strength from the earth. He pulled her from the water and didn’t let go until he’d dragged her onto the bank and she’d collapsed, all fight gone from her.

“Why?” he hadn’t meant to shout but he was suddenly deeply angry “Why, Morgana?”

She lay on her back, her eyes wide and staring at the sky, her mouth working as if to hold in a cry.

He dropped to his knees beside her and stretched out a trembling hand to brush the hair from her face.

His voice gentler now his terror was subsiding he asked her again. “Why would you go? Why would you leave me again Morgana?”

Her hand crept up to his. It was ice cold from the water but from something else too and he brought his other hand up to enclose it in his palms. Hoping to warm her with sheer will alone. Tears welled out of her eyes and her voice was a ragged whisper.

“I remembered it all. I can’t stop remembering. I remember the pain I caused. It makes my nightmares seem like daydreams. And my ordinary, inoffensive life now seems like the dream, as if it was never really real. I remember each day as if it was yesterday.” A shudder wracked her and her hand convulsed in his. “How can I look at Gwen when I remember how I laughed as I tortured her? The hatred I felt for Arthur was never really real and yet I wanted him dead so badly. And now I look at him and he is kind but I know he remembers also.”

He disentangled a hand from hers and slid his arm round her shoulders, lifting her from the cold ground into the warmth of his embrace. Her hair was soft against his chin and he murmured a charm to try and dry them both out. She shuddered and turned her face into his chest.

“How can I let you care for me when in my head I hear you scream as I set the Fomorroh on you to tear into your mind and force you to try and kill your closest friend. When I see your body as I kicked it over the ledge and left you to die. How can I ask you to forgive me when I can never forgive myself?” Her hold on his hand was painful but he didn’t want her to ever let go.

“Morgana, have you forgotten that you died by my hand? You aren’t the only one who seeks forgiveness.”

She shook her head, the silky tresses of her wet hair falling over his arm. “You were always true to your friends and to yourself Merlin. I not only betrayed my friends, I lost myself. I became what I always most hated in Uther. But I was worse, worse than him by far.”

Merlin sighed. “You were certainly scarier. Super scary”

She stilled and then he swore he felt her lips curve in a smile against him. “I doubt you were ever scared of me, Merlin. You were the bravest man in Camelot.”

“Not the bravest, just the most foolish”

“And more powerful than I ever was”

“Well, maybe. But like I said, you were super scary. But do you know what the hardest bit was?”

He waited for her murmured “what?” before he continued.

“Never actually wanting to hurt you.” His arm tightened around her as he felt her fingers clutch at his shirt. “I never wanted to use my magic to harm you so I always tried to avoid it. Killing you was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If it hadn’t been to save Arthur I never could have done it” He looked down at her head and his heart felt it would burst from the emotions tangling inside him.

“I know you don’t realise, Morgana, but I’ve loved you for over a thousand years. You don’t need to seek my forgiveness because I already forgave you centuries ago.”

She stilled completely in his arms before she relaxed enough to embrace him gently but briefly. She pulled back and he let her go, his hand going to his mouth.

He hadn’t meant to say it. Knew it was too soon. But then it had been over a millennium so ‘too soon’ was a relative term.

Her mouth turned up in a little smile but he could see the tension in her shoulders. Though he sighed inwardly and his heart seemed to burn, he smiled brightly.

“Don’t worry, I don’t expect anything. I just guess I really wanted to say it. I’ve never been able to before. It doesn’t have to change anything.”

Her smile grew and touched her eyes. “But it’s changed everything, Merlin. I don’t deserve such love. But I hope that one day I might.” She pushed herself to her feet and he followed suit.

“Come on then, let’s get you back to a fire and warm. It’s cold out here”.

Her smile trembled. “You’re always trying to warm me up Merlin. I hope it works”

 

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From my Merlin fanfic written in 2016.  Needs some rewriting but I still like Morgana and Merlin moments.