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Weekend Story Snippet Share – Anton meets up with the Outlaws

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Dripping water in his face woke him up. Turned out that ferns were great conductors of dew. Wiping the fresh wetness out of his eye, Anton rolled to his side and up onto his elbow. Birds sang busily in the trees and in the near distance he could hear the soft rustling of a small animal. Pushing himself to his feet he stretched out the lingering stiffness of sleeping on the ground.

 

The path was wide and he eyed it thoughtfully. Maybe best to stay off it, walk through the trees next to it as much as possible. He didn’t need any trouble.  The sun was bright in the sky and he shaded his eyes as he glanced up at it through the branches.  If he was moving eastward then, as the wagon driver had said, it would be a long road to Enstam. Perhaps the forest would be a more direct route. He eyed the expanse behind him. No. Something about the dark trees discouraged exploration, and there was likely to be only the one mountain path.

 

As he trod through the undergrowth he tried to figure out exactly what he was going to do once he reached Enstam. He should warn the magistrate that preparing for war would be a good idea, but he would have to be careful how he did it. Then a boat, and home to Port Adair. His steps quickened at the thought. Home. Seeing his sister again.

 

Thoughts of the aftermath of Ravens Water wove into his hope like a fog, twisting it. No. There was surely no reason for Malchor to attack his own cities. Surely they’d be safe. He strode on, steps not light now but heavy with a dread that he tried to dismiss. Port Adair was not like the western lands, ready to kill and throw out their elvish citizens. But then again, he had been with the army. He’d seen what men from Devnor would do. Knew what he had done. He ignored the tight feeling in his chest. Right now there was nothing he could do.

 

Food was something else on his mind. He did not regret giving his rations to the girl, she needed them more than him, but not only had he not seen any rabbits or birds large enough to feed him but the thought of killing any of the creatures in this wood sent shivers down his spine. It felt a bit like being welcomed into someone’s home and then leaving with all their possessions. Oh well, a few days without food would do him no harm. As long as he didn’t run out of water. He smiled ruefully as the first drops of a spring shower splashed down on his coat. Looks that wouldn’t be a problem.

 

It was getting on for midday when he stopped. He’d been forced back onto the path some time ago when the land on either side became increasingly marshy. So far it had seemed fine but he had no wish to discover a sink hole by falling in it. Something in the air seemed wrong, and he realised that the constant birdsong had fallen silent. His pulse quickened. He knelt down as if to adjust the laces on his boot and scanned the surrounding landscape through his lashes. A couple of small pebbles rolled quietly off to the side of the path up ahead, as if disturbed by a shifting foot. He palmed the dagger from inside his boot and as he stood he loosened his sword.

 

Moving forward as if lost in thought he listened intently. A second before the man jumped out from his hiding spot Anton heard the slight intake of breath as the bandit had prepared himself. His sword was out in a flash and his dagger held ready. The bandit pulled up but didn’t seem too perturbed. The sounds of shuffling feet behind him told Anton why; the bandit had company.

 

He shifted, letting his size give them pause. “I don’t want trouble”

 

The bandit grinned through his wiry reddish beard. “Of course you don’t, but I’m afraid trouble has found you. See, we don’t like soldiers in these woods. These are our woods and you aren’t welcome.”

 

Anton adjusted his stance to shift slightly to his left, he couldn’t quite see the man behind him but he could smell him; he smelled of cedar smoke and pig grease. A tanner maybe.

 

“I am not a soldier.” The words felt like ash in his mouth.

 

The bandit looked at him with disbelief in his narrow eyes. “Well, you look a bit scruffy but that’s a Devnorian army coat you’re wearing even if you’ve managed to rip off the emblem. Now I might be prepared to believe that you stole the coat, but a big man like you that coat looks like its been tailored to fit. No way you just picked that up.”

 

Anton tried a smile, it didn’t feel very disarming and from the increased tension in the bandit’s shoulders it didn’t look it either. He gave it up.

 

“What I may have been is beside the point, I am no soldier now. I don’t want trouble. I simply want to get to Enstam before the pass is closed.’

 

“How did you find the path?”

 

The voice behind him sounded very unlike the burly image of a tanner he had constructed in his head. He risked turning his head slightly but did not want to take his eyes off the man in front of him.

 

“I don’t like speaking to people behind me. Why don’t you come around where I can see you”

 

A soft laugh came in reply. “You answer the question and perhaps I might”

 

“A friend showed me the way.”

 

“A friend in a wagon?”

 

He debated whether to tell them. He wasn’t sure if they knew the wagon driver or not and he did not want to get him into trouble.

 

“A friend who didn’t ask as many questions as you” he said.

 

The man in front of him seemed to be looking over his shoulder at the one behind him. Anton tensed. He was ready either way but he hoped they backed down; his soul was worn with killing. The bandit shrugged his shoulders and put down his sword.

 

“Fine, on your head be it boy. You can put down your weapons, soldier, the master thinks you are vouched for.”

 

Anton kept hold of his sword and shrugged, a grim smile flickering across his face, “I think I prefer to keep them out until I have seen all your merry crew, Redbeard.”

 

A soft laugh came from right over his shoulder and he had to exert a lot of control not to jump. A slight figure in a dull green tunic walked around to face him. Golden hair curled roughly, looking rather as if it had been hacked off by an amateur. The boy had to be no more than 15, and his pale face had the fine bones of one more suited to a great hall than to rough living. Anton’s arms dropped. He stared at the boy and his mind whirled.

 

“Sir Daffyd?”

 

“Lord Daffyd now.” The boy replied in the same light voice “My uncle was killed in the coup.”

 

Anton looked at the boy’s face, the sombre eyes under delicate brows. “I am sorry for your loss”

 

Daffyd smiled tightly. “Are you? My uncle was not a very nice man. My cousin, however, was a very nice man and for that alone I could hate you. But then that wouldn’t get us very far would it?”

 

Anton stood for a moment, then compromised by sheathing his sword but keeping the dagger close in his left palm.

 

“I did not kill your cousin.” Visions of the chaos after the coup, the killings and the blood, pushed against his memories of two golden haired boys, scampering through the palace grounds.  “I was against the executions, although at the time I admit I believed a change in regime was needed. But I would not have condoned the killing of a boy like Sir Alwyn. He was harmless. And a gifted musician.”

 

Lord Daffyd jutted out his chin, blinking away a wetness in his eyes.

 

He bent on one knee at the boy’s feet, eyes on the young lord’s face.  “But I was responsible in part, for the support I gave Malchor. For that I ask your forgiveness.” Redbeard moved slightly closer, hand on his knife. The boy had a good protector.

 

Daffyd looked down at Anton, his eyes unreadable.

 

“Stand up. I am Lord of Nothing now and I will see no man kneel to me. I know who you are, Anton Baruch. I remember watching you on the training ground.” He smiled amid the bitterness twisting his face.  “I wanted to be a soldier you see. Wouldn’t that have been something?”

 

Daffyd glanced at Redbeard who grimaced, but stood down, and stretched out his hand to Anton.

 

“You were once a good man, and if you have truly deserted then you might be a good man again. Our friend the wagon driver clearly thought so”

 

Anton hesitated a moment, his mind swimming.  Pushing to his feet he put out his own hand; it trembled only slightly. The boys’ words rang in his head. You were once a good man. Be a good man again

 

Dafydd stepped back, the look on his face belonging to a much older man.  “Come, Anton, you will be in need of food. We have a pig roasting at the camp.” a glint of a smile lurked in his eyes.  “I prepared it myself even if Bowman here thinks I burn water”.

 

Anton would have followed the boy as he turned and walked into the forest but his way was barred by Bowman. Despite the fact that the red bearded protector only came up to Anton’s chin, he held himself as if he was looking at someone far below him.

 

“You take one step out of line, you even look like you might hurt that boy and you won’t see the blade coming.”

 

He nodded. No need to say he could gut them all before they’d even had time to think about reaching for a weapon. The man in front of him cared for the boy and would die to protect him. Anton respected that and he had no intention of harming either of them. He put his dagger back in his boot and followed Daffyd into the trees, Bowman warily bringing up the rear.

 

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From Redemption, first draft WIP waiting for revisions.

fiction, Story Snippet Sharing

Snippet Sharing – Weight of Expectations – Merlin Comforts Gwen

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Merlin slipped away to find Gwen. She wasn’t in the kitchen but the door to the patio was open slightly. A sigh escaped, turning slightly foggy in the cold air. She was outside in the dark.

Gwen startled as he draped Arthur’s hoodie over her shoulders, but settled when she saw it was just him, snuggling into the warm fleece with a small smile.

“Thanks, Merlin. It’s certainly getting colder.”

“It’s a nice night though. Clear. You can see the stars.”

“Yes.”

He watched her for a moment.

“Of course, you’re only looking at your hands, not the heavens. But you know, they’re nice too.”

She smiled but didn’t look up. He reached out and took her hand. It was freezing and he tutted and set to work chafing it.

“What is it Gwen? You know you can tell me anything.”

She bit her lip and looked up at him under her lashes.

“Will you promise to not tell Arthur?”

His hands stopped their warming rub for a second before he continued more gently.

“I will never tell tales Gwen, but I will tell you that I think you should talk to him.”

She shook her head. “How can I tell him that I feel crushed by expectation? That although I remember loving him more than anything else in the world, I also remember a life without him, where I had a boyfriend and was..”.  She broke off and her eyes went to her hands again.

When she didn’t continue, he reached out and tilted up her chin. “Where you were what, Gwen?”

His heart constricted as she blinked away tears.

“Where I was happy. I was content, Merlin. I wasn’t confused about who I was, about who I am, finding out I’m actually married to a king in a legendary romance, friends with a warlock, and fighting against great evil.”

“Well, when you put it that way it does sound bad. Except being friends with the warlock, because surely that’s gotta be kinda cool.”

Her half laugh tugged at his heart. He wiped her tears away and put his arm around her.

“I do understand Gwen. I really do. Destiny is a bugger of a thing – it pushes you ahead of it and sometimes you feel you have to either go along with it or be crushed. I can only say that Arthur’s love for you is legendary because of its strength. He would have given up his kingdom for you, would have died a hundred deaths to protect you. He relied on you then and if he turns to you now it’s because in his heart there’s no-one he trusts more.”

“There’s you.”

“Yeah, there’s me, but it’s different.”

She scrunched her eyebrows up at him and he tried to explain.

“Arthur and me, we are two halves of a whole, two sides of the same coin. Arthur and you, it’s different. You are the one who completes his heart.”

Her face crumpled and her hand went to her cheek as if to keep in the feelings leaking out her eyes.

“But that’s what I’m afraid of, what if I can’t love him back in the same way in this life? I only remember loving him,” Her voice sank to a whisper “I don’t think I actually love him.”

“Yet.”

She pushed her hair off her face and sighed. “Yet?”

“Yeah, yet. You gotta give it a chance Gwen, and if it doesn’t work out, well, I’ll be very surprised. But don’t throw away your chance to have the other half of your heart back in your life”.

Her mouth was still twisted but she nodded slowly. Then, squeezing his hand, she asked, “Is that why you can’t let Morgana go?”

Merlin let her hands drop and stepped back, crossing his arms in front of him.

“Something like that. I thought we were talking about your problems?”

She smiled and this time he could see the old Gwen blending with the new.

“You know she can be a real cow? And I’m not talking about the Morgana you knew, I’m talking about the one I work with.”

He let himself smile back, “I can’t help myself Gwen, it’s a sickness. I’m drawn to her.”

Her smile shrank. “I know what you mean.”

The door snicked open and Merlin was thankful he was no longer holding Gwen’s hands as the scent of jasmine wafted out.

“Merlin? Gwen? What are you doing out here?”

Gwen’s eyebrows raised at him and she smiled.

“Morgana, we were just talking about you.”

“Really?”

Merlin shot a frowning glance at Gwen and shook his head roughly at her. Surely she could hear the ice in Morgana’s voice, but she only smiled more broadly.

“Yes, Merlin was telling me about how happy he is that you’re back.”

She drew Arthur’s hoodie closer round her and walked past Morgana into the house.

Merlin turned to face Morgana, hand in his hair. “Ha, that Gwen.”

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Happy that I’m back?”

His mouth opened but nothing came out and he shrugged helplessly. Her arms were wrapped around her chest and there was a tiny line between her brows. She finally sighed and turned back to the door. “Arthur wants you, Merlin, you’d better come inside.”

He stood for a full minute after she’d gone inside, then, aiming a passing kick at the patio table, he followed her in.

 

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From The Return of Arthur – Merlin Fanfic.

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Sunday Snippet – Phoebe uses her powers (and kills) for the first time.

I could tell when i walked into the room that something was not as it should be. I could see the tension in the way Damon was standing and the unaccustomed frown on Eru’s face.  I wondered for a second if they had been arguing.

Damon came over to me and took my hand. It was a measure of how comfortable I had become with him so quickly that it didn’t feel strange.

“They are coming” he said.

My heart sank. Great timing, murderous otherworldly beings I thought, Wait ‘til I’m all psyched up to deal with the ex-husband and then show up, getting all rowdy. I felt I should have my serious face on to run away from bad guys but at that minute, the only thing that really felt real was that I knew I was going to have to be apart from my children for some unknown length of time. Anything else sort of faded. I’d never previously worried about having to run away from fairy soldiers, or whatever they were, so it was hard to really grasp what was happening. On the other hand, losing my children and being a terrible mother was something I worried about pretty much all the time.

I became aware that a response was expected from me.

“Okay then, so what’s the new plan? We get rid of the bad guys in a blaze of glory before telling the ex I’m the newest magic person in his life?” Continue reading “Sunday Snippet – Phoebe uses her powers (and kills) for the first time.”

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Sunday Snippet – Jelena is put through hell.

Jelena

Booted footsteps outside her cell brought her staggering to her feet and her head held up high. They wouldn’t see her grovelling on the floor like a frightened peasant. Ignoring the pain in her head she thrust her hair off her face. Her braid was mostly undone, and the locks that fell in her eyes stank of the cell floor.

The key turned in the lock. Her heart thudded despite her determination to show only disdain for her jailers. Mali got away. I must remember that. We did not fail. Daegal’s death was not in vain. Her lip trembled and she clenched her jaw, blinking rapidly as her eyes welled with tears and her heart gave a painful pulse. The light of the lamp carried in by her jailer was mercifully dim and she did not have to squint. She had expected Malchor and the sight of the man who had killed Daegal filled her with such fury that she felt it vibrate through her. She had to force herself to stand there, to not launch herself at him. Arrik placed the lamp on a hook on the side of the door which closed with a loud thud. He regarded her, again with that quizzical tilt of his head.

“I wasn’t allowed to touch the other one, but you’re different. No-one cares what happens to you.”

Her heart raced and she felt sweat break out in the centre of her back. She might have been able to reason with Malchor, or at least convince him that as a hostage she had negotiation value through virtue of her rank, but this sorcerer was insane. His eyes, a deep brown shot through with red, held a focused intensity that reminded her suddenly and vividly of a house in her childhood, a dark tiny closet, and lots of pain. Her hand trembled and the walls of the room seemed to close in but she kept her head high. I survived that monster, I will survive this one. And then I will kill him. Continue reading “Sunday Snippet – Jelena is put through hell.”

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Sunday Snippet – Battle by St Paul’s, from Arthur’s Return

man in tunnel for merlinArthur rolled his shoulders – the bag with the swords in it slid awkwardly across his back. This was a strange time – people’s weapons were in their computers and in their wallets. He let out a sigh and looked round at his knights. They were all dressed in different versions of the same outfit – lightweight jacket, t-shirt and jeans. A smile lifted his lips. It was a far cry from the chain mail and cloaks they used to wear to battle, but there was something about these men; the connection between them was the same, the feeling of brotherhood was the same. They were knights, no matter what they wore.

And then there was Merlin. He snuck a glance at the man next to him. No sword for him; he didn’t need it. It was still mind boggling the amount of power his friend had and yet he carried himself with nothing more than a quiet dignity and self assurance. Something Gwaine had said, so long ago, flickered into his mind. “You know what I like about Merlin? He never expects any praise. All these things he does just for the good of doing them”. It had been true then and it was true now.

On impulse, he reached out and cuffed Merlin on the shoulder, smiling and raising his eyebrows as Merlin cast him a look.

“I’ve said before, my lord, you don’t need to hit me. You can just say “Excuse me” or “Hi” or even, “Well done Merlin.””

“Ah, but it isn’t as satisfying” Continue reading “Sunday Snippet – Battle by St Paul’s, from Arthur’s Return”