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Chapter Fourteen

Deep Wounds

I woke to find Merlin sitting by my bedside. He was not dozing, nor was he occupying himself with something else to pass the time, but he was staring straight at me, giving me a start in my poor condition.

            “What, by all the saints, were you thinking, boy?” Merlin said as soon as he saw my eyes open, and I shrunk back onto the pillows, away from his menacing glance. “I told you not to run. Do you have any idea what might have happened if we had not found you when we did?” I didn’t answer, as I took the question to be rhetorical. “Morgan could have caught you and done something worse to you—oh yes, there is worse than the curse you have. Or you could have been found by someone equally ambitious. You were bloody lucky, boy. If your trail hadn’t been so easy to follow, with your over powerful emotions, I would never have been able to track you down. You almost sent Arthur into a guilty rage.”

            “Guilty?” I asked, my voice only a whisper.

            Merlin rolled his eyes as if dealing with an idiot. “Of course, Mordred! Do you not recall the row you two had in front of no less than all the knights? I swear, I can’t leave that man to his own devices for two hours without him doing something completely idiotic. He thought you ran away from him!”

            “I did,” I said. “I ran away because I didn’t want to hurt him.”

            “I know that,” Merlin said in a sarcastically slow voice. “But Arthur doesn’t know you’ve had a curse put on you to kill him. That man really cares about you—he thinks you’re his son, for heaven’s sake! What do you think he would have done if something worse had happened to you?”

            I immediately felt my heart ache afresh along with the rest of my body. I had not thought of that, not considered it. His words had hurt, yes, especially when I thought back to them, but I had been so blinded by my own fear of almost having killed him again that I had hardly registered their meaning, or the implications behind them at the time. I had run away to protect Arthur, not because he had yelled at me. I knew he hadn’t meant that. And he had found me and brought me back when I was beyond caring about any curse. The realization finally dawned at the pain Arthur had likely been feeling at my disappearance and I immediately felt horrible. Merlin seemed to realize that I finally understood and let out a long sigh, putting his hand on my forehead.

            “You’ve been fevered for two days. That arrow took some doing to get out, and if you dare move more than an inch, I will tie you down for all the trouble it took me to close the bloody thing.”

            “Where’s Arthur?” I asked.

            “He’s asleep. Finally. He wouldn’t leave your side, and he was so distressed that Guinevere finally had me slip something into his drink. I’ll let him know you’re back with us when he wakes.” He reached to a table on one side of the room. I finally realized that I was in his chambers, in some small alcove with a bed, and curtains blocking out most of the rest of the room that I assumed was either his library or the one he worked his spells in. He picked up a cup and reached down to raise my head. “Drink,” he said.

            I drank, knowing I couldn’t refuse, nor did I have the strength to. I was thirsty in any case. The concoction tasted pleasant and it didn’t make me feel drowsy so I assumed it was not the same thing Merlin had given Arthur, for which I was glad. I was not ready to sleep again yet.

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