Aidan stumbled after the man carrying Riona. The giant oak doors to the keep parted before them with a deep groan.
"Where is Myrddin? Who are you?" questions streamed from Aidan's lip. The knight turned, Riona dangling in his arms, unconscious. Aidan swallowed their words at the sight, taking desperate, rapid breaths through their nose.
"I am Llwch du Lac," said the knight. His voice was deep and rough like the rumble of a rockslide. "And I am the only reason you were let inside this keep. Calm yourself, my friend."
Aidan straightened slightly. "You are the one they call Lancelot," Aidan responded.
Llwch seemed to flinch at the name. "You may call me Ser Luc."
Du Lac turned, barking an order to another soldier, who disappeared through an archway.
Aidan regained some of their composure and followed closely behind the famous knight, who strode across the courtyard with wide, confident steps. He moved to the northern edge of the fort, where a small door led to the innards of the turret above. Without hesitation, he threw open the door with one hand, Riona still cradled firmly in the crook of his elbow. He was a strapping man, and Riona seemed like a child in his arms by comparison. Aidan glanced up, a long spiraling staircase spun upward to dizzying heights. Luc mounted the stairs with ease while Aidan trailed behind, one hand against the stone of the wall for support. Torches lit the way with their oily flickering light.
"I know not what has brought you here to Camalann," said Luc, "but if you intend any malice, I will not hesitate to end your life at the first sign of treachery."
"I came only seeking Myrddin," Aidan grumbled.
"So you say."
At long last, they reached the top of the tower. Before Luc could even knock, the door swung open.
"It is a late hour for visitors," came a gentle voice from within.
Aidan pushed past Luc. "Myrddin..."
A druid, much older than Aidan, stood before them. Their hair was as silver as starlight and thick as wool, pulled back into the traditional low braid, which nearly reached the floor. Faint creases of age wrinkled the corners of their lips and pale green eyes, which stared sightlessly. They wore only a dark woolen robe, lined at the hood by white fox fur. Their traditional woad-blue tattoo was two thick spirals at each temple.
"Aidan?" The druid approached, hands outstretched as if to test Aidan's physical presence. "Çild, is it you?"
Aidan reached out and took Myrddin's hands, bringing them affectionately to their lips.
"But who is with you?"
"I have brought you a woman much in need of your healing, Master Merlin," said Ser Luc, speaking for the first time.
"Her name is Riona, she is sick," Aidan interjected, "The Plague, Myrddin; it is beyond my skill, Please, Faeder, save her," their voice trembled, "Please."
Myrddin signaled for Luc to enter. "Lay her down upon my bed."
Luc did as he was told. "By your leave, Master Merlin, I would return to my watch."
"Of course, Ser Luc."
Luc nodded at Aidan and then left, closing the door to the room behind him.
Myrddin smiled softly. "It is what the King has dubbed me." Myrddin's unseeing eyes glinted with amusement. "I live among them under the guise of a sorcerer."
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The Hawthorn Throne (Book 1, The Blood Of Emrys Duology)Fantasy
Aidan and Riona, an outcast and a witch, must survive the dark ages and unravel the threads of two kingdoms tied together by prophecy and blood. ***** In the Kingdom of Elmet, a b...