The Guild – Chapter 24 – Andrei

“Kaitlyn? Kaitlyn? Kaitlyn! Answer me!” I feel grass beneath me but I don’t bother to look around. I couldn’t care less where we are. I’m more concerned about Kaitlyn. I feel tears on my face and slick blood on my arms from embracing her during the jump. I had no idea if the jump would work at all. I don’t want to lose her. It’s all my fault! I shake my head to dispel the thoughts, I need to focus.

“Kaitlyn?” I try again, but her body has gone limp in my arms and I dare not move her. I can’t believe that… that monster. How could he be so sadistic? That is not love, that is perversion and I will not let him have Kat, ever. I hunch over her, pressing my head against hers. “Please, Kat, please be ok.” I rock back and forth, fresh tears well up, streaming down my face. I don’t care what happens to me. I just need her to be ok.

I carefully peel my arms away from her back, a pain in my shoulder makes me cringe, but I ignore my own wounds. The sight of her back makes me gag. I look away, trying to calm my mind, but all I can think about is how her entire body became flame. How the hell did she do that? It was like something out of a movie and she managed to scare the hell out of… I can’t bring myself to say his name. Whatever she did though, it didn’t stop her wounds from bleeding. The blood has already begun to soak through the back of her dress.

I can’t get the image of him whipping her with the barbed whip. He’s a monster, and I will kill him. I gently rock her, trying to avoid touching her wounds, but it’s nearly impossible. “Oh, Kaitlyn.” I moan. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” I keep mumbling. I just don’t know what to do!

I sit there for what feels like ages, unable to think. I don’t move, my only priority is her. Please, Kaitlyn, wake up. Maybe I can try healing her. I seem to be good at that. I gently touch her back with my hand, it shakes uncontrollably. I try not to think like she always tells me. I will her to heal but I feel no energy in my hand.

“Come on!” I shout. “Heal damn it!” I grit. I can’t hear the tick. My tank is empty. I’m useless. I sob into her hair uncontrollably. A few moments of silence pass until I hear the soft steps of someone approaching

“Oh my, this does not look good,” I hear a man muse. I glance up briefly to notice a man with dark grey hair and a trimmed beard. He seems to be middle-aged and wearing a cloak of sorts. He holds a wooden staff in his hand and scratches at his beard.

Maybe he can help me… “Please,” I sob. I can’t tell if I’m rocking on purpose or not. “Please, help her,” I beg the stranger.

He kneels beside me, eyes roaming over the blood, tears, and stains. “This isn’t good at all. I can help. It’s good you landed here, Guardians.” He waves a hand and I feel her weight lifted from my lap. I reluctantly let her go and watch in wonder as she floats slowly above the ground. “Follow me.” He beckons.

He walks towards a castle in the distance, beyond the treeline, away from a lake which I now notice is behind us. I get to my feet shakily and follow. My shoulder aches terribly, I notice it more now that help seems to have arrived. I cradle it with my blood smeared hand. I’m not sure whose blood it is, it doesn’t matter. “Will she be ok?” I ask with worry. “Please, I need to know!”

He chuckles softly which irks me. “She will live, but she needs to be healed and I cannot do that out here in the field. What are your names, young Guardian?” I blink at the title he uses, I think he’s mistaken.

“I’m Andrei, and she’s Kaitlyn,” I answer through chattering teeth. I’m so out of sorts, I trip on nothing but flat ground as I follow him up to the castle. “And what’s your name?” I ask.

“Ah, that is an important question, isn’t it? I have many names, but here, I go by Merlin.”

I am stunned into silence, despite my lack of composure. Merlin? Here? I try to put two and two together. “So is this,” I gesture to the castle, “Camelot?”

“It is.” He answers calmly. We arrive at a wall surrounding the grounds of the Castle, and we follow it for a while until we reach a hidden opening. “Come along. No one will see you this way.” He beckons. Kaitlyn floats through the low arched passage, I follow closely behind, scanning my surroundings with some interest. The passage divulges into a long flight of stairs winding upwards into the castle. Once at the top, we pass through a wooden door on iron wrought hinges.

The door opens into a small and cluttered room filled with herbs hanging from the ceiling, and shelves of countless bottles with strange fluids and other things inside. A table sits in the centre laden with books and papers, torn, folded and stained. Any open space is occupied with odds and ends that look straight out of some horror film; skulls, rocks, branches, and small relics covered in dust and cobwebs. The place gives me the creeps.

By a small fireplace is set a single cot. Merlin floats Kaitlyn over the cot and gently lays her on her stomach. I suddenly remember she also has the festering wounds on her stomach. I start to panic, recalling what that freak said about the toxin being new. My blood pounds in my ears., Oh no! We’re stuck in medieval England and we don’t have any medicine to counteract a toxin he would invent hundreds of years in the future!!

“Wait!” I stall, throwing my hands out to stop him. “She has wounds on her front as well! They’re infected. I don’t know if you’ll be able to heal them!” I nearly choke as I say the words. I can’t calm myself down. I feel faint. I sink onto a bench by the table and nearly topple off of it when it wobbles.

Merlin raises an eyebrow, “Exactly what sort of trouble have you two been getting into?”

I work my jaw, not really sure how to sum up the events of, what all of fifteen minutes? “Well…” I start, “We were caught by a mage with… god,” I can’t even say it. “Umm, sadistic tendencies, and he made a toxin, and he hurt her, and… and” I stutter to a stop, new tears forming as I replay the events in my head. I’ve lost all ability to make sense.

Merlin hums as he starts to remove the dress with care, rolling her gently onto her side where there are the least amount of wounds. He pulls up a stool and takes a seat, examining the festering gashes on her front. “Toxin, hmm? I will analyze it, but a cure may take a day or two. Let’s hope she can hold out that long.”

I can’t believe it. I don’t think she has that long. She’s bleeding to death and the likelihood of her fending off fever and blood loss in the middle ages is almost nil. My heart flutters and my mouth runs. “She doesn’t have days!” I shout. “I need to get her back to our time! We need a doctor! I can’t let her die here! It’s all my fault!” I grip my hair in my hands and pull it. I’m losing it but I can’t pull myself out of the spiraling panic I find myself in. My breathing quickens and my vision swims.

“Andrei.” I hear a voice by my feet. Rhoan appears as a cat, staring at me with orb-like eyes. “Shut up, please.” His deep voice is strained as he stares at the bed.

I ignore him. Somehow, his presence is even more irksome. “God, it’s all my fault… my fault… Kaitlyn, please.” I mutter to myself, rocking.

“Deep breaths, young Andrei,” Merlin speaks softly, as he takes a sample from a pus-filled wound. “A Guardian does not die so easily.”

He’s said that before. I feel the need to correct him. “Guardian? That’s only a title given for passing some stupid test at a school for magic! She’s not invincible!” I find myself shouting. It’s absurd to think she’d be okay with these wounds just because she’s passed some test.

Merlin looks at me like I’m talking nonsense. I probably am. “What school? There is no school of magic. There are only mages and Guardians.”

“What? No. There’s a whole island where they train magicians and when they pass their tests they’re called Guardians. They get some mark to prove it!” I say, standing up and wobbling over to the cot to show him. “Here, see?” I point to the spot on the inside of her arm where I saw it before in Kaede’s apartment.

“The Guild doesn’t exist yet, Andrei.” Rhoan pipes up. “He’s talking about real Guardians, like the founder.”

“What the frig is the difference between what he is and what she is?!” I yell. “He died too! No one’s invincible!” I shout in frustration.

Rhoan growls, “He’s not dead, you idiot. And she’s not going to die. Not here. Not now.”

“And how the hell do you know that?!” I growl back. “You have a funny way of protecting her, holding back useful information and not letting her free before me. You seem to know a lot more than you let on.”  I glare hard at the cat, wishing I could kick it. I barely restrain myself.

Merlin holds up his hands, “Alright, clearly there’s something more going on here, but if you want me to save the girl, I need quiet.”

I sink down to the floor, kneeling next to Kaitlyn and hesitantly rest a hand on her arm. “I’m sorry. I’m…” What’s the word… “Upset,” I whisper.

“Love has that effect. I remember being your age.” Merlin smirks as his hands glow over her back.

“If… the Guild doesn’t exist now… In this time… How are there both mages and Guardians? I thought mages were hunted down in this time?”

“Not yet.” Rhoan answers simply.

I don’t respond. I’m still mad at him for withholding information and revealing it only when he thinks it’s fit. If I look at him now I’ll just get angry again. Instead, I watch Merlin’s hands hover over her body.

A few minutes pass before the glow from his hands stops and he lays her slowly onto her back. I shuffle back to give him room. He leans over her torso, examining the festering wounds. “It appears this infection is slow moving. That’s good. The wounds will need to be cleaned, and left open until the infection is cleared.” He puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles.

A servant comes in, “Take this girl to the room two doors down, have her bathed, clothed and laid to rest.” He holds up a finger to make special note, “Be especially careful of the wounds.”

I scramble to my feet as the servant moves in to gather Kaitlyn. “I’m coming with you,” I say, determined to stay by her side.

Merlin sighs. “I need to tend to your arm, Andrei. Don’t worry. She will be safe here. I swear on my own life.”

“Well I said the same thing to her and that wasn’t the case.” I spin around. “My arm is fine. Kaitlyn needs me.” My voice shakes.

Rhoan stands at the heels of the confused servant, “She will not leave my sight. Let him heal your arm, and follow after. You know she would be upset if you didn’t look after yourself, Andrei.”

“I don’t trust you, shapeshifter. I will not leave her side.” I grit my teeth.

Merlin shakes his head. “Very well,” he sighs, “I suppose we’ll all go, but if I leave here, I cannot work on the antidote.”

I freeze. “What? Why can’t I stay with her? What if something happens? What if -” I realize I was no help to her in the cell… What makes me think I’d be any help to her here? I can’t seem to keep her safe. That monster was right… I am pathetic. I fall back onto the stool, holding my head in my hand. “Pathetic,” I mumble under my breath. “Fine… Go.”

I hear the servant shuffle out of the room. Soon I’m alone with Merlin and a crackling little fire. Merlin pulls the stool up to sit in front of me. I don’t look up though, continuing to stare at the stones in the floor. I feel like more tears might come soon. Pathetic.

He grasps my shoulder with one hand, I grit my teeth at the pain. It stings, but it’s nothing, I remind myself. Nothing compared to hers. He places the other palm over the wound. “Tell me, Andrei. Why do you blame yourself? Is she not a capable Guardian?”

I swallow the hard lump in my throat, “It’s not that. This… freak, he has a power over her and… and he hurts her, without remorse. We were supposed to work together to take him out… to get back the book but – but I… I always seem to fail her. I’m not a Guardian, not like she is… I’m just some… Lame time mage she met a couple weeks ago.” I mumble, turning my cheek the other way.

Merlin hums, “When you went into battle, did you see her as a maiden or a warrior?”

“A what?” I look up, confused.

“Did you see her as a warrior, or a helpless maiden?” He asks, lowering his hands.

“She was chained to a ceiling at the mercy of a monster, of course we were both helpless.” I mutter.

“Before that part.” He grunts.

I pause, try to recall before we were captured by him. It feels like ages ago. I called her – “M’lady.” I breathe.

Merlin stands up, huffing, “Boy, did you see her as an equal, or an object?”

“An equal of course! I’m not a freak like him!” I growl.

“Then she was not yours to protect. If you are truly equal.”

“But… But I, I couldn’t stop it, not any of it!” I protest.

Merlin pats my shoulder, which no longer hurts, miraculously, “But you tried.” He smiles.

“Not hard enough,” I pout.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” He moves to browse the shelves of potions, “But you brought her here, did you not? Away from this monster.”

I pause, mulling over what he is insinuating. “Only because she forced me. I had no idea it would work. I hesitated.” I watch him intently as he looks at the shelves, searching.

He chuckles to himself. “Give yourself a break, Andrei. We are Guardians, not gods. You escaped with your lives. That’s a victory in my book.” He assures me.

“You’re mistaken again, I am not a Guardian.” I repeat. Why does he keep calling me that? Hasn’t he heard anything I’ve been saying?

Merlin rolls his eyes, “How do you know when you don’t even know what it is?”

“Because, I’m not like her. She’s trained all her life. It makes sense. I’m self taught. I could never control this magic, until recently. I’m hardly a Guardian.” I don’t see what he’s getting at.

He shakes his head, almost disappointed. “You are born a Guardian, boy. It has nothing to do with any school.” He affirms.

I furrow my brows. “What?” Born a Guardian? But then, how come they said there haven’t been any Guardians in hundreds of years? It doesn’t make any sense. “But they’re all gone in my time. There are no Guardians anymore.”

Merlin raises an eyebrow. “What does that matter? That’s beyond my time. I can’t speak for your time, but I can see what you are.” He says firmly.

I look at him in disbelief. “I don’t believe you. How can you prove it?”

Merlin looks me over, I stare back hard. “You are not yet awakened. The girl is. When she is recovered, you will understand.” He looks around, “Speaking of… Where did I put that?” He mumbles as he wanders off across the room.

“Put what?” I ask, standing up and following him.

He doesn’t answer, mumbling to himself as he shuffles through the piles of books and instruments on the table. Eventually he puts together a network of tubes and bottles filled with various liquids and other odd bits. He takes out the sample of the toxin and pours it into one of the tubes and begins working on the antidote. I watch carefully as he heats up one bottle and disconnects another. The time goes by, and I faintly note that clocks don’t yet exist; I find myself missing the constant ticking of time, both inside and out.

The sun sinks in the sky, I watch through the little window in the room. My head rests on my hand lazily. I’m sort of half sleeping, half watching him as he putters with his science kit. I have to say, he’s quite handy with the stuff. It reminds me of tenth grade science class and all the test tubes the teacher would bring out when we had a lab. The modern equipment isn’t nearly as complex as this stuff, but it’s the same idea.

Eventually he blows out the little candle heating the bottle where most of the fluid has collected. It’s a bright blue colour, unlike the toxin it came from. He lifts the bottle carefully from the rack and pours it into a clean bottle and stops it with a cork, holding it up and smiling proudly.

“Well, here it is.” He grins broadly. “Let’s go visit your friend, shall we?”

“Girlfriend.” I correct.

“That’s what I said.” His eye glimmers as he leads me out of the room.

I follow him up a few steps to a hallway that extends into the castle wing, flanked with wooden doors on the left. We walk past a set of double doors when he pauses, pointing. “This will be your room, if you would like to use it. Of course, there’s always the tavern if you don’t,” he smiles.

“Tavern? Why would I sleep there?” He shrugs, continuing forward. “Can I share with my girlfriend?” I ask, emphasising the label.

He raises an eyebrow, “It’s quite improper for an unmarried man to share a room with a lady… in this time,” he adds.

I start to respond but stop before I say anything. He sounds just like Caroline. Man, these ideals are so old fashioned. “Well… In my time it’s not uncommon.” I say. Just an educational fact.

“You are not in your time. Here, you should try to blend in. You wouldn’t want to upset the King and the other Nobility, would you?” He asks.

“I know how to blend in, old man. I’ve done this sort of thing before. Besides, how would the King know anyway? As soon as Kaitlyn’s better I’m jumping us back home. No one else will see us.” He continues down the hall, stopping at another set of identical doors.

“That’s quite a shame. If there are no Guardians in your time, I thought you might want to take advantage while you’re here to learn from one.” He muses.

He opens the door and walks in. The room is flooded with light from torches braced on the walls. I see a large bed on the left, where Kaitlyn rests, propped up with pillows and dressed in a long white nightgown. I dash past Merlin and over to her, leaning on the edge of the bed, being careful not to jostle her.  Her colour has somewhat returned. I exhale in relief. I spot Rhoan curled up on the pillow beside her head.

Merlin comes up beside me, holding the potion in his hand. He uncorks the bottle and tips the antidote up, pouring it into her mouth slowly. When the potion is gone he pockets the bottle and sits on the edge of the bed.

Time passes laboriously slow as we both watch her. I listen to her breathing, steady, but shallow. Suddenly, her eyelids flutter open and she looks up at the ceiling above the bed with wide eyes. It reminds me of that time in Kae’s apartment and my heart relaxes a bit. “Kat! You’re awake! Thank god!” I feel like I could cry again, but with happiness and relief.

Her head turns towards me and she smiles weakly. It’s great to see her smile. “Andrei…” She whispers, “You’re okay…”

I shake my head, “Don’t you be worrying about me. I’m fine.” I say, looking into her sleepy, fiery eyes. “I’m just glad you’re okay.”

She coughs a laugh, “Can’t get rid of me that easily.”

I smile, lip trembling. “I wouldn’t be trying to.” I place a hand on her forehead, looking for fever. She feels cool to the touch, unnaturally so. I crease my brow in confusion. “Merlin,” I turn to face him. “Normally she’s hot, but now she’s cold. Is this normal?” Usually after a beating like this, one would be feverish. I don’t understand.

He nods once, his eyes never leaving her. “Fire is always a little strange to treat.”

I look back at her, just happy she is ok. “He made an antidote, Kat, for your infection. You’re going to be ok. And as soon as we get you back, we can have Caroline and Naum heal you again.”

Her eyes grow wide and she goes a little pale. Merlin chuckles. “Or, I could do it.” He pats her leg. “If you promise to stay a day. There is someone I want you to meet.”

I turn to him in shock. “You can heal her? How do you even know how my friend healed her? What kind of Guardian are you?” I ask in shock.

“A good one.” He smirks. “And I’m not the only one.” My eyes bulge at this statement. He stands up, “The Guardian of Time happens to be in town. I could arrange a meeting… Unless your heart is still set on leaving as soon as you can.” He sighs dramatically. “I’m sure he would be so happy to meet another time mage.”

“A… Time Guardian? Here?” I choke. I turn to Kaitlyn, it ultimately depends on how she feels. If she wants to stay, I will too. I won’t deny that meeting another time mage – not only a time mage, but a Guardian of time… I would die for that opportunity.

She grins excitedly. “You have to meet him.” Despite her weariness she looks happy about it too. How can I say no?

“Ok. I guess… We’ll stay as long as you like, or until I can muster up enough energy to jump. We could be stuck awhile.” I don’t feel the tick and I don’t know what this means. I’ve never not felt it, even a little bit. I wonder if taking someone with you uses more magical energy than jumping alone… I have so many questions for the Guardian of time.

Kaitlyn moves her hand to touch mine, “It could be fun. You said you wanted to share the experience, right?”

I nod. She’s right. I did.

“It’s settled then! I’ll contact him and set up a meeting this week. In the meantime, you two need your rest.” He sets his eyes on me and nods, “In your own rooms.” He swishes his hands, shooing me away from from the bed.

“Hold on…” I say, spinning around him and back to Kat. I place a gentle kiss on her lips before I go. “I’ll see you? Tomorrow?” I ask.

“I’ll be right here.” She smiles weakly.

I give her a wink. No way in hell is that old man keeping me away from her. I leave the room and stop at my door. Merlin stands by, waiting for me to go in. I enter, seeing the torches already lit. My room seems to mirror Kat’s. I stand at the door, hand on the latch.

“Umm… I want to thank you.” I look down at my feet, a knot in my gut. “If it weren’t for you… I don’t know what would have happened. I mean, we’d be stuck, somewhere with no one. So… Thanks.” I mutter.

Merlin tips his head in a sort of bow, “Perhaps you were meant to be here. We may never know for sure. I am glad that I was able to save your friend.” He smiles.

“Girl-friend.” I correct again. Sheesh.

He nods, “Girlfriend. My apologies.” He turns and walks down the hall, back to his own rooms. I shut the door, waiting. I wait maybe ten minutes and peer out the door, looking to see if anyone stands in the hall. When I’m sure the coast is clear, I slip out of my room, shutting the door quietly and slink down the hall back to Kaitlyn’s room. I grip the latch. Relief floods through me again, knowing she’s ok.

I open the door and slip through, latching it once I’m inside. I tear off the bloody shirt I’m wearing and tiptoe over to the bed. I lean against it softly, reaching a hand to brush her hair away from her face. I lean down, breathing in the scent of campfire. It’s soothing and relaxing. I love it so. I crawl onto the bed next to her, trying to keep still so as not to disturb her.

Without opening her eyes she whispers, “You really like to break the rules, Mr. Hero.”

I cringe when she calls me that, I did nothing to be a hero. I smile. “Don’t call me that. I’m not a hero.” I stroke her hair lightly. “You do too. You’ve influenced me.” If I could purr I would. I stroke her arm with my hand, careful to avoid the places where she might still hurt.

She frowns, “Why would you think that? Of course you are. You brought us here.”

“Merlin said the same thing… But you made me Kat. I couldn’t have done it without you. I did nothing to stop – him from hurting you again and I couldn’t do anything to heal you. I don’t feel like a hero, no matter what the old man says.”

She looks up sadly, “Andrei, this isn’t your fault. I drew his attention on purpose, so Rhoan could find a way to break your chains.” She puts a hand on my cheek, “This was my choice.”

“You shouldn’t sacrifice yourself for me. Rhoan should have freed you first and you know it.” I say with a frown.

“And risk failure? You were the wiser choice. I can take a bit of pain.” She narrows her eyes. “If it were up to you, wouldn’t you do the same?”

I frown, unable to answer her question. The fact that she can take the pain is disturbing to me. I know it wasn’t the first time she was at the mercy of that freak she once called a friend. No one, though, should have to endure what she did, not even once. I continue to stroke her hair, trying to calm my nerves and think of what to say. When the silence stretches long enough, I sigh. “I suppose you’re right. But let’s get some rest for now. Hmm?” I don’t feel like talking about it.

She shuffles beneath the blankets, trying to roll into me but her body won’t cooperate. She pouts and I giggle silently. “Come closer. You won’t hurt me,” she whines.

I push myself closer and exhale into her hair. “Kat,” I say softly.

“Yes, Mr. Hero?” She giggles.

I wrinkle my nose, “I love you.” I kiss her forehead and rest my chin against her head.

She leans her head away, eyes wide. “Really?” A huge smile spreads across her face. It’s the first time I’ve seen her smile so widely and it breaks my heart, “I think I love you too.” She kisses me as hard as she can muster.

 

~*~

 

Everything is silent; it’s not normally like this, not waking up to the ticking feeling I’m accustomed to. It’s strange, like I’m floating in limbo. How long will it take to come back? I slowly come out of sleep, feeling a slight cramp in my shoulder from sleeping on it all night. I yawn, and rub my eyes before opening them. I see a familiar face; Kat lays beside me, sound asleep. I place my hand on her cheek to stroke it gently as her eyes flutter open, looking into mine deeply. Her amber eyes are stunning and I can’t think of anything else except how beautiful she is. I smile.

“Good morning beautiful.” I whisper as she smiles back.

“It is indeed morning, but good? I am not so sure.” I hear a man’s voice behind me. My whole body goes rigid and I suddenly feel very exposed despite the blankets that cover most of my torso. I kreen my neck to look over my shoulder.  Merlin is standing there, arms crossed and a frown beneath his beard.

“I thought I was clear yesterday. What if I had sent a servant to tend to her and they had found you in here? There would be scandal! Not for you, but for her! Do you understand the severity of the situation you are in?” He scolds.

I do understand it myself. I’m not normally like this when I time jump. I usually try to find a place in society, observe the rules and blend in, but I came here under different circumstances this time. I find it hard to follow absurd rules when I simply don’t care. I turn my eyes back to Kat and search her expression for direction. If she tells me to, I will listen.

She looks at me with big eyes, “Maybe we shouldn’t risk it, if it’s that important here.” she sighs.

I watch closely, then nod. “Ok.” I kiss her on the forehead and slip out of the bed, crossing my arms to hide in front of Merlin. I wish I had a clean shirt to put on.

He moves to sit on the side of the bed. “Alright, I’m ready to heal you. If you could remove the upper half of your gown, please.”

She struggles to sit up, pulling down the wide necked gown to expose her chest. I shudder at the sight, seeing the wounds red and swollen, but clean. I wonder how much Merlin can heal. Everyone has read that he was a miracle magician, but how much of that was really true? The potion was one thing. I watch him carefully as he places his hands on her ribs and a blue-white light glows beneath them. The glow spreads from his hands through to each of the wounds, connecting them until her whole upper body appears to be glowing with light.

The light begins to dissipate as each wound shrinks, stitching closed before my eyes. When the light is gone I gasp in shock; not a single scar is left. She’s as blemish free as she was after the healing in the pool. I bring a hand to my mouth, covering a relieved smile.

Merlin pulls the sheet up over her body and leans back with a satisfied smile. “Your wounds are healed, but your body and spirit are still weak. Try not to use magic for a couple of days, and take it easy.” He advises her.

She smiles at him, “Thank you.”

He turns to face me, “I advise you to return to your room, Andrei. The servants will be coming soon to get you two ready.”

I frown. “Ready for what?” I ask.

“To be presented to the King, of course. He is eager to meet you two.” Merlin smiles, and it makes me nervous. I look back at Kat and she nods. I’ll go, because she wants me to.

I move to the door, arms still over my chest. I glance at the dirty dress shirt, laying forgotten on the floor. I shouldn’t leave that there. I pick it up and leave the room.

Once in my own chambers, I leave the shirt hanging over the chair by the fire and sit in front of it. My dress pants are wrinkled and stained too. I have nothing to change into until the servants arrive. I lean back, glancing out the window. The warm rays of the sun fall on my face. I realize, though Kaitlyn was washed and cleaned while I slept the entire night covered in filth and blood. Not very considerate of me. I spot a basin with a pitcher of water next to it by the window.

I go to wash the grime off my face, peering out the window as I pat it dry with a towel. The window presents a view of the training grounds below. I spy knights in casual wear sparing in the dusty training grounds and I feel a longing to join them. I wonder what new skills I could learn here.

I set the cloth down next to the basin as a knock comes at the door. The servants let themselves in. Two youth, maybe the younger than me, step in carrying a change of clothes, a bucket and cloth. I guess I won’t be getting a bath like Kat. So unfair.

They sit me down by the fire and prepare to sponge me down. “Woah, I… I think I can manage on my own, thanks.” I says, reaching for the sponge.

“But, sir. It’s our duty.” The taller of the two says with a confused expression. I grumble about it, eventually I comply. They strip me down and sponge me clean. I’m very unhappy with the whole experience. It’s much too similar to my experience in Japan. When I’m spotless, they towel me dry and attempt to dress me.

“This I can definitely manage, thank you. Please.” I say, taking the clothes and moving away from the fire. I pull on the form fitting pants first. It’s very uncomfortable, but I wore something similar in France. I’m actually feeling a bit reminiscent. Maybe this won’t be as bad as I think. Play the part Andrei, play the part.

I hold up the shirt and see there is more than one. Oh boy. I rack my mind for the memories of the clothing in France. I hold up the white shirt first, I think this goes first. I struggle with the ties a bit, noticing the servants hovering. I roll my eyes with a sigh. “Fine, I could use your help.”

They hurry over and immediately straighten me out. They pull on a longer, thicker overshirt that is nearly as long as I am tall; a shirt dress that falls to my knees and has open sleeves. It’s a little fancy for my tastes. They fasten a fancy metal belt last, pulling on the long shirt to ensure it’s straight. When I’m presentable, they bow.

“Sir, now, your hair.” The blonde youth mentions.

“What’s wrong with my hair?” I ask, a little defensive.

“Nothing sir, it’s just… It needs combing.” He says, holding up a bone toothed comb. I move to the chair and allow him to comb my hair. It’s really strange. I can’t explain the feeling of someone else combing your hair, especially when that someone is a man. In France I did certain things on my own. This is one of them.

When he’s finished, he steps to the side and bows. “There you are, sir. Do you have a sword?”

“A swo-” I stop. I remember the keychain in the pocket of my pants. It might not be a medieval sword but it’s mine. “I do!” I say smiling. I dash away from them to the pile of ruined clothing by the chair. I fish for the keychain in the pocket. I pull it out with a frown. Now, how do I make this big again?

I turn it over in my hand. It’s in a scabbard and everything, just miniature. I try pulling it out but it doesn’t budge. I notice a latch on the scabbard, a needle sized clasp locking it inside. I fiddle with it, unlatching the scabbard and pull it out. Suddenly I’m holding a full sized rapier in my hand. I turn it in the light, grinning. It’s beautiful.

The servants gasp as it appears, probably surprised I pulled a sword out of thin air. The scabbard, I realize, is also now full sized. I wonder what will happen if I put it back? Can I keep it large? Or will it always shrink to a keychain? I give it a try, replacing the rapier. I half expect it to shrink, but it doesn’t. I raise an eyebrow. Maybe it’s the latch? I try doing it up, but nothing happens. How the heck am I supposed to shrink it? I never thought to ask Cliff that.

That’s when I notice the little ring, dangling from the pommel. I grasp the ring and let the sword go. I stare in awe as it shrinks before my eyes. “Wicked.” I grin. This could be quite handy.

I turn to the servants. “Sorry, a trick I’m sure you haven’t seen before.” They nod but don’t say a word. “I wonder if Merlin could do this?” I wonder aloud. I unlatch the sword and pull it out. It grows again and I rescabber it once more. “Think we can have this on my belt?”

The servants glance at the sword. “We are not familiar with this kind of sword, sir, but we can try.” They take the sword and fasten the sword belt around the scabbard. It’s not the same as the belt that normal would hold it, but they make it work, buckling the scabbard into place. The angle is off, but it’ll have to do.

They bow and depart. I wonder if I’m supposed to wait here for someone to get me or if I should sneak over to Kaitlyn’s room. I imagine her outfit will take much more time. I decide to lean against the window and wait, watching the knights move through their training below.

By Kayla West

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