The Tale of Edgar and Essa Part Two
Sebastian has stayed behind.
It doesn’t matter that he’s got people that he wants to look after. It doesn’t matter that he can. He’s a liability until they know how to fix him.
The refugees look around, confused. “It’s okay,” Sebastian tries to reassure them, but they shrink back and he realises, for the thousandth time, that he has a wolf for a body.
He lets Uma and Professor Anemone handle it from then on, and instead goes up to the top of Purity Tower to watch the skies for the stymphs. But that’s not what he finds there.
She looks up, her face streaked with tears. “What did I do?”
It’s a rhetorical question. “Why did you do it?”
It’s not a rhetorical question. “I don’t know.”
“How can you not know?”
“I don’t remember anything except collecting people from Arthur Hill.”
What? “How is that possible?”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here, would I?”
“I can… help, maybe?”
“No, you can’t.” She waves a hand. “Just go see how Kara is.”
“Just do it, you *****.” He smiles at how much like Kara she sounds.
Why does that make me smile?
They hold an emergency meeting at the round table.
“Sacrilege,” Eugenia mutters as they leave her on the balcony. “The Round Table is for knights only.”
No-one listens to her, of course, because there are things more important than tradition.
Merlin presides over the meeting, Tedros still grief-stricken by losing his father for the second time, Rafaela nowhere to be found. “Does anyone have any questions?” Predictably, the room explodes in noise.
“Why was Valentina important?”
“What do we do with Rhian?”
“Who’s king now?”
Merlin answers the questions in order. “I believe that Valentina was important because if it was not for her wish to go to Camelot to follow her sister, Arthur would never have been here to help. Rhian has been taken to the most secure room in the castle. And as for who’s king now… I suppose we won’t know until a decision has been.”
“And how will a decision be made?” Echo asks, her feet up on the ancient stone table.
“I’m not sure yet. Any suggestions, one at a time please.”
“We let Excalibur choose.” Dovey smiles at Merlin.
“Excalibur has already chosen, and it’s not helping us much.”
“We put it to a vote. Camelot’s citizens.” Essa looks around, to murmurs to dissent.
“Camelot is not a democracy.” Julia glares at her.
“Well, maybe it should be.”
Merlin writes it on a piece of paper, but doesn’t say anything. “Anything else?”
“Couldn’t they rule together?” Alison frowns at Merlin. “Isn’t that the obvious solution?”
“We’re not sure yet if they can work together.”
Tedros leans forward. “I’m right here.”
“I know.” Merlin taps his paper. “We need to find Rhian a lawyer. We need to do it properly.”
Julia volunteers, though no-one misses the predatory gleam in her eyes.
Tedros stands up. “I’d like to appoint my first knight.” He picks up Excalibur. Chaddick swells with pride, but he doesn’t choose him. “Alison.” Alison stands up. “Will you be my first knight?”
“Of course.” He touches both shoulders with his sword. And there finishes his third knighting ceremony.
The meeting ends, but Merlin stays, with a few people still there. Kiko, Essa, Rowan. “What’s going to happen to Rhian?” Rowan asks.
“He’ll be tried, and if found guilty…”
“You mean to execute him.”
“Yes.” Merlin doesn’t pull punches.
Rowan nods. “Okay.” He’s making a visible effort to calm himself.
“There are many people who want him dead.”
Fifer runs in. She’s one of those people who doesn’t move slowly if she can help it. “She’s awake.”
Ruby wakes up in a familiar room. For a moment, she thinks that she’s still under Rhian’s control, but it’s different. There’s no pain.
Pain is what assures her that she’s alive.
Fifer is sitting next to her with a glass of water. “Drink.”
She forces herself to take a sip, but puts it down when she sees the blazing fire in the fireplace. “Put it out.”
“Okay.” She knows that it’s bad when Fifer agrees with what she says.
The room goes into darkness, until Beatrix skids to a halt outside the door and her fingerglow immediately lights up. “How are you?”
“I’m… okay. Nothing hurts.” Except the memories.
Fifer nods. “You’ve had a lot of anaesthesia. It’s expected.”
“What… what happened?” She realises that her voice is hoarse. Like she’s been screaming.
“You were found in a room. You… were in a bad state.”
Her memory floods back, along with a wave of pain. She cries out, and Beatrix runs forwards. “What is it?”
Fifer answers. “The memories can override the painkillers sometimes.” She touches Ruby’s shoulder and warmth floods through her.
She falls asleep in a few minutes, slipping into a dreamless slumber. She can feel Fifer and Beatrix watching over her.
She wakes again less than an hour later, finding more people in her room. “What’s happening?”
Rowan’s there, in the corner. In front of her are Tedros, Alison and a pregnant girl that she doesn’t know. “Hello,” Tedros says.
The painkillers have almost worn off, and she winces as blinding pain shoots up her back. Fifer gives her more water that she can barely swallow.
“I’m Essa,” the unfamiliar one says. “Welcome back.”
“Freedom.” She raises an eyebrow. She’s not wrong.
Alison runs forwards. “Are you okay?”
She flinches. “Stupid question.”
Tedros smiles slightly. “I want to thank you.”
“You’ve done it. Please go.” Her voice is tired, resigned. They obey her immediately. Fifer’s still there, and Beatrix, and Rowan. “You two.”
Fifer shares a look with Beatrix. “Are you sure?”
“I’ll be outside if you need anything.”
They leave reluctantly, shooting suspicious glances at Rowan, and he leans against the door. “They don’t trust me.”
“You look like him.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“I know it’s not.” She is silent for a moment. “Don’t worry. I don’t mind.”
It’s a lie. She hates that he looks like Rhian. But she knows that there’s nothing she can do about it.
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