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Chapter 41

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As the carriage happily stumbled along the cobbled path, the newlyweds inside gleefully began discussing just where it was they were off to.

“Well,” Gwen said, “I think it would be nice to go someplace warm.”
“Are you sure?” Arthur replied. “Someplace snowy could be nice.”

“I suppose so,” Gwen agreed. Arthur told the carriage driver to take them to a cabin in the mountains, assuring Gwen it would be lovely. After a few hours, the air in the carriage steadily grew colder. Gwen peeked through the window to see a snow- covered mountain and a cozy cabin off in the distance. “This could make for a nice spot,” Gwen said to herself. As they came up to the cabin, Arthur jumped out of the carriage car and went to retrieve Gwen from the opposite door. The driver began to unload things from the back of the carriage. As they went in, Gwen noted the regal- looking furniture inside. She could get used to this. “So?” Arthur asked, reading her expression. “What do you think?”

“Not too bad,” Gwen said, smiling over at him.

“No!” said a familiar voice outside. “No, I must speak to him now!” Arthur rolled his eyes and headed toward the door. “Sir, I don’t believe you understand. Arthur! There you are! I need to speak with you.” It was Kay.

“Come on, Kay, how important can it be? I sort of am on my honeymoon.”
“Yes, I know, and very sorry to disturb you, but I’m afraid I have some very important news.”

“Well?” Arthur asked. “What is it? Spit it out, Kay.”

“I’m afraid the mage has fallen ill. He is not speaking clearly and has been in bed all day with a fever. He is not doing well, Arthur.”

Arthur sighed. As much as he wanted to be there with his new bride, this was more important. Merlinnus had always been like a father to him. He couldn’t leave him now, not when the mage needed him so much.

Arthur let out another sigh. “Well,” he said, “how quickly can I get there?”
Kay smiled. “Thank you, Arthur. It will mean much to him that you return.”

Arthur informed Gwen of the situation, and, with much convincing, persuaded her to stay at the cabin until he came back. “It will be best for you not to see him this way, for I know he was like a father to you as well,” Arthur assured her. “I will be back within two days.” And with that, he was off, leaving two guards by every door and window of the cabin.

Arthur made the long trek home without incident. Soon, he could see the castle between the hills of Cadbury. He entered into the main hall and Kay showed him up to Merlinnus’ tower. Before he entered the threshold, Kay gave Arthur a knowing nod. Arthur replied with a weak smile.

The room was quiet and warm. A few candles lined the walls and the largest steadily burned at Merlinnus’ bedside table. The mage lay in his bed, with a blanket over him, a cold sweat on his brow. He opened his eyes and smiled up at Arthur. “Ah, my boy, you have come to see me?” he coughed.

“How could I not?” Arthur said. “I wanted to see how you were.”
“Oh,” Merlinnus laughed. “No need to worry about me. It’s some kind of sickness. Besides, it is my time.” He looked at Arthur as he said this. Arthur stared back in disbelief. He had always known the mage was old, but he had never thought of him on his deathbed. As he sorted it out in his mind, he noticed that Merlinnus had a boyish grin on his face.

“Never thought you’d see me here, eh? Well, not to worry. It will all work itself out. Besides, the battle has already been won. With the North Witch, with the people’s suspicions, with Gawen- I mean, Gwen’s identity. You have nothing more to worry about than to simply… be king.”

He always knows just what to say, Arthur thought to himself. He smiled back at the mage. “And how will I do that without you? You helped me through every hardship I have ever endured.”
“Oh, you will find your way.” Merlinnus explained. “I was only there to help you along, to help you begin. You may have needed me, but that was long ago. You see, Arthur, we made a good team. But now, it’s up to you. And I have all the confidence in the world that you will be a great king.”

The mage’s eyes were tired and weak, but full of happiness. He patted Arthur’s hand. “We have accomplished everything we set out to do,” Merlinnus said. “Now, we can simply go on…” Merlinnus whispered, his eyes beginning to close. “We just go on…” he said. His eyes closed, and he was silent and still. Arthur sat beside him for a few moments, then embraced the mage. He let go and quickly brushed the tears from his eyes. Then he got up and went through the door, where Kay was waiting. Arthur handed him a small wrapped package. “Bury him with this, please.” Arthur cleared his throat and swiftly walked away. Kay looked down at the package and carefully unwrapped it. It was Arthur’s first wooden sword, given to him by Merlinnus while Arthur was just a young boy. On it was inscribed, “You gave me so much. Now I give this to you.” Kay looked up to the window, only to see Arthur riding away to the mountains.





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