For complete disclaimers see part 1.

Note: Violence.

Kim Pritekel

Part 9a

Holding her breath slightly as she walked, she leaned a bit on the walking stick Ezra had fashioned for her, Merryn headed to the Great Hall. During her fight with Gerik, she’d re-injured the leg that had been broken. The pain had become less and less, but she still didn’t trust the strength of her leg to walk on.

She’d slowly gotten out of bed more and more, the resting driving her near mad. She was restless and fidgety, and about to drive Evela crazy with her whining. To the smaller brunette’s credit, she held her tongue. Even so, she had some of the most expressive eyes Merryn had ever seen. She was acting like a petulant child, and the quiet women let her know it with a single admonishing look.

Paul walked with her, his short steps echoing along side her own, his little fist clasped around and end of her tunic, as was his habit. She glanced down at the boy, who immediately looked up at her. He stood to her waist, and she used her free hand to gently run through his soft, brown hair before turning her focus back to her walking. It was a slow process, but Paul was a patient boy.

Voices could be heard in the Great Hall, men laughing and talking. Excitement was thick, as the plan would be enacted within the month. Merryn was on her way to ask if she could join. The decision had been made the day Gerik attacked her. No man, no one, would ever steer her destiny, nor attempt to, again. She would no longer hide behind her own fears or selfishness, wrapped up in a transparent bundle of piety and apathy.

As she entered, voices slowly hushed, hundreds of men turning to stare at the two silhouettes in the grand archway. Merryn’s proud features slowly came into view as torchlight forced her into dancing shadow and light. The brunette stopped short, looking around in confusion as one by one, the men began to fall to one knee, heads bowing. The sound of mail hitting stone, leather rubbing steel, steel scraping against steel.
Looking across the sea of bowed heads, Merryn found twinkling dark eyes. Angus smiled, then he, too fell to one knee. Finding Paul’s curious eyes looking back up at her, the boy shrugged. Merryn looked over the room again. She walked further in, not a man meeting her eye as she passed. A myriad of emotions were flowing through her as she made her way through the crowd, a path seemingly made for her to follow. She reached Angus, and turned to the army.

“Rise!” she called, wincing slightly at the pain that caused in her ribs. Just as noisily as their descent, the men gained their feet. She turned to Angus, confusion in her eyes. He smiled, giving her a slight bow, eyes never leaving her own. “What’tis this?” she asked, incredulous.

“They honor ‘n respect ye, Merryn,” he explained softly, ruffling Paul’s hair. He leaned in, a smile in his eyes. “They know ye c’n kick their arses now.”

“Madness,” she hissed, though in a secret place that she’d never admit to anyone, she was greatly pleased. She turned to the men, bowing slightly to them, letting them know she respected every man in the room in return. She also felt her chest fill a little more, her spine a little straighter. “I come ta tell ye I wish te join ye, Angus.”

The dark man studied her, looking deeply into her eyes. She could see how he’d aged since she’d first seen him nearly two years ago. Lines around his mouth and between his eyes. His forehead was nearly becoming a roadmap. He nodded his approval.

“I’d love to have ye fight by my side, Merryn,” he said quietly. The brunette nodded. It was set. Looking out over the army once more, her gaze twitched, suddenly nervous.

“As ye were,” she muttered, then grabbed Paul’s hand, hurrying from the room as quickly as her leg and healing body would allow.


The cold, winter night found Merryn in her favorite place of isolation- atop the turret. She leaned against the stone, a mug of hot cider cradled between her palms. Her cloak wrapped tight around her shoulders, the hood barely perched atop her head. A few long strands of dark hair whipped around her face. With a sigh that crystallized just out of her lips, she took a sip of her drink, the steam billowing into the night.

She looked out over the shire of Cayshire down below and on the mainland, many fires dotting the darkness. A small smile curled her lips as she thought of all the people down there, families, and amazingly enough, friends. She could call each by name, knowing little tidbits. Was this what it felt like to be happy? Surely that wasn’t a possibility for her, was it?

Happiness. And without Cara. Merryn thought that was an impossibility. Somehow, and it snuck up on her, light had once again dawned in her life, chasing away the darkness to clear a lit path.

“Who do you think of?”

Merryn glanced over her shoulder, seeing Evela standing just outside the narrow stone doorway, leading back into the tower that would take her down. The young woman with the wisp of white hair, a steadfast friend, silent protector.

Merryn turned back to her gaze, out over the moonlight sea below. She heard the smaller brunette walk over to her, lean against the stones.

“How did ye meet her?”

Merryn smiled. Evela always seemed to know what was on her mind. She reached up, absently taking the coin she’d had a hole drilled through, a leather thong snaking its way through, and around her neck. She rubbed her thumb over the rough gold, a gesture she’d done thousands of times.

“She was be’in attacked by a bandit,” Merryn explained, her voice soft, wistful of that night’s return. Oh, how different she would play it. She would have been kind, willing to lend a helping hand and hold the frightened girl.

“Saved her, did ye?” Evela smiled, seeing her friend nod her dark head, features barely visible under the hood’s cloak of shadows.

“Aye,” Merryn said unnecessarily.

“How long did ye travel together?” Evela moved a bit closer, hoping to share a bit of body heat in the cold night. Merryn’s mood of late was dark and morose. She knew it had to do with the girl’s wounds, and perhaps the upcoming plan. She also knew to talk to her, or spend time with her, it had to be on Merryn’s terms.

“Not long enough.” Merryn was surprised she had spoken aloud. She cleared her throat, trying to cover her embarrassment. “A year ‘n a bit.”

“’M sorry, Merryn,” Evela said, her voice soft, filled with genuine sorrow. She could feel the pain, deep and profound. She wished there was something she could do to ease it. These were hard times, and death was all around them, awaiting his turn to gallop in on his black horse, trample the spirits of the living. “Ezra and I lost a child to the sickness.”

Merryn turned to the woman, only seeing her in profile, her face pale against the darkness. The streak of white seemed to glow.

“Sarah weren’t but three.” Evela took a deep breath, trying to keep the pain of her own loss down, squashed where it had remained all these long, two years.

“’Tis a pain that does not leave,” Merryn whispered, turning back to the night. She felt Evela’s nod.



Merryn took several deep breaths, then allowed young Alex to help her don her mail, full shirt and sleeves. The heavy metal fell to her upper thighs. She took the belt the boy gave her, synching it around her waist, the mail bagging over it slightly, bringing its length to crotch level. The quilted Surcoat was placed over the top, the belted above that of the mail.

Merryn moved her arms and twisted at the waist, making sure her movement was fluid. Already feeling the weight and heat of the armor, she pushed it out of her mind. Taking the coif from the lad, she carefully tugged it over her head, her hair already closely pinned. Alex straightened the mail around her shoulders and neck, then efficiently got her baldric in place, belting it while Merryn pulled on her gauntlets. Flexing her fingers, she was ready.

Merryn joined the small army that would be used this night. The majority of the men were being held back. Tonight was about surprise and attack.

Mounting her horse, she watched with pride as man after man did the same. Every window and door of Cayshire was filled with well-wishers as the double row of warriors passed through the lanes, the light of torches glinting off wicked sharp steel until the group was led by the light of the moon.

The ride was silent, each lost in their own head, knowing full well how things could turn out. Not a man there didn’t wear a cross, band of garlic, or some sort of token of faith in something stronger, and more powerful than he. Merryn could fell the warm gold against her upper chest.

The party decided to make camp as early morning approached. They’d travel the rest of the way come nightfall.

Merryn rolled over, readjusting her blankets, the fire crackling close by. She heard movement and opened her eyes. Angus stood from his place a ways across the fire, headed toward the lake. Merryn soon followed.

The dark man glanced over his shoulder before tossing a pebble in the water, breaking the mirror-perfect surface.

“Canna sleep?” he asked, looking back to the water. Merryn smirked.

“Was gonna ask ye the same.” She smiled, picking up her own stone. He smiled in return, caught.

Angus dropped his rock, brows furrowed as he looked down at his boots for a moment. Merryn waited him out, knowing he would speak when he was ready.

“Merryn,” he began, clearing his throat, keeping his voice low so as not to be overhear. “do ye think I’m leadin’ these lads to their deaths?” he glanced at the small army camp behind them, then looked deeply into Merryn’s eyes. She studied him for a long moment, trying to give him as true and answer as possible. Finally she smile, gentle and fond.

“Angus, they follow ye of their own will. The risks ‘r high, ‘tis true,” she nodded. “They know this.” She could still see the concern on his face, and the beginning dregs of doubt. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she turned him to look at her. “Angus, they look ta ye. If ye doubt now, they’re dead.” She paused, waiting for her words to sink in. “Turn back now, if ye dona believe in what ye do. Teresa would understand.”

Angus sighed, looking back out over the water. Shaking his head, he turned back to her. “Nay. We do this.”

Merryn smiled, giving a sharp nod. “Aye. We do this.” She raised her hand, he clasped his around it with the strength of the warrior.




Using hand signals, Merryn directed her archers to the nearby hills of Middleham. The rest of the men were placed in strategic locations near the bridge and drawbridge.

She glanced at Angus, the dark man nodding. With cat-like grace and silence, they made their way toward the mouth of William’s Hill, two guards standing sentinel. Merryn smirked; apparently they’d gotten smart after Cara’s rescue.

Without a sound, the brunette moved up behind the closest guard, seeing Angus out of the corner of her eye heading toward the other one.

A short grunt split the night, then all was silent.

Merryn reached to the small pouch tethered to her hip, bringing out the small metal pieces, picking the new locks that had been put on the doors inside the tunnel. The new locks were even easier to pick than the others had been- no rust.

The heat could be felt almost immediately after the second door had been opened, closed and wedged from the inside. The boiler room was working double time, which surprised the brunette, as the king wasn’t in the castle. Looked as though his remaining men were enjoying themselves.

Angus followed quickly behind, blade ready for anything. They tried to be as quiet and swift as possible. The heavy mail made their progress slightly slower than he felt comfortable with. The whole plan was on his shoulders, and that of the young girl just in front of him. If they failed, the plan would fail. One final look into determined blue eyes, Merryn pushed open the iron grate at the end of the tunnel, everything exactly as it had been during their last trip.

Merryn is amazed at the calm that filled her, an inner peace as she traveled the halls in the bowls of the castle. It was decided that she would descend into the pits of Middleham hell, release the captives and condemned while Angus made his way through the castle.

The knighted men would be strongly loyal and allied to their King, but the hired soldiers were just that- hired. They could use that to their advantage.

Merryn rode the dark halls, creeping along like a thief in the night. She smirked. That’s essentially exactly what she was. Stopping, her fingers flexed on the grip of her blade as she heard two men talking just ahead.

“Now get outta ‘ere, and feed the bastards!” someone hissed, muttering to himself as whomever he was talking to left to carry out his orders. Peeking around the corner, she saw the soldier sitting in a wooden chair, front legs off the dirt floor as he tilted it back against the stone wall. His eyes were hooded, boredom clearly written on his face. She scanned his body, seeing only a sword. No keys.

Making sure they were alone, Merryn scurried over to him, slamming her fist into his jaw, knocking him off his chair. Her hand around his throat kept him quiet, huge eyes looking at her.

“Where’s ‘t key holder?” she hissed. He just stared up at her. She pushed his head into the stone wall behind him. “Where?” The stunned soldier’s head was bashed against into the stone wall. “Tell me,” Merryn hissed, pulling the man up to look at her, by his hair. “Tell me where he hides, or die now, lad.” Merryn brought his face up closer to her own, letting him know she meant every hit upon that stone.

The soldier was trembling, eyes drifting toward the iron door at the end of the hall. “Feeding them,” he gasped, eyes beginning to tear from the raging headache splitting his skull.

Merryn shoved him, the soldier falling off the chair, landing in a heap on the dirt. Grabbing him by the boots, she drug him to a shadow-filled doorway, leaving him there, knocking him out with another blow. Running to the door, Merryn glanced over her shoulder once more, then slid inside.

She wrinkled her nose immediately as the stench of human bodies, feces, urine, and every other bodily fluid hit her nose. The smell was nearly unbearable. The air was thick and dark, dancing shadows from scattered torches. Thick wood doors, ribbed with steel lined either side of the narrow, straw-laden ground. Small, barred squares were cut out of each door at eye level. A few sets of fingers could be seen wrapped around some of the bars.

Merryn was surprised at the relative quiet of the dungeon. Walking down the aisle, she glanced into some of the cells. Shackles hung from the stone walls, most hanging open, the cell’s occupant laying in their own filth. She wasn’t sure if all of them were alive.

Movement caught Merryn’s eye, her own presence seeming to catch the guard by surprise. He held a large pail of something, bits of gray slime dripping off one side. Throwing the pale, his face pinched in the offense, immediately drawing his blade.

Not giving him a chance, Merryn ran at him, full speed, barreling him over with a full body tackle. They landed in the straw, a few stiff strands sticking the brunette in the leg through the mail.

The soldier tried to roll them over, but Merryn kept him on his back. She clamped her thighs into his sides, using the powerful muscles to keep him down. She raised her hand, growling as she plowed her gauntlet into the air. The soldier saw what was coming, the steel covered hand gleaming in the torchlight. He covered his face with his bracers, Merryn catching him instead in the side of the head. He grunted in surprised pain.

“Work with me, lad, and I’ll spare ye,” she panted, bringing the tip of a dagger to his throat. He looked at her with surprised brown eyes, one hand covering his ringing ear. She knew all too well how much that move hurt.

“Who are ye?” he asked, his voice shaky. This one was young, not sure what to make of this seemingly demon woman. New to the King’s army, he was stuck with dungeon duty.

“Yer worst nightmare if ye refuse,” she growled. Teeth clanging together, he nodded vigorously. He was stunned at the beauty of Merryn’s smile as she stood, holding a hand down to him. He took it, eyes unable to leave hers. Still holding his hand, she pulled him close, face a mere breath away. “If ye betray me, lad,” the boy’s eyes nearly grew out of his skull at the feel of the point against his privates. Understanding her message loud and clear, he nodded again. “I want ye ta take these prisoners out through ‘t tunnel. Ye know ‘t tunnel?”

“Aye,” he whimpered.

Merryn shoved him away, snatching the keys from his belt. Tugging the second key from the ring, she thrust them into his trembling hands. Hurrying over to the end of the aisle, Merryn inserted the large, iron key into the equally large lock. She looked into the small, square hole. An old man looked back at her, tired and haggard. His eyes were mere shadows of the man he once was.

“Stay quite, and ye’ll live,” she hissed. He nodded. Down the line she went, issuing the same demand. After all were released, Merryn made sure the young soldier did as asked, then headed into the upper sections of the castle.

Merryn took the stairs two at a time, her heart beating out of control. Angus had managed to lower the gates, letting the rest of the men charge in, roaring, blades raised high over head. The soldiers of the king were fighting bravely back, trying to defend their stronghold.

With the king gone in hiding at his country estate, the bulk of his army was with him, leaving basically a skeleton crew to keep watch over Middleham Castle.

Merryn made her way into the fray, both blades flying through the air, a whirlwind of motion and grace. If it weren’t so deadly, it would have been beautiful.


Carnage. That was all Merryn could think of. Panting, bruised and bleeding, she looked around. The fight had made it out to the Keep, bodies littering the ground, both dressed in the colors of the king, as well as those of Cayshire.

She fell to her knees, body about to give out. Glancing to her left, she saw Angus limping over to her. Relieved to see he’d survived, she gave him a weak smile. Collapsing next to her, the dark man sighed deeply, running a hand through sweat-slicked hair, leaving a thin trail of blood near his temple.

“’Tis such a loss,” he said, his voice soft, whispery. Battle fatigued and weary. The left side of Angus’ head was covered with blood. The brunette nodded, falling to her bum, head resting against a door she sat near.

“How many dead?”

“Near thirty ‘o ours. Double that theirn.”



With a groan, Merryn pushed herself to her feet, or she knew is she didn’t rise now, she wouldn’t be able to. There was work to be done, and it had to be done now. Helping the dark man to his, it was time to set about removing bodies, tossing them to the mote.

“Ye men!” she called out to a small group of their own men. When she had their collective attention, she continued. “Get a wagon, Stephen, get a horse, begin gettin’ them out.” She pointed to the bodies around.

“Save weapons,” Angus said, his voice very shaky. Merryn turned to look at her friend, just in time to see him collapse.


“Boil more rage, now!” Merryn called out, dabbing arnica paste on her patient. Brows drawn with concern, she glanced over to her friend, Angus finally awake. The castle’s physician was seeing to his wounds, digging through the thick, black hair, looking for the source.

Sure that Angus was being care for, she turned her attention back to the soldier she was putting back together.


“Aye?” the brunette muttered absently, quickly wrapping her patient’s arm with the newly brought cloth. He was losing a lot of blood from the gash.

“Let me have a look at ye. Yer bleed-“

“Take care ‘o these men!” she hissed, turning to the surprised young soldier. Softening her voice, she turned back to her task. “Dona worry ‘bout me, Thomas. Help them.” She nodded at the room filled with moaning, some crying, men. With a quick nod, the soldier hurried to follow her orders.

Merryn’s head snapped at the sound of a loud cry. Angus thrashed on the chair where he sat, head buried in his hands. Blue eyes found the physician, trying to pick his way out of the room.

“Stop ‘im!” she yelled, running over to the screaming Angus. Two soldiers tackled the old man, all going down in a clang of male and air being pushed out of lungs. “Angus, Angus,” she breathed, trying to pry his hands away from his head.

“Burns!” the dark man cried, jerking back I the chair so hard he head-butted Merryn. Staggering back, the brunette shook off echo of pain rattling around in her head, stepping back over to her friend.

“Let m’see, Angus,” she murmured, using all her force to pull his hands free. The wound at the side of his head was fizzing, the hair clinging to his hands, skin curling, peeling back from his scalp. “Ah, Lord in Heaven,” she gasped. Looking around, she saw the scrap of cloth the physician had been using. Snatching it, she brought it to her nose, immediately grimacing back at the acidic smell. Turning to the two men who had the older man between them, each holding an arm. “Bryony?” she asked, waving the cloth around. “Ye bastard!” Throwing the cloth to the floor, she turned back to Angus, now whimpering. “Someone bring me some white wine!” she bellowed, “with,” she gritted her teeth, trying desperately to remember what Cara would have used. “Bugger te Hell,” she muttered. “Anise! White wine with anise!”

“Aye!” someone yelled out.

Within moments, Merryn had what she needed in her hands. “Hang on, Angus,” she whispered, dumping the herb into the wineskin, viciously shaking the ingredients together, before soaking a clean cloth with the mixture. “Take this,” she said, tossing the wineskin to whomever was close. Placing her hand on the other side of Angus’ head, she pressed the poultice to the angry wound, making the dark man cry out again.

“What are ye doin’?” Thomas asked, eyes wide as he watched the brunette snatch the wineskin out of Robert’s hands, pouring small amounts to the wound. With each washing, Thomas felt his stomach roil. What Merryn had called bryony, had burned through, leaving a bald, bloody spot just above Angus’ left ear. The skin was scorched and angry.

Merryn ignored the question, instead concentrating on cleaning off the rest of the poison. Lukas, one of the officers, stood just over Merryn’s right shoulder, watching.

“Bryony wouldn’t do that alone, would it?” he asked, his voice low. He saw the girl shake her head.

“Nay.” Blue eyes glanced at the physician, still held by the two soldiers. “Finish,” she tossed over her shoulder, grabbing a dagger from her belt as she walked over to him. Without a word, she drew her hand back, then thrust the blade into his gut. His gray eyes protruded from their sockets The blade went in easily, the hilt stopping its advance. Merryn felt the warm blood cover her hand and grip of the dagger, his face a breath away from hers. With a vicious snarl, she shoved him off her dagger, letting him fall to the floor with a plop.

Walking away, the men moved out of her way, silence following her out of the room.

Merryn was glad to feel the chill against heated skin. She was filled with the adrenaline of looking death in the eye, watching it cut one man down around her after another, only to bow out of her shadow. She could still see every face that fell pale before her, still see their blood, her sword slicing through the armor they prayed would keep them safe.

Walking the cold halls of the huge castle, Merryn could help but wonder what all this was for. What was the purpose of so many losing their lives this night. Many taken by her own hand.

Running her hands through her hair, which were still covered in blood and gore, she felt her body begin to tremble, the breath she let out shaky. Merryn was surprised to feel her eyes stinging, emotion pushing through. Letting a few tears of relief and release to slip out from her lids, the brunette took several more deep breaths. Heading back the way she’d come, she heard soft murmurings and the obvious sounds of feasting.

The exhausted girl made her way there, curiosity drawing her. She recognized many of the people gathered around a long table, strewn with random bits of food and drink. Many of them stood there, clothing hanging off terribly thin frames, others dressed in rags. All shoving as much food into their mouths as possible.

Merryn wandered through the room, wandering why they were back. She figured they would have scattered to wherever they had come from. There were a couple dozen people, some men, but mostly women and a couple children, all huddled around the skirts of what looked to be their mother, or some sort of close relative.

The brunette smiled at some, nodded at others, taking an overwhelmingly enthusiastic hug from one man who remembered her from the dungeon.

“Thank ye, thank ye!” he cried, fat tears falling down dirt-smudged cheeks. Merryn smiled.

“Yer welcome.”

With that, he hurried back to his place at the table they stood around, guzzling water from a wooden mug, the liquid flowing down either side of his mouth, leaving clean trails.

For the first time that night, Merryn smiled. She saw the excitement and relief on the face of these people. These were not hardened criminals, deserving to be chained and starved. These were the people of a ruler that needed to be stopped.

“This must end,” she whispered. Turning to leave, Merryn caught a flash of gold. Her head jerked, raising to her toes to see above the heads of those at the table. On the other side, near the wall, stood a young girl, her thin body huddled together, her dress long faded and torn. Her face was covered by long, golden hair.

Merryn made her way around the room, brows drawn. She felt her heartbeat quicken, a softening of her entire being. There was something familiar about this young girl, maybe ten years of age. As she neared, the girl’s head raised, bright green eyes blinking, focused on the approaching figure. The girl, seeing the blood, the armor and weapons, shrunk back.

Stopping, Merryn raised her hands in supplication. “Fear not, lass,” she said, her voice soft. The girl did not relax, but wasn’t trying to press into the wall anymore, either. “How long have ye been here?”

The girl raised her eyes to the ceiling for a moment, thinking, before they returned to Merryn’s face. “Two years, milady.” The girl’s voice was soft, a bit shaky.

Unable to take her eyes from the girl, Merryn reached behind her, grabbing a chair she felt there. She drug it over to where the girl stood, indicating the girl should sit. With a small smile, the girl sat. Merryn fell to her haunches before her, looking up into the gentle face.

“What’tis yer name, lass?”

“Grace, milady.”

Merryn couldn’t stop the tears from instantly welling in her eyes, her heart stopping for a moment. She swallowed, bringing a hand up to wipe the tear before it fell.

“Where’r yer family, Grace?” She felt horrible for asking as the girl’s face slowly fell, a golden curtain hiding her pain.

“Dead, milady.”

“Have ye nowhere to go, lass?” She watched the girl shake her head, shoulders dipping further. “Grace?” she reached up, gently tipping the little blonde’s chin up. Watery green eyes met her own. “Would ye like to come with us? Te a place where there is no cruelty. No shackles.” Grace’s eyes widened slightly, hope briefly flitting through her eyes before swiftly disappearing.

“Aye, milady,” she whispered.

“Call me Merryn, Grace.” Merryn gave her the biggest smile she could manage, trying to assuage the girl’s fears. She stood, clenching her teeth so she wouldn’t wince as pain sliced up her leg, where she’d been kicked by a soldier who she’d then run through. Her attention was brought back to the girl sitting before her.

“T’was nice ta meet ye, Merryn.”

Merryn smiled down at the smiling girl, which made the brunette’s heart clench in profound sorrow once more. So similar.

“It was so nice te meet ye, lass,” she whispered, walking away.


“How do ‘ye feel, Angus?” The dark man turned from the window he stood before. The moonlight shone off the white cloth wrapped around his head.

“Survivin’,” he said, turning back to the window, looking out over Cayshire. Merryn walked up to stand next to him. “We did it.” He grinned at her, though his smile was broken.

“Aye.” Merryn glanced at him as she began to speak her mind. “What’tis yer plan, Angus?”

He sighed, shaking his head. Angus had been beaten down at Middleham. His wounds had almost killed him, and Merryn sensed a fear that had sprung inside him. A fire had been lit inside her.

Turning fully to him, she looked deeply into his eyes.

“Let us finish this thing, Angus,” she said, her voice strong, confident, eyes wide. “Let us take ‘t bastard.” Her voice gained strength with every word, every thought, every dream. “Angus, we could take it all! Dona ye see?” She waved her arm over the shire below. “These people, our people, Angus, depend on us.”

Angus sighed, dropping his eyes. He shook his head. “I’ve done what I came ta do, Merryn.” He refused to look at her. She shook her head.

“I dona believe that. Ye started this, yer heart is in this.” She smacked the windowsill before them. “Ye got scared tonight, didn’cha?”

He sighed, but said nothing, turning his attention back to the world beyond the window.

“Fine.” Merryn pushed away from the window, walking across half the expanse of the room. Jaw clenched, she turned back to him, her voice booming. “But I refuse to end this!”

continued in 9b

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