Read Merlin’s Song Online

Authors: Samantha Winston

Merlin’s Song

Merlin’s Song

Samantha Winston

 

This book finishes the story begun in the books Elf Songand
Llewellyn's Song. While the story can be read alone, it is recommended to have
read the first two books in the series.

War! If she hears the word once more, Kyla is going to
scream. Not only is she locked up in a stuffy castle far from the glitter and
glamour of the fairy court, she has nothing to do all day but perfect her
potions. Then Merlin, an elf, arrives on a secret mission to the Southern
Isles.

Intent on adventure, Kyla stows away on board Merlin's ship.
But before she goes she gives Merlin a dose of her love potion and
inadvertently takes some herself. Now she's madly in love with an insufferable
elf, and to top it off she's putting his whole mission in jeopardy. He has to
save Hivernia, but he can't stop ravishing her!

 

Merlin’s Song
Samantha Winston

 

Chapter One

 

The castle stood like a wedding cake with snow frosting its
turrets and roofs and ice glittering like spun sugar on the windows. The winter
solstice was approaching, but there were no decorations decking the halls, no
bright holly, no scent of spices or sound of singing, and instead of the usual
bustle there was only stillness echoing through the empty rooms. Fireplaces
stayed cold and empty. The only things festooning the rafters were cobwebs.
Winter had not loosened its tight grip and everything was dark, icy and silent.

Except for a petulant cry coming from the kitchen.

“I hate this war. It’s so boring here now. I can’t believe
there’ll be no ball for the solstice. It’s the most important party of the year
and it’s been canceled by that stupid war.” Kyla stomped her foot hard enough
to hurt it and uttered a frustrated shriek.

“Hush. You’re not doing any good whining about it. Here,
finish stirring this.” Bonnie, the cook, handed Kyla a bowl and whisk.

“Another fairy cake?” It was fairy cake for breakfast, lunch
and dinner now. No ships had arrived in the harbor for weeks and supplies were
dwindling. Luckily the only ones in the castle were two old ladies, the ancient
groom and Kyla. They didn’t need much to eat.

“Sulking again?” Bonnie shook her head. She was old, even
for a fairy, and had grown quite stout. Her white hair was piled in a haphazard
bun that always looked like it was about to fall sideways and her blue eyes
were surrounded by masses of wrinkles. “What do you miss most?”

That was an easy question. “I miss the balls, the pretty
dresses, flirting with the men, having three or more suitors fighting to dance
or talk to me during the evening. Did I mention pretty dresses? I haven’t worn
a ball gown in ages! Look at me! If a man came in now he’d think I was the
scullery maid!” Kyla held her flour-covered hands out in front of her.
Frustration and rage made her voice crack.

“I could show you some fairy potions if you want. What one
would you like to learn?”

“The ‘how to stop a war’ potion.”

“Kyla! Be serious for once.” Bonnie shook her head. “Oh, I
haven’t forgotten what it was like to be young and flighty, but you have to
realize that you can’t change things by complaining. You have to learn to live
through the hard times as well as the good times. Now how about a love potion?
That way, when the war ends and the young men come back you’ll have them all
fighting again…for you!”

Now there was an idea. Kyla imagined the scene. The young
men would all be falling down in a hurry to get to her side, and the other
girls would be gritting their teeth with jealousy. “Oh that sounds like fun. How
will it work? Is it magic? I don’t know any magic spells, but a love potion
would be handy to know.”

“Fairy potions are just for fun, there’s no magic involved.
When I was a lass we used to make these potions for the young men we fancied. Why
don’t we make one like that? It’s guaranteed to make the man who drinks it fall
madly in love with you. Let’s see. I’ll need some spring water and a sprig of
wintergreen. Go fetch those and we’ll make the potion.”

Kyla was glad to do something besides cook. Bonnie was the
only person in the castle who would take the time to entertain her a bit, and
this promised to be more fun than her aunt’s tasks of cleaning each and every
room in the castle now that it was empty.

She got the spring water and wintergreen and Bonnie showed
her how to make an elixir. It was bright pink and smelled fresh, and tasted a
bit like spun sugar. Very odd. They chanted a little spell over it. “Nothing
really magic mind you,” Bonnie said. Fairies were adept in magic of illusion,
not serious magic like the elves’ art of healing or the mages’ powerful spells.
But Kyla was content to make her potion. It kept her from having to sweep,
shake out rugs and stuff new feathers into the mattresses and pillows.

When she was done she put the potion in a vial and left it
in the kitchen. She had to go do some gardening and then she had promised to
help her aunt with some rug cleaning. She wasn’t looking forward to the rest of
her day.

“Don’t forget, you’re on kitchen duty tonight,” said Bonnie.

“I won’t forget.” Since the castle was so short-staffed,
everyone took turns filling in for the missing personnel. Kyla hurried off to
find her aunt—not easy in a castle with over three hundred rooms—and found
herself flapping rugs out the windows to air them, which was how she saw the
messenger.

A horseman galloped over the drawbridge, his shadow running
before him, the setting sun making his cloak, streaming in the cold wind, look
like a flame. Perhaps he had news from her brothers! Kyla tossed the rug on the
floor, closed the window and hurried from the room. She took a secret passage
that led to the hidden panel behind the reception room. It was dark, but she’d
been using the secret passages since she was a child and she didn’t miss a
step. She arrived just as the messenger was shown into the reception room. She
put her eyes to the peephole. He took off his cloak and ran his hand through
hair the color of new copper. An elf! How fascinating. She hadn’t seen one in
ages. They didn’t usually come so far south.

He was obviously exhausted. He sat on the plush velvet chair
in front of the fire and held his hands out to its warmth. Her aunt came in and
Kyla pulled back a fraction. She didn’t want her aunt to know she was spying.

“Merlin!” Her aunt rushed up to the messenger. She knew him?
Kyla’s curiosity made her press closer to the peephole.

The messenger stood up, towering over her aunt, his face
terribly pale. “I came as fast as I could. Has Sebring arrived yet?”

Her aunt looked stunned. “Your brother? No, why? What’s
happening? Sit down, please, you look tired. I’ve called for some refreshments,
but first, tell me the news.”

Merlin’s voice was drained of emotion, but his words made
Kyla’s heart pound. “The news from the war is not good. The Mouse King has
returned. He’s somehow managed to convince the barbarians from the north to
join his cause, and he’s also recruited the behemoths to his army.”

“Oh no.” Her aunt sank to the ground at Merlin’s feet and
put her hand on his knee. Kyla almost gasped. Her aunt had never been familiar
with a messenger before.

“Sebring is meeting me here. We’re taking one of the ships
and heading south. Branagh thinks we can convince the Southern Isles to fight
with us.”

This time Kayla couldn’t suppress her gasp of surprise.
Luckily her aunt gasped as well. “But the Southern Isles refuse to get involved
with our politics.”

“That was before the Mouse King returned. Now they will be
obliged to help us. King Branagh had conferred this mission on Sebring and I,
and we mustn’t fail. The future of Hivernia hangs by a thread. We have to leave
as soon as possible.”

“I will order a boat prepared for you.”

“We’ll need the swiftest boat you have.”

Kyla’s aunt looked even more troubled, but said, “My fastest
ship will be put at your disposal.”

“Thank you.” He looked around. “I’m parched, is the
refreshment coming?”

“Oh Mistral! Where is that girl? Hold on, I’ll go see what’s
keeping Kyla.”

Kyla clapped her hand to her mouth. She was supposed to be
on kitchen duty tonight. Her aunt had probably pulled the bell ropes to her
room and the kitchen, but she’d been gone. Holding her skirts high, she ran toward
another, even smaller secret passage that led to the kitchen pantry. She
arrived before her aunt did and hooked a pot of water on the chain over the fire,
then she grabbed two cups and put them on a tray just as her aunt pattered into
the room.

“What have you been doing? Hurry, we have a guest!”

“I’ll bring a tray in to him. Where is he, in the reception
room?” Kyla asked, not meeting her aunt’s eyes.

“Where else would he be? Bring something to eat as well.
Some sugared plums, and some fairy cakes if there are any left.” Her aunt
fluttered her hands, her round face pink with emotion. “Oh, I forgot, we haven’t
had sugared plums in ages.”

Kyla almost asked if elves liked fairy cakes, and shut her
mouth just in time. She had to be careful. Her aunt would be vexed if she found
out Kyla was spying on her. The secret passages were known to her aunt, of
course, but she didn’t know the extent of Kyla’s knowledge, and Kyla meant to
keep it like that.

“Of course there are fairy cakes left. I made some extra
ones today. What kind of fairy castle would lack fairy cakes?” Kyla managed to
keep the bitterness out of her voice. After all, it wasn’t her aunt’s fault
they were at war and her father had dumped her in the southernmost land in this
crumbling castle to stay with her elderly aunt. She loved her aunt. She hated
staying here. There was nothing to do but cook fairy cakes, shake rugs and go
for endless walks along the empty beaches.

Her aunt sighed. “I know you’re bored here all alone with no
other young people around. When you bring the refreshments, I’ll introduce you
to our guest.”

“Who is it?” Kyla couldn’t suppress the eagerness in her
voice.

“Merlin. He is Queen Melflouise’s brother.”

Prince Branagh had married an elf woman, and now that he was
king she was queen, the first elf woman to sit on the throne of Hivernia. It
hadn’t pleased Kyla’s father, a staunch royalist and conservative too. He’d
bellowed for weeks about change and the downfall of Hivernia. But he had met
Queen Melflouise, the one they called Melle, and had fallen under her charms.
He’d come back from court and had stopped blustering about the ruination of the
royal family. But he hadn’t mentioned the fact that she had a brother.

Kyla wished she’d taken more care of her appearance, but she
was too anxious to go meet the elf to really care. Besides, everyone knew elves
didn’t care about appearances. They were rough and wild, like King Branagh’s
legendary one-eyed captain and his d’ark t’uath bride. Now there was a race of
elves that Kyla would never be able to fathom. A whole tribe comprised only of
women. No men! Imagine that! No pleasure! And at the thought of pleasure a
little shiver of heat ran through her. Elves were bigger than fairies…in every
way.

Her aunt was bustling around the kitchen and didn’t seem to
notice Kyla’s sudden silence. Kyla wondered if she should ask permission to
turn her charms on the elf, but then she shrugged. Her aunt would probably just
laugh and say, “Go ahead!” She was old enough to do what she pleased with men,
and elves were men… Just slightly different. Her heart beat hard at the thought
of meeting him though. She carried the tray carefully, following her aunt, who
hadn’t stopped talking.

“I have to ask him for news of the family. Maybe he has news
of your brothers,” she said, holding her skirts up as she trotted quickly down
the hallway.

Kyla hoped so. Not knowing where they were or how they fared
was torture. Every night she prayed that they would be home soon, safe and
sound, and that the war would soon be won.

They arrived in the reception room and the elf stood up. He
was so tall! Kyla cast her eyes down modestly as she put the tray on the table.
She was just acting though. There was not a modest bone in her body. But her
mother had reared her to observe proprieties. Her mother had been the royal
nanny for many years, and had reared princesses, so she reared her own daughter
the same way. She always said, “You can get away with almost anything if you do
it acting like a lady.”

“Merlin, this is my niece, Kyla. Her mother is Lady
Bluebell, and her father is Lord Flandres. Kyla, this is Merlin Winterhelm, Her
Majesty Melflouise’s brother.”

“Pleased to meet you, Lady Kyla.” His voice was low and
vibrant, making Kyla’s skin tingle. His eyes were dark green and cool, like a
deep, shady forest pool and his spiky hair was cut short and as bright as
flames.

“Have you come from the front?” asked her aunt, helping
herself to a fairy cake.

“Yes, I left King Branagh not one week ago.”

Kyla forgot her shy act. “Did you just come from the war?
How is it going? Have you seen my brothers Dami and Filou Flandres? Where are
they? Are they well?”

He couldn’t hide his surprise. “Are they your brothers? Yes,
they are fine. They’re posted with the royal guard, so far they have fared well,
never fear. And if our plan goes well, Hivernia will soon win the war.”

“But the Southern Isles have never wanted to help us before,”
cried Kyla. Too late she remembered she wasn’t supposed to know that. She
clapped her hand over her mouth.

“Kyla!” Her aunt sounded outraged, and well she might. “Have
you been spying?”

“A little,” she said, lowering her hands and trying to act
like a lady. “Won’t you have some spiced tea? And try a fairy cake, I made them
myself.”

“I apologize for my niece,” said her aunt stiffly. “She
forgets we’re at war.”

“I’m very sorry,” said Kyla, trying to act humble now. “I
promise I won’t do it again.” She crossed her fingers behind her back as she
said that. Spying was what she did best, and she wasn’t about to stop.

The elf’s voice was noticeably cooler when he spoke. “Would
you have anything more substantial than fairy cake? I’m famished.”

“Oh, you poor boy. I’ll see what I can find.” Her aunt would
coddle anyone, thought Kyla with some exasperation. The elf was far past being
a boy.

He didn’t seem to mind. He smiled at her aunt. “Don’t bother
with that. I don’t want you rushing back and forth on my behalf.”

Kyla took a fairy cake and held it out to him with a smile.
Obviously he was the type to make do with what was given to him.

He ignored the fairy cake and said, “I’m sure your niece
will be happy to make me an omelet or find me some bread and cheese.”

Kyla almost told him take the fairy cake and stuff it in his
mouth. But her upbringing asserted itself and she smiled sweetly, put the fairy
cake back on the tray and stalked off to the kitchen. There were three eggs
left. She sighed as she took them. The hens were hardly laying and this
represented a week of looking in every nook of the hay barn. The hens had taken
to hiding their eggs now, and it was getting harder to find them. But she
supposed the elf, as a warrior, needed more food than she or her aunt did. Kyla
made an omelet and then, as she slid it onto the plate, she saw the vial in the
corner. The love potion she’d made that morning. An old woman’s recipe, for
fun. But it would serve that elf right to fall in love with her. Then she could
toss her head and tell him to go make himself an omelet and he’d be broken-hearted.

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