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When Liam opened his eyes, he found himself staring up at a wooden ceiling, and looked groggily around. Frowning, he thought this isn’t my room… , before remembering that of course he wasn’t at home.

Weeks had passed since he and Rethik had left Brightcrest.

Rethik!

Liam cursed under his breath, threw back the covers that lay on him and jumped up. Immediately, he fell back again, moaning in agony as his broken ribs protested against the sudden movement. This was not good, being separated from his friend as well as having broken bones.

Clutching his aching chest, he gazed around at the room.

Shelves filled the walls, littered with labeled bottles and books. A table lay in the middle of the scene, and he strange scent filled the air. The scent of herbs.

He was in an alchemist’s chamber, Liam thought as he sat there on the bed thoughtfully, and pondered his options. He could escape if he wanted to, no problem there.

Or he could stay here awhile, as it might be an interesting experience.

Deciding on the latter, he carefully stood, wincing as pain shot through his chest.

A door stood half opened on one side of the room, so the warlock headed there first. Cautiously, he looked into another room. A young man was sitting there on a bed, reading a book.

Liam, interested by this, walked over to him and started reading over the man’s shoulder, and this time he ignored the pain as he bent over. Absorbed by the book, the other didn’t notice the uninvited second reader.

Liam was rather shocked to see that it was a book on necromancy, but at the same time intrigued. Never before had he seen such a book, and soon he was just as absorbed by the book as the other person sitting on the bed.

It was a good fifteen minutes before Merlin realized that someone was breathing down his neck.

He slammed the book closed and turned to find himself looking at the person who’d pretended to be Sir Vidor and had gotten seriously injured in the process.

Liam looked impassively back at his horrified expression.

“Necromancy, eh? Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” he asked casually.

“Uh…” was the dumbstruck man’s response, so Liam decided to introduce himself. This was, after all, someone he recognized from the ruined castle.

I’m Liam.” Then in a lower tone of voice. “A warlock and knight of Brightcrest.”

Merlin stared back in surprise.

Getting impatient, Liam rolled his eyes. “I’m the person who saved you from that Lamia? Ring any bells?” he prompted. Merlin’s expression cleared.

“Oh, I’m Merlin. The king’s manservant.” When all he got was a blank look, he continued. “I’m also a warlock.”

Liam wasn’t so sure that he was just that. The aura that was practically pulsing from Merlin suggested otherwise, but Liam didn’t try to find out more as he and Merlin left his room and walked into the aroma-filled chamber, where Liam sat down on a bench as the other man checked his injures.

“Why don’t I just heal them?” Liam asked, his green eyes flashing questioningly.

“Yeah, you could do that, but then you’d get executed for using magic.”

“Executed? For magic?”

“It’s against the law here.”

Liam thought he saw a flicker of sadness pass over Merlin’s face, but it was quickly gone, if it ever had been there.

Snorting, he said “Where I come from magic is used liberally, and one certainly can’t get executed for using it unless one does… certain things with it.”

This seemed to cheer his new acquaintance up, and made Liam feel better as well. Things could have been worse in Brightcrest, then.

“How can you live here, then? Without being able to use magic?” he asked in amazement.

Merlin, who had by now turned away and was inspecting the bottles on one shelf, just shrugged.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t use it, but it does mean I have to be careful.” The other warlock thought he detected a sad undertone in Merlin’s words, and felt deeply sorry for him. Living without being able to practice magic freely was not something Liam would be able to stand, after having used it for so long without any real restrictions.

He looked down at his now bare chest, and with his finger lightly traced the numerous bruises and cuts that lay spread across the pale skin. It was somewhat uncomfortable and painful, making Liam with a sigh wish that he do something about them, but he supposed that it would be suspicious if he had one day gotten bad injuries and next day none.

His stomach suddenly growled, and he flushed red.

Merlin turned with a smile, having heard the complaining stomach, opened a cupboard and pulled out some bread.

“Hungry?”

~O~

“How are you feeling?”

Liam opened his eyes to find that they met a pair of wide blue ones that were looking questioningly down at him where he lay on the bed.

His only reply was a small, barely audible groan.

The blonde king smirked. “You put quite a show there, but unfortunately only knights are aloud.”

“Not to mention that Sir Vidor tends to be one of the first ones to go.”

The sarcastic mutter came from some way away, where Merlin was sitting at the table with his head on the hard wooden surface, playing with a flickering candle.

Oops, was Liam's silent comment to that.

While Arthur looked at his manservant, Liam briefly thought of their earlier conversation, where Merlin had practically told him his life story from the moment he’d stepped into Camelot. Liam had just listened silently, full of awe, although the story had seemed to be a bit short and devoid of details. But who’d have believed that Merlin, the clumsy servant who worked here at Camelot could ever have been Emrys? Merlin had admitted that after a lot of pestering from Liam, who'd when he was just a boy had heard stories being told about Emrys where he had been vividly described as to have a certain powerful aura that only those with an uncanny instinct for detecting magic could feel. One of those people was Liam.

Smugly, he’d thought afterwards that this was even better than coming along on Blayze’s stupid quest for the Cup of Life. Meeting the fabled Emrys had to be better than any other experience!

He was shaken out of the reverie by Arthur’s voice.

“Hello? Did he even hear what I said?”

“Huh? What?” Liam asked, confused and embarrassed.

I don’t think so.” Merlin replied, and received a raised eyebrow from behind Arthur’s back. When the prince turned to Liam again, he mouthed back Punishment.

“But I am a knight.” Liam protested.

Arthur stared at him, surprised.

I come from Dyndenvar, where I serve as a knight.” He hastily clarified.

“Only knights of Camelot were allowed to participate, and anyway, you knocked out one of our knights and pretended to be him!” The king said flatly. “Consider yourself lucky, you’re only going to be in the stocks.” With that he strode out of the room, leaving Liam gaping after him.

Friendly guy. How do you put up with him?” he asked Merlin, who was still staring at the door through which Arthur had just exited through.

“He’s not usually like this.” The servant murmured, frowning.

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