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Hello, my dear readers, and welcome to the next installment of Bound to the Flame. News from Camp Nanowrimo: I am currently having a slight bit of bother, due to being stuck in places on my novel. Hopefully this will resolve itself shortly. If anyone has any ideas what two rebel groups trying to contact other rebels might do in the process, then please, by all means, tell me your ideas!

[NB: I have had some trouble with getting the parts posted in order. It might help to go to the Bound to the Flame Chapters and Artwork page and re-read them in order! Apologies for the trouble, and please enjoy!]

Bound to the Flame

Chapter II

Part IV

Shortly after, a lesser herald came out to fetch them for the feast. The herald seated them in a somewhat confused jumble, near their parents, but not too near. The Elruun royalty had no children yet, so it was simply the Ertraian and Arethwyne children. Margery found herself sitting in between Julian, a charming, roguish young knight, and one of Rowan’s two adoptive brothers, and Rowan, with Fortaine, the eldest of the three Ertraians, sitting in the midst of the Arethwyne princes on Rowan’s other side. Margery decided she liked Rowan’s foster brother. He was fascinating, charming, and kind, the sort of person who is popular everywhere, and he had the same curious ability that Rowan seemed to possess of taking a boring topic, and by some strange alchemy, rendering it captivating. Margery wondered if Rowan had picked it up from him, or vice versa, via sibling osmosis.
Meanwhile, Rowan charmed and interested her brothers. He had enough knowledge of history, especially the wars, to thoroughly captivate Gareth, was willing to debate the finer points of falconry with Aaron, and shared a passion for philosophy and the art of studying people (and leading them) with Hamish. No one mentioned the topic of magic, but it didn’t seem awkward at all.
At last, the feast drew to an end. Margery was tired, but she felt sorry to leave. It had been a good evening.

Rowan lay down on the pallet in the pavilion, thoroughly exhausted by the day’s adventures. Melilana came in, carrying a candle lantern and wearing a white dress; moving slowly, gently, like a drifting, beautiful moon moth or gliding white ship, glimmering faintly in the dusk. “How are you feeling, Rowan?” she asked, gently. Rowan sighed.
“I’m tired,” he admitted, truthfully. Melilana smiled sadly.
“It’s been a long and exhausting day. I would have been more astonished if you weren’t tired.” Melilana laid a long, slender, elegant hand on his forehead, gently. “You’re running a low fever again,” she commented, her voice mildly concerned. Rowan sighed.
“It’s just a stress response,” he demurred. “I’m starting to recognize the symptoms,” he continued, his voice sinking into a dull murmur. Melilana put her hand on his shoulder, slipping it down behind his back and lifting him slightly. She pressed him close.
“Sleep well,” she murmured, then she left the tent. Rowan sighed and turned over. His leg was aching, but it was a good kind of ache, he decided. He had met new friends, and had left Ertraia and seen new places for the first time in his seventeen years.
For tonight, life was good.

It was cold.
Rowan shivered, feeling the weight of quilts, blankets, and coverlet on top of himself. If he was so muffled in blankets, then why was he still so cold?
Slowly, Rowan slid out from under the covers and fell, with a soft, muffled cry of distress. His tentatively-healed broken leg would not carry his weight, not yet, anyway. Slowly, Rowan dragged himself upright, struggling to his feet by the aid of the bureau. Gripping it tightly, leaning on the table, and at last collapsing into the chair by the window, he stared out through the rain-smeared glass. It was raining outside, still, a harsh, cold downpour. Rowan stared bleakly out the window for several minutes, then he slid slowly out of the chair, onto the floor, with a low groan. He had never felt so alone before.

They were talking about him. Rowan could tell by the low tone of their voices. Melilana and Halbryn were discussing something urgently, quietly, outside his door. Rowan didn’t want to eavesdrop, but their conversation was carried perversely to his ears, against his will.
“Hal… what’s going to happen now?”
“He will get better, Mel. I know that much. He will overcome this. He’s like you.”
“But what if he doesn’t?” Their voices suddenly dropped, much quieter now, and they continued to converse in low tones.

He kept hearing them talking in the corridors outside his room. The servants whispered, thinking he would not hear, but he did. He couldn’t help it. “Broken.” “Damaged.” “Will he ever be able to serve the realm?” “Will he ever be able to walk again?” “He’ll never become a knight.” Rowan tried to close his mind to the hurtful rumors, but he was helpless to stop it. Day by day, he couldn’t help hearing them outside his room, when they thought he wouldn’t hear. Slowly, he began to doubt himself. Would he ever walk again? The question plagued him, nagged at him.
Would he ever be able to use magic again?

“Rowan, are you paying attention?” Fortaine asked, looking compassionately at his little brother, who was sitting, wrapped in a thick robe, in a chair, staring blankly out the window at the downpour outside. Never before had Ertraia seen such a rainy summer; it fitted the mood, perhaps.
Rowan sighed. “No. I don’t feel so good,” he groaned. Fortaine bundled him up in the robe and carried him up to his bedroom.
“I understand. Right now, you just need to rest, more than you need to further your studies of magic.” Fortaine set the boy down on the bed. Rowan lay perfectly still, his body stiffening as he drew up the sheets over himself. A rush of energy flitted through him. Rowan struggled to contain it. Fortaine paused at the door, and Rowan clenched his jaw, trying his hardest to tamp it down, to keep it from bursting out. He was fighting a losing battle, he knew.
“Shall I tell Mother you’re not feeling well?” Fortaine asked. Rowan drew in a struggling, scraggly breath.
“Please don’t bother her,” he whispered, fervently hoping his voice didn’t sound as stilted to Fortaine as it did to his own ears. Fortaine nodded, sympathetically, blessedly not picking up on his younger foster brother’s distress. He closed the door. Rowan gasped and threw the covers off. He gripped the bed post for support and cried out, silently, screaming in the blank vacuum beyond as the loose power that refused to be grounded exploded outwards in a chaotic whirlwind, picking up speed as it raced through the room. The storm crashed and jeered outside, as within the fierce swirling maelstrom howled, bursting its bonds and carrying the dam along with it like a river in flood.

Every magic user in the castle sensed the sudden burst of raw power surging outward. It flung several of those who were not gifted against the walls. In the solar, Melilana and Halbryn stared at each other in horror, speaking a single word.

Author’s note: Um, yeah. Cliffie. Sorry.

Anyway, is anyone else annoyed by the fact that when you c&p your work into the edit post it sometimes deletes your formatting?… ah well. At least I fixed it… mostly.