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Hello, everyone! Sorry about the wait… when real life intrudes, the blog suffers. :-S Even when the blogger has 30k plus words up her sleeve to post… Sorry, once again. There won’t be much this time… Chapter IV was a short chapter.

On to Rowan!

Bound to the Flame

Chapter IV

Part III

                He met Margery as she was coming back out of the camp. “Rowan, where have you been?” she asked.

“I know Adyn’s safe,” he said. Margery registered irritation at him.

“If you knew that before, then why ever did you go off on a wild-goose chase?” she said, frustrated.

“I didn’t know before,” Rowan said coolly. “I couldn’t know before I looked for him myself. My mind was not clear, and I could not risk trying to search for him mentally.” Margery shrugged.

“Where were you, anyway?” she asked.

“At a place I’m glad Adyn did not go,” Rowan replied. “My mind has been blurred, clouded, ever since we came here, but now it’s perfectly clear. We must find my brother Julian.”

“Does being among a big crowd usually distract you?” Margery asked.

“It wasn’t the crowd,” Rowan assured her as he led her through the Ertraian camp. In a few minutes, they arrived at the royal pavilion. A few smaller tents were grouped around it, in a small circle. “None of us sleeps in the pavilion,” Rowan confided. “My parents share a tent with me, and my foster brothers have a tent to themselves. Fortaine is probably with my mother in council, but Julian was on duty late last night. He’s probably sleeping right now. You might want to make yourself scarce, if he is. He’s a bear when he’s first woken up of a morning.” Rowan continued toward the tent; Margery remained behind. “Julian?” he asked, out of courtesy, before entering. No answer. Not a sound. Rowan pulled aside the heavy canvas tent flap. He gasped and dropped to his knees. Margery looked over his shoulder and gave a cry of shock.

The tent was a scene of chaos. The small wooden folding table that stood beside the cot was overturned, and the pitcher and basin lay on the ground, shattered. The grass was still damp, but the dry ground had already sucked up all the water. The broken pieces of a smashed chair lay mixed with the pottery. The sheets of the cot were thrashed, and ripped to shreds. Even the second cot, the one that should have been untouched, was in a shambles. The tent was empty.

Julian was gone.

Recovering, Rowan stepped into the tent, careful not to disturb anything. He examined the bed closely, looked at the table, chair, and broken jar and basin. At last, he cautiously lay on the bed, leaped up with more speed than Margery would have thought possible, moved to the other side of the tent, brushed his elbow up against an imaginary jar, leaped sideways, paused once more to examine the signs of the struggle again, began to move again, laying smaller steps into place, tracing the movement of one who had been there before, moving gracefully and yet purposefully about. Tiny pale flickers followed his every move, darting here and there, forming shy, glimmering lines. Margery watched, entranced. “What are you doing?” she asked in a loud whisper. Rowan gathered some of the glimmering dust into his palm and blew it outward into the open space of the tent. It swirled around, forming the shapes of an un-tipped table, an unbroken pitcher and basin, a chair, an un-rumpled cot, and the figure of a man lying on it. Margery could not see the apparition’s face clearly, but she could tell that the shining outline was meant to be Julian. The man stirred at what appeared to be a sudden sound, though there was no sound in the re-creation, and leaped to his feet. His elbow brushed against the pitcher and it fell, smashing silently into shards, which flew outwards, outlining their solid counterparts in an unearthly glow. Shadoy figured raced into the tent, strangely soundless, overturning the table and overcoming the brave knight, knocking him unconscious and dragging him from the shelter. The pale glow slowly dimmed, faded away; Rowan held up a hand. On his face was a look of intense concentration. The lines flashed out again and went dormant. Walking quickly to the table, Rowan grabbed a sheet of paper and a quill pen. The ink bottle was mercifully unbroken, and Rowan penned two notes with astonishing swiftness. Laying one on the bed, he tucked the other into his belt and walked swiftly from the tent. Margery preceded him out. Turning at the entrance, Rowan made a swift gesture, as if sliding something closed with both hands, open palms facing forward. The tent flaps closed and tied themselves in an intricate fastening. Rowan walked swiftly to his own tent, with Margery following. “What did you do?” she asked, curious.

“I bound the memory spell so that it would last, and then sealed the area. No one will be able to enter it and disturb it before my mother comes.” He laid the second note down on his cot and walked swiftly away, a slight limp the only reminder of his long-since injured and never fully healed leg.

“What are you doing?” Margery demanded.

“No one else will come for a long time,” Rowan replied. “They’re all in the Council meetings. I’m going after my brother.” They made their way to the stables, Margery trailing hesitantly behind her friend.

“Why can’t you wait?” she asked. “It’s dangerous.”

“Dangerous or not, the longer we wait, the greater the head start Julian’s kidnappers will have. Besides, I’m not exactly defenseless.” Rowan shifted his cloak, briefly. A dagger glinted at his belt, then was hidden once more. “He’s my brother. I have to help him.” Rowan took down the saddle from its hook and laid it on a jet-black horse’s back, patting its neck reassuringly as he did so. The horse whinnied softly.

“I’m coming with you,” Margery declared. Rowan froze, caught halfway in tightening the girth.

What?” he asked.

“I said, I’m coming with you,” Margery repeated stubbornly.

“But… you can’t, you have to stay with your family… what would your mother think?” Rowan stammered.

“She’d think I was off on another adventure, and that I’ll come home safe. I always do,” Margery said self-assuredly, saddling Celad as she spoke. Rowan took a bow and arrows from the wall, slinging the quiver across his back. He slipped a sling into one of the saddlebags and slid a long sword in its scabbard through the waiting loops in the saddle.

“But Julian has no claim on you,” he protested. “I should go alone.”

“No Ertraian has any claim on me,” Margery said. She locked eyes with Rowan. “But there is one Ertraian whom I consider my friend.” Rowan’s mouth curled into a twist. He was not pleased with the decision, but he would bow to her wishes.

“Very well,” he said. He slid one foot into the stirrup and slung the other over the saddle with the practiced ease of an experienced rider, flicking the reins, signaling the coal-black horse into a trot. Margery followed suit, and Rowan led her off through the camp, into the woods.