Part 4

Ezra wasn't sure where he was headed, he just seemed to be wandering through the less-traveled areas of the castle.  He'd talked more with the Lady Viviane but then the air had chilled too much for his liking.  He still wasn't fully recovered from being poisoned by Morgan.

The castle, with its impersonal grey walls, wasn't exactly warmth itself, but at least it was well-built enough to keep out drafts.  It would've been nice to sit in the Great Hall next to a cozy fire, but he was sure to encounter...

"Ezra!  Wait a moment!"

...Sir Josiah.  It seemed he was not safe from The Merlin's clutches even in the bowels of the castle.  At least the man didn't still look angry at him for his unkind remarks earlier.  "Good afternoon to you, Sir Josiah.  What a coincidence running into you here."

"No coincidence.  I've been looking for you all afternoon.  One of the guards saw you head this way."

Ezra made a mental note to personally thank whichever helpful guard it was who gave him away.  Perhaps an unlucky turn at cards some night...  "And why, may I ask, were you looking for me?"  As if he didn't know.

"I've just managed to get a hold of some dragonroot--very rare stuff.  There was a peddler in the village earlier today with bags full of incredible herbs and plants.  It's the key ingredient in making a spell of protection.  After Morgan's brief conquest of the castle, I thought maybe I could do more to bolster its defenses.  A little magic wouldn't hurt."

"I'm sure it wouldn't."  And here it comes...

"I'm going to need some help with the casting, however.  I'm not as young and strong as I used to be.  I thought perhaps you could help me."

"No."  Ezra was willing to mold himself into what they wanted him to be to fit in, but this was one thing he was not willing to do--not for Josiah, the King, or anyone.  Never again would he let magic have such an invasive presence in his life.

"With a little supervision and guidance you could do it easily.  I've felt the strength of the magic within you.  All that potential..."

"I said no."

"Now, Ezra.  This isn't like the little spell I wanted your help with this morning.  This is important.  It could mean the difference between our safety and our deaths.  Surely, you can't refuse to..."

"Surely I can.  You make too many assumptions, Merlin."

"You're being pig-headed and unreasonable."

"Oh, yes!  Insulting me will certainly help.  I cannot believe your audacity!  After I told you just this morning--and rather emphatically--that I do not wish to learn magic."

"I thought, that as a knight of the Round Table, you would be willing to do whatever you could to protect the castle."

"Are you questioning my loyalty now?  My commitment?  I would give my life for you or for any of the others, but my soul is an entirely different matter.  Perhaps that makes me a coward or a traitor, but at this moment I don't care!  I have nothing against magic, per se, but I do not want to wield it myself.  The very idea of it makes my skin crawl.  I thought you understood that.  If you do and still think ignoring my wishes and running roughshod over me is acceptable, then you're no better than Morgan."

"Son, please..."

"I'M NOT YOUR SON!  I'm King Christofer's son, for whatever little that means."  Ezra turned and almost ran from Josiah's presence.

Merciful Heaven!  Realization struck Josiah like a bolt of lightning.  Of course Ezra hated the feel of magic.  It had been used against him his whole young life--to hurt him, change him, control him.  Josiah hung his head in shame.  How could he have been so blind?  Would Ezra ever be able to forgive him?

Part 5