20. Words of Persuasion

“What can we do, o’ great Merlin!” Sir Robyn asked in a panic.

“Wash yourselves often,” Merlin said. “In the rivers. And tell the peasants to do so too. And not just their bodies but their bedding and clothes as well. Often. I can’t stress that enough. Oh, and burn anything flea-infested.”

Merlin turned to a nearby page.

“Are you getting all of this?” Merlin asked impatiently.

The page nodded nervously.

“Read it back.”

“Read it back?”

“You are a page, are you not?” Merlin asked insidiously. “You are trained in the art of writing and reading, are you not?!”

“I… I am,” the page replied.

“Good, then read it all back to me.”

“From which line—“

“From the very top, damn you!”

The page gulped. Then lifted the scroll to his face.

“Your Majesty—”

“After that, you dolt!”

“The sword is cursed—”

“After!”

The page gulped again.

“Beware the Damsel—”

“After!”

“The pig—”

PLAGUE!” Merlin boomed, sending a small shockwave running out towards the walls of Camelot’s great hall.

The page’s hands trembled like thin noodles. His hair was tossed about by the blast from Merlin’s mouth. His face was sheet white.

“The pl-pl-ah-plague! Approaches quickly!” he shouted with a quivering voice. “It… it travels west from the Angles… and the Saxons… who contracted it from their battles with the Romans…”

The page looked up at Merlin to find an impatient face. He quickly got back to reading.

“ whothemselves contracted it from trading along the Silk road. And… now it is here!”

“Good,” Merlin huffed. This got a small smile from the page.

And… it will cause all who contract it great shuffling.”

Merlin clenched his fist.

“And… will… cause… all… who contact it…”

He muttered loudly as he approached the page, seeming to grow in size with each step.

Great,” Merlin uttered quietly to him. “Suffering.”

The page’s throat was bone-dry.

“P-p-p-painful!” the page powered through. “Swelling! In the upper thighs… uh… uh… uh… rotting off of the hands! And feet! And—and—and obliteration of the lungs!”

The page looked up to Merlin with a smile.

Merlin was taciturn.

“Continue,” Merlin said.

“Uh… right, yes,” the page said. “And then Sir Robyn went.”

And then the page cleared his throat and did his best Sir Robyn.

“What can we do, o’ great Merlin!” the page read aloud in a high pitched voice as Sir Robyn looked on, visibly unimpressed with the page’s impression.

“Wash yourselves often!” the page continued with newfound confidence. “In the rivers! And tell the churls to do so too! And not just their bodies but their bedding! And clothes as well! Often! I can’t dress—”

“Stress,” the enchanter said, rubbing his temples.

Stress,” the page repeated as he scratched out the word upon his scroll vigourously with his inked quill. “Stress. That enough. And burn anything flea-infested.”

“Add to the end,” Merlin added. “Kill all the rodents. Get rid of them. And apply one full coat of water upon one’s self and be sure to remove that coat abrasively with your appendages. Like with your hands, and your feet, and your fingers. And to make sure the coat is evenly applied to the whole body before said abrasive removal.”

The page scribbled furiously.

Merlin emptied one of the many pouches upon his belt. Many, many small bars of Castile soap fell out of it.

“Here,” he said. “This is called soap. It smells good but don’t eat it. Put it on. Wash it off. Again, not for eating.”

Then, the enchanter turned to King Arthur.

“I’m off,” Merlin said, turning to kneel deeply before King Arthur. “Good health to you until my return, my liege.”

“Off again so soon?” King Arthur said, disappointed. “Where to now?”

“North, my liege,” Merlin replied. “I have urgent business to attend there.”

“Alright,” King Arthur said, punching Merlin lightly on the shoulder and letting out a deep guffaw. “You better be back soon, you churl. Or I’ll be right wroth with you, I will.”

King Arthur was still guffawing loudly as Merlin exited the great hall and made his way to Camelot’s stables.

The enchanter picked out for himself, yet again, the fastest steed.

Then he rode north of the realms towards Hadrian’s Wall, with the intention of passing it.

As his horse galloped, he eyed the sack at his hip that contained the floating head of Lady Viviane.‘She freed an Excalibur?’ Merlin thought to himself as he rode. ‘Could she be… an Authour?’

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