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Lords of Swords

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linden_jay @ 05:13 pm: Harry, Karl, Marton. The child within.
Hours later, Harry's eyes opened blearily, trying to focus on the man next to his bed. "Who is there?" he whispered.

Marton started awake."Harry?" He touched his cheek. "Do you know where you are?"

"You should go," he whispered.

"Go where, my Harry?"

"You should leave- before they get back. I thank you for what you have done, but if they find you, they will hurt you for helping me, and then they will do it all over again. You should go," he whispered urgently, looking at Marton but not seeing him clearly.

"They are not here, my Harry. You are safe. I swear it." Marton moved closer, bringing Harry's hand up to his face. "It is Sir, my Harry. Sir Marton."

"Sir? Are they away, Sir? Do we have time just us- without them interfering?" Harry's voice was suddenly childlike- excited. "Please- say you will let me have more sword practice- I promise- I will not neglect my lessons."

Pain flashed in Marton's eyes. "Yes, Harry. They are away. But you are hurt. You must heal before we can have more lessons."

Harry looked ashamed. "I am sorry. It was my fault. I wanted to ride a real war horse- a knights horse. I took Corin's horse out. I groomed him perfectly, but the blanket was still wet when he went to saddle him- sooner than I expected. He knew."

"Shh, that is no matter. You not ever worry about Corin again. I swear it."

"I did not hurt the horse- I promise," Harry whispered.

"I know you did. How is your back? Can you be moved?"

"Yes, Sir- if you need me to move, I can move, Sir," Harry nodded.

"No, answer not to please me. Answer the truth, Harry."

"It will hurt. But if you help me, I can move," Harry admitted after a moment.

"All right. I'm going to move you by the fire. There is another boy there, in my charge the same as you. His name is Karl. He is of The Western Lands so mind your manners. He is asleep.

"Why is he asleep? Is he hurt?" Harry sounded curious, trying to move to see the boy. "What are the Western Lands like- will you tell me of them?"

"I will. I want you to watch over him. He is not hurt, but he fought sleep for too long and his body had decided it will rest." Marton carefully cared Harry to the fire, laying him next to Karl so he could face him. "You may rest, I will put his hand on you so you can feel if he stirs." He put Karl's hand on Harry's shoulder.

"He is beautiful- like you are," Harry murmured, smiling. "Will he be friends with me? I'd like to have another friend, Sir. Then I'd have two- if you count as one." Harry said, fighting a yawn and trying to lift his head to look at the boy.

"I think he will be friends with you. And yes, you may count me as one."

Karl moved in his sleep, his hand moving onto Harry's face.

Harry beamed, then jumped a little, leaning instinctively into the touch. "Sir? He moved- is he waking?"

"He might be."

Karl mumbled in his sleep. "Hmmm, Harry. Marton. Stay."

"Sir- he knows my name!" Harry hissed in a loud whisper.

"I have told him about you. He was anxious to meet you, but fell asleep."

"I want to meet him too. What is his name?"

"His name is Karl the Dark."

"Karl the Dark," Harry frowned, then shrugged. "He is not that dark- he is a little dark, but not that dark. Karl the Dark!" he said loudly, wondering if he would wake.

Karl started, opening his eyes. 'Harry, quiet. I'll sic Rakl on you, him liking you or not."

"Hello- what is a Rakl?" Harry asked, curious.

"My horse, you know that. He likes you better than me." Karl closed his eyes again. "Quiet, or Steele will find us."

Harry frowned, looking confused. "Is Steele a horse too?"

"Cousin. Know that. Cannot let him see us." Karl's hand reached toward the fire, his body relaxing.

"SIR!” Harry called out, his hand jerking out to grab Karl's, jerking his hand back from the fire, crying out in pain after the move, holding on to his hand.

Karl sat bolt up right, looking around. "HARRY! What did you do? Why are you on the floor?" He glared at Marton. "You're supposed to be taking care of him."

Harry looked at both of them, confused, cowering. "I am sorry Karl the Dark, but you were going to burn yourself- your hand almost went in the fire," he explained, still looking worried.

Karl frowned. "Harry? What's wrong with you?" He reached up to touch Harry's face.

"I was punished. I borrowed my brother's horse without permission and he found out," Harry explained, letting him touch his face.

"Harry, don't you remember me?" Karl looked with alarm at Marton, than back at Harry.

"Marton told me of you- you did not sleep enough."

Karl closed his eyes, his head falling forward. he took a deep breath. "I have to go hunting, Harry. For us. I'll be right back." Without another word he got his dagger and left.

Harry turned his head towards Marton, looking troubled. "Sir? What did I do wrong? His eyes... I did something to upset him."

"He is far from home, Harry. He is tired still as well. Give him some time."

Harry nodded, looking unhappy. "I did not mean to upset him."

"He will be fine. Do not worry."

"I am tired, Sir. Please- can I rest now?" he asked, still looking unsure.

"Yes you may. I will carry you back to my bed." Marton picked Harry up.

Harry hissed as he was lifted up, relaxing with a sigh against Marton's bed. "Thank you, Sir," he mumbled, his eyes drifting shut almost instantly. "Love you."

"I love you, too my Harry." Marton watched Harry for a moment, than left the house. He found Karl in front, staring ahead as he held his dagger loosely.

"Karl," he murmured, coming up behind the other man.

"Do you wish more deer, or is there rabbit here?"

"There are provisions set aside." He paused, uncertain of what to say. "You fell asleep- you would not wake up. Harry said you had journeyed asleep before."

"Often. I am fine. I am fine." Karl's voice trailed off as he began to walk away.

"Karl-" he called out again. "Please. Do not leave."

Karl stopped, turning around to stare blankly at Marton.

"I need you. Please," he repeated, the full light of day betraying his exhaustion.

Karl blinked. "Sleep, Marton. Truly sleep. I will guard the house."

"He is as he was when he was about twelve."

Karl flinched, than turned away. "Go back to him. I will check the horses before returning to the house. Sleep.

Marton lowered his gaze, not knowing what to do, then nodded, almost stumbling inside the house, laying down on the floor beside Harry's bed, afraid to sleep next to him in case he touched his wounds.

Karl checked the horse, still dazed. Than he sat in front of the fire, turning his dagger over and over in his hand as he stared at the flames.

Harry woke hours later, blinking himself awake and struggling to his feet, pain singing in his back as he managed to get himself upright, staggering slowly towards the door, opening it with a grunt of pain and heading outside.

Karl heard the door open. He turned his head to look, than returned to the fire. "You should be asleep, Harry. You haven't healed."

"I am tired of sleeping," Harry looked sullen and stubborn, continuing in his staggering walk. "Sir is sleeping- he is tired."

"So he is. And if you will not sleep, than at least be still. Your wounds cannot have healed."

"Sir says I am stubborn. I will be all right. He said that you were not well either- that you did not sleep for too long." Harry walked closer to Karl, his eyes curious.

"I was not tired. So I did not sleep." Karl tensed at Harry drew near. "You should rest. Marton will not be happy if you make yourself worse."

"I will not make myself worse. I am in the healing stage," Harry said confidentially, with the air of one who had dealt with this before. "He said you were of the Western Lands- is that so?"

"I am." Karl's finger lightly ran over the edge of his dagger.

"What are they like?" he asked, drawing closer, looking at Karl's dagger, impressed.

"They are beautiful. Mysterious in their way. They could fill the dreams of a man for several lifetimes."

"I have never been anywhere," Harry said wistfully. "Someday I shall. I will travel all over."

"I am sure you will." Karl's voice remained flat, his eyes avoiding Harry's gaze.

Harry cocked his head to the side, moving around closer, still shuffling as he walked, trying to see Karl's eyes.

Karl bowed his head more, his eyes lowering.

Looking disappointed, Harry turned and headed back to the cabin, moving slowly. "I am sorry I disturbed you. I will go," he murmured.

"Heal, Harry. Grow stronger for Marton's sake."

"Will you be his friend- even if you will not be mine? He could use a real friend."

Karl gasped, his head snapping up. Tears started running down. He brought his hand up to his face, seeking control.

Harry looked distressed, seeing the reaction from Karl, not sure whether to move away or come closer. "I am sorry- I did not mean to upset you- I am sorry!" he insisted, his eyes wide and upset.

Karl dropped his dagger, sobbing now. "Go back to Marton, Harry."

Harry hesitated, then turned and headed for the house as fast as he could, shaking Marton awake. "Karl the Dark- he is upset- I did something wrong!" he insisted.

Marton stared awake. "Harry? What are you doing up? You should be in bed. What are you talking about?"

"I got up- I was bored and I went outside and he was there and I talked to him, but I upset him- Sir please!" Harry urged, shaking Marton's shoulder again.

"Lay back down. That is an order! I will see to Karl." Marton waited til Harry was back on the bed, than went outside.

Harry lay on the bed, biting his lip hard, barely noticing the pain going through his body.

Marton walked outside, going right up to Karl and crouching beside him. "What happened?" he murmured, trying not to show his surprise at Karl.

Karl turned from Marton. "Take care of him. Do not mind me." He wiped at his face. "I am fine."

"His body is healing on pace- there is nothing more I can do for that. Do not tell me you are fine when it is not so."

"I am fine!" Karl grabbed his dagger and stood up. "I will hunt for us. Have you a lake or river nearby? I can fish as well."

"Put the dagger down, Karl. Please." Marton asked, his voice making it a polite order.

"The horses. Need to exercise them. For when we have to leave." Karl looked around, frowning. “But we have left. Safe. He's safe. Yours. Take care of him. He needs you." He started for the stables.

"Where are you going?" Marton asked, following behind Karl, sure that he couldn't be doing what it looked like he was doing.

"He needs you. Need to draw Steele away. I need to go, have to go. Not of use here."

"You told Harry that he didn't have to choose- you told him it was going to be the three of us. You told me that," Marton said hotly.

Blank eyes looked at Marton. "He is your Harry. He does not remember me. He does not need me."

Marton's eyes filled with tears. "He is not, Karl. He is the child I first knew- the boy who followed me around and asked me questions. He is not my Harry. Do you not see how it is breaking me to see him thus?" he strained to get the words out, his hands shaking.

"You have history. We do not. This is best." Karl swung up on Rakl. "This is best."

Rakl snorted, stomping the ground. Than reared up again, throwing Karl hard to the ground.

Marton gasped with shock, running to Karl and crouching, checking to see if he had been hurt, cutting back to look at Rakl. "I cannot believe he just did that!"

Karl struggled to breathe. "Bastard.....again....should kill....." He gasped.

Rakl whinnied than walked away.

"Are you all right?" Marton looked worried, ignoring Rakl as he walked away, trying to help Karl sit up so he could get air easier.

Karl coughed, clutching Marton's hand to steady himself. "Not first.....fine...."

Marton rubbed his back with his free hand, trying to soothe him. "He has done that before? Harry said he was trustworthy- while you slept- while Harry was hurt..."

"Once- Leaving....Harry....threw..." Karl grabbed up some dirt throwing it vainly in Rakl's direction.

"It seems that he objects to your leaving Harry then," Marton said, trying desperately not to smile or laugh.

Karl glared at Marton. "Stupid...bastard..." His breathing was starting to become easier."

"Me or him?" Marton asked, daring to stroke Karl's hair.

Karl looked up at Marton, than away. "I am...afraid. Fought...didn't want. Couldn't keep from him. Opened myself....cannot."

"Shhh. Breathe, Karl. Calm yourself. Try it once again," Marton murmured.

"Lost my love. Swore never another. Than Harry...tried not to. But he..." Karl looked toward the house. "Cannot lose again."

"Harry will not die. He is too stubborn for that," Marton managed a ghost of a smile. "I do not know why he is thus, but it will pass- I am sure of it. He has not suffered a head injury- the abuse, and the blood loss from the ride, yes. He will recover," Marton said firmly.

"Can you swear?" Karl closed his eyes, leaning against Marton. "Can you swear?"

"That he will not die from this? Yes, I believe I can. Even though he pales from the loss of blood on the ride, his wounds are no longer full of poison. The blood and the treatment has washed them clean. They will scar, but they will heal."

"And his mind? What of his mind?" Karl shuddered. "Can that be healed as well?"

"I pray it is only temporary. As I said- it is not from an injury, I do not believe. He has had a lot to deal with in a short amount of time. I believe he will come back," Marton paused, then whispered. "I have to."

"You should go back to him. He must be worried of you."

"He was worried of you. Woke me to make sure you were okay."

"I did not mean to distress him. But I did. Couldn't not help myself."

"Come inside- please? He is in awe of you."

Karl gave a sharp bark of laughter. "Why?

"He said you were beautiful."

Karl looked up at Marton. "I do not know how to take that. He is not himself."

"It is not like that- he admires you. He wishes for friends- he had none before me. And he is honest- that is what he sees when he sees you."

Karl hung his head. "He asked me to be your friend, even if I could not be his. That is what..." He drew a shaky breath.

"He assumes that people will not like him. Remember that."

"For that alone they should-" Karl shook his head as he staggered up and started for the house.

"I know, Karl," Marton murmured. "You are not the only one who thinks so, believe me."

Karl entered the house, pausing before walking to the room to check on Harry.

Harry lay against the bed, eyes clearly upset, fighting not to cry, unsure what he had done.

Karl walked to the bed, falling next to it, wincing at the soreness. "I am sorry, Harry."

"I upset you, Karl the Dark. I did not mean to," he whispered, watching Karl, his eyes large.

Karl shook his head. "It was not you. I had... someone close to me...it is difficult to say. I should have spoken it instead of not.

"You owe me no explanation- I was wrong to bother you."

"You could not know. Do not feel guilt for this. Please, Harry?"

"You do not wish me punished for my mistake?" he checked, looking steadily at Karl.

"You made no mistake. It was mine for not explaining to you. I should be punished if anyone is."

"I often make mistakes. Are you certain it was not my error?" Harry looked surprised.

"I am certain." A faint smile appeared. "I am not in the habit of taking others errors for my own."

"All right. Thank you Karl the Dark." Harry managed a shy smile, a bit more cautious now.

"Those who I allow close to me call me Karl." Karl finally looked at Harry.

Harry nodded, a long pause following. "Oh! Does that mean I may?"

Karl smiled. "Yes Harry. It means you may." He held out his hand.

Harry pushed himself up to sit, taking Karl's hand and beaming. "Thank you. Karl."

"You are welcome. Harry." Karl's smile broadened. "I have few friends as well. Very few."

"I have two now!" Harry looked excited.

Karl laughed. "I do not take friends lightly, Harry. If I chose you as one, it is for always.":

Harry's eyes grew wide. "Will you tell me of the land you are from? Are you a knight like Sir is?"

"Yes I am." Karl settled in. "What would you know of me?"

"Are you a warrior? I am going to be a warrior," he whispered.

"I am sure you will make a fine warrior." Karl held up his dagger for Harry to see.

Harry's eyes lit up, impressed with the weapon. "Are you any good?" he asked bluntly.

"I believe myself to be."

Harry looked at him, looking deep into his eyes. "You are," he said finally. "You do not boast, but speak the truth."

Karl shifted, dropping his eyes. "I am sure you will be as well."

"Sir says I will. Father and Corin..." Harry looked troubled, wincing as he remembered his pain. “They do not think so."

"They are fools. You would do well to listen to Marton."

"I do not see how they would know, anyway," Harry reasoned. "They do not see me train."

"They are jealous. Do not listen to them."

"I try not to," Harry reached out, gently touching the handle of Karl's dagger, hiding a yawn.

"You are tired, Harry. You should rest." Karl smiled gently.

"I do not want to sleep," Harry pouted a little. "I want to train again. Learn to be a knight."

"You cannot train til Marton says you may. So why not rest?"

"Are you still tired? I have more blankets than I need- you may have one if you like," he offered.

Karl hesitated, than nodded. "Thank you Harry. I will borrow one."

Harry looked pleased, handing one over to Karl, then lying down with a sigh. "I hate being hurt."

"It is not fun, no." Karl lay down on the floor, laying the blanket over him.

"Thank you, Karl th... Karl."

"For what, Harry?" Karl frowned.

"Talking to me like a person," he murmured, his eyes closing.

Karl hid his flinch. "You are a person, Harry. You are."

"I know. I just like knowing that ...someone else thinks so."

"I do. as does Marton. Rest now."

Harry nodded slowly, letting out a sigh as he fell asleep.

Karl looked up at Harry, fighting his own need to sleep to watch over him.

"Sleep," Marton murmured, suddenly evident in the corner of the room. "We do not want Rakl trying to find a way to render you unconscious because you are too stubborn to sleep."

Karl shook his head. "He has not tried that. I have to watch him. He did for me, when I was sick. Repay the debt." he fought his eyes closing, stifling the yawn.

Marton moved closer, laying beside Karl. "He will need watching in the days to come. Particularly when he starts to feel better and feels he does not need rest. I will need you then- I cannot lose you to another sleeping binge. Please, Karl- let me keep watch. Tomorrow, you may watch over us both."

"Is not fair. You are more tired than me. Need the rest..." his voice trailed off as his eyes slowly blinked.

"I just had a sleep- I will wake you up in a few hours- how is that?" Marton offered softly.

"Please make sure you do. Want to take my turn." Karl's eyes closed, his body relaxing. "Take turns..."

"You will have your turn- in three hours," Marton whispered.

"Three...promise me...three-" Karl's voice grew quiet, his breath evening out as he fell asleep.

"I promise you three... the same three you gave me," Marton whispered.

Karl murmured, than turned toward Marton, his hand reaching for him.

Marton moved in closer, gladly letting Karl tuck in against him.

A quick smile appeared, than Karl was still.

Marton peered up to check on Harry, pulling the blanket more securely around him, then settled in against Karl, checking the position of the sun through the window, watching him sleep.

Previous chapters archived here.

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