How far is too far? For Merlin, when it comes to Anna, the answer is simple. Too far doesn’t exist.
Being back with the Circle, back with Merlin—where she belongs—Anna should be happy. Her magic, finally free and within reach, and her memories following quickly, should be cause for celebration. But all of that is overshadowed, tainted by Mordred and the connection he’s forged between their minds. With Mordred in her head, taunting and manipulating her at every turn, Anna fears she’ll never truly be free.
Though his days as King of Camelot and High King of all of Albion are in a long, distant past, Arthur has never felt the weight of his crown as heavily as he does now, in this life. While having Anna with them and being able to complete the Circle for the first time since Camelot is an advantage Arthur cannot discount in the battle to come, the odds are certainly not in their favor. Not with an enemy who seems to always be always one step ahead. Not when the trust Arthur and the others have built over lifetimes together is dissolving beneath lies and secrets.
The Circle is faltering, and Mordred’s increasingly bold atempts against them are pushing them to the breaking point. If they can’t return to their former strenth—back to the stuff of legends—to defeat the powerful Magical, someone may pay the ultimate price before the final battle even begins.
Content Warning: This book contains mentions and depictions of self-harm and suicide.
Something was bothering her.
I tried to shove away the feeling of unease that had been suffocating me for some time. I had no reason to feel that. Well, aside from waiting for a Magical, hell bent on revenge and likely planning genocide, to make a move, the fact I’d almost lost the woman I’d loved for centuries—more than once—and our relationship wasn’t on level ground in the slightest. So yeah, other than that, I had no reason whatsoever to feel anything but secure.
I set the spellbooks and papers on the table and looked to where Anna stood at the window. I was probably overreacting, seeing something that wasn’t there. She’d been a bit withdrawn, quiet, which was perfectly understandable, all things considered. She wasn’t as recovered physically as she tried to convince everyone she was, either. If she thought I didn’t notice the signs—the paleness, the hurt lining her face, the way she braced herself against pain or dizziness—she clearly didn’t understand I saw everything about her. Noticed everything.
She was recovering, though, and would be fine. I’d make sure of that any way I had to. And, while our relationship was a bit shaky as we dealt with the fallout of decisions we’d made—in this life and ones past—we were together, now. As we were meant to be. Shaky or not, it was worth every hurdle we’d had to jump to get to this point. She was worth it.
I’d always known that, though, from the moment I first saw Galahad escort her into the throne room in Camelot. Of course, I could have never have guessed I’d lose my heart to her so completely, but how special she was, how powerful, had been abundantly clear from the start.
I smiled, lost in memory, as I flipped through one of the books. We’d been working on protection spells. I knew she hated it—mostly because she’d yet to charm an object without making it explode—but she was improving.
I looked up at her, found her eyes on me, her hands locked together in front of her. They were shaking. The uneasy feeling swelled to the point I nearly choked on it.
“Yes, love?” I struggled to keep my voice even and calm.
“We need to talk,” she whispered.
Unease quickly morphed into fear and worry. I walked around the table and across the room. I took her hands and pried her cold fingers apart so I could hold them.
“What is it?”
“Can we sit?” she asked, nodding toward the bed.
“Of course.” Once we were on the mattress, sitting with our knees touching, hands linked between us, I peered into her eyes. “Tell me what’s bothering you, love.”
She pressed her lips together briefly, and her face scrunched up in that adorable way it did when she tried to figure out how to word something.
“I think,” she started slowly, “something happened when I did the spell to release my magic.”
I braced myself against the rush of anger I felt every time I thought about that night. At Anna for not coming to me with the spell and for risking herself. At Mordred for using dark magic and forcing her to make that choice. At myself, because I’d known for some time the key to unlocking Anna’s memories and power was likely to be found in dark magic—it was Mordred we were talking about, after all—and I was too selfish to consider putting Anna’s life in danger. Not for anything. Not even for the Circle. I would gladly live with the shame of that choice for eternity if it meant Anna was at my side.
“I’ve been hearing a voice in my head,” she continued. “At first, I thought it was another memory or vision. They’re so jumbled it’s hard to figure out sometimes. I thought, eventually, I’d place it, remember who it belonged to, where and when it was from. Or that it’d go away. I hoped it would.”
“But it hasn’t,” I guessed.
She shook her head, and her fingers tightened on mine. “It’s gotten worse. I hear it all the time, calling my name, saying things.”
“Communicating with someone mentally isn’t an easy thing. Usually, there needs to be an emotional connection, a bond. If it’s not—”
“It’s Mordred!” she blurted, tears spilling from her eyes. “He’s done something, Merlin. I don’t know what, and I don’t know what it means. All I know is he’s in my head. He’s in my head, and he’s not going away!”
I yanked her forward and pulled her into my lap, focusing on her and not the swell of dread filling me. Wrapping my arms around her, I kissed her temple.
“What did he do to me?” she cried. “He’s going to use me to hurt everyone, isn’t he? To hurt you?”
“Shhh.” I smoothed a hand over her hair and rocked back and forth a bit. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
“Can you make it stop?” she sniffed, burying her face in my neck. “Get him out?”
I swallowed around the fear lodged in my throat. “Please don’t worry, love. We’ll figure this out.”
She clung to me, and I held on as tightly as I could. Trying to comfort her through the panic, hers and mine, trying to be strong for her even though the ground had just disappeared from beneath me. I mentally sifted through spells and curses, searching for something, anything, that could do this. Over a thousand years of information and knowledge clunking around in my head, and I couldn’t grasp a single fucking thing.
“Merlin,” Anna whispered, her breath ghosting over my throat. “I’m scared.”