John Hurt, the voice of Kilgharrah, Actor extraordinaire!

John Hurt (b. 1940), one of Britain’s most distinguished actors, with an acting career spanning over 50 years.

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He has been a member of Merlin’s cast from the beginning, but we never saw him once. All we heard was his voice, portraying Kilgharrah.
Here are some of the parts John Hurt has played during his long, and still active, career.

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As Phil Corbett in The Wild and the Willing (1962)

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As Caligula in I, Claudius (1976), with Derek Jacobi

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As John Merrick in The Elephant Man (1980)

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As Lawrence Fassett in The Osterman Weekend (1983), with Rutger Hauer

1984
As Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

white mischief
As Gilbert Colvile in White Mischief (1987), with Greta Scacchi

field
As Bird O’Donnell in The Field (1990)

saigon
As Jack Lee in Saigon Baby (1995)

rob roy
As Montrose in Rob Roy (1995)

nighttrain
As Michael Poole in Night Train (1998)

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As Dr. Iannis in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

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As Trevor “Broom” Bruttenholm in Hellboy (2004)

shooting dogs
As Christopher in Shooting Dogs (2005) with Hugh Dancy

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As Arthur Seldom in The Oxford Murders (2008)

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As Olivander in the Harry Potter movies

""Krapp's Last Tape" CTG/Kirk Douglas Production
As Krapp in Krapp’s Last Tape (2012)

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As the War Doctor in Doctor Who (2013), with Matt Smith and David Tennant

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To get a bit of John Hurt in Kilgharrah, the CGI guys used motion capture (or “mocap”) to bring John’s facial expressions to Kilgharra’s face.

Merlin, the adventures continue…: chapter 7 by Tony de Haan

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Previously on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”
The goddess Macha has taken possession of Morgana’s mind and body. She wants to eliminate the dynasty of the Pendragons.
Merlin was given a powerful sleeping spell, making him weaker and weaker until he would eventually die.

Arthur was given an enchanted mail shirt, which is now slowly and painfully killing him.

Chapter 7
Faith, sir, you need not fear

Arthur was scratching like crazy, his contorted face mirroring the continuous pain he felt all over his torso and arms. Tears were in his eyes, his fingers and neck red with blood, and the itching and pain only got worse and worse.
“Merlin, what is that foul-smelling stuff?” Arthur exclaimed, his voice hoarse, as Merlin entered his chambers. “It smells like it came straight from the stables!”
“Just a little something to ease your suffering,” Merlin answered lightly. With great self-control he tried to keep his composure as he saw Arthur in this state. It was much worse than he imagined, so much worse.
“And you are going to smear that stuff all over me?”
“Just your neck first, see if it works.”
“If it works? IF it works? And how do you propose to get to the rest of my body,” said Arthur tensely as he started scratching furiously again.
“Well…,” Merlin said, hiding a smile, “Gaius thought we might use the bellows to…”
“WHAT,” Arthur shouted, “Bellows? Are you insane?”
“No, but with all that scratching you soon will be. Sire.”
Arthur heaved a deep sigh. Merlin was right of course, he would do anything to get rid of that terrible itching, the continuous and unbearable pain driving him mad.
“If you would just sit down Sire, I’ll apply some of this ointment to the welts on your neck,” Merlin said and gently pushed Arthur onto a chair. He looked at the welts, they were even bigger now and oozing with pus mixed with blood. Merlin didn’t want to think and imagine how the rest of Arthur’s body would look like. Gently he applied some of the ointment on a few welts and almost instantly Arthur’s eyes started to close. “What have you…” he managed to say before he fell soundly asleep.
“Right,” Merlin said, putting aside the ointment, “now let’s try and get that mail shirt off first.”
He closed his eyes, emptied his mind and concentrated. He felt the evil magic from the mail shirt entering his mind and he shuddered. It was cold, so very cold and filled with such deep hatred… From deep within he felt the ancient magic stirring and awakening, he felt spells forming, he felt the clash between his own magic and the evil magic; his mouth formed words and with a deep voice he spoke:
Byrne forgyrden breost
Fram heafod to fot
Ic þu abreotan
Wesan nu dead
His eyes turned golden, his outstretched hand tingled and he could almost see the magic flowing from his body to the mail shirt, he could almost see the magical battle raging within him and around him and Arthur. Then it was all over. Exhausted he stood there, breathing deeply. He saw how the mail shirt had lost its sparkle, it looked dull and dead now. Carefully he tried to lift one of the sleeves and he felt immense relief as it moved. The mail shirt was no longer fused to Arthur’s body.
“You, boy,” he said as he saw one of the kitchen boys walk in the corridor, “can you help me please? You’re Cerdic aren’t you?”
The boy nodded.
“Good, help me to get this mail shirt off. King Arthur has fainted from exhaustion and he needs some air.”
It was not long before Arthur was freed from that cursed mail shirt. Even if Cerdic saw the welts on Arthur’s body, he didn’t let know he had and Merlin at this point really didn’t care.
“Will you go to Gaius and tell him… Oh, you can’t speak, I forgot. Take this…,” and Merlin scribbled some words on a piece of parchment, asking for ointment without the sleeping potion, “take this to Gaius and please hurry.”
Cerdic nodded and started to run.
Carefully Merlin unbuckled Arthur’s gambeson and opened it, revealing a chest with more open wounds than Merlin was prepared to see. Blood flowed slowly from the numerous open welts, raw and ragged from scratching. He shut his eyes for a moment and gagged involuntarily.
Not long after Gaius entered the chamber, panting and breathing heavily from an unaccustomed run. Together they removed Arthur’s gambeson and gently they lowered him onto the floor. With great care Merlin started to wash Arthur’s upper body, staining the floor red.
“I need to find out what sort of poison it is on that mail shirt,” Gaius said, “I might find a cure.”
“No,” Merlin answered, “it was no ordinary poison, it was magic,” and he laid his hands on Arthur’s chest, closed his eyes and concentrated. Again he felt something deep within him, a magical power he had never felt before and he saw threads of magic searching for the evil magic killing Arthur. He started sweating and trembling, but he never wavered and kept going. Then, with an almost unearthly scream, he fell down. “I think I did it,” he whispered, “I think the evil in him is gone.”
Arthur still lay there, unmoving but breathing easier now and slowly the welts stopped bleeding.
“I think we’d better get him on his bed,” Gaius said.
“Yes.”
Gaius spread the calming ointment on Arthur’s back and they laid him down on a thick and soft sheepskin.
“All that’s left now is wait until he wakes up,” Merlin said, “and I’d better clean all that blood from the floor. I can hear Arthur already…” and Merlin started giggling and, mimicking Arthur’s voice he said, ”Merlin, you useless toad, are you going to clean that or shall I just use your hair as a mop?” And both couldn’t stop laughing for a long time, the unbearable tension had finally broken.

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* * *

And as the mail shirt lost its magic, Macha felt a jolt through her body and she knew something had gone wrong. She howled and howled and threw jug after jug against the wall.
A voice in her head spoke: “Mistress Macha, this is your loyal servant Cerdic speaking. I have just come back from King Arthur’s chambers and I have seen how Merlin took the mail shirt off of King Arthur. You told me it could not be done and you asked me to keep an eye on King Arthur and I had to fetch Gaius the Court Physician and through the keyhole in the door I could see how Merlin performed some ritual but then I had to run because Gaius came and I cannot be seen looking through the keyhole of King Arthur’s chambers and that is all I know for now.”
“Thank you Cerdic, you’ve been a great help and remember: when mistress Morgana is queen of Camelot, I will not forget what you have done for me, for us,” and with these words Macha closed her mind for Cerdic. “I hate you, I hate you, I HATE YOU,” she screamed and a bowl was thrown to pieces, joining the pile of broken crockery already on the floor. “You little piece of vermin, I will get my revenge, you hear, REVENGE!”
And deep inside Macha’s brain Morgana heard it all and laughed.

* * *

“Upon my honour, honorable sirs, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. It was not us that put poison on that mail shirt, pray believe us,” said Brunric the envoy in a pleading voice, leaning over to Gwaine to emphasize his words, opening his hands in a gesture which said: see, we conceal nothing from you. His companions Rocbert and Osric nodded in agreement as they looked at Gwaine, Leon and Mordred sitting opposite of them, looking stern and unbending.
Earlier that day they were taken from their chambers and escorted to a room high up in the towers of Camelot. Guards stood by the door, preventing anyone from entering or leaving.
“Did you ever leave the cart out of your sight?” Leon asked.
“Of course we had to sleep, honorable sir, but the cart was always behind locked doors at night and one of us always stood guard. There were precious gifts on that cart you know!”
“So you say…,” Gwaine said.
“There was one thing,” Rocbert said, “just before we reached Camelot, there was a sudden gust of wind. We didn’t think much of it, but is felt strange, a little disoriented even.”
“Morgana,” Mordred thought, “that sounds just like Morgana. So she is here after all. I wonder…,” but he kept silent for the moment, waiting, perhaps Brunric would tell them more.
“Until we know more, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay here. You will of course be treated according to your rank, but you can’t talk to anyone except us, nor leave this room.”
“We understand honorable sirs, but you must believe us. We would do nothing to jeopardize the excellent relations between King Ban and King Arthur, nothing!” Brunric said, raising his voice.
“I can feel nothing,” Mordred thought, “there is nothing in their minds that speaks of treason or killing Arthur. They are not involved,” and as the knights descended the narrow and winding staircase, Mordred voiced his opinion to Gwaine and Leon. “We’d better tell Arthur the moment he wakes up,” they said.

* * *

That night Merlin dragged a straw mattress and some blankets into Arthur’s chambers. He didn’t want to leave Arthur’s side, in case he should wake up. Merlin looked again at Arthur’s chest and to his relief he saw the welts slowly getting smaller, he saw the skin had started to heal itself. There was no more magic to be found. Leon had ordered the mail shirt to be put in the Vaults of Camelot where it could do no more harm. He blew out the candles and let himself fall on his mattress, but no matter how exhausted he was, he kept tossing and turning, and sleep would not come. Too many things were going through his head, and on the ceiling he saw red and bloody welts appearing and they were growing; pulsating and growing until the whole room seemed filled with them. Merlin felt a pressure on his chest, breathing became difficult and then he was wide awake, sweating and panting and unable to move. The room looked as it always did, and he heard Arthur breathing peacefully. For a moment he felt scared, afraid he might again have been subjected to a deep and fateful sleep he had experienced not so long ago. Slowly his heart started beating more slowly and his breathing became normal again. “Always the same,” a voice said. Merlin whipped his head around. Nothing. “Typical, suffering from sleeping sickness and still unable to fall asleep at night.” From the darkness a shape came into view, an old man with long, white hair and an even longer beard and leaning on a staff. “You really don’t get it do you,” the man said in a mocking voice, “everything is in there…” and he rapped Merlin on the head, ”and what do you do with it? Nothing!” He came closer and now Merlin saw: it was his alter ego, Emrys. “Just use that brain of yours for a change, stop trying to understand and start reading! Oh please, don’t look so incredibly stupid! The scroll I mean, the scroll. Just start reading it, that’s all and stop being all clever for trying to analyze it. Use your head and use your heart!” And Emrys’ knuckles hammered again on Merlin’s head and then he awoke, a scream on his lips. There was of course no-one in the room, and Arthur still slept peacefully. “Too many nightmares for one night,” Merlin thought, scratching his head and he felt a bump as if someone had knocked him repeatedly on the head.
“Merlin,” came a sleepy voice, “why on earth are lying on the floor like that.”
“Arthur!” he exclaimed and a huge grin appeared on his face, “you’re awake!”

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“How can anyone sleep with all that racket you’re making.” With difficulty Arthur tried to sit up. “What happened,” he asked.
“Well, I guess Gaius’ ointment worked,” Merlin answered vaguely.
“Yes…,” said Arthur and looked at his body. “The itching is gone. Merlin, what did really happen?” and his steel-blue eyes bored into Merlin’s, demanding an answer.
“It was the mail shirt king Ban gave you, Sire,” Merlin said, “there was… something wrong with it.”
“Yes Merlin, that part I already know, but what exactly was wrong with it and why did I fall so suddenly asleep just a moment ago!”
“It was poison we think. Gaius is trying to find an answer and Leon and Gwaine and Mordred are questioning the envoy and his men.” Very carefully Merlin avoided mentioning sorcery at this point, first Arthur had to get his strength back, he thought.
“King Ban? Poison? Why? Why would king Ban do such a thing? I thought we were allies!” Arthur was getting more and more upset, the thought of a loyal ally like king Ban conspiring against him was almost too much to bear.
“There may be lots of explanations,” Merlin said, and was interrupted by a knock on the door. Mordred entered, followed by Gaius.
“Sire,” Mordred said, “We have every reason to believe that king Ban, nor his envoy, knew anything of this. We questioned the envoy Brunric and his men, and they spoke of a strange feeling they had, a few moments before reaching Camelot, an unseen presence, they said, like a gust of wind. Besides, Brunric touched the mail shirt, and Merlin here did too, and they are not suffering, so I think it’s safe to say there was no poison, but…,” Mordred hesitated.
“What are you suggesting?”
“Sire,” chimed in Gaius, “If I may have a word, I have indeed not been able to detect any poison, but I fear there is another cause. The mail shirt was enchanted.”
“What!” exclaimed Arthur, “Are you sure?”
“It had all the signs of powerful magic, Sire.”
“And I’ve been told,” Mordred added, “that a sudden gust of wind and disorientation are tell-tale signs of sorcery, Sire.”
Arthur looked at them for a while, anger crept into his eyes and finally he whispered: “Morgana.” Nobody said a word, nor looked directly at Arthur. Merlin’s eyes widened and he gulped as Mordred’s words, and Arthur’s reaction, hit home. Just before he fell into that deep sleep and was plagued by continuous nightmares about Arthur dying, he had felt a sudden gust of wind. Now he understood. Morgana. It could only have been her. He shuddered and tried to look as inconspicuous as possible. Morgana was still trying to usurp the throne of Camelot, and would stop at nothing!
“It must be her, I’m sure of it now,” Arthur continued, “it’s not the first time I’ve heard of her doing these things. Mordred, go to Sir Gaheris and let him assemble as many man as he can. She must be near Camelot. I don’t care how he does it, but tell him to find her, no matter what!” His jaw was clenched as he said this, mouth set in a thin, hard line; his eyes shone with a dangerous inner fire and his hand involuntarily touching the hilt of his sword.
“Please Sire, let me go too,” Mordred said.
“No,” Arthur answered,” I need you here.”
Mordred was visibly disappointed as he strode out of Arthur’s chambers in search of Sir Gaharis.
“Merlin,” he said, using his druid voice, “I truly want to do all I can to find her and stop her, so don’t start questioning my loyalties again.”
Merlin looked at him but said nothing, he still didn’t trust Mordred, he still didn’t know where his loyalties lie. Arthur shall die by a druid’s hand.

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That day Merlin finally found some time to try and read the scroll again. “Just read it,” Emrys had said in his dream, “just read it.” Easier said than done, casting those spells to cure Arthur had cost him just about all the energy he had left, and he felt so sleepy all of a sudden again. “I must…,” he mumbled, “I must read that scroll now,” and he drank half a jug of Gaius’ bitter potion, desperately trying to stay awake. He looked at it, and seemingly out of nowhere a few more lines of text appeared:
An gebyrt of twegan dead
Infindan stan, rudu gelice blod
Hæle ofeslæp belute wiðinnan
“Riddles and more riddles,” Merlin said despairingly, “for once I would like a straightforward answer! Just for once!”
“Let me see,” Gaius said as he looked over Merlin’s shoulder.
“One born from twice dead…” Merlin said, and softly he repeated that confounded sentence. “One born from twice dead…” For a moment he sat there like a statue, then his head turned slowly to Gaius’ and at the same time both loudly exclaimed: “GALAHAD!”
“Of course, how could I have been so blind,” Gaius said, thumping his hand on the table.
“The answer was here all the time, why couldn’t I see it? It is so simple. Lancelot died twice, and Galahad is his son!”
“What does the rest of it say,” Gaius asked, getting a bit impatient.
“Let’s see, it goes something like this now: One born from twice dead, shall find a stone that is red like blood, which will cure the sleep hidden within.”
“So, all Galahad has to do is find a red stone… sounds easy…,” Gaius said, doubt creeping into his voice. “Is there any more on that scroll?”
“No, that’s all. No, wait, look, this is amazing! Look!” And both saw line after line appear on the parchment, all beautifully written in bold yet elegant letters, “There is something here that talks of a quest and don’t try to find it, it will find you, and here it says—”
“Merlin, line by line please, and from the beginning if you please!”
And so they read the whole epistle as it appeared on the parchment. They were to travel to a castle where a king was created (“I think it says something like that, Gaius,” Merlin said, “cyning macian.” “Doesn’t that mean magic?” Gaius answered, unthinkingly, for he was schooled in the ancient language and should know its meaning, but in the excitement he simply seemed to forget. “No,” Merlin said absent-mindedly, eyes glued to the parchment, “that’s drycræft.”), and many more tantalizing hints and obscure lines were written literally before their eyes.
“We must tell Arthur, he must let us go on that quest, find that stone and then I’ll come back all healed and ready to take up my duties again! Poor Arthur, George is driving him crazy, he’ll be glad to be rid of him, come…” and Merlin rushed to the door.
“Merlin!” came Gaius’ voice, “wait just a minute. Just how are you going to do this? You have hardly any stamina left, you fall asleep where you stand, and do you know where it is you’re going exactly?”
“No, but…”
“Merlin, first we need to know where you have to go. Then we must convince Galahad to come, do you really think he’ll go just like that?”
“No, but…”
“Raising objections again are we, Merlin?”
“Arthur!”
“Sire,” Gaius said, a little more dignified.
“I’ve got the answer, all you have to do—”
“All I have to do? Are you giving me orders again Merlin?”
“Somebody has to.”
“Merlin…,” Arthur said with a dangerously friendly voice.
“Perhaps it would be better if we started from the beginning, Sire,” Gaius quickly proposed.
“Good, finally someone who actually has a working brain. I’ll see you in half an hour in my chambers. First I have to talk to envoy Brunric.”

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And so Arthur was told the whole story. He sat there, motionless, thinking.
“Galahad,” he disbelievingly said, “are you sure?”
“Yes, Sire,” Merlin said, “Absolutely sure.”
“Then there is only one option. We must find that stone so you can be cured. Having you around is slightly better than boring George, although he makes a killer breakfast, cleans my clothes and polishes my armour without me telling him to, he cleans my chambers and gently wakes me up in the morning.”
“And you’re hating every minute of it, I’m sure.”
“Don’t get smart with me Merlin. I’ve decided to take Galahad on a quest. He wants to be a knight of Camelot, so he’d better start earning that privilege. He might even become a likable person, what do you think?”
“Well, you turned out to be a nice person in the end, more or less…”
“Thank you Merlin…”
“But we still don’t know where to go first, Sire,” Gaius said, “The road may be long and full of dangers. Are you sure you want to come Sire, isn’t your place here in Camelot?”
“Gaius, sometimes I’m really fed up with this life, day after day I listen to endless complaints, and innumerable toadying envoys to see. This is my chance to go out and have some fun! So yes Gaius, I’m going. Gwen is perfectly capable to rule Camelot and she’ll have competent advisors. And I think I’ll take Gwaine, Leon and Percival also. And you Gaius, you must come too.”
“But I’m far too old to travel, my old bones will be nothing but a hindrance to you, Sire.” Fear crept in his voice and involuntarily he took a step back.
“Nonsense. Besides, I need someone to look after Merlin here. Don’t expect me to hold his hand every time he falls asleep.”
Gaius was getting really upset now. He, an old and worn out man, going on a quest? A dangerous quest even. He was afraid this might be his final journey, afraid he might not return to Camelot alive. He bowed and before he could give an answer, Arthur gave it for him: “Good, that’s settled then. We’ll leave the day after tomorrow.”
“We haven’t quite figured out where we must travel to, Sire, in order to find that stone,” Gaius said rather gloomy.
“I think I’ve figured that one out,” Arthur said softly, “it’s all there, on that scroll. First we must travel to Tintagel.”

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That night Gwaine, Leon and Percival were filling their goblets with mead and their spirits rose higher and higher at the prospect of an adventure. They had laughed and laughed when Arthur told them it was to be Galahad’s quest, finding a cure for Merlin was entirely in his hands. “He can hardly hold a sword in his hands properly,” they said and laughed even more.
Gaius sat in his chambers, thinking all kinds of gloomy thoughts and the knot in his stomach grew tighter every second. The prospect of this quest was a daunting one indeed.
Galahad sat in his chambers, dumbfounded. King Arthur had chosen him to go on a quest to save the life of that useless serving boy of his. Arthur had told him of the prophesy; only he who was born from one who had died twice, could accomplice it. If the quest was successful, he was to be made a knight of Camelot, like his father before him. Already his heart filled with pride, not for the thought of saving Merlin, bur for becoming a knight of Camelot.

Next time on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”: The journey begins and Gwaine encounters an old acquaintance, but he is far from happy about it.

Links to the previous chapters:

Prologue: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/834/

Chapter 1: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-1-by-tony-de-haan/

Chapter 2: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-2/
Chapter 3: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-3-by-tony-de-haan/

Chapter 4: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-4-by-tony-de-haan/

Chapter 5: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-5-by-tony-de-haan/

Chapter 6: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-6-by-tony-de-haan/

30,000 Hearts for Merlin ~ Thank you from the Heart of More Merlin

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As we have reached this landmark of 30,000 likes on our More Merlin Facebook page, Amanda, Diane, Tati, Marie, Vlatka, Tony, & Francesca want to say a huge THANK YOU to all our loyal supporters… we couldn’t do it without you!

To kick off the celebrations, Amanda has made this beautiful video, 30,000 Hearts for Merlin (please click on the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0y-hLIlm3w&feature=youtu.be ) and Tony has written a wonderful story about Merlin, Arthur & the Knights celebrating with us.

 

“But where will you house them all?” Merlin asked.
“Plenty of room here in Camelot I’m sure,” answered Arthur.
“It is a huge number, Sire,” Sir Leon said.
“Yes, I know it’s a lot of people, but they must stay somewhere.”
“But 30,000…”
“Merlin, you sleep on a bed, don’t you.” Merlin looked a bit puzzled at Arthur’s remark and nodded slowly. “So you can put up one guest. I’m sure you can sleep on the floor for a few nights.”
“And there will fit at least ten in your bed,” Merlin shot back, “and you can easily sleep on a pile of soft hides and carpets.”
“How about setting up a huge camp outside the walls, plenty of room there,” Gwaine suggested.

A few days earlier

“I want this to be the biggest feast Camelot has ever seen,” Arthur said, “I want to invite all those 30,000 people who gave us a like, I want to celebrate those 30,000 likes. They deserve it, don’t you think? Thirty-thousand people that like us, we surely must do something in return.”
The knights nodded, pleased with the prospect of a feast, the domestic staff merely shook their heads, looking worried.
And on that very same day you could see kitchen hands running to and fro, cooks bartering with farmers to obtain the best price for an enormous amount of chickens, pigs and cows, for vegetables, fruits and eggs, not to mention cask after cask of mead, ale, hock and claret that was rolled into the vast cellars of Camelot.
Soon the kitchens were unbearably hot from all the roasting and cooking as the cooks worked day and night preparing a banquet for 30,000 guests.

Present

Arthur and Merlin stood on the battlements of Camelot as the first guests started to arrive and as the day progressed more and more filled the enormous campsite. There was much mirth and laughter, and everybody was looking forward to the great feast that evening.
The roads to Camelot were swarming with people now, some on foot, some on horseback or riding in carts, all wanting to party and celebrate.
“What a beautiful sight,” Arthur said softly and a tear of joy glistened on his cheek.
“Indeed Sire,” Merlin answered, and he too was overcome by emotion.
That evening and far into the next day there was great feasting in Camelot; and Arthur delivered a moving speech, telling how proud he was of this achievement.
And the 30,000 guests, together with all the Knights and staff of Camelot, from seneschal to spit turner, raised their goblet and shouted as one man:

“For the LOVE of Camelot, Keep the MAGIC Alive!”

Adetomiwa Edun

Adetomiwa Edun, born in Nigeria and educated in Great Britain. At first he thought of studying for Master of Philosophy, but in the end he entered the Royal Acadamy of Dramatic Art.
Adetomiwa Edun, an actor we all know and love as Sir Elyan, brother of Gwen, and as a loyal Knight of Camelot. He made his first appearance in season three and was sadly killed off in season five.
Here are some other projects Adetomiwa has been involved in.

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As Charlie Ashanti in “Lionboy”, 2013

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As Bean Willie Brown in “but i cd only whisper”, 2012

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As Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet”, the Globe Theater, 2009

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As Sey in “The hour”, 2012

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Reading for the play “Uppercut”, 2013

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As Chris Jackson in “Slaves”, 2010

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With the cast of “Merlin”

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Merlin, the adventures continue…: chapter 6 by Tony de Haan

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Previously on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”:
The ancient goddess Macha has taken over Morgana’s mind and body, so she can kill Arthur and end the Pendragon dynasty. Merlin is under an ancient sleeping-spell (given to him by Morgana) which is slowly killing him. He has however discovered a scroll which may hold the cure, but first he must unlock the ancient magic deep within him.
In the meantime Lancelot’s son, Galahad, has arrived at Camelot.

Chapter 6
For mischiefs manifold, and sorceries terrible…

They never knew what hit them, the herald of king Ban of Dinas Emrys and his companions. They were on their way to Camelot to pay homage to king Arthur, to strengthen the friendship between the two kingdoms, to exchange gifts and to bring news. King Ban himself was unable to come, during a joust a large piece of wood from a splintered lance flew through the slits of his visor, shattering his right eye, immobilizing him. To ensure a more safe passage through Saxon-infested land, they were dressed as poor day-labourers, riding shabby horses; their precious gifts hidden on a simple wooden cart and covered in cloths and straw. Suddenly their horses stopped dead in their tracks, their unblinking eyes staring at nothing. The men sat like statues in the saddle, not moving a muscle, their eyes devoid of any life or recognition.
From the darkness of the dense undergrowth and gnarled trees, like a black shadow detaching itself from an even blacker darkness, Morgana suddenly stepped into view, brushed a few leaves and spiders from her dress and smiled a cold smile. Cerdic had been right, the herald did indeed travel via this path. A plan then had formed in her mind and with great haste she had come to this secluded spot. She walked to the cart, lifted the coarse cloth and gazed upon the precious gifts. She found a splendid mail shirt hidden beneath the straw and she smiled even more, the sparkle of the cold steel of the rings reflected in her equally cold eyes. That surely must be intended for Arthur, she thought, just the thing I need. Her right hand hovered above it and in her mind she cast a spell. Carefully she put the mail shirt back where she had found it. “Goodbye Arthur,” she whispered and with a scornful laughter she disappeared back into the woods. At that moment the horses woke up and started walking again as if nothing had happened and the men sat there a little puzzled, looking around, trying to figure out where that sudden gust of wind had come from. “Creepy woods,” they muttered, but the incident was soon forgotten, for in the distance they saw the white crenellated towers of Camelot sparkling in the midday sun.

* * *

“You are quiet today my love,” Arthur said and he gently took Gwen’s chin in his hand, gazing into her dark eyes.
“I was only thinking, nothing more.”
“Happy thoughts I hope.”
“Oh yes, Arthur, very happy indeed. I was merely thinking of the past.”
“Good,” he said a bit awkward, wondering if he should ask what she had been thinking about, show some interest, but he decided to let it go and left, leaving Gwen alone with her thoughts and the preparations for the feast tonight. He hurried to the Great Hall where the herald of king Ban was waiting for him. He longed to hear some news from the kingdoms of the north, and to inquire after king Ban’s health.

Gwen was indeed thinking of the past. She had read the letter Galahad had given her earlier, the letter Lancelot had written for her, so many years ago now and every time she read it, she had to smile and laugh and cry. In the most tender words he had recalled the moment they had first met and how he had instantly fallen in love with her. “I will love you always,” he had written, “just as you promised to always love me.” Gwen cried when she read this, tears of love and tears of pain. Both had known it could not be, they could never be together, somehow she had always known her heart could only belong to Arthur, and Lancelot had known that too. She carried the letter hidden in her bodice now, to have Lancelot close to her heart once more.
“I think I will wear the purple gown tonight,” Gwen said to her maid-servant. She curtsied, took the dress and hurried away to get it spotlessly clean. All alone now Gwen sat on her chair and sighed, her hand touching Lancelot’s letter through the fabric of her dress. “I still love you Lancelot,” she whispered, a far-away smile on her lips.

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* * *

“Lancelot’s son?” Gwaine said with a voice full of disbelief, “Galahad’s his son?”
“He can’t be,” chimed in Percival, “I mean, how old is he anyway? Twenty-something? He can’t be. I mean, how old was Lancelot when he was with us? In his twenties surely! And he is supposed to have a son almost his own age?”
“Well, he did lie about his lineage,” said Leon, “so he might very well have been lying about his age too.”
“Yes, but come on… Merlin, MERLIN, come over here,” Gwaine shouted, “Merlin, do you know how old Lancelot was when he was with us? You must know, you’re an archive-dweller, you speak with master Geoffey, you know stuff and things.”
“I’m sorry, but I really don’t know,” Merlin answered, “It seems there was more to Lancelot then all of us ever knew.”
“Yes, posing as the fifth son of Lord Eldred of Northumbria!”
“And getting banished from Camelot for that!”
“And ending up in Hengest’s kingdom, fighting the wildeorren.”
“And rescuing Guinevere at the same time!”
“You know, I always thought there was something between those two.”
“Why not ask Galahad himself,” suggested Merlin, effectively shutting the Knights up. They could go on for hours like this, especially Gwaine.
“No, couldn’t do that, that would be imposing,” Percival replied, “Where is he anyway? I haven’t seen him since last night.”
“In his chambers, bullying the servants,” Merlin said, “but he’ll be here any moment now to practice with the lot of you.”
“Ha! Finally a chance to see if he has the skills of his father, I’m ready for him!” Gwaine boasted and he swung his sword dangerously close to Merlin’s head.
At that moment Galahad entered the courtyard, armour clanking, his helmet under his arm.
“Wow, now that’s what I call shining armour,” Gwaine said, leaning on his quarter-staff and squinting as the reflected sunlight from the armour all but blinded him.
“Merlin,” Arthur said dangerously nice and putting his arm around Merlin’s shoulder, “now, take a good look. What do you see?”
“Someone in heavy armour, trying not to stumble.”
“No Merlin, all you see is that wonderful armour. It shines, it sparkles, it’s polished! Why don’t you go to his servant and learn some secrets about proper armour-polishing!”
“Well, Sire, it may sparkle and shine, but you know what they say, a knight in shining armour is a man who has never had his metal truly tested.”
Involuntary the knights looked at Galahad’s brand-new armour and then they looked at their own: dull, dented and their coats of mail were missing numerous rings, showing the greasy gambesons underneath.
“Don’t tell me you’re turning philosophical Merlin,” Arthur remarked with a sigh, slowly patting Merlin’s shoulder, “and no need to change the subject, I won’t let you forget it”.
“Well,” Percival said lazily, picking up his sword, “let’s test that metal of his, see what’s he’s made off.”
“Excellent idea,” and Arthur immediately turned into the focused and formidable fighter he was, “Who wants to go first?”
But before they could do anything, Galahad halted them and exclaimed: “My name is Galahad son of Lancelot. I implore you to send your best fighter so we can commence into a test of strength. No need for weaklings, I cannot be bothered with them.”
“So you think you’re the best, are you,” said Gwaine.
“Indeed I am Sir, I was taught by the best.”
“If you mean Lancelot, then yes, you had a good teacher.”
“You, serving boy,” Galahad shouted at Merlin, “you, get me my sword I left lying there and be quick about it.”
“You heard him Merlin,” Arthur said, smiling that predatory smile of his, “go get his sword.”
Merlin walked to the rack where the swords were hanging, but an impatient voice stopped him short: “Never mind you simpleton, I’ll get it myself. I need it today in case you didn’t know.” With great strides Galahad walked past Merlin, knocking him to the ground. “You might consider getting another serving boy, Sire,” he said to Arthur and stood there, ready to do battle.
“No,” said Arthur, “we’ll fight with the quarter-staff first. Sir Leon, your turn.”
Merlin quickly took Galahad’s sword and handed him a quarter-staff. Galahad tested the weapon and he looked with sheer arrogance and contempt at Leon. The fight did not last long, Galahad proved no match for the skillful Leon and in no time Galahad’s quarter-staff was knocked out of his hands. “Get me that quarter-staff,” Galahad shouted angry at Merlin. The second round proved even shorter and Arthur declared Sir Leon the winner.
“Now Galahad, I think it’s time to test your sword-skills. Anyone in particular you wish to fight? Gwaine, Percival, Merlin…”
Galahad nodded at Gwaine and said curtly: “You.”
“Wish me luck boys, I need it,” Gwaine whispered with a twinkling is his eyes matching his smile.
“Boy, BOY, get me my sword now, you lazy toad!”
Furiously Galahad hacked away at Gwaine who parried each blow easily. He got his sword under Galahad’s, twisted it and Galahad had to drop the weapon, or his wrist would instantly be broken.
“That move was not worthy of a knight,” he grunted, nursing his painful wrist.
Gwaine merely shrugged his shoulders, picked up Galahad’s sword and offered it to him. Galahad didn’t even look at it.
“Galahad,” Arthur intervened, “I can see you have the potential to become a good swordsman. A pity Lancelot could not have trained you more.”
Galahad threw his helmet on the ground, unbuckled his vambraces and they too landed in the sand. He strode away, but Arthur called him back: “We will see you at the banquet tonight, your King requests your presence.”
Galahad turned and answered curtly: “It will be my pleasure and privilege, Sire.” He bowed stiffly and disappeared into the castle, leaving his armour lying around for the servants to collect.

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“Doesn’t he remind you of someone?” Merlin asked Arthur.
“No, why?”
“Well, you know… condescending, obnoxious, an arrogant prat.”
“No, doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Supercilious, self-satisfied, insufferable…”
“Yes Merlin, I get it, you know big words, but we know that already, don’t we.”
“Still, watching Galahad is like looking back in time.”
“Will you be a little bit more comprehensible Merlin, who does he remind you of.”
“In two words?”
“Yes Merlin, in two words,” and Arthur let out an exasperated sigh.
“King Arthur.”
“Pick up that shield Merlin.”
“You’re not going to… Oh no.. no, no, no, you’re not!”
“Pick it up Merlin,” and the spiked ball of the flail Arthur was holding swished a little bit too close to Merlin’s head.
Merlin picked up the heavy shield and with great force the first blow landed on it. He stumbled, found his footing again and with both hands gripped the shield as if his life depended on it.
“Obnoxious?” and the flail hit the shield again. “ARROGANT?” and the ball bashed on the shield, sending sparks and woodchips flying. He felt his whole body trembling now from the impact of the blows. “PRAT?” Another hit and Merlin fell backwards, letting the shield cover his upper body, and still the blows kept coming. “Are we talking about the same person Merlin?”
“Do you know another King Arthur, Sire?”
“No, but I suggest you do,” and the spiked ball landed with a thud mere inches from Merlin’s head. “And when you’re done resting, you can clean my armour.”
“Yes Sire,” Merlin croaked.

* * *

I really can feel it now, I am getting stronger. I can feel this ancient magic in every fiber of my body, I can feel it tingling all over, feel it in every nerve. There are snippets of spells floating in my mind, half-formed words, vague ideas, images, anything, but it’s all so random. I can’t form one of those ancient spells yet, can’t see them clearly, but they are there, lurking… Like those words on the scroll, being there and not being there. But there is something that’s really bothering me, frightening me even. The sleeping-spell is growing in strength also. I don’t know why, there must be a link or something. Whoever gave me this magic did play a cruel trick on me. Strength and weakness always in balance, like in the Old Religion: for every life given, one must also be taken, the balance of the world must be restored. And now my balance is being restored, but that spell is not a part of me, so I am being destroyed and not restored.
I tried to read the scroll again today, and I really am making progress, I was able to read a few sentences, no, I was able to “wake up some words”. I don’t know what they mean yet, but there is mention of dreams. I wrote them down, in case I forget or the words on the scroll should suddenly decide to go to sleep again:
   Hwæt, ic swefna cyst
   Secgan wylle,
   Hwæt me gemætte
   To midre nihte,
   Syðþan reordberend
   Reste wunedon.
Yes, there’s dreams and sleep in there: “Hear while I tell about the best of dreams which came to me the middle of one night while humankind were sleeping in their beds”. That’s what it says.
I’m, well, Gaius and me that is, we’re also trying to solve the first words I read: “one born from twice dead”. Well, I’m sure it will come to me. To us I mean. In the meantime I’m doing all I can to solve the riddle and to stay awake. It comes and goes now, the sleepiness, but most of the time it’s there. Arthur is very nice about it, I know he really cares, but he doesn’t always show it. I mean, did he really had to clobber me with that flail? Luckily George had already cleaned his armour and polished it too when I came to see him in his chambers! You know, I’ve seen images in my head of Arthur coming to see me while I was in such a deep sleep, right after I was hit by that spell, he came to me every day and gave me water to drink. I don’t know if it was real or just a dream. I’m not asking him, that’s for sure! I’ll ask Gaius and whhoooaaaaa! My head, it explodes! So many things happening, so many words, so many images, the pain… the light… hot swords slicing into my brain, I can’t see… can’t breathe… I can’t take it anymore, I… I…
And Merlin crashed to the floor, head clasped between his hands, face contorted in agony. Then it was over. He lay still, breathing rapidly. His ashen face was covered in sweat. Slowly he tried to stand up again. He staggered, leaning on the table for support. His felt his heartbeat slowing, his breathing more regular. He shook his head and with his sleeve wiped the sweat from his face, rubbing the salty drops in his eyes, making them sting and water. In his head he felt something, like the nucleus of a new spell. He tried to concentrate, but whatever it was, it remained hidden, leaving nothing but a dull headache.

* * *

“This is so beautiful,” Arthur said, admiring his new mail shirt, one of the gifts from king Ban. “Just look at this Merlin, look how all those tiny rings are so carefully riveted together. Look, it’s a 6-on-1, I’d like to see the arrow that can pierce through this. The workmanship is quite extraordinary!”
“Yes, Sire,” Merlin said a trifle bored. He never had been able to understand Arthur’s fascination with armour. “Don’t you have enough mail shirts by now?”
“You can never have enough mail shirts Merlin.”
“And I suppose I’ll be the one to polish it?”
“Each and every ring Merlin. And don’t forget to polish the sides of the rivets too, they do tend to get rusty.”
“Try and don’t get it wet then, don’t go swimming in it.”
“Are you trying to be clever with me Merlin?”
“I wouldn’t dare, Sire.”
“Yes you would. Just look at those rings sparkle, this is the most beautiful mail shirt I’ve ever seen! I’ll wear it at the feast tonight. Come on Merlin, don’t stand there, help me get dressed.”
“How about a bath first, you smell like a horse.”
“MERLIN!”
“Fine, have it your way. But don’t be surprised if nobody wants to sit near you.”

That night hundreds of candles were lit in the Banqueting Hall of Camelot, setting the armour and mail shirts of the knights in a dazzling golden glow, and the numerous semi-precious stones on Gwens purple gown and crown made her the radiant centre of attention.
Great laughter erupted from the table were Gwaine, Leon and Percival were sitting.
“Another wager? Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the last one?” Leon said, clapping Gwaine quite energetically his shoulder.
For once Gwaine didn’t answer. There was not a day he didn’t think about it, that ill-fated wager he made not so long ago with Sir Vert of Sinople, that strange knight who had wanted Gwaine to chop his head off. Gwaine only scared him of course, but the knight actually detached his head from his shoulders, creating quite a stir. “A head for a head,” the wager was, and Gwaine was in danger of losing his head also one day when he and Sir Vert would meet. And meet they will, Sir Vert had solemnly promised before he rode away from Camelot, head under his arm.
“Lost your tongue?” Percival laughed, “better than losing you head I reckon!” And Gwaine emptied a goblet of ale over Percival’s head. “Hey, that’s good ale that, don’t go wasting it!”
Quickly the goblets were filled once more and the three friends were all but rolling on the floor laughing.
At another table Galahad sat, a perpetual scowl on his face and hardly talking to the other knights at all.

Gwaine-Percival-and-Lancelot-merlin

* * *

In his chambers Arthur was struggling to get his mail shirt off. He stood there, head almost touching the floor, but the mail shirt would not glide from his torso.
“Come on Merlin,” he said with a muffled voice, “how about some help.”
“Sire,” Merlin said, eyes half closed, stifling a yawn but failing miserably.
He took the mail shirt at the neck opening and pulled. Nothing.
“Please allow me, Sire,” said George who had crept silently into the room. Delicately he pulled, but the mail shirt would not budge. George looked puzzled and said: “I fail to understand this, Sire. There seems to be a slight problem.”
“Will you get this confounded mail shirt off me!” Arthur said agitated, raising his voice.
Merlin and George were pulling together now, but to no avail.
“Like it’s fused to your gambeson, Sire,” Merlin said.
“Then why can’t I take my gambeson off too,” Arthur said, fear creeping into his voice, “and it’s starting to itch!”
“You should have taken that bath earlier like I told you,” Merlin said, looked at Arthur’s neck and saw red welts, big and ugly, emerging. “This is not normal,” he thought. He concentrated and saw an aura of evil magic surrounding the mail shirt, very faint, but it was unmistakably there.
Arthur started scratching himself vigorously now.
“I must strongly advise against that, Sire,” George said, “It will only make things worse.”
“I know!” shouted Arthur, “now, get the blacksmith in here NOW and tell him to bring his tongs and… and whatever else he can find!
“But it’s night and…” George protested.
“I don’t care if he’s awake or asleep or whatever. Get! Him! NOW!”

Henry the blacksmith used all his strength trying to cut through the rings, using the weight of his whole huge body. There was a loud metallic snap and a huge grin appeared on Arthur’s red face, thinking the rings were cut.
“I’m so sorry, Sire,” Henry said and he showed Arthur the broken tongs. The rings of the mail shirt appeared to be undamaged, there was not the tiniest dent in them, not even a scratch. “These are the biggest tongs I have. Had…,” he added apologetically. Arthur just looked at it, hardly taken in what just happened.
“Perhaps if we were to heat the rings to make them more pliable,” suggested George.
“What! Are you trying to roast me, you fool?”
“Please forgive me, Sire, my only thought is with your welfare, I did not give full consideration to the implications this idea might have.”
“Go and get Gaius will you. This itching is killing me.”

It did not take long for Gaius to appear. He looked at Arthur’s neck, tried unsuccessfully to shift some of mail and slowly shook his head. “I fear there is sorcery involved, Sire,” he said gravely.
“Sorcery! That’s just great! When will we ever get rid of it! And what about this infernal inching! Any ideas how to get rid of that?”
“I must consult my books first, Sire, trying to find out what type of sorcery it is that caused this mail shirt to cling to you,” Gaius said, “and I can prepare an ointment for your itch to ease your discomfort, and I must find a way to apply it. In the meantime, I think it would be best if you immersed yourself in a warm bath. It will bring some relieve I’m sure.”
“I’ll see to it right away,” said George.
“I’ll go with Gaius,” Merlin said to Arthur and added: “Are you sure you’re not doing this on purpose, to get your mail shirt wet so I must polish each and every ring?” He ducked just in time and the goblet Arthur threw at him clattered loudly to the floor.

“Can you do something about that magic?” Gaius asked.
“Yes, I think so, I felt the magic, it feels familiar, but I need Arthur to be unconscious. Can’t have him awake while I perform my magic.”
“No, that would be most unwise. I’ll put a little extra something in his ointment, something that will make him sleep for an hour or so. Apply a little bit on a welt in his neck, that will do the trick. But do stay with him, he will fall asleep almost instantly.”
A short while later Merlin walked to Arthur’s chambers, carrying a jar filled with foul-smelling salve.

 

Next time on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”: will Merlin be able to remove Arthur’s mail shirt and will the scroll finally reveal its secret?

(Words on the scroll taken from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood)

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Links to the previous chapters:
Prologue: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/834/
Chapter 1: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-1-by-tony-de-haan/
Chapter 2: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-2/
Chapter 3: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-3-by-tony-de-haan/
Chapter 4: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-4-by-tony-de-haan/
Chapter 5: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-5-by-tony-de-haan/

Katie McGrath

Katie McGrath. An actress we all know and love as Morgana, but before and after Merlin she graced our screens in other productions. A selection.

dracula3 dracula1

As Lucy Westenra in Dracula (2012)

Labyrinth1

As Kate in Labyrinth (2012)

tudors2

As Bess in The Tudors (with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as king Henry XIII)

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As Jules Daly in A princess for Christmas (also known as Christmas at Castlebury Hall) (2011)

roaring1

As Vixen in The roaring twenties (2008)

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As princess Margareth in The Queen (2009)

damage

As Rachel in Damage (2009)

Future plans include Jodi Rutherford in Leading Lady (2014) and Beth in Jurassic World (2015)

I will leave you now with a few photos of Katie McGrath as herself and as Morgana.

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More Merlin Facebook has reached over 20,000

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This blog has almost 9,000 Subscribers.    Our Youtube page has over 125,000 views…  Twitter is 3000, not to mention Google plus, Instagram & more. More Merlin is th largest most comprehensive presence on the web focused on bringing Merlin back in a Movie.  

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MERLIN, The Adventures Continue: Chapter 5 by Tony de Haan

title

Previously on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”:
Morgana has cast a powerful sleeping spell on Merlin, given to her by Macha, an almost powerless goddess from a time before the Old Religion. Merlin is getting weaker and he and Gaius are trying to find a cure, using an ancient scroll Merlin found in some forgotten corner of the archives.
Macha, in her quest to kill both Arthur and Merlin, has taken over Morgana’s body and mind.

Chapter 5

One born from twice dead

george
With a florish George opened the curtains of Arthur’s bedroom. The delicious smell of freshly baked bacon, eggs and bread wafted through the air, the rays of the early morning sun filled the room and lit up Arthur’s sleepy face, making his hair even more golden.
“A very good morning Sire,” George said, and started fussing around. Arthur groaned inwardly. Of all the servants available, he had to get George. Again. “Merlin, Merlin, please come back,” he thought and heaved a sigh, but he knew it was all for the best. Merlin and Gaius needed time to try and find a cure and quickly too, for Merlin simply fell asleep where he stood, like yesterday while pouring wine and half of it landed on Arthur’s lap instead of in his goblet; and Merlin stood there swaying, eyes closed and all but snoring. Merlin tried to wipe the wine away, but he managed to make it even worse, ruining Arthur’s hose and shirt; and then his hand landed on the rim of a plate filled with roasted pork, catapulting the meat and it landed on Arthur’s head. “Thank you Merlin,” he had said, “but I prefer to have it actually in my mouth.”
“Yes Sire,” Merlin had answered, plucking pieces of pork from Arthur’s hair, “I thought I might save you some time getting the meat to you this way. You’re not very good at catching are you?”
“No Merlin, but I’m sure I can learn from you. What if I simply put you in the stocks and I’ll pelt you with fruit. I’m sure you’ll be able to catch some in your mouth! It will be fun and I can learn from you at the same time!”
“Ah, yes, my favorite past-time, the good old pillory. Brings back memories. And don’t forget to include some tomatoes. And grapes. Grapes are good for catching. More wine Sire?”
And now he was stuck with George. Efficient, predictable, utterly boring George.
“I hope you did sleep well Sire,” George said, “I took the liberty of laying out your clothes for you to wear this morning, including a freshly polished mail shirt, and your bath will be ready shortly, after you have had your breakfast.”
“Where is Merlin,” Arthur said, sitting up in bed and flexing his muscles.

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“I am sure he will be here any moment now I think Sire, as he does every morning,” he said with a hint of disapprovement in his voice. “But while you wait Sire, perhaps I can while away the time by telling you an amusing anecdote I just remembered. It is very amusing Sire,” and George, stone-faced, never smiling George actually chuckled. “Very amusing and diverting indeed Sire. It is a humorous story about brass.”
An audible groan now escaped Arthur’s lips and he let himself fall back on the cushions, closing his eyes. At that moment the door burst open and Percival came storming in, big smile on his face, followed by Merlin.
“Sire, Mordred has returned,” Percival said, catching his breath, totally ignoring George’s disapproving frown. Very deliberately George started to wipe away the mud-stains left by Percival’s boots. Arthur’s face lit up and he smiled broadly. Merlin on the other hand looked gloomy, a deep frown on his forehead.
“Come on Merlin, no need to look so glum, you look like a cranky wilddeorren. Mordred is back, be happy. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten how to smile,” said Arthur and he jumped out of bed, stretching his arms in front of him. Merlin tried to take a shirt to dress Arthur, but George got there first, all but shoving Merlin aside. “How is he?”
“Tired and dusty, but otherwise fine. He’s waiting in the Great Hall.”
“What are we waiting for, let’s go,” Arthur exclaimed and swiftly walked away, followed by Percival and Merlin.
“But your breakfast Sire, and your bath—“ George said, but his words fell deaf on the heavy door.

“I am ready to get back to work Sire,” Mordred said, after a warm and heartfelt welcome from Arthur, “my apologies for running away like that.”
“I understand Mordred,” Arthur answered, “I wasn’t easy for you. But we’re all glad you’re back and that’s the end of it. We’ll talk no more of it”
“Thank you Sire.”
Mordred looked around, looked at the Knights gathered there, smiling and talking, and his gaze fell on Merlin. Their eyes locked and Mordred saw the distrust in Merlin’s eyes, saw his frown, his coldness. “You still don’t trust me, do you,” Mordred said, using his Druid-voice so only Merlin could hear.
“I know you are a loyal knight of Camelot and loyal to Arthur,” Merlin answered, also using only his mind as he followed Arthur into the corridor, one thought predominantly on his mind: Arthur shall die by a Druid’s hand.
“That is not an answer.” With the accusing voice of Mordred sounding loud in his head, Merlin kept silent as he walked with Arthur back to his chambers.

mordred4

* * *

Merlin looked out of the window and saw the Knights training in the courtyard. Sunlight bounced of the brightly polished armour and helmets; and the air was filled with the clanging of swords, maces and quarterstaffs. Merlin rubbed his eyes and yawned. The whole afternoon he and Gaius had been busy trying to decipher the scroll, but to no avail. Merlin had desperately tried to empty his mind, to concentrate, anything to be able to understand those scribbles, but he had gotten nowhere. He had tried summoning the spirit again, but the creature did not appear. He had tried tapping into his unconsciousness to try and find the hidden magic the spirit had told him about and his frustration grew and grew when nothing happened.
A deafening roar rose from the courtyard below and Merlin saw Arthur lying on his back on the flagstones, the point of Mordred’s sword mere inches from his throat. He saw Percival and Gwaine laughing and he saw Mordred holding out his hand to help Arthur back to his feet. Arthur took off his helmet, his damp hair plastered on his head, sweat dripping from his face. He laughed too, clapped Mordred on his shoulder and both men went to get some water. Arthur shall die by a Druid’s hand.
“Empty your mind, empty your mind,” Merlin kept saying this to himself.
Merlin went to the table and looked at the scroll. He tried to calm his breathing and stared at one particular point of the parchment. He tried to think of nothing, only looking at that point and everything around him became a blur, but the scroll did not reveal its secret. Again he felt so very tired and above all so powerless. He let himself fall on his bed and fell instantly asleep.

That night Merlin left Camelot and he went to a clearing in the woods. “O Drakon, e mala soi ftengometta tesd’hup’ anakes!” he shouted, using his commanding and deep Dragonlord voice. After a short while he heard the flapping of enormous wings and a huge shape blotted out the stars. With difficulty Kilgharrah landed and he limped over to Merlin.
“Yes young warlock, what is it now,” he rasped, “even in my last days here on earth you will give me no peace,” and he sat down heavily, groaning.
“I know and I am truly sorry to disturb you, but my question is of the greatest importance, of life and death.”
“Questions, questions, young warlock, always questions and never answers.”
“I am not well, I’ve been hit by an ancient spell and it’s slowly killing me. I can’t take it much longer, my strength is fleeting. I don’t know what it is but I do know there is ancient magic in me too, all I have to do is find it but I can’t. And there’s this scroll which seems to hold an answer of some sort which I’m supposed to read but I can’t. You who are old and wise, please help me.”
“Well, at least you said ‘please’,” Kilgharrah chuckled, “Yes, there is great magic in you, I knew that from the beginning I saw you. All you have to do is find it.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Merlin shouted, frustration mounting.
“Trying very hard no doubt. Mayhap therein lies the answer you seek young warlock, trying too hard. Try a little less hard next time, words need to be awoken gently, but you’ve been told that already haven’t you,” and with these words the dragon started to leave.
“That’s it? That’s all you can tell me? I will not accept that. You will tell me all you know. I, the last Dragonlord, command you!”
“You can summon me, young warlock and we both know I must do your bidding, but I can tell you no more.” His head swung towards Merlin, stopping a few yards from his face. All Merlin could see was a giant maw with still razor-sharp teeth, and an overwhelming stench of sulphur and decay engulfed him, making him gag. “Only the ancient gods of a time long forgotten knew how to cast the spell that is consuming you now and the ancient magic deep within you was able to counteract some of its effects. Somehow that ancient magic has come back to this world. You are strong young warlock, very strong. Take that scroll and the answer will come to you. The magic will come to you.” And with those words Kilgharrah, with much groaning and moaning, stood up and flew slowly away, one wing hardly beating at all.
Merlin stood there, all flustered and worn out, unable to move or even to think. Finally, with a heavy heart he walked back to Camelot, hardly aware of his surroundings or where he was going.

merlin_gaius_book

The next morning, after a hasty breakfast of gluey porridge and cold water, he tried again. He opened the scroll and looked at it, walked around it, closed his eyes, mumbled spells, tapped at it, talked to it, but all to no avail. In an uncharacteristic fit of fury he grabbed his beaker and with an almost primeval yell threw it with great force against the wall. Furiously and without thinking he snatched the scroll and suddenly there it was: words. He could see words, very faint and short-lived: “an gebyrt of twegan dead”.
Then the words faded as quickly as they had appeared. He looked at the parchment, stunned and hardly believing his eyes. “I did it,” he whispered, “I DID IT!” He shouted and laughed, punched the air, a huge smile on his face. He looked at his fingers and felt a tingling in his fingertips, felt something coursing through his veins, through every fiber of his body.
“The words, what were the words…” he said, grabbing a piece of old parchment from Gaius’ cluttered workbench. He sat down, trying to calm his nerves. “Think, think Merlin, think…” he mumbled as he took a quill and tried to remember. He forced himself to calm down and wrote down what he thought was correct: “an gebyrt of twegan dead”. He recognized the language of old, the language of magic, for he had cast so many spells in it. “One born from twice dead,” it read.
“Gaius, Gaius,” Merlin said as the physician entered the room, “There are words on the scroll, I just read some of them. I can do it Gaius, I can do it!”
Gaius smiled broadly, making his face even more wrinkled. “That’s wonderful Merlin, finally we are getting somewhere. What was it you read?”
“One born from twice dead,” Merlin answered, “All I have to do now is try and understand it and read the rest of the scroll.”
“You make it sound so easy Merlin, but what does it mean and how did you do it?”
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll find out. And I felt something, a tingling all over. It’s happening Gaius, it’s finally happening!”
“I’m so glad Merlin,” Gaius said; and the old man put his bony arms on Merlin’s shoulders.
A knock on the door and Sir Leon entered. “Arthur requests your presence Gaius, and Merlin’s too.”

* * *

“I respectfully request an audience with Arthur King of Camelot,” the boy, seated on a dappled horse, said as he approached the gate,. A haughty stance, dark piercing eyes, long dark hair and some fluffy hairs on his cheeks, an adolescent trying to grow a beard. “May I offer you my credentials,” and he handed the guards a scroll.
The guards looked at the writing, looked at the boy and said: “Please enter the courtyard and wait for a while sir, King Arthur will be notified.”
“Very well,” the boy said curtly, tucking the scroll back into his saddle bag.
After a short while a guard came back and said: “King Arthur will see you later this afternoon sir. Someone will come momentarily, take care of your horse and show you to our guest quarters.”
The boy nodded and let his gaze wander around the courtyard.
“Hey, you,” he shouted as Gwen walked past, “yes you, serving girl, get me a decent stable boy will you, my horse need grooming.”
Gwen curtsied, smiling, and said: “Of course sir.” She turned around, bumped into Merlin and said: “Merlin, this gentleman needs someone to look after his horse,” and whispered so only Merlin could hear: “He thinks I’m a serving girl”.
“Right,” Merlin said and walked over to the boy who looked rather condescendingly at Merlin.
“You’re a stable boy?”
“No, but—”
“Good. Take this horse to the stables and answer my question. Do you know of a girl named Guinevere.”
“Yes I do, and—”
“You know her, good. Of course you know her, she’s a servant like you after all. My father did talk a lot about her. Soppy stories, I hardly ever listened to them. A scullery-maid I think she was.”
“Well, she’s a little more than that,” Merlin answered, smiling vaguely.
“Well, risen to the ranks of serving girl I imagine.”
“Well, not exactly—”
“Tell her I need to talk to her about my father.”
“Your father?”
“Yes, my father and I don’t see that’s any business of yours. Now, go and get her, will you, I must talk to her at once!”
“You just missed her, that was Gwen, Guinevere, you talked to just a minute ago.”
“Well, don’t just stand there,” he said, raising his voice and his cheeks flushed red with anger, “get her this instant, you simpleton. What’s your name again?”
“Merlin, it’s Merlin. I’m—”
“Well, Merlin, I’ll make sure King Arthur will hear about this, you impertinent boy. He’ll have you in the stocks or whipped before you know it. Now get Guinevere before I lose my temper!”
“Sir,” and Merlin ran away, his face serious but inwardly laughing, looking for Gwen.
“And what about my horse!” he shouted, but Merlin was already gone.

“He does look kind of familiar,” Gwen said to Merlin, “I can’t quite put my finger on it.” She looked out of the window to where the boy stood, waiting, impatiently tapping his foot, yelling at a stable boy and cuffing his ear. The unfortunate boy quickly tried to take the horse to the stables to avoid being hit again.
“Will you go to him?”
“Hmm, no, not now. Tell him I’m busy preparing for the feast tonight and I’m not allowed to leave. So he thinks I’m a serving girl, a scullery maid even! You know Merlin, I think I’m going to have some fun, get him of his high horse. Tell him I’ll be seeing him this afternoon. I know Arthur will summon him and I will be there too. I really want to see his face when he sees me on the throne. And please, don’t tell Arthur. Then can he tell me all about that father of his. I don’t know, it’s like I’ve seen him before.”
“Yes, he does look kind of familiar. Right, I’ll tell him.”

gwen1

Later that afternoon Merlin went to the guest quarters and said the boy who sat there, beaker of ale in his hand and the remains of his lunch still on the table: “Sir, King Arthur desires to see you, at your convenience. He is waiting in the Great Hall. Please follow me.”
“It’s about time.”

Merlin swung open the doors of the Great Hall and bade the boy to enter. He strode into the Hall, saw Guinevere sitting on the throne besides Arthur and he turned as white as a sheet, before he turned a deep crimson red. He fell on one knee, his head bowed and stammered: “Please forgive me my queen, I… I… I did not know you were… I mean, I… My King, I give you my most sincere greetings, my queen, I… please forgive my impertinence.”
“Please arise sir,” Arthur said, “and do you mind telling me what’s going on here.” He looked at Gwen who sat there with a huge smile on her face.
“We met this afternoon in the courtyard,” she said, “and this gentleman mistook me for a serving girl. An honest mistake, I’m sure.”
“My queen,” he said, “I offer you my most deepest apologies.”
“Well sir, I have been given to understand you came here on a mission of the utmost importance,” Arthur intervened, “may we know your name and lineage first.”
“My name, Sire, is Galahad, son of Lancelot.”
Arthur opened his mouth, but no sound came. Gwen just looked at him, stunned, and slowly she understood. Now she realized why he did look so familiar, only now did she see Lancelot in Galahad’s facial features, saw him in his eyes, in the the curve of his lips.
“Lancelot? You’re the son of Lancelot?”
“Yes, Sire, I am indeed. I have in my possession a letter my father wrote some years ago, intended for the lady Guinevere. I came here to both offer you my services and to impart this letter to Guinevere, whom I thought to be a serving girl…” and Galahad’s face turned crimson again.
“A son of Lancelot? But how is that possible, I mean, how old are you?”
“I am eighteen summers old Sire, soon to be nineteen.”
“Cerdic, go and tell George… forget it, you can’t talk. Luke, tell George to prepare a room for Galahad, our guest. Cerdic, please escort master Galahad to his chambers. May I invite you to our feast tonight?”
“The honour is all mine,” Galahad said, bowing deep.
“A son of Lancelot,” Arthur said after Galahad had left. “Who would have thought.”
“Yes,” answered Gwen, still a bit shaken.
“Merlin, are you planning on standing there all day? Go and do something useful, like getting my clothes for tonight.”
“No Sire,” Merlin said, “Yes Sire.”

* * *

Suddenly, in the woods not far from Camelot and seemingly out of nowhere, a woman stepped into view. Her body was bent and she walked with unsteady steps. A cracking voice, old and feeble, said: “Finally, free at last!” Her head turned towards the setting sun and its rays illuminated her half-hidden face. She smiled, cruel and cold. A few more unsteady steps. “Your final days are upon you,” she said in a voice both of Morgana and Macha, “Revenge at last! You will suffer, Arthur Pendragon, you will suffer as my kind has suffered. Your death will be a most agonizing one, and ever so slow. And the same fate will befall your precious and meddlesome Merlin.” Another laugh, horrible and shrill. “And you thought I couldn’t leave my cave, didn’t you. I am so sorry, I forgot to tell you I can leave, but I need a willing vessel to do so. And you, poor gullible Morgana, you proved to be the perfect vessel,” and slowly her voice started to sound exactly like Morgana’s, and her stance became less and less bent.
And Morgana knew everything what was happening, she heard her voice utter words she did not speak, she felt her limbs move; but she was completely helpless, trapped in her own body. She let out a shrill cry, but she was the only one who could hear it, no sound escaped her lips.

Morgana2
Next time on “Merlin, the adventures continue…”: Arthur receives a gift.

Links to previous chapters:
Prologue: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/834/
Chapter 1: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-1-by-tony-de-haan/
Chapter 2: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-2/
Chapter 3: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventure-continues-chapter-3-by-tony-de-haan/
Chapter 4: http://www.merlin-arthur.com/merlin-the-adventures-continue-chapter-4-by-tony-de-haan/

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Merlin After – Part One by Rhuddem Gwelin

Uploader Comment:     I am delighted to be able to offer this extraordinary piece of writing by Rhuddem Gwelin… if you miss Merlin, just read.. you will not be disappointed.     A link to Rhuddem’s Blog is below.     Francesca

“Magic is just science we haven’t figured out yet”

-  Gaius, ca 550 AD

How was it possible that the world was so peaceful when it had just been destroyed?

The water lapped quietly on the shore. The wind rustled the leaves in the woods and birds chirped in the trees. The sun glittered on the water and on the island that seemed to float in the mist in the middle of the lake.

And it glittered on the armour of the slain man lying on the boat that bobbed gently, receding slowly from the shore.

Staring at the boat, another man stood in the water up to his shins.  He was a young man in his twenties, tall and thin with thick black hair and a finely sculpted face.  His cheekbones were pronounced and sharply defined in contrast to his wide generous mouth and narrow rounded chin. His nose was long and straight and rather pointed. At the moment his face was haggard, dirty and tear-stained.  His deep blue eyes were dark and dull with shock.  His simple tunic, jacket and trousers were worn and dirty.

It was his world that had just been destroyed.  And the world of his people.

The man on the boat was dead. The man standing in the water was his servant and his friend.  But in the end not one who could save his life.

Merlin & Arthur Bromance

 

 

The man standing in the water started having trouble breathing and dimly he realized that he was also having trouble seeing.  The island, the water, the boat seemed to be disappearing in a dark mist. Without warning his body was wracked by a terrible pain, in his chest, in his head. He stumbled backwards towards the shore, twisted around and collapsed to his knees with a gasp, his face contorted, his hands clutching his chest.  He fell, his face hitting the sand, his feet still in the water.

For a moment everything seemed to be still. The water stopped lapping, the wind was calm, the birds were silent.  The young man lay unmoving.

Then four hooded figures emerged from the edge of the forest and hurried to the young man. Two of them pulled him quickly but gently on to dry land. All four knelt down beside him and the oldest, a woman in her forties, reached out her hand and touched him on his shoulder.  On her forearm was the triskelion symbol of the Druids.

Gently she rolled him over with the help of her companions.  She touched his face, avoiding the side that was scraped and bleeding from falling onto the sand. Wordlessly she reached out her mind to his. “Emrys?” There was no response. She tried again, more urgently. “Emrys!” His face remained still, his eyes closed. She put her hand on his chest. He was barely breathing. She felt the side of his throat.  It was difficult to find the pulse and when she did it was shallow and weak.

The younger of the two Druid men, Cathasach, whispered, “Is he dead?”

The woman, Gavina, murmured, “He lives. But his spirit weakens.  We must bring him to Sorcha.”

Carefully the older of the two men by a few years, Caiside, a tall powerful man, picked up the unconscious man and carried him towards the wood, followed by the others. The water dripped from his boots.  Following last was the fourth Druid, a young woman called Kaita.  She looked at the young man in Caiside’s arms, his ashen face half-hidden against Caiside’s shoulder, his black hair ruffled in the breeze.  She had dreamed of seeing him but never like this.  She had imagined seeing him in his full power, fearful but righteous, as he was described by the hidden people who put all their hopes on him, not as this lifeless figure, hardly more than a boy who looked like he had spent days running through the forest and never cast the simplest spell in his whole life.

She mindspoke. “Emrys?”

Did his eyelids flicker just slightly?  Her heart leapt but then sank again when there was no further sign of movement.

Slowly and carefully they made their way into the forest with their deeply venerated burden.

m m m m m m

The peacefulness of the now deserted shore was shattered when a horse tore through the edge of the forest and galloped to the edge of the water. The knight reined in his horse so quickly that it reared. He stared out at the boat, still bobbing gently, drifting towards the island.

His horse prancing uneasily, he kept his eyes on the boat and slowly the dreadful truth came to him.  “Arthur, no!” He looked around wildly as if he could find something that would make it untrue.  “Merlin!” he called.  He spun his horse around, searching in every direction.  “Merlin!” he shouted. “Merlin!”

The birds had stopped chirping but the water still lapped and the breeze still rustled through the trees.

He raised his face to the sky and cried “No!” in a long drawn out groan.  He rode back and forth among the bushes and the trees but found no sign of the king’s servant. He returned to the shore and stared again at the boat bearing the body of his king and his friend.  A wave of desolation washed over him.  He was too late.

“No,” he whispered, slumping in the saddle. Then slowly he reined the horse around and they headed back through the trees.  After a moment the feeling of urgency returned, only this time it was not in hopes of reaching and helping Merlin and the wounded Arthur but to return to court with the unspeakable report of what he had found.

m m m m m m

Caiside did not feel the weight of the young man he carried but he felt the weight of the loss if Emrys did not survive.  “Gavina?” he asked.  “Will he live?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t know what it is.  We must hope that Sorcha will know.”

The forest thickened and the ground became rougher and steeper.  Gavina had to struggle at times and Caiside was forced to tread carefully. Cathasach and Kaita were quick to hold back branches to protect Emrys’s face and make the way more passable.

The sun was beginning to set when they finally came to the clearing where they and the others had their camp.  A small fire burned brightly in the middle. Around the clearing were four tents.  The half dozen Druids in the camp stopped their activities as the group made their way into the clearing.

 

Colin Merlin behind a tree

“Get Sorcha!” Gavina said as she helped Caiside lay the inert figure on the ground by the fire.  One of them hurried into the tent behind her and almost instantly an old woman calmly but confidently made her way to the fireside.  She was approaching sixty and small but she was still strong and her limbs supple. She knelt down and looked into the face of the unconscious man and then at Gavina and Caiside questioningly.

“Speak to him,” Gavina said quietly.

Sorcha put her wrinkled hand on his forehead and her eyes seemed to look through the pallid skin of his face into his thoughts.  What she found were not thoughts but a faint, almost indiscernible chaos of violent images and anguish.

She mindspoke firmly. “Emrys! Don’t leave us! Emrys!”

His eyes flew open and his face twisted in pain.  He groaned and tossed back and forth weakly but frantically.  She kept her hand firmly on his forehead and leaned closer to him.  “Emrys!”

He stared at her wildly, muttering incoherently and clutching her other hand.  She realized that though his eyes bore into hers he was not seeing her but the dreadful scenes in his head.  His gasping voice rose and his thrashing grew so wild that only with Caiside holding his shoulders to the ground were they able to restrain him.

She turned and spoke swiftly to Kaita, who scrambled to her feet and ran to Sorcha’s tent. She returned within seconds carrying what the old woman had requested.  Emrys had curled up on his side moaning in pain and again with Caiside’s help Sorcha managed to turn his face up to her and hold him still enough for Kaita to pour a few drops of the potion into his mouth.

“More,” Sorcha muttered.

Her hands steady but her eyes filling with tears, Kaita poured the rest of the contents of the small vial between Emrys’s cracked lips.

m m m m m m

The court was sombrely but lavishly furnished.  The Queen, in red, sat on the throne, fingering the ring with the Royal seal, conveyed to her from her husband, to be hers in the event of his death. Her warm tan hands trembled and she clutched the ring in one hand and the other in the folds of her silken dress.

When Percival had galloped, exhausted, into the castle yard, she had known immediately.  In truth, she had known earlier. And now she sat, her throne beside the empty one, the one where he should have been, and wasn’t. And never would be.

She lifted her eyes to Sir Leon, standing at her left. His were red rimmed and his face was rigid.  She nodded just slightly.

He took a shaky breath and looked at Percival and the other knights and nobles filling the court in front of the Queen. Next to her, close to her but alone, stood the court physician.  Sir Leon had never seen Gaius look so old and defeated.

Leon took another deep breath and proclaimed, “The King is dead!”

The Queen moved her head slowly, as though she were in a trance, and again looked at him.

He said loudly and firmly, “Long live the Queen!”

A hundred voices lifted in unison. “Long live the Queen! Long live the Queen! Long live the Queen!”

The Queen raised her dark brown eyes and they roamed almost blindly over the red robed knights before her. There was sorrow in every line of her young face but she held her crowned head firm, no sign of the struggle within her not to weep.  No sign except to those who knew her well. A shadow of pain rippled over her face and the corner of her mouth twitched and she raised her chin just a little more as they had all seen her do when she was gathering the strength to endure something difficult. This time it wasn’t something difficult. It was something impossible.

Leon and Percival edged just slightly closer to her, the voices still echoing throughout the court.

“Long live the Queen!”

m m m m m m

It was dark in the forest now. Only the light of the fire made it possible to see the shadowy group around Emrys. Sorcha was on her knees at his side, waving a small bundle of smoking herbs over Emrys, chanting almost inaudibly.  Emrys was curled up on his side, moaning weakly.  Gavina tried to wipe his forehead with a damp cloth but he thrashed his head away without opening his eyes. Caiside and Cathasach mindwhispered his name. “Emrys…Emrys.”  But they could not reach him. His mind was blocked and there was no response.

m m m m m m

Gwen was alone in her chamber sitting on the bed she had shared with Arthur for what had been such a few years.  They were to have grown old together.

Slowly she ran her hand over his pillow then pulled it to her and buried her face in it.  The sobs welled up in her and she could no longer hold them back.  In the court, just hours earlier, she had been in a daze. How could it be that she, Gwen, the daughter of the blacksmith who had been murdered by her husband’s father, now sat on one of the two thrones of the kingdom of Camelot, alone in her power?

How could she bear it?

There was a soft knock on the door and Gaius entered.  Through her tears she could see that Gaius had aged since Percival had returned with the report that Merlin was nowhere to be found.

He moved slowly with bent shoulders and his voice quavered when he said, “A potion to help you sleep, Your Majesty.”

“Oh, Gaius.”

He began to weep and sank down onto a chair. She hurried to him and knelt at his feet, taking the potion from his trembling hand and putting it on the table. She clasped both his hands in hers.  “We will find him,” she said earnestly.  “We will!”

“Of course,” he said but it was clear that he didn’t believe it.

“You mustn’t give up hope, Gaius!” she cried.  “You know how Merlin always gets himself into trouble and…” her voice broke and she realized how ridiculous she sounded.  This was not trouble.  Arthur was dead and Merlin had disappeared. Morgana was still out there.  It did not bear thinking about but Gwen feared Gaius was right to have given up hope.  But she managed to take a shaky breath and say, almost firmly, “Our patrols are looking everywhere. We will find him, Gaius. We will!”

He nodded, tears pouring down his cheeks.

m m m m m m

They had propped him up on cushions to help his breathing but it was still ragged and Sorcha could do nothing about the fever that raged in him throughout the night and morning.  His face was gray and sweating. His eyes were closed and he did not move except to struggle for breath.

“We’re losing him,” Caiside said.

“No!” Sorcha retorted sharply. “We mustn’t lose him.”

Kaita hovered behind her, unable to do anything more to help. She mindspoke desperately. “Emrys! Please don’t go!”

He moaned softly and stirred. His eyes opened slowly and he stared at Sorcha.

He whispered two words so faintly that Kaita was not sure she heard him.  It sounded like, “I failed.” Then his eyes dimmed over and his head fell to the side. A stab of fear lanced through her. “Emrys!”

Sorcha rose quickly and grasped the hands of Caiside, Gavina and Cathasach. They knew what to do. They had one possibility left.

They evoked the ultimate chant, their voices strong and in unison, the others gathered behind them, the shadows from the fire flickering over the figures.

Their voices gaining power, the chant ended abruptly and their eyes flashed amber down on Emrys.

He gasped, and his body arched violently.  He cried out then collapsed once again against the cushion. Sorcha knelt quickly, felt for his heartbeat and touched his face.

She spoke in a quiet voice.  “He is dying. We must bring him to Gaius.”

m m m m m m

How could a room be so empty?

It wasn’t empty. It was the same as it had always been. Books, an old jacket, boxes, dried plants, small bottles, all scattered around untidily.

But so empty.  So much emptier than it had been before.  Not so many years before. How many had it been since that gangly black-haired boy with the twinkling blue eyes and sunny grin had walked into Gaius’s chamber and said, “But it is Wednesday…”

Gaius sat with slumped shoulders on Merlin’s empty bed holding the empty mug in his hands. The empty mug that Merlin had been unable to summon when his magic had been stolen by Morgana. The mug that had sent Merlin in despair to the Crystal Cave to try to regain his powers.

Was it the mug that transmitted that despair now filling Gaius? No, of course not.

“Foolish old man,” he muttered.

He had loved Merlin like a son, or a grandson more like, from that first moment. From the first words the boy had said after his tentative, “Gaius?” which had startled him so much that he had fallen and would have been killed if Merlin hadn’t…done whatever it was he had done. Scared to the point of anger Gaius’s first words to him had been barked.  “What did you just do?”

And Merlin had told his first lie of many. “I don’t know what happened,” he answered quickly and shiftily. And when Gaius had demanded to know how it was that he knew magic Merlin denied it. “I don’t!”

The poor boy was so confused and nervous by Gaius’s cantankerous inquisition that he almost immediately blurted out the truth. “I was born this way.” Gaius’s first reaction of course was that that was ridiculous. Nobody was born with that kind of magic.  Spells must be learned, incantations handed down by trained sorcerers, years must be spent… Clearly the boy was lying.

Only this time he wasn’t. When Gaius finally realized who he was – “Are you Hunith’s son?” – his face lit up and for the first time Gaius saw that smile.

“Yes!”

To which he crossly responded, “You’re not meant to be here until Wednesday.”

And Merlin replied, puzzled, uncertain, “But it is Wednesday.”

Oh, his impetuousness! To use magic the minute he entered a stranger’s room, to instinctively endanger himself in order to save another. And the lies he told, blatant lies which he told so badly. How he could have lied so convincingly to Arthur all those years when his lies to Gaius were stamped all over his face, Gaius didn’t understand. But it would infuriate Gaius. And his sullenness. And absent-mindedness. And carelessness. And forgetfulness. And ability to not be around when needed.

Gaius laughed softly then sighed, wondering why he was thinking about the things that Merlin had done that had driven him mad with irritation, sometimes real anger. Why didn’t he remember the boy’s kindness, his insatiable curiosity and love of learning, his quick tongue, his silly laugh? His incredible courage and loyalty?

Oh, but he did.  Those memories were so entwined in Gaius’s being that he hardly had to think them.

As were the memories of those terrible last moments in the forest, with the dying Arthur, Merlin powerless to save him but desperate to try to get him to Avalon to try.   And Gaius sent back to Camelot with Arthur’s ring to give to Gwen.

Gaius had believed at that moment, in their farewell embrace, that he would see Merlin again.  He really had believed that Merlin would survive. He was unhurt. His powers were back. Oh, they were back!

But Morgana.

The despair mingled with a cold, cold dread.  As the days went by – could it only be four? Or was it five? Since he had promised Merlin to have his favourite meal ready when he came home? – Gaius’s hope had dwindled. Percival had seen no sign of him but it must have been Merlin who had laid out Arthur on the boat for his final passing, mustn’t it? He must be somewhere near Avalon, mustn’t he?

But Morgana. Had she found him?

Gaius groaned and pressed the mug to his forehead as though to read an answer there.

He feared, with a fear deeper and more painful than any fear he had ever had, that Merlin was dead and that Morgana had killed him.

He didn’t know how he was going to tell Hunith.

He didn’t think he could bear the loss.

m m m m m m

The Druids had learned long ago to pack up quickly and disappear. The violent oppression of Uther Pendragon had taught them well.

When Sorcha had proclaimed the urgent need to bring Emrys to Gaius the sun had been approaching its zenith. By the time the camp was dismantled, packed and lifted to shoulders and backs and ready for transport, the sun had just begun its early afternoon descent and disappeared behind looming thickening clouds.

The makeshift but sturdy litter was ready.

Sorcha laid her hand once more on the forehead of the immobile Emrys.  It wasn’t as hot as it had been before they had tried to use magic but it was still hot and clammy. She felt his throat for a pulse.  Was it fainter still? She feared it was.  The scrapes and bruises were stark against his ashen face.

She took a vial from her bag. “A few drops,” she murmured to her apprentice Kaita.  The girl took the stopper from the vial and gently turned Emrys’s face toward her. With her finger she opened his mouth just enough to drop the dark green liquid onto the inside of his bottom lip.  There was no reaction but Sorcha hoped the medicine would find its way.

She nodded slightly to Cathasach and Caiside and they lifted him carefully onto the litter.  She arranged the cushion under his head, covered him with a woollen cloak, then rose stiffly with Kaita’s help to her feet. She walked slowly around the group, incanting a spell to make them if not invisible to eyes they needed to hide from, at least unclear.

Then she came back to her position by the litter and nodded again. Cathasach and Caiside lifted the head end of the litter, Gavina and her son lifted the foot end.  Emrys rolled slightly but Sorcha on one side of the litter and Kaita on the other steadied him with a hand to his shoulder, a hand to his leg.

They left the clearing, the four litter bearers moving quickly through the trees and bushes. Their fellows took turns holding branches out of the way.  Sorcha and Kaita stayed close to the litter.

Sorcha looked up at the sky. The clouds were darkening.  It was going to rain. She allowed herself a small sigh and reached her mind out to Emrys. She found a faint and distant turbulence. Wherever he was, that turbulence wasn’t faint for him.  Wherever he was, however deep he was inside his soul, he was in agony and she was powerless to ease it for him.

It was a long way to Camelot.  She hoped they would get there in time.

m m m m m m

The chamber was darkening and the chandeliers and torches only partly lit the men seated around her at the Round Table.  Rain started to patter against the shutters as Gwen raised her chin and spoke. “Sir Leon?”

He rose and though he looked as tired and weighted down as the other knights he held himself straight and spoke firmly. “Our patrols report that the Saxons are still skirmishing on our northern borders but the conflict is under control and we have suffered few losses.  I suggest we remove fifty of our knights and send them to the east where it seems some of Morgana’s followers have collected and are planning some kind of raid.”

Gwen nodded her head. “Do so.” Leon bowed and sat down. “Sir Percival?”

The big man who had spoken the dreaded words to her upon his return from Lake Avalon, his voice choked like a child’s, was now composed and his voice was firm.  “Our allies are rallying to our support, as indeed they have been since it started.  There is little need for action on their part at this point but they have assured our heralds that they stand prepared.  They have all sent their condolences for our great loss and especially to you, my lady.”

He looked at her and again she felt the tears well up. She knew her eyes were red and swollen from all her weeping and that her face was more grey than tan but she retained her composure and bowed her head slightly to him.

He went on, “Our strongest ally, Queen Annis, sends her most heartfelt regards and whatever comfort she can offer as one who knows the suffering a queen feels at the loss of a king and a woman feels at the loss of a beloved husband.”

The tears spilled down Gwen’s cheeks and she did nothing to stop them.  She saw that she was not alone, although Gaius sat hunched over as though he had not heard a word.  He probably hadn’t.

Percival continued, still clearly quoting what Annis had requested that he express. “Her majesty Queen Annis is most eager to meet with your majesty as soon as is convenient to convey these sentiments in person.”

“Thank you, Percival,” said Gwen faintly but steadily.  “Please convey my heartfelt thanks back to her and urge upon Queen Annis an invitation to visit us within a month.  She is most welcome and her support and kindness are deeply appreciated.”

What was she doing here, speaking in this formal language so unlike her own?  How had she learned all this?  Where did the strength come from?

It came from Arthur’s love. She knew that. But it also came from knowing these men, from regarding them as friends as well as defenders of Camelot.  They were nobles, most of them. She was not.

Arthur’s Camelot lived and was still strong.

She nodded to Percival who bowed and sat down.  She could not help but see in her mind the knight in the chair next to him.  Elyan’s chair.  Her brother. Murdered by Morgana.  She missed him so much.  Her eyes slid to the empty chair next to Sir Leon. With the same dreadful tidings of Arthur’s death, Percival had come with the report of the death of Gwaine, also murdered by Morgana.  Cocky, funny, brave, kind Gwaine, whose first words to her had been, with a brash twinkle in his eye, “A flower for my lady?“

Her throat threatened to choke up completely and she forced her eyes to turn to the knight straight across the table from her. “Sir Dinidan, what are the reports on Morgana?”

Sir Dinidan rose.  “Absolutely nothing, my lady. There is no sign of her whatsoever and we have searched everywhere we can think of.”

Gaius had raised his head and his eyes met Gwen’s.

“And Merlin?” she asked softly, not taking her eyes from Gaius’s.

There was a palpable tension as each man around the table waited for the answer.  All of them had witnessed the powerful sorcerer on the cliff that had rescued them all with his magnificent bolts of lightning. Only she and Gaius knew who that sorcerer was but they all knew that somehow Merlin had appeared to take care of Arthur and that neither of them had returned.  They all liked Merlin. Some of them had spent years in his company and despite his servant status they all knew there was something more to him.

Sir Dinidan said, trying to keep his voice steady, “Nothing, my lady.  There is neither any sign whatsoever of Merlin.”

Oh, Arthur, Gwen thought. Did he go with you somehow?

She held Gaius’s eyes. “Thank you, Sir Dinidan.  Keep looking.”

“We will, my lady.”

Gaius lowered his eyes and slumped even more. Gwen was silent a moment then said as firmly as she could manage, “Thank you all. Carry on and we will meet here again tomorrow.”

She rose and they did as well, bowing as she left the room, her head held high, her heart breaking.

m m m m m m

They had started out as twenty. They were now almost fifty. One by one they had emerged from the shadows of the forest and taken their place at the end of the procession, helping the Druids with their packs.  Some were Druids, some were not. Some knew someone in the procession, most did not. Their greetings were subdued, a nod, a murmur.  They respectfully kept their distance from the litter at the head of the procession but they kept their eyes trained on it and Sorcha perceived tentative mindtouches that tried to reach out to Emrys.  She stopped them all with a mild enchantment shield around him.

It was evening. The rain had been heavy but short lasting.  They had taken shelter under a large oak to protect Emrys. The rest of them were wet, but drying.  It was not so cold but it was getting dark.  It was vital that they move quickly. But it was necessary to stop and rest.  They all needed food.  She made the signal.

There was a small brook running along the path where roe deer had delicately walked throughout the centuries, the path they were now following.  The bearers put down the litter and though Sorcha had kept constant vigilance over her ward, she now knelt down to look again at him.  Forehead – warmer but at the same time cold.  Heartbeat – almost indiscernible.  Breathing – shallow.  Skin – clammy.  Mind – Sorcha bent closer in alarm as though that would make it easier to reach him.  There was nothing there.  She could not touch his mind.  She probed again, gently, then more urgently. Still nothing.

Kaita knelt down beside her and wiped Emrys’s face with a damp cloth. She held up a vial and looked at Sorcha questioningly. Sorcha nodded and Kaita reached out to Emrys’s lip.  With the touch of her fingers to his skin Sorcha perceived a response in Emrys’s mind.  A faint movement, not quite a light but a slight lessening of the compact darkness.  She looked sharply at the girl who seemed unaware of the change in him.

Indeed it could hardly be called a change.  There was absolutely no sign of it on the outside.  Anyone with normal knowledge of the human body would have been convinced that he was dead.

But, with a small sigh of relief, Sorcha knew that, for the moment, Emrys still lived.

Food was quickly prepared and eaten.  As they were getting ready to set out once again – they would continue on through the night with the light of the nearly full moon that was rising over the treetops – a young man materialized from the trees.  He was tall and thin with dark hair falling over his forehead. His dark sloping close-set eyes were sorrowful; his entire being exuded sadness.

Cathasach, Caiside, Gavina and her son had already lifted the litter and were ready to go.  Sorcha had suggested that they allow others to carry Emrys but they had declined.  She could see that Gavina’s son was tiring but that could be taken care of when necessary. There were many who wished the carry the litter bearing Emrys.

The youth approached the litter and several closed ranks on him, Sorcha herself blocked his way to the litter and she felt Kaita tense on the other side, her hand hovering protectively over Emrys’s chest.

He stopped but he didn’t seem nervous or uncertain. He spoke directly to Sorcha.  “I knew him. We were friends.” Closer she could see he wasn’t as young as he had first looked.  Perhaps twenty-four. About the same age as Emrys.

“How?” Her voice was not sharp, nor was it inviting.

“We met at Camelot. He taught me the value, and the responsibility, of having magic.”

“Your name?”

“Gilli.”

Sorcha looked deeply into his close set eyes. He still seemed very young. But he was telling the truth.

She nodded. “You may walk beside me.”

He bowed his head slightly then for the first time looked down at Emrys. He straightened his shoulders as though coming to some decision. Without taking his eyes from Emrys’s motionless face he said, “Merlin betrayed me once and by so doing he saved me.  He gave me back my dignity and my worth.  I will do anything in my power to help him.”

Sorcha grasped her walking stick firmly and without a sign from her the bearers started forward. Kaita on the other side of the litter held her hand on Emrys’s shoulder.

“Good,” Sorcha said shortly, and started walking, the boy Gilli at her side.

m m m m m m

Gwen sat on the throne, holding her head high, looking out at the knights, lords and ladies, many of whom she had known all her life – from the time when she was the daughter of the blacksmith, and then the lady’s maid to Morgana.

They had not known her of course. To them she was invisible until Arthur had chosen her for his wife. Then, though they had almost without exception treated her with nothing but respect, she knew they had wondered how she had become their queen, what their dashing, young and bold king had seen in her.  But the servant girl Gwen had become Queen Guinevere and three years had passed. By participating judiciously in the court proceedings, taking active part in the affairs and welfare of the people and counselling the king and the knights, she had indeed become their queen.  If the knights had thought it was strange in the beginning that she sat with them at the Round Table she had heard no protests.

She had already been friends, in a sense, with Sir Leon and she had become friends, in a sense, with some of the rest of them, though there was nowhere near the depth of friendship she had shared with Arthur or Merlin. Or indeed Morgana.

Before…before…

She lifted her chin once more to ward off the threatening deluge of grief.

She was the queen and she had work to do, petitioners to hear, judgments to make.  The daily affairs of Camelot had little regard for grief, for slain kings, for vanished servants no matter how likeable or unusual. What the people knew was that the brief war had been won, at great cost for the kingdom but still won, and their lives could go on.  The extent to which they had been threatened and the enormity of what Merlin had done to save them they would probably never realize but sometime soon decisions would have to be made about how and how much to tell them.  Indeed, what to tell them.  Would the secret of Merlin’s magic have to be kept?  Only she and Gaius knew about it. Would it stay that way?

She took a deep breath. “Sir Leon, the first petitioner, please.”

m m m m m m

Gaius followed the little girl along the narrow street, muddy after the rain yesterday, trying to keep up with her.  She ran back to him and grabbed his hand.  “Hurry!” she pleaded.

His medicine box banged against his leg as he walked and he wished…Well, what he wished there was no point in thinking about. Merlin wasn’t here to carry it, he wasn’t here to help and learn. He wasn’t here to go to this girl’s mother himself because he knew enough medicine to do it without Gaius who could just as well have stayed home if only Merlin –

“Here!” the girl said and pushed her way into a dark hovel.  Younger children huddled around a moaning figure on the bed.   Gaius moved to the woman’s side, feeling the frightened eyes of the children on him.

“Where’s your father?” he asked the girl, setting his box on the floor and sitting on the stool that was quickly given him.

“Dead.”

“Hm. When?”

“At midsummer.”

“I see.”

It didn’t take long for Gaius to discern the problem.  The woman was conscious and answered his questions easily enough.  She was a chronic sufferer of severe headaches which had worsened since her husband’s death.  Gaius reached into his supplies and gave the girl a vial.  “Three drops – no more! – of this in a cup of cider, three times a day.  See to it that your mother follows this regime carefully and she will soon be better.”

The girl’s eyes grew round at the responsibility. She was, what? About eight? Or ten? Gaius was convinced she would carry out the task with honour.

He turned to the mother. “These drops are made from herbs that are gathered in the forests around Camelot.  They will help ease the pain and bring you the ease to sleep more deeply.  Some of your pain is caused by the loss of your husband.  It will never go away but it will become bearable.  I will come back and see you again in a few days’ time. Send your daughter again if your pain worsens.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.  “I’m sorry, we have no money. We can pay you with bread.”

He nodded. “There is no need for payment. But I thank you.”

He started to rise but she grasped his hand.  “I’m sorry about Merlin,” she whispered. “We all loved him. We all hope and believe he will return.  But I know that if the worst were to come to be known, you would feel his loss bitterly. Then what you just told me…your words would be for yourself too.”

He drew a shaky breath.  “You’re very kind.  Thank you.”

“Go with Gaius, Rowena. See him home.”

The little girl took his hand and they left the small home. Her small soft hand in his big stiff rough one gave him some comfort.  But he would still be alone when he returned to his chambers.

m m m m m m

Somehow she had made it through the day.  It was fortunate really that she had duties because now that she was alone the enormity of her loneliness was crushing.

She was in her chamber. Her servant Lanti – her servant! how strange that still sounded, herself so recently a servant – had tried to cajole her into eating in the dining room with some of the ladies but Gwen had only longed for the solitude of her chamber and sat now at the small table near the bed, picking at the fruit and bread so appetizingly and kindly arranged on the silver platter by Lanti.

She tried to concentrate on the day’s proceedings, the petitions, the decisions.   She thought things had gone well but she wasn’t sure.  Leon and Percival, her closest friends now among the knights, were never anything but supportive but she was never sure they really meant their agreement.  Their kindness, yes, no doubt, but their judgment of her decisions she just didn’t know. She had to hope that they respected her, and Arthur’s memory, enough to protest when they thought she was wrong. They had never failed to express their views to Arthur even when they went against his. She hoped they would with her when their new relationship was less fragile.

She sighed.  She didn’t want to think about the day’s proceedings.  She wanted to think about Arthur.  She wanted to remember every moment, every caress, every laugh, every shake of her head and her disgusted, “Oh Arthur!” when he was being his bullying mean self, especially against Merlin.  How Merlin had refrained from knocking Arthur’s thick head off his shoulders throughout the years was more than Gwen could understand.  If Arthur had even come close to treating her like he treated Merlin she would have strangled him.  Well, she would have tried.  Arthur was a little too strong for her to have succeeded.

An intense wave of desire for Arthur’s embrace flooded over her and she groaned, hugging herself and rocking back and forth.  Tears poured down her face.  She couldn’t bear it.  She could not bear it!

Into her memory crept the time when she had been thrown into prison and Merlin had come to see her. She had told him not to worry about her, there was no point in crying about it. When she had asked him to remember her he had said simply, “You’re not going to die.”

She had been sweet on him then.  She had fallen a little in love with him the first time she’d seen him stand up to Arthur but he had only ever seen her as, as, as a sister almost and her romantic notions had moved on to others.

“I’m not going to let this happen,” he had said in the prison. She didn’t know why she had believed him but she had and he had, as it turned out, not let it happen.

It was as if she could hear his voice in the room now.  “Gwen, I’m not going to let this happen.”

She whispered, “Oh, but Merlin, it already has. Not even your magic can bring him back. Even you can’t keep me alive with this pain I feel.”

But she knew she was wrong about the pain.  If only Merlin were here, if only Merlin were still alive, couldn’t they help each other through this?

There was a soft knock on the door and Lanti slipped into the room.  “Oh my lady, you’ve hardly eaten anything!”

“Thank you, Lanti, but I’m not hungry.”  Before Lanti could say anything else Gwen looked at her. “How well do you know Merlin, Lanti?”

The young woman looked surprised. She had grown up in the same village as Merlin but Gwen knew they hadn’t had so much contact as children. They had first become friends just two years earlier when Merlin’s mother had helped Lanti get work at the court.  Gwen and Lanti were already friends, having met in that terrible time when Gwen was exiled, staying in Ealdor. When she had then become Queen she had been very happy to have another old friend along with Merlin in the court.

Lanti thought a moment before answering.  “I think everyone has always felt that they know Merlin very well and that he’s their friend.  He is always helpful and friendly, except when he thinks someone is being unfair or mistreating others. Then he can be, well frankly, a little nasty. Sarcastic, like.  But then when that person felt really bad – which they sometimes did, not always, but usually, like he’d made them feel really small, then he’d feel bad and be extra nice. Until he started joking – rather insultingly at times – with them and then he was always funny. He always made everybody laugh, even the ones he was insulting. And I think he insulted himself more than anyone else.” Lanti had a small smile and a faraway look.

“But how well did you know him?  I mean, you?  Since you started working with me you spent a lot of time with him. I mean he was always with Arthur and…” her voice faded away.

Lanti looked down.  “I think he was the loneliest person in this castle, my lady.  But he never showed it. Sometimes I’d see him staring out the window or just sitting somewhere with something in his hand, some task that he’d forgotten he was doing, and he’d be thinking so deeply with such a sad expression on his face…”

Gwen thought of the astounding secret she had so recently learned about Merlin from Gaius. A sorcerer. Merlin had magic.  For almost ten years he had lived in danger of his life every day, forced to hide his powers even as he used them to protect Arthur.  Of course he was lonely. Desperately lonely. She had sometimes sensed this but had never understood the reason. Or would have believed. Only Gaius had known all those years. Now she knew. But Lanti, she was sure, did not.

“…but when I walked in,” Lanti was saying, “he would immediately brighten up like he really was happy to see me.  We had so much fun together when you and Arthur were occupied with other things.  We helped each other with tasks sometimes.  The king was sometimes…that is, he wasn’t always…”

“Arthur was a brute to Merlin,” Gwen said almost laughing, but wondering what Arthur would have done if he had known.  “The demands he made on poor Merlin twelve servants couldn’t have managed.”

Lanti smiled.  “I know.  And Merlin would get so angry with him and swear at him and call him the most awful things behind his back – and sometimes to his face! – and then he and I would both end up laughing.”

“Was he kind to you?”

“Always!  I…” she blushed and looked away.  “I cared very deeply for him.”

“I started by asking how well you know him and somehow we’re talking about him as though…” Gwen swallowed as the ever present tears welled up again.  “Lanti, do you think he’s still alive?”

“I…I hope so…”

“But do you think he is?”

Slowly Lanti shook her head.  “He would be here, if he was still alive.  He would never desert you.”

A sob caught in Gwen’s throat and she reached for Lanti’s hand.  “You don’t think something has happened to him but that he’s trying to get back?”

“I hope so, Gwen.  I really hope so.”

 

Arthu & Gwen Season 5

Gwen’s voice was a whisper.  “I do too.”

m m m m m m

The day dawned clear and bright but already it was clouding over again.  They had rested only briefly in the darkest moments of the night.  There was no shortage of hands to take over the burden of the litter and in fact the litter had been carried forward without stop since yesterday at midday.  Sorcha had rested in short respites but had always caught up with Emrys soon again. Gavina took over often. Kaita did not leave his side.  Nor did the young Gilli.

Feeling weary to the bone she nevertheless summoned the energy to move ahead again, drawing abreast of Kaita and Gilli on the other side of the litter.

“Tell me more about how you met Emrys.” She spoke in a friendly enough voice but Gilli seemed to sense that this was an interrogation.

“There was an open tournament,” he said.  “All comers welcome, all weapons allowed.  I had become so angry about how we’re treated, how our magic is hated, that I decided to go to Camelot and take part, using my magic to kill Uther. Merlin figured me out right away and, well, I sort of promised to withdraw.”

“In other words, you did promise.”

“I did. But I didn’t withdraw.  I didn’t know Merlin had magic but he was nice to me and I liked him but I thought it was right of me to continue.”

“You couldn’t resist the feeling of power it gave you to use your magic in Camelot,” Sorcha said.

Gilli hung his head. “You’re right.  But I also thought I was fighting for us and when I almost killed my opponent Merlin was really angry.  He came to my room and…” He paused as they came to a hillock that was too big to go around.  He helped the bearers lift the foot end of the litter to keep Emrys steady.  Kaita and Gavina held him in place.

The ground levelled out and Sorcha prompted, “And?”

“And I accused him of not understanding.  I still didn’t suspect but at the same time I could see that he did understand. I just didn’t see how and I was being stubborn.”

“And?”

“When I said that no one knows what it’s like not to be respected he just looked at me for the longest time and I was…sort…of scared especially when he sort of slammed the door shut.  Well, he didn’t slam it, but there was no doubt he meant to say something he didn’t want anyone to hear. I suddenly didn’t want to hear it but I knew I’d gone too far to back down now.”

He fell silent and Sorcha, the bearers, Kaita, and the others within earshot of the young warlock’s voice waited. He cleared his throat.  “And then he…created a little fire in the palm of his hand and held it out to me.  And just looked at me. And then he said, ‘It’s lonely….to be more powerful than any man you know and have to live like a shadow, to be special and to have to pretend you’re a fool. I know how it feels. I understand’.”

Gilli spoke as if he had been hearing these words clearly in his memory since the day they were said. Sorcha suspected that he had.  He went on, his voice breaking, ”And like a fool I told him that then he should understand why I had to fight and I ignored him when he told me I had to learn to use magic for its real purpose which was doing good and I ridiculed him for just being a servant protecting Uther who would kill him if he knew  and I said that he’d been pretending for so long that he had forgotten who he really was and I know this hurt him and I know it made him doubt himself and I accused him of being weak and I went out and I would have killed Uther – “ he was speaking faster and he rushed ahead until they could hardly follow his words, speaking as though those words had been burning inside him since that day and now had to escape or he would die “ – but Merlin used magic to stop me and I hated him and he came to my room and I accused him of betraying us and being a traitor and he said no, that I was the traitor because I was using magic for my own vanity and…” He stopped, then said softly, “He made me see how wrong I had been. And then, instead of hating me, instead of having only contempt for me, when I said I was sorry he kind of smiled a little and said that he knew it didn’t seem like it then but a time would come when magic would be permitted…” Sorcha could see the tears on Gilli’s cheeks. “And he said that we’d be free and maybe our paths would cross again and we’d be friends. He said we were kin. And he shook my hand. And…”

He looked down at Emrys whose only movements were caused by the slight swaying of the litter.  His head was turned slightly to the side. His breathing was not visible and Sorcha resisted the temptation to feel again for his heartbeat or mindtouch him.  She had just done so minutes before.

Gilli reached his hand out and touched Emrys’s lightly. It was lying across his chest. “I never saw him again but now I heard that he has done something incredibly powerful.  That he has saved us all.”

“It’s true, “Sorcha said simply.

“And it’s killed him.”

“He lives.”

“But will he?”

“Only the future will tell us that.”

For some time Sorcha had heard a faint murmur from the procession, now numbering in the hundreds.  She had not been able to discern the words, if indeed they were words and not just an aura of feelings, but now they became clear and she felt a stab of sorrow.

The words were, “Emrys is dying.”

m m m m m m

The reports were now more detailed on the aftermath of the final battle with Morgana’s troops at Camlann.  Far fewer of Arthur’s fighters had been slain that would have been the case if the sorcerer hadn’t appeared and crushed the attackers but still there were casualties. And these casualties had left behind families. Many of them were now in need and some of them were struggling to make ends meet.

“We suggest, your majesty, “said the young knight reporting – why was Gwen having such a difficult time remembering names? She knew perfectly well what his name was but simply couldn’t bring it to mind – “that food, clothing and shelter be made available and work found for the older children so that they can help their mothers support their families.  Our harvests are looking good. Camelot is still prosperous and this would be no strain about the kingdom’s finances.”

“Even if the harvests were failing and our prosperity were waning, we would do as you propose, Sir Keegan.” Ah yes, Keegan. She was glad the name had come without hesitation.  “Our duty, indeed our privilege, is to share with those in need.  Please see that this is organized and put into operation immediately.”

He bowed and Gwen nodded. “Thank you, Sir Keegan.” He sat down again and Gwen turned to Leon.  “You had a report, Sir Leon?”

“Yes, my lady.  Very early this morning one of our patrols…saw something… strange.  He said he thought he saw a procession of people through the trees – he was standing on a hill looking down – but when he looked again they were gone.  He rode down the hill thinking he would meet them but when he got to where he judged they should be, he found nothing.”

“How odd,” Gwen said, although she didn’t really know what she was supposed to say.  “And this is of what significance?”

“I don’t really know. Maybe none. But he deemed it best to report it and asks what further measures should be taken.”

“Wouldn’t it be wise to stay in the area and scout the path they were following – or he thought they were following – to see if any further sign of them appears?”

“Of course, my lady. I will so instruct them.”

m m m m m m

They would soon leave the forest and start heading through the fields and meadows around Camelot.  Their numbers had increased even more and it took longer for Sorcha and her companions to set up the enchantments to keep their movement hidden. When they judged that they had done as much as they could Sorcha returned to the head of the procession at the edge of the forest.

There was no change in Emrys. Kaita was just administering more drops, her hand resting almost caressingly on Emrys’s chin as she did so. Sorcha sent a quick mind probe and again felt that slight stirring in Emrys’s darkness. But it was gone before she was sure it was there.

“Thank you, Kaita,” she said quietly.  “You are doing well.”

Kaita looked at her in surprise. She was as little used to getting praise as Sorcha was to giving it.

She bowed a little and stepped back, stuttering, “It… it is…my duty.”

“Yes, and you are doing it honourably.”

“Thank you,” Kaita said hesitantly then straightened the cloak covering Emrys though it needed no straightening.

“Our urgency increases,” Sorcha said.  “We must proceed.”

She had put a dozen strong and sharp-eyed scouts at the front of the procession and surrounded the litter with dozens more.  Attack could come from any direction now that they were approaching Camelot and though all dangers could not be averted Sorcha wanted as much protection and warning as possible if an attack were to come.  The leaders now stepped out of the forest and onto the meadow. The four bearers, of whom one was now Gilli, followed them.

It was late afternoon and if their mission had not been so sombre there would have been an air of festivity in the crowd.  Now it was uncannily silent.  Murmured conversations took place now and then, people helped each other with their packs, now and then a child cried, but mostly all that was heard through the shuffle of hundreds of feet were the birds chirping and the wind rustling in the grasses.

And then they all looked up as they heard the sound of the slow beating of great wings.  It was coming from behind. Sorcha turned in alarm and then relaxed.

The flying figure that appeared small as it came toward them over the treetops became enormous as it approached.  Slowly it circled above them and when people realized what it was they too lost most of their fear but not their awe.  None of them had ever seen the Great Dragon Kilgharrah.

It circled lower and lower, focusing its great yellow eyes on the inert figure on the litter.

Sorcha stepped away from the procession and waited off to the side in the open field as the dragon slowly landed.

“Is he alive?” the dragon asked her, his gravelly voice coming from far above her.

“He is,” she replied.

The dragon just looked at her and then back at the litter which was now a ways ahead of them.  “Then I,” he intoned, “will come with him.”

“You are ill,” she said.

“I am old. But then so are you, and you’re coming with him.”

“So I am.”

He spoke no more but turned clumsily and, keeping his distance from the procession and the litter, but his eyes focused on Emrys, he limped heavily forward as the procession continued.

m m m m m m

 

 

Queen GuinevereAnother day had been got through. Gwen made her way from the Round Table towards her chamber but when she saw the two soldiers guarding the entrance to her wing of the castle she ducked into a side passage and made her way up to the western rampart.  She couldn’t face anyone, not even the earnest young soldiers so eager to support and protect her.

She stood high above the grounds below and looked out over the fields beyond, the forests beyond them, the mountains towering on the horizon and the sky above it all.  The sun had set behind the mountains and the sky was shifting in golds and dark pinks. It was so beautiful that her heart ached.  But then her heart ached anyway.  She and Arthur had often stood here in the evening. Even he was moved by the beauty of the sunsets and he had once told her, “I never love Camelot more than at moments like these.” And he had turned to her and added, “Nor you,” and kissed her.

She heard slow heavy footsteps approaching behind her.  Gaius.  He stood beside her and for a long moment neither of them spoke but then she said, “Did Arthur know?”

“About Merlin’s magic?”  She nodded.  “Yes. Merlin told him after taking him to the forest after…after the battle.”

“Were you there?”

“No, I found them later so I don’t know what Merlin said but when I got there Merlin was very agitated and unhappy and I don’t think it was just because Arthur was…so badly injured.  I sent him to deal with the horses because I sensed that Arthur was only pretending to be unconscious, that he wanted to speak to me and as soon as Merlin left he revealed this to be true.  He warned me urgently that Merlin was a sorcerer. I believe he was actually afraid of Merlin but he also felt betrayed. And he was shocked when he realized that I have known all along.”

“Poor Arthur.”

“I believe he felt very alone at that moment but I convinced him that Merlin was not any ordinary sorcerer but the most powerful sorcerer ever to live.” Gaius chuckled a little.  “Typically of Arthur, he looked at me as if I was crazy and said, ‘Merlin??’ in than sneering tone he had sometimes.”

Gwen smiled. “He could never believe it when we told him Merlin was smart, or brave…” her voice trailed off.

“And yet he did believe it and I am convinced that he began to realize it then. That after all these years of his scoffing, he realized that Merlin was the only one who could save him.”

“But he couldn’t!” she cried in a strangled voice.

“Not this time.”

“Not this time?”

“You have no idea how many times Arthur’s life was saved by Merlin’s magic. And by his courage.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that from the day Merlin arrived in Camelot seven, eight years ago, he started protecting Arthur.  Without his magic Arthur would have died long ago.” He put his arm around her shoulders.  “He couldn’t save him this time, Gwen, but he did keep him alive for all those years so that Arthur could become the king he was and build Camelot into what it is today.”

She turned her head into his shoulder and said, “Oh Gaius, we were so young then.”

“You’re still young, my dear.”

“It doesn’t feel like it.”

“I know.  I know.”

“Gaius, is Merlin still alive? We still need him!”

He didn’t answer and she looked up to see the tears on his cheeks.  “We still need him,” she whispered again, and they both watched the sky darken into purple then black with twinkling stars.

m m m m m m

The night had been so dark that they had stopped briefly and Kaita had slept an hour or so, as had most of the others.  No one had had more than snatches of sleep in the five days they had been travelling.

But Sorcha was clearly even more worried than she had been the day before and before the darkness had eased she had ordered them to continue. The murmur, that everyone was now aware of but which they all tried not to hear, continued in faint waves. “Emrys is dying.

They now moved forward with the light of a few scattered torches. Gilli, walking beside Kaita, was carrying one.  She was now holding Emrys’s hand as they walked, as Sorcha had instructed.  She didn’t know why but she was happy to do so. Well, happy wasn’t a word that could readily be used, but holding his bony hand with its long rough fingers brought her comfort.  What scared her was its coldness. The fever had left him and though she hoped desperately that that was a good sign she feared it was not. A fever was at least a sign of inner heat.  Now there was almost no warmth at all coming from him.

The day before a couple, a warlock and a witch who had lived their lives as travelling merchants, had joined the procession and offered the use of their cart.  Some thought it disrespectful to lay Emrys on a cart that was for common wares but Sorcha had thanked them saying, “We are grateful for anything that will ease him as we travel.”

And it was clearly less uncomfortable for him, steadier.  Not that he was aware of it. Was he?  Kaita glanced at his face, the shadows and light of the torch flickering across his features and bringing his high sharp cheekbones, his sunken eyes, the thickening stubble on his thin cheeks and around his mouth into sharp black and white contrast.  No, he was far from caring about physical comfort.  Her mind touched his lightly. Nothing.

“Did you know him?” Gilli asked beside her.  “Before?”

“No.” And then when she realized her answer might have sounded brusque she added, “But I have heard about him all my life.  There has always been talk of a sorcerer more powerful than anyone had ever seen and he was called Emrys.  When I was little the talk was always, like, ‘He’s out there somewhere, he’ll come soon, he’ll save us from the hate and the killing and the forced secretiveness.’”

“Why Emrys?  Why do you call him Emrys?”

“I don’t know.  But I remember the shock when the word came that Emrys had appeared in Camelot and he was just a simple lad called Merlin and he was the servant of Prince Arthur.  We were so disappointed and thought, like, ‘This is ridiculous! It can’t be right!’” She looked down again at Emrys and rubbed his thumb a little with hers. Did he respond with just the slightest stirring of his thumb against hers?  She looked up quickly at Sorcha who was watching from the other side of the cart.  Her expression was unreadable.

“But then what?” Gilli asked, unaware of this exchange, or whatever it was.  “When did you all figure out that he was the one you’d been waiting for?”

“Some of my people met him.  We heard reports of things he had done.  Some of us hated him because they thought he supported Uther in his terror.  Others of us knew he was doing everything he could to stop the terror and create a kingdom where we could live in peace.  There was talk of this young prince who was supposed to be different and Emrys was protecting him.  There were rumours that Emrys had died, that Arthur had died, but then reports would come in. No, they’d survived.  We heard about how Morgana turned to violence to rid the kingdom of the Pendragons and many of us supported her. Others of us kept hoping that Emrys would fulfil his destiny to create a kingdom where we too were welcome. And to do it without hate.  We tried to believe that to create a new kingdom from hate and killing led by Morgana would only make everything worse.  We wanted so much to believe that Emrys could…” her voice faded and she found it impossible to go on.

“His destiny,” Gilli said softly.  “When Uther died and Arthur became king, things did get better, didn’t they?”

Kaita thought about his question.  “In a way.  For most people.  But magic is still forbidden.  And Morgana is still out there.”

The tone of the murmur changed abruptly and became actual words.

“Look! Camelot!”

There was a pale glow on the eastern horizon and against it through a layer of rosy fog loomed the spires and towers of the great castle.

Kaita squeezed Emrys’s hand as Sorcha said, “We’ll be there by evening.”

Nobody added what they were thinking. “But will it be soon enough?”

m m m m m m

Young Wolcott was so proud that he thought he might burst out of his mail.  It was his first patrol and he was riding with two well established and admired knights, Sir Parry and Sir Dewar. Wolcott dearly hoped he would be a Sir one day.

Their mission wasn’t as exciting as he might have hoped.  It would have been fun if they had been sent out to rescue someone, preferably a beautiful lady, or to fight against some Saxons or even meet Morgana. Well, no, if he was going to be honest he really did not want to meet Morgana.  He pretended he wasn’t afraid of much but he couldn’t deny that Morgana, and all things magic really, scared him to death.

No, their mission had been to “look around”, as Sir Dewar had put it.  Wolcott hoped there was something more to it, something secret, but so far it had been a nice horseback outing on a pleasant late summer day.  It was almost time to turn back towards Camelot.  The sun was about to set.

Suddenly, Sir Parry hissed, “Look! There!”

Wolcott and Sir Dewar looked to where he was pointing across the field. In the distance there was movement.  People. A lot of them.  They were heading towards Camelot.

“Don’t let them disappear!” shouted Sir Parry as he drew his sword and kicked his horse into a gallop straight for them.

Wolcott had no time to be puzzled – disappear?  Where would they go?  They were right in front of them – but pulled his sword as well and galloped after the other two, excitement exploding within him.  Was something going to happen at last?

As they galloped nearer Wolcott could see that there was something strange about these people.  Some of them were hooded and though they seemed to be moving rapidly towards the three riders there was an air of heaviness surrounding them.  When Wolcott caught a glimpse of – a dragon? – moving parallel with the procession, walking clumsily and stiffly, he felt a stab of fear. What in the name of all the gods and goddesses was going on?

The two knights raced ahead with Wolcott right behind. Suddenly Sir Dewar shouted, “Druids!”

Sir Parry shouted, “Attack!”

Wolcott thought they would scatter and flee in fear but the procession continued to move steadily towards them. There must have been hundreds, maybe a thousand – Wolcott wasn’t so good with counting – and there seemed to be no trace of fear amongst them.

In fact, those leading the procession simply separated to go around the charging horsemen and the three found themselves surrounded. No one seemed armed but the feeling of dread increased in Wolcott.  These people were dangerous.

And yet they seemed so calm. An elderly woman stepped away from the tight group at the head of the procession and looked steadily up at Sir Parry with clear and fearless eyes.  She was short and thin with a rather large nose and dark piercing eyes.  Her gray hair was unkempt but she was, Wolcott thought, rather regal.

“Escort us to the queen,” she said, her voice ringing with authority.

Sir Parry reined in his horse so abruptly that it reared up.  The old woman didn’t flinch. “What?” Sir Parry said in amazement.

She stepped aside, as did the others behind her, and they saw a cart with someone lying on it.  Sir Parry brought his horse a few steps ahead and to the side of the cart and looked down.  His face filled with shock.  “Merlin?” he whispered.  He looked wildly at the old woman then back down at the lifeless figure on the cart.  “Merlin?”

Sir Dewar and Wolcott joined him and Wolcott felt a mixed thrill of pride and sorrow.  Merlin! The rumours in Camelot about the king’s missing servant had grown wilder as the week had passed and now here he was.  Wolcott had never spoken to Merlin but had seen him many times around Camelot and heard others speak of him.  But that was before the king had been killed.  Now Merlin was just a mystery.

Sir Dewar said, his voice edged with anxiety. “Is he dead?”

“Emrys lives,” the old woman said slowly.  “The man you know as Merlin lives.  But he is dying.  Escort us to the Queen.”

Sir Parry and Sir Dewar reined their horses around and Wolcott quickly followed suit.  Without a word from anyone the procession started up again, moving toward Camelot now glowing in the setting sun.

The sun set, the darkness was approaching. Torches were being lit.  Wolcott looked back frequently at the cart.  There was no sign of life in Merlin but those walking beside him were clearly keeping a sharp eye on him.  A girl, a young woman really, was holding his hand.  The old woman seemed to be muttering and several times he saw her hand pass over him quickly.

Wolcott became aware of a low humming sound. It wasn’t exactly voices but it wasn’t exactly not. It was a murmur. It seemed to be saying, “Emrys is dying.”

Wolcott’s heart felt heavy.  He didn’t want this to be happening.  He wished they had turned back before meeting these people. Not even the honour of finding Merlin could make him feel better.

“Why do they call him Emrys?” he muttered to Sir Dewar.

Sir Dewar looked at him, then looked back at the cart, his face grim.  He didn’t answer.

m m m m m m

The day’s session was drawing to a close.  Gwen looked out the window and saw that in fact it was dark out.  The evenings were getting noticeably shorter, though it was not yet autumn.

She looked back at the people standing around court.  Her loyal subjects.  The men and woman who attended her. Gaius, who was looking so fatigued that she almost cried out in alarm but then she realized that he always looked like that now. He had not wanted to be excused from attending court, for which she was grateful, but why in the world hadn’t she thought to have a chair provided for him?  There was no reason for him to have to stand.

The man   bowing in front of her rose and she realized he had been thanking her for her gracious help with his problem.  She pulled herself to attention to remember what it was. He was a merchant and had been in quite urgent need of a fair judgment in his dispute with a merchant from the neighboring kingdom of Nemeth, a staunch ally to Camelot.  Gwen had assured him that the matter would be seen to quickly and satisfactorily, for which he was now thanking her.

She nodded as he rose but as he turned to withdraw there was a disturbance outside in the corridor or stairway.  Gwen lifted her head quickly and saw that everyone had been alerted to something they heard. Feet pounding up the stairs? The rustle of the movement of many people? The noise of wooden wheels rolling over the stone floors?

She rose and stared at the doors which were abruptly thrown open.  Sir Parry rushed into the room, kneeling quickly in front of her, saying breathlessly, “Your majesty – “

But before he could go on a wooden cart was rolled into the throne room by four men led by an old woman, a younger woman at the side of the cart tending to –

Gwen’s breath caught in her throat.  They turned the cart around and she saw the lifeless figure lying on it.

With a cry of joy mingled with grief she started towards the cart but the old woman held up a hand to stop her. Gaius looked at Gwen then at the cart and he too cried out and moved more quickly than he had in days but the old woman stopped him with a look.  Sir Leon and Sir Percival stepped quickly to Gwen’s side and stared down at the cart, stunned.

 

Merlin-Gaius

Gwen made another move toward him then looked at the old woman, unable to find the words for her beseeching question.  She was afraid of the answer.

The old woman answered anyway in a ringing voice so that everyone in the court could hear her.  “Emrys lives! Merlin lives.  But he is dying and will die within hours, maybe minutes, without your participation in our magic. In Gaius’s magic.”

There was a shocked stir among those in the throne room and Gwen shot a startled questioning look at Gaius.  He looked as startled as she felt but he knew what the woman was talking about.  He looked at her more closely.  “Sorcha?”

“Yes, Gaius. We meet again.” But then she turned back to Gwen and said harshly, “Queen Guinevere! Do you, with your royal power, allow this sorcery in your court? Do you agree to participate in it in order to save the life of the young warlock you know as Merlin, who rescued your kingdom of Camelot from certain and terrible destruction through the use of his magical powers?”

As though from miles away Gwen heard the shocked gasps and muttering around her.  Without hesitation she cried, “Yes!  Yes!  What must I do?”

“Our magic is powerful,” the woman called Sorcha said solemnly.  “But it is not powerful enough.  Our love for Emrys is deep but it is the love of a people for the greatest one among them.  Your Merlin now needs the love of those who love him for himself, who love him because they know him in his and their daily life.”

“Yes!” Gwen repeated. “We’re here!”

“Guinevere, kneel at his side and take his hand.”  She nodded towards the side where the young woman had been standing holding Merlin’s hand.  She backed away quickly, allowing Gwen to take her place on the side of the cart closest to the thrones. Gwen knelt and grasped Merlin’s hand, tears welling up in her eyes. His hand was so cold!  He was so still! There was no sign of life in his face, that face that had been so dear to her since the first time she had seen him in the square, standing up to Arthur.

“Merlin!” she whispered.

“Gaius!” ordered the woman.  “Kneel at his other side and take his other hand.”  Gaius, his stiffness and heaviness gone as though by magic, hurried to the other side of the cart and knelt, grasping Merlin’s hand with a small moan.

“Servants!” Sorcha called.  “You who have worked alongside of Merlin and who know and love him, join hands with the Druids and sorcerers behind me.”

Gwen saw Lanti move to the side of the young woman and grasp her hand. She met Gwen’s eyes then turned to the young Druid woman, whose eyes were still fastened on Merlin’s face, beside her.

“Knights!  You, who know and love him, form a ring around us.”  The knights quickly did so and she continued, “All who know and love Merlin, form an outer ring!”

A moment later everyone was standing as instructed, holding their breath, motionless, staring at the old woman and Merlin in turn.  Gwen’s eyes were fixed on Merlin. She could feel the fear, the awe, the sudden hope mingled with the doubt and uneasiness and shocked disbelief, palpitating in the air.

“Gaius,” said the old woman more quietly.  “Join us.” It was not an order this time, it was an invitation.

Across the motionless figure of Merlin Gwen saw Gaius lift his gaze to the woman he had called Sorcha. Their eyes locked then she closed hers and raised her face. She started chanting in a language Gwen did not recognize.  Others from her people joined her.  Then slowly Gaius closed his eyes and at first falteringly then with increasing confidence, chanted with them.

Gwen was terrified, she was exhilarated. She squeezed Merlin’s hand so hard she was afraid she would hurt him but she could not let go.  The fear around her emanated not only from the people of Camelot but from the Druids and sorcerers who had brought Merlin back to them.

A small cry escaped Gwen’s lips when she saw the flash of amber in the eyes of Sorcha, the others, and most alarmingly, Gaius. They blazed that amber onto the lifeless figure of Merlin and at that very instant his body went rigid, his back arched, his head thrown back.  His eyes flew open in a terrible blue stare into nothingness and a twisted wail almost inhuman in its agony tore out from between his stretched lips.  He flung off their hands and writhed so violently that he fell off the cart. Gwen reached instinctively to catch him but he twisted out of her arms and stumbled to his feet, clutching his head in torment.

In front of Arthur’s empty throne he fell to his knees and cried out wordlessly.  A great wind blew up from nowhere, blowing out most of the candles and torches. The shutters banged open and slammed shut, a chandelier near the thrones crashed to the floor, tables and chairs along the walls flew through the air, hurtling into each other and smashing to the floor.

Everyone froze and stared at Merlin in stunned silence.  They were terrified but did not yet know it.

Still on his knees, his face twisted in anguish, Merlin clutched his head moaning then he rolled forward, his shoulders rounded and his head down, and held himself in a tight swaying crouch.

Then slowly his hands fell forward, palms up as though in supplication.  Great pouring floods of sparks exploded upward from his hands. There were screams and cries and then gasping silence as gradually the sparks formed themselves into the images of faces. A young man. An older man with long black hair.  A boy.  A young weeping woman whose eyes were clearly filled with love.

Then finally, larger than the others and higher, Arthur Pendragon, King of Camelot.

There were more astonished and frightened gasps and Gwen cried out.

Merlin, in a voice painful to hear, wailed without looking up at the faces he had evoked, “Arthur! I couldn’t save you. Freya –. “ His voice broke and he struggled to speak, his ragged voice hardly more than a whisper, “I couldn’t save you. I couldn’t save any of you.”

Gwen scrambled to her feet and ran to him. Falling on her knees in front of him she pulled him up and into her arms with tears running down her cheeks, and held him, his body wracked with sobs, tight to her.

m m m m m m

The pain, the pain! It was unendurable.  He couldn’t breathe. An iron fist was squeezing him inside, crushing the life from him.  A storm crashed inside his head and he longed to die.

“Merlin, Merlin, Merlin…” A sobbing whisper penetrated through the swarming fog in his head and he slowly became aware of the fierce embrace that was holding him in this world.  And then another set of arms around him and another voice. “Merlin…”

Gwen. Clasped in his arms weeping. Gaius, his arms around both of them.

His struggle for breath eased, his head cleared.

How had he got here?  The last thing he remembered was gazing numbly at the boat bearing Arthur’s dead body away onto the waters of Avalon.  How had he ended up in Camelot? What was he doing on his knees embracing, and being embraced by, Gwen so hard that he felt their bones might be broken. And Gaius.

He opened his eyes cautiously.  The light was dim. It looked like a storm had raged through the throne room. Things were knocked over.  The candles were out. Then suddenly they were lit again and he realized he had just lit them without thinking. When he heard sharp intakes of breath behind him he thought in confusion, “I shouldn’t have done that.“ There were people there. A lot of people.  But it was again dead silent and he wondered if his hearing was somehow damaged.  But no, he could hear Gwen weeping and he heard Gaius’s whisper, “You’re alive.”

Images came to him. An old woman. A young woman. Others. Forest. Rocking and swaying like on a boat.  Gilli’s face.  Gilli?

With a shaky breath he raised his head and pulled back to look at Gwen. She met his eyes. Hers were red and swollen, her face worn.  She reached up to touch his face and a new stab of pain pieced him.  “I tried to save him, Gwen,” he whispered, his voice ragged.  “I did.”

“I know,” she said simply. “I know.  You did everything you could.”

The loving kindness in her voice broke his heart.  “But I failed!”

Gaius spoke softly in his ear.  “It was his destiny, Merlin.”

Merlin shook his head, leaning again on Gwen for support.  “I failed him. Arthur was my friend and I couldn’t save him.”

“But you saved all the rest of us, Merlin,” Gwen said gently.

“And you saved Camelot,” Gaius said. “Camelot lives and the spirit and force and justice of Arthur live with it.”

Gwen wiped her eyes and face with her sleeve then pulled the fabric around her hand, reached up and wiped Merlin’s face.  She rose slowly to her feet and with Gaius’s help she helped Merlin up.  He felt as unsteady as a newborn colt but they supported him between them and slowly turned him around so the three of them were facing the court.  For a long moment they stood, receiving the gaze of the others.  Merlin felt his eyes pulled from one to another, meeting theirs, and seeing the fear, the relief, the happiness, the disbelief, the hostility, the blankness of shock, sometimes all in the same eyes.  Whatever had happened here – and he was beginning to dimly remember – was beyond anything any of them, himself included, could ever have imagined.  He seemed to have used magic in front of all of his old friends and an awful lot of strangers and the enormity of it left him bewildered.

His confusion multiplied when he heard Gwen’s strong voice – a Queen’s voice though still choked with tears – speak to the people.

“Sorcery has saved our beloved Camelot.  Sorcery has saved the life of our beloved Merlin.  We thank you all who kept Merlin alive and brought him back to us. With the power that is vested in me, and with the firm conviction that this would be King Arthur’s wish, I declare that sorcery that is used for the good of the kingdom and its people is henceforth legal in Camelot.”

Merlin turned sharply to look at Gwen then at the Druids and others who he now realized had brought him to court. They murmured in astonishment among themselves and then the old woman bowed her head respectfully. The others followed suit.

“And with all the gratitude and love my heart can hold,” Gwen continued, “I give thanks to you, my dear friend Merlin.” She squeezed his hand and he looked at her, startled once again. “We are truly, forever in your debt.”

She knew. She knew!

She went on. “Our thanks can never be enough for what you have done for us.  You are a great and powerful sorcerer and we bow to you.”

He looked at her uncomprehendingly.  It seemed the others were unable to grasp her words at first too and he saw the nobility and servants alike stare first at her, then at him, then back at her.

They didn’t know.  They hadn’t known.  They had seen his magic here, now, but they couldn’t grasp it.  And they hadn’t known that he was the sorcerer on the cliff.

But then Sir Leon, his friend, knelt in front of him. And Sir Percival, his friend, knelt in front of him.  And then slowly, everyone in the court, save Gwen and Gaius, knelt to him.

He shook his head and looked at Gwen, his mind swirling in puzzlement.  What was happening?

Then to his horror Gaius, his old knees creaking, stiffly but determinedly, knelt before him.  “No!” Merlin protested.

And Gwen knelt before him.

“No!” he cried. “Don’t kneel to me!  Please don’t!”

Tears filled his eyes and he started trembling.  He swayed and started to kneel to Gwen but Leon and Percival sprang up and took his arms to keep him upright. More slowly Gwen and Gaius, with her help, rose and the four of them stood close to him as though to protect him from the people still kneeling in front of him.

His eyes fell on the old Druid woman only paces away from him.  She looked up to meet his gaze and he felt a trace of calmness, a kind of peace ease into him.  He held his hand out to her. She approached him slowly. He took her hand and she stood in front of him, her back to him as though she was shielding him.  She was so short that she barely came up to his shoulder and yet he sensed her strength and was grateful for it. He felt her mind speak to him. “Welcome back, Emrys.”

His mind responded. “Thank you.”

Sir Leon stepped forward and called, “Long live Merlin!”

Merlin looked at him as the kneeling people slowly rose.  Sir Percival echoed his fellow knight. “Long live Merlin!”

Other voices joined in. “Long live Merlin!” And a few scattered, “Long live Emrys.”

The throne room ringing with the shouts Merlin looked at Gwen.  The corner of her mouth lifted in that wry little Gwen smile he liked so much, the one that said, “It’s all mad, isn’t it?  But here we are!” He had seen it so often throughout the years and he felt his own mouth twitch in response but then he remembered he had most often seen it after some nonsense from Arthur.  He saw that she was thinking the same thing and her face again echoed the sorrow he felt.

He turned to Gaius and felt enormous relief at being with him again.  Still holding the old Druid woman’s hand he took Gaius’s in the other.  Whatever had been happening to him and however he was going to get through the impossibly grueling time to come, he had Gaius.

Still feeling dizzy and shaky, he turned away from the court to look up at the images, still hovering above the thrones,  that had come from his hands. He didn’t remember exactly how but he had created these images. Of his childhood friend William who had died defending Arthur whom he had hated, for Merlin’s sake, and taking Merlin’s secret to the grave. Merlin had not been able to save him. Of Freya. He had loved her, and promised to save her from herself and the hatred of those who feared her.  He had not been able to save her.  Of his father, Balinor, whom he had met and lost in the same day. He had not been able to save him.  Of young Daegal who had lured him into Morgana’s trap only to stay and save his life, and die helping to save Arthur’s. Merlin had not been able to save him.  Slowly these images faded and Merlin felt the weight of their loss bearing down on him.

But heaviest was the loss of Arthur, whose image still shimmered above his throne.  It may have been Arthur’s destiny to die, as it was Merlin’s destiny to keep him alive until Camelot was strong enough to go without him.

But what did the destiny have to say about saving the life of one’s friend, one’s brother?  Maybe Camelot could go on without Arthur, but could Merlin?

The image of Arthur slowly faded and the dismayed murmurs of the people around him echoed his intensified sense of loss. He heard Gwen’s soft weeping and he looked at her.  She had also lost everyone she loved. Her father. Her brother Elyan. Her husband. And Gaius, whose gnarled old hand squeezed his.  He had given up everything for Camelot, friends, love, his powers.

And all of them had lost Morgana in the most painful way possible – to the Dark Side.

So he wasn’t alone.  But he felt so terribly alone.  He was the one who had failed to do what he had so desperately needed to do.  And they had all knelt to him.

He turned slowly to face the people again but found he could not raise his eyes to them. He was not worthy of their tribute, of their gratitude, of their respect.

He felt himself tremble and a dark dizziness swept over him but then he also felt a faint wave of strength flow into him like a soft mist. He felt the soft touch of Sorcha’s mind.

Don’t despair, Emrys.”

How can I not?” he mindanswered.

That you must discover.  But you will.”

She had moved to his side and he looked down at her.  She met his eyes tranquilly but he felt, if anything, more fragile than ever. The darkness was taking over.

He looked away and looked up at the night outside the window. “I don’t think I can,” he whispered.

 

LINK TO RHUDDEM’S BLOG:   http://merlin-after.blogspot.com

 

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