A single dark cloud passed over the land, passing over on its way through the sky, taking with it the threat of rain, and the call of other clouds like it, haunting from the deep distances out at sea, taken by the humid wind. On Merlin’s passing out of town, a heavy child is terrorizing a smaller child with a club, bullishly. To test his new stones, Merlin throws one of the average bobbles in front of the running angry and violent child having fun tormenting the smaller one it chases. The young tyrant’s foot becomes stuck before the thrown stone, as he falls forward with the club still high enough over his head that when he does, he does so face first into the mud.
The malicious child had looked around and then whimsically began crying like a newborn, but no one person can tell if the child is in pain or if merely his emotions wounded because the little boy begins cleaning the mud from his clothes, eventually doing so frantically, worried about the clothes more than why they were ruined. Eventually the mud stained bastard pauses for a look around the area and in a moment of clarity, he runs in the direction of the shore in a great rush.
Merlin continues walking out of the town through the muddy and separated avenues of the stockyards and into even more mud in faded farm rows to where the sparse forest begins near the heavily trafficked lane, that which he and Troy had used to enter town from the east. As a narrowing path veered left, so did Merlin, following the vanished paces of passers past, along a well traveled narrow path forming between the forest edges that ended ever close and within view of the shore and the shore itself. Walking alongside the forest and sea, he went with the sounds of the land soothingly communicating a peaceful silence. The air is gracefully calming him with the sound of the ocean, the wind in the air that occasionally causes the trees to bow and wave, rushing through their leaves like a whisper. To one side are the mysterious ocean waves and the storming of the deep and dark horizon and on the other, as he walked north along the trail that rises above the coast the further he goes, a thickening forest.
Merlin took the densely packaged incense from his new pouch and ate it, belching out smoke the color and scent of the incense. Anyone in the entire world, including the creatures of the wood, could tell that Merlin was clean-shaven and not to be noticed as much older than Troy could have been afterward. He spit out the incense substance, showing it had been much to his disgust, picked a flower, and begins plucking the petals, eating them one by one, as he walks.
Miniature furry forest rodents follow him for brief distances at a time, past rosehips and blueberries upward along the uncovered trail, as the mysterious forest to his side begins to grow dark, the tall trees become even taller and noticeably more stoic. The covering of the woods is dense and intertwined, locking out all of the possible light from shining to the forest floor, concealing a hidden realm of darkness. The forest’s edge is open though, as it meets the path along the steadily climbing mountain ledge, giving the creatures of the dark forest an open theater to the magnificently flawless ocean at all times of the day or night, unless abridged by a fog or a similar climate. A small strip of grass lines the edge past the thick growth, between the trees and the path, providing a lane of viridescent and lush grass for any walker to rest, a beautiful path for a blinding morning rise of the sun.
An ever-nervous Merlin continues on his march up the path, which now was a path running up the mountain without diversion, straight and narrowing. A dirt path of light brown faded earth and grey pebbles, and as he notices he hears a growling from the deep of the dark foliage. Deep in the silent growth, the crickets heard are giving their sound less than before, but as of late less than before quite dramatically, as he notices two eyes of a giant bear behind the forest line with shiny teeth. Holding onto a tree to stand, poorly hiding behind it, nearly fomenting its own hunger as it stares at Merlin walking up the mountain pass.
Merlin, well wise of this creature’s tactics, had not wished having himself overthrown, over the edge of the bluff, which had become a distant cliff from the rocky and shallow shore now far below, or a spring meal so very far from the river free of large fish this time of year. So calmly, he took from his pocket a blue diamond with eight sides and with a stretch of his wrist, the nearly clear stone launches from his hand, to the trunk of the very tree where the bear stands, causing a loud explosion and alarming the bear. The bright blast had knocked down the towering tree, and by doing so, frightened the bear, causing it to retreat into the cavernous forest, dark as night and as always, as quiet as such. The nearby birds sounded as they fled, or as they stayed and watched, with arrogant disapproval.
The aged tree he had damaged falls outward onto the path, ripping a hole in the canopy's edge, bringing in a narrow lane of light, unfamiliar to the unabridged continuous edge, behind it as he moves forward to avoid it’s crash. The onerous tree falls directly outward over the edge of the road, its trunk lying completely in the lane, the leaves hanging past the cliff. The fall had caused a dislodging of the edge an arm's length, from the edge but not enough to eat into the heavily worn road.
Merlin stands in patient awe, waiting for a second altercation, and with a lengthily and unnecessary adieu, there is none. He turns and begins walking, again up the mountain road, where ahead the massive monolithic mountain begins to take dominance of the terrain and push against the tall forest. As he reaches the top of the basin, the forest abruptly ends and the mountain took over the path, and carved deep into the mountain was a winding path with walls that were uniformly distanced and smooth without markings that met the floor of the path with a sharply shaved edge. The rising edges of the walls stand jagged, worn with time from fire, ice or any combination thereof making any damage.
However, before the entrance was the wrecked wagon and the fallen sky-glider from The Vision Pool, lying as one crushed and combined pile of broken and woven woodwork with partially burnt pieces and canvas, gunpowder and broken bomb casings, and least of all, what was left of the hunters of the sky.
The storm has moved against the coast, and attempted to crawl partially up the climbing path. The mist from the ocean crashing into the cliffs had held warmth to it as well as the soaking of his clothes and he was glad to be out of it, but the winds at the top of the cliff near the entrance to the winding mountain path bring a concerning chill. He had desperately hoped to make it there much dryer in a day of comforting sunlight. Nevertheless, this had not been one of the lengthy days of multiple suns and the smaller of the two held a low sunset on the far side of the forest. He was entering warmer weather leaving coastal rains and low fog that in the day or night would from time to time roll out of the woods in a thick and slow blanket as he neared the carved mountain conduit. Even past the low-lying shoreline as was the case now and as it did is blown clear by the wind rolling over the treetops, pushing back the clouds above water, before they can condense on the scene. Out to the dark sea of unforboding and unforgiving cold waters and towering swells as a lighting storm pass over the water, creeping to the coast, the fog and smoke beginning to thoroughly roll out past the burnt wreckage.
Nearing the entrance to the mountain path and tired of walking, he takes a rest behind the lee of the remnants of the two conveyances and combs through the wreckage of things and pilfering the pockets of what was surely an unpleased pilot in his final moments. He finds a few coins mixed with useless stones and a wealthy array of small daggers and peasants’ knives, the dead pilot’s aircraft and the wagon were mostly empty though, minus the poacher who was slowly drawing out the wolves and Merlin could hear this, as he sat and stared into the woods at their gaining of his attention. No more than a dozen gathering at a distance from him they watched, pacing and some even sit in wait, cautious of him, far enough to barely be seen or get an accurate count.
Merlin - You have had worse days - says Merlin to the body remnant.
Feeling that he has dried enough and tired of walking, he grabs a board with a slight curvature to it, collects a very small amount of the fatal paint from the pilot of previous nature, and walks around the carnage into the path, with a clear sight of the tall entrance to the mountain opening. Merlin does not notice a man, walking out from the elevated pass, walking to him carrying a leather satchel on his short side, as he begins his dirt drawing and at this, he draws two circles on the ground, one slightly smaller, with 12 circles between the two rings trying to keep them an equal distance apart. He draws and writes the 12 numbers, one inside each circle by pouring the blood slowly to the ground, as he kneels wearily in the middle of his design.
Sage and standing, he begins to mumble a spell and grinding his teeth, shaky at best, somewhat switching stance from one foot to another teleports up the mountain a visible distance, leaving the lines he had drawn intensely burnt to ash in an invisible leap far behind him and scorching the road with the design, torched into the dirt. Quite some distance ahead and at the end of the open path, not far behind the walker he stood patiently steaming. Merlin dusted himself off and shook what he could from his hair and thoughts, and though nothing outwardly affected him, he puts his hand to the wall of the entrance, catching his balance. The distance between him and the pedestrian was not much, but the length of road from where he stood to the damaged wagon was considerably vast. Merlin’s face had aged some by sign of dry skin and a grey shadowy outcrop of hair on his head that held color just moments earlier.
“Don’t go” said the traveler.
“Who are you… to tell me?” Merlin asked while seeming to breathe the steam and be fighting to collect his thoughts. The stranger took time to poise himself in a proper stance,
“Nickolas,” he replied.
Merlin spoke with obvious sign that his mind still raced, “Don’t follow me Nickolas.”
“ Do you need this?” the man said, having reached into his pocket, now holding forth a little bottled potion. Merlin looks to Nickolas’ hand to see a small vial, the very same vial of diamond-storm he had hoped to buy from the miniature sailor within the city. Without a step or a moment’s pause Nick says, “I am going with you and there is no debate.” Merlin asked, “Why?”
“I have many questions to ask the great Merlin.” He said.
Merlin, “..............show me a spectacle of unique amazement.”
Nickolas turns around, pointing to the city far below, with a clearing for the pastures inland and the city attached to the shore nearly hidden by cloud cover. “The rain is heavy and covers the city.” He said pointing out to the city below, tossing his scarf over his shoulder, and in fact, the dark clouds that had earlier pushed forth the mist were now raining on the town, in a matter of moments, the city becomes blanketed in gloomy clouds and the distant storm rages in the waters just past the land, offshore.
He is surprised and impressed by the action the stranger, “You’re a journalist?”
He replied, “Mostly,” saying it while throwing his scarf around his neck as he noticed it fall again.
“I will need that vial,” Merlin said with a perplexed expression painted on his face.
“Of course” and with that he tosses it to Merlin with a closed grin.
Merlin, “If you steal from me, I will chain you, out for the crooked vultures.”
They walk through the pass and Merlin receives several comments and questions, each of simple nature about notions of how missing ingredients to potions cause calamity, and the writes of spells that any child with little knowledge of the magical art might know. To the affect that which at some point of their journey, Merlin pines to ask him to stop any further inquiries, but the curiously adamant young man, in appearance, seems in adoration, but with questions that seemingly held no relevance to each other.
The exotic path carved within the mountain divides, one path heading up the mountain to their right, the other downward and beyond into a dark corridor, furthering toward the boundary that connected the open lands to The Ice Kingdom of the Light Bringers.
The questions of the new intrigued guest persist as Merlin’s patience wears thin, interrupted by a stark pain in his chest and stomach. The teleportation spell had worn his strength and his hair grew grey, as his face grew tired and old, as it had when he and Troy had met, before Nickolas’ very eyes. The deep cringing pain happened three times over, each time causing Nickolas to check the scene for unwanted surveillance, and perpetrators of Merlin’s abrupt anguish. Each time showing more sign of shedding like a snake or crippled black phoenix. This of course was soon to end, and did so as Merlin took a seat on a boulder, fallen from the above edge of the stone hallway by cause of the elements, having done so seasons before.
Merlin asked, “Have you any drink for my stomach and me?” Nick, “I surely do,” he says as he passes a very small bottle from his bag to Merlin, allowing him to drink, while looking around the carved and etched passage, and up to the heavens, through the opening of the uncovered passage. Merlin takes a drink, and lets out a gasp, then taking in a breath of air, only to let out a sigh of relief.
The mountain passage loses its edges above and its walls lower ever dramatically as the two continue, until they are out of the stone walkway carved into the mountain. They arrive in the highlands where the rain was mostly falling year round and would snow in the winter as often. Their conversation was dole and scant, mostly due to Nickolas’ apprehensive concern for Merlin’s health. The area had looked alarmingly similar to the terrain Merlin had travailed on his way to the lowland castle from the gate Thor had proffered, and with somewhat visible signs of exhaustion, he rests just past the clearing of the hallway, as if to catch his breath again, but obvious to mostly distract his new guest.
Merlin had begun intentionally breathing hard as to seem exhausted, as much as fitting of the journey for any other that looks as he does. This causes Nickolas to come to Merlin’s aid, and afterward, as if born of phoenix’s ashes, our old looking man leapt toward the newly met Nickolas, knocking him to the stiff ground and putting both of his hands over his throat.
“If you know me, than you know I can burn you fair neck. Who are you? How do you know me?” Merlin shouted at Nickolas. “This is not my fault” he replied. Merlin, rewrapping down on the boy’s neck says, “What? Who sent you?” “I am trapped in this day every day, I know many things, but with no purpose” he said through Merlin’s crushing grasp.
“A statue would have said less at this point.” Merlin’s eyes have become dark, the light from his eyes showing in his hands, before they turn red as he begins to sear the clenched neck in his hands.
Nickolas cried, “Yes ... yes! Kill me and I will be gone it bothers me not, tomorrow is today again.” Confused, Merlin let go of his neck but kept him pinned to the ground beneath his knees. He stared at the man on the ground with clasping at his scarred red neck to check his own flesh and vitality.
Enthralled Merlin dared to ask, “Than why have we never met?”
“We have, at the court of the Angelicas” he replied with a curtly abrupt and renewed sense of urgency. “But that was….” Merlin stopped to think, staring at Nickolas he turned his head, as if to leer at him with a better eye. “What was I wearing?” he continued. “You have markings made of ink that you can choose to show at your liking.” Merlin defensively spouted, “I have no paper.” To which Nickolas replied, “Tattoos, art of the skin.”
Merlin leaned in and cut him on the arm to be sure, with a dagger from his sleeve as quick as quick as the thought had come to him, but Nickolas did not scream. He cut again in the same wound slowly tearing and scraping with the dagger’s point, but the stranger did not even wince, only looking to the damage and back again.
Nick, “I am sure you know that will not heal unless I die once over, and that hurts me emotionally.” Merlin let up, and took a seat again knowing only the tyrannical logic could only be the platitudes of someone of the likes of him.
“I thank you for not taking my head,” said Nickolas. Merlin thought of his time and delivered the question, “Why were you at Roseroth?”
Nick replied, “I was the weapons instructor for the prince, one day I wounded the little man and they sentenced me to stone. When judgment came, the court demanded my imprisonment for countless eras, and they placed me in the court itself for countless years. That is where I saw you turn a rose to glass shattering it at the king’s feet and put it together again.
Merlin stated, “And because you are immortal, they chose that punishment?” Nickolas sat up, still checking his neck saying, “Because they didn’t know they could take my head, yes.” The statement had interested Merlin once again, and he asked Nickolas while searching through his collection of enchanted artifacts, “How do you know I won’t?”
“You’re the great Merlin, of course.” Nickolas answered smiling confidently.
“Why were you released than?” Merlin said somewhat embarrassed as he poured the stones from his pouch into his hand, still looking to Nickolas.
“The southern clans near the Castle of Siena attacked; The Angelicas needed me to help them defend their city. Nevertheless, we lost.” He begins standing and brushing himself clean. “When the general found I hadn't died and couldn’t' he tried over and over to kill me until he could be sure, eventually he gave me a choice, live in a cell or tell the world that he would rule everywhere .......... where have you been?”
Merlin had already begun fingering through the stones in his hand, “And you neglected to parser to him the information of your sentimental attachment to your block on your torso?” he said as he paused to look to whom he was speaking.
Nickolas answered in a low and humble voice, “Pain is in the mind, even in the best of victims.” Merlin took the stones in hand, and poured them back into his bag, and as he stood, he placed the pouch in the folds of his clothes and said, “I was out of town.” Nickolas began looking around, “This is why I sought you out; maybe I will be able to stop some of the troubles myself” and with nothing to distract him, he looks back to Merlin. “You alone, arrow in a storm, with your questions of potions, is going to save us all?”
“The world needs peace, to play it,” said Nickolas who had now wrapped his scarf about his neck many times over. Merlin began again to walk up the less than oft traveled trial. “Time is precious,” he says passing Nickolas, tugging once on the hanging end of the scarf. Nickolas winced, his throat
Nick, “Let us shall we.” He bowed and with both hands gestured to usher Merlin up the path.
Merlin asks the friend behind him, “What will you do?” to which he replied, “His army will outgrow itself, so I must poison it.”
They steadily walk and talk of, outdated and the future, situations and little of the expounding past. A discussion of great wisdom ensued, where as Merlin, with much more respect for the situation since understanding Nickolas' dilemma, tells him less of herbs and fairy tales, and more of creatures and poison spells, and their combinations. Of how to use cauldrons as oppose to open flame, for powerful elixirs, that will aid his powers when in use, and of poisons that were more of a fatal nature when used with rancid things and spoiled goods.
The rainstorm was slow and constant in the highlands. As they walked into them, the thunder rang and echoed like breaking of branches through the air, as if something unearthly was deafeningly peeling back the heavens, looking down on their world. A rumbling thunder creaked through the watery air that surrounded them, as they began to climb.
Nickolas was having trouble keeping the pace of Merlin. “I have never been this far,” he shouted forward. “What were you doing up here?” the old boy shouted back, “I was exploring this world, like I had the last.” The question was another of intrigue, “The last?” he stopped to ask Nickolas, behind him. Nick answered a different and more pressing question, “I have to eat.” Moving forward again, no longer in recess, climbing as fast as he had been, again, he shouted to Nickolas behind him saying, “except that you don’t.” This disappointed Nickolas. Not the answer he had hoped, he replies, “It stops the hunger pains.”
The rain is heaviest as they walk out of the clouds by continuing on a rarely travelled sparse and overgrown path upward, into a quiet place of light, fog and mystery. A wall was all they could see, rising into another level of clouds above their heads, so close they could nearly almost touch them. A road stretches away from behind them, which leads them to a small canyon in the mountain's remaining peak, filled as well with the looming clouds closely overhead before them, leading to a set of very tall standing doors of blackened steel in a hallway of a clouded ominous ceiling. They walk from the remaining mist, walking straight out of them into a thin air that chills even the new guest of the great wizard.
Nickolas looks back at the roof of clouds and borders of the rain and its lighting running below the surface in spurts, like birds trailing white light speeding through the air.
“This is going to be great,” Nickolas, said ecstatically, eager to enter, noticing an echo of even a whisper at the outer entrance to the giant castle. Merlin agrees and smiles looking over to Nickolas with an intentional façade. “You will have to ask me tomorrow,” Merlin replied.
“Ask you what?” Nickolas whispered before suddenly becoming sullen and confounded, pausing with a look of disbelief, like a child in a candy store window. Merlin says, “Why I left you out with the guards in the cold over night at the top of the world.” Nick, “What?”
The guards standing at the door are nickel plated, their armor canvassing their natural armor. The lane lined with torches lights the entranceway, jutting from short-length walls that protrude from the main wall. The guard asks, "Is he with you?" as he leans a spear of platinum or true dragon’s eye at them. “Yes, but he waits here, what are you doing open the door you have an injured friend,” said Merlin, glancing over to the second guard, who is reading, and then back again, staring at the guard with great determination.
Merlin’s face shows his tattoos, the way the tide washes the shore on one side of his face and away again, washing across then out again. The guard having seen such before, now opens the door, with fear as well as respect, as the other guard sits down again to read its book. Shouting into the hall Nickolas asked, “What do I do out here?” In return, Merlin shouted, “Gather the clouds for a spell,” and walked inside, leaving Nickolas outside and in the cold with the closing doors.
As the giant door closes, Thomas loudly says to the guard, "does your mother still have that scar on her back?” and he can be seen beginning a fight as Merlin walks inside of the main hall.
In front of Merlin, the hall is bountiful with smoldering fires, small carts of priceless things, plush and lavish gardens, fountains, and smaller fires in each section with green embers and candles floating in pools with small waterfalls pouring into ornate marble basins. Groups of several children, young and old, rush to Merlin, each with reptilian traits and features but wingless asking of his purpose and if it was involving the being who had fallen from flight wounded and weakening at their door named Aedan. Each of the children tugged at his clothes and the older ones stood gathered in from of him, all asking if he was here to help. Other dragon children are peering from behind pillars. Though they spoke the language with a rare accent, they have not the wings he had thought he would have seen.
As he walked steadily away from the stolid doors, with people gathering and the hall diverting its attention to him, from the distance a large man in ornate clothes and features more pronounced that he shares with the little ones, calls to Merlin from a high white balcony above the room. Dressed the part, he is The Dragon King of the Chimera.
“There is no time for questions; you must show him to Aedan,” the towering king shouted to the subversives of the great hall in which Merlin now stands.
They begin pulling Merlin, informing him as he hurriedly rushes to the aid of the fallen adventurer, past the children standing about, and the elders who lay about in discomfort or ambivalence with dismay. Past them all into the first hallway, closest to where they have gathered around the fallen victim, followed by the children, into the closest room to the hall, the children lead him dragging him along the way.
Merlin notices as he enters that it is a nursery adorned with pictures of fairytale creatures, depictions of oddities even to their society. With candles in front of each fire lit portrait, an entire room of rounded edges, cribs and blankets, an array of candles on the far wall and to his right, and a crib illuminated by a skylight shining an immensely bright white light. However, the light does not illuminate over to the bed where Aedan lay now.
“Everyone Out, not you nurses, remove these blankets and bring me a washing bowl right now. Get the children out of here!” Merlin said, again shouting at everyone in the room.
“Vacate`,” the king shouted as he entered the doorway. “Everyone move out of here, not you Deacon, I need you to keep the other children away from here, and then go and bring back Alexis.”
“Get Alexis, why?” said Deacon. To which the king replied, “These are precious moments, now go or I will put you in a box,” He declared, flaring the physical signs of aggression associated to his species.
The Young Deacon rushed off out to the door and to the right, down the dark antechamber. The footsteps he placed in the hallway sounded almost ungulate, running down the hallway.
The mavens who had been watching Aedan, help remove the blood soaked rags and bandages that were almost certainly everywhere. They bring Merlin the bowl, stepping over the rags and the previous children’s bowls used to wash the wounds now filled with tainted rags soaked red by bloody water. Spilling them as he steps, Merlin finds that in all the commotion the bandages for the wounds are improperly used, the wounds covered with rags that drape across the boy in layers. The red rags across his chest were not more than a blood soaked piece of clothing, but actually, another bandage draped across the wound. This would not do for either Merlin or Aedan, so he threw it behind him, hitting the wall outside the door just Alexis approached to enter. This action causes her to scream in a terror lament, her face near completely covered in tears.
Merlin, who was already counting the vials he brought with him, pours them into the bowl as the nurse gives it to him, placing one hand over the bowl and praying. He took his hand away from above the bowl and reached behind Aedan, pulling him forward by his nape, ushering him to sit up and not lay, as his Alexis rushes to help support him and keep him upright. Merlin said to them, “Drink this now boy, before you go under, and we will get you into one piece.” Aedan was wounded and suffering, but managed to speak weakly. As he did, he looks to his amour and tells her, “Get hence Alexis. You shouldn’t be here,” as she took his hand. Merlin intervened, “If you do not drink, you will be the first to leave.”
The wounded boy, the dragon soldier near dying in the arms of his betrothed drinks down the concoction with more help of his love than of his own. Lying back clearing his throat, bringing out blood as he coughs, his consort spouse reaches to hold his hand and as she does, his voice fills with anguish as he cries out, because his wrist was cut with a painful lash, well hidden under the resting arm, kept lifeless of his own volition, in attempt to save his fleeting energy.
“What can I do?” asked Alexis, causing Merlin to begin to ponder the question, he resolves for her to, “Unlace that leather band about your arm and tie it tightly to his, and hurry.” Alexis asks, “What will this do?” Merlin rudely replied, “It will keep it clean,” as he continued wiping the debris from Aedan’s wounds. The severely wounded boy had stopped writhing for the time being, and Alexis finishes applying the wrist guard and begins comforting Aedan, keeping to herself her worries of her own honesty.
Alexis anxiously asks, “What are you going to do now?”
“ Now,” he seemed to ask, and answers to her, “Wash one of these very clean with hot water and bring it back to me with cold water... Very clean cold water,” he told, as he lifted one of the bowls from the floor. Alexis at a point of relief, “Right away.”
She sounded concerned and threatened by the lack of time with her loved one, so she rushed out of the room rushing back only moments later, but so nervously so that she spilled it over Merlin and Aedan. Although getting some of the water on Merlin, the most of it washed the blood from Merlin’s hands, the rest he took and drank from the edge of the bowl. As Merlin wiped his hands on his clothes says, “You must keep the wounds clean as he heals, what I gave him will keep his blood in him and help him heal, not completely but if he isn’t moved or rushed in his recovery, he will heal with only outside scars to show.”
Aedan, “You made me cold” he said posthumously. In addition to this great news, she rushed over to Aedan to apologize and tenderly attend to him. Merlin remembered what his regal yet impatient friend had asked of him and wiping his hands on a bloody rag says to Alexis, “I am not done with you yet. I need you to wrench the blood from these rags on the floor, into these two pouches and have my assistant bring them up to the king and me in his quarters.” Merlin walks across the room and takes a seat, on a small chair.
“My back is also open.” Says Aedan and so Merlin stands and returns bedside. “Let’s take care of you all at once,” he said. Merlin stood over the side of the bed, “I need him to roll,” he said to Alexis. Merlin and the young girl together carefully roll Aedan over slowly, as he groans in discomfort. Alexis, watching his chest wounds, notices the blood begin to leak. On his back, drawing Merlin’s attention are broken and missing scales, of which some are embedded like shrapnel, but not many. With Merlin signaling that he had pulled the few to cause damage by hand, they let him to his back slowly, together.
“He bleeds again.” She said, with a detrimental sound of urgency in her voice. Merlin, briefly stunned by the look in her eyes after she spoke, takes a square glass vial of lightly glowing blue water, from his bag and very slowly pours a few drops to a cup, and hands it to Alexis, poring over the events that led the flyer to his current situation and condition.
Merlin, “If he begins to bleed again put a drop or two on the wound, or mix it with equal part water and make him drink. However, be sparing, that is all I brought. Beware when you use it, the less you can move him. The potion I made him drink has that added to the elixir; it keeps his blood drawn in away from his wounds. when you add it to an open sore, it will draw the blood toward it, though the blood magic heals the wounds, the pressure not being pulled inward will cause him to bleed out again and you will be tempted to apply more, until your efforts become useless and you lose him. Try to save it for when he can move.”
“And my back?” he asked.
Merlin says, “Looks like a pub brawl for a modern man, with a few stitches you should be fine, but only if you stay bed ridden for a while.”
“For how long must he stay bedridden, my liege?” Alexis said.
He replied, “Until he thinks he can move, I will send in someone to help you fill those pouches.”
Aedan far from well recovered says, “So you can seek wealth from my loss.”
Merlin, “So that my friend Horus can travel, with something you have already lost.” King, who has sat through the entire surgery feels threatened by such a phrase and asks as much as tells, “So he can make money from his loss.” Merlin in defense and for his safety turns to the king and says, “No your highness, it is so that he can go to whence he came.” The unmoved and still unconvinced king sits stationary and motionless before saying, “I hope he intends not to spy on us.”
“On the southern army, or are you allies with them now?” Merlin said whipping around again, to the king at the latter half of the sentence, looking down his nose. “How, will he do it?” Aedan asked Merlin, who turns to him. “I am going to send him back,” he replied. The king intervenes with his own interests in mind, “Why does he want them under his surveillance?”
Merlin answered, “He feels a terrible storm by their agenda.”
“How do you mean terrible?” asked the king. “They are collecting from their posts, and are covering too many odd spots of their city to be worried about the rain. Have not you noticed?”
Alexis remembering a tale says, “This is what he me told he saw, before they attacked him, the other day.”
Merlin, “Who attacked him?”
Alexis, “They did, you think he did this to himself?”
Merlin, “Your king and I must talk; I will be back before I leave.”
“ Leave?” She asked as Merlin neared the door. The king following Merlin turned to her and in an attempt to console her says, “Alexis, stay with him but let him rest, let us know if he begins to slip.”
Merlin fully aware of things turns back, still wiping his hands, says, “I will not leave until he wakes up, if he begins a fever or fears in his dreams come and get us right away.”
The king and Merlin walk into the hall and through the cold old castle, to the kings private quarters and to the balcony where they stand, overlooking the clouds and the mountain that slopes down to meet the mist. Looking out over the entire horizon, they spoke.
“You need casks of his blood?”
“…I need some of his blood.”
“Why, has that demonstrable instability Horus come to treachery?”
“What treachery do you speak of my lord?”
“I mean his war in the past for the dying with the dead,” said the king adamantly, turning his back on the horizon and leaning on the banister.
“He has come to my aid in the ages past as he has yours,” said Merlin.
“The dark agents are winning with wicked hearts and dark minds.”
“The only unexplainable gift is why men go to war only to control in ways they approve not of.”
“The diminished excuse of a lame dragon has more tactile, strategy for cats than wizards on a frozen throne."
Merlin confidently issued the king an insulted rebuttal, “A strategy you need not of, Draco.”
“It is odd to have this peace, to myself so seemingly so.” He said with his hands on the banister, looking out over an endless pasture of white clouds. As he looked across the endless sky, he seems focused on something much closer, before his eyes. The sunsets behind them, and the clouds turn blue, barely letting Merlin see any part of the ground far below, before locking their vantage in the confines above and beyond the clouds into and under a full moonlit night.
“Speaking of blood, mine is without wine,” said Merlin falling over rotten with spoiling energy, looking as if he had had too much to drink already, and if it were not for the king it would have been just him and the sky until he could regenerate. The king in amusement says, “Walk with me timeless friend, and I will show you to your vice,” and helped Merlin back inside.
They walk inside into the king’s entertainment lounge, now empty of the delights that usually occurred and filled the room with spectacle, and they sit next to a cold and silent fireplace. The king sat Merlin down gently and stood next to a dark and cold fireplace, spoiled with the arid and cold wind pouring in from its flue.
King: Will you or should I?
Merlin: If you would, but the walk was hellacious and relentless, as you can tell.
Merlin began taking his bootstraps loose. The king grabbed a cord of wood and lit its end with fire from his tongue, his eyes set afire, and set it into the fireplace, and began to pour drinks for the two of them.
Merlin: Who were they? - He asked, barely sitting upright in the chair.
King: They are poachers. - The king sits in a chair opposite a table between Merlin’s chair, both facing the fireplace, setting the drink for him on the table between them.
King: Why are you helping him Merlin?
Merlin says between sips, “He believes his cause”… “He is not the first to fight in such a way”... “Be assured that he is stricken with a sense of duty as well.” He finished his drink and continued speaking as the color comes back into his face, “He needs that war, and always has. What harm could come from letting him cross our time again.”
King: “You are a slave to your fellow species.”
Merlin: “If memory serves me, you were once also,” he responded as he sat up straight, losing his slouch and half of his age. A guard bursts in, stammered and out of breath covered in dust.
Guard, “Things are not copasetic.”
“What!” the king jumped and said in concern. Looking to Merlin the guard stated, “You, your friend is outside acting like a child.” Turning to Merlin the king asks, “You have someone waiting?”
Merlin’s answer was, “Yes.” causing the king to pour another drink and sit once again.
“Bring him inside to meet us,” he said as he poured a new drink of a new color into a new glass.
Merlin, “Send him to Alexis first.”
King, “Oh, but keep him downstairs, she will send him our way.” The lightly armored guard rushes out of the room. The king says sitting, “Another of your children following you? You really should wear a mask town to town” smiling, admonishing his jest reaching forward and placing a cup on the table between them both.
Merlin, “He's a statue.”
King, “The same could be said about you in your youth, if only one could say that to be true.”
Merlin, “No he's...immortal.”
King, “Oh, you should have put his blood into my Aedan.”
Merlin, “Incompatible. I checked He’s as red blooded as I am.”
King, “At least you’ve been busy.”
Merlin, “He is, or was, that is to say, the sword master at The Court of the Angelicas.”
In amazement, the king asks him, “He was at Roseroth?”
“As he tells it,” he replied unsurely with a hint of inhibition to his voice.
King, “Well he’s come far. Did he tell that it’s gone?”
Merlin, “Yes, briefly.”
King, “Such beauty and then one day it was gone, as if someone had sent every last stone to another world.”
“He told me,” Merlin said obstinately.
Down below, Nickolas enters their domain as he boisterously announces himself, “Hello I am Nickolas, thank you for taking me” taking a wine goblet from a table in front of the patrons sitting at it, and begins to interrupt the people-sitting intent on enjoying themselves, who seem quite insulted though other seemed amused. The children certainly liked him and laughed at him or at his behavior as much, as he bowed a few steps within the doorway.
Nickolas speaks loudly to the room, “I am here with the powerful Merlin, he is awaiting my assistance and he no doubt is awaiting it. I am his ally.” Although quite rude he had been, someone informs him nonetheless, that Merlin is in with Aedan and Nickolas is ushered to Alexis. She comes swiftly walking from the recessed hallway at the edge of the hall, rushing up to Nickolas and says to him, “Hush your mouth.” In addition, she begins ushering him back to Aedan and the nursery. She had walked over to him and ushered him into the hallway, her sleeves rolled back, blood on her shirt and hands.
Nick, “You can just tell me where he is,” he said focused more on the tapestries, more than the distance in front of him as she led him.
Alexis, “He's gone with our king somewhere.”
“Where is he?” He said with a troubled look on his face.
Alexis, “Head down this hall and seek the kings quarters.”
“Wait,” she said walking into the room, returning with the bags, “Just ask to see the king, and if they ask why, tell them to escort you. Take these to lord Merlin.”
Nick, “Lord? This gets so very interesting” he said as she nodded and stared at him, confused as to wonder why he waited, as she had chosen to act offended by the need of her lover’s blood, though greatly in approval of Merlin’s healing of Aedan.
Alexis, “Those pouches are your excuse, now go on loudmouth” and he does, tasting one of them just outside the door as she reattached herself to Aedan, spitting it out of his mouth.
The first ascetic guard he passes, as is expected, stops him and escorts him after he explains his actions to the lone callous guard, to the king’s quarters. Looking behind himself, he sees the guard from the front gate turning away, walking into the shadow of the hall, having followed him the entirety of his journey, from start to finish.
Nick said aloud as he entered the room at his first sight of Merlin prideful, “Oh, so its lord now?”
Nickolas immediately begins to help himself to all the amenities around the room, drifting from one table to the next, taking a plate and gathering food upon it, making a mess of things, finally resting at a lavish sofa near the largest balcony of the room, which was no doubt the king’s most posh chair. The king sighs than he and Merlin laugh as Nickolas takes seat among the comfortable settings.
Thom was amidst slightly opening the door, paned with several smaller windows, to let in the fresh air. Merlin spoke, “Are those full?” he said speaking of the two sacks, of the blood from below, Nickolas had lain on a table next to him in the room.
Nick, “Yes why?”
Merlin, “Because if they're not, you’re going back down again, to fill them.”
Nick, “This is an awesome place you have your highness,” he said bowing and taking his place in the lavishly plush chair.”
King, “It was my father’s.” the quip causing Merlin to take amusement to the statement, slightly chuckling to himself. “He must have been a swell dude” Nickolas touted.
King, “Is he Terran?” he posed the question in obvious disbelief.
Merlin, “you’ve been?”
King, “Twice,” he uttered, “Once in its old days, another in its last with her majesty.”
Merlin, “I haven’t asked. Nickolas, where are you from?”
Nick replied, “I’m from there, well Earth that is, I was born there.”
“Where,” Merlin asked.
Nick, “Terra Firma, we call it Earth; it’s the same thing right, soil and earth?”
Merlin asked, “How?”
Nick, “I was born there by my parents.”
King, “Tell us of it.”
Merlin, “Yes what do you know?”
Nick, “I couldn't.”
Merlin and the king look to each other, and back to Nickolas.
King, “You could.”
Nick, “You wouldn't believe the things I remember, but I was there for hundreds of years.”
Merlin, “C” Merlin said, gesturing with his hand the shape of the letter C eventually looking back to Nickolas.
The cold night in the king’s lair, progressed into a vast conversation filled with questions and their answers of Nickolas' beginnings and travels, constantly crossing several questions of his own as well as observations of improvements for the world he currently resided, revealing his fondness and missing of the world in which he once lived.
Merlin and the king had sipped and pretended drinking, bringing Nickolas closer to them during the conversation, and had from time to time, tossed their drinks to the ground, letting Nickolas drink heftily, the fine wine, but as to not let him see their subterfuge. Sometimes Merlin would dip a piece of bread into the wine and soak up his entire cup, and eat the bread afterward. Ultimately the matter was resolved with the understanding that Thomas had utterly no understanding at all of how he had come to be on this world, but that he is extremely drunk and needed to sleep just as any man does, though they were not. Nickolas fell asleep staring into the fire as Merlin put a piece of wood in the calming red flames, as the sun also rises.
Merlin had fallen asleep, after he and King Draco spoke, reviewing together what they had learned. Later Nickolas woke when cold enough, and in the middle of the night when the king had brought back company for himself, he spoke with the king and his farers through the ardent knight, keeping the fire going so that Merlin's hefty cloak would dry, staying the room warm.
In the morning, when the sun peaked over the horizon of the cloud-covered planet, the sun shined into the room with glaring light and presence and separation. Waking, Merlin was cold to his side and stiff from choosing to sleep in his chair turned from the fireplace more than he should have. The king, in honored tradition, was in his bed covered in plush coverings and laying with two mistresses and had been most of the night.
The three of them huddled, keeping each other warm and keeping company with Nickolas who sat against the corner post of the king’s canopy bed at its foot, with an empty table of food pulled against the bed. The table stood closest to Nickolas who had proceeded to empty it during the night, while no less than his satchel and many vacant trays, plates, and bottles lay across the table. Nickolas, chipper and merry, had been talking the whole night mostly of what he could with the king, taking notes it seemed, as his notebook lay on the last plate of food in the room. Merlin arose to the telling of one interesting story, in the earliest of hours.
Nick, “What then happened to him?”
King, “He loved that book but Muriel had replaced it with a façade,”
Nick, “so here was it?”
Merlin walks over to the balcony doors and closes them, and walks to the fire and took up a drink in a seat and he pulled the chair closer to the flames, sitting again. The king notices Merlin rise in the moments before Thomas does and waits silently. The morning sun began to rise from the western horizon.
Merlin, “It was on my horse running uphill after a horses delight at full gallop.”
Thomas, “I dried your things.”
Merlin, “how nice,” he said looking at the cloak while turning away from the morning sun’s rise through the doors, “You dried the blood also.”
King, “Don’t turn away Merlin; the sunrise is the best part about this room” the king than practicing his affectations with his bedmates.
Merlin, “I hope you have not dried the pouches.”
Nick, “Right here, my lord showed me the purpose of the contents.”
“And Thomas made you breakfast” one of the girls said aloud. The bedded inhabitants all giggled together, while Nickolas began blushing.
“Ye had best hurry, he eats like a horse,” the scaled king said. Merlin, who was lacing his boots at the time, sat up again, immediately taking to the drink.
Nick, “It makes me feel human.”
The second girl asks the king, “Human?”
King, “That is what they call their race.”
The other girl says, “What an odd word,” and the two of them laugh.
Merlin, “Would this be all of us, or just him?” he said, standing over the end of the king’s bed, looking to Draco. He continued, “I will just have a drink.”
Nick, “But you said you wanted to save it.”
Merlin, “Not that, an average erroneous drink.”
Merlin took a bottle nearby, poured red wine into a glass cup, and placed the bottle down again. Tipping back, he drank the entire glass, not with a pause or a breath and pulled the empty glass to his chest, closing his eyes, as if praying. Opening his eyes, he sat the glass down and walked over to Nickolas, and took the piece of meat from his hand as Nickolas was about to take a taste, and began to eat it until it was gone, searching the table for what was left behind.
Merlin, “Greedy, selfish and rude you are.”
King, “He earned his meal.”
Merlin, “you are an earner; the simple poet may have use.”
Nick, “I gave them some of the grain I had with me from one of the eastern cities.”
Merlin, “Are we keeping it for a rare occasion?”
Nickolas asked, “Rare treasures are dangerous?”
King, “And he kept us entertained with good company the night through.”
Merlin, “We must go now.”
Nick tossed the plate aside and said, “all right, it was a pleasure meeting you all, your highness the pleasure was all mine” with a gracious smile. In addition, Thomas stands and bows from the end of the bed than jumps down to the floor. With that, the king begins to move to the edge of his bed and step out into his shoes.
King, “You will understand if I do not show you out, we need our rest.”
Merlin, “I do.”
King, “You will visit Aedan?”
Merlin, “I will, we don’t even know if he's healed.”
King, “I trust your powers and I heard nothing while I was about nor did Nick in the night.”
Merlin, “What else did he say?”
King, “He seems stoic; you must come back and visit more, before I get too old to let you in my kingdom” the scaly king said to him and after shaking arms with the other they gave each other an endearing grasp.
Merlin, “Bode well.”
“Bode well old friend,” the king replied.
Nickolas hastily grabs the rest of his things including the two pouches, while stuffing his mouth with scraps from the table, taking a piece of meat on a bone with him and clumsily waving farewell to the people, his bag still falling off of his shoulder. Gathering himself he slapped the king on the arm, nodded a minimal nod in conference and confidence, and left staggering out the doorway of the king’s lair.
Entering the room below where Aedan lie in recovery, they notice the active mood is lighter, the nursing area clean, with bright candles lit, and a small fire going covered by a few slightly reptilian children at play in the far end of the room. Aedan was sitting up and leaning partially to one side as aerial was attending to his back. He sat back to let Merlin inspect the wounds which were covered in clean bandages as were most of the other wounds of a critical nature, each having a miniscule amount of blood staining through the cloths.
Across his chest, were bandages of clean white cloth wrapped around him and across, his front was a red stripe from beneath the bandages, seeping through from under his heart to nearly around his right side. Looking at the wounds all could tell that the elixir had worked as planned.
Aedan, “I feel many times renewed lord Merlin.”
Merlin, “Merlin is fine, we are glad to hear from you.”
Alexis, “Thank You.”
Merlin, “I could do no more.”
Nurse, “Most of his wounds are now only of the flesh.”
Aedan, “The one on my front is below the skin.”
Merlin, “we'll have to take a look.”
Merlin takes an easy look into the bandages while Nickolas stood at the doorway.
Merlin, “The wounds are deep, but your organs are not showing.”
Alexis, “Which is much better than you were yesterday,” she said as the two mates, amorously connected.
Merlin muttered, “Indeed.”
Aedan broke conversation and said, “And my back?”
Merlin, “You’ll need to heal it the only way you know how, but not until your other wounds heal, you’ll be able to move him in a few days, but no sooner.”
Alexis spoke again, “Thank you sir, you are a king among men,” she said as she flung her arms around Merlin.
Merlin, “Is there any of the potion remaining?”
“Only this much” Alexis said venturing into her pocket, pulling out the vial of the blue-lit water.
Merlin, “Good, use it on his back but not until his chest is better, it draws the blood to it, so keep the wounds clean when you treat him with it, or you risk trapping in something inside the wound.” Merlin abruptly shouted, “Aedan.”
Aedan, “Yes sir.”
Merlin, “Try walking in a coat the next time.”
Aedan, “Yes sir.”
Through the antechamber outside of the room, Merlin and Nickolas both stop and together kneel down at the same time and begin tightening their boots.
Nickolas, “Lord, eh?”
Merlin, “What would you go with?”
Passing by the many people, telling them their thanks and wishing them Godspeed they show themselves out and they begin walking down the hill they began upward the previous day.
Merlin, “You weren’t lying about being from Earth were you?”
Nick, “I told you I am from earth right?”
Merlin, “From within, you divulged.”
Nick, “What was your first spell?”
Merlin, “Spell, hmmm, a lecherous maelstrom.”
“Meal….strum…leeches?” Nickolas asked as the two begin to descend into the rocky terrain.
Merlin, “it’s what I call storms one cannot be rid of.”
Nick, “All your time and that’s all you can tell me.”
Merlin, “The parts that I understood I can.”
Nick, “Though you cannot?”
Merlin, “Magic is not the trickery you learn at schools, it is more than complicated.”
Nick, “What is the king’s name?”
Merlin, “You should have asked him.”
Nick, “I did but I cannot remember with all the other strange words they used.”
Merlin, “all of your time and you were confused by their speech?”
“Some of it seemed awkwardly excessive and this world is not exactly a cultivated one,” says Nickolas.
“Perhaps you do not mean excessive.”
“More words than necessary. What are they…the people I mean?”
“They are his mistresses,” Merlin said with a pinch of embarrassment.
“No, what are all of them.”
“They are Mimic?”
“They are the mimic, they, in each generation slowly assimilate the features of the local inhabitants.”
“ Evolutionary chameleons” Nickolas said as if in revelation.
Merlin, “They are older than you or I. I hope you made a positive impression.”
They reach the mountain pass carved into the mountainside on a clear summer morning in the mountains. They began to occasionally slide through the pass, as so many have before them, to entertain themselves as well as to make it down quicker, when they heard a blast from behind, come from the ground itself. When they reached the exit to the pass, where the mountain opened below at the path along the forest they came to witness a new dilemma.
From the cliff near the ocean, where the wreckage of the air pontoon and the small wagon lay, they look north along the continental bay to see the city of light glowing brighter than Merlin had seen in many years. While having an increasing brightness, it pulsed slightly every few moments or so, each time with greater spaces between each glowing brightness, but each time overall brighter than the last, in the air the city sounded as if a great mill was turning.
Below to the south, Merlin and Thomas could see the city and how small it was, and how the merchant legion had gathered and approach the city walls, small enough to note its distance but visible as much to seem dangerous. Merlin takes special notice of how a fleet of ships had departed from its liveries and was heading up the coast toward Ana and her expecting friends. Nickolas looking down the path notices something and Merlin is somewhere between age and reason, wondering what Horus might have done.
Nickolas shouted to Merlin, “Look, there, along the path,” pointing to men running far below, towards them from a great distance.
“They're undoubtedly scouts.”
“If we head down inside the tree line they won’t see us.”
“Agreed; you've turned out to be an impressive guest.”
“First to take a wound buys the other a drink old man.”
Like a sporting creature, Nickolas darted into the tree line and down the hill, and immediately Merlin followed.
Down the forest's edge they went running in very short steps and jumping and swinging past tree trunks and through low branches and over fallen others, down the forest side, where midway between where they had begun racing downstream, and where they would meet their opposition down path, Nickolas is confronted with a bear.
The way that Nickolas meets with the bear, was abruptly disruptive to the creature, which lashed out, catching him by the arm, and begins to tear and feed into him. Merlin, who had followed close behind pounces into the bear, feet first, knocking the bear off kilter, and from nowhere he had a very narrow long dagger, it somewhat resembled a sword, which he drove into the beast. When he looks back, Nickolas is heavily wounded and laughing, bringing up more blood than open air from his lung, his neck had been bitten and his clothes torn, bloodily shredded.
“Spare me no fury of your maelstrom wizard, and I shall be reborn once more.” Nickolas said hardly gasping for air, as he cried.
“I don’t understand, you said you could last these things.”
Nickolas begins to choke and wail simultaneously. Merlin points the slender sword, no longer than his arm, with a golden handle toward Nickolas, burning away the felled beast’s blood, the energy of the air and wood seemed to gather at the swords sharp point, and then leaps in a straight line to Thomas, putting an end to their commiseration. Nickolas begins to recompose and with a coughing of dust sits up screaming, as if his lungs were on fire.
Merlin, “You look worse than the bear,” he said as Nickolas looks over to the bear in disgust.
“That should not count.”
“I see blood, why not?”
“Is it dead?”
“Sharp sword you have.”
“This old thing?” he said looking over the long fancy dagger.
Merlin then holds the dagger by the handle with the blade hanging below it and lets it fall. As the weapon hits the ground, if falls through the forest floor as if the ground were not there at all, the ground outlining the weapon with a bright light shining from beneath, swallows shut once the weapon falls through.