Merlin 7 - The Mountain
Out of the bakery he walked, letting his emotions gather, the cool ocean air and its mist run through the small seaside city as he thought of his early days. Children playing simple games of rampant war and unprepared retreat as the smaller setting sun fell beneath the rising other, trading places with the larger and warmer sun, which rose at the same time in its same position along the horizon, letting in the warmth from the sun to bake the ground. The quaint villagers seemed uncontrollably happy as they unanimously let out a short cheer as the larger sun began to rise, which brought comforting warmth into his severed thoughts. Several of the heavily leather clad keepers of the birds were dragging small hand drawn wooden carts to their cages, to clean the stalls and pens.
Each of which were constructed of wooden beams and polls, connected with metal joints fastened together with bolts and nails, and in extra precaution were bound with straps to secure the joint workings of each corner and post of every cage. With the mist burning back from the walls to the air and into the shadows, as well as from the murky street, the small bleak city comes alive with holy light and fastidious commotion and fills with the wholesome smell of fresh cut grains and newly baked goods.
As the enlightened Merlin walked into the guarded city center, the walls of stone grew in height and the brown and soaking down trodden roads narrowing between them, the people seeming less busy and more so happily content, most covered in dark drab clothing none of which were the same as the furs of the winter traders. As he passed along he kept a solemnly constant pace, and without fail as does happen every so often in larger towns, a young thief took a pouch from Merlin’s waistband, of anything valuable to the little bandit, at the newly risen opportunity. Nevertheless, as the young street thief did this, taking only a few running paces away, the small bag the thief had taken fell to the ground like a massive stone, taking with it a massive falling ‘thump’, keeping the child’s hand under his new bounty and ensnarement.
Now restlessly lying in the street was a small blond boy, his sandals wound around his feet and covered them to his ankles, and his trousers shorter than most with the looks that he had worn the fabric away and with a simple tunic, vested in the same leather as from the boy’s footwear. A clothing style he had known of that draped on his caste as a toga later in life.
Merlin approached the frantic boy and laughed as he noticed him kicking and screaming; as he drew near, he found the little one was gnawing at his hand like that of a troubled rat who thought Merlin to be a deathly venomous snake. He continued his approach, crouching near the apt young thief, and pausing in either disbelief or punishment in the painful moments before the culprit noticed him looming over him in the middle of the street.
Merlin spoke, “I put a vexful hex upon that little precious bag and everything within it, and together the simple weight of the things you thought you could take has multiplied. They must be 10 carts heavy. What do you think?”
The boy looked once back to his hand and again to Merlin with only the sharpest of painful expression. Twisting and turning the thieving boy said, “Let me go or ill stab you with my arm when I get loose.”
Merlin, “Apologize and I will let you go with your arm.”
The young thief replied, “Let me go!”
The boy’s father, family member or elder perhaps, walked over behind the boy laughing scantily as much if not more than Merlin had, stopping to stare at the youngling’s predicament, from in front of Merlin.
The thief said, “Let me go!” He cried again in a sharper and more drastic pitch.
Merlin, “perhaps I have gone deaf; did you say something about your hand?”
Thief, "I am so sorry, you have no idea!"
The tormented boy kicked and screamed indecipherable language. Looking up and over to the Elder standing a few paces down the street, the elder gave Merlin a nod of affirmation and Merlin with this decided to let the boy free.
Merlin placed his hand over the brown deerskin pouch and it fell up from the ground to his pale hand, as quickly as it had drastically fallen. The now menaced boy darted away from him, holding his limb, running unwittingly into the man who caught him abruptly by the collar and dragged him effortlessly over to a patient Merlin, as he kicked and screamed obscene profanities and fowl words. Defiant to the end the same as any child of an impious nature would in his situation, when declaring innocence assuredly to any unexpected law of the sacred land.
The Elder Man spoke apologetically, “Sorry Merlin, he doesn't know who you are yet. We told him it’s going to be rougher than the last equinox.”
Thief, “He doesn’t look like any warrior. Fight me and I’ll tell you what that bag is worth, fish head!”
The last of his pithy words he shouted at Merlin, turning a flushing red in the face trying to mimic the way his elders spoke and high in childish sarcasm. The slender boy, in brutish behavior, clasped in the clenches of the elder man from behind him, by his clothes, gets a strike by hand across his face, which instantly silenced him and caused him to fall, slacking limp in the grip of, and leans into the sage elder, more than twice the anxious boy’s height, holding him. The young one is staring at the ground as the two speak together, but yet deceitfully looking Merlin over, checking for jewelry and other valuable things to take once again, at a second audacious opportunity.
Elder, “Be proper and stand up straight you little brat.” He said to the frustrated and squirming boy.
The devilish boy stands up straight only to fall again, this time with his knees bent, fully intent on falling to the ground and making a full nuisance of himself. The man let the child fall to the ground pushing him forward as he fell and putting his foot on his back to which the boy resisted but to no avail.
Merlin says to them both, “Was this one especially long. I had hoped you would be trading with the northerners by now.”
Elder, “quite, but this should be the endless summer this year.”
A man on a tall plow horse was striding down the street, and Merlin pointed to the horse rider and then picked the boy up by his collar. The elder of the boy in reply, grabbed the boy by the collar from Merlin in a swift motion.
“Stand and behave.” He said to the boy. “And that'll be all for you run along brat.” and like that he let the boy free.
Before the boy spirited off, Merlin shouted, “Wait, I’ve something for your troubles.”
“ His troubles,” The elder questioned, blatantly confused by Merlin’s decision.
Merlin calmly reaches into his magical leather pouch and pulls out the first enchanted stone he finds, than spins it around the center of his callused hand, making sure the reflective surface caught the surmounting light. Merlin swings his lengthy arm under and seamlessly tosses the precious clear diamond, nearly the size of the opening of the small bag.
Still holding his hand, the boy does not grab it and jumps back, letting it fall to the ground, staring at its stunning glamour with amazement and interest. Intrigued he jumps happily to take the shimmering stone from the street, looking up to Merlin before hurriedly taking the near equilateral and transparent stone, from the blessed earthen thoroughfare, briefly to reassess Merlin’s character.
Merlin said to the boy with a condescending look on his face, “It’s all right, you can have that one,” at the boy.
Elder: “Go on, pick it up and foretell your mother.”
This caused the young boy to have a grin, a posture endowed with joy, and he shouted back to him, “Thank you sir.” as he ran off with the hefty diamond.
The brightly blond haired boy and the stone near the size of the palm of his hand, rushes off around a corner into a small alleyway next to a Silver wares shop. The two men had a brief hearted laugh, walked to each other, hugged, and then shook each other’s forearm. Each of the men shows great signs of contentment.
Merlin, “How are you old friend?”
Elder, “Dreadful, my bones are shrinking and by body growing.”
Merlin, “How dreadful were the rains?”
Elder, “No more than ever I suppose, but out there,” gesturing to the coast, “the southerners have been fishing by boat, largest ones we've seen thus, and we've told him tourists are open targets.”
Merlin, “How bad has it gotten? Couldn’t you have trained him somehow?”
Elder, “As long as we can watch him do it, I didn't recognize you at first; you're in different clothes than you were our visit last.”
Merlin, “There have been many fires from there to here.”
Elder, “Running into strange things will do that to wizards looking for fire.”
Merlin, “He might make a good scout to you yet. He was very quick about turning that corner.”
Elder, “He was. I will tell his mother that you are here.”
Merlin, “I say, tell her I will be by later today, I have business in the court.”
Elder, “Very good, but don’t think I won’t let her know you're here”
Merlin, “very good, sir.”
Merlin laughed and turned away; relieved that he had escaped too soon, for he had neither remembered the name of the city elder or his surely precious daughter’s. Through town, Merlin went passing the harems and restaurants that resided in the city as he was nearing the main hall entrance, finally reaching the inner wall, the boundary that separated the people from the royals, and other forms of entertainment that often were at work when at play.
Through posted guards all in placement in perfect and proper order and practiced position among the lofty hall, this seemed almost new. As new as the last time he had seen it, immaculate as ever with white marble pillars and floors of luxurious polished granite and black marble. The lavish room of pillows and pillars filled with endowed children and their mothers, wandering servants, guards taking time to talk with the young princesses, young servant girls taking their time to speak to the occasional guard or pretty boy.
Then there were the guard, mindful of impure intentions or luxurious goals at their present thoughts and the jester spies who danced the halls entertaining the children with hidden knives in their own backs. The kind dressed in painted face and calico and multicolored playful clothes, the type of spurious plays and the entertainment of the gallantries’, who were the ones employed outwardly as entertainment, but ultimately as surveillance, a way to secretly monitor what goes on in the inner walls he thought to himself and continued pace.
Merlin attained the adoration if applicable, of those in the room as he passed others, and seemed to belong fittingly well, as he was considered acceptable by not being in paupers clothes and as he walked he did attain the attention of several in the room, some better than others as he approached the main room. For some he would receive laughter as he passed, possibly for his draping hat that held his lengthy hair and fell behind him, but the whispering children who had not seen someone like Merlin ever in their time made mostly the most commotion.
For he had a shortened length of facial hair at the end of his face, that was more than 20 days long, in a city that was clean if not shaven, if even needed, from start to finish, that mostly found it against their way to hide their face.
Amongst the clamor he approached the center of it all, the main hall, the beginning of the city, the sacred throne.
A circle of short pillars surrounded what was now the center of the forgotten city. It was not vacant but adorned as the living quarters of the king. Done so by his own will and no king before him, for he did not fear anyone’s opinion of his living around his throne and had done so in their stead for many years now. The lack of privacy allowed anyone who made it past the guard simply to walk directly into the central living quarters of the city ruler from many directions and multiple corridors.
Beyond the furniture, on the wall behind the throne was a faint and fading painting of four people and a bird at a lake at fireside, with a large swimming swan, in front of Merlin. Blocking the walking path but still open to the outside of the pillars lay one sleeping bed, twice the length of a man, but only wide enough to roll out of in your deep sleeps, made for a hallway elsewhere in the castle. Behind the throne to the back wall was a terribly aged painting with stone curtains, carved out of the wall itself. Other pieces of furniture sat in the arena of light that surrounded a circle engraving of gold and silver on the ground surrounding the king’s throne and from it raised the ominous light that lit the city during the night, seen from a great distance into the land.
The light shines in an ominous circle upward, carrying a fine dust of gold and silver that drifted from the embedded metals in the floor, through a hole of the same shape cut into the ceiling. Within the opening is a center stone ring, connected in four places in the center of the hole to fill up most of the opening except for its center, which the light shined to the outside through a small dome room above the opening with yet another hole at its peak. It seemed the throne was a place of worship to Merlin, much more than it was a place for oppressive words by a tyrant king, the kind claiming to be gods. Because of careless upkeep, clothes and shoes, bottles and empty goblets plagued the scene, much to Merlin’s disapproval but not to his surprise.
The disorderly king, from a connected hallway in the distance, bounds over the long sofa and surprises Merlin. The swift king is a young man with the build of an ancient titan. He is dressed in hunter’s clothes, with full leather armor including boots and coat, with a quiver over his shoulder and without a leather helm. He said to Merlin, “Merlin, you dog you, what are you doing here?”
Merlin, “Try not to be humorous; it isn’t your strong suit.” He said as he looked up to the hole in the ceiling.
Horus, “I often go to the roof and bathe in the rain within the circle of light.”
Merlin, “Much to the people’s content I gather.”
Merlin, “It is good to see you so pleased.”
Horus, “It’s so lovely to see you so wickedly aged again. Let’s cut that awful thing off of you.” He said pulling a blade from a leather sheath on the belt of his quiver.
Merlin, “You know what happens. Put that away, and tell me what’s going on here.”
King Horus promptly puts away the simple knife and with his hands on his side he said, “It is the great Merlin at long last,” he said and walked towards Merlin with open arms.
Merlin and his old friend meet with amorous conjecture, a hug and a smile, as they look each other over, trying to seem impressed with the other.
Horus, “You do look well, we should have a drink.”
Merlin, “This sounds like an excellent idea.”
Merlin’s beard is shorter than it was just moments earlier, which causes some to stare and others to begin their gossip. The virile king calls for his imperial guards, but before the sentry forces can arrive, one of the court jesters personally assigned for protection of Horus the Aramaic Son, as the king moved, leapt into the situation and Merlin attacked the oddly dressed fellow, giving the jester a single barrage of unexpected forceful wind. The now embarrassed fool had leapt forward with a narrow candle in one hand and the incursion that had coincided near the throne caused an intensive fire to blast the clown back but just barely by some flamboyant cause of the ethereal air, drifting from the floor.
The colorful assassin stood on his feet, sliding to his side and at his ribs, far to the right of Merlin, now turning towards him. The witty comedian took a deep breath and waved his own hands across his own clothes, washing the burnt region with what seemed a cold mist. With an almost subtle flick of the wrists, the jester launched three small powder sacks together, meant to blast open with smoke and spikes, but Merlin stops them in transition of their rampant flight, and the smoke, ash and shrapnel fell to the ground. The palm of Merlin’s hand, held upright, begins to glow; drawing in the power of the glowing mist in the room, the orb of light and electricity held in Merlin’s hand began to glow as bright as the holy chair in the center of the room. The jester determined and chided looked to him with his head cocked to one side the way of a severely confused dog and attempts the same trick again. This time King Horus intervened in their impending confrontations.
With a deafening yell, King Horus declared, “Stop this at once,” and continued “...Merlin...we can behave here, just as quickly as you can murder him,” he said, purposefully looking to the young jester with a focused and angered glare of dissatisfaction. Merlin let down his arm and very slowly, as the room slightly shook, the light in his hand began to fade.
Merlin smiled to the jester, to cause intimidation, which worked. His outgrowth of facial hair had lost some of its color and had lengthened, and all had missed this during its happening. The trained assassin could not keep eye contact with him, rapidly bouncing back and forth, with his sight, between the king, Merlin, and objects in the room, nervous like a skittish wild kitten.
Horus, “Thank you but this is my friend, but pick your battles more carefully Thomas. Go and redress yourself and return post haste.”
Thomas, “Very well your highness. It is my deepest and sincerest apologies to you sir.” He said as he slightly bowed to the king and then again but less so with a stare of malcontent towards Merlin. In addition, he scuttled off, just in time to hear the guards who had come laugh jovially at what had happened.
The pleased king turned to see Merlin sitting on a well-padded lavish chair covered in old clothes, as the guards stopped their telling of secrets.
Horus yelled as if into the air, “Send in the prophet and his friends, tell them that my advisor is here, and send someone with drinks for us all…the best that we’ve been keeping for my old friend here.”
Random set of guards, “Yes sir.” They replied.
In addition, as quickly as the youthful sovereign had made mention his request, the guards he spoke to dispersed, two down one hall, and one down another separate hall, and the remaining soldiers returned to their positions, a few ushering their company with them to move out of sight with discretion, to preserve the appearance that they all had been on task.
Merlin, “Very kind of you, I could use better spirits.”
Horus, “It’s the least I can do, you look terrible. Have you been sleeping again?”
Merlin, “You pay them well.”
Horus, “I do but they want land so things like this happen you see, they are like us, look close into their eyes and you will see the truth.”
Merlin, “I meant the guards.”
Horus, “...oh yes, you did have a ball of fire in your hand...and I do not think they like the jesters as much as they show.”
Merlin, “I was about to give you this.”
Merlin reaches into his long overcoat nearly as long as a cloak, pulling out and old hand and the trusted gift and gives the king one of the phoenix feathers. The virile king looks at it quietly intrigued, and contemplates in a deep respite thought.
Horus, with great wonder in his eyes spoke. “Tell me it’s near, I could have those southern dodgers chase it for months, with bounty as the bait and switch,” he said with a sound of eagerness in his voice.
Merlin, “I think you have more to tell me old friend.”
Horus, “If only you had brought more,” he said while walking to the irradiant throne in the brightly painted, festive hall. Two young boys each have brought a large red glass pitcher of wine carried by both on a short table with wooden cups. At first, it seemed to be red wine but the pitcher on the silver box platter carried white wine in a red glass container.
Merlin, “What is so important to send for me and not to come and visit, are you and Ana..,”
Horus, “It is now a time of great peril, I am fortunate to have you here to assist.”
Merlin: “I am not a pawn,” he said taking his first drink of the wine, “This is delicious.”
As the young boy with the pitcher had finished pouring into the second cup and setting the tinted pitcher down, the other boy, who was identical and possibly a twin, had taken to the wall as Merlin finished his serving from his cup, he tossed the cup to the boy and took the one that was full from the tray. His fingers, beard, face and hand, all together, began to turn anew, turning young from old.
Horus, “In the north, the light givers are at commotion, they gather in their city from as far as Pantograph, and we are rarely to see them at sea. When we do, it is never one of their fishing vessels, but a messenger class envoy or courier, traveling to Vanir in the north, with great speed. Recently we have seen sections of the mountain, dark for centuries turn lit again. Earlier we saw a carrier come from the other shore.
Merlin, “That is important; could they be in civil war? It could be a courier taking them their precious stones.”
Horus, “Fearing everything, we’d like to be sure”
Merlin, “Perhaps they are planning to fly their city into space.”
Horus, “This is not the time for your kind of laughs Merlin.”
Merlin, “They might.” He said as he turned his cup upside-down so that the king could see a much younger Merlin and an empty wine pitcher.
Horus, “We are on the only world we can reach, and I have more bad news.”
Merlin, “You owe them money.”
Horus, “Fetch us another pitcher of white wine.” He said as he sat down lightly. “To the south, The Red Merchant Army is gathering its troops, the entire city is in unrest and to make matters worse, they have entire sections of their city near their harbor covered in avoidance of spies from overhead.”
Merlin, “A little bird told you this.”
Merlin shakes his head and laughs to himself, turning yet younger again, while looking into his empty goblet. The roaming court of the prophet and his assistant the king had invited comes in to the center of the room. With the king waving them over, a few of them take the cover off a large stone cauldron which is filled with mirror glass, the king reaches into the inner pocket where he had placed the feather, and holds it before him, taking a lasting final look at the orange feather.
Horus, “I can use this now, do you have anymore?” he turned to Merlin and said.
Merlin shortly pauses and before long nods his head in affirmation, the king holds out the feather from the pocket he had placed it and rests it on the surface of the solid mirror pool, and the content of the giant pot, turned into a liquid, that seemed like water, and like mercury at the same time. Merlin is intrigued and steps closer. The two men step to the large basin, across from each other, and put their hands to the side of the cauldron. As a third, man in a turban steps to the bowl chanting something in a language with words mostly from the bottom of his throat, and the surface of the water became a vision of the coastline as if from a high cloud. From above the coast of the very place Merlin was visiting, a cloud covered the water connected to the outward ocean. From their position, they could view a dark mass, flying north and to the coast, to the right and from the dense clouds a creature flew speedily out from the dark mist and a small ship soon followed as if both were fleeing the huge shadow.
Returned, the children with the wine to where they had moved, around the gigantic container.
Merlin, “This is a wonderful visage. What did you do without the feather?”
The king told him, “Nearly forty pieces, and every time.”
Merlin, “But how did it work before now?”
Horus, “Forty pieces, they made me drop it in.”
Merlin “Seems a bit steep.”
In the clouds full of mist, floating above the land was a flying creature, a dragon of sorts with wings and a slight tail, but almost man because of having two legs, trailing behind it, in its flight, and the incomplete tail that surely acted as a fin, aiding it during maneuvering in flight. Following it was a ship of the air, and more closely by a glider with a set of wings of its own, flapping below the kite wall that kept it a float. The smaller glider looks more like a tiny bird with two heads, but as for the prey, the winged man looked more like a bat, dropping and darting across and over again, in a failing attempt to dodge the fireballs loosed from the flaming destructive slingshot the glider pilots were using from their vessel.
The magnanimous air-ships comprised a hunting party, the prey beneath his intentions of escape, had led them close enough to the southernmost defenses of The City of Light, and the large ship took assault twice by large harpoon like cannonade, though it had attempted to veer out and away from the land-based bombardment.
The ship as it fell to the ground, slowly rolling like a log, launched a longboat from its belly, to land on the water, only narrowly avoiding the main vessel as it landed, the wave tipped the life raft into the water but it settled upright on the water's surface despite its turbulent commotion. The second ship, pursued the reptilian creature of the air, still carried by the wind was on a safer course and still following the creature south at an incredible speed, waving back and forth along the shoreline, pummeling it with smaller projectiles but still in rapport with their overall agenda.
The flying creature dropped a spear as it twisted in the air and swooped to it, immediately launching it towards the pontoon, following above and behind and closing the distance between them both. The large steel arrow it had thrown narrowly missed the gliding pontoon, as they turned to miss their impalement. Flying against an invisible gust of air, the dragon cut back drastically, swooping behind himself and landing feet first to the roof of the flying apparatus as it leaned to one side.
The young dragonish flier had caught the small glider off guard, clenched its canopy with the claws of its feet, and turned it upside down. In a twist unable to gain control, it and the pilots began to fall abruptly in a calamitous spin like a bird, from midflight attempting to correct its course with a broken wing in a perilous spiral. Either of the gunmen attempted to fire as they fell and set fire to their own ship. The pilots attempted to jump craft, but only one of the two made what might be a safe landing in the water, the second fell unfortunately close at the shore and perished with a massive blast before it had even made it to the ground. The small glider in the process crashed into a small Traveler’s Wagon that had remained motionless during the conflict before a mountain pass that headed inland away from the shore.
The longboat that had jettisoned from the larger air ship was long on its way, fleeing from the raised coastline, leaving the lone plummeted pilot with no sign of turning back, as light giver ships had begun to dispatch in an almost instant desire for scavenging the parts of the huge wrecked ship.
Horus among the entrance stretched out his long arm over the water of the vision pool. As he did, the water seemed to drift up toward his hand ever so slightly, causing the water to bevel and ripple at the edges and elevate at its surface toward his skin. He points to the spot where the creature was heading, a bastion at the peak of a mountain to the east that he had passed. The magicians at the side of the cauldron were now pale and white, slightly shaking and flushed, as if in a feverish chill, despite their heavy clothing.
Horus, “There,” he pointed across the water.
They opened their eyes slightly more than they had, looking up to the king, slowly turning their head. With solid white eyes, they followed the length of his arm and began focusing to where he pointed, keeping their eyes open to let everyone standing about notice that their eyes had become devoid of any color completely. They leaned in, squinting once more, as if the water held an intense light, and leaned toward the center of the watery vision, as it began to glow. They began to enlarge the image by using their fingers to walk across the water with their thumbs behind the edge of the huge pot, gathering the waters behind their fingers like a child afraid of the night before slumbering, pulling the water’s edge behind their fingers. They did so all while mumbling a song, which they both new, as the image began to focus on the flying creature of newfound salvation, losing blood and with unbalanced movement, in terrible plight falling toward the entrance of a mountain castle.
The water began glowing, than when the distance between them and the boy had lessened they silenced and the surface of the watery vision pool leveled, and the visionaries once again clenched the rim, as if unable to let go of the window in the water. All whom surrounded the vision, could see that the boy was wounded and losing precious blood, and with an unfortunate sudden collision, the winged thing fell into the ground and rolled into a large set of engraved and stolidly hung stone doors.
The audience that had gathered winced at the painfully plighted crash.
Horus, “That's enough.” The king said and the turbaned man began tapping the two on their shoulder.
Merlin, “You're not going to show me the southern city,” he asked with a disappointed inflection.
Horus, “No I've seen enough.”
Merlin is pouring a drink as Horus walks away, grabbing a small boy who had climbed on the throne to see what they had seen. Horus threw him from the throne and took seat, closing his eyes as placed his arms on the rests and bowed his head. Merlin stares vacantly, intrigued by the entire even, than takes the cup and catches up with Horus. The prophets three end the enchanted vision portal of magic, as the two stewards of its sides fall away from the bowl with exhaustion.
Horus was honest and curt, as he replied, “No need, I’ll go back and investigate myself,” opening his eyes.
Merlin, “Go back, I’m no messenger and I don’t know where I’ve been,” he said taking another drink and tossing the cup into the garden to the side of the stone path they walked, below a stone ceiling only a floor tall, help up by smaller pillars like the ones in the main hall.
Horus, “I need you to go to them, and heal their dying son, and bring me back a pail of his blood, the one that fell.” He said still walking with a determined pace.
Merlin, “To what end?”
Horus, “Several moons ago two of them were here telling us they were from the clan of Malek. I was confused as the legend told that they were,”
Merlin, “Giant dragons...”
Horus, “Yes, you sent them?”
Merlin, “I knew him.”
Horus, “You know us all.”
Merlin, “Forgotten more than you know, I remind you. You were saying.”
Horus, “They showed me magic with blood they spilled of themselves; the bronzed blood became the things they desired and made this dagger.
The king shows the dagger to Merlin, the exceptional quality on the blade of engraved and stained designs etched on the knife's sides with a golden handle also engraved to show thorn rose vines and intricately detailed symbols.
Horus, “They said that they needed food from our fishery, and that the red merchants had hunted out the forest close to their land, just as they have begun over fishing The Amarna Sea for my city.”
Merlin, “What was it you said?”
Horus, “I agreed “
Merlin, “For only a dagger?”
Horus, “When they offered to make any and all tools that we need or need more of that are laboring to make or difficult to find.”
Merlin amused asked, “What will you be making when I return.”
Horus, “I need to open a Cipher’s Gate.”
Merlin, “A gateway will be highly dangerous.”
Horus, “We already have one.”
Merlin, “but I’m sure you cannot tell me.”
Horus at this point stops and grabs Merlin by both arms, highly concerned, an action for all to see.
Horus, “I am not using it to open one, I am making one to go back and spy on the army, if I can go back and gather information in disguise and perhaps with a little espionage, while I am there, than even if they have spies, luck will be on my side. I can’t be in both places at once.”
Merlin, “Bring me a bottle, and I will be there by the morning.”
Horus, “I need you be there by sunset or the moons rising.”
Merlin pauses as he realizes that they had walked into a kitchen filled with fruits and foods in preparation for a meal by beautiful women in scant clothing.
Merlin, “All right but I will need a nice pair of shoes, before, I go.”
Horus, “Take any of those.” He said pointing to a muddy pile of boots by a door that led outside, tasting the fare.
“A bottle and a wine sack.” The king shouted loudly to the people of the place.
“A pouch,” Merlin asked digging through the dirty pile.
Horus, “Take the wine, but a bottle will not be enough; the pouch you will take holds thrice that much.”
Merlin tied the straps on the second walking boot and told the king, “Anything goes wrong and I am to be blaming you.”
After a long perusal around the room and a brief contemplation of the day’s events, and the quest at hand after already having sat down to choose a proper shoe, deciding on a fitting boot, rises again and approaches the king with a striking grin of mischievous nature and asks, “I need one of your jesters,” as a random favor.
Horus, “Those are nice.”
Merlin quickly replied, “For the journey.”
Horus, “I always knew you were odd.”
Merlin, “He will carry the bag back.”
Horus, “you there,” he touted to a passing boy, “run fetch me Thomas.”
As luck would have it Thomas, the jester that he had quarreled with earlier, returned. He was wearing normal garb but it was the same design as would a jester wear at a performance, oddly the fool appeared without vibrant rare colors painted on his face, his hair still stiff with wax and pointing up as if he were hanging by his feet, but no hat or paint in his hair.
Several servants of the court bring back a handful of bottles and two sacks for the journey. Merlin picks up the bottle of his choice, opens the white wine, and drinks, handing the rest of the bottle to the king and then looking to the jester boy who seemed misplaced and now confused.
“Take these bags, fill one of these casks now, and follow Merlin here, to the estate of The Chimera,” Horus said pushing the bags to him and placing the bottle on the counter, only for a chef to move it out of their way, as the young man began filling the flask. They gracefully move away from the busy counter towards Merlin wrapping his boots.
Thomas, “Do you mean the Dragon Castle?”
Merlin, “I will take one of the sacks and that cask.”
Merlin takes the bottle Thomas is pouring into the cask and takes another drink while observing the king and jester. When sated, he hands the bottle back, and lets Thomas fill the cask, finally taking it from him and sliding it up his sleeve, and dropping his hands to his side with no obvious sign of anything being up his sleeve at all.
Horus, “You are to do what he says and never leave his side, unless he's going to get you killed.”
Merlin, “You killed the mayor’s prize hog.”
Horus somberly responds, “He’s a good man my friend Merlin, and you can trust him.” Merlin having put on a dark pair of boots says, “A life waits for good health, let’s go,” as he stands.
They walk out of the castle as Thomas apologizes to Merlin for confronting him aggressively, and for not introducing himself with the ‘good king’ present. Merlin appreciating the honesty accepts the apology and points to the sign above a tent bearing a symbol of alchemy. When entering the tent shop, a young man passes him, brushing into him on his way out, outside before the entrance, with a satchel and a book, running a slow jaunting step.
Merlin and the two toned brown suited and sullen jester step into the tent and view a vast amount of discernable space inside the cluttered tent, much more than was seemed from outside, with a collection of helms, casks, bottles, daggers, glass jugs of water, or at least what seemed to be, and several spices and powders of every color. The wares cover shelves and tables within the expanse that seemed ever so smaller from the outside perception. In the center of the room is a large pillar plated with a few mirrors that grew like flowers from a collection of weaved pipes and ropes that bound the column like vines. Also being odd was the unused countertop around it with mirrors that faced up as flowers would.
Inside the tent of illusion, stood a very short man at a very short legged table that was very large in width and covered in papers, ink, pencils and maps, some unfinished and blank, in a mess that if gathered he could not carry all at once. Two straps ran over his shoulders to hold his trousers, and his thumbs wrapped behind them keeping him at a clean presumptuous stance.
Merlin, “I need to know if you have everything I need.”
Shopkeeper, “I can assure you that we have almost anything that almost no one would ever need.”
Merlin without missing a step begins revealing his list while looking over the room, “Excellent, I need ice root, blood root, sorrow stones, a pouch of solid candle smoke. Do you have any crushed if possible?”
Shopkeeper, “you sound like your making a teleport potion.”
Merlin, “Perhaps I should try another shop, one that’s fresh out of questions, perhaps?”
The shop keep notices the jester and spouts, “hello young fool; I’ll be there momentarily son.”
Merlin, “He is with me. Do you have any fire-ice or diamond storm?”
However, the shopkeeper informs him, “Yes, but that last one is going to be a pretty penny. Are you sure you can afford it, you have a lot already and I am out of diamond storm. I just sold the last of it to the old man you passed when you entered.”
Merlin, “Where is he and who is he?”
Shopkeeper, “He said he was a trader. He had seeds from the other side of the land.”
Merlin, “And where did he go?”
Shopkeeper, “He hadn’t said.”
Confused he pauses, trying to remember something about the passer by, but regrettably cannot. His composure regained, he gathers the rest of his needed supplies into a pile before him and the little man.
Merlin picks and points to the rest of the items he wants, including some small premixed unidentified combination potions that were likely colored waters, and more things like special candles of a small sort and pellets of incense from the counter next to where the supplies were collecting. “I’ll take any stones polished with fish oil if you have them.” The age regressing wizard asked, and the little man by ladder collected them from a shelf behind him.
“Yet another odd request, for a man with so few pockets.” As the wee man is stepping down his ladder, a kid comes rushing in and talks to the little man in a foreign clacking dialect. The journeyman boy brings him a bag of bones and receives a payment. The white haired boy, looks to Merlin and continues uttering the undecipherable dialect causing the little man to laugh profusely, the young child then rushes out of the tent.
Each bone was not so straight Merlin noticed as the world’s tiniest shopkeeper poured them out onto the table. The little dude begins hammering them with an ordinary sized metal mallet that seemed the size of an anvil hammer in his hands.
Merlin, “How much does this cost?” holding up a piece of jasper filled water.
Shopkeeper, “2 pounds gold,” told him.
Merlin, “Here is what I need you to carry.”
From the shelves near the door, turning toward Merlin and the shop keep, Thomas comes over to them.
“Which color should I pick?” He asked, pointing to three jars on the table, he had already chosen.
Confused the shop keep stayed silent and before he could ask, Merlin hit the jester on the back of the head, rendering him unconscious. He pulls two pieces of gold from his own pocket, and bending over to the now unconscious jester, the tall wizard begins to pull the jester’s pockets empty, collecting the various items that included more than a dozen silver coins, the bottle from the pack he carried, a pair of gloves from an inner pocket and after, raising the flask from his sleeve.
The shop owner takes the flask weighing it to assume its worth. The shopkeeper removes the cap to smell the contents, waving the flask below his nose he let out a sigh of content. He takes a drink and gives himself time to clear his thoughts, then closing the lid quickly and putting it to his side beneath his vest.
Shopkeeper, “Never liked him much anyways, sir.”
Merlin, “You would like him less when you find him stealing,” and Merlin took a handful of things out of the jester’s inner pocket and put them on the table.
Merlin, “Will that supplement the cost?”
Shopkeeper, “It surely will, but you'll have to take him out of here.”
Merlin replied, “Move your tent, traveling salesman.”
Shopkeeper, “I’m leaving today, if you're shopping this way again, look for this symbol.” The little man points to the symbol over the map that resembles the caduceus.
Merlin takes the jester’s pack from him as he lay in the soil inside the tent, and begins to pack the new items he has acquired.
Merlin with a smile said, “I saw no wagon outside; only that small cart will not carry everything here.”
Shopkeeper, “I have a ship at your dock.”
Merlin, “Are you going to port iron, perhaps?”
Shopkeeper, “I was thinking I might go to Golden cove, or maybe Miner’s Edge.”
Merlin, “Well you have a safe trip. Avoid the coastline en route.”
Shopkeeper, “You as well, my friend”
Merlin grabbed the boy by the lapel of his vest and dragged him outside on his back, shouting back into the tent, “God speed” as the tiny man waved his hand once. Merlin approached the wagon and dropped Thomas carelessly from his shoulder onto a passing hay cart, half-full, driven by a big man.
Merlin wipes the sweat from his brow and looks down to the ground holding the wagon to seem a bit tipsy himself and spouted, “He's had too much to drink, will you drop him in a haystack near Ana’s bakery near the corals?”
Big Man, “Sure, put him on,” and the man rode away as slow as he had rode previously.
“Thank you.” Merlin replied gratefully.
He turns away and notices the walls of the tent shaking, many noises like pots colliding within the tent wall as the main tent post begins collapsing as the little man exits his shop. Merlin dusts his hands together, and begins his walk to the city doors in silence.