Merlin 2:29 “The Hourglass”
Trading gold and repartee, both of stroppy encounters, Merlin and his kith make respite at an inn called ‘The Hourglass’, the first surprise is for the barkeep when Merlin gracefully puts Arawn’s melted crown on the counter and slides it in an attempt at inconspicuousness, the second is of the travelers as half of a roasted ham with a flay of braised sweet apples is brought to them. A knave takes their plates and such and a maiden escorts Nickolas and Ana to a room above the restaurant, Merlin watches the bartender toss the bone to a shepherd dog that is only one or two cousins from being a full-fledged wolf, keen eyes below attentive ears. As the maiden offers to show him his own room he declines and begins to drink.
By dusk the room is filled with lively spirits and a boy with a tiny harp aside the fireplace, hearty fest in brethren jest to best the starry night, at which point Merlin approaches a thorough bacchanals as the trysting Nickolas and Ana descend the stairs to see him telling tales nearby Troy with a group of women, just in time to hear their begging answer, he to tell them, his white skin comes from windburn in the clouds, an entertaining of admiration.
In an hour passing the drinking has put the youthful village kin to leave for a younger clique to bide ways of smoking and joking unwarranted by adults, leaving room for others to patronize and in such do, the heavy laborers having worked until dusk and returned to their spouses and cleaned before gleaning a relaxing meal at the inn. Some are duly serving double duty as farmers and militia and thus choose to drink with comrades at day’s end, without food that isn’t buttered bread, and drinking heavily with the generosity of the innkeeper delivered as added libations for them because of the golden payment on the morn. Through the evening they tell jokes about exaggerated follies of enemies and their own deprecated misadventures, of which a closing line like oceanic tide doth come from Merlin.
Merlin: “…and he says, ‘you’re in rags, put this leather buckle beneath your tunic!’”
The warmth of ambiance, with the sound of the strings and uproarious laughter in revelry to Merlin’s joke Nickolas begins to topple, differently he cannot die but can be killed and much drinking of wine has done so to make his feet lighter than his head. As he tilts backwards toward the floor the newly gathered group bemoans his tumbling as a celebration of prediction, an anticipation they are hoping will end humorously. Alas to happiness it cannot, Nickolas swings wildly for balance and wallops a lummox with a stein on his skull and Merlin becomes the first man in profession to render another man unconscious with a joke.
A group of infuriated soldiers awaken within drunken farmers and Nickolas is struck across the face to the ground, foxed he stands regardless of threat and starts a fullout brawl, the look of a surliness and the swift of a tyrant the odd and uneven match is the first Merlin and Ana have seen their friend miss strikes and blocks to take smashes and cheap tricks. Young master Troy escorts two girls from the anarchy each by a hand toward the door, his hands behind his back as if shackled and escorted by twins, a local from their town seems angered at this more than at Nickolas and throws a fist. Troy catches the punch, though he is not stronger than his opponent his skin is tougher, he can feel the strike but the pain is more useful than distraction, as the attacker stammers Nickolas assists Troy by kicking the boxer’s knee and elbowing his head with a spin at the waist, with a smile to allow the frisky three to pass.
Merlin and Ana toss a table to its side near the fireplace and sit at its ledge to watch the tussle, keeping fools from catching the entire place afire as three men hold Nickolas for others.
Ana: “He sure is something else.”
Merlin: “His dedication and your spirit, make a torch of blessed union.”
Ana: “Should we help?”
Merlin: “I didn’t say I liked him that much. A favor says he makes it.”
Ana: “You’re on.”
By now the varied brawlers have found Nickolas to be their shared underlying problem, three soldiers hold him and another approaches and more stand watching. Nickolas pauses stoic as a vengeful spirit, his breathing becomes tired but in a wild show, on his left the soldier’s weakness is an unguarded thumb that pulls a twisted arm, on his right the soldier’s weakness is reaching for Nickolas whose elbow cracks across face in return, for the soldier behind him and before him, he kicks forward and stunts him then reaches behind and puts a headlock then drops to the ground to bridge the jaw to the force of the floor. Others approach to subdue Nickolas but he squires them until they tire, laughing or groaning afore the stools at the countertop, he sits aground with them in relief and pride for only a moment before taking their coin and taunting those who resist, each amount taken he moves to the innkeeper, who shocked accepts the tithe and checks the pulse of a man asleep on the table then pushes him to the floor.
Nickolas walks behind the bar and takes a bottle then stands in the doorway and drinks, his lover stands humbly and looks to the paintings not knocked from the walls then joins him, walking over bodies in a frolic, and leaving with him arm in arm. They’ll stay in the stables on a bed of fresh linens and scrims used for horse blankets. In the alley hot and heavy Troy kisses and speaks patois to the two girls who could be twins, Merlin interrupts them very much close to their equanimity scaring one of them to scream.
Troy: “What on earth Merlin?”
Aisling: “My god in heaven, leave us dog!”
Troy: “We’re wayward, what?”
Merlin: “You’ll find us sometime tomorrow heading north, whence still daylight.”
The alley becomes the site of rapt lechery as Merlin seems swallowed by shadows, he shan’t tell a soul that he would be sleeping in a tree, using the power of the world nature to rest atop the highest leaves.
At dawn the boughs wave with Merlin sleeping in their crest as Ana and Nick find him, at which point Nickolas decides to climb the tree to see the truth in how perfect it seems, yet Ana does not feel the same and watches. He shouts to Merlin three times, lastly on the inability to ascend to peak. A lofty stone wakes him and he falls to the floor, catching a brief sight of Nick before summoning wind to land safely tho without proper time to avoid an unwanted plummeting. On his feet he looks to see if the moment is tainted with danger.
Ana: “I had considered burning the tree...”
Merlin: “We’re going north.”
Nickolas climbs out of the tree.
Nick: “How’d you do that?”
Ana: “Whither were you found?”
Merlin: “I didn’t want the lawmen bothering me until I could rest…” dusting himself, “I saw a map that showed meadow to the north, to join Troy.”
Hours later Merlin and the lovers walk a narrowing road that eventually vanishes into the grasslands, passing thru the demesne and meadow Troy on a phoenix flies over their heads but the sight of a fellow sky climber deeply frightens Alerion causing it to cut hard discourse from wings seen in the distance, the abrupt turn jolts Troy in his saddle. Two Valkyrie fly in the distance, the phoenix flies in retreat far and fast and soon the angels fly toward a split horizon, from them an object falls loftily to the ground. One of the winged seraphs circles but ignores showing ambivalence and lets it fall, the three walk to the thing that fell so quietly moments ago.
Of inspection it is a doll with porcelain face shattered among the tattered fabric, after delay Merlin shoves the doll with his foot and when nothing happens he looks at the horizon for signs of route poisoning or a deity tariff to find none.
Nickolas: “The small world gets smaller.”
Ana: “If we turn back we’ll be at the tree line for days waiting for Troy.”
Merlin: “If we wait here, we’ll eventually hunger.”
Within a silent pause Ana stands akimbo and Nickolas bows while gesturing for Merlin to lead the way, which he does with emotive anxiety among the chicory, trillium, and yarrow pasture.
Kin approach the edge of consciousness to a point where the Valkyrie either landed or passed the world’s edge, which leads them to a kirk, the belfries broken the walls stand tall roof, decay still holds its pall, and a maladroit surreal remnant of an ornate temple somehow in abandon. Moisture in the autumn turning to spring working with moss, the stained glass still holding pat the rusting iron frames lost in sensor open and for the moonlight more than day the way left beckoning to birds, nonetheless a church in the shallow of nowhere.
The two Valkyrie carry a child under a spell to an alter where an archangel with a reddish hue prepares the blood of a snake, an eagle, and the child walking without spoken command to hold its cut hand over a large saucer beside an hourglass, blood runs from fingertips as if the ends were cut and when complete the celestial touches the girl on her head and she faints aside the alter. At the sacrifice of bloods an hourglass rests as the sylph speaks tendentious incantation in ceremony of circumstance to define revelry of desired achievement, cassock hostages in their monastery are forced to watch.
Archangel: “…and the son came to the baleful host prayerful, thence became the weapons open erst, the guards now durst all …and when God’s angels could keep their tongues and tithes he brought the breath of life to man, …soon we walked their cities turning rust into aureate metals and without thanks they loved their treasure.”
The rosy angel walks near the captive monks who hang their heads and shiver in fear of blood, blasphemy, and belligerence.
Archangel: “…but man is wretched and began to take the gold from the denizen …the shepherds of the lord shouted how embarrassed they were that they ever embarrassed them all, the greed of salvation was far worse than survival …for their indifference we turned their coins to ash and their stores to rot.”
The weak waifs and strays take council and send their prayers unto their gods heedlessly, one rushes toward the archangel but a move by a Valkyrie puts a sword through him, the archangel takes a swipe of blood with his finger and tastes it. The murder weapon holds the victim standing lifted by blade from falling and with an acknowledgement, the sabre is withdrawn as the body falls without a scream in paroxysm as another monk begs for reprieve only to be slain himself, another angel breaths a cold breath and the remaining fearful fall into eternal slumber.
Another monk with promises of servitude of forbearance clutching missal and catachrestic pride as Merlin begins reprisal to the reproached, only in time to see the innocent backhanded with such strength he is thrown into the shadows and pews through the rays of light.
In the white chapel kirk they enter and there stands an angel in grey thinly woofed wool with black wings, beside him other with hair that shines like chaff of wheat shine beneath the sun, shields across their backs and armor aegis front.
Archangel: “Away I say! Else thou shalt no more hereafter.”
Merlin slowly paces backward in apprehension. Nickolas the closest to siege abandons Ana whereas she confronts monks near the abbey who’ve sworn fealty to the Valkyrie despite the bloodshed.
Merlin is slightly hesitant trying to glean surveillance of the situation once noticing the child slumped against the stone alter, but his eyes do not move fast enough to hide his curiosity from the archangel.
Merlin: “Manifest Destiny?”
Archangel: “Provident malarkey, murder him.”
Counting his moments Merlin lunges for the sacristan altar, beside the snake in a vase and the flayed eagle behind the bowl of blood to attack, but the large angel turns the hourglass and eschews a sanctuary to this fate. An hourglass in a strong wooden framework is nearly reached as the archangel grasps for him, the timepiece is taken, turned, and time begins to slow before the Valkyrie ceremony is complete, the two are complicit within a time storm. Four Valkyrie draw their swords to aid their leader but are abruptly interrupted by Nickolas dropping quite literally from the rafters liberally applying a blade through the ornamental helmet of one, the winged warrior is mortally wounded as another skewers Nickolas and tosses him aside with a throw that hoists then slides him from enemy blade. Immortally resurrected he takes an antique candelabrum, with its branches kicked clean it serves as a spear to pierce another in the leg and a scream inward.
Merlin and the angel captain speedily fight wherein he in his unbalanced, in the time between falling grains of sand lies eternity. Advantage puts a lance into the wing of one outside the temporal inclusion, determined to slay Nickolas they pull their shields from their wings, where two curved metal brackets dost hang a shield on an arm, their shields rest the same manner over the sinew where their wings meet their backs, pulling the shields over their heads and placing them to their arms. The déclassé Valkyrie with a sliced wing is the same who stabbed the monk and does not claim his shield herein only swings the blood from his blade to the floor and marches to Nickolas with a look of anger.
Without cordon shield the damask wings of the two celestial soldiers have room to stretch and serve as shields if necessary, Nick is often skewered at his arms by the Valkyrie, ripping limb to battle further, lashings a heart piercing, severed the bones tearing, rend the arm in rolling to avoid glaives, an angel leg cut, a second angel another leg sliced and swift moves to take both wings from the already wounded battler, a scream demarche. He pauses in hiding and falls into the cataclysms of blood loss then open his eyes with healing wounds.
Merlin and the archangel taunt each other in a hiatus from combat austerity. They cannot be heard but move quicker in swaying tide, voices without sound and movements unbound, slow in wait and stealth in gait, apercus like words underwater. Ana sneaks behind the archangel, his teeth are sharp as he speaks to Merlin with a caustic hex of sound wave superior, she places her wrists together and blasts fire at the Valkyrie risen in milieu, superfluous in faster speed it notices her and dodges hinter deft Merlin is sure to chase after it crashing into the pews both, he lands on the winged deity and attempts to hack with a sword taken from the ground, clashing to gauntlet and blown aback by the powerful wings. Infuriated the archangel flutters the ground tempestuously then stands, formidably slightly larger than other Nephilim.
The spring rains bring a darkened sky as heat rises in the temple, the candles everywhere are beginning to melt and the air is furnace blight less with depth from the glowing hourglass. With sword in hand one of Nickolas’s opponents tries to lunge saber into spoil, missing again an angled jab to stab his brow with the blade, open and unready Nickolas twists the extended arm behind the Valkyrie while ducking beneath the wing, to take a knife and pin the winged man’s hand to his back with his elbow bending the wrong direction and pealing a howl of anguish.
Nickolas jumps clear from spearing and causes an angel to thrust the wingless one in the heart, the survivors fighting him pause in disbelief as he takes advantage. Merlin battles the leader who at times blocks strikes and spells with a wing otherwise battling with them closely, Merlin is not the best of swordsmen. Slowly Nickolas attacks the battle storm, he kills his foes one with precision the other with Ana burning wings and he cross cutting with two blades to decapitate the second. The sand in the hourglass runs out of the top chamber and together Merlin Ana and Nick fight the mighty archangel but cannot win, the wings blast winds and act as shields, the aura for many of Merlin’s easier and readied spells turns to steam and conjurations of larger power can be sluggish and for cause and case be dour.
The solemnity of enmity proliferates to a contingent status, Nickolas walks around dead angels tired and brutishly stoic with a blade in one hand and a fist in tother amidst blood on his limbs, with the sand went the day thus from the timepiece silence befalls the night. He runs to team against the archangel in bitter lavish hatred but alas shortfallen, no fear for the setting sun, in better footing the Valkyrie lifts his head and dives out of way with a wing wrapped afore him and one arrear, an overborn tumult brings a brunt collision with Nickolas and the forward wing manifestly spinning him. Yet limber with a spinning jump from his foot he twists midair and cuts the ash angel on the right arm made vulnerable by dependence to wind balance.
Wooden doors that will not in due time be viable against the rain shatter as new angels of the haute sky kick and hack through them, Merlin turns in amazement with dearest dread, in moments a light emanates from the new arrivals, a wave of energy takes tide to encroach and entreat as all are put to sleep thus falling from where they stand.
Merlin wakes on the ground next to a small puddle of blood to acquiesce let and watched by a sylph as others work to put a struggling archangel into gyves.
Archangel: “You dare to take me! Not of my flood, my spies daren’t thee, his son and your brother; they are made in error, error! Who fell should be felled Michael!”
Michael: “Don’t mind him…”
Dead hagiographers lay about the monastery, stacks of sewn books with melted candles on their burnt pages spared in cooler air by the latter day and evil thence way, the temperature of morrow languid and eerie. Wounded and being escorted the still whence angel speaks turned in anguish and tears looking to Merlin.
Archangel: “Flee harbingers of the nine, this is Merlin, our child of peace …who is here to slay us all!
As the vile transgressor is reluctantly taken into the sky by winged guards the others make sure to put to death the wounded and the traitors, then accostable wait for Merlin to speak.
Merlin: “He knew my name?”
Michael: “He can know what you are, as can be.”
Merlin: “Thus do thou.”
Michael: “We will speak anew. You may keep the hourglass.”
Michael turns and walks toward the hole created in the door well within limit, requite by implacable undemonstrativeness and eyes trapped within memory, with exeunt angels Merlin becomes ostracized by sophistry and enamored with the hourglass, sound becomes purged and broken as he slowly paces forth.
Ana and Nick bond embraced and twixt enlaced to peruse for scars of body and soul and notice to the floor a gathering of loose feathers from dead angels, golden traced and soft effaced brittle by the bond of touch. They call to Merlin with excitement but he has renounced cordiality and places his hands on the majestic device.
As he lifts the energy glows and swallows echoes, the light with caliber of energy prior which put to sleep admix of smoke and water is drawn into Merlin by the spirit of magic and the twilight of gods as the walls tremor. When the essence is consumed there is quiet until he drops the time keeping fixture, the glass breaks and sand spills leaving the others to watch in aversion for mutiny in the air, he turns to them with his eyes aglow and tattoos on his skin glowing a whitish blue warm beneath his skin and slowly fading.
Merlin: “We’ll take the horses on the other side of that wall.”
His companions look to the wall unto he stares and back to him, a look of confusion placates as Troy comes rushing into the anxiety, Nickolas draws his arm to throw a blade but is stopped by Merlin.
Merlin: “You were mentioning feathers?”
Merlin: “Late, unbecoming.”
Troy: “A man with wings chased me, far off, told me to help you.”
Ana: “Fetch linen to carry these.”
The sacramental girl hides behind the altar in the ruins, the signs of death via beleaguering conflict naught but with a bracelet bearing the name ‘Lilith’ etched, a stone rolls from beneath her lifting foot and without pulse she is unseen dismissed as aftermath. Nickolas and Troy return to gathering the large feathers turning gold and brittle as Ana in plenary becomes counsel.
Merlin: “We will leave before the scavengers of such high beasts arrive on us. Gather what you can and follow without.”
Three steeds in a yard readied with saddle and supplies are not timid or skittish and humbly allow new riders, the bags are stocked with durable food and youthful each horse seems watered and rested.
Inside the girl scurries, a bloodshot stare that quickly turns to paranoia as she raises her shoulders then shifts from hiding to standing on the floor, the combined bloods of sacrifices emanate a negative sound as she drinks it, her eyes fill will a white cloudy swirl of blood as she begins to struggle with convulsions, but she remains standing until her eyes pool with whiteness. Satiated she pushes the tables accoutrements to the floor without physical action, the power shrouds her memories taken beyond remorse abandon, she turns and leaves the temple opposite of travelers four, and by the time she reaches the doorway she is grown taller and aged by scarcely few nubile years, her gown now a prairie dress, walking into the sunset.