Merlin - 17 Smoke and Mirrors
The trees are tired and slant and weave, lying across others heavily abused, the storm has caused the trees to lash the ground, tearing open large trenches and whip lashes of black and fertile earth. Nickolas the advocate of his own accident, like many things in the cyclone's detriment, has been thrown many times over, unable to maneuver the ferocious wind, fatefully and fatally thrown carelessly to the ground by the sweeping torrent that had thrown everything in its path. Merlin however was wind washed, fresh and avid, checking himself for wound, while at the edge of the wood behind the broken trees, stand two vampires long in the tooth, betwixt a fading storm and the bowing arbor, their eyes squinting with Merlin far in the distance, staring presumably at the deceased Nickolas. To one side, a fair woman with bright flaxen and dandelion hair, to the other, another pale soul with hair as dark as night, cautiously staring at the twisted, mangled, skewered knave on the ground ahead of them. As they sneak out of the trees, searching for a sign as it were, as Merlin moves forward with a progressive sense of guile and servility, noticing them before they he, because of Nickolas coming together again they do not immediately notice, the untouched wizard walking in the wake of the disaster, in the land below the hillside sanctuary.
Blond: “We had thought he was dead.”
“Ugh,” let Nickolas in an exasperated sound of disgust.
Merlin: “He handles well.”
Beyond them into the distance Nickolas slowly raises to his feet to a grimaced arduous candor, stretching as if he had recently woke.
Blond: “We had thought he was dead.”
Brunet: “We needed his life to make our journey, scavenging only.”
Merlin: “Were you the ones in the cabin?”
Brunet: “No, the old man who lived there let us drink but passed many moons ago.”
Blond: “Our abode was the many stones strewn about in this lost forest.”
Brunet: “We pass the days secluded, drinking but not killing.”
Blond: “We apologize…we did not intend to feign the moonstruck, wanderer.”
Brunet: “Please do not harm us master of the storms.”
Merlin: “I had only come to carry along my friend there...”
They have vanished instantaneously, without trace of wind or whisper to anon, behind the trees they abolished.
The propitious two brag and boast in complicit revelations of the finished event and harmless yet benevolent encounter. Back at the cabin, they return with spoils of victory and volition. The phoenix is audible trying to speak with a voiceless stammer as they approach, as if it were shouting at the leaves. It walks before them and pauses and then leans its shoulder into Nickolas, only than briefly and walks away to scratch the ground behind itself with its claws a couple of times, lowers its head and flies to the roof, which begins to buckle under its weight.
Troy: “Get off the roof!”
A palm rock hit it presented with lofted muster, flustered and embarrassed the bird flies towards the trees, like a stammering bull with a buzzard’s grace. The small shack jostles, as once in air the yellowed red bird sweeps downhill, gliding as swift as stealth low to the ground, into the lowland.
Merlin: “You'll have to keep it indoors in barns and corals.”
Troy: “As you wish my liege.”
With a very subtle sigh of discomfort, Merlin looks hardly at Troy and says, “It will take some doing, go fetch it and return please.”
Keenly so with the order Troy rushes off into the pummeled landscape. The advocate magus and the comely so pair affectionate stand in wait, watching to the verily carnage swathed basin. Later that afternoon, as the candle burns to the pace of a dote wind and investigative Phoenix made for flight, so does the hours of the day, beneath the rolling clouds and bathing glory of a sunny morrow.
A crudely fashioned table made of half a tree and smoothed with stumped legs holds Ana who rests upon it with a pillow of gathered cloth, with Nickolas sitting on a bench of similar fashion behind it, holding hands and parsing the time with jokes between humble flattery and glinted moments. Merlin sitting in a chair carved into a log on its end with a tall supportive back and a plank sticking from the backside to keep the chair’s patron from falling behind themselves, and Troy as much the same, whittling explicable pass, with the Phoenix laying faintly like an old dog, its wings spread retrieving the shadow on the sun.
Troy: “Can I look through the book?”
Merlin: “If you are careful. This book may fetch a good meal.”
Merlin reaches into the back of his cloak, stretching the chair to draw the tome from his kept shadows, and passes it to Troy who looks through the book as to move each printed window tedious, with pages each turned, and locked in fascination by the intricate if not arcane cryptic cipher. Merlin stares at the fire within everything else thinking of the end as the evening grows.
Nickolas: “Where do we travel next, to the kings at sea, or the depths of hell?”
Ana: “Hell is far from here.”
As Nickolas looks confused, Merlin stares at the fire with an even greater apparent confounded contempt, anger and miserable wrath.
Ana: “What is wrong fellow of the sage?”
Merlin: “I have not seen that book in ages.”
Merlin rises and walks to Ana, taking the book from Troy along the way, handing it to her with the front open to read the patent moniker written within the cover.
Ana: “Ambrosius, it must be near here.”
Troy: “What?” he shouted.
Merlin: “It will be only a small investigation.”
Ana: “Another of your lies and alibis I presume...?”
The Phoenix has risen to pile broken branches like a dam out of water and lies against the rubbish. The others sleep, after gathering broken trees, taken from the phoenix’ labor for a fire, but eventually they all rest, Merlin in the chair, Ana and Nickolas on the pile, and Troy against the floor in front of the fireplace having fallen asleep reading within the shelter.
He lay asleep; a steam begins to rise from his skin as if he had just run in the rain and of the fever. It waves and gathers eventually filling the air, unspoken dancing on the windowsills from across the floor, until he smells smoke, awakening himself. The smoke expands with an onerous silence across the cabin and Troy leaping to his feet he wakes everyone, "A fire! We must run!”
Outside Ana notices his smoking jacket and points to his back for Merlin to notice as Nickolas rummages the shelter trying to decode the cause of the fire with his paramour outside waiting in the dusk. The fog fills the lowlands and the cold whisks the hilltop coppice, it wakes the bird who stammers to the aging fire and snarls while chewing dying embers, a rustle with noise from within and Nickolas exits to stand in the building’s doorway.
Nickolas: “There is no fire?”
Ana pushes Merlin on his arm.
Merlin: “Perhaps it was the candles...”
Merlin spoke as a steam still glints from Troy, but relentless with tireless aspiration to slumber they file once again into the cottage.
Ana: “Open the window let the air, rid the smoke.”
Merlin: “And let us try to not burn the house during slumber.”
The bird peeks over the window ledge once opened, sneaking to and from the sides of the window in passing, peering over only to explore briefly the intrigue caused by the commotion. An additional coquet with the dreamland shone by silver moon shines and a wandering prominence, waves of waning dale, swaying to the edge of the night wall, as they settle to sleep.
In the morning, the duly songster sparrow sing, the air collects as a mooring sunrise in the distant long grass and the dew ridden horizon. A hawk chases a crow through air, the prey so frantic it nearly flies into Troy’s hair, raising his hand to avoid collision the chase swerves and leads into the trees, to return with roles altered. The hawk now the shunned intrusion to a murder of crows that seem dare not let it leave, the aviated battle takes deep into the trees, as the cawing army pursues to punish.
Merlin: “A good defense is as good as an attack. Nickolas!”
Nickolas: “What have you good sir?”
Merlin: “Show Troy, some of your skill, some well deserved fighting skills.”
Troy: “What does he mean, well deserved?”
Ana: “There is other danger notwithstanding.”
Nickolas: “Of course, a boy should always know how to defend, if you will excuse me.”
Old Nick slips his enchantment and stands before Troy with one arm behind his back.
Nickolas: “Choose your weapon young sire.”
Nickolas then bows spreading his free arm as to display the landscape. Troy picks an ordinary stave and begins into him, spreading his attack hastily with an unguarded frame, stagnate wide and small clumsy steps as tiring faulty paces as they begin, training what could be between vanity deception and motivated chance luck, a novice and an authority of professional combat.
Ana: “So he has started smoking. He is so young.”
Merlin: “Some...irascible tenet during his sleep, it would be many moons before actuated reaction.”
Ana: “When will you tell him what is happening?”
They finish sparring and wrestling, a single combat, a dueling conflict, when Nickolas takes a wound on his face, embarrassed to the touch. Troy looks to Merlin to witness an inveterate stare passed a troubled Ana walking towards him. Nickolas holds his hand on his face and the other palm to Troy who drops his weapon as she passes he treads to Merlin.
Troy: “What does that word mean?”
Merlin: “You could hear that?”
Troy: “I can.”
Merlin: "Have you heard the expression, where there is smoke, there is fire?"
Troy: “Yes I have.”
Merlin: "You have bond to that Phoenix, when it fuels its fire; it also stokes your flame."
Troy: “So I began to fume our evening passed?”
Merlin: “Forthcoming you will have the use of fire in combat.”
Troy's head slightly bowed, tilted and twisted, as in stern contemplation lost to a daydream looking over the fields, Nickolas walks by and punches him in the arm as he holds a rag to the slice on his face. Ana sits on the picnic table and welcomes Nickolas with open arms.
Nickolas: “And a dry sense to your humor.”
Ana: “Keep taunting him and it'll be a dry death.”
Ana looks over the wound and through his hair for any remainders of the skirmish. Merlin picks up a stave from the ground nearly the size of a wrist, and points it to Nickolas.
Merlin: “, Care you to quarrel with an older adversary?”
Nickolas: “A rotund proposal from someone who should know I ascribe to new battle.”
Ana pushes Troy as he near vacantly stares at the Phoenix in the distance. Merlin takes the staff with one hand and with the other, holding the stick within his thumb and forefinger in the cusp of his hand with a calm handle he paints the staff with fire. Nickolas stands in momentary amazement; only briefly, before dashing in discordant battle, strike and foil, with lunge and parry, whirling flamed staff verse birch barricade, perpetual stalemate the two are formidable and prodigal. Each subsequence a lifting of impenetrable scale of heavily armored contention, the sort of infernal confinement that sheds light on the dark shadows of the mind, during chance and brief glimpses of grudging soul sight. Landing contused, scratched and bruised, fear unhinged to burn and singe, tolerant to form and exasperate power, and as ashes fall evenly so, as Nickolas falls to the ground like a stone, balancing control and forgiveness, Merlin holds the torch downward then into the air behind him and insistently pervasive offers his open hand to help him to his feet.
Merlin: “He is good to us. You are a king among men.”
Nickolas: “You are as well.”
Merlin: “I will show you something in appreciation.”
Merlin takes the torch and slowly waves it immediately above the surface of a patch of the grass; the moisture boils and wafts upward into the air. Merlin moves the torch aside and stands holding out his hand. With his power, he gathers the moisture and ash in the air and it gathers around his hand like a liquid mirror. He drops the torch and with his other hand, he fans the air around the camouflaging mist, revealing the flawed impermanence of the deception.
Merlin: “With enough fog and ash, hunting becomes more of a sport.”
Ana: “The flame is bond.”
Merlin: “Yes, the ash collects the mist, rather than let the vapor gather as water.”
He lets the materials fall onto the torch, putting out most of the flame with a drop and a simple hissing sound.
Troy: “Subdue that fire.”
Nickolas: “Look into the field.”
In the field a hunter walks, laden with nomadic pelts and a long hastily fashioned spear, skewering skins. Once the lance is full, he turns about and heads into the wilderness. By the afternoon, a nearby audaciously impudent tribe discovers and explores the aftermath for meat and pelts, gathering lumber in fair numbers on sturdy wagons in the sullen valley. Merlin and the others, leave in the night into solitude and the outer darkness.