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Timeslip (part two - final)

Title: Timeslip (part two)
Word Count: 4635
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, homophobic abuse
Summary: Something's gone wrong with time and World peace is at stake. Can agent Merlin save the ancestor of his dead lover?

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/10/25/


2.

Merlin was tired but he refused to even think of stopping, not yet. They had driven through most of the night (changing cars twice) and now Arthur was asleep next to him, his mouth slightly open.

“Fuck!” the time operative whispered and willed his erection to go away. He also used one of the chips in his head to pump more adrenalin into his system; he had to stay awake. They were taking the back roads to the Duchy of Cornwall, the very scenic route.

Earlier, when the night was still young, Arthur had not stopped asking questions; where had he hid the body of the would be assassin, where they were going, how Merlin had known his name? Merlin ignored them all and eventually silence in the car became thick with resentment from the kid, a mixture of emotions dominated by grief from the time agent. Eventually, Merlin had pulled over to the side of the country lane and killed the engine.

Without looking at the blond, he spoke. “The one who tried to kill you is trying to change the future.” He put up one finger and turned his head to stare into the boy's eyes. “Shut it.” Arthur closed his mouth. “You've been toying with the theory and practicalities of time travel since you were eleven; you're quite famous from I come from. Anyway, that assassin is from this time because I did a scan and found no implants, no organic chips in his body. Also, he had a scar from the time he had his appendix torn out; we don't have scars in the future.

“There's an organisation that's been working for decades, hell, perhaps hundreds of years, that's been pulling the strings of the militery-industrial complex of the world. It will soon not be content to work from the shadows. It's called the New World Order and it will make the future very bad indeed. Don't ever think of living in London.”

Arthur was silent for a few moments and then he slowly nodded his head once. Merlin was impressed.

“And who do you work for?”

Merlin looked back to staring out of the window screen. He constantly scanned for danger, even using the rear view mirror. He hated surprises. “ETA, the European Time Agency, which we thought was the only one.”

“Well, you're a time traveller, yeah?” said Arthur and Merlin knew what the teen was going to ask next. He even had asked the same question when he had started basic training. “Why not just change time so this New World Order doesn't exist?”

Merlin's answer was nearly automatic, but he detected some of the passion in his voice that he once had, just a few years ago. “Time travel is dangerous and requires great responsibility. Recently, the only people I knew that had it was the EU and we've kept the invention to ourselves, making no threats to the rest of the world, just stating our neutrality.”

Again Arthur let the information sink in. “What about me? Don't I know too much already? You've changed time already. What are you going to do to me?”

Merlin turned back to the blond. He saw the brave look on the young face but was not fooled. “Don't worry, Arthur, the time stream can take a lot before it's unable to repair itself.” What he chose not to mention was that Merlin could also hypnotise the teen and make him forget, though the time op would be loathe to do it.

For now, that had been enough for the blond and Merlin started up the stolen car once more. The silence became more bearable and as they weaved through the country lanes of Somerset, the headlights showing endless tarmac and hedgerow, Merlin knew that despite the adrenalin rush he would need sleep soon.

He accessed the map of this time in his head and knew that the town of Wellington (population 15500) was just ahead. It lay near the border of Devon and come morning they would just have a short trip to Arthur's country home in Cornwall. If they were lucky, Merlin could drop him off by noon and then start tracking down any rogue ANWO ops in the area. It was a plan.

Buildings started to loom up around them and Merlin made for the commercial centre and a string of bed and breakfasts on the edge of it. He parked outside a crumbling, three storey building that had a 'Vacancy' sign in the window and checked the time; twelve minutes passed ten. Not too late.

“Bring your bag. You're my nephew and I'm taking you to see your father. Let's stick as close to the truth as possible. You're school will soon alert the police that you're missing and I hate complications.”

Arthur nodded his head again and got out of the car, as did Merlin. A plump woman let them in and two adjoining rooms were paid for (using the time op's ever useful multi-purpose credit card), but Merlin made Arthur go into his own room. A flimsy decoy, but it was better than nothing.

“It's a double bed,” whispered Arthur as he took out his pyjamas and started to undress.

“Observant,” muttered Merlin and, after checking the lock on the only window, laid down on the thick, red carpet across the door. He propped up his head with one hand and stared at the teen. Lean and coltish; Merlin's cock hardened. “Kill the fucking light and get some sleep,” he savagely demanded and regretted the words when he saw the fallen look on the blond's face. Merlin turned away and laid his head down. “Just do it,” he whispered.

He heard Arthur get into the bed and the bedside lamp was switched off. In Merlin's head came images of his lost love, the smiling and always optimistic blond who had been the perfect balance to Merlin's darkness. “I miss you so much, Arthur,” he barely whispered and failed to keep in the few tears that escaped.

“You okay, er, sir?”

Merlin swallowed back the lump in his throat and coughed. “Yeah, and call me Merlin. Just remembering someone I've lost recently. Don't worry about it.” After a pause he said “And Arthur?”

“Yes sir_er, Merlin?”

“I'm sorry.”

“'kay. Good night Merlin.”

The time op could sense the smile in the kid's voice and he smiled himself. His lover's grandfather was just like him. “Good night, Arthur.”

* * *


Arthur had always been a light sleeper, or perhaps it was the extraordinary experience he was in that made him jolt to wakefulness when he heard a noise that was not quite right; a muffled scream cut short.

He sat up and saw that the dark shape of Merlin, where it should have, gone. “Merlin!” he hissed into the darkness.

Nothing.

Arthur felt panic rise up in his throat again, like the time last night at the school, but he squashed it. The blond was impressed with his own courage. Instinct; he tumbled out of bed and landed on the carpet near the window just as he heard the door splinter apart. A scuffle in the shadows. Daringly, he edged his head above the level of the bed to see what was happening.

The blond could make out Merlin's white tee and knew that his rescuer was fighting another person from this New World Order. White against black, light verses shadow, the blows were a blur and over in seconds. Merlin had this second assailant in an arm-lock. Bone snapped and still the killer did not scream. Merlin quickly broke the other arm and swept a leg to force the other man to the floor. Speedily, the dark-haired time agent leapt upon the man and held him down in a schoolboy pin.

“Arthur, close what's left of the door and switch the light on.” Merlin's voice was calm, in full control.

Arthur scrambled over the bed to do as asked. He flicked the main light switch. The man held down by Merlin was no older than the blond, pale skinned topped by a buzz-cut of mousey-brown hair.

“How many?” evenly asked Merlin.

In response the killer tried to catch Merlin's neck in a grip with his legs. A savage blow to his genitals soon stopped that.

“How many time ops are after Arthur?”

The youth smiled. “Enough.”

Again the genitals were smashed and this time Arthur could hear a grunt of pain. Still, the smile. Merlin narrowed his eyes and with one fist once more struck at the youth's nether vitals until the smile had gone.

“Answer.”

“Enough! Promise me you'll let me live.”

Merlin looked to Arthur and the blond saw a coldness in the dark, blue eyes. “I promise, if I am convinced you're telling the truth.”

“One more, the best. I should've listened to him and waited.”

“Back in 2062, where are the ANWO based?”

Once more the smile returned. “The circle is complete,” was all that the young killer would say, a fanatical look to his sweaty face. Merlin punched the man in the throat and broke his neck.

Arthur's innards churned. “You promised,” he whispered. “You fucking promised!”

“Get dressed,” commanded Merlin as he rifled through the pockets of the dead assassin, but found nothing.

Although Arthur did dress himself he seethed inside. Merlin had murdered the other time operative. It was just not right. Eventually, when he had got his anger under a little control, he turned to the man (who now carried the body over one shoulder) and glared.

Merlin rolled his eyes and then opened the door. When he was certain that no one was about, he led Arthur down the stairs to the narrow hallway. Here, the landlady was on the floor, her neck broken. Her muffled cry must have been the sound that had first woken Arthur. The blond finally emptied what little remained in his stomach onto the tiled floor.

“Come on,” Merlin roughly said and led them both to the stolen car.

* * *

The silence was back, thicker than before. Merlin drove them to a little used industrial estate (it was only a few years after a colossal financial crash after all), took the body from the boot and proceeded to burn it, using green crystals designed for such a purpose. After he was satisfied with his enemy's destruction he got into the car and ground his teeth in frustration when the blond boy was still in a sullen mood.

“Out with it,” he barked, seething himself.

“Why?”

Arthur was staring at him with an accusing look. Merlin stared back. “He had already murdered that woman and I couldn't let him go. What, you think he wouldn't have had another go? Or perhaps you wanted me to 'phone the police and hand him over, yeah that'd just have been great,” he finished sarcastically. He was reaching his limit. “Your so like him_” Merlin cut himself short before he revealed too much.

Arthur narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean? Like who?”

Merlin turned away. “Nothing,” he mumbled. He quickly changed the subject as he started up the car. “He was most probably from my time, Arthur, with implants and God knows what else in him that your world is not ready for, which is why I had to burn the body. That reminds me,” he continued as they left the estate and entered a major road leading out of the town, “if I die, you must do the same to me.”

The time op sensed rather than saw the horror that the boy was feeling.

“I_I couldn't. I just...couldn't.”

“You've got to be strong for me, Arthur,” Merlin had his anger under control and he knew that he was now totally in control of their dynamic once more, “or this timeline will be in an even greater peril.” He thought of what would be left of an English government of the future with a time band, implant organic chip technology and who knew what else. He shuddered. The EU wouldn't stand a chance once the NWO nuclear bombs had gone off and the world had gone to hell. “You're smart, you know it'd have to be done.”

He chanced a sidewards glance at the blond and saw him chew at his lower lip. “I suppose, but I don't like it. And I still think you could've done something else for that guy as well. He was about my age for fuck's sake!”

“We'll just have to agree to disagree,” was Merlin's final word on the matter and he navigated the car back to the little used country lanes, this time of the county of Devon. Eventually he parked the car in a by-lane and killed the engine. Pre-dawn started to glow in the east. The sky was cloudless. “I still need sleep and repair the damage I received in that fight.”

Arthur looked alarmed and this somehow comforted Merlin. The time agent shook his head slightly. “Nothing to worry about. I have some enhancements that will make me good as new in a few hours, but I need rest. Sorry Arthur, but I won't be able to get you to your Dad's until much later today, most probably this night sometime.”

Arthur gulped. “Just as long as you're going to be okay. I'll look after you while you rest, yeah?”

Merlin stifled a grin. So much like his grandson. “Yeah, thanks. You wake me if anything happens and I mean anything.”

The last thing he saw before closed his eyes was the blond nodding his head vigorously in agreement. The last thing he felt was Arthur's head resting on his shoulder and a tentative hand over the older man's chest, over his heart. Merlin smiled as he forced himself into a healing sleep.



Something was wrong. Even before he opened his eyes he sensed it. The broken bones in his left hand were fully healed as were the few cracked ribs, but something was not quite right. He jolted himself fully awake and saw that he was alone in the car. Arthur's bag was on the seat next to Merlin.

He panicked.

In a second Merlin was out on the road. It was late in the afternoon; he had slept far too long. Merlin wanted to cry out the boy's name, but what if enemy time agents were in the area? He frantically ran a little down the lane, looking left and right for any sign of where Arthur had gone, dreading to see a body curled up in a ditch somewhere, a body with bright blond hair. Then he saw him and a mix of emotions coursed through Merlin's body; anger, relief, love.

Arthur was casually talking to a man who tended a small van that sold beef burgers and other oily foods to farm workers and any passer bys. The legend on the van said 'Hussein's Fast Foods'. Merlin casually walked towards them, but his body was throbbing with tension, ready for anything.

“Nephew?” he said quietly.

The man, who handed over two burgers wrapped in white grease-paper, was about thirty; tall, well built, smiling.

Merlin also smiled.

“Good, food. Well done Arthur.” To the man he said, “These look delicious.”

“The best in Devon.” The accent was not of the West Country. It was more of a Londoner, but with an underlay of American.

“Thanks,” smiled Merlin and casually walked back in the direction of the car, Arthur in tow. The time op snatched the meal from the blonds lips and threw it away. Before the teen could protest, Merlin growled “RUN!”

It struck Merlin in the back, but he only experienced a fraction of a second of pain before he switched it off. Merlin turned his head aside and saw the look of horror on the blond's face. The time op reached back and pulled the knife from his right shoulder blade before he grabbed the teen by the hair and dragged him to the ground. The second knifed rushed passed over their heads and was lost in the hedgerow.

“I'll deal with this. Fucking RUN!”

“No, I'm staying with you. I...”

Merlin stood and faced the burger salesman, who was now in the road, still smiling. “The homo cunt will die slowly. That's my reward. You? Unfortunately it'll be quick.”

“RUN!” shouted Merlin and he lunged at the stranger, knife in hand.

A blur. Merlin found himself on the ground and the knife he had been holding was buried deep in his stomach. The pale face hovered close and spittle flecked onto his face as the stranger spoke in a manic way. “You EU scum. My chips make me faster, stronger, better than you. Your time agency is infected. How do you think we got the capability? The New World Order will triumph, we will dominate and purify the_”

Merlin rammed his fist into the grinning face. He heard and felt bone break. Blood joined the spittle on his face, but it was not enough. Knees held then him in a schoolboy pin and powerful fists rammed into his head, time and time again. The pain started to come back. Merlin heard Arthur whimper. “Run,” he weakly tried to shout, but tears and despair started to undo him. He had failed.

The fists stopped. “This was too easy. The EU is weak, just like you. We didn't need 2020, we should've come back here if you were this snot's only protection. I will be revered, be called a hero. The one who downed the infamous Merlin Emrys. So much for your history, so much for your legacy, so much_”

The diatribe came to an end and the weight on Merlin became lessoned as the NWO agent fell to one side, stunned. Merlin finished the job as he grabbed the man's head and gave it a savage twist. The neck gave a satisfying snap. He saw Arthur holding a thick branch in his two hands, his face a look of horror and disgust. The time op tried to go to the blond's side, but the pain was fully back this time and he knew the damage was severe, mortal.

Arthur rushed over. He stated the obvious; “You're hurt!”

Merlin could sense the panic in the boy's voice and tried to smile. He hoped he succeeded. “Hey, no worries. My organic implants will patch me up good as new.” That was a lie; the chips in his mind and heart would not be able to do much with the amount of damage he had sustained, but he dared not tell Arthur that. He ground down the pain through sheer force of will. “Now I want you to go on alone for a bit. Get to your father. Just continue alone for a while, yeah?” What he chose not to mention was that Merlin would have to somehow crawl off the little used country lane and, bury himself before he died. He would also have to do something with the ANWO body; what was left of the fire crystals in a vial in his pocket should take care of that, if he could manage it. He had to, the future had to be protected. He so wanted to let the tears that threatened, fall. Arthur may be the grandfather, but he was so like...

“But I thought_”

“I know, I know. Look, the enemy is most probably tracking my implants somehow. Don't worry, I'll be watching from a safe distance.” Another lie. Merlin was going nowhere. “You're special to me Arthur. You remind me so much of my partner.”

Arthur blushed and Merlin closed his eyes for a brief moment until he was sure the tears that threatened to fall, didn't. He gripped the blond's hand with his own and succeeded in smiling. “Stick to the back roads and know that I'll always be watching over you. Promise me you'll stay in Kernow, Cornwall. Make your living there and not in London as your father will want you to, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Arthur got up to leave, but he still reluctantly let go of the hand. After a few steps back towards the road, he turned his head and smiled. “I love you.” With a blush once more, the teen disappeared from Merlin's sight.

The tears flowed freely now.



Just a few feet, but it seemed like miles of agony. He did not know how long he lay in the damp grass next to the green blackberry bush, but he was not too far gone to hear the tread of someone approach. A heavy, well built man, by the sound of it.

“Finish it quickly and burn my body thoroughly,” he snarled, ready for the final bout of pain.

“You mistake me, agent.” A French accent. A handsome, olive-skinned face came into view. He had gentle eyes. “Lance.”

Merlin gulped against a suddenly dry throat. “We thought you were dead.”

“My ancestor died on his mission. I am from 2112 and you are not done yet, Merlin Emrys of the ETA.” The man easily picked him up in his arms and carried him away from the road. Merlin eventually heard the sound of rushing water, a river, with enough organic matter for him to go home.

“Arthur?”

“Will live. I will make sure of that.” Merlin was carried passed the rushes to the blue waters of the small river and gently placed in the cold and gentle currents. “We will meet again, Merlin, you can be sure of that.”

Merlin wanted to ask so many questions but knew that such foreknowledge could be very dangerous. He just nodded and mouthed the word “thanks” and the water started to cover his face. The time band around his ankle started to tingle and he knew that HQ was recalling him.

He closed his eyes.



2062

He had been dreaming of their time in Los Angeles. They had to pretend they were professional pair of security guards, what with the Fascist Union of America having turned very anti-gay the previous year. Still, it was a simple assignment that they had found themselves on; escorting the EU Cultural Commissioner to the Oscars.

They still found a few days to surf and bake themselves on the beach. Merlin laughed at his lover's antics, doing handstands and tumbles in front of a gaggle of girls, but he knew that the show was for him alone. Show-off.

Then the dream turned sour.

They were sharing a meal at an Italian restaurant. Merlin did not hear the gun being fired from the road outside, but he did hear the glass shatter. Reflexes had taken over and he dived for the floor even before anyone else had time to react. Those new implants worked very well. The first thing he knew that something was wrong was when Arthur had not joined him. Just as fast he went to his lover as he still kept his head low.

The blond was asleep, his head low on his chest. He was still on his chair. It had been made of wrought iron. Very fancy and not that comfortable.

“Arthur?” he had whispered.

The spread of red over the heart was a sight the time op would never forget. At first Merlin thought wine had been spilt. The stickiness of the liquid on his shaking fingers revealed the truth.

Blind rage.

He had leapt through the glassless window and ran down the road. Merlin had caught a glimpse of a nondescript, blue car turning a corner, the nuzzle of a silencer being retrieved back through the window of the passenger side. He ran, hard, the new implants and rage giving him the energy he needed. The ex-gymnast caught up with the killers and killed them; savagely, brutally, quickly.

It was when Merlin had run into an alley and stared at his bloodied hands that he began to cry, the sobs choking his throat and the hot tears blurring his vision. All meaning was now gone and he had cried Arthur's name out time and time again.

“Arthur! My Arthur...”



“Merlin! You're okay now, you're safe.”

A strong hand shook him by the shoulder and Merlin opened his eyes. He was in a small room, in a metal framed bed with stiff, white sheets and was naked under them. Perspiration cooled on his skin as the gentle hum of the air-conditioning churned out sterile air. Morgana let go of him.

Merlin briefly closed his eyes and brought his emotions under control. “Send me back,” was all he said when he snapped them open and stared hard at her beautiful face.

“No.”

He knew he ground his teeth together, but she ignored it. He then noticed that she had been hurt; a healing cut on his left cheek, her arm in a sling. Hard knocks indeed if they could not have been healed swiftly.

“What happened?”

“Cenred.”

Merlin nodded once. They stared at each other for what seemed a very, very long minute. “I need to go back,” he whispered.

“And I said 'no' ”. She ignored his growl of frustration. “Rest, heal. I have another job for you.” From one side, out of Merlin's sight, she picked up a small, pink patch. It was a sedative.

“Don't you fucking dare, bitch. I don't need that shi_”

Too late, the patch was applied and he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.



The hum of the air conditioning. The cool current stirred the hairs on his exposed forearm.

Merlin sat up and swung his legs over to touch the tiled floor and took in a deep breath. Something was wrong, no, out of place. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

There it was.

Another sound, a deeper vibration.

With only his smalls covering his privates, he lithely walked to the door and listened with an ear to it. Silence.

Looking out into the corridor, he saw some reddish-brown stains that had not yet been cleared up on the floor, the walls. It must have been a carnage, the attack by ANWO. He felt rather than heard himself growl with pure hatred, but quickly snapped down the lid that kept his emotions in check. Instead, the time op walked down to a door where he just knew that other sound was coming from. The door was unmarked and he gently opened it and slipped inside.

The room was cavernous, two of the walls were just bare rock. There was little light to see by and what there was came from a bank of dials set in a console that dominated the far wall. Two upright tanks, the ones used to regenerate sever wounds, stood before the bank of flickering lights and each one gave off a luminous, leaf-green glow.

A figure was floating in each one.

Merlin's eyes flickered and he knew he was alone. He cautiously went up to the tanks and then just managed to stifle a scream of horror.

In each tank was him. Blond hair flowed freely. Tubes were embedded in the bodies, too numerous to count and a thicker, opaque-white one connected the two tanks.

Waves of emotion crashed over him; love, longing, fear. Flashes of memory, of a time in a restaurant in Los Angeles came unbidden and he sank to his knees.

Only one word wanted to escape his lips, a question, but his throat was dry. He mouthed it anyway as the tears started to silently stream down his cheeks.

Why?

Timeslip (part one)

Title: Timeslip (part one)
Word Count: 3868
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, homophobic abuse
Summary: Something's gone wrong with time and World peace is at stake. Can agent Merlin save the ancestor of his dead lover?



1.

To: EU Time Commissioner
From: Internal Investigations
Subject: World events leading up to the establishment of European Time Agency (ETA); Profile of Agent Emrys and his suitability for Operation Pendragon
Date: 2062, August 8th
Classification: Red

Timeline 2024 – 2051

2024, November 5th - Scotland declares full independence. Northern Ireland joins a federalised Republic of Eire
2025, March 7th - Third invasion of Ukraine and Moldova by Russia. Collapse of the Islamic Caliphate
2028, May 1st – Nuclear detonations occur in London, Washington, New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, St Petersburg, Ankara, Tokyo and Mecca
2028, May 3rd – Agents of the New World Order (ANWO, pronounced 'Anoo') claim responsibility for May Day atrocities
2029, March 1st – Wales (now known only as Cymru) holds illegal referendum, votes for independence. Cornwall/Kernow holds illegal referendum, votes for independence
2029, March 15th – Treaty of Paris signed, end of the English Aggression. Collapse of Spain into independent states.
2029, July 4th – Breton gains independence. Breton, Cymru and Kernow join the Celtic Convention (CC). EU expels Turkey
2031, January 1st – The Birmingham (Eng) Massacre
2031, January 17th – Breakup of NATO. Fascist Union of America (FUA) formed
2031, January 18th – Republic of England becomes 51st state of FUA
2033, May 1st – Euro-Russia joins EU
2042, October 18th – China invades Mongolia, Siberia, Nepal, Laos, Korea and Vietnam
2043 – Nuclear war between China and India/Pakistan. Nuclear war between Iran and Israel. Nuclear war between Brazil and Argentina
2043, October 16th – Global Treaty of Cape Town signed
2048, March 3rd – CC joins the EU
2051, October 1st – EU CERN Declaration, (total neutrality and the formation of the European Time Agency (ETA) )

Agent Emrys

This operative is not recommended for this mission. Reason...


Strasbourg, 2062, August 8th

Gaius chucked the two files (one thick and one very slim and new) onto his glass-topped desk and he pursed his lips as he formed a steeple with his fingers. Paper files were more easily kept secret, even though the EU led the field in cyber-security. The only sound in his Strasbourg spacious office came from the slow tap of a black, lacquered finger nail. It irritated him.

“Morgana, this is the best you can come up with? Surely the Celtic Convention can produce someone more...experienced?” He expertly stifled a grin as the one opposite him raised an eyebrow; she was wont to do that when irritated.

“Of the three agents still alive with experience in the field, he is. And he is exceptionally good, better than whatever Paris or Berlin can come with. Very professional, very good at his job.”

Gaius picked up the slim file again and leafed through it. He found the list of achievements. Even before his two time journeys (routine missions), the young, ex-gymnast had succeeded in many kills, rescues and numerous other missions that an older agent would be jealous of. He flicked back to the small photograph. Short black hair, cheek bones impossibly sharp and dark-blue eyes stared back at the EU Commissioner of Time.

“Where is he now?”

“I forced him to have a three month vacation.” Morgana tapped a few buttons on her wristband and stared at the screen. “Mountaineering in the Urals as we speak.”

Gaius frowned. “Forced?”

“His partner, another agent of mine, died on a mission in Los Angeles earlier this year. Real time.”
He wasn't a time operative.”

It was Gaius' turn to raise an eyebrow. Eventually, he broke the silence. “Call him in and brief him.”

Morgana gave a smile, smoothly got up and left. Gaius went over to the vast window, but the sight of the gleaming glass towers rooted in a carpet of trees failed to impress and calm him this time. The mission was too important.



Austrian Alps, Location Unknown, 2062 August 12th

Merlin eased his hydro-jet onto the pad and casually flicked the switches to kill the engines. He could have journeyed to ETA HQ by auto, but that was not his style.

He opened the hatch, grabbed his large rucksack and jumped out as the platform started to sink into the ground. Strip lights flickered into life as the roof rumbled closed overhead and he slung the heavy bag over one shoulder. Merlin walked to the only door and waited for a long four minutes.

Finally, metal slid aside and three people came through, all in leaf-green overalls. Two went straight for the jet to sweep it for bugs and do general maintenance. The third stood in front of the time op to do a hand sweep. Merlin noticed the cloth badge and brought up the relevant file in his head.

The light on the hand held scanner glowed green. “You're clean. Welcome back, Commander Emrys.”

Merlin gave a small smile. “Thanks. Hows the husband?”

Cenred laughed. “Coping with the kids, just.” The man then became solemn. “I...sorry to hear of your loss. Only met him once, but he was a great guy...”

Merlin zoned out the rest and kept the smile on, a trick he had got used to. When the sympathetic words stopped, he mumbled his thanks and forced his feet forward into the wide, metallic corridor.

Black suites ignored him and briskly walked by as he made his own way to his quarters; three spartan rooms. All traces of the one he had loved and lost had been erased from the area months ago. That action, done on a rare occasion when Merlin had drunk too much, had not been enough. It was only after a near-scalding shower that the weight he thought he had lost in the Ural mountains eased slightly from his heart.

After the blowers had dried him, Merlin ignored the wardrobe and pulled out from his bag a clean pair of jeans, a white tee and tan boots. It was only when he had put on the black leather jacket (his black leather jacket) that he glanced through the file that had been left on his pillow whilst he had showered. The title was neat and small. It read 'Operation Pendragon'.

* * *

“Open,” he spat out and the metal door slid aside. Merlin stormed in and slammed the file onto the glass surface. Calmly and as he rested his knuckles on the surface, he said “Is this a fucking joke?”

Morgana got up from her chair. “Wait outside.” The technicians and maintenance crews quickly did as commanded and kept wide of the time operative. When they were alone she walked over to within an inch of him and stabbed him in his muscled chest with one finger. “I'll let that go, just this once.”

Merlin scowled and slumped into one of nine chairs. “Okay, brief me . What's not in the file?”

Morgana knew that was the only apology she was going to get and went back to her own seat. “We don't know how they got the information, who is funding them, or where they are based, but ANWO have a time centre all of their own. The only other one in existence,” she needlessly added, but Merlin's attention was caught. “We think Pendragon Cybernetics is the target. An anomaly in the time stream has appeared.”

Merlin let the information sink in. If Pendragon Cybernetics was in danger or was placed outside the EU, then this time line would be severely compromised. “How many enemy ops?”

Morgana went to the bag at her feet and said “Unknown, but more than two.” She brought out a battered, silver cigarette case and slid it over.

It was deftly caught and he read the hastily scratched words; 'Pen Cyb in danger. Arthur 2020. NWO ops 3?. Request recall/backup. Du012'. He looked up sharply and saw his superior let out a long, nervous breath. Morgana usually had a cool exterior. This unnerved him.

“Agent DuLac is presumed dead. Recall only brought back his band, stained with his blood. You are going to replace him.”

Merlin nodded once. He preferred to wear his time band around his left ankle. They were genetically linked to the agent and could produce very short bursts of time and space if needed, but it was very tricky. Lance had been part of the French Corp and was nearly as good as him. If he had been taken out of action...

“When do I go?”

“Now.”

Merlin immediately got up and walked over to one of the modified, leather bags and took one from a hook on the wall. He stripped himself of his clothes and stuffed them into it; only his time band was left on his person as he, bag in hand, went to a large cubicle on the far side of the room, one of four.

The staff were called back in and a transparent, glasteel door was lowered over his body. Merlin closed his eyes, he hated this part. A gas of nano-organic matter was streamed into the chamber and coated his body (needed for long-term time journeys) and he automatically lifted one foot and then another to get his soles coated. It felt as if he was drowning in slime and he forced down the instinct to gag.

He then felt a shudder and nearly lost his balance. Merlin frowned but did not open his eyes until he felt rain pelting his body.

It was night and he stood upon a shingle bank of the River Thames. The tide was out. He briskly walked over to stone steps that led up to the streets of London. After five minutes of letting the downpour wash his skin and hair, he quickly dressed and folded the bag neatly to fit into an inner pocket of his jacket. He walked up the rest of the steps and picked up a discarded newspaper from the pavement. Without reading it, he chose a primitive parked black BMW and easily broke in. Before he started the engine he took a look at the paper.

“Shit!”

Merlin accessed his memory chip. Yes, according to the information he had downloaded earlier, he was supposed to be in Kernow, not London. And it was supposed to have been 10th October 2020, not 4th May 2015.

He cursed again and started the engine up. Arthur would be at a boarding school in Hereford. Timeslip or no, that was where Merlin was going.

The car sped through the streets of London and soon left the doomed city behind.

* * *

Arthur pushed his thin-rimmed glasses further up the bridge of his nose. One of the lenses had a crack in it; the result from a football 'accident'. Not that he had been playing the game at the time, but had been happily reading his book on the theories of quantum physics when the ball had smashed into his face. That had been two weeks ago, but he was used to such things.

It was peaceful in the light woods that surrounded three sides of Hoxley School for Boys and his preferred spot was a small clearing where a fallen oak had made a convenient bench for him to sit on.

He looked up and squinted at the setting sun. He reckoned he had about another thirty minutes before he should go in for his supper. Cod with mashed potato and peas tonight. It was his favourite.

“Oi, queer boy!”

He inwardly groaned. Valiant and his gang had found him. He would have to pick yet another favourite spot to read in peace another day. Valiant and his cronies, all five of them, came closer.

“Thought you'd escape your daily punishment did you, faggot? Our balls need draining and you're the closest thing we've got to a girl in this dump.”

Arthur knew his cheeks were red. He should be used to this by now, he told himself, but he would never truly accept the shame, the violation. He went down on his knees and stared at his tormentor. The bully was a year older than himself at seventeen and with the muscle and cockiness that went with it. He hated and lusted after the bastard, not that the blond would tell Valiant that.

Valiant had his belt already in his hand and his grey trousers unzipped when the leathery blow stung Merlin's upper shoulder. The thin cotton white shirt gave no protection. “You eye-balling me, bum fucker?”

Arthur steadfastly kept his eyes on the trampled undergrowth at his knees. “N-no Valiant. Sorry Valiant.”

He heard rather than saw the sneer in the words. “Get ready for some real cock, you queer cunt.”

The rather small penis was about to enter his open mouth when Valiant was suddenly swept sidewards. It was only after a few cries of pain from the other boys and the sound of running feet did Arthur dare to look up. He saw a profile of a tall, black-haired (and rather hot) stranger twist Valiant's arm behind his back.

“I think you owe this schoolboy an apology, don't you?”

“Fuck off you fucking Taffy cunt. Go back to Wales and shag sheep, Welsh bastard.” Arthur's tormentor tried to free his arm and use the fist of his other to strike some blows against his assailant. What happened instead was his face being smashed against a tree trunk. The tree was a rowan.

“That's for insulting my homeland. It's Cymru and I'm Cymry not Welsh.” As an afterthought Valiant's face met the tree again and Arthur was sure he heard the snap of bone and blood splatter the ground. “And that's for molesting Arthur. Say sorry.”

“You've broken my fucking nose!” Valiant wailed, still with a hint of defiance in his voice.

“Apologise, or it will be you who'll be tasting a real man's cum. I'll have to knock your teeth out first, of course.”

A damp patch appeared in the seat of the bully's pants. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry Arthur!”

The stranger let go of his captive and stared after a running Valiant until the latter was out of sight. When the man, who had to be in his early twenties at the most, turned around, Arthur was struck by the handsome face, the hidden wiry strength, the intense blue eyes. He hurriedly looked down at the brush again.

“Please don't hurt me, sir. I promise I won't tell anyone.” The blond heard a long breath being let out.

“No, it's me who should apologise. I could've handled that better. It's just...when I saw you being...” Arthur looked up just in time to see the stranger gulp back emotion. Then a mask of calm with a hint of suppressed anger came over the face. “Pack your things. One bag only. Meet me back here in twenty minutes. Don't be late.”

Arthur shakily got to his feet and backed a few paces away in the direction of Hoxley House. “S-sir?”

“Arthur, you're in danger and I'm here to protect you.”

The blond continued to walk backwards. “How do you know my name?” What kind of question was that, idiot. Just run. The stranger's eyes narrowed dangerously and Arthur did not bother to stay around to hear what was next said. He ran as fast as he could, as if his very life depended upon it.



Merlin wiped a palm over his face. “Shit!”

As he lowered his arm he gazed longingly at the receding form of a young, handsome, blond boy. “He's not your fucking Arthur, Merlin.”

But he so looked liked him, like his dead lover. He slammed a fist into the tree trunk. “Get a grip you idiot, or we'll both end up dead,” he berated himself and wasted no time in cautiously going in the fleeing boy's direction as he stuck to the shadows. There might have been a timeslip, something had obviously gone wrong back at HQ, but he could not take the risk. What if the ANWO ops that had been operating in 2020 had somehow detected a disturbance in the stream, in 2015? It was a small risk but Merlin did not take any chances, unless he had to.

Then there was the question of what ANWO was doing in 2020. Merlin definitely did not want to go back to a world where America or China had the ability to rewrite history. Perfect the EU was not, but its unofficial motto of 'neutrality, democracy, and peace' was better than right wing fascism or Asian empire building.

Merlin grinned to himself. When had he got so political? Then he realised, when he had fallen in love with an idiotic, blond, stubborn, idealistic rich kid. They had been seventeen at the time, just recruited into the ETA...

The dark-haired time op savagely gulped down the threatening emotion and quickly scanned the front of the building. On the third floor was a partially open window, the lights out. He easily climbed up the drainpipes and ivy and slipped in. A shadow amongst shadows.

* * *

Arthur looked about his room, his torch the only source of light. It was small and filled with books, two computers and a few sticks of furniture and it was his, his father had insisted on only the best for his golden boy. The student brushed aside the fleeting thought that perhaps being slightly separate from the rest of the other boys contributed to his loneliness, but he figured that he would just be as lonely in a room filled with beds and testosterone.

He thought back to the events of the evening instead; how his bullies ended up being bullied. The intensity and controlled violence of his rescuer should have made him scared, and he had been, but there was also the thrill of seeing the hot man in action. Arthur switched off his torch, put his book on the bedside table and slipped a hand under the duvet. He was already hard. With his other hand he explored the rest of his upper body; not as muscular as Valiant, but Arthur still prided himself on being the best cross-country runner the school had ever produced.

After ten minutes of building ecstasy, Arthur saw out of the corner of his eye the thick curtains move. He stopped his masturbation and sat up in bed; this could not have been a breeze from his supposedly closed window. His suspicion was rewarded when a figure dressed in black came into the room and pointed at the boy.

As Arthur quickly leaned over to get his torch, alarmed and angry that his supposed rescuer had disturbed his self-pleasuring (and was being stalkerish), there was a muffled sound from the pillow, where his head had been. This person was not his hot resuer from earlier. Before he realised what was happening the door to his room flung open and another figure picked up his laptop and flung it at the other. The second shot also missed, instead the bullet embedded itself into his teddy bear on the bookshelf.

Rising panic started to form in the pit of Arthur's belly and his breathing became rapid. He knew he was about to scream. However, just as it started the small fight between the two figures abruptly stopped. The blond steadied his torch and aimed it at the survivor. He was thrilled and pleased that it had been his anti-bullying hero.

“What the fuck...?” he knew his voice sounded like a girl's and he coughed to make his voice go lower, but before he could repeat his question the man put a finger to his lips to demand silence. Ignoring Arthur, he went over to the door and gently closed it. The light switch was flicked on.

Arthur remembered to close his mouth. The guy was not even breathing hard. Instead he took a few minutes to stare at the body of the first figure.

“Is he...is he...” A sharp look shut the blond up.

Finally, the stranger turned to him. “I thought I told you to pack a bag,” he hissed. Before Arthur could respond, the man spoke on. “Never mind, just get dressed. Luckily this guy,” he kicked a gun from the dead man's hand, “is from this year, or that's what my scan told me. That'll make disposing of him much easier.” He turned back to Arthur. “And I'm telling all of this to you for what reason?” The man gave a small laugh and went to the wardrobe. Clothes started to fall down to the carpet at the end of the blond's bed.

Anger and fear warred within Arthur. Anger won out. “What the fuck...?” At least his voice was lower this time.

Like a striking cobra, his rescuer darted across the room, grabbed the blond's pyjama front and hauled him from his bed. Their faces were just an inch apart and cold anger was in the man's eyes. “The timeline has been compromised enough already,” he hissed, “but I'll fix it somehow. Your life is in danger and I'm here to protect you, but I can't do that if you baulk at everything I ask of you, yeah?”

Arthur could not help himself. He had been looking at the lips all through the little talk, not paying much attention to anything else. Perhaps it had been his interrupted masturbation session, perhaps it was knowing that he was still alive, or perhaps he knew deep down that now was the moment when he could actually do this, kiss another man, for the first time. He tentatively leaned in close and their lips brushed up against each other.

The stranger let go of his pyjamas and grabbed his blond hair and kissed back with a savage desire. Arthur's cock was hard again. Abruptly, the stranger pushed him away and Arthur sat down on his bed, hurt. The stranger was breathing hard now.

“Look, let's get you out of here. Get dressed and I'll meet you outside around the back in ten.” He went over to the window and looked out. Satisfied, the stranger effortlessly picked up the body and let it drop to the ground outside. Arthur noticed that his favourite pen had been sticking out of the man's left eye socket.

He gulped. “S_sir?”

The stranger turned as he went to where the body had gone, a questioning look on his face.

“What's your name, sir?”

“It's Merlin, Arthur. Now hurry up, there maybe more of them. I don't think so, but we have to think the worst. Use the fire exit and be very quiet. Know that I'll always be around to protect you.” The stranger waited for Arthur to nod his head and then silently left.

Arthur rushed to put his jeans and sweater on. He stuffed his back pack with spare clothes, his still workable laptop and a few hygiene essentials. He did not stop to think. He dared not stop and think, otherwise he would have done the sensible thing and gone straight to the headmaster.

What stopped him? The fading tingling feeling on his lips. Arthur so wanted to have that feeling back.

A Dark Day (part six)

Title: A Dark Day (part six)
Word Count: 5718
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, death
Summary: The final battle against the Dark and...the first marriage.

A Dark Day is the last story in the saga that started years ago with Merlin's Dream (found here http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2011/04/22/ ; warning, approaching 500,000 words!). However, this back story is not essential to this current part of the series.

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/02/19/

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/03/25/

Part Three: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/05/28/

Part Four: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/07/25/

Part Five: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/09/18/





A Dark Day: The Mother of Love

They immediately formed a protective circle around Arthur's body as Rane laid him to rest on the ground by the oak tree that Oakhaven had produced the night before. Goblins and giants started to swarm around, but despite the general confusion the horse lord prince thought he saw the back of Merlin running away from them, into the garden of the White Rose.

Rane went to draw his sword and follow but a sound entered his head, as if a thousand wings fluttered against his skull, then all went silent. Everyone had frozen still, as if they were living statues. He found out that at least he could move as he gulped down apprehension. What new dark magic was this?

A small sphere of white light floated towards him and he was filled with the feelings of love. He abruptly went down on one knee. "My Lady," he whispered. The light formed into the glowing image of Rhiannon and smaller ones formed into multi-coloured birds that flew around her form. One of them landed on Arthur's hand, on an iron ring. Another landed at Rane's feet and for the first time he saw a stone sword that could be wielded with one or two hands. "My Lady?" he said again.

"My Chosen." With a gentle hand she cupped his chin and led him to his feet. "The wall that the Dark has erected around this world is weakened greatly and is nearly down. The Song will be sung and not too soon, for although the Battle of Gallantine may well be won, the Battle of the White Rose can still be lost."

She started to fade from his eyes and the sound of battle, as if far away, came to his ears.

"What must I do? Please help me Rhiannon."

Her voice in his head was all that was left. "The sword to the Band of Gofannon, but you to the White Witch." Then she was gone and Rane heard the Lady Anharadeth bark orders.

"Rane, take Arthur to the temple of healing to see what Myfanwy and the others can do. We will fight a path and protect you as much as we are able."

The prince ignored her and stooped low to pull the stone sword a few inches so that it touched the iron ring. It immediately disappeared and the ring glowed once in a fiery light. Arthur gasped and shot up into a sitting position as if wakened from a nightmare.

"I..."

"Arthur lives!" Rane cried out loud to the others and he heard them cheer with joy. He then lowered his voice as he helped his fellow blond up. "The White Rose is in danger and Merlin has just gone into the garden. You have a new sword, my lord."

Arthur shook his head clear. He stared for a few moments at the iron ring that Merlin had given him months ago. "Yeah, somehow I know." He raised his head and shouted out for everyone to follow him, but Rane stayed behind as they took the first steps towards the garden's open north gates.

"I must face Velshna, alone."

Arthur's face went ashen and he slowly shook his head as Rane took in a breath and set his jaw in a determined way. "I can't..."

Rane took a step forward and hugged Nodens' Chosen. "I must, on the command of my goddess. Have faith in the Light, Arthur my friend." The prince then released him and turned to the others. "Get him to Merlin safely."

"That we will do, Prince Rane," solemnly said Cynan.

"Go Arthur," said Anharadeth, "for he will not be alone." Rane made to protest but stopped at the lore master's narrowed eyes. "I do not worship your Rhiannon, but I would warrant that even the Power of Love would not have you battle without some aid. It is settled."

Arthur grinned and Rane sighed impatiently, but soon matched the smile and bowed his head once in submission. "Be careful, all of you."

Grin gone, Arthur briefly hugged him back and then without any further words led Cynan, Gilladrin, Gawain and Leon to the garden.



In silence they battled their way towards Gallantine's Northgate and with every step the air got colder, until they saw her; Velshna, the White Witch. Just her mere presence made any who came near her, both foe and ally, turn into ice and shatter into pieces. She espied Rane and, smiling, beckoned him with one hand.

His feet had a will of their own and he was forced to slowly approach her.

"Rane, no!" shouted out Anharadeth and lobbed the Sunstone in his direction and he deftly caught it. Though his feet still moved forward, he forced his arm to touch the jewel to the blade of his sword and they melded as one. Anharadeth became busy herself as ice creatures in the form of large cats sprang up from the ground and started to do battle.

Tears of frustration froze on his cheeks as he came ever closer to the snow elf, a triumphant smile to her lips. "At last, my love," she said as she gently brushed his cheek. To his shame, his cock hardened. "Now we can be together, forever."

"No," Rane whispered and jerked his head from her touch, disgusted. "No!" he shouted and rammed his sword into her heart. The look of shock and betrayal on her face would be forever imprinted onto his brain. She started to mouth foul words of enchantment, her visage now angry, but he withdrew the blade and swung for her neck. "I will never be yours!"

As her head bounce along the hard flagstones of the avenue and her body slumped to the ground, the Icestaff disappeared in a burst of blue light to reappear in another multiverse, for a time when it would be claimed by another creature associated with cold and ice.

Rane fell to his knees, suddenly exhausted. He felt finally free from her influence and he shed tears anew, those of relief. A hand was placed on his shoulder and he looked up.

"You have done right by yourself and this world," said Anharadeth. "Come, there is still a battle to be finally won." She helped him up and he saw her smile kindly. "My sister in lore and your Arianwen will need our help methinks. Arthur and Merlin will face the last foe of the day. Come, let us to your loved one."

The prince returned the smile and breathed in deep. Without further words uttered, they started to fight their way down the broad avenue towards the temple of Diancecht.



A Dark Day: The Song

The enemy seemed to fight with no heart left and Helen wondered why. Templers kept her safe as she looked out across the new woodlands that surrounded the city to see how Oakhaven fared. The Druid in the form of a tree-man exchanged blows with the frost giant Staffwielder and both seemed evenly matched. Galtreth with his war hammer and Celimdol with his swords kept the swarm of goblins at bay.

Suddenly, though she was tired and low on power, a spell came to her lips and she thought of the White Rose. "What now?" she muttered, but released the words anyway in crystal clear notes.

A Dark Day is here but do not despair
The dawn has arrived to soothe all care
The Shadow will be dimmed by the Light
And Powers will aid thee to set all aright

The spellsinger sang out the spell again with more force and she felt a rush of power and elation course through her body. Oakhaven was pushed back by a powerful blow to the chest. The frost giant roared in triumph and raised Beserkerstaff to strike a double handed blow. Then a hammer came from the west and flew straight into, and through, the giant's head before returning to whoever had thrown it. The evil creature collapsed to the ground and his Staff of Power disappeared from Dragonlands.

Oakhaven immediately shape-changed into a robin and flew to the battlements. As the bird approached it changed back into the form of an old man and Helen saw the Druid lean heavily on his Staff. At the look of her concern, he chuckled and carefully straightened. "You did well, my lady, and not too soon. Thor saved my hide and the other avatars of the Light will be closing in soon."

"Do we go to Merlin and his son? They may be in trouble," said Helen, concerned about the shadow she had seen earlier that had descended to the garden.

The old man shook his head. "We have to clear the walls and streets of Gallantine. The enemy can still do much damage. The battle for the Rose will continue without us, but..." he briefly closed his eyes and smiled, "...ah yes, an old friend is returning. They will not be alone for long. Come!"

Oakhaven stamped the stone with his staff and a short burst of emerald light engulfed the spellsinger and warrior-priests around them and refreshed them.

Lady Helen grinned and led a troop of Rhiannon's templers and horse lords down to the streets to renew the battle.



A Dark Day: Bask of the Shadowed Scales

The stream of acid stopped and Merlin breathed in deep. His magical shield had used up a lot of his power. "It's over, Bask. You've lost."

The ebony-skinned man simply smiled and struck Merlin's second shield, the one that protected his son, Gilli and the Rose. It shattered. "I think not." Bask raised his shadow-sword a second time to strike down a defiant Petros.

Merlin cried out his anguish but then a great whooshing sound filled the air and he saw the ghostly image of a building quickly form in the middle of the garden. Bask's sword struck against a wooden door named "Lounge". The Sanctuary Inn had left Larkhos Island and was now in Dragonlands. The art student laughed.

Bask bellowed out his anger and turned back with a snarl. "You at least will taste my anger."

"Fuck off, arse-hole, and fucking give it up." Merlin saw a lot of the statues and ornaments of the garden start to glow in a white light; the Powers of the Light were coming to Gallantine at last. "Just...give up already!"

Wings of shadow sprouted from the avatar's back and, with one leap, Bask landed in front of Merlin. The black sword was plunged into his belly and he felt pain and a deep cold throughout his body. He shuddered.

Bask smiled cruelly. "So your little adventure started and so it will finish, mortal." With one arm the avatar raised both sword and young man a few feet off the ground. After Merlin had gasped in renewed pain he weakly struck at the dragon's arm with his own weapon, a dagger that had changed into a sword. Bask simply laughed and flung Merlin aside so that he landed next to a dead Owain.

The young tradition mage tried to bring his hands over his wound to heal it, but his power was finally drained. He then smiled as darkness dimmed his vision and he heard a voice that he so very much loved.

"Merlin!"

His beloved Arthur. He could not see his blond cuteness (the pain seemed to seep throughout his body and immobilise his head), but the knowledge that his lover was near comforted him. From behind an elm came Ambrose on all fours, a look of extreme worry on his face.

"You are coughing up blood. That is not good, not good at all. I will put you in a stasis, then I must help your Arthur."

Merlin took a moment to concentrate and put aside the distracting pain that he felt in his middle. He knew he had a few minutes only before he would pass out. "Arthur can look after himself." With extreme effort he grasped hold of Ambrose' arm and stared intently into the eyes of his undead double. "Stasis yes, but I still wanna fucking dream. Got it?"

After a moment of hesitation, the vampire nodded his head in agreement, but said "Such a complication will use up a lot of my vitae. I fear I will not be able to do much afterwards."

Merlin let go and fought the urge to cough up some more blood. Just do it." The art student then saw Ambrose prick his thumb with one of his fangs and, after the forefinger of his other hand was gently dipped into the red bead, touch Merlin's forehead.

He closed his eyes.

* * *

He dreams...



Upstairs on the landing of The Sanctuary Inn and he hears voices from below. One is of a very young man who is obviously distraught. The other voice belongs to a much older man who has the patience of ages.

Merlin tries to slightly solidify himself but finds that he is somehow blocked from using that power and assumes it is Ambrose's stasis that is stopping him. Shrugging his shoulders, he descends the stairs.

"Da! Thank fuck you're okay."

Merlin puts up a hand to stop his son from rushing over and giving a hug, then he points a finger into the face of the fifteen year old. "Stop swearing." The boy gives a look as if saying "Yeah, like you would never do that!" but Merlin just sighs and turns to the other three occupants of the room.

Sol is sat in one of the armchairs and he smiles at the dream-form of the newcomer. Merlin notices that the kid has his eyes back; Oakhaven's citywide spell must have regenerated them. The youth cares for Gilli, who is asleep in the other armchair. The third being stands before the main door of The Lounge, Staff in hand and sporting his usual dishevelled and calm look.

"Out of the way, Tarrian."

The old man smiles, turns and opens the door. As he walks slowly into the light, he says "Stay behind me, all three of you." Leaving Gilli behind, they follow and, when they are free of the inn, the Staffwielder strikes the gravel of the garden three times. "Bask, your acidic venom will not be used here. You fight with sword only, so I have commanded and so it is thus."

Merlin matches the grin of his lover and Arthur takes off his ring and lobs it up into the air.

The iron band changes into a sword, its blade black and edged in silver.



A Dark Day: Prince of Light, Warrior of Nodens

Arthur caught the sword and readied it against the avatar of Bask, who charged with fury writ large on his face. They clashed and it was obvious to Cynan that his blade-apprentice was more than a match for the evil one.

The elf sensed his brother come up to his side. "Celimdol, how goes it in the city."

"Brother of mine, Velshna is dead at Prince Rane's hand, the Icestaff has disappeared and both goblins and giants are being trounced. On the arrival of a being named Thor, all of the Scaneans did obeisance and are now disarmed and watched by their free fellows who had accompanied Nodens. All of the Brewers and their friends have only superficial wounds and are now tended by the healers, both great and small in power. Oakhaven is getting rid of the foul carrion that pollutes his new woodland and the streets of this fair city."

Cynan turned his head and grinned, a rarity for him. "And it is good to see you hale, brother of mine." With Celimdol was his lover called Gawain and the hunter of the Buckland Brewers nodded his head in recognition. Here was a warrior of worth indeed, despite being a werewolf. Gawain nodded back and put his hand into the younger elf's. Satisfied, Cynan turned back to the battle.

Arthur moved with grace and speed as he danced around Bask's savage blows and lounges. The blond then expertly parried a stroke aimed for his throat and lopped of Bask's arm. The shadow-blade disappeared. This forced the avatar to snarl and he reached out his one hand to choke the young warrior. However, Arthur simply whirled around on one foot and severed the creature's head. To make sure that the ancient dragon definitely stayed dead, he stabbed into the creature's chest and destroyed the heart. The body and the arm then turned into smoke and a breeze scattered even that away.

"How did I do?" asked Arthur as he jogged over and calmed his breath.

Cynan shrugged and put on a serious face as Tarrion and Merlin walked up to them. Petros ran to embrace his father. "Your form is much improved, but that last parry was a bit sloppy." Arthur raised his eyebrow and the elf copied him. Then Cynan laughed out loud and, eventually after the initial shock, the group joined him.

"Good it is to hear such mirth once more in Gallantine." Nodens, with his dog companion Gelert in tow, approached and bowed low to them all. "Merlin, your dreamself will not last and just as well, for your healing at Diancecht's hand will be the swifter. Arthur, my Chosen, say your farewells to the living dead, Gwen and Lance, and the Lovers of the First Born, for they must reach their worlds before the time storm is fully spent." The Power of Hunting and Healing then smiled. "When all is set to rights, we are to visit Ynys Aballach, for there is one more thing that must be done."

Despite all their questions, and much to Merlin's frustration, Nodens would not reveal anything more.



A Dark Day: The First Wedding of Arthur and Merlin

Perfume came to his nostrils first. Blossom, yes the blossom of apple trees, the ones that his gran used to have growing in her garden. In a large garden where she kept chickens and grew herbs and a cottage that was dominated by a piano. But the sketches that she had done herself, of everyday life in the village of Crymych, were the ones that had bewitched him as a child, that introduced a whole new world of images and colour and ideas. He always wanted to try and be as good as his gran.

Merlin opened his eyes and sat up a little so his head rested against the two full pillows that supported it.

He was in a one room building made of wood that had that single bed (and very comfortable it was too), a bare table with two stools placed around it and a comfortable armchair that looked suspiciously like one of those that sat in the Lounge of The Sanctuary Inn. In said chair was Tarrion, his staff nowhere to be seen.

The old man took the pipe from his lips and smiled. “Fourteen nights you have rested and all the foulness of Bask's sword no more corrupts you, or so Diancecht has assured us.”

“Where am I?”

The old man barked a laugh. “Questions already! You are in Avalon, Ynys Abbalach. Very well, fire away.”

“Arthur?”

Hmmm, after thirteen days we persuaded him to get some rest. He's preparing for the celebrations I expect.”

“Gallantine?”

“Is well as is the White Rose. The priests and templers tried to make your lover their king, but he refused and introduced the idea of democracy to that fair city.” Tarrion chuckled. “We will see what becomes of that. Rane and Arianwen have formally begun their courtship, three years as is the custom in those lands. They are not here.”

Merlin wished the horse lord and the healing priestess his happiness. Then he frowned. “Was anyone hurt in the battle?”

Tarrion sighed and his face grew sombre. “Alas, many died and they will be mourned and remembered. However, the Buckland Brewers survived you will be glad to know. Those of Middle Earth have returned to their home world, except for the Lady Anharadeth and Celimdol; the first because she now has a greater calling and the latter for his heart lies in one of Earth and it is Terra Primus that he now calls home. And there is Gilladrin who has chosen to stay, for love as well if I am not mistaken. You will have a new resident at Whitwood House. The rest of the Brewers are here, enjoying the Blessed Lands and all that it offers.”

The young tradition mage let the facts sink in, then a thought came to him. “What celebrations?”

Tarrion stood and laughed so heartily that Merlin could not help but join in. “Why your wedding of course, you foolish boy. Math and one other will be here shortly and your clothes have been chosen and are in a trunk at the bottom of your bed. Your boots were polished by Celimdol himself!”

The old man made to leave but Merlin stopped him with a questioning look. “Is it finally over then?”

The Staffwielder of Good and Law gave a small smile and then sighed. “Let us just say this chapter of your story has now passed.” He then opened the single, wooden door and left.

Merlin quickly dressed (simple clothes of the First Born; white tunic and green trousers) and was wondering whether he should leave the lodge as he sat on the bed when the door burst open and a portly, monk-like being came in; Math. Following him was a sight that brought the young man to his feet. He rushed over and hugged the tall, black-haired and bearded man. “Dad! I thought you were dead.”

Balinor returned the hug tightly. “I am, son,” he whispered into his ear, “but Math called my spirit to him and now I reside here.”

“And a mean game of chess he plays, I can tell you,” said Math.

Merlin pulled back a little and sniffed back tears. “Mum misses you a lot.”

“As I her, but I want it some years yet before she joins me. Now come on, I have to give my son away to a very nervous young man. We've already have had a father and future son-in-law talk,” Balinor finished with a gleam in his eye.

The art student laughed. He could imagine what that talk must have been like.

* * *

Arthur fidgeted with the buttons of his white shirt. He would put on his russet overcoat on later; he did not want it to be too creased when he...when he...

He sighed out a moan. “Fuck!”

What now?” Gawain, his best man, had a thin smile that said 'You're trying my patience but I'll endure because you're my best friend'.

The blond held up his hand. “Rings! We need rings,” He pointed to the iron band on his finger. “I can't use this or Merlin's his 'cos they're weapons of war and...and...this has got to be perfect...perfect for Merlin.”

The lupine's smile became wider and he planted two hands onto Arthur's shoulders to calm him. “Take in a deep breath, that's it. Morgana had a word with Leon, who contacted Gilladrin to ask Mabon and he said it was sorted. So fucking relax man or you're gonna be late for your own wedding,” he finished with a laugh as Arthur breathed deeply then let the air out in relief. Gawain steered his friend out of the cottage that Nodens had given them for their preparations.

Here Celimdol met them and bowed low. His smile calmed Arthur a little. “Know that Merlin is awake and is waiting with his father in a clearing not far from here. Come.”

Flanked by the lovers, lupine and elf, the blond tread through the light woods and then saw the clearing mentioned. He did not the see the hundreds of deities assembled there, did not see Morgana or Leon, did not notice the other grinning members of the Buckland Brewers. No, his eyes were for one lanky twenty year old, an art student who had started his adventure to other realms nearly a year ago, who had dragged along his friends on an incredible journey, who had saved a city from the Dark. His Merlin.

Celimdol melted into the throng and Gawain gently elbowed Arthur in his ribs to wake him from his reverie. “Ready?” the lupine grinned through a whisper.

“Always,” Arthur answered, but still could not take his gaze from the one he was about to marry.

There was a wide avenue in the crowd of divine powers that led to a small rise in the grassy ground. Here grew a young silver birch and under its emerald boughs stood Nodens, resplendent in robes of white and with his silver hand uncovered; it glinted in the morning sun. The Power of Hunters and Healing smiled and used his fleshy hand to usher them forward.

Arthur took Merlin's hand and, flanked by Balinor and Gawain, slowly walked forward. The Host of the Celtae started to sing, a melody of love and happiness. It lifted Arthur's heart and he knew from the gentle squeeze of his hand from his fiancé that he felt the same way.

Nodens raised both his arms and the singing died away when the two young men had reached him. He rested both hands on their shoulders. “Gentles, we are here to witness the joining together two who are much loved in our eyes and who have much love for each other in their own. I will ask, before we begin, that any who would utter objection to this union, do so now or forever hold your tongue.” There was a pause and the man's smile broadened. “Ring bearer, sister of mine, come forth.”

From out of the skies came a great white horse surrounded by multi-coloured birds and palm-sized winged horses and all were bathed in a soft, white glow. When the horse landed it assumed the shape of the black-haired Rhiannon and in her hands were two plain bands of red gold. Mutely she knelt on one knee before her brother and Nodens took the rings from her. He held them aloft.

“Two rings of power, gentles, representing the two youths before us.” He put the rings on the fingers of both Arthur and Merlin and then lowered his tone to address the two.

“Arthur, if you could show me your right palm and Merlin, your left?” They did as was asked of them. The Hunter took out his knife and made a small cut on their palms. After he had put the instrument away, he clasped their hands together with his own and addressed the crowd once more and Arthur felt in his bones that it had power and authority and magic intertwined. “Harken to me you witnesses of such a union of blood, of life, of souls, of flesh, harken to me I say. This union is blessed by The Host and any who would break it asunder will have to answer to us.”

Led by The Dagda, father and leader of The Host, the crowd roared their approval and all went down on one knee, even Nodens.

Mabon looked up into the astonished faces of the newly-weds, his own eyes full of love for them. “For the saving of Gallantine and the White Rose, for this important defeat that the Dark has suffered, you have the eternal gratitude and love of the Celtae and many others besides.

The beings stood and after a roar of “This is boring me now. Let us feast and make merry!” from The Dagda (which produced many a twitter and a clip around the ear for him from The Modron, Mother of The Host), food and ale was produced by Math and the partying began.

Arthur looked into Merlin's eyes and then gave him a deep kiss. When they came up for air he simple said, “I love you.”

Tears in his eyes, Merlin answered. “Fucking ditto.”

Arthur laughed.



A Dark Day: Home

With a promise extracted from them to come up to the house soon, they left Gawain and Celimdol to re-introduce themselves to The Lodge, a large cottage at the gates. Merlin, as always, wished them as much happiness as he was feeling. He was married and it as felt as natural as breathing. The art student would now be known as Merlin Emrys-Pendragon. He thought back to the wedding celebrations and the gifts that The Host (hundreds of Celtae Powers) showered on them, both big and small. Merlin was assured that they would be in his home when he got there and was relieved; a wardrobe made from the fallen branches of the Tree of Life would be hard to carry around. One such gift, however, he carried in his bag and he lightly touched it now; a small vial of water wrapped in a lattice of golden wood. Mabon had given it and the young god's words came to him as the little group walked up the gravel path, elms and oaks forming an avenue for them.

“Small in size is the gift and one that only I can be giving,” said the dark-haired man with a sad smile on his lips. “Some say it is a curse, so use it wisely if you decide to do so. Nine drops for nine people chosen by you and Arthur, though they must receive it willingly and with understanding for it to work.” Without any word of explanation, Mabon, Power of Youth, laughed and went into a wild dance with Gilladrin as the music of harps and drums and pipes filled the air. Merlin had felt the essence of powerful magic emanating from the god as he danced and in awe he put the puzzling gift away for a time when he could question the super model further about it.

Merlin shook himself free from his thoughts as Whitwood House loomed before them, lights on in the darkness.

“Who's in our home?” asked Petros, most probably glad to change the conversation with his blond father about finding a good comprehensive school for the teen to go to.

“Stay here,” said Arthur as he approached the door.

Morgana looked at Merlin with an eyebrow raised. Leon laughed quietly and Merlin smiled back. When Mabon and Gilladrin saw that the others ignored Arthur's request, they shrugged their shoulders and followed them.

The oak door opened and framed in the doorway stood an elf dressed in jeans and a white, sleeveless tee. “Myfanwy, as always, was right. You have arrived on this eve of the new year,” said Cynan and he laughed as Arthur was the first to hug him.

“How...why...when?” asked Arthur eventually, confused.

Merlin rolled his eyes and nudged his dumb blonde. “Arda became our world, obviously.”

Cynan nodded his head once. “Aye, such was the last gift from the Valar to Myfanwy and myself. For many hundreds and thousands of years have we cared for mankind as much as we are able, in both joy and grief, but now we reside in the Dreamlands. To my embarrassment the Fey call me Oberon and my beloved, Titania, but I would have you address us as the friends you knew and love.”

It was then that the lore master mentioned came into view with a silver platter in her hands. It held the right amount of glasses filled with champaign. “Mae govannon,” she greeted and gently nodded her head in the direction of the neutral dining room. She also wore jeans and a white top. Come, we have a few minutes left to us of two thousand and thirteen.”

As they followed her, Merlin could hear his husband mutter “We've gained two years.” The art student grinned and slipped his hand into the blond's, which produced a smile and a peck on the cheek.

“And I see by the golden bands you wear that you are married,” continued Cynan. “I sense that this new year before us will allow you too to have another wedding in these united kingdoms.”

Morgana laughed. “Good, Merlin's mum and all those we've missed can come along.”

The grandfather clock in the hall started to chime the twelfth hour and, as their friends around them started to shout and hug each other, Arthur turned to his husband and whispered “Will you do me the honour of marrying me a second time?”

Merlin placed one hand around the back of his blond's neck and drew him close for a lingering kiss. It was only the retching sound coming from their adopted teenage son that made them smile and part a little. “Yes.”

Arthur raised an eyebrow. “Can't hear you Mister Emrys-Pendragon.”

Merlin giggled and raised his voice. “I said yes, Mister Emrys-Pendragon.”

The cheering and celebrations were loud and still Arthur pretended not to hear. He cocked his head and brought a hand to his ear.

“I said fucking yes!”

They laughed together long and hard, glad to be alive, glad to be home.

They laughed even louder when Petros brought over the swear jar.



A Dark Day: Epilogue


Gentle Reader

Is there more to say? My so-called short missive has run into many, many pages already, but has it answered your question? About the loves and griefs and adventures of the Merlin and Arthur I knew?

I hope so.

I also hope I will meet them again, but then perhaps their adventuring days are over and new horizons await them on Terra Primus. Whatever the case, I am here on the this asteroid station doing what I can against the Dark, for the battles against it will never end.

Turn the last page, gentle reader, and close the book on Arthur and his husband, Merlin, for you have your own adventures against the Dark. Perhaps not by sword or magic, but we all have our own battles both great and small.

Yes, perhaps I will see them once again. I hope so.

As always, I leave you in love and peace,

The Lady Anharadeth, Staffwielder,
Lady of the Stars

A Dark Day (part five)

Title: A Dark Day (part five)
Word Count: 8945
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, death
Summary: The Dark Day has arrived. Will Arthur and Merlin survive to must meet their destiny and save Gallantine and the White Rose?

A Dark Day is the last story in the saga that started years ago with Merlin's Dream (found here http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2011/04/22/ ; warning, approaching 500,000 words!). However, this back story is not essential to this current part of the series.

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/02/19/

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/03/25/

Part three: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/05/28/

Part Four: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/07/25/

A/N: One more episode after this one and then your torture is over!



A Dark Day: Camlann

They stood beside a great oak, its bare branches crawling at the sky, and around them was the skeleton of a small village, the stone scorched black and filmed with frost. Frozen, dead bodies of women and children littered the area. No clouds marred the full moon this far north of Gallantine and its silvery light gave the dead hamlet an eerie glow.

"What is this place?" asked Arthur in a whisper, his breath white from the cold.

It was Rane who answered him. "This hamlet and the fields beyond are called Camlann." At the mention of the name, Bedwyr seemed alarmed and stepped protectively closer to Arthur. "You can just see Twr Caersullien from here," finished the prince.

Arthur followed the young horse lord's gaze and saw in the distance a dark tower, but a black finger at this distance. "Let's go," he said and led them from the ruined cottages, their boots crunching on snow the only sound.

When they had walked twenty minutes into the fields of white, Rane held up a hand to stop them. "Nosaden is close and she says that trouble is on its way." The winged horse gently landed next to the young prince, a mithril-headed lance strapped to her side. He sprang up and buckled himself into the saddle and took up the weapon. "Barghasts," he spat before the horse and rider leapt into the air.

Gawain carefully stripped his clothes off and put them into a cloth bag. In a blur his formed changed into a muscled, seven foot tall lupine and he growled deeply his anger. Cynan stood next to him, his blades drawn as Gilladrin unsheathed a great sword he had borrowed from a templer of Ceredwen. The champion had also loaned armour of bright steel, but had forsaken the helm.

Leon nodded a grin at the blond then stood to the other side of Gawain, a silver dagger in one hand and a revolver in the other.

Arthur was glad Morgana's lover, the lupine and the two elf warriors were with him. He turned to Bedwyr and Anharadeth "The first of many traps I fear," said the lore master as she twirled her staff around her head. When it landed in the snow before her, it bristled briefly with rivlets of lightning.

"I think you're right," answered the blond as he took out Gilaglad. The fabled elven blade pierced the gloom with its light, not unsurprising with the undead Welsh warrior by his side. "Form a circle," he shouted. "Protect each others backs."

They did as he commanded.

Silently, coming ever closer, thousands of grey-skinned large dogs with red eyes ran over the snow fields from all directions and Arthur saw a few winged creatures skim fast above the heads of the canines. They looked like small dragons, but had two legs that ended with wicked talons instead of four.

"Wyverns," informed Anharadeth. A wave of lightning fanned out in front of her and dozens of barghasts died.

As Arthur wielded his sword to defend his patch of ground, he noticed Rane swoop low and pierce one of the wyverns with his lance. It fell to the ground, dead, and the rider flew up high, silhouetted against the full moon, as the last few of the winged creatures went to engage him in battle.

"Be careful, Rane," the blond muttered.

It was going to be a long night.

* * *

Merlin looked out at the sea of goblins and giants that was Velshna's army. He assumed that at Rivergate would be thousands of Scaneans. Sure enough a runner, a boy of about ten years and sporting a dirty-blond mop of hair, stopped beside him and caught his breath.

"Northmen attack from the river's direction, my lord, but their rear be harried by many arrows. The elves, the elves are here," he finished with a grin.

The art student's relief at hearing the news made his thoughts turn to Nodens. The Celtae Power of Hunting and Healing had gone in that direction. "Come on Bask," he muttered, "show your hand." It was only then that the powers of the Light would be able to join the battle fully.

Morgana kicked a scaling ladder from the battlements and shot back a glance at the two, the mage and the boy. "Tell Celimdol to get here. Northgate will be the enemies' main target."

As the boy ran off, the student once again looked out over the fields and saw four giants carry between them the biggest tree trunk he had ever seen. It was iron shod and glowed in a putrid green light. They slowly made for Gallantine's Northgate. "Oakhaven!" he shouted as he stabbed a bolt of lightning at a young white dragon that had foolishly come too low. It veered off to the north with an agonised roar.

The Druid snorted in derision and the trunk suddenly exploded. Thick and deadly splinters instantly killed the four giants. Oakhaven then went back to warping the wood of the ladders up against the walls, but they kept coming and Merlin knew the old man was tiring.

"Save your strength. We'll just have to battle the ones that make it up here," shouted Merlin above the din of the fighting and dying. Oakhaven nodded at the wisdom of this and renewed the globes of emerald lights that gave the horse lord archers their targets.

The roar of many dragons continued from above. Thankfully, dragonsbane at the gates and around the garden had kept most of the reptiles at bay, but that did not stop the larger creatures from using their breath attacks; he had already seen a knot of Math's templers being cooked alive by a stream of magma, most probably from an ancient red dragon. Frustratingly for the Apprentise, these fatal attacks came from high above, admist the grey clouds that were discharging ever more volumes of snow.

"We've got to clear those clouds somehow, and the fucking dragons."

"I'm on it," answered Morgana and she made to leave, "but I won't be much help afterwards."

Before he could ask why, she had gone in the direction of Gallantine's docks. Then, without thinking, he put a shield of white light above Helen and Galtreth as a stream of black acid attempted to disolve their flesh. They continued their battle against the few goblins who reached the top of the walls without interruption as they had done a dozen times before; always did Merlin seem to know if they were in danger. The student paused for breath and looked along the battlements towards Riversgate and saw that their numbers were slowly being thinned, despite the defenders valient efforts. And still the hordes of the Dark kept coming.

Tears of frustration threatened to spill from his eyes. "Where the fuck are you, Tarrion?" he muttered bitterly. "We need you."

Then it started, a little tune in the back of his mind, something he had not heard since he had been eleven when Mrs. Evans at the local Welsh medium school had drummed into the class the song they were to sing at the school's eisteddfod on Saint David's Day.

"I know this," he whispered and a smile of half forgotten memories came to his lips. "I know this, Rose, and a fucking good choice it is too."

He took in a deep breath and sang his heart out the second verse to Yma o Hyd#:

Chwythed y gwynt o'r Dwyrain,
Rhued y storm o'r môr,
Hollted y mellt yr wybren
A gwaedded y daran encôr,
Llifed dagrau'r gwangalon
A llyfed y taeog y llawr
Er dued yw'r fagddu o'n cwmpas
Ry'n ni'n barod am doriad y wawr!

(Let the wind blow from the East
Let the storm roar from the sea
Let the lightning split the heavens
And the thunder shout "Encore!"
Let the tears of the faint-hearted flow
And the servile lick the floor
Despite the blackness around us
We are ready for the breaking of the dawn!)

With renewed energy he raised his arms in the air and a huge fireball flew from his hands and sped across the field which caused great choas, destruction and confusion amongst the goblins and giants. He sang the chorus:

Ry'n ni yma o hyd,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
Ry'n ni yma o hyd,
Er gwaetha pawb a phopeth,
Ry'n ni yma o hyd.


(We are still here
In spite of everyone and everything
We are still here
In spite of everyone and everything
We are still here.)

Cynan's younger brother came to his side, his two slim blades unsheathed, and smiled in response to the mage's joy. "Sing Celimdol, sing until your heart bursts."

The elf, in lyrical Sindarin, sang.

Merlin caught the eye of Lady Helen, dagger in hand and with a small cut on her left cheek, and grinned. "Sing it out loud, spellsinger!"

Infected by his laughter, her soprano voice joined the elf's tenor. Templers and horse lords were caught up in the melody and, still fighting, sang out in their own tongues. Far to the east, Merlin heard the voices of over two thousand elf archers join in with the singing and tears of joy fell freely down his cheeks as, in his heart, he thanked the White Rose for its intervention when all seemed lost.

Then Merlin gasped; in his mind's eye he saw a young Gaul reach out tentatively towards an oak staff that was topped by a fist sized emerald and was claimed; saw a young man fight the Romans at Ynys Mon and dedicate a bone carving of a running dog to Nodens; saw a middle aged man now named Taliesen teach the knowledge of the Old Religion and its wild magic to an unsure youth named Myrddin; saw an old man weep at the devastation of the last battle at Camlann, at King Arthur's fall. Merlin saw all of this and now the tears of joy were mingled with those of sadness and regret.

"Oakhaven," he croaked, then cleared his throat of emotion. He saw the Druid in a new light, one of patience, past pains and endurance. "Taliesen, Oakhaven, my friend, do your fucking stuff."

The Staffwielder seemeded renewed, invigorated and he turned to Merlin with a look of shock on his face, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. "The White Rose has never spoken so loud, so pure. I..." He composed himself and winked at the young man. "It's time for nature to have her say."

The old man used both hands to raise the Staff of Power over his head. No words were said, no incantation that Merlin could hear, but a burst of emerald light came forth from the Druid that seemed to briefly engulf the whole city. The light that touched the enemy caused them to vomit and run about in confusion. Where it touched the defenders, they seemed renewed in vigour and those who had been wounded were intantly healed. Then bushes and trees in the fields around Gallantine started to grow impossibly fast, ensaring some of the enemy but crippling or killing most; Velshna's army was easily cut down by two thirds.

Then Oakhaven seemed his old self, just a tired man with a stick. He leaned on his Staff and gave another wink. "The Rose might have produced the power, you cheeky little sprog, but you were the trigger. The balance is more even now, we have a chance, and it has been all down to you."

Merlin shrugged. "I didn't do anything, really."

Oakhaven sniffed contemptuously at his modesty while he, with an absent wave of his hand, swept away an arrow that had been aimed for Merlin's throat. "The White Rose saw the passion, the honour, the goodness in your heart and used you to amplify your own power and everyone elses. My boy, you may have saved Gallantine this night."

Before Merlin could answer, a great cry of outrage came from the new woodland that now encircled Gallantine. He, using a cantrip that could make his vision act like a telescope, picked out a snow elf dressed in shimmering ice-blue robes stand near the circle of stones. The Icestaff was pointed towards Northgate and Velshna's face was full of fury.

"The final chapter begins," muttered Merlin. A great roar from the south, the sound of a thousand waterfalls, made him and most of the others about him turn around. Merlin saw a huge curtain of water rise up about a hundred feet. It stretched either side out of sight, from one side of Lake Galla to the other. "Go on Morgana," Merlin muttered with a savage twist to his lips, "now it's your turn to do your fucking stuff."

At the same time a powerful torrent of snow and ice with hurricane force trampled bush and tree aside to hit Northgate. The great, enchanted wooden barrier was burst apart and Merlin uttered one, fearful word.

"Shit!"



A Dark Day: Twr Caersullien

The number of barghasts seemed to be greatly reduced and Arthur felt bone tired as he continued to use all his skill in wielding Gilgaled against the unnatural hounds. He saw Rane atop Nosaden sweep down time and again into their ranks with powerful wings and mithril lance to break many a body; saw Leon support Bedwyr in keeping the creatures at bay; saw Gawain be practically everywhere at once as he used his powerful arms to rip into the dogs; saw Cynan and Gilladrin calmly keep the canines at bay with their blades; saw Anharadeth seem to play with the lightning that danced around her as she stood her ground; saw the sun finally show his face. Three hours had passed.

The body of the ancient vampire-warrior started to smoke and they could all hear him grunt through the pain as he fought on.

"Rest in the ground Bedwyr, you've done enough," shouted Arthur.

The vampire snarled out loud in his agony and caught a barghast in mid air as it went for the blond's throat. He ripped it in two with his blood-empowered strength. It seemed to be the last of the stragglers and the rest of the group rested from their labours.

"Nay! I will not fail you again at Camlann, my liege."

Arthur swallowed against his dry throat and spoke more softly. "You've done enough, old friend." He pulled up the sleeve of his russet jacket and offered his forearm. "Drink, renew your strength, and rest in the ground, I command it. We'll see you in Gallantine later."

Bedwyr hesitated but then went down on one knee. Reverently he sank his fangs into the offered flesh. After less than a minute, Arthur saw the vampire's form turn to mist and sink into the snow.

"We dare not rest here," said Cynan as he wiped his blades clean. Rane and Nosaden landed gently beside him; both were tired but ready for more. "Let us reach this Tower of Caersullien as quick as we can before the enemy gathers its strength," continued the elven hunter.

Arthur so wanted to rest, but knew the wisdom of the words. He was surprised when Anharadeth started to go to each of the group and place her hand on their heads, even that of the winged horse. When it came to the blond's turn, he suddenly felt refreshed as if he had slept comfortably for at least three days.

"Not a cantrip to be used too often," smiled the lore master, "but I do concur with my fellow Brewer."

Arthur grinned his thanks. "Let's get started then."



They trudged on into the gentle bowl-shaped valley and soon came across the out buildings of the rectangular tower (Rane had talked to them about some of the building's history, saying that it had been erected by the dwarves as a 'thank you' after some long forgotten battle against a war-horde of goblins). Bodies picked clean by carrion, mostly warriors still in their chain armour but also with a few women and children, were covered by a film of frost and snow. The great oak doors of the tower had been blasted apart, scorched by a great heat. It was here that Rane stalled.

"I...Here be the great hall of my father, first king of Gwlad-yr-Hydref." Arthur saw him gulp down emotion. "Nosaden, away."

The majestic horse neighed in defiance, but then relented and, with a few beat of her wings, flew up into the sky to encircle the granite monolith in a serene gliding motion.

"My mother_" the young prince, of similar age to Arthur himself, briefly closed his eyes and his frame shuddered in emotion. "She...she bore the Sunstone until the return of the king come Autumn. Oh my Lady Rhiannon," he cried out, "that will never happen again. Gone are the days of yesteryear, when my people were at last united against winter and foe alike."

Arthur could see his friend fight against the tears that threatened to spill from his clear, blue eyes. "Not all is lost, Rane," he said gently as he embraced the prince. "Things won't be as before, but you and your people will begin again. This I promise on my life."

Rane stood back, startled. And cupped Arthur's face in his palms. "On my own life I would sacrifice all I hold dear, yea, even my love for Arianwen and my kinship to my people not to suffer the sight of you fallen, my friend. Come, let not my weakened spirit delay us from the prize that will counter the White Witch."

Cynan clamped a firm hand on the young man's shoulder. "Well said, fellow prince. May our steps not falter at the very last."

The group turned to the ruined doors and made to enter the blackness beyond, but a cry of warning from Anharadeth stopped their steps. "Hold! We have endured one ambush already, let us not blunder into any more." She extended an arm towards the opening and a small ball of lightning flew from her hand to hover about thirty feet ahead to light the way.

Cautiously, they entered Twr Caersullien.



Dark Day: Nature Has Her Say or Dragons? Fuck You!

Morgana stood calmly at the end of a small, stone jetty with her back to Lake Galla and its ice-rimmed waters. Two, single storey warehouses made of timber and stone were about a hundred paces away from her on either side, flanking the wide avenue (the forlorn apple trees bare of leaves) that led up to the holy garden's southern gate. She took in a deep breath and steadied her nerve.

"It is time," whispered the words of the Lady of Galla in her head and Morgan's vision became fierce in its golden light.

The seer had many scenes flicker through her head, too fast for her to register what they were, but they finally slowed and three tableaux settled in her mind, one after the other. An old man with green eyes and robes of leaves stood upon a grey granite outcrop which overlooked a sea of swaying trees that stretched to the horizon, the green untouched by Winter; a middle-aged man who carried a silver birch sapling as a staff, atop the waters of a great river and he danced slowly in graceful circles; an old woman perched upon a narrow bridge of land that seperated sea and lake, high winds made her long hair stream across her face, her arms held high.

"Forestgreat Dragonlands stands ready. The creatures have been summoned," spoke Hengoed Fawr, the Father of Forests.

The river spirit, Deshannon, stopped his gentle dance and knelt atop the water. "All streams, rivers, pools both hidden and in sight channel through me and power will be sent to the vessel. Some of the lessor spirits know that they will not survive this trial, but sacrifice themselves willingly enough."

The Lady Galla lowered her arms. "This is our one chance to perhaps tip the balance slightly to the side of Light and if some of us fall then so be it. Even us three will feel much strain, though I have faith in the mortal vessel that we aim our power at." Morgana did not like the sound of that, but remained silent. "I will guide her, for I am the nearest. I sense the great flight of dragons has decided to challenge the power of the dragonweed. Now is the time."

Morgana felt every fibre of her being burn hot with power and the pain escaped her lips in a howl of agony. The sound of this, however, was drowned as she sensed rather than saw a curtain of water rise up from the lake behind her and it was at least a hundred feet high. The seer knew what to do. She turned and pointed at the tons of water before her and slowly raised her arm towards the clouds and the hidden dragons above. The water left Lake Galla and shot heavenwards.

She then saw a jet stream of powerful high winds crash mercilessly into the space above Gallantine that swept both clouds and most of the dragons away to the north (the latter covered in a thick layer of ice and tumbling helplessly). After the winds a flock of birds of many varieties darkened the sky to attack the few dragons that had somehow escaped the watery and icy first wave.

One large blue dragon landed about a hundred feet away from Morgana. The creature ignored the seer and forked lightning escaped its mouth to down a hundred of the birds that attacked it, to no avail. The small creatures pecked out its eyes, battered its body and continued to fly down its throat. It soon lay still, suffocated.

As quickly as they had appeared the great flock flew away and the moon shone her light upon the White City. Her vision now clear, Morgana felt very, very tired and sank to her knees.

"It is now up to your friends and allies of the Light, young sister Morgana, but for you is the time for a great rest," came the voice of Galla, faint as if from far away and not in the seer's head.

Morgana reluctantly closed her eyes.



A Dark Day: The House of Healing

Lance smiled as the last of the beautiful song left his mind. He had sang out until his voice was hoarse, a song of defiance and courage. He turned and looked with wonder around the vastness that was the hall of Diancecht's temple. The hundreds of wounded men who had been treated by Gwen, Myfanwy, Arianwen, Gaius and the goodwives of Gallantine were suddenly made whole; even missing limbs grew back.

The elf lore master sighed. "Merlin has led us in a great song of courage, but not The Song. That will hopefully come later," she said in answer to his unspoken question. "The emerald light methinks has come from Lord Oakhaven and have healed the hurts of Gallantine."

Before Lance could speak, they could all hear a near deafening sound of what sounded like thousands of waterfalls come from nearby and then the ground shook. Gwen had briefly close her eyes and, when she opened the, her face was white from fear.

"Great danger is upon us. I think Northgate has been breached."

At those words, and as Lance held his lover in his arms for comfort, men sprang from their beds and took up arms. They streamed from the great temple and Lance let them, though he itched to go with the warriors to defend the city. Even the green-skinned barkeep of The Sanctuary Inn was healed and followed them. However, Lance had been charged to protect the healers and he never broke a vow. He caught the look of Mabon and saw that the mortal god also wished to follow, but he too was under a similar oath made to Merlin.

Myfanwy touched Mabon's arm to get his attention. "You must go to the docks while you are still able," she commanded softly. Before he could protest she raised one hand to stop his words. "Nay, let me speak. The Lady Morgana is near death's door. Collect her, my lord, and bring her here. The streets will soon be swamped by the enemy, so you must hurry."

The handsome young man ran from the building, his dagger in hand. Myfanwy took up her staff and closed her eyes.

"Nature herself has come to our aid and the flight of dragons is a flight no more." She gasped and took a step backwards. Lance and Gwen quickly went to her side to steady her. The green eyes opened and were wide in concern. "The White Witch has entered Gallantine. Merlin, Celimdol...!"

Lance gritted his teeth in frustration. "Why am I here? Merlin needs me." He glanced at his lover, who smiled and seemed to urge him to go to their mutual friends.

"Hold your tongue and your steps, Lance of the Silver Lake!" Myfanwy said sharply, but her voice had not risen. Still, Lance felt ashamed at the rebuke. "You will have your hands full here, my lord. Go to this cathedral's entrance to join Lord Grey. We will gather these good women of Gallantine to yonder ante room and be their last protection, if needed."

Lance nodded his head and, with a longing kiss on Gwen's lips in farewell, went to join the vampire. Dorian stood facing north and the knight followed his gaze to see thousands of goblins (with a few giants among them), stream down the broad avenue. There were a few knots of templers and horse lords that stood their ground against the tide, but most of the evil creatures sped passed them. They started to ransack every temple and were slowly approaching the one Lance and Dorian protected.

The vampire had no weapon in his hands and stood calmly. Lance wondered what use he would be. "The sun will rise soon, in a few minutes. I'll do what I can before that, but I will have to go to that merchant's house over there and hope it has a cellar. Of course, if those bastards coming towards us," he nodded his handsome head towards the much nearer goblins, "are not stopped and find me..." he shrugged and finished with a grin.

Lance smiled grimly in answer and ignited his light sword. The blue light pushed back the shadows and he made a sweep of it towards the enemy in salute. This fight was to the death.

Suddenly, Dorian opened wide his arms and bared his fangs. He snarled. At least a hundred of the first ranks of goblins shat and wet themselves in fear, crawling on the ground northwards and away from the vampire. These were soon trampled by their fellows who came up from behind.

Even though Lance stood next to the undead and so could not see his face, he still wanted to puke in fear. Mabon's Chosen gulped down the bile and started to engage the enemy, his sword slicing through weapon, leather armour and flesh with sickening ease. The rush of the enemy would not stop and Lance would not stop fighting.

He had to buy time for his patron to find Morgana and get her safely into the temple of Diancecht. He had to protect his lover and mother of his twin sons. He had to.



A Dark Day: Arthur Pendragon, Nodens' Chosen, Warrior of the Light, Third Officer of the Buckland Brewers, Wielder of Gilgalad, Has Fallen!

The first floor of Twr Caersullien was vast and wreathed in darkness and shadow, except for those that were kept at bay by Anharadeth's little ball of lightning. The imposing columns that they could see were fashioned to look like oaks with birds of stone that graced the upper branches. The ball of light stopped and hovered a great distance down the hall to illuminate two thrones on a dais. One was empty, but the other had a figure frozen in death. A women, tall and stern, crowned and with fine jewellery and garments.

Rane sobbed loudly unashamedly and Gilladrin placed a comforting hand on his shoulder as Cynan got up from inspecting the snow that had intruded a few feet into the mausoleum.

"Thirty-three men have entered this place and recently. They did not leave through this doorway," said the hunter in a whisper. He readied his elven blades.

Anharadeth, the last to enter the tower, heard a slow beat of wings from outside and she turned to see a black robed man of about forty years of age stand with his arms at his side. He had golden hair and his skin was as if powdered in the metal.

The Second Officer of the Buckland Brewers squared her shoulders. "Name thyself, I command thee!"

As the others in her group came to her side, the stranger smiled. "Your witch-voice will have no effect on me, young one, but I will abide by your wish all the same." He took a step forward and Arthur levelled Gilagalad so that its tip was but an inch from the stranger's chest.

"Gilladrin?" the blond commanded.

"He..." began the elf champion and then gasped. "My blade-brother, his heart is so pure...I...he is of the Light, I swear it!"

Anharadeth saw Arthur's cheeks colour slightly and the legendary sword was put away. "Forgive me my lord," the young warrior said with a nod of his head. "I didn't expect an ally to be found so deep in Velshna's territory."

The stranger smiled and bowed his head in return. " An ally? Yes, but a poor one at that. This avatar before you has slept many an eon, but in my drowsiness I will do what I can. Protector I am, healer with some little skill, gather of knowledge and dreamer of dreams. In answer to your command, sweet lady, I am named by mortals as Suna of the Golden Scales." Suna held up a hand, palm facing the group, and a small burst of golden light bathed them. "There, the filth of the claws of those you are about to face will not ravage the mind or putrefy the flesh, though they can still rip. However, beware the Staffwielder that waits for you in yonder hall and the general of the White Witch. It could be that more than one of you will meet their doom this morn. For now, no more from me, or the Dark will detect my presence and your battle will be more than you could possibly bare."

With that said the avatar of Suna of the Golden Scales, Ancient Power of all Gold Dragons, turned and walked into the growing light of day.

Arthur let out a breath. "So, creatures with claws and a Staffwielder. At least surprise is not on their side."

"I can now sense her, fellow officer," said Anharadeth, "as she senses me. The Staff is of Poison. I will deal with this assassin! You others deal with the abominations."

They turned and went cautiously further into the great hall, sticking close to each other but giving themselves room to fight. Gawain peeled off his clothes as he walked and then shape-changed into his lupine form.

From the shadows a woman with light-brown hair tied back in a pony tail and dressed in tight fitting, dark clothes lunged at Arthur with a slim bladed short sword. The blow was parried by Anharadeth's staff and the lore master pushed back the assailant with a wave of her free hand. "Stay back, for she is wreathed in vile poison. I will deal with this cur," she shouted and leapt forward to do battle.

At the same time many howls filled the hall that struck fear into the hearts of Arthur and Rane. The prince of the horse lords gulped down his panic. "Werewargs. We are assailed by werewargs!" He readied his sword as he looked about him at the shadows.

Leon grinned and produced two of his many silver daggers. "I was born for this fight," he laughed savagely.

It was then that a wolf-like creature furtively came from behind the thrones and stood to reach his full height. A head taller than Gawain, the light from the ball of lightning revealed that the creature was just as muscled and more so. He wrenched off the head of the dead queen and threw it at the feet of Rane. The young prince, tears rolling down his face, roared out his anger and made to run forward, but Gilladrin stopped him.

"There is another that must answer this challenge," whispered the elf in Rane's ear, calming him.

The leader of the werewargs then pointed a talon at the werewolf. "Know that I am Golgarren and that you are but a weak lamb I will take pleasure in ripping apart!"

Gawain howled his anger and challenge and the two, in a blur, sped towards each other.

More werewargs burst from the shadows at the same time and as Cynan parried and rolled to avoid the attacks aimed for him, two arms of one of the creatures grabbed him from behind and pulled him back into the darkness.

"Go for the Sunstone," shouted Gilladrin as he ran towards the spot he had last seen his brother-in-law. "I will deal with this."

Arthur immediately realised that they were at a disadvantage. Only enchanted or silver weapons could permanently harm these creatures, which meant that Rane and the elf champion could parry any blows at best. "Rane, do what you can for Gilladrin and Cynan," he shouted as he sliced open the belly of an opponent, slightly shorter than the others, and it reverted back into the form of a young, pock-marked youth. "Leon, watch my back."

The blond did not know if they did as was commanded of them, but matched the speed of the blows that wanted to rip him limb from limb. One lucky blow left great tears in his white shirt and russet overcoat, but his mithril vest kept him from harm. As Gilgalad parried, cut and stabbed about him, he slowly moved forward towards the dais inch by inch and he heard Leon exert himself in using fully his deadly, silver weapons.

The battle lessoned somewhat and Arthur saw two opponents left before him as they guarded the throne of the dead queen. A silver shuriken embedded itself in the throat of one of them and Leon said from behind the blond, "The battle's nearly over. Kill the bastard and let's get out of here."

The remaining werewarg lunge forward with a snarl and a burst of speed, but Arthur was just as quick as he instinctively parried once and then pierced the creature's heart. He let the body, now a thick set warrior with black hair, slide off his blade and to one side. Exhausted, he reached the top of dais and looked at the headless queen. In her lap was a pendant, a pear drop jewel of yellow set in gold.

He glanced back at the remnants of the battle and saw Gawain and Golgarren wrestle on the ground. The lupine had his legs clamped around the body of the large werewarg with his arms fixed firmly around the head. Gawain's biceps bulged and, with a savage snarl of effort, ripped off Golgarren's head. The two reverted back into human form and Celimdol's lover staggered to his feet.

Arthur saw Gilladrin had one of Cynan's swords and the two elves, Rane between them, used all their skill in defeating the last of their foes whilst protecting the young prince. Anharadeth then came from a shadowed corner, tired but alive.

The blond breathed a sigh of relief and turned back to the queen's throne as he stooped to pick up the pendant. As he vaguely registered a warning shout from the lore master, he looked in wonder at the Sunstone, at the way it produced it's own fiery light deep within its facets. Suddenly, frost started to cover his arm and he dropped the jewel , but it was too late; the frost became ice and quickly covered his body and he gasped in shock.

The last thing his eyes registered was Gilgalad, still in his hand, crack then shatter into many pieces.

* * *

Anharadeth ran forward, the others behind her. She reached Leon and placed a hand on his shoulder in comfort as the lupine hunter sobbed, distraught. "All is not yet lost," she said with a reassurance that she did not feel. The new Staffwielder examined the Sunstone and deduced that the traps that had been placed upon it were now spent. She picked it up and turned to the frozen Arthur. "His heart falters," she shouted. "Quickly, into the light of day!"

Cynan and Leon carried the blond from Twr Caersullien and they encountered Suna patiently waiting. The ancient had a sad look upon his face and simply stood on the frost-hard ground as he faced them.

"My lord, help us," pleaded the lore master, but the Power slowly shook his head.

"I dare not, but you have the means, my lady."

Puzzled and frustrated, Anharadeth looked at the Sunstone in her hand and sensed the great power it held. Cautiously she tapped it once against the fist sized sapphire of Stormstaff. A great burst of yellow light, as if the sun had come down to them, blinded her for a few moments. When her vision cleared, she saw a thawed and drenched Arthur in Leon's lap.

The lupine hunter brushed damp hair from the blond's brow tenderly and looked up with tears in his eyes. "He's so cold."

"Yet he lives," whispered Gilladrin, "but just barely."

"Then we take him to the Garden of the Rose and hope for the best," answered the lore master.

Suna of the Golden Scales sighed. "At least I can help with that, in part." He slowly turned and, as he did so, floated into the air high above them. His form rippled and slowly changed into a majestic, huge dragon. His golden scales glistened in the sun's light and the lore master thought she had not seen anything more beautiful in all her long years.

"My lord?" she whispered.

In their minds came the words of the avatar. "Place Arthur and yourselves on my back. I will not allow you to fall, but will take you to the oak that you used to get to the fields of Camlann. I can do that much, but may approach Gallantine no further."

"But my lord," said Cynan, "the Druid told us that it was a one way door."

Anharadeth could have sworn the dragon smiled and they heard a little chuckle. "Trust in my power, First Born. Now hurry, the spirit of Nodens' Chosen weakens with every moment that passes!"

They scrambled to do what they were asked and, with one great swoop of his wings, Suna soared into the frigid air.



A Dark Day: The Garden of the Rose

They heard the sounds of battle in the streets that surrounded the garden and Ambrose saw the web mage called Gilli chew nervously on his lower lip. "Don't worry dude," said Petros, just as nervous, "I'll protect you."

The vampire smiled as he saw the fourteen year old stand with his long sword before him and in front of Gilli. Owain, with shield and his own sword at the ready, stood next to the youth. The Rose was behind them all, the thing they protected. The sounds of fighting came closer; the enemy was in the garden itself.

Ambrose stepped forward, but still within the large circle-ward of blood he had created earlier. In marvel he felt the warmth of the morning sun as he quickly surveyed the crimson sigils about them. Satisfied, he turned his attention to a group of about forty goblins that ran towards them down the wide gravel path that led to the garden's north silver gates.

"Hold," muttered the blood mage to his companions as he raised both arms to chest level. With a shout of blood-curdling glee, the goblins spied their prey and ran towards them. "Hold," again said Ambrose as he heard a whimper escape Gilli's lips.

The undead mage closed both hands and made them into fists. As he did so he muttered a word of power and the two front goblins clutched at their chests, their hearts crushed. That stopped the little bastards' momentum.

"Owain, do your bit, but remember to reach the safety of the ward if you think you are about to be overwhelmed."

Even before Ambrose had finished the sentence the Knight of the Rose leapt forward and shield-smashed the first goblin to the ground and sliced with his long sword into another. As the sound of the creatures' death rattles and the stench of their foul blood started to fill the air, the blood mage turned to face the two youths.

"Gilli, now would be a good time to create a strong contact with your Conclave and the avatar, Gorfannon." The web mage's eyes shone gold and he stabbed furiously at his iPad. "Petros, no matter what occurs, you do not move from that spot." The vampire knew that no where in the city was safe anymore except, perhaps, near the holy artefact of the Rose.

A determined set of the boy's mouth made Ambrose despair, as were the courageous words that were spoken. "My Dad might be dead at Twr Caersullien and my Da fights for his life on the walls of Gallantine and you expect me to hide behind you?"

Ambrose, without turning his head, reached behind him and pointed a fist at a goblin who had been trying to outflank Owain. The foul creature's brain liquefied. "No, I expect you to do what your parents want you to do; protect the Rose," he snarled. "Your blade is the last line of defence."

The golden headed youth gulped. "I will not fail you Uncle Ambrose, or them."

A wave of love for the boy swept over the vampire at being called 'uncle' and he knew he smiled kindly. "Good man." He then turned back just in time to see Owain cut down a goblin before he jumped back into the circle-ward. The goblins chased after the knight but were stopped abruptly by the barrier that kept out non-humans. Ambrose felt the strain on his power as the bloodthirsty beasts pushed forward against the invisible wall and then saw more of the creatures with a giant in tow enter the garden. "I cannot hold them at bay for long and I hunger for the blood I have already spent," he whispered to the knight.

The young man lifted the visor of his helm and nodded. "It has been a good fight, blood mage, and I am honoured to have fought by your side."

The vampire did not doubt the sincerity of the words from the open hearted man. Emotions filled him, companionship, friendship and, dare he think it, love? Ambrose was staggered by the feelings that stirred in his dead heart. He wished that this was not the end, that he could have months and years to savour what Merlin and Arthur experienced every day from those who loved them. "I...I thank you," was all he could say and then came another gentle nod of Owain's head, as if he said "No thanks are needed, my comrade-in-arms" which produced a tear of blood from the vampire's eye.

Ambrose composed himself then as the giant came close, a wicked double-bladed axe in its hands. "The barrier will fall and soon," he muttered and he sensed his charges make ready their weapons. It was then that Gilli cried out in pain and slumped to the floor, the tablet still in his hands and his eyes shone brightly.

If you can, Gorfannon, Ambrose thought furiously, now would be the time for a little help.

* * *

Gilli felt as if every inch of his body was being stabbed by red hot needles. Part of him knew that he had fallen to the frosty gravel path, but part of him felt as if he sped along a tunnel made of pure light. The latter part ended up on the floor of the cathedral of light that was Conclave, before a great anvil festooned with golden sigils. A giant muscular man, stripped to the waist and wielding a massive hammer, looked down at him with eyebrows raised.

"You took your time," bellowed the avatar.

Gilli scrambled to his feet. "Dude_"

"And time is short. If the Dark destroys the Rose then all is lost." Gorfannon struck the anvil. The blow made no sound. "Arthur has fallen and Gilgalad is no more. I sense it."

"NO!" Gilli shouted and his cartoon body wept bitterly.

"Dear child," the Power said softly, "all is not lost. I give you power but for a short time. Seek out the sword of stone and the last of my gift to you will reveal itself. Remember, it is for Arthur only, if he survives." The man looked back at the anvil, its glow bathing his face with power. "The fires of seeing have shown me many things, but not even I know what will become of him. Have courage. Have faith in the Light."

As Conclave started to fade, Gilli wiped the tears from his eyes. "Yes, sir. And thank you."

The last image was that of Gorfannon, smiling.

* * *

Petros went to his knees next to the stricken web mage, stricken himself by the fall of his friend. "Dude," the boy whispered, as his voice trembled. He did not want to be alone even though the vampire and the knight was still with him. He viewed the fellow teen as part of his household, part of his home. "Dude?" he said again and gently shook Gilli's shoulder.

Gilli open one eye and grinned. "Hey." He carefully got up, with Petros' help.

"Hey."

"Little dude, you're gonna love this." The web mage held onto his tablet with his left hand and stared at it. His eyes shone in a golden colour and, satisfied with what he saw, raised his right arm and punched the air above him. From the ward's red sigils came a pulse of pure energy that rippled outward and flattened the goblins. None stood back up. Even the shrubs and trees were hit by an invisible force, but they came to no permanent damage. However, the frost giant was only pushed back a few steps and then charged with black eyes narrowed in renewed anger.

Gilli had already gone onto his next target. He pointed at the stone statue of Nodens with his right finger and concentrated with all his effort. The iPad started to smoke, but before it was destroyed the stone sword that the statue had at its hip was bathed in a yellow light. Small flames seemed to ripple along the blade for but a moment and then it was gone.

The light from his eyes gone, Gilli dropped back to his knees and had a huge tired grin on his face. "Dude, was that awesome or what?"

Petros matched the grin. "Totally, man."

It was then the giant struck the blood-ward and they all heard the shattering of glass.

Owain met the charge.



A Dark Day: The Death of a Knight

Ambrose tried to stop the young knight. Even though the blood ward was down, he still had one or two tricks up his sleeve, but Owain had rushed forward to answer the charge. Instead, the vampire grabbed the arm of Petros as the boy made to join Owain. "No, you are to stay near the Rose," he hissed and stepped forward to put the two teens and the holy artefact behind him.

He saw Owain duck and swerve from the giant's swings and the blood mage knew that the knight was trying to lead the creature away from the Rose. With deep cuts to its thigh caused by Owain's steel sword, the frost giant bellowed out his anger and swung the axe and hit the knight with the flat of the blade. The shopkeeper's son cried out in pain as he awkwardly slammed against a leafless elm. The helm had come loose and clattered across the gravel. Even with his armour on, they could hear bones break.

"Damn!" muttered Ambrose, then shouted to get the giant's attention. "Leave the knight, dog's-breath. The Rose is here, so why not come and get it?"

The monster turned from the fallen knight and cautiously made towards the blood mage and the boys.

"This had better work," Ambrose muttered again and placed his hands before him, palms facing each other and at chest height. A small sphere of blood, no bigger than a cricket ball, formed between the hands and Ambrose felt the strain as the last of his blood was used up in the spell. His fangs extended, he cried out in effort and pushed his arms out towards the giant. The condensed, ball of blood sped impossibly fast and into the creature's chest. It did not go right through the body, but the sphere buried itself deep enough to crush the heart of the giant. It crashed to the ground.

"Uncle Ambrose, you did it!"

"Stay back," Merlin's look-alike snarled. "I won't be able to control myself soon...the hunger..." He was stopped as he saw a large, black dragon swoop low towards the garden's gravel path. As it did so it shrank in form and became a young, ebony-skinned naked man with a sword of shadow in his hand. He had a mop of silver hair. "Bugger! said Ambrose and ran to one side, towards an elm tree.

The ancient being laughed and its voice was deep and cruel. "Base coward, I might keep you as a pet. For now though," he slowly stepped closer to the youths and the rose, "I have bones to crush and a flower to pluck."

Petros sword wavered before him and his voice trembled. "You'll not touch the Rose. I'm the son of Arthur and Merlin and YOU WILL NOT TOUCH THE ROSE!"

As Bask raised his sword to meet the teen's charge and strike him down, he suddenly stopped. To Ambrose it seemed as if the avatar's sword had struck an invisible force. Petros bounced back and landed on his rump, but he had a big smile on his face. Confused, the vampire looked back down the garden's path as the dragon turned and they both saw a tired, red faced tradition mage.

"And you do not touch my fucking son, shithead."

Bask snarled and spewed a continuous stream of acid from his mouth, but the art student shot up his hands and produced a barrier of white light flecked with silver.

Ambrose scrambled over to the still form of Owain and looked into the dying eyes of the young warrior. "I am sorry, but I need blood. A lot of it."

"Do it!" croaked Owain and blood mixed with saliva dribbled out of a corner of his mouth. He had no more strength to utter any more words as Ambrose, his body heaving with dry sobs, extended his fangs and gave into his bloodlust.

He drank deep from the neck of the Knight of the Rose.



A Dark Day: Berserker

Merlin cried out in alarm and pointed at a huge giant who wielded a smooth, iron rod as thick as a man's thigh. The creature was making great strides towards the broken Northgate and the enemy that was around it seemed invigorated and full of hate.

"The Staff of Berserkers," shouted out Oakhaven and he jumped from the battlements, but did not fall. Instead his body grew long and tall and to Merlin it was as if the old Staffwielder turned into something that resembled an Ent from Tolkien's Middle Earth. Now Oakhaven's voice was booming, but still filled with silence. "Celimdol and Galtreth go to meet this challenge, but it is my office. Farewell, little sprog. It has been a good fight. See to your son. See to the Rose."

The gargantuan ent turned and bellowed a challenge before he ponderously started to stride towards the Staffwielder frost giant.

Merlin refused to let the tears of frustration fall. "Good bye, old friend." A faint dimming of the sun caught his attention and he fancied he caught a glimpse of an ancient shadow dragon swoop low over Gallantine's garden. A cold feeling filled his heart. "Petros!" He scrambled passed Helen, who led a troop of templers against the scores of goblins on the battlements.

"Petros, I'm coming," he shouted as he left the battle behind him.

A Dark Day (part four)

Title: A Dark Day (part four)
Word Count: 11238
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, death
Summary: The stage it set before the Dark Day starts. Will Arthur and Merlin perish? Lo, a new arrival gives hope...

A Dark Day is the last story in the saga that started years ago with Merlin's Dream (found here http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2011/04/22/ ; warning, approaching 500,000 words!)

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/02/19/

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/03/25/

Part three: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/05/28/


A Dark Day: Many, Many bunches of Grapes

Arthur felt Merlin's body mould perfectly with his own whilst they lay in a bed of cushions and silks under the canopy of the large pavilion that had been erected in the Garden of the Rose. He stroked the black, thick hair and his lover purred. They had made love, slept and then made love again and only about six hours had gone by, but Arthur knew that he still had things to do; things that he was not sure he had the stomach for.

"We've got to get up," he said softly.

Merlin propped himself on one elbow and smiled cheekily into the blond's face. "I thought you'd done that already, several times."

Arthur slapped his butt. "You know what I mean."

His fiance's face became serious. "Yeah. There's the sorting out of the city guard, for one. Then there's the making up to your son, for another."

Arthur closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. "Adpted son," he whispered and immediately wanted to take back the words as Merlin got up from the cushions and went to wash, dress himself in black breeches and blue tunic; all done in a tight-lipped silence. It was when he was pulling on his Celimdol-made boots that he stared at the blond's face.

"You hurt him, Arthur. He's our Petros, our son, and I don't give a fucking fuck that he's grown nearly ten years in as many minutes. He's our son. I'd die for him, kill for him if I had to. What about you?" The last question was said in a near whisper, but in the stillness of the silk walls, Arthur heard him plainly enough.

"Of course I would, I...I love him equally as you."

That was not enough for Merlin and he stood, placed his fists on his hips and continued to stare.

Arthur averted the gaze. "I'll make amends, if I can. You know I'm a proud prat who opens his mouth before the brain kicks into gear." Arthur turned back to his lover and knew his fear showed on his face, though he tried desperately to hide it. "I think I'm too much like Uther."

Immediately Merlin was on his knees and clasped Arthur's hands in his. "Never! Fuck! I told you before not to ever say that again, you fucking dumb fucking blond!"

The blond chuckled out of some relief (always glad for Merlin's support) and kissed the knuckles that held him. "I'll make amends, somehow."

Satisfied, for now, Merlin pecked him on the cheek and left the partition that had given them privacy from the rest of the pavilion.

At last and with a long, drawn out sigh, Arthur hauled himself out from their cosy love nest. He also washed and dressed himself and dimly noticed that sometime during the day his 'adventuring' clothes had been brushed clean, his boots polished. As he went through the motions he wondered what time of day it was. It had to be near dusk, which was good beacuse then their three undead 'allies' would be around for what the night held for the city.

Bedwyr could most definately be relied upon. An old soldier who had faithfully served the original King Arthur and seemed to view the modern day blond that was the carbon copy of his liege with actual love. The ancient had proved himself time and time again in his protection of Arthur, Merlin and their loved ones. Bedwyr would not let them down, Arthur was sure of that.

Ambrose, however, was more of a mixed bag. It was true that on occassions he had helped them, but this version of Merlin had never met his Arthur and Nodens' Warrior felt that the Elizabethan vampire's still heart was full of despair and bitterness for the world's happiness, though he shielded it from others with a tired sarcasm. Lance had mentioned earlier that Ambrose showed reverence towards Nodens (had actually made an oath of fealty), but Arthur would still look out for treachery from that quarter. In a quiet, behind the scenes way, the blood mage had also worked against them back on Earth.

Then there was the Victorian vampire, Dorian Greyland. Arthur doubted that he would be of any use in a battle; the only power he had shown was in creating a wave of fear and awe directed towards the blond and Merlin in a fit of anger. Also, the leader of the Artistic Undead of London viewed Celimdol as his reincarnated lover, which made Gawain agitated whenever Dorian was around. Arthur saw his werewolf friend as their tank; nothing could stop him when he was in full charge, and the blond needed Gawain acting with as little distraction as possible. Dorian had to be kept as far away as possible from the young elf.

Arthur shook himself from his thoughts and allowed himself a wry smile. He had grown and not only the months of this wild adventure since travelling to Middle Earth. He was acting like a general and it just came naturally to him. He supposed the thirty mystical years he had trained with the Lonely Hunter (capped by the finesse training fromh Cynan) were finally paying off. The smile broadened as he strapped on Gilgalad and parted the heavy silk partition and Merlin's voice reached his ears.

"It's quiet simple really. Think of it as a bunch of grapes."

Gilli, as he lounged upon several large cushions while sipping a white, clay cup of water, frowned. "So the universe is a bunch of grapes?"

Merlin sighed. In desperation he turned his head to Tarrion. "Help me out here, please?"

Amongst the twitters of laughter from the group the old man had his hands in his lap (the Staff of Good and Law was no where to be seen) and seemed to be in deep thought, but he still smiled. "Alas, Apprentise, I am somewhat preoccupied and my days of being a teacher are long gone."

With a resigned sigh Merlin turned back to the web mage and, Arthur noticed, had the rapt attention of all in the room; Cynan, Myfanwy, Anharadeth, Rane, Gaius, Helen, Lance, Gwen, Leon, Morgana, the green-skinned barkeep and even a bemused Oakhaven. "Okay, let's start again. Space is big..."

"If this a lesson about the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, dude, I know that shit already."

Merlin narrowed his eyes and Gilli shut up. Arthur stifled a laugh with his hand. "As I was saying, space is big, very big. Imagine a single grape that's full of pips, each pip representing a universe; that's a multiverse. Now imagine a vine with dozens of bunches with all their singular multiversal grapes and all their universal pips and that is what you call a multiversal cluster, yeah?" The web mage nodded in understanding, but Arthur was not fooled for a moment. Merlin, it seemed, was and he continued with more enthusiasm. "Now imagine a field full of vines with their bunches of multiversal grapes and each grape teeming with universal pips." Gilli gulped. "This one world we are on now, is in it's pip, several fields and hundreds of miles away from Cynan's world, which is in it's own pip, own grape, own bunch, vine and field and so on. Like I said, space is big."

Gilli chewed at his lower lip and the whole room was silent in an air of expectancy. "Cool, dude. I still can't see what the universe has anything to do with a bunch of grapes though."

Merlin actually screamed in frustration and slapped a hand over his eyes. He seemed to slowly count to ten under his breath. It was then that Arthur laughed out loud and caught everyone's attention. Amongst a chorus of greetings, he sat down in an empty spot next to the mage and gave his idiot a peck on his cheek. "Give up, lover," he laughed and was rewarded with a mega-watt smile that melted the blond's innards.

Merlin handed over a clay cup. "Water I'm afriad. There's no wine to be found."

"Perhaps it would be an opportune moment for Gawin and I to give our report on the provisions, my lord?" said Celimdol.

His face now serious, Arthur nodded once.

"After a year long winter, there isn't much left," began Gawain. "There's some grain, smoked fish and salted beef to last three weeks at the most. The imprisoned priests, templers and acolytes have been fed a thin gruel and aren't left in a good fighting state, so it seems the good food was for Prytanis and his cronies."

"However," said Celimdol, "the high priest of Math says that his acolytes can use their magics to break the ice of Gella lake that hems in this city so that the fishermen can go out and ply their trade. The White Witch does not have a navy and I have heard that her allies of Masant are tied down in a naval battle; great flashes of lightning could be seen many leagues south of here."

Arthur took a pause to gather his thoughts. After a few brief moments he said "Although I think Velshna will want a swift victory, it's good that these acolytes use their magic on the ice. We've also got to think long term, just in case. Celimdol, I want you to create a group of runners out of the young who can't fight. Tell them that it'll be dangerous work, but we need them to carry messages to the hospice that Gwen, Myfanwy and maybe Arianwen will set up, the three Gallantine gates, myself and others."

The young elf grinned. "I anticpated as much and a worthy set of youths I have gathered at various points of the city, in a rota sytem for when they get tired. There will always be one next to your side and it seemed all wanted that honour. Quite a few had to be disapointed."

Arthur returned Celimdol's smile. "Thanks." He caught Rane's attention and the young prince of the Horse Lords sat up.

"My people man the walls, though they have short bows only and therefore have a short reach. Large stones have been piled next to each one to repel any invaders that attempt to scale the walls. Many arrows they have brought with them, but the stones are needed to make each one count. Our horses, I have instructed, will guard the three gates as a last defense. They, myself and my people, will fight to the last. My friend, I have seen her army...it is vast."

Cynan cleared his throat and seemed to be ill at ease by the attention he gained. "Roughly twelve thousand, four hundred and sixty goblins are at her command, as far as my sight can see. There are three hundred creatures that the templers of the power named Rhiannon decsribed as frost giants; every two of such would be a match for any white dragon I have fought previously on this world. About three thousand and seventy Scaneans are also in her army, but are kept apart from the goblins for a good reason, for the latter are well known for being eaters of manflesh. At least three hundred dragons, white black red and brown in colour, I have seen circling the army. That is what my elf-sight could see, but I have no doubt there will many that number in her reserves. Knowing this, I..." He cleared his throat again and Myfanwy placed a hand on his forearm for courage. "So I have spoken to the herbalists of this city and asked of the weed dragonsbane. What little stock they have has been placed at the gates and around this holy garden, though not to impede Lord Tarrion." Cynan looked to the Staffwielder, but the old man was very much deep in thought and did not seem to notice. Cynan took in a breath. "I hope I did not overstep my mark, my lord, but you were in much need of rest and did not want to trouble you with trifling matters." He finished with a bow of his head, embarrassed.

Arthur beemed a smile and held back tears of love for his sword mentor. "I couldn't have wished for a better general who shows his initiative and gets the things done that I've missed."

Cynan snapped his head back up and stood. He bowed deeply and simply said "Warrior-brother."

At this Celimdol opened his eyes wide in astonishment and smiled in pure love for the blond and his older brother.

"Indeed," continued Arthur as he surveyed the room," you are all my generals. Do what you think is right without thinking you have to talk to me first. Just keep me informed later," he finished with a grin.

It was then that Galthreth burst into the partition and roared with laughter at the chorus of greetings he recieved. The large man hugged Arthur in a tight grip when he approached and in his ear said, "I would have counsel with you, my lord prince, concerning the words of Rhiannon, may her love bless all those who show love." The warrior-priest then released the blond and stepped back, his face grim. "The city watch of Gallantine await your pleasure, Prince Arthur. One of the scum named a certain Nicandes is vociferous with his blaspheme concerning my goddess and the templers devoted to her great love itch to take vengence; I have assured discipline in their ranks."

Arthur had no doubt that the priest could keep a thousand templers in line if he wanted to, but kept any quips in jest to himself. He knew what he had to do and dreaded it. "Let's go," he said with determination colouring his voice.

It was then that Tarrion gasped out loud in despair and Merlin was the first to reach the old man. He grasped the gnarled hands in deep concern. "Tarrion? You've gone so pale."

With tears dripping down his cheeks, the Staffwielder shakily stood and then lightly kissed the young mage's cheek. "Alas, he is about to use The Moment and is all alone. Such desperation, such sadness, such death." He then shook with silent sobs.

Arthur saw his puzzled lover turn to Oakhaven, who seemed to be also near tears. "He talks of a Timelord who is in deep despair, but in a multiverse that is many, many fields away in its own little grape," he finished without humour.

Merlin gulped. "Tarrion is...is...?"

"A demi-power. Half dragon, half...well, you can guess the rest. Come, my old friend will not follow us out into the Garden of the Rose. He has much to think over, is my reckoning."

Arthur took Merlin's hand and gently led him away from the stricken Staffwielder. All the while his lover muttered to himself in astonishment a one worded question; "Timelord?"

By the time they had gone out into the light of the dying sun (Arthur noticed that the pavilion nearly covered half the garden and was impressed) Merlin had composed himself, but Arthur knew his lover's mind was buzzing with many questions and plans. Galtreth led them to one of the silver gates and it was here that they saw about a thousand of the disarmed city's watch hemmed in by the templers of Rhiannon. Arianwen stood to one side, robed in a hooded green cloak and dress with Sol at her side. The boy had a clean white strip of cloth wrapped around his eye sockets. It was he who turned to them and bowed low.

"I feel Tarrion's despair and know what has happened. Alas, the Physician can have no help from us in his hour of need. Turn to the task at hand, my lords and ladies, for justice will be meted out this eve." He then 'looked' to Galtreth. "You have words of import upon your lips, most stalwart of Rhiannon, but they must wait 'till later this night. If we survive, they shall be heard, if not from your lips then from mine."

The priest went down on one knee and bowed his head. "As his grace wishes," and then stood to step to one side, silent.

Arthur knew that this exchange was his cue and he gently released his lover to take a step forward towards the guards. In a loud voice he spoke. "Those of you who are not of Masant stand to one side. You will speak words of fealty later, but know that in our company is one of the First Born who can read the hearts of men."

Celimdol squard his shoulders at that and looked as grim as Arthur felt.

A large minority stepped aside and were taken by a few of the templers towards the nearest of Gallantine's gates.

"You of Masant can leave for your city this night. If you are found within Gallantine within the hour then you are our enemy. Go, but one named Nicandes will stay behind."

A few templers of Rhiannon started to herd the dejected city gaurds towards Rivergate and left one, snearing man behind. "So, 'Prince' Arthur, we meet again."

Arthur felt an urge to bury his fist into the sneering face as he remembered the broken body of Gethin ap Gethin's kin, but just barely controlled himself. "Your crimes are many," he whispered, but his voice grew as he spoke on. "The murder of a loyal servant of Nodens and also the imprisonement of the Lady Arainwen."

The priestess of Dianchetch turned away from them, her face hot with shame. "He did more than that, my lord. A virgin I am no more."

Rane looked at her with concern mixed with horror and, on seeing his reaction she cried out aloud and fled from the scene. The young horse lord was about to follow, but with an upheld hand Arthur stopped him. "Let the Lady Myfanwy go to her," the lore master nodded once and went after the stricken cleric, "It's for the best, Rane."

The young prince bit at his lower lip with indecision and finally relented, content in glowering in the direction of Nicandes.

It was at this time that Petros came to them, armoured in light leathers of a red hue and sporting a long sword at his hip. Arthur smiled and made to nod in his son's direction, but the gangly youth pointedly ignored him and stared at the watch captain instead. For some reason Arthur felt the rejection like a blow to the stomach and he just noticed Merlin clip his son's head in annoyance. The youth scowled and stepped to one side, out of reach.

"Trouble with your pathetic family, Arthur? Want me to break in your boy like I fucked Sol over there? He squealed like a pig as I opened wide his shit hole. His flesh felt good and tight around my cock. That was before I popped his eyes out, of course."

"You have no hold over me," said the Staffwielder calmly. "I just pity for the fate you are about to endure."

Nicandes snorted at that as Arthur, anger fueling his body, stepped forward to an inch of the fallen captain. "What is the punishment for this bastard's crimes," he growled.

"Beheading, my lord," answered the scarred leader of Rhiannon's templers.

"Or I can opt for trial by combat," sneered the captain, finishing his sentence with a phlemhy spit into Arthur's face. The blond gave no reaction as those around cried out in indignation.

"Let me by your right arm in despatching this filth, fellow Brewer," said Cynan quietly as he drew his swords. Arthur noticed Celimdol and Rane do the same.

"Arthur," shouted out Owain, "he has challenged me and it is my office to answer it."

The Warrior of Nodens took a step back and unsheathed Gilgaled while he smiled grimly at his friends. "I will pass judgement on this evil one, if he so wishes, but thanks for the support."

"My lord prince," piped up Petros while he unsheathed a new, bright-steel sword (where had he got that from?), "let me prove myself and whet my blade on this dude. If you call me son, then I demand you give me this honour, my chance to become a man."

To Arthur's mind came an image of Petros, broken and defeated by the experienced hand of Nicandes and he gulped back the emotion and horror that threatened to overwhelm him. "Stand down, Petros." The youth narrowed his eyes in defiance. "I SAID FUCKING STAND DOWN!"

With a sharpness, Petros slammed his sword into its sheath and glared angrily at his father. "I hate you," he whispered and it seemed that only Arthur had heard him.

"I'll need a sword, cunt," said a now serious Nicandes.

With one thunderous look from Arthur towards the scarred templer, the captain was given a weapon. The fight was a short one. In the blond's first step, Arthur had castrated the bastard. By the time he had taken his second, the sneering head was bouncing along the icy cobbles as the body crumpled to the ground.

It was then that several horns could be heard from the northern section of the city's walls.

"Velshna's army attacks!" shouted Rane and they all rushed to defend Gallantine.

Arthur was dimly aware that, as his adopted son joined the ranks of the defenders, Sol 'accidentally' tripped him up and then helped the youth to his feet with a firm grip on his elbow. The two (the hatchling struggling against the direction) headed towards the pavilion.

"Good," whispered a relieved Arthur and caught Merlin's grin. Although his innards churned when he caught a glimpse of the dead Nicades, the blond returned the smile, for his lover's sake.



A Dark Day: Galla, The Mother

Morgana ran to get to the top of the walls, as did the others. By the seventh step she felt a great weariness. By the eleventh her vision dimmed and she could just make out the worried shout of concern from her lover, Leon, then her head cradled in his lap.

With a gasp that felt as if it was her last, she whispered, "Stay by my brother's side. I'm being summoned."

All faded to black.



She was on a ridge of rocky land, dark basalt cliffs that seperated the relatively calm waters of a gigantuan lake and the rough waters of the open sea. About ten paces away stood a tall, straight backed woman dressed in pale-blue silks, barefoot and with wild tangled hair the colour of sea-green. The spirit was facing south, away from the seer as Morgana cautiously stepped closer.

"Why am I here?"

The figure slowly turned and the seer saw a face heavily lined with age, eyes of the deepest green and a small smile gracing her pale lips. "My son said that you have courage." Her voice was strong and clear and yet gentle. "I am not disapointed."

Morgana thought back to the time when she had come across the river spirit called Callimdos, just before the Crystal Bridge had been created. The Lady Galla, for it could have been no-one else, glanced down at the two sheathed short swords that the seer wore.

"Weapons of the fallen First Born. Be warned, daughter, the avatar who bears the Staff of Chaos and Evil has just entered Draconis Terra, but I did not summon you for that reason."

The seer chewed at her lower lip. The spirit had mentioned an avatar named Emperor Koshgren, a Staffwielder who had an apetite for souls. It was he and his army who had killed many Brewers, consumed a soul of an elf, and tortured and nearly killed Merlin.

The lake spirit came closer and gently brushed away a strand of black hair from Morgana's face. Her smile broadened. "Do not be troubled so, for I also detect the struggle of a bright soul who refuses to be cowed and will make that Staffwielder's visit a short one. Walk with me."

Lady Galla tuurned away then and Morgana shook her head to clear the confusion to match her steps with that of the spirit.

"It is always darkest before the dawn and it will get very dark indeed," she said as they continued to walk and then fell silent for several minutes. The only sound came from the distant boom of waves and the mournfall cry of gulls overhead. "Despite this, you must not travel with Prince Arthur when he departs, for you will stay close to my waters and use the powers that we give you. When the Song is about to be finally sung, you will know how to use them."

Arthur will leave them? Morgana grew worried at this and made to speak, but the old spirit raised her hand and stopped walking. Before them was a staff of blue crystal topped by a clear, fist-sized diamond. It was upright and seemed to float in the air a few feet above the basalt rock.

"I have had this minor Staff of Power for many an eon and it is named Stormstaff by some, the Staff of Lightning by others, but I think it is now the time for it to be wielded. However, it is said they choose the wielder and not the other way round."

Morgana was shocked. Could she become a Staffwielder? Did she want to? It would give her responsibilities that would take her away from the Buckland Brewers, away from Leon. A gentle laugh brought her thoughts back to the spirit beside her.

"Nay, Lady of the Lake, the streams of time have given me visions of possible futures concerning you and none of them involve this particular gods-wrought artifact." She gave a small wave of her hand and the Staff faded from view. "There, I have placed it in the hands of the Lady of the Stars, for she will have need of it if you all survive the dark day that is coming. My conversation with the Lady Anharadeth is drawing to a close, as is this one. Have courage Morgana, for the nature spirits of this world howl with anger at this Age of Ice and will do all we can to break it."



The scene around Morgana changed and she abruptly found herself in the lap of her lover. She lifted her head and saw Anharadeth stand, the crystal Stormstaff in her hand, wonder on her face. Her other staff was nowhere in sight. The two exchanged a glance and smiled.

"Morgana?"

The seer kissed Leon and then brushed off his help when she also stood. "What are you doing here, you idiot? There's a city to save," and she ran up the remaining stone steps, smiling as she heard her Leon curse in exasperation. He scrambled to keep up with her and gave a peck on her cheek when they reached Arthur and Merlin's side. She smiled away his look of concern and then glanced at the stone circle beside the white tower.

A ball of dark-blue light hovered above a lone figure in the middle of the stones who was hooded in a grey robe with a black rowan staff in one hand. Even at this distance she could only see the lower half of of his face; the red skin and the white fangs. Merlin gave a cry of despair and she put an encouraging hand on his shoulder.

"Don't worry, we won't allow Koshgren to imprison you a second time."

A few paces from the Dark Emporer stood a boy with ebony skin and silver hair; Bask. The two seemed to be arguing, despite the horde of giants and goblins that stormed around them to get at the walls. Horns were blown from the Rivergate to the east.

"I'll go," said Anharadeth and, after his inital surprise on seeing her new staff, Arthur nodded once.

"Take a runner with you."

The lore master smiled and glanced at Oakhaven. "I have no need."

The old man bowed his head briskly as he nonchelantly waved his staff to sweep aside a large, giant thrown boulder. Oakhaven then laughed and cast great globes of emerald lights over the oncoming army. Rane saw his cue. "My brothers, fire at will."

Morgana heard the thrum of bow strings and a great number of goblins fell to the ground. The giants continued to throw boulders, mostly at Northgate, and Oakhaven contiued to sweep them aside (a few were cast back at their throwers, but to little effect).

As Arthur unsheathed Gilgalad, Merlin raised both his arms and lightning danced between his two hands. He them shot a huge bolt at Koshgren. Just in time, the Dark Emporer put up a grey shield of power.

"That stopped their arguing," muttered Morgana wryly. A thin bolt of shadow sped back in response and just missed Merlin's head as the seer dragged him down. "You okay?"

Merlin gulped and let out a breath. "Yeah."

"Stop prancing about, Merlin. We've got a city to save." Arthur parried a black arrow that was heading for his runner, a mousy-haired girl of about twelve.

"Fuck off," said the Apprentise, laughing, and stood back up. He raised his arms a second time, but no lightning appeared. Instead a blue, translucent light poured from them to form a barrier in front of the dozen defenders around him. It continued to pour down and protect the platinum veined walls. It then slowly started to widen.

"Good idea," shouted Oakhaven and he shapechanged into a robin and flew towards Eastgate to do the same as Galtreth grunted his approval.

"May the love of Rhiannon, let her recovery come swiftly, protect this holy city," he said as blue light streamed from his war hammer and joined with the others. A similar shield started to form around Rivergate and widened until all the walls of Gallantine were eventually protected.

Ambrose bit into his thumb and flicked some precious vitae towards the barrier, all the while as he chanted ancient words of power that resembled Old English. In answer to a questioning look from Morgana he nodded his head towards the army of goblins. "Just a precaution."

The seer followed his gaze and saw dead bodies stir and started to akwardly stand. Even a couple of giants corpses did the same. The seer assumed it was the work of Koshgren. She then turned her attention back at the two ancient Powers at the stone circle. They had resumed their arguing.

"Well done, lover," said Arthur and gave Merlin a wink.

"Thanks. It'll last about an hour and I doubt we'll be able to do it again. Still, it buys us some time. Let's go back to the tent and rest up."

"No," said Morgana quietly. "Something's about to happen, I can feel it."

Myfanwy closed her eyes and nodded her head.

Gwen did the same. "Not immediate danger, but...something."

What are you two up to now? Morgana thought as she continued to stare at the two avatars, the boy and the hooded one.



A Dark Day: The Soul Prison

The naked elf knelt in a field of twilight that had no end. Numerous shapes ran or walked passed him, all wailing in despair, anger and anguish. He simply had his arms crossed over his chest in serenity and brought images of the happy times he had had with his brethren to the fore of his mind.

At first, many many days (years? Eons?) ago he would try and remember how he had got to this evil place. He had been on a dead world, restrained by powerful arms as a creature with a jackel's head had closed its jaws around his throat. The pain had stayed with the elf, but he had pushed those feelings aside, contained them.

Even though his own name escaped him, he could remember others and they comforted him. Myfanwy his sister, Aneirin his brother and...Arthur, his blade-brother. Their faces gave him courage, gave him strength and the elf continued to kneel; an island of peace in a sea of chaos.

What was his name? He banked down the frustration when the answer to that question did not come to him.

The image of a elf lady in white with golden hair suddenly stood before him and smiled. "Your strength is great, but it is not only of muscle. Lothlorien was blessed to have you as her champion. Know that the One Ring is destroyed, most faithful Brewer, and Arda changes but not before I travel to the Western Shores with the last ring bearer."

The elf stood, but did not try and cover his shame as some mortals would. That was not the way of the First Born. "Am I in a dream, a nightmare? Lady...lady..." he widened his eyes in shock and went down on one knee. "The Lady Gilladril," he whispered in awe.

She laughed gently and it strengthened his resolve even more as his heart was uplifted in joy. With one hand she cupped his jaw and raised his head and he saw the love in her smile. She then bade him to stand. "Perhaps it is a dream and you have conjured me in your hour of need, but then perhaps it is something more." She looked around at the screaming images of men, dwarves and creatures he did not recognise. "You can set them free so that they may finally come to rest. However, there will be no rest for you."

The image started to fade and she raised a hand in farewell.

The elf felt tears fall down his cheeks and he brushed back red-gold hair from his face. "My lady? How am I named?"

Only her voice was left as she whispered, "Beloved of Lorien, you know that already."

He sobbed, once more alone. Then he took in a deep breath and started to walk forward and the anguished souls parted before him. Eventually he stopped and concentrated hard. A door of light appeared in front of him and he smiled.

"I am the Champion of Lothlorien, Champion of the Buckland Brewers. I am Gilladrin Caerillion, Half-Elf."

He walked forward into the light and he heard the sighs of gratitude from a multitude of souls behind him before they suddenly became silent.



The elf was now in a shadowed corridor that was lined with wooden benches. The air was dry and reminded Gilladrin of an ancient library. He attention was caught by the figure of an elf robed in grey who sat on one of the benches.

"So I have arrived in the Halls of the Dead, Lord Mandos?" The figure slowly nodded his head once and stood to place himself a few feet away from the naked elf. "Then I am content and wait for the Final Days to rejoin my brethren in the Uttermost West."

Gilladrin could not be sure, but he thought he saw a trace of a smile on the ancient being before him. Mandos stepped close and kissed his cheek. With a dry voice hoarse from lack of use, he whispered "I hope you can swim."

The champion suddenly found himself falling from a great height towards a large body of water. He quickly gathered his wits and expertly executed a perfect dive. It was cold, even for an elf. He came up for air and tread water. About a league to the north he saw an icy shore and a city beyond it that had walls of white. A blue, shimmering shield protected them. With resolve he swam torwards the ice and soon pulled himself up onto the sheet of white. He clamped his jaw together to stop his teeth from chatterring and jogged towards a group of figures clothed in pale, woolen robes. A few were stabbing at the ice with bolts of lightning, but stopped at his approach.

"By the venerable Math!" exclaimed a young girl. "Are you a water spirit?" Rather belatedly, she slightly averted her gaze from viewing his crotch and he knew a wry smile came to his lips.

Then he pondered on the name she had uttered; Math. Gilladrin knew that Merlin was his Apprentise, but he still did not know where he was. "Nay, young lady, I am an elf and new to your world. There are two things I would have from you, if you would be so kind. Where am I and do you have any spare clothes. Preferably armour of steel but hunting leathers will do."

As other youths started to crowd about them, some not so coy in checking out his muscled body, she turned and steadfastedly stared into his face. "My...my lord, you are in the city of Gallantine and I am sure that my master, High Priest Denir of Math, will be able to get you some apparel."

"No need for that," said a newcomer and the acolytes parted for him to come near. He was dressed in worn hunting leathers and sported a dagger at his hip, had long dark-brown hair and an amused smile. The stranger looked the elf up and down slowly. "Nice."

Gilladrin raised his eyebrows and the newcomer bowed his head briefly, his hand never straying too far from his weapon. "Mac Oc, by some, Mabon by most. At your service, Lord...?"

"I am Gilladrin Half-Elf, Champion of the Buckland Brewers, if that name has any meaning here."

Mabon looked surprised and his smile grew. "It does indeed. Come, let me, er, acquire some clothes for you and then present you to the others. Black, I think, to highlight your hair and beautiful blue eyes."

They both started to walk towards the nearest building which looked like a warehouse and one of the young men from the knot of acolytes whistled low in appreciation at the sight of the elf's buttocks.

Mabon laughed out loud and slapped the champion on the shoulder as Gilladrin chuckled. He liked this man.



A Dark Day: A Very, Very Short Visit

Bask ground his teeth togther in anger and approached the circle of man high stones. The dragon in boy form stared at the newcomer to Draconis Terra.

"You are not wanted, Koshgren. The Dark has no use of you here. Why, your mere presence could be the excuse the Light needs to..."

"Are you always this dramatic when using this particular avatar, Bask?" came the low pitched interruption. The cowled Emporer smiled.

The dragon had to remind himself that before him was not only an avatar of a fellow ancient power, but also a major Staffwielder. He inwardly counted to twenty, slowly. He then put on his own false smile, but started to pace to and fro as was his want when he was agitated. "If any are to devastate my homeworld, it will be me, Staffwielder. However, myself and Velshna have things under control and will win a great victory for the Dark soon. Krill may have been defeated, but we also have two other minor Staffwielders of the Dark with us; the staves of Poison and Beserk."

Koshgren was not impressed and he grunted his disapproval. "Your alliance is against the Runestaff..."

Bask snorted.

"...the Staff of Good and Law..."

"Tarrion's avatar is old and weak."

"...Naturestaff..."

"The Druid is a meddlesome insect, nothing more."

Koshgren turned to Gallantine's battlements and smiled once more. "...and a newcomer; the Stormstaff."

Bask hid his surprise at that piece of information. He expanded his senses to the battlements and detected the female. "She is new to her stewardship..."

"But not new to the use of magic. The lore master of Arda will find her feet and soon."

Suddenly a great bolt of lightning was headed straight for Koshgren, but the ancient already had a shield of shadow erected and the deadly energy was absorbed. With a casual wave of his hand, a bolt of shadow was sent back. Bask could see that it just missed Merlin's head.

"The Apprentise has grown in power," said Koshgren, still grinning. "How delicious."

A barrier of light started to form over Gallantine's defenses and both of the ancient's looked at each other. In unison they shrugged.

As the Staffwielder casually waved an arm in the direction of the walls before him and dead bodies that littered the frost-hard ground started to stir, Bask noticed that the jewel atop the Shadowstaff began to flicker. The dragon's interest was piqued and the beginings of a smile started to show.

"It seems that some of your souls have decided that they have had enough of your hospitality, Koshgren."

The ancient of Chaos staggered a step back, then righted himself. "I...I have urgent business to do with my empire," and motes of white lights started to swirl about himself and the monoliths.

The silver haired boy stepped away from the node of power and laughed out loud. "Good riddence," he said when the lights and Koshgren had faded away and he finished with a spit at the ground where the Staffwielder of Chaos and Evil had once stood. The acidic spittal sizzled against a few blades of grass, but Bask had not noticed for he had already started to walk through the vast army back to Velshna's tent. The attack that night against Gallantine was only a test of the city's defences; the real battle would start later.



A Dark Day: The Damaged Healer, The Troubled Youth and The New Arrival

Tarrion Caerillion was nowhere to be seen. Still, Myfanwy put that thought aside and sat quietly as Arianwen's sobs subsided. Eventually the cleric of Dianchecht pulled back the hood of her cloak and straightened her hair.

"You must think me weak, my lady." The words were soft, defeated, laced with dejection.

"Not so, my sister in healing."

Arianwen gave a small smile at that and sat down next to the First Born. "My training has allowed me to put aside the evil memories of what I have recently endured, but the reaction of Prince Rane...I...I..."

Myfanwy placed a gentle hand on the mortal's shoulder and then embraced her. After a sisterly kiss upon her cheek, the elf lifted the head with a hand cupped under the cleric's chin. The lore master smiled. "Rane is but of twenty summers, is my reckoning, but has a heart of courage and is full of love. However, he has yet to master his feelings and not let them show on his face. What I saw was not revulsion on his visage when the crime against you was revealed, but one of shock and outrage."

She stood and brought Arianwen to her feet. "Time is short and I think we may soon have to use our healing craft on a young man, but I would impart some knowledge first. 'Tis true that my lord's brother, Celimdol, has some power in reading the hearts of Men, though my twin had the greater skill..." Myfanwy thought of her dead brother, Gilladrin, whose soul had been cruelly consumed by an evil Staffwielder and her loss must have showed on her face for the cleric gripped her hands in comfort. Myfanwy gently chuckled. "Who gives courage to who I wonder? Nay, all I have to say is this; that I have read the young prince's face and see much of the love he has for you. Speak to him, my lady, and let his love give you strength, for I have seen that you will give back in return. He will need that, before the end."

Arianwen nodded her head slowly. "I will speak with Rane and let him know that his love is returned a thousand times over. And I thank you, Lady Myfanwy, I thank you so much for the support and wisdom you have given me."

The lore master smiled and gave another brief hug before she led the healing cleric just passed the silk partition to Arthur and Merlin's room, with a gap to observe the empty space they had left behind. She held a finger to her lips and the two women were silent. Seconds later Sol dragged a protesting Petros into the area of silk cushions and rich carpet, the colour of gold and garnet.

"I want to fight, dude! I want to prove myself and no Staffwielder of Knowledge is going to stop me." Petros made to leave, but Sol stood in his way, a serene look on his countenance, but his stance gave the impression of an unmovable rock. "Fucking get out of fucking the way you fucking blind bastard!" As the young Librarian raised his eyebrows, Petros stepped back in shock. "I...I'm sorry. I didn't...I mean I...oh shit!"

Sol sighed and sat down on one of the cushions. "Come, sit with me awhile, for words must be spoken between you and I. Others will also have their imput eventually, of that I am sure," he finished with a small upcurve of his lips and a glance in Myfanwy's direction.

Petros looked once at the now unblocked entrance to the outside and the battle on Gallantine's walls and then his shoulders slumped as he stood uncertain in front of the Staffwielder, who was only a few years older than himelf. "I really am sorry, Sol. Please don't tell father I swore. I remember everything now; how I was a hatchling on earth for nearly four hundred years, how I met Dad and Da, how I died saving them...Before I was adopted by them I was so jealous of others who had a family. I was so lonely, but then I found them and you don't know how that made me feel even though I was a seven year old sprog. Now I've made Dad angry and I've acted like a dick! But I want to prove myself, be a warrior like my dads."

Sol nodded in understanding, for Myfanwy correctly surmised that a mere touch would bring the boy all the knowledge that was needed. "Sit I say, for time is short for all of us. A dark day approaches when the fate of many worlds, of many peoples will be decided and you think your pride is important in all of this?" A mild rebuke and a chastised Petros sat next to him. Sol's voice took on far away, dreamy tone and the lore master recognised a powerful telling. "A dark day, a red day, a day of loss and grief and it will begin when the golden warrior will be consumed by ice and Gilgaled shatters and end...and end..."

Myfanwy stepped forward, Arainwen behind her. "And end when the Apprentise saves Gallantine, but he too may fall and then all will be for naught. The Dark will triumph if it does not go well according to the visions we have seen and continue to see. All must end with the Song. We must arrive at the Song, though details are short in the getting there."

Sol's staff disappeared, shrank to the size of a matchstick and he covered his face with his hands. "I'm cold, so cold. I fear the Song will be not sung, my lady. I fear my golden warrior will die needlessly and Merlin will also perish."

Petros started to sniff and his lower lip trembled.

The lore master placed a hand on Sol's shoulder in comfort and Arianwen sat next to the young hatchling to do the same.

"Father? Da? I don't want them to die. I...I love them." He cried into the preistess' embrace.

With one last squeeze of Sol's shoulder, Myfanwy stood. "Your love for them is strong, Petros, and they will have need of it. Remember, they battle the Dark because of you, for you. Never forget that, young one, and let there not be a rift between you and them in what may be their final hours." She turned then to the main doorway and curtseyed low. "My lord Prince Arthur."

Arthur came in, followed by most of the Buckland Brewers, Oakhaven and Rane. Petros, after he had wiped the tears from his eyes, ran into his father's arms and hugged him tightly. "I love you Dad. I don't want you eaten by ice or Da die. Ever. Please, please don't die."

The blond wrapped his arms around the boy and kissed the top of his son's white-gold head. "Hey, hey, we don't plan on going anywhere. Anharadeth has told me about her dreams of ice and stuff and I tell you what," he made his son look into his face, "Gilgalad has not let me down, ever. Sorry for being an idiot earlier, I think it's part of being a prince, and a blond." Merlin, who had come up and joined the hug, rolled his eyes. "And me and Da love you lots and don't you ever forget that young man."

Petros sniffed and nodded his head. "I won't, I promise. Ever." He hugged Arthur tightly once more and it was the boistrous entrance of Galtreth that finally made him be led away by Myfanwy to his cushion. When they were all settled and gave the warrior-priest his full attention, the tall man cleared his throat.

"Rhiannon, may her love reflect on all those before me, said that fire will combat ice." He turned to the horse lord. "Prince Rane, she mentioned that you know of and must retrieve the Sunstone."

The young man's face visably paled. "To Caersullion? It is a graveyard...my mother."

They all waited, not daring to speak, not even the priest of Rhiannon. Myfanwy saw the prince square his shoulders and take in a deep breath. "As the Lady wishes, I will go."

"As will I, my friend," said Arthur, "and I think the sooner the better."

Anharadeth and Myfanwy shared a look of understanding between them and the elf was not surprised when her sister in lore stood, the Stormstaff in hand. "I will come too, for I would have my waking dream thwarted at the very last."

Others in the room demanded to come with Arthur, even Petros, but Arthur laughed and held his hands out in a placating manner. "Someone has to defend the city, the Rose. Let the wielder of Runestaff decide."

Sol looked up and smiled weakly. "You will need courage and strength; I name Prince Cynan and Sir Gawain. And one more hunter you will need; I name Sir Leon. And..." he looked to the partition that opened up to the rest of Gallantine's holy garden and his smile broadened, "and you will need another of the First Born."

They all turned to see Mabon and Gilladrin come through the opening.

"Fucking hell!" whispered Merlin.

Myfanwy stood and hugged her twin. "Can it be?" she whispered through tears of joy and her brother laughed, lifting the hearts of all who heard him.

"Mabon has told me of what is happening and I am here to help. The halls of Mandos could not contain me for this battle." He winked at Morgana. "Keep my swords at your side, my lady, for they look better on you than on me. Now then, where do we travel?"

When it was explained what the mission was, Mabon grew concerned. "You will need me to protect Gilladrin, er, I mean Arthur. I insist!"

Merlin snorted. "Forget it. Math said to keep you from being reckless, so you're staying." Mabon frowned and stubbonly crossed his arms over his chest. "I'll time-stop you if I have to and then I won't have power left to defend Gallantine, so you'll take it and like it!"

Petros shrugged his shoulders. "Dude, it's no use when my Da is in this mood. Believe."

They all chuckled. At Mabon's expense.



A Dark Day: Farewells

Oakhaven smiled sadly as he witnessed lovers, fathers, friends, sisters and brothers say their farewells. Beside him stood the vampire Bedwyr, with Ambrose next to him. The one called Dorian Greyland was a little further off, stealing glances at a very young elf with midnight-black hair. The Lady Helen looked curiously at the handsome vampire and then engaged him in conversation. There was a sharp one.

"I should go with them," gruffly said the tall warrior.

"Ancient warrier, perhaps you should." Oakhaven raised an eyebrow in a challenge and yet grinned cheekily.

Both of Bedwyr's brows rose. "Three hours of night are left to us. Will I have time to make a difference?"

For a moment the Druid closed his eyes and the emerald atop his staff briefly glowed. "Dark is the place these youngsters go that not even foresight can penetrate. You might be going to your doom, for I fear the Dark knows of our plans. The White Bitch is not to be underestimated."

Bedwyr crossed his arms over his chest. "It is settled then. I will be going," he growled and turned his attention back to the little group.

Oakhaven assumed the sharp hearing of a bat and listened in on the conversations. Not to evesdrop, he thought to himself, but to record for prosperity.

* * *

"My lord will come back unharmed," stated Myfanwy, "and so will my brother."

Cynan bowed his head. "As my lady commands," he said without humour. Gilladrin slapped him on the back and laughed.

"Fear not, little sister_"

"_by a few moments only_"

"_your husband will come to no harm. A pity I missed your wedding, but celebrations a plenty will be had at a later time."

Myfanwy did not smile, but simply hugged them tightly in return, her husband last. Cynan looked to his brother-in-law and nodded once as he said, "I leave Merlin and all of the Buckland Brewers in your charge, my love." He knew she held back tears. "Not ice or fire or dark or light will stop me from coming back to you. The flame of your love will be my guide and I swear that all who go with me will return." He kissed her then, long and with much love and whispered, "On this I swear, for we have eternity on Middle Earth to look forward to as we guide the hearts of Man as best as we are able. No, that is not the reason I must come back." She looked at him, puzzled. "I will return because I love you so very, very much."

They embraced once more and Gilladrin smiled on, happy in their love. He noticed the youth Mabon to one side staring at him with furtive longing and decided to walk over. He bowed his head. "My lord."

"Gilladrin." The god in mortal form seemed to savour the name. "I never thought I would meet someone who would capture my heart so and yet here you are!" He lowered his tone. "Yet here you are, one who I have made love to and rejoiced in life so much that all other acts of coupling pale into insignificence."

The elf raised his brows and gave an uncertain smile.

"Nay, do not mistake me so. 'Twas not lust only that I felt, nor feel now. I...oh how a mortal heart confuses me so...I think I love you. You are more than my equal and such feelings that I hold make me shiver and hot at the same time." Mabon chuckled and put on a show of bravado. "Listen not to my stumbling words, for they come from a mortal's lips, from an uncertain heart."

There was a pool of silence between them, which Mabon eventually broke, his countenance serious for once. "Fogive me, my lord; we Celtae love life and I know the First Born do as well. Our tryst was nothing more than that and I crave your forgiveness in embarressing your good self. Just come back whole, for your sister's sake." He turned to leave, but the elf stopped him with the mention of the god's name.

"Oh sweet Mabon, you are a wonder. Never am I at a loss for words, but your declaration has caused it." He came close, within a few inches. "In all my many centuries I have not knit my heart to anyone, but now I know I could."

At that Mabon smiled and closed the gap between them. Tenderly did they kiss.

* * *

"Er, miss?"

Anharadeth was shaken from her thoughts about her love, Aneirin, and that she would never see him again. She looked down at the teen named Gilli and smiled, though she did not feel it in her heart. "May I help you, young one?"

"Erm, you will all be coming back, won't you? I mean, everyone seems to be saying their final goodbyes. I'm, er, kinda worried, is all."

"Gilli, I and others like me have fought against a Shadow of my own world and I have recently learnt that the One Ring has been destroyed. Be assured that we will also triumph here. Have courage and do what you can." The boy looked uncertain. "You think you have little to give? Remember, the smallest pebble can cause an avalanch. Be that pebble, do your best and you may even surprise yourself. Myself? I will not be surprised, for you are now a Brewer with all that entails. Honour is your guide, a stout heart is your shield. As Second Officer to the Buckland Brewers I recognise your worth and it is great indeed."

Gilli smiled at that and took in a deep breath, "Thank you, er, my lady. Thanks."

She pecked his cheek and his face went red. With mumbled excuses he bade his leave and the lore master turned back to her friends before her, as her thoughts turned back towards a certain gaurdian of Lothlorien.

* * *

Morgana's eyebrow was raised imperiously. "You die and I'll somehow get you ressurected so I can kill you myself!"

Leon smiled. "Then I better not die." He sighed then and took her in his arms. As she laid her head on his shoulder he whispered, "And you look after yourself, my princess; you lot back here will be in as much danger."

"You know what happens after a Dark Day," she whispered back. "The dawn comes next. My visions don't go beyond the end of the next day, so I don't know what to say that might help. You go to a very dark place, vision wise."

"Just look after Gwen and Lance. And Merlin. Most important of all, I want to see you unharmed when I get back. And I will come back, you better believe it!"

Morgana kissed his cheek then brushed with his lips with her own. After long moments, she broke the contact and stood back. "I'm so proud of you, lover."

Leon's heart soared.

* * *

Celimdol looked back at his lover as the lupine stood with restrained patience as he waited for Arthur and Merlin to disentangle themselves from their embrace. The young elf sighed; could this be last time he set his eyes on Gawain?

They had said their goodbyes before they had left the pavilion, the last to leave the house of silks. Celimdol now noticed out of the corner of his eye that the templers of Rhiannon were dismantling it on the orders of the Lady Gwen, for she said it could become a fire risk in the hours ahead. The elf trusted her judgement. A discrete cough behind him made him turn.

Dorian Greyland stood uncertainly before him.

"My lord," said Celimdol with a nod of his head.

"Celimdol." The vampire seemed to savour the name and looked directly into the youth's steel-grey eyes. "Know that I will not become between you and Gawain, not that I could. However, I cannot stop loving you and, with what little power I have, will protect you untill the last of my vitae is used up."

Celimdol sensed his lover come up behind him and put a possesive arm around his waist. He knew that Gawain, his hearing ever sharp, had heard everything. "I thank you Dorian, but have a thought for the healers, for they will need protecting." The elf smiled at the thought that his older brother, who had said something similar concerning Merlin. He had already shared a look with Cynan in farewell; that was all that was needed in farewell between the two siblings.

"That I will and gladly," Dorian nodded his head in salute to Gawain and left to stand next to the Lady Helen once more. The lupine growled deep within his chest and Celimdol chuckled.

The air grew sombre then between them. Eventually, Gawain said, "It's been a good journey, lover."

The elf held back tears and gently cleared a throat thick with emotion. He grasped the Brewrs hands in his own and gave them an affectionate squeeze. "Be strong for me, Gawain, for I would not have it end yet."

Gawain simply smiled and then silently left to rejoin Arthur and Merlin, who had broken their embrace. It was only then that the young elf let the tears fall silently down his cheeks.

* * *

Rane gulped. They stood apart from the others, near Northgate and the young man's throat had suddenly gone dry. "My lady," he began, "you would have words with me?"

Arianwen gave a small curtsey. "My lord. Forgive my lack of control at the execution of that vile Nicandes. I would have us depart as friends."

The horse lord felt stricken to his very heart. This beautiful lady viewed him only as a friend, nothing more? "Sweet Arianwen, nothing you do can mar my...my...love for you. Yes, love I say for that is what my heart holds for one so beautiful as you. Laugh if you must, for what has a mere nomad have to offer a fine lady of Gallantine?" He knelt on both knees and bowed his head, ready for any deserved scorn for his presumptiousness. He felt his face burning as a gentle hand cupped his cheek. He lifted his head and saw a smile that made his heart leap.

"Know that you your love is not spent fruitlessly. No nomad do I see, but a warrior of noble heart that far outweighs that of Prince Arthur's himself."

He got to his feet and smiled, still unsure. "Sadly do I know that your father is no longer with us and I am sorry for the pain that such memories now come back to you, but I would ask you to name a surrogate for me to approach later?"

Arianwen nodded her head slowly. "Staffwileder Oakhaven you may appraoch on my behalf, good prince, and ask permission to court me."

Rane's heart nearly burst at those words and he grinned. "My lady? May I be so bold as to kiss your hand?"

The priestess of Dianchecht raised her arm towards him. "You may."

He took the offfered hand and gently brushed his lips against the snowdrop-white knuckles. Then he reluctantly stepped back and bowed low. "Until we meet agin, fair lady."

She curtseyed once more. "I look forward to the hour, my prince."

His heart soaring, Rane went to rejoin the main group.

* * *

"You do know I fucking love you to bits, don't you?" whispered Merlin into Arthur's ear.

"Ditto."

"And there's no fucking dying on me, again."

"Ditto, again."

And...you've got clean underwear on, right?"

Arthur barked a laugh and pulled back slightly, but still reluctant to let go of his lover. "You're such a girl, Merlin."

The mage poked his tongue out and they both smiled when they heard their son sigh, loudly.

"Dudes, it's not fair! I need a girl so I can do all this hugging stuff as well. I feel left out!"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Great, we have a straight son."

It was the hatchling's turn to roll his eyes.

Arthur ruffled his son's hair, which annoyed the youth, so he ruffled it again. "When I get back, and I will, we've got to have a talk about the birds and the bees." Arthur saw his lover stifle a laugh and the blond did the same.

Petros, his face beetroot, simply hissed "Dad!" and coughed, embrarrassed. "Yeah, well, come back, okay?"

The blond became serious and freed an arm to take hold of his son's hand. Merlin took the other and they stood there in a silence of understanding and love.

Eventually Merlin said, "Go get that Sunstone, lover." With that, Arthur smiled and reluctantly let go of his family to join Gawain and the others.

Merlin looked longingly at the blond's back and then he felt his hand being squeesed in comfort. "Don't worry, Da. I'll protect you."

"Ta, son, but I want you to protect the White Rose with Owain." Merlin knew that the garden was the safest place in the city and he wanted his son there. "Can you do that for me? And use that new sword of yours if you have to."

Petros briefly hugged him. "Thanks Da, you're so cool," and then he ran off to go back into the garden.

Merlin let out a deep sigh. At least that was one less worry.

* * *

Oakhaven stamped his staff once upon the ice-rimmed flagstones of the main square outside the holy garden and drew everyone's eyes. He surveyed those who were about to leave Gallantine and nodded once, as if pleased with what he saw. He brought a hand out from the folds of his robes and they saw a simple acorn in his palm. Without any further ado, the Druid threw the seed down and there instantly appeared a mature oak tree, its branches full of green leaves.

"Go now through the tree and you'll end up by a similar oak a mile from Twr Caersullien. Remember that it is only a one way door, for you."

Arthur nodded his understanding and led the little group into the tree and then they had gone. As fat, lazy flakes started to fall about them, Oakhaven addressed the ones who had been left behind. "Although still night, the dark day fast approaches. To the walls, warriors of all free people." He looked up into the grey clouds and practically snarled his anger. "A flight it is then. A great flight of dragons. Have courage I say, have strength. Defend the walls of Gallantine! Defend the White Rose!"

As Merlin rushed to the battlements above Northgate, followed by Galtreth, Celimdol, Helen and Lance, the Staffwielder walked over to Ambrose and placed his hand upon the vampire's head. A glow of emerald light briefly engulfed the two.

"I have given you protection from the sun's rays for much of tomorrow," he said after a few laboured breaths. "I had thought to protect Bedwyr with this, but perhaps this choice is the better one. Go to Sir Owain and protect the Rose. A visitor there will be soon and pray that it will be enough. Greyland, to the temple of Nodens and defend the healers as much as you are able. Both of you, go now!"

Without seeing if the two vampires obeyed, Oakhaven ran to catch up with Merlin as the beating of many wings and the reptilian roars from many throats filled the air.

A great flight of dragons indeed.

A Dark Day (part three)

Title: A Dark Day (part three)
Word Count: 10114
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language, violence, death
Summary: Arthur shows his true authority and starts to be a commander, while Merlin reveals his power to save his friends...

A Dark Day is the last story in the saga that started years ago with Merlin's Dream (found here http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2011/04/22/ ; warning, approaching 500,000 words!)

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/02/19/

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/03/25/



A Dark Day: The Song of Healing

Helen frowned at her reflection just as the last of the makeup from the night's final operatic performance was wiped away. Not only had there been a song in her head for most of the day which she did not recognise (most unusual), but something else was just a bit...an uneasy feeling made her shudder. No, something was different; a faint charge of electricity in the air that she sensed was a little like magic that was about to manifest. She automatically hummed a short tune (from a little known country ditty about a carthorse and a milkmaid) and invisible wards of magic protection formed about her.

The spellsinger jumped in her seat when a knock came at her dressing room door.

"Who is it?" she called out, more powerful spells ready on her red lips.

"An admirer of your performance tonight, Lady Helen."

She recognised the voice but, out of precaution when one had vampiric visitors, kept the more powerful spells to hand. "Enter," she said as she stood and wrapped a fur coat about her dressing gown.

A very pale and very handsome young man opened the door and walked in. He had light, straw-coloured long hair, was dressed in an electric blue suit over a white tee shirt and had a broad smile on his beautiful face. Said face was only slightly marred by a nearly unnoticeable frown.

"You sense it to, Dorien?" Dorien Greyland was the leader of London's more artistically inclined vampires, though he himself was not an artist but more of a patron. Still, his particular vampiric talents gave him certain sensibilities and Helen wanted to confirm her own suspicions.

He looked thoughtful for a moment. "At first I thought I sensed your magic in the air, but realised it was something else completely different. The signature of your power is quite distinct. This..." he paused and shook his head with a wry smile, defeated. "There is also a curious song in the back of my mind that I cannot shake. I had thought one of your people were responsible, but again, this is no magic I have come across."

Helen, in clear soft notes, sang the first line. "A Dark Day is here, though do not despair."

Dorian hid his surprise as only a long lived vampire could, with just a lift of an eyebrow in curiosity betraying his emotion. "The same. I would venture, sweet lady, that someone or something has drawn us two together this eve."

The spellsinger absentmindedly nodded in agreement and then politely excused herself to go behind a screen and dress for the night; her black Armani dress and stilettos and matching clutch, for she was about to join an after performance party. When she re-emerged, she saw the vampire looking with wonder at a small vortex of white motes of light in the middle of her room. He was about to caress the whirling apparition, wonder in his eyes. Helen silently cursed the childlike fascination for beauty this type of vampire possessed and lunged forward to grab back his arm. Too late she realised that, as the vortex grew, she was caught up in its power along with Dorian.

The lights disappeared and they found themselves on a grassy ground, about thirty feet in diametre. Beyond that were grey mists.

"And we are now where?" the vampire asked in his trademark calm and slightly amused voice.

"The Deep Umbra, or what the lupines and fey call The Dreaming. Powerful magics indeed."

A ghostly image of an old man with a long white beard appeared before them. He carried a staff as tall as himself that was topped by a very large emerald and wore a barely concealed surprise on his wrinkled face. "Oh my, not what I expected at all!"

Helen put on a false smile. "I suppose you sent the song into the minds of my friend and I?"

"Hmm, song, interesting. Arthur's oath has ensnared an elven power as well? I must plan ahead more thoroughly, as Tarrion is always reminding me of..."

Helen found it hard to maintain her patience, but before she could speak Dorian did so. "And you are, my good man?"

The image stopped his ruminations and straightened his beard, which had got slightly entangled with his belt buckle. "Oh, erm, yes, I suppose that would only be polite. Oakhaven, though that is not my real name of course. Lady Helen, if I'm not mistaken. Though you, with the damned soul, I had no foreknowledge of whatsoever. I expect you helped Arthur somewhere along the line and he thinks you as an ally? His oath, you see, very powerful."

"Damn it, man. What oath are you babbling on about?" Helen's patience had finally committed suicide.

The apparation looked a bit embarrassed. "Arthur made it to a forest spirit to save an elven friend, all orchestrated by me of course. The oath I mean, not the near death of the elven warrior, Cynan. You will meet him soon, I hope." He put up a hand to stop any further questions from the two and it seemed to the spellsinger that he grew in power and stature. She added a ward against spirits to the others about her, just as a precaution. "A battle is coming, one that may well consign more that one cosmos to the domination of the Dark for eternity. A home planet, the one that spawned all dragons, is about to fall and only a few of the Light are left in this multiverse to stop that from happening. You are about to enter that affray."

Helen sighed. "I suppose by 'Arthur' you mean Pendragon? Very well, I may be his ex-stepmother, but I will do what I can. However, my friend here should not be compelled to..."

"My lady, I think I can speak for myself?" whispered Dorian, not unkindly. To Oakhaven he said; "If you will allow it, I would like to proceed to this battle you speak about, though I have my own reasons."

The mage knew what he meant, that he had a slim chance of meeting Arthur's other elven friend named Celimdol, lover to a lupine called Gawain. She hoped that it did not portend trouble to come, for it seemed there was enough trouble that awaited them already.

Oakhaven looked curiously at the young looking vampire. "So be it, though I think you have been caught in a different spell altogether. Your path will be set by me to Dragonlands, for the time storm is not spent yet." He lowered his tone and smiled, rather mischievously Helen thought. "Though when it does pass, you may not recognise your home. If you survive to get back there. Already it has influenced the outcome of a child at death's door." The creature, or whatever it was, straightened its back and stamped the oak staff on the grassy ground. "Remember, the Staffwielders will arrive soon, if I can get Tarrion to move his old arse. Let's hope it's a little help, at the very least."

The ghostly image faded, as did the mists.



A Dark Day: For Those About to Die, There is The Cup Of Nodens

In the dark of the deepest night, with only the sacred glow of many a statue in Gallantine's holy garden, pandemonium broke out amongst the group of people and Arthur's initial relief at seeing his Merlin safe and well was tempered by the sight of his stricken son and the fallen green-skinned barman. A few seconds later Lady Helen and Dorian Greyland arrived next to the White Rose, but the blond did not have time for them as he went to kneel beside his stricken son.

"I have a little power left and will renew the stasis on Petros," shouted out Gaius in the commotion. "Do what you can for the green one."

As both Gwen and Lance went to the dying young warrior, Mabon savagely said; "Some doors should never be used. I sense the hand of The Morrighan in this. The Host is divided!" He looked angry, his visage terrible to behold.

Arthur felt a hand on his shoulder. He stood and turned to see his step-sister calmly staring into his eyes. "You are the Chosen of Nodens." He frowned, confused; his son, Tarrion's barkeep... Morgana then smiled and looked to the statue of the Hunter and his Hound. "The Cup of Nodens, Arthur. Look."

He did and saw a steady trickle of pure water quietly pour from the bronze vessel. The liquid slowly melted the icy gravel wherever it touched it and edged towards the White Rose. Arthur licked his lower lip nervously and gently lifted the bowl and went over to the barman. "Move aside," he commanded and the two nurses jumped at his command. The blond knelt and spoke softly then. "I won't allow you to die, 'cos you've brought the two I love most back to me."

Arthur splash water over the wound in the stomach and then made the young mute take a sip. The wound closed up before their eyes as the eyelids fell. The green man's sleep was deep and one of healing. The Warrior of Light then, cup still between his hands, turned to Petros but found that his son was cocooned in a opaque white light that emanated from the Rose. "Merlin?" he asked of his lover as he carefully put the holy artefact of Nodens back in its place.

"I suddenly managed to get this bloody knife out of Petros' hand, remember it?" Arthur certainly did. It had first been used on Merlin to transport him to Middle Earth and had last been seen when they used its latent power to visit that fantastic world the second time. "As soon as I did that the Rose became very active and did that. It looks like an egg and doesn't look good."

Arthur agreed. "Morgana?"

The seer shrugged her shoulders. "I've seen nothing about any of this, sorry."

He smiled encouragingly and then turned to Gwen.

"I sense no immanent danger," she answered, "but in the background my power is warning me that we are all in peril. Not surprising when there's an army at the walls of this city."

So that was why they were here. He guessed as much and put the information to one side for the moment. "What do you think, Mabon?"

The God of Youth had calmed somewhat and had given in to a silent brooding at the edge of the little group. He lifted his head and brushed a strand of long brown hair from his face. He then smiled, which calmed Arthur a little. "I suggest we leave Petros here. He is well looked after and the garden is protected; the templers and Sir Owain of the Rose should remain at their posts, for now." Arthur agreed and gave a nod of his head, mildly surprised that the son of the corner shop owner was also here. "Something is amiss, methinks. The White Rose is most active, more so than for many a century, and The Cup and other artefacts in this garden are humming with power, but where are the high priests of this city of temples? I perceive that only a small group from the city guard have come to the gates. Most curious."

Arthur thought on this, but for only a few moments. "Lover?" Merlin stood up from the side of his cocooned son. "Nodens' temple is the nearest and I'd like you, Morgana and Anharadeth to take Tarrion's servant, or whoever he is, to it and care for him with Gwen and Lance."

"Sure thing." The mage, after a quick peck on Arthur's cheek, started to direct Bedwyr and Ambrose in carrying the stricken young barman to the garden's east gate.

"I'll stay with Petros, if that's all right Arthur," said Gaius as he sat down upon a stone bench. "Gilli can keep me company, at least until dawn."

The blond warrior nodded his approval and then noticed the vampire, Dorian, look longingly at Celimdol with Gawain growing more angry by the second. "Dorian Greyland, if you could go with Merlin I would very grateful."

Greyland shook himself from his reverie and bowed. "As you wish, Arthur. I, with my undead colleagues, will protect all in our charge."

Satisfied for now, Arthur turned to the next of their group. "Gawain and Celimdol; go to the city walls and find out the layout of Velshna's army. I want to know what it's doing. Also, a quick look at the city's stores and general gossip?"

Celimdol smiled and Gawain nodded his head, a look of suppressed anger mixed with determination on his face. Arthur had no doubt the two would get the information he needed.

"Rane, Leon, Helen, you are with me. Time to visit the Lord Protector Prytanis and find out what the fuck is going on in his city."

Those mentioned started to follow Arthur to the north gate of the garden when Mabon spoke up. "I will tag along with you, if that is all right. I will stay in the background as much as I can for, even though I am cursed to be in mortal form, I would not give the Dark any excuse to bring even more avatars to this world."

Arthur nodded his head and they continued on their way. When they reached the silver gates, two templers of Rhiannon bowed low. Owain, wearing a shiny new armour of steel, grinned. After a brief talk of what had happened concerning a certain captain of the guard, Arthur cursed under his breath.

"Fuck honour! You do not engage him in combat. It's me or Merlin who will deal with that Masant scum. Preferably me." Captain Nicandes had been instrumental in the death of a young worshipper of Nodens, having him flogged, and the warrior had a promise to keep. He turned to one of the templers. "Sir...?"

"Sir Idris, my lord prince."

"Sir Idris, how many of the city's guard are made up of those from Masant?" The Dark City, as it was called, was on the southern shore of the great Gella Lake and was a nest of assassins and evil priests. If they had any influence in Gallantine...

"Over half, my lord, and have been recruited slowly by the Lord Protector these several years. All in the name of commerce, of course. Eh, if I may speak boldly, my lord?" With a nod from Arthur's head, Idris spoke on, a hint of disgust to his voice. "It has been at least a year of Winter since Lord Merlin left this city, never to return on pain of death." Arthur immediately started to worry for his fiancé, but then realised that the gawky idiot was well protected by three vampires and an imposing lore master of Middle Earth, plus two determined nurses. "Since that time Lord Prytanis has mainly kept to his chambers, only dealing with the outside world through the guard, but the atrocities..." The middle aged warrior clutched the emblem of a horse's head that hung around his neck on a leather cord. It was made of a polished, blond wood. "Only last month all the high priests were put under temple arrest for 'conspiring to overthrow the city state'. The Word of Math was most humiliated when he objected, with a public flogging and having his head and beard most cruelly shaved. The templers number few and protect their holy charges as best they can. We of Rhiannon all had a dream to defend the Rose this very night, which is why we are posted thus. However, grave is the news I must now tell; Lord Priest Gethin resisted and was set upon by the guard. I...I know not what became of him."

Arthur became incensed. Gethin ap Gethin had been kind to them all the last time the blond warrior had been on Dragonlands; a silent ranger and priest of Nodens who had later cared for Staffwielder Tarrion when he had been gravely ill.

"There is more, my lord."

Though gritted teeth, Arthur said "Go on."

"Our Lord Protector has even suspected his daughter, Arianwen, of treachery and she has not been seen for many a day. However, there is even more of this sorry tale."

Rane gave a cry of alarm, but was steadied by a firm hand of Arthur's on his shoulder. "Again, go on," the blond barely whispered, fearing the worst.

Sir Idris looked to his companion, who nodded his head encouragingly. "Most grievous of all, my lord, has been the imprisonment of the Staffwielder." For a moment Arthur was puzzled. Was Tarrion or Oakhaven in danger? "Lord Staffwielder Domiteos XIII, a year ago, sought sanctuary when he was ousted from the city of Par. He has not been seen for this past year."

The knight had talked about Sol, a kid of now about sixteen years of age, who had been through enough abuse already.

The dam broke. "Open those fucking gates."

The templers and Owain hurried to do as they were commanded.

Arthur, with his group in tow, stormed across the square to the main doors of the Protector's Palace, unhindered for there was no one about, not even a city guard. Two soldiers stood to attention, barring their way.

"I am Arthur, Warrior of Nodens." He hated pulling rank, but time was of the essence, or so he sensed. One of the guards immediately dropped his halberd and knelt on one knee. The other, after a scornful look at his fellow, levelled his at Arthur's chest.

Immediately Leon punched the guy's lights out and then shrugged. "It's quicker this way," he said with a rueful smile.

The blond was not in the mood and simply opened the doors and walked into the building.



A Dark Day: The Death of Love and Horses

Galtreth sat uneasily on his horse. Beside him was the avatar of Rhiannon herself. True, since leaving the monastery of Brynmawr with all the warrior monks that they could muster, she had acted in a charming way; joking with the more boisterous and listening with motherly concern to the younger monks, but he never forgot that his goddess rode beside him.

She broke the silence and the aging priest was shook from his thoughts. Rhiannon wore a simple dark green gown of wool with a hooded grey cloak over it to keep the sleet from her lustrous black hair and once again Galtreth despaired that she would go into battle clothed such.

"I am about to die," she whispered, though the shocked priest heard her well enough. He made to protest, but she gently raised her hand to silence him. "Do not be troubled of heart, for it is a gamble with this body I take. Sadly, my worshippers are few enough that I will not be able to make another for many an age, but a sacrifice is needed if the Dark is to be thwarted."

Galtreth found his voice. "My lady, I would not have it so." His vision blurred, but the slow tears that escaped he let run into his black beard.

The beautiful being beside him smiled and touched his shoulder, briefly. "Do not weep so, most faithful on Draconis Terra, for the time approaches and is fast upon us. You must heed my words most closely."

He composed himself and lowered his head but for a moment. "As you will, my lady."

She smiled and Galtreth thought his heart would burst from love. "We are seven leagues from Gallantine and you must reach it before night gives way to day. When the chance presents itself, you and my faithful must ride in all haste to the City of the Rose, for Arthur and Merlin will have need of your strength. Tell them this; remember the sunstone of Caersullien, for ice can only be defeated by heat. My Chosen, Rane, must be involved in this."

Galtreth knew that Caersullien was the seat of the Horse Lords of Gwlad-yr-Hydref, where the queen used to reside and the king would winter. It had been destroyed over a year ago by dragons, both black and white, when Queen Velshna had conquered those lands. However, he had never heard of a sunstone.

Rhiannon laughed and it sounded like a fresh spring trickling over smooth stones. "All will be revealed. My Chosen will understand and will find his courage. He must." Her countenance dropped and a cold breeze blew from the lake to the south over the paved road they rode upon. "It is time," she simply said, her voice coloured with regret. "Stop here, for I must go on alone for but a little while. You will know what to do when the chance arises."

With that said the milk-white horse that bode her trotted majestically forward as Galtreth, his heart heavy, raised his fist to halt the column of five hundred monks behind them.

Out of the night a large brown dragon landed on the road before the goddess. She looked small and fragile on her mount before the great beast, but her voice was strong. "You will not stop our progress, lizard of the southern swamps. The Light will prevail. I say, do your worst."

The dragon hissed in defiance and Galtreth realised that, despite its size, it was a lessor creature of its kind and had not yet acquired speech. It breathed in deep and then exhaled a stream of putrid, acidic venom at Rhiannon, a grey-brown in colour. The priest feared the worst, but on contact both rider and mount dissolved into a river of pure white light that headed for and was absorbed into the great war hammer that was strapped to the side of Galtreth's black horse.

In anger he took up his weapon and uttered his most powerful prayer against evil. "May the love of Rhiannon cast you down!" he shouted at the climax of his chant and the evil creature was encased in blue lightning.

The dragon screamed in agony for a few moments and, when the holy power released it, the creature ponderously flapped its wings and started to fly north into the blackness. Galtreth recognised his chance.

"Ride, ride forward in all haste my brothers," he shouted as he urged his mount forward. "Ride to Gallantine, to vengeance, to right the wrong done to our goddess."

The warrior-priests of Brynmawr Abbey galloped forward and their iron shod hooves were as thunder announcing an oncoming storm.



A Dark Day: Marsh Inn

The band of templers, splendid in their suits of steel armour and iron tipped lances, came to a slow halt on Marsh Road. Behind them, four abreast, followed a horde of horse lords two thousand strong from the hills of Sengeddon, eager to reach Gallantine and their prince.

It was night, but the two in front who led this army could see clearly the ruined palisade and a few thin columns of smoke. The old, red haired man in a monk's robe belted with rope turned his head to the woman beside him. She was lightly armoured in the brightest steel and her golden hair was in the style of the Hellenes. "We will find no succour here," she said.

"Aye, Lady Athena, some evil has just left this place."

Just then a young templer of Nike rode up to them and, after a nod to the avatar of Wisdom, lifted his visor and spoke to the mage. "My Lord Math, one of the horse lords say there is movement on the lake, perhaps ships though we know not from what city. They could be Gallantine or Masant."

Math frowned. "Then we will have light. Our position will be revealed, but methinks that happened some time ago." The Power of Magic lifted his arms and uttered a few arcane words. Suddenly, the dark sky brightened for miles around as if it was now twilight and they could all see dozens of large, black sailed ships but a mile away on the relatively calm waters of Gella. Amongst them stood a giant of a creature with shaggy grey hair and eyes that were alight with a green malevolence. From the marsh to the west of the road sprang forth a myriad of small creatures sporting bark-like bodies and spindly arms that wielded wicked spears.

"Hmm," mused Athena, "spriggens to one side and the Mad God Krill with his ships on the other. A feeble trap, but one that will certainly delay us." A silver spear appeared in her hand and she waved it towards the marsh. Hundreds of spriggens were burnt up in an instant, their cries similar to mewling kittens. "Faithful of Nike, inform the horse lords that they are to ride in all urgency towards Gallantine to join their prince. We will take up defensive positions at yonder inn and deal with this new menace, though it may cost us dear and not only in time."

With a fist slapped over his chest and a slight nod of his head, the young templer turned his mount and spurred it down the road to the exiled riders of Gwylad-yr-Hyfred. After their initial shock, more spriggens started to swarm forward and the ships of the Mad God headed towards the shore of Gella Lake.

Math extended his hand. "After you, my lady."

Athena smiled and her black horse carried her into the smoking ruin of Marsh Inn.



An hour of fierce fighting ceased and in the lull of false peace the two avatars took stock. Few were their losses, thanks to the wisdom and battle prowess of Athena and the timely magics of Math, but still the forces of the Dark had kept coming. Also, Krill had yet to commit himself fully into the battle.

Math sat heavily in one of two chairs in the relative comfort of what was left of the smouldering inn. Athena sat opposite him. "We need some information," he simply said and waved a hand over a nearly burnt out candle in its wooden holder. It sprang into life and above the flame appeared a large image of a number of people carrying a green-skinned young man in hunting leathers to a small church of Nodens. Math saw Merlin clearly and with him were three of the undead who seemed to be protecting him. Surprising, but good nevertheless. There was also Lance of the Silver Lake, Chosen of Mabon, with his beloved in the troupe and the Power of Magic was most reassured of his Chosen's protection. Another in tow gave him pause; a tall woman bearing a powerful staff of the Valar of Middle Earth. Very curious. He stopped himself from asking untimely questions and asked a more direct one. "Merlin, you cannot see me but it is I, Math. What goes in Gallantine?"

Merlin looked up and seemed to directly look at the mage. "I can see you Math and...Athena?" The Power of Wisdom bowed her head. Very impressive and Math was pleased. "Gallantine's besieged, but I think you know that already. We're carrying Tarrion's servant to Nodens' temple to look after him better; he kinda killed himself for me to get here."

"The Morrighan. What a bitch," Math muttered.

"Yeah, Mabon said as much."

The old mage opened his eyes in shock. "He is still there? Merlin, do not let him die, for it would be a great loss to The Host. Reckless is he, as is the wont of youth, so reign him in most severely if you have to."

Merlin nodded his head. "I thought as much and consider it done. Also...my son nearly died and is now cocooned by the Rose. I'm afraid, Math."

Math paused at this. Unexpected was this latest development. "Before his time, I expect he is entering his next stage of development. Interesting; I wish I was there to study such a thing." Athena touched his forearm in caution as Merlin gave a cry of exasperation. Chastised, Math looked back at the image above the flame and coughed. "He will be well, but changed somewhat. Also...Damn and blast it to Hades; she has sacrificed her only avatar!"

"I sense it to," said Athena. "Though she must have had good reason. More than one of us may do the same to out-manoeuvre the Dark."

"What, what's happened," shouted out Merlin as he and his group neared the doors of the church. The tall lore master of Middle Earth chanted a word of opening.

Math sighed and a tear escaped, which was quickly wiped away by a charcoal smudged hand. "Rhiannon has sacrificed her avatar, though I know not why. Nodens will feel this also, which will make him as reckless as Mabon. We of the Light cannot enter the battle until the Dark has shown their hand. We dare not give them even more of an advantage than they already have."

The doors to the church opened and Merlin dropped to his knees in despair. In the yellow image of the flame both Athena and Math could see a bald-headed man nailed against the far wall near the altar. The dead man must have been the priest of Nodens, Gethin ap Gethin.

"The silent ranger is dead," whispered Math and closed his eyes briefly in sorrow. When he reopened them he saw his Chosen had stood and was angry, his fists balled up tightly.

"Save your wrath for later, my Apprentice, for you will have need of it before these dark days are done."

Merlin took in a deep breath. "Is it hopeless then, master?"

"I will not lie to you, my boy, but the Staffwielders will arrive soon and..." Ice started to cover the blackened walls of what was left of the inn and the candle's flame started to gutter. "Velshna is trying to stop our communication. Powerful has she become. Can you still hear me Merlin?"

"Just about." The youth's voice was faint and the old mage started to shout into the dimming light.

"Horse lords from the south come to you and the monks of Brynmawr from the east. When all seem at its most darkest, contact me through the ring I made for you. Can you hear me?" But the flame had finally died and Math leaned back in his chair, temporarily exhausted. He looked to the warrior-woman next to him. "It is very dark, my lady."

She smiled and touched his forearm for a second time. He felt comfort in that. "Have faith in the heart of mortals, my lord wizard. They always seem to surprise me when all seem to be lost." Athena stood and her spear appeared in her hand. "Alas, we have a mad god to attend to."

Math stood also and knew that she was putting on a brave face just for him, though he was determined that he would fight to the end. Even if the Dark triumphed and plunged this world and several multiverses into despair, he would at least do that. Little rivulets of white lightning rippled across his whole body and he grinned. "Let us show Krill that it is unwise to come against powers of the Light."

A shield of gold appeared in Athena's other hand. "Indeed, let us engage this enemy, my friend."



A Dark Day: Cometh the Staffwielders

Merlin fought back the tears as Gwen and Lance took down the body of Gethin ap Gethin and brought him out of Nodens' small temple; the three vampires would have helped but Ambrose had whispered that they dared not enter such a holy place. The face of the ranger was stoic even in death and he looked as if he was but sleeping, but the gaping wound in his stomach said otherwise.

The young mage brushed at his eyes with a back of his hand and cleared his throat. "Gwen, if you could stay with the barkeeper in the temple and Bedwyr and his friends can stand guard outside?" They all nodded, solemnly. "You and me, Lance, are gonna bury Gethin as near the statue of his god as we can."

"I'm with you Merlin."

As they carried the body back to the garden, Merlin glanced at the sky. They had about an hour left before sunrise when the three vampires would have to find shelter somewhere in this holy city. For now, Merlin not only wanted to bury his friend but also be with his son. The egg-shaped, luminous cocoon that protected Petros seemed to have grown slightly and the mage just stopped himself from outstretching his hand to the white glow. The Rose hummed away in the background, the tune similar to the French national anthem.

Gaius stood and gave Merlin his condolences; obviously sensing that the young mage was deeply upset.

Elli looked up at their approach. He had been fiddling with his iPad (putting crude solar panels on it, he said; he was a web mage, not a techie) and, although he did not know the ranger-priest, silently cried along with them when they had finally buried Gethin.

After moments of silence, Merlin brushed slightly at his eyes once more and cleared his throat. "Got that thing working?" he said, nodding at the pad. He could not think of anything else to say, just something mundane to remind him that life went on.

The web mage shrugged. "Yeah, well, I think so. Which is weird cos this isn't really a high tech world. I may have a trace of a link to Conclave, so I can do some stuff at least. For when the, erm, final battle comes." Elli's shoulders slumped. "Gotta tell you Merlin, I'm shit scared."

Lance put a hand on his shoulder to give it a squeeze and the youth looked up and tried to smile. "I'll get Arthur or Anharadeth to make you one of the Buckland Brewers. Then I'm sworn to protect you and Arthur has certain magic of his own concerning that company."

Gilli's eyes lit up and Merlin nearly laughed, despite himself. Before the web mage could respond, things happened, fast.

Gawain came running up the gravel path dressed only in his jeans and with a feral look to his eyes. "There's a lot of lights coming from a stone circle. Perhaps the Staffwielders are trying to get through but they'll be in trouble," he said to Merlin. "Part of Velshna's army is heading for them and...fuck it...there's no-one on the walls; the city guard are still in their barracks!"

As they ran through the nearest entrance of the garden (Merlin shouted at Owain to protect his son and the Rose), a great winged horse, majestic in its powerful beauty, landed in the avenue that led to Northgate. Cynan and Myfanwy jumped off and made to embrace their companions, but was stopped by the urgent look on their faces.

With a nod, Cynan simply said "Lead on, friend Merlin."

The Apprentice of Math gave a relieved smile and led them to the stone steps that gave access to the city's magical walls. Along the way he noticed a few guards outside grand buildings that he assumed were temples and shouted at them to join him. Some hesitated and stayed where they were (or simply refused in most cases), but a few rushed to their side, caught up in the young man's urgency.

Finally, they reached Celimdol's side as, with bow drawn, he looked towards the hill that was crowned by a ring of standing stones. A slim white tower stood to one side, but they still had a clear view of the rainbow lights that swirled around the granite monoliths. It seemed that the lights waxed and waned; something or someone was indeed trying to get through.

Merlin gave a cry of despair as he saw hundreds of goblins and a few fearsome bearded giants with double-headed great axes, all in ill formation, rushed towards the hilltop. "They'll be ambushed!" cried out Merlin and his vision shone golden.

"We have two bows now," said Cynan as he gave a nod to his brother. Celimdol smiled in response.

Then Gawain howled at the grey sky as the last of his clothes ripped from his muscular, lupine form. He easily jumped down the hundred feet to the grassy ground below and scampered at speed towards the hill. Merlin lost his power vision for a moment in shock and turned to the young elf.

"My lover knows what he is doing," said Celimdol, but the mage thought he detected a hint a worry in the youth's voice.

"Merlin, get me down there," shouted out Lance. To two of the city guards that had joined them he said "Go to the gate and be ready to open them to let us through." They nodded and rushed to obey before the nurse flicked a switch and his light sword given to him by an alternative Arthur hummed into life. "Now, Merlin," he whispered with a smile.

The mage gulped and also nodded. With little concentration, he used a levitation spell to quickly get his friend down to the ground and, as soon as his feet touched it, Lance ran to catch up with the werewolf. Then both of the elves started to shoot arrows at the short goblins as they came into range. With gritted teeth, Merlin joined in with stabs of lightning, making sure they stay clear of his friends. The lupine and the nurse fought ferociously and it seemed that magic, claw and light sword would win the day, but then several giants came to the fore.

As one, both Celimdol and Cynan dropped their bows. "If you would do us the same courtesy, my Lord Merlin," said the older elf as he drew out his swords. The younger did the same.

Merlin hesitated briefly but then, as he did with Lance a few moments before, lowered the two to the ground. With great speed they ran up and joined the battle. Cynan jumped impossibly high and stuck both swords into a giant's eye that was about to cleave Gawain in two with his axe. It screamed loud in pain, but the Hunter of the Brewers had already jumped to his next target and stabbed at its neck.

Celimdol, with a controlled fury of vicious thin blades, went for the hordes of goblins that swarmed around the giants' feet that threatened to overwhelm Lance. The younger elf seemed to be everywhere at once as he performed a dance of dance with the evil creatures.

The top of the hill suddenly pulsed in a mauve light and there stood two figures; one Tarrion Carillion and one Oakhaven. The two Staffwielders quickly sized up the situation and joined in the battle and it seemed that they shouted at their rescuers to stay close to them. Finally, when there was a lull in the battle, Oakhaven produced a sphere of pure emerald light that encased the six on the hill. With agonisingly slow progress, the group started to walk towards Gallantine's Northgate.

Merlin fired up his power to make sure no goblin entered the holy city.



A Dark Day: How Do the Blind See?

Arthur paused before the bronze door that led to the chambers of the Lord Protector Prytanis. He looked towards Leon, who responded with a grin.

"It's unlocked, but be careful. This ice that rims the edge is not normal."

The blond turned back to the door and saw a thin blue line of ice that sealed the door. But a few feet away from the oak wood, he could still feel a deep cold coming from the room. He unsheathed Gilgalad, took one step back and booted the door open.

Before them was a well furnished ante-room, tarred slightly with a film of dust. A rich rug that was laid on the grey flagstones depicted a pair of golden scales on a red background; the sigil the Lord Protector of Gallantine. Their eyes were immediately drawn to the straight backed old man with long white hair, a mad gleam in his eyes and a manic smile to match. He held a sphere of glass in his hands before him.

Lady Helen hummed a soothing tune, but to Arthur's eyes it did little to calm the man. The spellsinger stopped when she saw it had no effect.

"So, the traitors return," he said in a deep, conversational tone. "Lord Arthur, Lord Prince Rane? If you would be so kind to keep your servants outside so we may have a parley I would be most grateful, just the three of us."

Helen bristled at that while Leon looked to Mabon, who just shrugged.

"Where is the Lady Arianwen?" Rane spat out. Arthur lightly touched his foreman to contain the youth's anger.

"Sadly, my own flesh and blood conspired against me, for is she not of that priestly class that infests this noble city? Worry not, she presently presides as a guest in my dungeons. I am most generous, even with my enemies."

Arthur, again, touched Rane's arm to quieten him. "Putting aside the fact that she is your own daughter, what I have to ask you is this; Velshna's armies approach the city and yet I find little preparation. Most of the templers are confined to their places of worship and the city guard keep them there. I expect there are none on the walls. With the authority of Nodens' warrior and as third officer of the Buckland Brewers, I relieve you of your duties as Protector."

Prytanis' smile turned into a snarl and as he shouted at them, spittle flew from his lips. "She said you would try and take my city from me. She said you would stop my ascension into the glorious Dark." He raised the sphere above his head and, before any of them could stop him, smashed it upon the flagstones between them.

The room was plunged into a deeper coldness and a swirl of snowflakes swirled around the room, to finally coalesced into a form of a tall woman with blue eyes of ice; Velshna. The projection smiled and extended a hand. "Ah, sweet Rane, so you have returned to this world at last. And young Mabon in mortal form? How delicious." Her gaze shifted slightly as both supermodels swore under their breaths. "As for you, so called Prince Arthur, I have a gift most fitting."

The White Witch casually flicked her left hand and a shard of ice flew towards Arthur's heart. It shattered a feet from its intended target. "He is protected," said Helen.

From the side, as Velshna narrowed her eyes at the spellsinger, Prytanis leaped at Arthur with a grey bladed dagger in his hand. A small, neat hole appeared in the middle of the man's forehead as Leon shot him. Blood spattered the furnishings as the back of the Lord Protector's head was blown away.

Velshna sighed. "Pity, he had been most useful. Know this, Gallantine and the White Rose will fall. You are ill prepared and under manned. Surrender now and give my Rane to me, and I may let you all live."

Over Rane's shout of "I will never be yours," Arthur simply said, "Fuck off."

The form of the White Witch dissolved into a flurry of flakes that gradually drifted down to settle on the floor. The last they could hear was an amused laugh.

Mabon let out a long held breath. "She's powerful. What with the Icestaff and her armies..."

Arthur put Gilgalad away and brushed a hand through his hair. "She won't have to get any avatars of the Dark to enter the battle. If that doesn't happen then those of the Light will just wait in the wings. I've already thought of that, mate. We'll just have to force her hand somehow."

Rane sheathed his own swords. "My friend, Arianwen and Sol?"

"Yeah," answered the blond, "let's get down to the prisons."

They encountered little opposition. Most of the guards bowed their heads at their approach. The few who decided to attack them were easily despatched by Rane, Mabon and Leon. When they reached the cells Arthur was reminded of his own time there and, once again, the image of a young captain of the guard flogged to death came to mind. He brushed the thought aside for another time, for there were only two occupants of the prison that required immediate attention.

As Helen sang a short, few notes that sprang all the iron doors, Arthur could see his old cell housed Arianwen, priestess of Diachecht. The young woman, beautiful with long autumn-gold hair, was naked and couched in one corner of the room. Dirt and bruises marred her beauty and she shed hot tears of shame as Rane tenderly put his coat about her shoulders. They said nothing for now, but both seemed to find some comfort in each others company.

Opposite Arianwen's cell, a young teen also naked with matted, red hair, shakily stood. "Who is there?" Sol stammered. He raised both arms up as if to defend himself. "Torture me all you want, Nicandes, but I will not reveal the whereabouts of the Staff of Knowledge!"

"Fuck," whispered Leon. They froze as the boy took a step back and hit against the stone wall. Black, purple and yellow bruises covered his body, but it was his hands that first drew their gaze; claws of broken bone they were that had been mended and broken again many a time over the past year.

"His eyes, Arthur," Helen whispered in horror. "Look at his eyes."

Nodens' warrior looked up and saw that the youth's eyes had been scooped out. He fought down the urge to retch and entered the cell to gently take hold of the boy's hands.

"Arthur?" Sol's voice was shaky and full of hope. Arthur knew that, if the youth could, he would shed silent tears. Sol sobbed "I dreamt of you; the Warrior of Light with the golden hair. Knowing that you lived and fought on made me endure the...endure..."

Arthur hushed him and took his frail frame into his arms and tenderly kissed the top of his head. He then put his own russet jacket about the bony shoulders. "Let me guide you to the outside world," the blond said, his voice thick with emotion. Here was a kid, a Staffwielder, who had endured too much hardship in his short life. "Time to take you to the Cup of Nodens."

"Do not give him false hope," said Mabon gently. "The Cup's power has a lunar limit. It has done much already, my lord, and will also not regenerate his eyes."

"I've got to try," Arthur snarled at the mortal god, but then his anger dissipated as soon as it had come. "I've got to try?" he said again as he stared defiantly into Mabon's face.

"Of course you must, you are Nodens' Chosen and I would not expect anything less. Perhaps the Lady Helen could take the Lady Arianwen to her chambers above. I'm sure I can find a servant or two to prepare a hot bath. If not, I will draw one myself!"

Slowly and with much tenderness to those in their care, they left the prison cells and the memories they held and went to the upper levels of the Lord Protector's palace. On the way, Rane quietly told Arianwen of her father's death, but her response was muted but for a small cry of despair; Arthur noted that Leon stayed quietly in the background, away from the young woman.

As Helen took the priestess to her rooms and Mabon departed them, Arthur lifted Sol into his arms and carried him out into the cold dawn accompanied by the lupine hunter and Rane. Tender flakes of snow drifted lazily to the ground and, when they landed on Sol's face, the boy smiled and had a look of wonder to his features. Arthur realised that the boy had rarely felt such a thing for he had lived far to the south. The blond internally wept, for the kid would never be able to see the wonder of winter.

They were half way to the garden of the Rose when Merlin came upon them. With him was a sight that raised Arthur's spirits, for Tarrion Caerillion was with his lover, as well as Cynan, Myfanwy and Oakhaven. The first had been on his death bed when the blond had last seen him and he gave a cry of greeting. Caerillion looked as frail as the boy in Arthur's arms, but the old man also had a look of hidden steeliness, of power, in his ancient, dishevelled frame. "Your fellow Staffwielders are here," he informed Sol in a whisper.

"Set me down, my prince, and let me face them."

Arthur did so and the boy steadied himself before he gave a deep bow. "My lords, forgive my tardiness. The Runestaff, the Staff of Knowledge is safe, despite the machinations of the Dark."

"My dear boy," said Tarrion as he gently hugged the Librarian. "At last we meet in the flesh, but I wish it was so in happier times. Come to the garden and we will see what can be done."

Merlin clasped hold of Arthur's hand as they entered the holy site through the east gate (the few templers of Rhiannon bowed low at their approach more for the benefit of the Staffwielders than anyone else, the blond thought) and he looked into his lover's face. The mage's eyes had the after burn of recently used power.

Merlin responded to the look of concern with a squeeze of the hand he held. "Velshna's army has finally arrived and they tried to stop Tarrion and Oakhaven from visiting us. We took exception to that. Arthur, there are only about a dozen left on the walls.

Arthur smiled in encouragement. "Gawain, Rane and Celimdol? You have done a lot already, but I ask that you go to each of the temples of Gallantine and tell the guard that the Lord Protector's authority is no more and I'm in charge. All templers, save for those of Rhiannon's. Are to go to the walls in all haste. Any resistance, well, I'm sure you'll know what to do. Then get all of the city guard to assemble outside the garden's north gate; I want a word with them."

"As you say, my lord," responded Rane. The lupine and the elf simply smiled and gave a brief nod of their heads.

Oakhaven looked back and an eyebrow rose. "You have grown in you power at last, Arthur."

The blond shrugged, embarrassed, but Merlin gave another squeeze of his hand in comfort and pride.

They reached the centre of the garden and stopped in their tracks. Anharadeth had joined Gilli and Gaius and was using her robes to wipe egg white from a young teen who was no older than fourteen years. His modern looking clothes were in tatters, but the Gorfannan wrought mithril shirt had grown with him. His hair was no longer dreaded but a mop of fine gold hair that neared silver and his cobalt-blue eyes were piercing and a little wary of the oncoming group.

The youth shakily stood and shrugged off the lore keeper's ministrations, embarrassed. "Da? Father?" His voice was full of the uncertainty of youth and nearly broke with emotion. Too late, Arthur's tongue reacted before his brain kicked into gear.

"You're not my Petros...I..."

Merlin gave him a hard stare and then went to embrace the kid, but the new-born Petros stepped back. With glistening tears he stiffly bowed while he did his best to cover his privates. "As you say, my lord," and he turned aside to be comforted by Myfanwy and Anharadeth, who also gave the blond hard stares of admonition. The elven lore master then took off her grey hooded cloak and wrapped it about the youth.

Arthur let out a deep breath and realised he was more like his undead father than he cared to admit. However, despite his domestic troubles, he had more worrying things on his mind. In a tone more strident than he wished, he asked "Where do the vampires sleep?"

It was Anharadeth who answered him. "In yonder gardener's shed, my officer, though the larger one said he would find his own solace from the daylight hours. I have sworn to the two left behind that I would guard their sleep with my life and will not break such an oath, though it goes against my love of nature and life."

Arthur sensed the rebuke in her tone, for his treatment towards his son and for also having allies of the undead, but answered her only with a nod. A templer of Rhiannon, a mature man with a scar down one cheek who had accompanied them, spoke up.

"A marque from the previous summer's jousting can be set up around the shed, my lord prince. Perhaps that could be the centre of your council?"

Arthur gave his thanks and, as the templer went to organise the work, the blond stooped to once more pick up the Cup of Nodens. He noticed that only a small measure of clear water was left. He hoped that it would be enough. After he asked Sol to show his hands, he gently splashed water over them and, with a sigh of relief, the bones (without pain) re-arranged themselves and looked like claws no more. The young Staffwielder sobbed with relief and asked Oakhaven to guide him to the White Rose. In the back of Arthur's mind he could hear a soft tune of lament mixed with hope as the boy bent low and picked up a small twig. In an instant the twig became a stout staff topped by a fist sized moonstone.

"I cannot see, but I can now sense your souls. The wielder of the Staff of Knowledge is ready to defend Gallantine, to fight for the Light!" He turned to Petros and smiled. "Young hatchling, know that your fathers love you, would die for you and also be blessed in the affection of your great grandfather and the Reverend Mother, for now knowledge flows through me and some of the inner workings of both Dark and Light are not unknown to me." Silent tears escaped Petros' blue eyes, but Sol had already set his face upon Cynan and Myfanwy. "Lovers of the First Born, so you will be named in awe in the millennia to come. Endure, I say, for you may not know it yet but your love may well conquer time itself." As the two elves looked puzzled and embraced each other, the boy turned to Anharadeth. "I feel your sorrow, Lady of the Stars, for you will not see your homeland again or your loved one." The lore keeper of Gondor sobbed and turned her face away. "Sweet lady, have courage I say, for if we defeat the Dark here against all the odds then you will become renowned throughout many a multiverse. A little comfort, I know, but your beloved will enter the realms of the Valar without mishap and without ever forgetting you."

Anharadeth, Arthur noticed, gulped back emotion and tightened her grip on her staff.

Sol bowed low once more to his two fellow Staffwielders. "My lords Tarrion and Oakhaven. Know also that this lowly Staffwielder before you is no longer an apprentice in his craft and will join my power in all earnestness in defence of this fair city."

As Tarrion bowed low in return, Oakhaven grinned. "We will give the White Bitch some regret in ever coming against the Rose, for that is hers and her Dark allies real goal."

"Indeed, may that never happen." Sol made to face Gaius, Leon and Gilli, who had quietly talked amongst themselves away from the main group. "You are not minor players, my friends. If the officers will confer their authority?" Both Arthur and Anharadeth quickly gave their consent, for both of them sensed what was about to happen. "Then with all the power given to me, you are now members of that august body, the Buckland Brewers and are famed throughout many worlds. Be steadfast and be true to each other and your captains, for the Dark know little of loyalty and that is your strength."

With an affectionate smile on his face, Sol at last turned to his two friends. "Arthur, Merlin? Know that I love you and would have given my life and nearly did. I have much knowledge and freely give it in the counsels ahead. You already love each other and that is plain to all, but follow your hearts. Another thing the Dark does not understand. Let our enemies second guess our moves, but we of the Light are united in love and understanding."

The youth seemed to grow in stature as he straightened his shoulders and tilted his head towards the clouds that threatened even more snow. He stamped his staff once upon the icy gravel and Arthur noticed again the song from the Rose in the back of his mind, one of elation and courage. Moonlight emanated from the moonstone atop the staff and seemed to engulf the whole city. "Peoples of the Light!" Sol's voice, though not deafening, seemed loud and full of authority. "Have courage for the battle ahead. Have faith. Be steadfast, for succour is at hand. Behold, those at the Northgate, for the monks of Rhiannon led by Galtreth Lightbringer ride to this fair city. To those at the Rivergate I say thus, open wide the doors and cry out in joy, for the horde of the Horse Lords come swiftly to Gallantine's aid. Open wide the gates of the White City, I command thee, for help is at last cometh!"

Arthur gulped. Never had he seen the kid with such power, such authority. Oakhaven simply grinned once more as Tarrion again embraced the youth and called him beloved.



A Dark Day: The Desires of a Queen

Velshna smiled.

Rane was back. She lounged leisurely in her travelling throne (made of cedar wood and furnished in the finest silk cushions and drapes) and gave a sideward glance to one of her generals; a tall man of seven feet, lean yet broad shouldered and packed with steely muscle. She had already satisfied her lust on the black-haired werewarg's member but as always such pleasures were nothing compared to the delights of the prince of the Horse Lords.

"You say the Staffwielders have arrived in Draconis Terra?"

"Aye, my queen." His voice was deep and gravelly and the sharp features of his face gave away no emotion. "They were helped by two eleven warriors," she brushed that concern aside, "a man wielding a sword of pure light and a werewolf." He said the last with a hint of disgust.

"Patience, Golgarren. You will have the chance to face Gawain the Lupine soon enough. Centuries of planning are coming to an end. The mere pawns of Tarrion and Oakhaven in the city follow a path that I have laid out for them."

A boy of about twelve with coal-black skin and a mop of wavy silver hair stopped his pacing around the large tent and an argent eyebrow was raised. "And the Warrior of Light, that evil sword he wields? Is he in your calculations, Velshna?"

The White Queen allowed herself a smile of the confidence she felt. "A trap I have laid for him, for he will leave the protection of Gallantine soon enough on a desperate mission. Gilgalad will be destroyed, my friend Bask, and then the Apprentice can be easily dealt with."

Bask barked a laugh and seated himself on a pile of plush cushions. "You are a mistress of tactics, sure enough, but have a care that you do not over-reach yourself, madam. For the agents of the Light are renowned for duplicity and evil cunning."

"They are no match for the machinations of a snow elf, my lord ally." Velshna turned once more to her chief general. "Send the first wave against Gallantine this night before the moon's rise." The werewarg bowed his head and made to leave. "Oh and Golgarren, you will then take yourself and a cohort of your best to the ruins of Twr Caersullien. The enemy will come to you."

The giant of a man actually smiled. "As you command, my queen."

When the mortal had left, Bask's eyebrow rose again.

"Everything goes according to my designs, my lord. Everything at last is coming to fruition."

Her smile broadened.

A Dark Day (part two)

Title: Dark Day (part two)
Word Count: 7129
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language/violence (overall)
Summary: A great battle approaches and, unbeknown to him, Arthur's allies from across the multiverse gather... Also, Arthur and Merlin race to get to the City of the Rose, Gallantine...

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/

Part One: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/02/19/




A Dark Day: The Son, the Daddy and the Deranged Goblin

Petros shivered, more from the cold than having a tall man in a long overcoat pointing a gun at him. He was in a small alley and snow tickled his nose. He shifted the weight on his shoulder, his bag that contained his laptop, and tilted his head in scrutiny. “Are you Captain Jack Harkness? You look like him. Am I in Cardiff then? Daddy sometimes calls it Caerdydd. Can you speak Welsh as well? Father says it's a dying language, which makes Daddy mad and they play fight until I'm sent to go and do something. It's when they start the stupid kissing thing, I bet. Father says gambling is for stupid grown ups, so I didn't mean the betting thing I said just then, so no telling on me when my fathers come. They will, you know, cos you're threatening me and they always come to the rescue when I'm being threatened. They're the best daddies in the world. Have you got a daddy? I don't think I remember that episode, but then I only saw the first few before Daddy found me watching them. He thinks I'm too young for that sort of thing, but I had my birthday only last month and...”

“Gwen,” the stranger said, “definitely an alien has come through the rift and it seems to know about me. And it talks a lot. And it's a kid.”

“Is that The Gwen? She's pretty, for a girl. Any ways...Hey, I'm seven! And I live in London, well on the outskirts, so I can't be an...” Petros paused to gather his thoughts. Was he an alien? He sometimes had dreams of flying and he had wings of silver scales, which is cool and it felt natural. And he was brilliant at computers, Gilli said so and he's a web mage so he should know, but Petros had trouble with reading and writing and Miss Jones from school said he's gotta do his homework. Petros hated homework.

Captain Jack put away the gun and took out a small metal box with flashing lights. “Well, kid, this says you're not human. Your daddies, are they some kind of shape shifters or what?”

Petros giggled. “You're funny. Daddy is a mage, but he's called the Apprentice but he's not really so I dunno why he's called that. And Father is a great warrior with a glowing sword and a mithril shirt and everything. I've got a shirt like Father's, look.” The boy lifted his grey sweater to show the silver vest that never tarnished. “See?”

Jack looked down at the metal box. “Well, it's not a metal from this planet, so you must be an alien. I'd better get you to a cell in the Hub while we look for your parents.”

The little boy rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation. Grown ups could be so thick sometimes. “Gorfannon made it for me, silly. And if you're gonna put me in a cell I don't wanna be next to that weevil. I bet they've got bad breath and smell, not that I'm betting really.” The man before him scratched his head and put the box away. Then Petros heard his name being called out.

“That's Daddy. Now you're in trouble.”

The Captain spoke to the air about him. “Gwen, have St. Mary's Street closed off, we might have a major alien incursion. You're looking for an adult shape shifter, so it could be anyone.” Petros sighed again and Jack raised his eyebrows. “Are you going to come quietly?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders. “Sure.” He even allowed the man to take his hand and be led from the alley. For some reason, Petros felt safe in the Captain's presence, even if he was a thick grown up.



Merlin stepped onto the snow and looked behind him. The cottage of the fey had disappeared and the art student felt a little sad that he would not see the elf queen any more. With one hand he dipped into his satchel, more out of habit than anything else, to make sure his dagger was still there. It had been created by the Celtae Power of Smiths and could become a sword at a thought. He looked forward to the time when Arthur could at last see his swordplay, not that he wanted that to happen any time soon.

Arthur. The art student hoped that his blond prat was not too worried about his disappearance. He knew (he was not sure how) that he was now in a reflection of his real Earth and he also knew that he had to get to Gallantine for a great battle. That was where his fiancé would be, probably.

A crunch of snow behind him made him twirl, dagger in hand. Before him was a short kid with a Halloween mask and a dirty grey tunic on. The face was a green warty one, with sharp teeth and a black tongue that flickered nervously at him. Really though, this was no kid begging for treats; this was a goblin of Middle Earth that he had first encountered nearly a year ago. One that had stabbed him in the belly and started his crazy life of the supernatural and magic. Manc.

“Ooo, the not so powerful one has a little knife. Ooo, I'm scared, no really. Look what's Manc's got.” The nasty little creature took out a bone handed, black bladed, slightly curved long knife and slowly waved it menacingly in front of him.

“That disappeared in a ritual ages ago...”

“The shadows found it for Manc, yes they did, transported Manc in pain to this nasty city with its images of red dragons, yes oh yes, and the shadows promised that Manc can go back to Manc's tribe. Gonna finish off Manc's promise. Kill the nasty elvies, kill Cynan the Cunt and Celimdol the Fucking Queer.” The slimy tongue licked the goblin's lips and Merlin was almost certain that the little shit was near having an orgasm. “Manc's gonna gut them good and proper for attacking poor Manc's tribe.”

“Listen you piece of ugly, putrefying, useless pile of shit,” now Merlin was angry. No one threatened his friends. “I'm not the wuss from before.” He lunged with the dagger, making it become a sword in an instant. Manc was very quick, however, and the mage succeeded in only lopping off an ear.

“Ouch! Please don't hurt Manc. Manc is only following the nasty shadows' orders, yes Manc is. Manc promises to be nice from now on. No more cutting bits off Manc. Yeah?”

Merlin was having none of that and he certainly did not trust the goblin. “I'm not Frodo and you're certainly not Gollum, so forgive me if I don't trust one bit of your filthy, stinking hide. Put the blade down and piss off. You can live the rest of your life in the sewers of this city. It's more than you deserve.”

Too late, Merlin noticed the evil gleam in the bastard's eyes and the blade was thrown by the goblin with incredible force. It was buried hilt deep in the art student's stomach. In shock he fell back onto the snow and let go of his sword. “Not again,” he certainly did not whimper.

A loud crack reverberated around the alley, only slightly muffled by the blanket of snow. A neat hole appeared in the centre of Manc's forehead and he only had time to say the word “Bugger” before he crumpled to the floor, quite dead.

“Good,” Merlin hissed out through gritted teeth. The pain.

A beautiful, black haired woman couched beside him and lifted his head with strong, but gentle hands. “You're going to be okay, kid, you hear me?” she said not very convincingly in a strong Welsh accent. Where had Merlin seen her before? “I'm not having another death in my first week on the job. You hear me? Stay with me, please. So young...”

The cold made the student's teeth chatter. “I'm not the kid, Celimdol is.” He nearly giggled at the memory of him saying something similar to Lance when they had first met.

The woman ignored him and spoke to the air about them. “Jack, Owen? We need medical assistance and fast. Get here now.”

“I'm here,” said an American.

“DADDY!” Petros appeared at Merlin's other side and made to touch the knife. The dark haired woman grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

“You do not touch my fucking kid,” Merlin managed to say. “She's right though, Petros, and don't tell Father I swore, okay?”

The boy was near to tears. “I won't Daddy,” he whispered. He looked up passed Merlin to someone out of his sight. Most probably the American. “Please help him. Please?”

The woman chewed at her lower lip and then also looked up. “We daren't move him. Jack, could Owen get here in time?”

There was a pause and a sigh. “I'm afraid not Gwen. Perhaps the locals can get...”

Merlin zoned out the rest that was being said. Jack? Owen? Gwen? Could it be? The fan-boy in him wanted an autograph and he giggled this time. “Er, sorry. Look, you and Jack leave me to be alone with my son for a while. Like now.” He wanted them both out of sight, for they did not believe in magic and spells could go disastrously wrong with disbelievers around. They went to leave. “And Jack?” Merlin cried out.

“What, kid?” The time agent's voice was thick with emotion.

“Be nice to Ianto.”

That brought a chuckle. “You bet.”

When he was sure that the two members of Torchwood were out of ear shot, Merlin touched the cheek of his distraught son. “Babes, I need you to be brave for Daddy.” The little boy nodded silently. “When I tell you to, pull the knife out cleanly and Daddy will do a spell to cure himself, yeah?” Well, he hoped that plan would work. The pain would certainly be a distracting factor and he could not be sure magic would work on this parallel world, but it was the only plan he had.

“Okay Daddy. I love you.”

“And Daddy loves you. I'm so proud to have you as a son. So is Father, remember that. Now, it's only us two here, so...”

“Nay my lord,” came a whisper from further down the alley, “we are three.” Anharadeth. Merlin's hope rose. “You speak truly concerning your plan, for I will do what I can to ease your pain. Ask not how or why I came to be here, for such questions can wait.”

Merlin smiled. “My lady. Just a little cantrip to help things along.” His vision went golden for the briefest of moments and he knew that his little spell had worked. The alley was now encased in shadow, but those in the globe could see perfectly well. His vision, however, suddenly started to dim as if grey mists started to boil about him. “We've got to hurry. I'm being transported somewhere, most probably by the Dark. Pull the knife out, Petros. NOW!”

Pain exploded in his stomach and Merlin bit down hard on his tongue. He tasted blood. Then the pain suddenly eased to a dull ache as his vision glowed in a fierce gold. He brought his hand up and noticed dimly that they were encased in a leaf-green nimbus as he gently brought them down over his bleeding belly. In the background he heard a boy's whimper of pain, but he had his full concentration on the task at hand. It seemed like very long minutes, but was most probably only seconds, when the art student dared to sit up. The pain had gone, but he felt very tired. Petros still held the bone handled knife and he trembled violently, his eyes vacant. Anharadeth was at his side.

“Some affliction, I know not what. We must go back to your Whitwood House and help this poor child.” She handed over a large, iron key. “Professor Gaius said you would know what to do.” She then picked the limp form of Petros up into one arm and then retrieved her staff that had been leaning against a wall. “Yonder bricked up doorway is the way back to your home. Hurry, my friend.”

The urgency in the lore master's voice got through the rising panic that threatened to engulf Merlin. He stood, swayed a little and then followed her to the spot she had mentioned. His basic training with Gaius came into play and he touched the heavy key to the brick work and muttered a word of opening. Before them appeared a portal of shadow in the shape of a single door.

Without hesitation they walked forward and left the snow blanketed lane and the world of Torchwood behind.



A Dark Day: Conclave

Arthur rushed down stairs from his and Merlin's bedroom, fully equipped for an adventure, and took the lift to where the wine cellar and gym were located. In the often used weight room his friends waited; Anharadeth, Professor Gaius, Celimdol, Gawain, Gilli, Leon and his step-sister, Morgana. It was the last who spoke first.

“I've just heard from Alice. She's at Gwen's home looking after the twins. It seems Gwen, Lance and Bedwyr have gone to Dragonlands with that dog, Gelert. The vampire has a message for you.”

The blond shook his head. “It can wait. My son comes first.”

The seer looked nervously at the web mage and Gilli, his iPad clutched against his chest, gulped. “Er,” was all he said as Arthur towered in front of him.

“Tell me,” the Champion of Nodens commanded.

Gilli gave a brief glance at Morgana and she nodded once. For some reason this infuriated Arthur, but he kept his anger in check. He dreaded the answer.

“I, er, I did that trick and looked down the portal into the world it ends up and, well...Fuck, dude, I'm so sorry.” Gilli slowly turned his pad to show Arthur a clear picture of a lane covered in snow. Yellow light from a street lamp showed Merlin, his Merlin, on his back with a knife in his belly. A black haired woman was at his side and a dead, one eared goblin was nearby.

“No,” Arthur whispered and felt his eyes sting with unshed tears. “Not him.”

“We must act quickly, for this door way will fade soon,” said Anharadeth. “Lore master Gaius says that he has the power to allow only one to pass. I will go.”

Arthur ignored her and made for a door-shaped shadow on the white plastered wall. She gripped his bicep, hard, and turned him to face her. “He needs healing, and I have some skill in that. Do you?”

He sniffed and then took in a deep breath. “I love him so much,” he barely whispered.

“That I know and will save him, or he himself will if what you have told me is true about his skill. I need to do this, my lord, for at last part of my vision comes to fruition.”

It was his turn to, finally, nod his head. The lore master of Middle Earth hugged him briefly and, without any more said, stepped through the portal of shadow. With her went Arthur's life and hope and love for his idiot. After several long seconds, he took another long breath and turned to his sister. “What did Bedwyr have to say?”

“Only this; The Druid says Nodens expects you at Gallantine in all haste.”

They all waited for Arthur's response. He instinctively pulled out the bone amulet of a running dog that was always around his neck on a fine, steel chain and thought of Merlin. The gift from the Lonely Hunter did not glow this time, but he fervently hoped the Celtae Power would hear his silent prayer to help his lover and lost son, wherever they were. He then let the amulet drop and turned to them all, his resolve stiffened. Arthur was the Chosen of Nodens, was Third Officer of the Buckland Brewers.

“I can't command you to come with me.” He waited until the chorus of outrage subsided and then smiled. “Thank you, all of you. Gaius, I would like you to stay at Whitwood just in case Merlin comes back. Tell him where we've gone.”

The old tradition mage gave a smile of his own and acknowledged the command with a nod.

“Gilli, can you get our actual physical selves into the net? You have the skill. Time to visit Gorfannon at Conclave.”

The young teen chewed at his lower lip, but then seemed to come to a decision. “Sure thing boss. I won't be able to do much for a few days afterwards, but you can count on me. We don't have to go to the computer room. Got my pad so I'm ready to go. Everyone tooled up for a trip to Gallantine?” The web mage made sure they all nodded their heads and touched the screen of his iPad several times. All the while Arthur noticed that the kid's eyes shone a bright gold.

Without any preamble, they found themselves in an aeroplane made of pure blue light. They were in cartoon form that was near enough to their true forms. Morgana's image had rather large breast and she raised an eyebrow at the mage, then laughed at his very red, young teenage face. Leon gave the web mage a challenging stare.

“Er, just instinct, dude. Erm, sorry?”

The lupine hunter was not amused, but he let it go. They all sat in comfortable seats, except for Arthur who paced up and down the aisle until Celimdol placed a gentle arm on his forearm. The elf had on his worn leather jerkin and black, woollen trousers tucked into the ankle boots that he had made himself.

“At ease, my friend, though I know your mind races so. Remember what my dear brother taught you concerning the settling of the mind before battle, for I fear that such preparation will be needed soon.”

His voice was quiet, gentle and the blond allowed himself to take in a calming breath. He briefly closed his eyes and, when he opened them, saw that Celimdol and his lover, Gawain next to him, looked with concerned eyes. “What does your heart tell you?” Arthur knew that the elf would understand for he and Merlin had some bond that none could explain. The Warrior of Nodens was not jealous, for the two counted each other as brothers.

It was Celimdol's turn to close his eyes. When opened, he had the faint traces of a smile on his lips and his steel-grey eyes caught the blond's blue. “It tells me he yet lives, my lord. Beyond that I know not his condition, but I hope you have a little hope.”

Arthur matched the smile. “I do and...thanks.”

“We'll be with them soon, Arthur, and we'll find Petros,” urged Gawain.

The blond barely acknowledged that with a small sigh and finally sat down next to Gilli, who had fallen asleep. Arthur wondered who was flying the plane.



Eventually, after about half an hour had flown by, the plane about them dissolved and they landed on their feet before a large, crystal-like cathedral. Gilli had woken when he had landed heavily on his rump on a small platform of blue light. Embarrassed, the web mage stood and looked up at the lines of pure white energy that bristled across the azure sky. “Net's busy tonight,” he mumbled to himself and then led the little group into Conclave.

In the main, vast hall there were several cartoon-like figures at holo-globes (depicting several games, mostly Lord of the Rings Online, Dragon Age or World of Warcraft), placed at a discrete distance from the main object in the room; a large, black anvil that was festooned with golden symbols that pulsed with power. An image of a twelve foot high, bearded man stripped to the waist and wearing a leather apron appeared as the group approached. Arthur led the others by kneeling.

“Gorfannon,” the blond said in reverence, for it was the first time he had met the Celtae avatar of Smiths and he did not know what respect the being desired.

The voice was deep and booming, like a hammer striking a great, bronze bell. “I have no need of such niceties. Get up.” They did. “The forces of the Dark are but a hairs breath away from a great victory over the Light. You puny mortals think you can tip the balance?”

All the games stopped and the web and tech magi who had transported their psyche to their head quarters waited for the response.

Arthur narrowed his eyes, his anger rising. “We mortals will die trying.” He could not be sure, but the blond sensed that the muscular being nearly smiled.

“Well said and such is the power of Man. I have invested much power of my own in this avatar to form a connection to Terra Primus, home. Let the supernatural groups know that a new player has arrived and will protect their own,” the being looked about at the young magi and actually smiled, briefly. “I am Gorfannon, I am Conclave and the Dark will be hard pressed to conquer this world at least. I am Conclave, I say, and for this very reason I cannot go with you into battle, though I desire it.”

Arthur bit at his lower lip. This did not sound good. “My lord, will us mortals have any help?”

A long handled, plain hammer appeared in the Smith's hand and he struck the anvil once. It made no sound. “There are avatars in Draconis Terra already.” He struck the anvil again and a pure white globe of light appeared before them. “Nodens to the west. Rhiannon to the east. Math and Athena to the south. However they and the mortals they lead may not arrive in time. Bask has returned.”

A coldness entered Arthur's heart. He had fought and killed the avatar of the black dragons before and he did not relish doing it again. The anvil was struck once more and the globe strengthened and became bigger, nearly as tall as a man.

“Have heart, Chosen of Nodens, for two other avatars have entered what you call Dragonlands before the Dark had closed its net around that world.”

“Can you get us there if Dragonlands is cut off already?”

Gorfannon snorted and struck the anvil for the last time. With a hint of humour, the god said, “Enter the portal and you will find out.”

Arthur sighed; he would never get used to gods' humour. With one glance at the others to make sure they were ready, he jumped into the portal of power.



A Dark Day: The Knight Gains His Spurs

Owain fidgeted as he stood next to two templers at the silver gate of the Garden. For the most part they had been silent and had looked down at him with suspicious disdain.

“No armour,” one had said, in an iron suit chased with silver. An emblem of a blue horse's head had been enamelled over the right breastplate.

“And the long sword is of poor quality,” said the other.

It was then that what was obviously the leader of the Rhiannon templers, a old but muscular man with a scar down his face, had arrived and they shut up. “Prince Rane and the forgotten god, Mabon in mortal form, have arrived. Knight of the Rose, do you wish to speak with them?”

Owain had never met the two famous supermodels, but he had certainly heard of them. He wondered if half the stories of their partying were true. Then a thought struck him; would he ever know the touch of a woman, lose his virginity? He could well fall in the coming battle and, at the moment, it looked pretty hopeless from what he had heard so far...

The narrowing of the leader's eyes made him gulp.

“Er, no thanks. Nodens said that the garden is to protected until Arthur and Merlin arrive, so that's what I'm going to do.”

The gruff man gave a grunt of approval, or that is what Owain hoped it was, and left them.



After about forty minutes of waiting in the cold, Owain saw a troop of twenty men carrying halberds approach the main gates. Their leader was an ugly, large man who had a permanent sneer on his face and, when he and his men stopped ten paces from the closed entrance, he also looked down with disdain at the young knight.

“Open up in the name of the Prytanis, Lord Protector of Gallantine. We believe the Rose in danger and have come to investigate.”

The two templers on either side of him stayed silent, so Owain cleared his throat. “No.”

Owain could see the sneering man face became quite red with anger. “What, two sell swords who worship a horse-fucking goddess,” the two temples stiffened and one went for his sword, but still they stood their ground, “and a scrawny, nameless, boy are going to defy the writ of the Protector?”

“You want my name, arse hole? Forget it!”

The sneer was back. “Well, shitty-hole,” he slowly took off his gauntlet and threw it with contempt onto the cobbled ground before him, “I am Captain Nicandes of Masant and I call you to a duel for your insult. Dare to open up the gates and take up the challenge, you whelp of a whore?”

Owain trembled with anger and the templer on his right placed his hand on his shoulder. “He has rightly challenged you, but you are ill equipped and so will easily kill you. Also, the command of Nodens still stands.”

The young knight shrugged off the touch of concern and did his best to return Nicandes' sneer with one of his own. “You really want my name?” he half whispered with more courage than he felt. “It is Owain, Knight of the White Rose.”

Nicandes was about to reply when a song could be distinctly heard by them all. It was full of love, of courage and of sadness and Owain nearly wept at the sound of it. Suddenly, the teenager was encased in a holy sheen of white light and a suit of steel appeared around him. In one hand was a light, bright steel, round shield with the White Rose sigil upon it. The helm was a closed one and he, trembling once more, slowly lifted it. The young man looked down and was not surprised when he saw the emblem of the White Rose on his right breastplate.

“The Rose, we can't go against the Rose,” one of the city guards whispered in awe.

“Shut up, dog,” Nicandes replied, but he still looked uncertain as he picked up his gauntlet. To Owain he said, “We'll meet again. A challenge is set.” Without waiting for an answer, he led his men back the way they had come.

Owain let out a very long sigh.

“He'll still need a decent sword,” said one of the templers after a very long pause of silence between the three.

The other templer turned to his smiling companion and matched it. “We will get him one.”

Owain had never felt so proud.



A Dark Day: The Hammer and the Bow

Cynan walked along the great river in silence. Behind him, he knew, Myfanwy talked with the leader of the north men they had encountered at the Crystal Bridge (the man had called it Mathsowbridge). The settlement he had come across before, when he was last on Dragonlands, was now a sizeable palisaded village of at least six hundred families; the young leader, Bruthelor son of Denad, had explained that it had been just over a year since the hunter of Middle Earth had last visited them. In that year, Bruthelor and his band of warriors had seen a steady trickle of deserters from the White Witch's realm of Scanea. Two hundred men now marched with them to Gallantine.

Beside the hunter of the Buckland Brewers strode a dwarf, as silent as he. She was a female (the first Cynan had met) and and on seeing her at Mathsowbridge amongst her large consignment of warriors, gave her all courtesy, especially when he found out she was a queen and a priestess. This was the morn of the second day of their frustratingly slow march and her two day silence was suddenly broken.

“Your Lady Myfanwy can take care of herself, is what I be thinking.”

The elf looked down at her, but she steadily faced ahead of them as they marched. “You are most perceptive, your majesty.”

She chuckled. “Just Thelwen will do, laddie. Aye, my husband always said I knew what was going on in his thick skull...” Her voice trailed off in memory.

In a near whisper, Cynan replied “I did not have the pleasure of meeting him, but by all accounts he defended most bravely the son of Merlin and Arthur.”

Thelwen sighed. “Aye, I would expect no less.” She looked up then. “I'm just saying that you concentrate on protecting your friends with those swords and bow you confidently carry. Others will protect your lady, you have no fear of that at any rate. One less distraction?”

He gave a rare smile and nodded once in thanks. They continued in silence, but not for long. A figure scampered down a bare rowan and nodded to them both. The young elf addressed Cynan, but it seemed that it did not rancour the dwarf. “A lone figure of a man runs easily along the river's path towards you, my lord prince. He carries a bow and a long knife and is dressed in light leathers.”

I thank you,” responded Cynan as he fluidly strung his great bow and notched an arrow to it. “Tell your fellows to keep a watch only.”

With a nod, the elf melted into the foliage and the hunter grinned when he heard Thelwen mutter that such silence and camouflage was unnatural; he had heard many mutterings said in jest from his dwarven brothers in the Brewers. He then calmed his breath when the figure came round a bend in the path as he heard the heavy stomp of Bruthelor's tread coming up behind them.

“What is amiss?” asked the young warrior.

Cynan lowered his weapon and put it away onto his back. He then bowed as the stranger stopped in front of them no more than five paces away. “My Lord Nodens,” the elf said. The other two copied his bow.

“By the gods...” said Bruthelor in awe.

Nodens grinned. “Nay, just this one, Scanean.” The Power of Hunters and Healing then tilted his head as if he listened to something. “Something is amiss. We have a visitor,” he murmured as, in a bat of an eye, he brought his own ebony bow to the ready.

“But my lord, two thousand archers of the First Born are about us and...” Cynan stopped himself when the power before him raised a hand.

“Step back, my friends,” he said in urgency and the three did as was commanded of them.

Lightning flickered amongst the white clouds and a figure dropped from the sky to land where they had stood. He was armoured in grey chain and armed with a one handed war hammer, its head chased in silver runes. His hair was long and golden and his short beard was just the same. The stranger turned to the Celtae and, with a snarl and gruff voice, simply said “Nodens.”

The Lonely Hunter narrowed his eyes and drew back an arrow that magically appeared already notched. “Thor.”

Bruthelor dropped to his knees, but was ignored. The tension rose but then, when Cynan thought that all would come to blows, the two powers smiled, laughed and put away their weapons. They hugged each other.

“What's this? You go on a hunt and do not invite me?”

“I apologise, my friend, but I did not think you would be able to come.” The two parted and, as Thor lifted the awestruck Bruthelor to his feet, Nodens introduced them (also Myfanwy who had come up to her husband's side and clasp his hand in hers; her staff was in her other hand). “I had thought the dark had completely cut this world off from the other realms, but I see that it is not so.”

The muscular warrior shrugged. “The All Father found a way for one to enter Draconis Terra. I volunteered, naturally.” His face grew sombre. “Nodens, I itch for battle, but we dare not enter until the Dark show their hand. You have scouted the way we are to go and, if I am not mistaken, have a plan?”

Nodens looked to the two elves and a wan smile graced his lips. “There are some who will go before us and hold the line until our enemy show their hand. I have faith in The Lovers of the First Born; the hunter and the healer, for I have blessed them, though they know it not.”

Cynan knew his cheeks coloured at the scrutiny of the two powers before them, but Myfanwy just squeezed his hand and that simple gesture made him find his voice. “I am honoured, my lord. However, the road is hard and I sense time slips between our fingers.”

Thor roared with laughter and placed his hammer over one shoulder. “Forgive my mirth, but even in Asgard do the elves show caution. Have I not said my friend here always has a plan? Nodens, did I not see a mount blessed by your sister whilst I travelled here?”

In response Nodens whistled and a black, winged horse with mane and wings of silver landed gracefully next to him. “Nosaden, I ask that you bare these two of the First Born to Gallantine. The burden will not be too great, but they must reach that city by the end of the day.” He turned to Bruthelor, who still looked in wonder at the god of his forefathers. “You have in your possession a lance from the Battle of the White Dragons. Bring it here, for Prince Rane will have need of it before the end.”

The young norse bowed and ran down the ice-caked path to the main body of his warriors and returned carrying a black shafted lance with a mithril head. He reverently handed it to Cynan once the two elves were astride Nosaden.

Myfanwy at last spoke, her voice clear and certain. “My lords, we will not fail you. May Elbereth guide your steps and the favour of the Valar protect you.”

Thor bowed low to her and, when he straightened, had a sad countenance. “You are newly wed, fair lady, and I would not wish you to go into danger. Have I not noticed the two slim bands of gold about your fingers, newly placed I am certain?”

Nodens looked at the two elves in shock. “Are my eyes dimmed so that I did not notice? My lord Cynan, perhaps another should be chosen to accompany you on such a venture.”

The hunter of the Brewers nodded fervently. “You speak truly what my heart desires, my lord. Perhaps young Bruthelor here should...”

“MY LORDS!” Myfanwy, Cynan knew, was angry. “I will not let my new husband go without me. Always he strives ahead, alone, and I say nay to this. He will have his bride beside him.” She gave then all a steely gaze, her wrath ablaze.

Smiling, the two powers bowed.

“'Tis not for me to gainsay her wish. I have courage, but not hat much,” said Thor. “Nodens?”

“I am with you on this, my friend. My lady, seek out the Staffwielders who will arrive shortly from Larkhos, for the Dark has not the wherewithal to block their arrival. We will have need of your healing skills before this winter is ended, if I am a good judge.”

Nosaden spread her wings and stomped the frozen earth, eager to depart. “We look to your arrival, my lords,” said Cynan and, with a wave of his hand in response to those on the ground, urged the winged mount of Rane forwards and upwards. Myfanwy, when a few moments had passed, whispered in his ear.

“I love you, my lord, my husband.”

The hunter felt a warmth in the very centre of his being and gracefully touched the hand that held onto his stomach. As Nosaden soared into the air he was resolved that no hair of her head would ever know harm while he lived.

The winged horse neighed as if in agreement.



A Dark Day: A One Way Portal

The old, white haired man pursed his lips and felt for the boy's pulse a second time. He gently replaced the small hand over the chest that very slowly rose and fell. Merlin was frantic.

“Gaius?”

“The cantrips I have used have put in a kind of stasis, but I cannot cure him. I've read his aura and it seems that there is a battle between shadow and light going on inside him.” He sighed. “That is beyond my skill.”

“As it is mine, my lord,” said Anharadeth. She looked as Merlin felt, exhausted. They had tried everything to not only cure his son but also take the bone handled knife from him, but to no avail.

“Then I've got to get him somehow to Gallantine. The Cup of Nodens is there. The painting in your labs?” Merlin looked hopefully at the professor. There was a painting of The Sanctuary Inn that Morgana had used to get her and Gwen to Larkhos Island in dream form. It seemed like years ago, but was in truth only several months. Merlin's hope fell at the slight shake of the old man's head.

“My labs are south of the river and I'm not sure how long the stasis will hold.”

“Is there no other portal close at hand?” urged the lore master.

The art student was about to shake his own head, but then an idea came to him. “Arthur used a door way from Sanctuary to Whitwood by using a painting of mine. Its in my studio, but...but Tarrion told my fiancé that it is a one way door. I'm willing to try it though.”

Gaius bundled up Petros in his arms and they hurriedly made their way up the narrow staircase to Merlin's studio. Moonlight streamed through the two large windows and gave the room an eerie look, but the student did not flick the light switch; he thought that perhaps the natural ambience would help him in what he was about to attempt. The picture itself showed a scene of The Lounge of the inn with two comfortable looking armchairs, a roaring fire and a counter to one side where drinks could be served from. For some reason, Merlin had not put in any figures for it did not seem like the right thing to do.

The young tradition mage took in a deep breath and gathered his power. His vision grew golden and he uttered a word of opening, as did Anharadeth in what he rightly assumed was the dwarven tongue of Middle Earth. Agonisingly long moments went by and Merlin nearly gave up, but then motes of rainbow hue lights started to emanate from the painting.

“Silver dragon magic,” Merlin whispered in awe, for he knew that this was different from the other lights he had witnessed and only now realised. When it was motes of white light, then the gods were using their power.

Without any preamble, the four found themselves in the room depicted and the youth knew that he had somehow had had help. It had been too quick, too easy. Before them was the green skinned barkeep, sword in hand and dressed in black leathers. The young man glanced with concern at the limp form of Petros, still in Gaius' arms.

The whole building shuddered.

“You're under attack?” The barman nodded at Merlin's question. “It's The Dark. I think it's a trap for me and my son. I'm sorry, I can't stay and defend Sanctuary. I've got to get Petros to Gallantine. Can you help? Please?”

The young warrior, called a prince by The Druid, hesitated for only a moment and then finally nodded. He beckoned them to the wooden staircase and led them up it to a long landing. When he opened one door amongst many, they saw a small garden covered in snow. Anharadeth gasped, but they did not tarry for long at the impossible sight. With urgency they headed for a small cottage and, once inside, the green skinned warrior opened one of three wooden, plain door. Beyond it was a vision of a gravel path, a white rose and a statue of a hunter with his dog, a brass bowl was at their feet. There were also figures of many people milling about and Merlin saw Arthur. The young mage gave a cry of delight and made to rush forward, but the barkeep stopped him.

“What's wrong?”

The silent warrior bit his lower lip and slowly produced a dagger as fat tears slowly rolled down his cheeks. This door was different. This portal needed some sort of sacrifice. Before Merlin could stop him, the barman plunged the dagger into his stomach and slowly fell forward towards the scene. Motes of rainbow lights bathed them, but soon started to fade.

“Move!” shouted Gaius and they all plunged forward.

A Dark Day (part one)

Title: Dark Day (part one)
Word Count: 3889
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language (overall)
Summary: A great battle aproaches and, unbeknown to him, Arthur's allies from across the multiverse gather... Also, Merlin goes missing , but Arthur recieves a little hope...

The prelude can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/20/


A Dark Day: The Sidh of the Garden

Merlin felt warmth on his eyelids and he knew that it was the sun. It had been sunny on that winter's day when he and Arthur had shopped for Christmas presents, but this was a different warmth. He opened his eyes and raised a hand to shield them from the soft, yellow light and then sat up to look around. A small walled herb garden was about him and he was on a gravel path that encircled a pond that had a light-grey stone fountain in the shape of a water nymph. The water trickled from an untarnished silver jar that she carried on her shoulder and it tinkled with soothing music.

Arthur.

He stood in panic and cried out his lover's name.

Loose grass and twigs from the lush, green lawn swirled in a little vortex and coalasceced into a six foot high woman with whisps of grey hair that sprouted from her scabby head. Her nose was long and crooked and the art student noticed that she had a few impressive warts on her left cheek and that she had three teeth; two on the bottom black gum and one on the upper, all tinged with an algae-coloured green. He imediately put up a protective shield and it glimmered blue before him.

The thing cackled. "So, it has power. A mage to steal some from our homestead I doubt not. What shall we do with it, eh? Splinter its bones and suck the marrow from them? Eh? Eh?"

Merlin gulped and the transulent shield wavered.

"Granny Greenteeth! A thief he is not I sense. Stop tormenting him, I command thee." A tall, lithe and barefoot woman came from a small cottage that Merlin had not noticed before. She was dressed in long white robes that shimmered in the sun and her golden hair was loose and just as long. She smiled. "Ah yes, the fabled one for this time, this age. Welcome Myrddyn Gwynfawr." A small frown appeared on her otherwise smooth brow. "Or perhaps you go by a different name in these polluted times?"

Merlin shook himself from the trance that her beauty had cast upon him and bowed. As he did so the blue shield disappeared; it would have been rude to keep it up. However, wary of 'Granny', he kept the spell that the Power of Magic had drummed into him in the back of his mind.

"Ladies, forgive my tardiness. I came here by mishap and did not mean to intrude." Inside he congratulated himself on his eloquence. Another thing drummed into his skull whilst spending thirty magical years with his patron, Math, and the Staffwielder Tarrion.

Granny giggled and straightened what hair she had with filthy fingers that ended with sharp, black talons. The beautiful woman smiled.

"Nay, my lord, we are honoured by your presence. You are most welcome to the Garden of the Covent, otherwise known as Lundenwic. Alas, many of our troope are amongst the mundanes this winter's eve, but I hope that I make a suitable host. Come." She turned her back on him and gracefully started to walk back to the cottage. Granny blew him a kiss and melted back into the gravel and lawn. He hesistated at first, wanting to somehow let Arthur know that he was all right, but then shrugged his shoulders and did what had been asked of him.

Once inside he saw the building consisted of one tidy room with a few wooden chairs and a table that had a blue glass bowl upon it. The lady sat at the table and, with one graceful hand, bade him to sit in the other. He wiped his feet on the welcome mat, put his duffel coat and satchel on the hook by the door, and sat. She waited.

"Oh," Merlin stumbled, "sorry, my name is Merlin Emrys."

"And I am Ellendyl, High Lady of Londinium's fae and leader of all the sidh who survive in this cancerous town. I see now that it was not by mishap that you have come here, but please tell me how you found this place."

Merlin let the knowledge that he sat across from an elf, a sidh lord no less, and was in the Dreaming (as the fey called the Umbra and Deep Umbra) sink in. He then took in a deep breath to gather his thoughts and began. "I...I'm shopping with Arthur for presents, for the Winter's Solstice, my lady. I was going to surprise him with a kiss, just felt like it, and I swung around a lamp post in Covent Garden, near the opera house, then...then I had the urge to do it again, and then a third time." He frowned in memory, as if it was a dream that was tantilisingly out of reach.

Ellendyl gently nodded her head in understanding and put up a hand to quieten him. "Do not be troubled so, for I deduce that you sensed the doorway to this abode and entered it unknowingly." She turned to the only window of the room and Merlin followed her gaze. It was now dark outside and the art student shivered. The elf waved one hand and candles sprang into life. "Time and events marches on and not even I can forsee the final outcome. A friend of mine I have sent to Sir Owain, for his hour has come. For now, peer into the bowl of seeing, my lord."

Merlin looked back at her and saw that she, despite the candle light, was wreathed in shadow. He gulped and glanced at the blue bowl. It was now filled with clear water. Without breath or any other outside agent, the surface rippled and an image of a city formed. This city was clear and pure and alone; white walls viened with platinum, tall spires with blue flags fluttering in the wind, walled garden protecting a rose. Gallantine. He noticed, or rather sensed that something was not quite right. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a shadow move within the city and his heart became heavy with anxiety.

The image disappeared and the light from the candles became brighter. The Sidh Lord shed silent tears. "Alas," she whispered, "our doom is upon us and only now do I see that your arrival portends a dark time for us all. I and my kind will abandon this city to go to the last battle and wrest control of the Henge of Stone from the magi who control it and my spirit will not survive. I have seen it."

Merlin realised that he too was crying and he wiped the wetness from his eyes with the back of one hand. "Let me go with you, good lady. I will not have you fall in battle."

She smiled sadly and shook her head. "Nay, my lord, for you have a far greater battle ahead. I have seen my end for many a century and will not balk at the last. I only wish I could see if my sacrifice will do any good." She sighed then and a heavy silence came between them. At last, and with great gentleness, her hand came up and wiped a new tear from the student's sharp cheek. "Grieve not, for I hope my spirit will join Oberon himself. We will see."

She stood and he followed her example.

"You will not be able to go back the way you came, for not all the fey work for the Light and a trap has been laid for you. However, the ley lines are unusually powerful and I sense for a good reason; it is a time for travel, me to my fate, an undead lord to his, and you to your beautiful son and then onto the City of the Rose. Beware, oh Merlin of London via Wales, beware I say of the dagger that was and now is. Help will be at hand, so I urge thee to hold on 'till the very last. Do not give up hope, for the Lady of the Stars will be near at hand." The elf's eyes had shone with a golden light, but now faded and the Apprentise knew that a powerful foretelling had been uttered; his friend Myfanwy had done such things and even Morgana on occassion. "Prepare yourself, Merlin of Math."

He quickly put on his coat and slung the satchel that contained his books and dagger over one shoulder. "I'm ready, I think. But...Arthur."

"I am not privy to the designs of the Light, but I am sure he will find his own way to Gallantine. Remember, a treacherous shadow lurks in that fair city and may well cause the end of your battle before it has even begun. Be wary and do not fall. My heart will be with you."

"And mine with yours." Merlin stepped forward and gave her a hug and she kissed him on his cheek.

"All the power of this abode and all others in Londinium will be used to get you to the White Rose, for I have such power and knowledge. Farewell, young mage."

Merlin nodded in understanding; this was the time when the last of the sidh would leave London. With a heavy heart he opened the simple wooden door and saw not the Garden of the Covent before him, but a snow covered lane with a lone lampost. The view was one of this age, but not necessary the same world. He looked back into the room with a question on his lips, but saw only shadow. The candles had gone out and the Lady Ellendyl was nowhere to be seen.

He took in a deep breath and stepped forward.



A Dark Day: A Vampire Calls

John knocked on the door. "Remind me again," he said to his friend, "why we are here? There is the Case of the Red Banshee to continue..."

Sherlock sighed impatiently and, as he thumped the wooden front door to Whitwood House three times, deigned to answer. "Important allies come first. Merlin has disappeared and a strange visitor is in this house." John stopped himself from asking the detective how he knew these things. He was not in the mood for any impatient sighs or sarcastically raised eyebrows. "And I wish you would stop giving romantic titles to our cases. My work is science, not some mortal's wet dream blog."

The good doctor, stifling a grin, went to use the dark iron knocker once more but the door opened. There stood a dishevelled Arthur in jeans and white sweater; no boots or socks. John had not met the handsome young man before, but had often seen his photo in the papers and glossy magazines. He had read that his father, Uther Pendragon, had recently died (though the doctor knew that really the man had been recruited by King Marcus into vampiric society). Watson cleard his throat and extended his hand. The blond spoke first.

"Mister Holmes? Have you come to help us find Petros and Merlin?"

"I think it's best if I ask the questions," muttered Sherlock as he shouldered his way into the great hall. John sighed. He shook the confused Arthur's hand and followed. The hall had several people in it, either sat in elegant chairs or standing; Morgana and, John presumed rightly, her lover named Leon stood beside her chair, a tall man with dark brown hair and wearing a long black leather overcoat; an elf with black hair, obviously nervous with two vampire visitors before him (a powerfully built mortal stood protectively next to him, perhaps Gawain); a very tall woman dressed in a dark blue dress and carrying a staff with a sapphire somehow attatched to its top. Sherlock slowly turned three-hundred and-sixty degrees.

"You," the detective eventually pointed at the tall woman, "are not of this world." He put up a hand to stop her from answering and she narrowed her eyes dangerously. To Arthur he said, "You have spirit wards over the door and windows, but they are at least four months old." Sherlock swept the thought aside with his raised hand.

"Show off," muttered John. Arthur opened his mouth to speak.

"Shut up," commanded the detective and went down on all fours. "If only you had contacted me before you trampled all over the evidence like a herd of elephants, Arthur...no wait!" He took out his magnifying glass. "Yes, I see," he said quietly to himself and stood. "That," Sherlock pointed to a single door by the stair case, "a lift that goes down to the lower levels?" Arthur nodded dumbly. "Stay here."

Sherlock took the elevator down and several minutes went by. Watson cleared his throat a second time. "Nice place you have here," he said to Arthur, but the blond shook his head, confused.

"Do you think he will find them? Please Doctor Watson, I'm at my wits end here. My family is under attack."

"We'll do what we can, Mister Pendragon."

A thin teenager with mousy hair and a long sleeved tee shirt with the words Rage Against the Machine printed in red on it came from a far left door. "There's a weird and rude dude-leech downstairs," he said.

Arthur let out a long breath. "It's okay Elie. He's helping."

Elie shrugged his shoulders and went back the way he came just as Sherlock reappeared from the lift. "Your adopted son of blond hair, bleached I deduce, and wearing black Vans; I found a loose thread on the carpet here. There is a dimesional doorway in the gym and your son went through it. Not to another world but to an alternative Earth. I must put my study on the different types of dimesion doors on my web page sometime..."

"Not that anyone will read it," John muttered. Sherlock, as usual, raised an eyebrow but otherwise ignored the remark. He was on a roll.

"I can't help you further, but I suggest that the Tradition Mage you know, Professor Gaius, is called in to reactivate the portal, though it is weak and will only allow a few through until it fully recharges. That shabbily dressed teen I encountered in your computer room is a tech mage...no, a web mage...ah yes, the one famous for transporting the physical being into the net. Yes, perhaps he will find some way for others to travel to wherever you are going." He abruptly turned to the beautiful elf and, to John's surprise, spoke in a gentle tone. ""You have recently revieved a blood ritual from one of my kind. It saved your life, I expect, but have no fear because John and I will not use our influence on you." Both elf and the muscular man, a lupine John sensed, relaxed. "The effects of the vitae will wear off and soon. As to Merlin...well, he visits the sidh of Covent Garden and should be well looked after. Where he will end up, however, is anyone's guess."

Arthur found his voice. "Thank you Sherlock, I think. You've given me some hope."

Sherlock gave a rare smile. "I would go with you, but there is a mad scottish sidh to track down. A red banshee as John has called it." The famous consulting detective cut off any further conversation by walking briskily to the door. "Come on John, we're wasting time."

Watson rolled his eyes, waved a farewell to everyone in the hall, and then followed his friend and lover out of Whitwood House.



A Dark Day: Evil Flying Things

Rane griped the arms of the chair tightly, his knuckles white. Mabon laughed, as usual, but not unkindly so. "I will never get used to travelling in these evil contraptions."

"Just a little turbulance." The Power of Youth in mortal form then frowned.

Rane gulped. This was not good. "What? What is wrong?"

"This is...weird."

"What? Do not go all mysterious on me. What is weird besides this unnatural mode of transport?"

Mabon gave a smile and patted his fellow supermodel's forearm, reassurringly he hoped. "I sense something. I may be in mortal form for a year and a day, but I still have some skill." Mabon unbuckled the belt and stood.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Rane made ready to get up and Mabon was reminded of the courage of youth. The boy, of late come into his power as prince of Gwylad-yr-Hydref before his time, was of so much honour that he sometimes matched even Arthur. Rhiannon had chosen well her champion.

"Aye," the Power of Youth answered, "and bring the bags besides yourself. I..."

Before he could continue a very polite and determined steward was in front of him. The smile was fixed. "Sir, Mister Mabon, if you could return to your seat. The captain specifically said that all passengers..."

Mabon gave a billion watt smile. "But I thought my friend and I could at last experience the Association of the High Mile."

The steward frowned. "Er," he began in a whisper so as not to let the other important passengers know what was being discussed, "you mean the mile high club?"

Mabon stifled a laugh. "Ah yes, that is it. The bags that my young and very attractive and famous companion carries have certain toys that we want to try out. I am sure you understand and, perhaps, later on you and I...?"

The steward, a middle-aged and not unhandsome blond man, licked his lips then cleared his throat. "I, well, of cause. Anything you say, Mister Mabon."

Smiling as Rane and the Celtae power went passed the steward, Mabon muttered "Thank you. Oh, and I sense that you will find your life partner in London. That is, if you like estate agents."

They both reached the toilet and Rane locked the door behind them. "What now?"

Mabon raised an eyebrow and laughed out loud when the pale blond youth let out an exasperated sigh. "Be at ease, Chosen of Rhiannon, for I sense Gofannon's work here. Ever the artificer, he has created a door for us to step through, but how to open it..." The god then chuckled and pushed down on the flush. Motes of white lights started to swirl about them...



They found themselves in a well maintained garden that had a blanket of snow covering it. There were statues of various dieties amongst the silver birches (though none of the power-in-mortal form, unfortunately) and a quiet song was in the back of the minds of the two youths. Mabon saw the White Rose and nodded his head towards it. "I have seen your shade on Terra Primous, oh holy one, and have donated much to your order to acquire the garden," he whispered and then acknowledged the mortal and immortal beings around them who knelt on their kneels.

"An illustrious company and a story to be told of why we are here, methinks. Arise, good people of the Light, arise I say for we are all equals here. Come, Lancelot of the Silver Lake, I refuse to hug in welcome my chosen if has wet knees."

Laughing, Lance stood and returned the embrace tightly. Gwen kissed the god on the cheek and recieved one in return. Mabon then turned to the two immortals; the more ancient still knelt and the younger vampire that looked much like Merlin nibbled nervously at his lower lip. "Those fallen into immortal shadow, I introduce you to Rane who at last is back on his home world, though not home yet. Rane, here is the first Arthur's strongest warrior, Bedwyr, and the mage Ambrose."

Rane bowed at the waist as Bedwyr did the same.

Ambrose found his voice. "Are you another Celtae Power?" He said to Mabon. "Lord Nodens said more would come."

"Aye, that he is, vampire," answered Rane, the large bags at his feet, "and a dear friend of mine. I will be watching you closely."

Mabon laughed out loud and clapped his young companion on his back. "At ease, my Horse Lord, for we are all friends here. Which brings us to the last of our merry band, who I alas has once more gone down on one knee. Arise I say again, captain of my sister's guard. It is commendable that you observe the forms of rank and station, but not in this foul weather. Not when we are on the field of battle, for I sense that it is so. Tell me, why this gathering? What has befallen this fair city?"

The older warrior whith a scar down one cheek got up and stood stifly. "My lord, brother to the Lady Rhiannon, Gallantine is under siege by the White Witch. Her armies as we speak draw up on the fields before our walls. However, I am charged by Nodens to protect this garden until Prince Arthur and Lord Merlin arrive."

Mabon pursed his lips. "I see," he whispered, but any further talk was inturrupted by a soft white light that started to glow above the White Rose. It formed into a middle aged woman dressed in a sea-green robe. Despite his earlier admonitions, Mabon immediately went down on one knee and bowed his head. The others followed his example. "My mother, you honour us."

"Son of mine." Her voice was stern and the Power of Youth stopped himself from sighing. "Your punishment of being in mortal form was not an excuse for galavanting around and have the whole of Terra Primus lust after your body. You even drag young Prince Rane into your schemes!"

Mabon dared to look up. "Modron, Lady of Hearth and Motherhood, I was getting bored and it is a living and..." He shut up when he noticed her thunderous look.

"Enough! You are coming with me. It is too much that avatars of my children may well fall to the Dark, but our enemy will not bag the true essence of a Celtae power as well."

The young god burned with fury and he stood. "You think me some base coward that I would abandon my friends at the eve of battle? I say no to this and will stay!"

"INSOLANT CHILD!" Mabon stood firm against the blast of holy power. The mortals, however were knocked back and, Mabon saw out of the corner of his eye, small whisps of smoke rose from the flesh of the two trembling vampires. Modron took in a deep breath to calm herself. Surprisingly, she smiled and turned to Gwen. "You are a fine mother, my lady, and I am tempted to become your patron; we cannot let the boys have all the fun."

Gwen giggled and got up before she curtseyed. "I thank you, Modron."

"Your children are blessed by myself and Nodens now, and you will become even more proud of them, if that is possible." The major power of the Celtae then frowned at Lance, who also gulped. "I charge you to look after my impetuous son, or we will be meeting again." She then faded from their sight and they all got to their feet.

"Well," Mabon said into the silence, "that went better than I hoped."

He laughed in response to Rane's look that said "You've got to be kidding me."
Title: Tales of The Gibbet III (part four - final)
Word Count: 4047
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language
Summary: Merlin, with Arthur's help, has to fight to protect his district and The Gibbet!

The previous episode of The Gibbet series can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/03/21/

Part one: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/27469.html

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/02/

Part Three: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2014/01/02/

4.

Merlin ran up to the guards at Southgate that led into the city proper. “The Indirans, the Indirans are coming. Sound the alarm.”

One of the guards, a short man with muscles on his muscles, wrinkled his nose. “You smell of shit. Piss off!”

Nice.

“I've been in the sewers avoiding wererats and, er, other things.” Perhaps that wasn't the best start.

“'ang on a mo,” said Shorty's partner, a tall man also with muscles on his muscles. “You're the keep of that pisspot of an inn, ain't yer?”

Merlin despaired of the fact that the city guard recruited mainly from the countryside. Not waiting to have a long, or short, conversation that would only end with his arrest, he sidestepped the two and ran up the main street with as much speed as possible. He was the quicker and more nimble of foot and easily scampered up the side of a wine merchant's to get to the roof. With Flight in one hand for great leaps and Mute to make him silent, he sailed from one building to another in the direction of the agora. Stalls were being set up by traders, members of the Alms Acquiring Association (otherwise known as the Beggars' Guild) were jostling for the best positions, and children were shovelling up horse shit to be sold to whoever would buy it (the one business not controlled by the guilds, yet).

The master thief put his daggers away and jumped down from atop a small stables to mingle with the growing crowd and snatch glances at The Guildhouse, its white walls and columns now pink in the full glory of dawn. He had to get in there somehow; if the city guard was not going to listen to him, then the actual law masters will have to do. He definitely didn't like the plan, but an immanent invasion left him little choice. Two guardsmen stood at the closed doors (which meant the Guildleaders were still in session) and he rubbed a hand over his face and closed his eyes, desperately trying to think of a plan to get inside.

“You're getting careless. And you smell.”

Merlin recognised the lilting voice and opened his eyes as he turned. Gawain, dressed in a russet tunic, black trousers and worn but well made boots (he was going to suffer in the heat later that day) stood with a white kilt, a cake of soap and a pair of sandals in his hands. The innkeeper stripped his stained clothes off and took the soap before plunging into the luke-warm and not too scummy water of a nearby horse trough.

“Arthur?”

“At your mother's.”

“Leon and his Wolves?”

“Your mothers.”

Merlin rose both eyebrows at that. “The Gibbet?”

“Captain Justineas and his men have just about drunk and eaten through your stock and nearly got into a drunken brawl with a few of Cedones' men, who are very hot by the way; my cock hasn't been that sore since...”

“Anyway...Betty?”

“Have got some people to barricade Docklands Bridge. She thinks that's where the main fighting will be. She's also made sure young woman and children are kept with provisions in any of the district's cellars; the City's doors are now closed and barred.”

Merlin gritted his teeth in anger. Docklands and Dishwater were to be sacrificed then. He rightly assumed that someone high up in the city guard had made that decision. Where was Larkhos' navy? The last king had taxed everyone nearly into starvation (literally) to build up the most powerful navy in the known world. Based in the natural harbour and sea port of Palast, it should have been continually patrolling the waters around Larkhos and the shipping lanes to and fro from named island. Where the fuck was it? He had a bad feeling in his stomach and it wasn't from the dodgy pie he had pilfered last night. He put on the clean kilt and strapped on the sandals and then gave the soap to a beggar.

“I need to get inside.” Merlin looked at the two guards at the bronze doors. They were bored and playing dice.

Gawain grinned. “Come with me. I don't mean that literally of course. Well, if you ever get bored of Arthur...” He raked Merlin's near naked sinewy form with his eyes and his tongue licked at his lower lip. In response, the master thief's eyes narrowed, so the bard grinned again, shrugged his shoulders and took the lead around the back of Guildhouse.

Here was a lone guard, a young woman just as bored as the others up front. A single door was open and servants, traders and members of the Runners' Guild were constantly entering and leaving. “As he unbuttoned his tunic to show off his abdominals and chest (shaved, of course), Gawain started to walk forward and said, “A bit on the ugly side, but she has the right bits...”

The bard simply kissed the guard and she more than reciprocated. Merlin knew that bard magic was powerful where seduction was concerned but this was impressive. Or perhaps it was Gawain doing what he did best. The innkeeper picked up a crate of oranges and acted like any other slave doing his job. The kitchens were cavernous and a hive of activity. The cook, a big man with a no-nonsense meat cleaver in his hand, scratched a middle finger on his chin and nose and then surreptitiously pointed with his thumb in the direction of an open doorway with a narrow flight of stone steps going up and curving to the right.

Merlin nearly grinned; it was good to be part of The Family with the bonus of having no questions asked. He took the steps three at a time, passed a few wooden doors until he finally came to a landing that overlooked the main hall. Here, roughly three hundred dignitaries in all their finery sat around circular tables while being served food and drink; obviously some early breakfast had been called for.

A young woman dressed in white sat on an elaborate throne made of gold and studded with emeralds and sapphires; the late king's main seat of power. She spoke with no little authority and her voice carried to every corner of the hall. “My lords and ladies, guests from other city states...if I may have your attention? I believe, before we broke our fast, the delegate and esteemed guest from Arcades had the floor. I call upon Lord Liches to address the ekklesia.”

A small, self important, bald-headed and skinny man robed in a dark blue chiton stood. He was at a table obviously surrounded by his own slaves and scribes. Merlin noticed Cedones and a few of his men a few tables down, very bored; despite the rising heat, they still wore their armour and red cloaks... Merlin frowned at that last fact.

“I say again, and with much stress upon my words gentle nobles from other great cities, the Indiran Empire has no desire for war. Trade, just trade is its only motive and I propose...”

“That's a lie!” Shouted Merlin and he, ignoring the convenient wooden steps, jump from the balcony to land on the mosaic floor (said mosaic depicted Poseidon in all his watery glory) with acrobatic finesse. “Indira attacks with many ships at the City's door.”

Liches snarled. “Arrest the assassin. He and his lover, Will...I mean Arthur would doom us all.”

“You! You're the thin man,” shouted out Merlin as he pointed an accusing finger. “You conspire with wererats to kill off Larkhos' magi and leave the city defenceless. I saw you last night, cockscomb. And you try to get my Arthur killed...” He then thought that this all might be wrong and that this was not the thin man conspiring to kill Arthur and get rid of the Wolves and consorting with wererats. He realised his mistake when the weasely little man smiled.

“I have been in a closed session at this illustrious Guildhouse all night. This fool is obviously deranged. Arrest him!”

A guard knocked the end of a pike into the thief's abdomen. Winded, Merlin sank to his knees. Another guard grabbed his hair and pulled his head back; a sharp short sword was placed at his throat. Through a blurred vision, Merlin could see an ashen faced Uther shakily get to his feet.

“I sent my son home. He's...dead?”

Merlin graciously allowed the guards to constrain him and dared to turn his head slightly towards the magistrate. “He lives my lord, but it was a close call. The Indiran Armada is still at the city's docks though!”

Bedlam ensued with men and woman standing and shouting and wailing, so the master thief could not see Uther's reaction to news of his son. He hoped Arthur's father was comforted that His Hotness was still alive.

The Speaker of the House struck a large wooden mallet on one arm of the throne, shouting for order (a loose sapphire chipped off and rolled across the floor; it landed on the crotch of Poseidon, but unfortunately a serving slave saw it and surreptitiously picked it up before Merlin could form a plan to get at it). Cedones was grinning and his men were asking if there was going to be some fighting, at last. Liches scowled in Merlin's direction and whispered several things to several of his scribes.

“SILENCE!” and there was, a shocked kind. Tarrion had stood and struck his iron-shod staff once on the ground; blue sparks lit up the floor at his feet briefly. “The innkeeper is innocent of all charges against him, I believe he speaks the truth about the attack on our city, the obvious question concerns our navy, and I have things to do so you will have to rely on the few magi you have left in the city.”

“Master Merlin will have his inn back, though what laws he has broken today I will leave to Guildmaster Uther to settle in his court, eventually, once the city's gates have reopened,” the woman on the throne snarled. “Enough of your parlour tricks here Guildmaster Tarrion. Remember, no spells can be uttered in Guildhouse.”

Guildmaster Tarrion grinned evilly (well, Merlin thought it was evilly; he tried to do a sign to ward off evil which would have involved picking one's nose and flinging any snot at the magic using evil one. Sadly, the thief had a sword at his throat and, well, this was the leader of all the magi of the city after all). “I regret to inform you all that the late royal dynasty did not figure draconic magic in the designs of this house.” With that said, the mage uttered a brief word and vanished in a cloud of multi-coloured motes of light.

Phrat, who had been sitting next to the Guildmaster, rolled his eyes and stood. “Show off,” he muttered and shuffled over to Merlin. “Time for you to escape this place and get back to Dishwater. I'll join you later with as many warlocks and witches I can muster.”

Merlin put on a false smile. “I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment.”

Phrat snorted and then an eyebrow rose.

The master thief sighed; he was sure he was going to break yet more laws. He shifted his weight slightly, bit down hard on the thumb of the sword wielding guard, elbowed the one holding his hair in the groin, stood and unsheathed Flight, took a run toward one side of the hall, jumped and just caught hold of the sill of a small open window, pulled himself up and wriggled through said window, and jumped (with an expert roll on landing) down to the agora outside.

Gawain said “Finished?”

Merlin grinned. “Let's back to Dillarel District. You can charm the gate guards.” What he didn't say was that he wanted to keep his daggers quiet for a while; he had used a lot of their power for the day already.

* * *

They could see smoke billow from a few warehouses over at Docklands and the noise of fighting; the clash of steel, the cries of the dying.

Leon gulped and gripped his daggers ever more tightly.

“You'll do fine,” reassured Merlin. “Just stick close to me.”

They stood on the stone bridge at a ramshackle barrier made of two upturned wagons and barrels of rotting fish that barred the way into Dillarel. Cedones had persuaded the gate guards to let him and his men through and the Spartrans were somewhere in the district (the gods knew where, but Merlin was glad they were on his side and itching for a fight). The innkeeper had looked in on his mother earlier that morning and found her organising her girls and boys around the house, each armed with various kitchen utensils. Arthur was nowhere to be found and, on asking about his whereabouts, was informed rather tersely (Merlin had thought) that he was a grown boy and could look after himself. Betty had rounded up the Wolves and other street urchins with a pile of stones to be thrown at the enemy, although they all looked as nervous as Merlin's little pickpocket.

Leon looked up and bit at his lower lip. Then he cleared his throat and grinned. “Nah, you stick close to me, innit like.”

Gawain strummed a few notes on his small harp and all who could hear it had settled nerves. With the knots of unease in his stomach eased, Merlin nodded at the bard in thanks. He then, because he knew it annoyed the small tearaway, ruffled Leon's dirty hair. He then sighed and looked over at Docklands. “I wish Arthur was here,” he whispered.

“Did someone call my name?”

The innkeeper turned his head and smiled. Arthur stood looking more hot and sexy than ever before. Next to him stood the paladin called Lance, a determined set to his features. Behind them were the five other Guild Elite Troopers (one was a woman in a full helm and wielding a two-handed axe); each one for the seven districts of Larkhos.

“You look...” Merlin flicked his gaze over the burnished armour and chain, Moonblade strapped to the warrior's back, the clean blond hair, the beautiful red lips, the hard blue eyes, the_, “Well, you look great. And alive. Did I mention great?”

Merlin's cock misbehaved.

Arthur leaned in and chastely pecked him a kiss on the lips. His breath smelt of apples. “Thanks,” he murmured. He then looked aside and Merlin followed his gaze. There was movement on the far side of the bridge.

Two burly men wearing thick leather gloves carried a brazier between them and planted it in the middle of the stone arch. Following them came three bald men in black robes. Behind these were line upon line of red cloaked troops with spears and short swords that were stained crimson with fresh blood. Could these be the red cloaks of Betty's vision?

“Stay behind the barrier,” warned Betty as she grabbed an over eager urchin by the hair and dragged him back to her side.

Merlin noticed Arthur nod and smile at her. Betty (otherwise know as Morgana) did the same back to him. Merlin wondered what it would be like to have a sister, but then his attention was pulled back to the bridge by the screams of a woman. She was passed her prime and was obviously of the Beggars' Guild. Her ragged clothes were ripped and blood dripped from between her legs. Merlin snarled before he even knew he was doing it. He took a step forward but Arthur's firm grip clamped down hard on his shoulder.

“I know, I want to fight them now, but it's what they want. I only wish I had a bow and arrow to end her suffering.”

Merlin stood his ground and was about to throw Flight to finish her off when one of the bald ones produced a dark iron sickle and swiftly decapitate her. The other two caught the head and then all three of them reverently placed it upon the coals of the brazier, chanting foul words at all times. The black robes them suddenly jumped back and smiled to each other in satisfaction.

“Hermes balls, look.” Leon pointed at the smoking head. It started to twitch slightly and then the mouth gaped impossibly large. The death screams of hundreds of men, women and children issued forth from the abomination and hit the defenders with a wave of force. Merlin covered his ears with his hands and fell to his knees and, even though his vision blurred from the pain, he saw all around him do the same. The line of soldiers started to get ready for a charge.

Like the passing of a summer's storm, the screams died away. Merlin stood and then shuddered. He half turned and saw more black robes on a young man, a young man who planted a black rod on the cobbles before him.

“Mordred?”

Through gritted teeth from concentration, the magewatch said “Shut up Merlin.”

Arse hole.

The head exploded and brains marred the blackness of the bald ones' clothes. They were not disgusted for long; it was the shards of skull and teeth slicing into them that actually killed them.

“My work is done here,” said Mordred as he turned to leave.

Arthur stopped him. “You could help us fight those bastards.”

The half-brother to His Cuteness laugh coldly. “That I'll leave to you. I have a luncheon to finish.”

Arthur did his trademark glare of death at his brother's retreating back (as did Morgana), but it had no effect. Moonblade was finally pulled free from its scabbard and soft singing could be heard in the back of everyone's mind; it soothed them and gave them courage. “Here they come,” said Blondie and Merlin saw the soldiers march forward, in perfect unison.

Then the fighting started. As it did, Merlin saw that Cedones and his men had their own battle on the beach by Mistress Hunith's house. So that's where he had got to. He rightly assumed Betty had informed the prince that there would be an attack from that quarter.

Quite a few of the enemy troops fell as they got the barrier finally out of the way (mostly by thrown rocks). The GET stood in the front and took the brunt of the attack. They held their ground for a few long moments but then were slowly pushed back. Merlin realised that if they were forced from the bridge, the Indirans would be able to flank them. He grasped hold of Flight and jumped on the spot. He saw that beyond the bridge there were still pockets of fighting in Docklands and that the soldiers who attacked Dishwater numbered about three hundred. He took in a deep breath.

“Leon,” he shouted.

The pickpocket finished throwing a grey pebble that hit a man on his nose, hard, and then shrugged his shoulders when his target simply mouthed obscenities in his own tongue. “Watcha boss.”

Merlin started to walk backwards away from the GET. “Forget what I said about sticking close to me.” He started to run forward as he took out Mute. With one great leap over the Guild Elite Troopers (and thinking that he was either very brave or spectacularly stupid), landed on top of a soldier in the middle of the bridge. The unfortunate died with a broken neck, but the master thief had no time to witness the man's fall as he ducked and swerved from spear and sword thrusts. All the while he responded with vicious swipes of his daggers that left throats cut and groins stabbed.

Many Indirans fell at his attacks and, as he had planned, their neat formations were horribly ruined. However, for a second time that day, someone behind him grabbed his hair. A sword was aimed at his throat, but the innkeeper swerved and got a painful wound to the shoulder instead. He gritted his teeth to fight back the cry and let Flight go. Watch my back.

Cool. Gotta warm you though, kinda of low on power.

Just do what you can, thought Merlin as Mute gauged his attacker's left eye.

Will do.

Then something hard and knobbly struck the back of his head. Three things he heard as the blackness began to dim his vision him, just three things. The first was Leon shouting “The ships of Larkhos are here. The ships, the ships...”

The second thing was Phrat commanding some people to aim their blasts at an enemy mage on the far side of the bridge.

The third thing he heard made him smile, despite the pain he endured. It was Arthur and it was only one word that was full of horror and anger and love.

“MERLIN!”

The object of that horror, anger and love continued to smile, even when a spear stabbed his belly and a pebble bounced off a shield and hit him on the temple. Blackness definitely took him then.



Annoyingly happy birds made him wince with pain as he gradually became aware that he was on a bed. He rose his eyelids a fraction and quickly closed them again. Yep, his own bed. He could smell pipe smoke, but ignored it and pretended to sleep.

“Ahem, you're awake then. I've patched you up, again.”

It was Phrat's voice and Merlin gave a long, forlorn sigh. He felt as if he could rest in his bed for a ten day. He raised his eyelids, but still squinted against the rays of the morning sun. “Erm, who else got hurt, except for the Indirans of course?”

Phrat, for a long time, puffed away at his pipe. “Dishwater will need a new baker and a tanner; your mother is paying for the funerals. Arthur and all the other GET have remained unscathed, despite your heroic and foolhardy manoeuvre. They cleared the bridge of soldiers themselves just getting to you. That reminds me...” He kicked at something with his feet and the master thief could hear a grunt. Then a blond head appeared over the side of the bed, a blond head with adorable sleepy eyes and a large, toothy smile.

“Merlin!” His Hotness then scowled. “Don't you ever do that again!” Arthur knelt and took Merlin's hand in his. “I mean it,” he finished off with a whisper.

Merlin put on his best kicked-puppy face. “Sorry?”

The trooper barked a laugh and the defrocked priest chuckled. “You tell our hero your assignment and I will look longingly at a bottle of this inn's finest goat's piss downstairs. Don't be too long.” Phrat stood and, still chuckling, left the room.

“Uh?” was Merlin's eloquent question. It would have contained more words, but his excuse was that he had just been through a battle.

“Guildhouse are sending me off to Palast to find out why our navy was still in harbour instead of protecting the city.”

“Oh.”

“And, erm, I was hoping, well, if you really want to...what I mean to say is if you can be away from The Gibbet for a few weeks, perhaps, erm, if you can manage that is...”

The innkeeper lifted his upper body from the mattress, grabbed Arthur's hair with both hands and smashed their lips together. Later, much later and with His Blondness exhausted and curled up against the thief's body, Merlin sighed in contentment. He gently ran his fingers through Arthur's hair.

“I'd love to have a holiday with you in Palast,” he finally said.

Warm, blue eyes looked into his own. “Good,” was the only answer before they started to kiss again.

“I SAID DON'T BE TOO LONG!” shouted out Phrat from below.

They both giggled.



The End

Tales of the Gibbet III (part three)

Title: Tales of The Gibbet III (part three)
Word Count: 2463
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine and BBC; please don’t sue me, I’m only playing!
Warnings/spoilers: language
Summary: Merlin thwarts an assassination attempt and stumbles across espionage (and loses The Gibbet!)

The previous episode of The Gibbet series can be found here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/03/21/

Part one: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/27469.html

Part Two: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2013/11/02/



3.

Merlin restrained himself from leaping across the room to bury his dagger, Flight, into Will's smirking face. The overseer of Cerone wiped some of Arthur's cum from his lips with the back of his hand as the master thief of Dishwater District flicked a glance at Blondie; His Cuteness slightly groaned while he lay prone on the bare floorboards, completely naked and with his eyes closed.

"Will," Merlin finally said after he had gulped twice against a dry throat. "Gone assassin now? The guilds won't like that."

His Smirkness casually leant against one of the open window shutters and picked up his own slim, grey bladed dagger. The naked Overseer of Cerone scratched his chin thoughtfully with the weapon. "Just a one off job. Thought I'd have some fun while I'm at it though. Your Arthur is fucking hot, though a bit dumb; he actually thought I wanted to talk about you and how I just want to be friends." Wills rolled his eyes. "What an idiot. Nice tasting cum though."

Merlin narrowed his eyes and took a step closer. "I'm going to gut you like a fish, slowly," he said through gritted teeth.

The smirk was replaced by a snarl. "So it's come to this, lover. Well, I'll be choosing the moment." With that said, Will jumped through the window. Merlin rushed to the sill and looked down to see his fellow master thief roll off a cart of hay and run into the shadows. The innkeeper had the urge to pursue the bastard, but a moan from Arthur stopped him.

"I'm here, don't worry," Merlin said as he sheathed his blades and cradled His Blondness' head in his lap. A quick scan of the frugal room informed him that there was no vial of an antidote around and he cursed his luck that Will was an amature at assassination. He then remembered Betuna's words about a beach and he stood. "Hope you're not too heavy Arthur."

After Moonblade was strapped across his back, Merlin took in a deep breath and went to sling the blond over one shoulder; he grunted and staggered a bit but was glad all those years in the gymnasium paid off. Usually to their cost, foes underestimated the thief's wiry strength. A winning smile and a small wave of the hand was enough for the washerwoman and her slave girls to shrug their own shoulders and go back to work and, following in the footsteps of Will from moments before, Merlin carried his heavy load through the shadowed parts of the market place to the side road that hugged the sluggish, moon-rippled river.

A hooded, shadowed form barred his way when he was half-way to the bridge that crossed over to Docklands. A thin, man high black rod was in one hand and Merlin recognised the figure. "Mordred!" he spat, "You're the one conspiring with Will and the Indiran Empire to get Arthur killed."

With an impatient sigh, the man lowered the hood and even in the moonlight the innkeeper was reminded how beautiful Arthur's half-brother was; beautiful and deadly, like nightshade. "And to think I once wanted your cute face sucking on my noble cock. This is what comes of fantasising about slumming it. Of course I want my brother out of the way, but not like this. And what is this about the Empire? Accusing me of being a traitor is not wise, innkeeper." Mordred flicked a glance at Merlin load and an eyebrow rose. "What has Arthur got himself into this time I wonder? I'll go about my magewatch rounds and, if he survives, I'll see him anon. You I want to definitely survive for I trust what's beneath that chiton is something worth waiting for."

Great. Mordred had the hots for him? Thanks Pan.

"Help me, please?"

With a bemused chuckle, Mordred walked passed the thief. Merlin shuddered as the black robes gracefully scraped his thigh; the magewatch had that effect on most people. Thankfully their power was in cancelling spells with a glance (so the rumour went) and not de-magiking enchanted items, so his daggers were safe. With a muttered curse (concerning Hecate's tits) Merlin shifted the weight and carefully strode further along the path until he got to Cerone Avenue. He was tempted to go into his mother's house, but his instincts told him to go further on and reach the beach; it was obvious Betty was some kind of seer and, he hoped, knew what she was doing.

The master forger was at the sea's edge with a small rowboat next to her. She gave a small gasp at seeing her brother and helped Merlin load him into the craft. "Morgana?"

Even in the shadows Merlin could see her look of genuine frustration and concern. "I can't come with you, but I have seen a cave and you are both in it. Also, beware of rats, a thin man and...maybe...red cloaks?"

The cave, Merlin guessed, was the one he and another Arthur had discovered some months ago #, but the rest? He voiced his doubts.

"This power isn't exactly exact, Merlin."

"Just be careful. I saw your magewatch brother lurking about."

The famous Draconis eyebrow arched. "I'm not that versed in City law, but I believe soothsayers and the like are exempt from the ban on magic. You would to if you had half a brain." She shushed his next words with a hiss of exasperation. "Go to your cave and quickly. I've sent Leon with what I know to Phrat. Our district healer is still at The Guildhouse tending to Staffwielder Tarrion and he'll know what to do."

Merlin grinned and gave his thanks before he jumped into the boat and grabbed the oars. "Look after yourself," he said as she gave a final push to free him from the sandy beach.

"You to Merlin, and remember what I've said." She waited for a few moments as he forced himself to use what was left of his bicep power on the oars to widen the distance between them. Then she turned and walked to Mistress Hunith's house.



Merlin blessed Betty (in the name of Hermes) when he found bedrolls, smoked herring, a flask of water and an oil lamp tied up in a thick grey waxed (and therefore waterproofed) cloak in the bottom of the rowing boat. At the foot of the stairs that led up to the sewers and the secret door in The Gibbet's cellar lay Arthur wrapped cosily in the cloak and on a bed of coarse linen. The innkeeper had the warrior's sweat-soaked head in his lap.

"Wake up Arthur, please?" Where was Leon and Phrat?

Blondie's eyes fluttered open and his whole body trembled. "Hey there."

Merlin smiled. "Hey."

"Am I still dreaming? It's getting so dark, I can barely see you." Again his body produced ripples and tremors and a frown of pain appeared on that beautiful, noble brow. "It hurts, Merlin, it hurts everywhere. And I'm tired, so very tired..." The blond lashes fluttered and the lids closed once more.

"Wake up Arthur. Stay with me. No sleeping." Merlin slapped his face, not too gently in his panic. "You stay awake for me you blond, gorgeous, hot, sweet, stupid, naïve, annoying, did I mention hot, bastard!"

The eyes opened half way and silent tears dripped from them; silent because, Merlin knew, the trooper refused to worry the innkeeper about the pain he was enduring. "I hear him Merlin and I want to say this last thing. Charon calls and I just want to say...I love you."

The body went limp.

Merlin's vision blurred and he gently rocked his Arthur to and fro. A cry that started deep within him bubbled up and burst from his lips. It was full of hurt and anger and love. He cursed the gods of luck of/and trickery for their perverse humour. After some brief moments Merlin calmed himself and caressed the damp darkened bangs from Arthur's forehead. "I love you and I'm sorry. Sorry for being such a dick and to cause you so much hurt. I didn't...don't deserve your love and I wish I could...I mean I want to make it up to you. I...I..." The pain Merlin felt seemed to engulf him but he forced the last words out, needed to hear it in his own ears even though the body in his arms could not. "I love you."

"Merlin? Master Merlin of The Gibbet?"

The master thief snapped his head up and through his smudged vision he saw a warrior dressed in dark red leathers holding a great sword that shone in a pale blue light. The stranger was of dark skin (like a warrior of the Indiran Empire, though Merlin knew many peoples of different colours came under its sway but here was what he thought an Empire soldier would look like) with collar length black hair, clean of limb and handsome of face. Merlin flicked Flight in his direction and the dagger hovered menacingly in front of the stranger's face. The man ignored the peril and immediately side-stepped to crouch next to Arthur.

"Don't fuck with me. I'm not in the mood." Flight was now up against the warrior's throat and just pierced the first few layers of skin.

The man gulped. "I am sent by one who you know as Phrat. He still tends the Staffwielder at The Guildhouse. Merlin, even though Arthur has departed, I can bring him back."

Flight flew back into the thief's hand and hope dared to kindle anew in his heart. "If you are a battle mage, any magics you have please use them. I don't give a fuck what the magewatch says."

The smile showed perfect white teeth. "The sword Emirel will call his noble soul back to us, I am sure of it. We still have time."

Merlin bit his lower lip nervously as the stranger laid the great sword over Arthur's body, the hilt and the large emerald that was its pommel stone touching his lips. "Apollo, I entreat you to bring back your own," the handsome man whispered.

Arthur gasped as if he resurfaced from deep waters and looked up into Merlin's face. "I see your face, my love," and then he closed his eyes. The gentle rise and fall of his chest was the greatest sight the innkeeper had seen in a long time.

"Thank you, whoever you are. Thank you."

The man took in a deep breath and Merlin saw that he was greatly fatigued. "None are needed, for it is my duty. Know that I am Lance of the Lake, Guild Elite Trooper of the Temple District and Paladin of the Order of the White Rose."

Great, a fanatical follower of some obscure cult. Still, Arthur lived.

The master thief stood and took in a deep breath to steady him self. He had things to do. "I've got things to do," he said, not bothering to see if Lance had heard him or not as he started to take the weathered stone steps.

"I will guard Arthur until he is well enough to walk, but where will you be? Of this I am sure he will want to know upon waking."

Merlin stopped and turned. What was he going to do? He took his time as he gathered his thoughts and the trooper waited patiently. Finally, and after taking another deep breath, the overseer answered. "I've got a bunch of wererats to tackle, prove my innocence concerning the attack on Guildmaster Tarrion, get my inn back, make sure the Dishwater Wolves are safe, find out who is behind the attack on the city's magi, for now avoid a certain knob cheese scum sucking prat named Will, look out for anyone with a red cloak (also a thin man), and visit my mother. Not necessary in that order."

Again the broad smile. "You are a much accomplished man, Merlin, and I doubt not that you will succeed in your endeavours. Know that I came across a nest of wererats in the sewers under the magistrate's courthouse. Out of the seventeen I encountered, two escaped I know not where. Know also that Staffwielder Tarrion himself speaks on your behalf in The Guildhouse and he is most persuasive; your innocence and inn will be restored. I wish I could go with you, but I fear my place is here for now."

Merlin allowed him self a small smile. At least his luck was turning. "Look after Arthur. When he's well enough if you could use the boat to take him back to the city?" Lance nodded once. Merlin would have suggested the secret door to the inn, but the master thief's instincts told him that having two GETs know of that would not be wise. With a nod of his own, he turned back to the steps and took then two at a time.



He found the place under the courthouse that Lance had mentioned easily enough (in a part of the district's sewers untouched by the tides), but is was empty of any ratmen. He scoured the area (a large alcove away from the running stream of faeces and urine) but only found a few rusty daggers, shards of pottery, human bones gnawed white and discarded pieces of twine. Merlin was about to leave the area when he suddenly decided to leave a gift for any surviving wererats. Using the twine, daggers and pottery shards, he set up a complicated web of traps; it might not do much damage, but he always needed the practice in that field of his profession.

Satisfied with his parting gift, he climbed the wooden ladder up to street level (around the back of Uther's office) and, with Mute in one hand, shifted aside the iron grate. It was roughly a few moments before dawn so he easily scampered up the side of the courthouse and rested on its flat roof.

A few bats were fluttering their way back to wherever their haunt was as he brooded awhile. What was he going to do now? As the stars faded and pink stained the eastern horizon, he thought he saw a few white sails far out to sea.

"Perhaps being a fisherman would be an easier job," he muttered to himself, confident that he could not be heard.

A low, growl of a whisper sounded in his head. "By my reckoning, master thief, those sails are not of simple fisher folk." Mute rarely, if ever, spoke to him and Merlin shivered. He looked again out towards the sea and saw that the few sails were joined by more, much more. It was an armada, an Indiran one.

The shit had definitely hit the side of a barn.



# from a short read here: http://welshinnit.livejournal.com/2012/10/18/