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ArWen the Eternally Surprised
Author: Ria Time: 2007/11/22
Arwen encounters a strange monk and gains a little extra time.
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World Within Worlds
Submitter: Date: 2011/4/24 Views: 212 Rate: 0.00/1
2.

Arthur drove along the M4, Merlin beside him as he read a map with Lance and Celimdol behind them, the latter gripping his seat belt as if his very life depended upon it. Gwen had put one of Lance’s beanies on him to cover his ears; they did not want any attention drawn to them, especially with two short swords at the warrior’s feet. Earlier, the elf had marvelled at such simple things as the shower or microwave, but he stood in awe at the sight of Arthur’s Land Rover Discovery.

“Where is the horse for your cart?” he had asked while he walked around the vehicle. Arthur had just laughed as he opened the door and piled in their luggage. Merlin had persuaded him that they really did not need any spare clothes. However, Morgana had wanted to include her whole luggage set but her brother insisted they take only one each; he had won that argument, just. By the time Gwen and Lance had got back from their place with their holdalls it was getting late in the day and it had taken all of Merlin’s powers of persuasion to get Celimdol to open his eyes as they sped through the rush hour towards the M25. Through gritted teeth the elf had said that the lights and noise seemed like a nightmare and only slightly relaxed when fields and trees started to speed pass them.

Night came as they approached the Severn Bridge (“Why do I have to pay to enter Wales” “We don’t allow just anyone in, Arthur”) and Celimdol snoozed with his head on the shoulder of an amused Lance. They sped through the low hills of southern Gwent until they came across the once industrial city of Newport, Arthur following the directions of a nervous Merlin to the housing estate of Bettws.

“It’ll be okay, Merlin,” said Arthur, squeezing his lover’s thigh as they pulled up to a nondescript terraced council house and Morgana parked her Audi behind them. The lights of the house were on downstairs.

Merlin gulped. “Yeah.”

“Are we there yet?” asked a sleepy Celimdol and Merlin laughed.

“Yeah, we are. Just give me a few minutes with Mum, okay?”

“As you wish, my lord, do not underestimate the love of your mother.”

Arthur kissed him. “Listen to the sprog,” he whispered and Merlin climbed out and walked stiffly towards the green door. He hesitated once at the polished door knocker but then struck it twice, boldly.

The door opened and the he could hear the beginning of Eastenders from the living room and the smell of wood polish and carpet cleaner washed over him. There stood before him a small figure in a cotton dressing gown and curlers. Smaller was the figure that he remembered, smaller and frailer.

“Mum?” he said in a small voice, frightened of rejection, of shame.

“Oh my God,” the figure stepped back and sat on the first step of a well worn stair carpet. “Oh my.” The figure slowly stood and embraced him, tightly. “My boy, my Merlin, my son. You’re alive.”

Then Merlin heard the worst sound in his life, his mother crying and he joined her tears.

“Sorry, Mum, I’m so sorry.”

“You…” she cupped his faced with her bleached hands. “I thought you had…Oh Merlin, you’re here, you’re alive.” She cried again into his embrace and all the sorrow and hurt and shame came out of him into her and she just hugged him and she just was there, like a rock, like any mother would be. “When I had your text, a year ago, I thought the worst. I thought… My boy…”

They hugged for what seemed like hours, she then hit him over the head. “Inside, now. You need feeding.”

“Erm, I have a few friends with me.” Merlin rubbed the back of his head and nodded to the two cars and his mother immediately berated him for the lack of any warning before disappearing upstairs to change while giving him instructions about tea, coffee and home made biscuits.

* * *

Hunith put the empty mugs into the sink as Merlin finished off the last biscuit, one hand cupped below his chin to catch the crumbs.

“I like them. I like Arthur and he likes you very much, I can see that.”

Merlin grinned then swallowed. “Thanks Mum.”

“And you’re sure you won’t stay for the night? I’m certain I can find room for you all somewhere.”

Merlin laughed and hugged her. “We better be on our way if we’re going to set up, er, camp at Grey Hill.”

Hunith looked into his face and smiled. “If it’s ancient monuments that you and your friends are interested in go to the village of Trellech, it’ll be easier to park your cars. Old friends of mine own an inn there and they’ll look after them; they’d only be vandalised in this neighbourhood and you might as well start with stones that your father studied closely, before he…he disappeared.”

Merlin nodded slowly. He only had a vague memory of when his father was around, the sense of warmth and protection the first things that would always come to his mind. “Would he approve of Arthur do you think?”

“I’m sure of it. Now go to your friends and tell them the change in your plans. I’ll tidy up here and see you lot out sharpish. It’s approaching ten o’clock!”

Merlin grinned and did what he was told. His mother sighed and turned to the dirty dishes. “Be careful, son,” she whispered and turned on the hot tap.

Arthur was the last to leave the house thirty minutes later and Hunith pulled on the sleeve of his jacket to have a word with him. “Take care of him Arthur. He’s all I have.”

Arthur nodded, deep blue eyes looking into hers. “I will, he’s my world. I won’t let anything bad happen to him.”

Celimdol must have heard, because he turned half way to the cars and bowed low. “Good lady, be assured also that my Lord Merlin and his prince will have me as their shield. Though the road may seem rocky and the skies darken, they will have a guide to show them the way.”

Hunith bowed her head. “Gen hannon, most noble of all elves. Know that you gladdened my heart and lightened its burden, for I now know that they are both in good hands. Le hannon a tholel.”

The elf smiled and bowed again before going to Arthur’s car. The blonde raised his eyebrows in a silent question and Hunith smiled. “Tell Merlin when you think it suitable that his mother isn’t stupid.”

Arthur hugged her and kissed her cheek. Grinning, he said “I will.” He turned when he was at his car and waved. She waved once in return and closed the front door.

Lance drove this time, for Arthur was tired. He sat in the back with Merlin and held his lover hand, a companionable silence between them. At the girl’s insistence, Celimdol rode with them, but only when Merlin made them promise to keep their hands to themselves. The elf had laughed nervously at his words, but faltered when Morgana and Gwen reluctantly promised not to molest him.

* * *

They came to the village of Trellech and the Lion Inn at about midnight. Jon and Eluned, the old couple who owned the pub came out to welcome them as they drove into the small car park.

“Hunith said that you won’t be staying around so we made you some sandwiches,” said Jon and he gave Merlin a paper bag. “Only beef I’m afraid, but the bag has a flask of coffee as well. What you kids are up to at this time of night, God only knows, but our friend said you are to be trusted and that is that. The Harold Stones are just south of the village in a field. Can’t miss it.”

“Thank you,” said Merlin. “Thank you very much.”

Eluned tsked and wrapped her own red, wool scarf around him. “Hunith said you were all skin and bone and she’s right! That coat is fit for nothing and that’s for sure. Now then, you lot look after yourselves and happy Saint David’s Day.”

They all waved their thanks and goodbyes and walked the twenty minutes to the field that Jon told them about. The three stones were tall, taller than Celimdol, and, in the moonlight, looked menacing to Merlin. They stood in a line that, according to what Merlin had read at his mother’s, were used many years ago with Mount Skirrid or the Holy Mountain of Gwent far in the distance, when celebrating the winter solstice.

The air was still and felt charged as if readying for a storm, even though the sky was clear of clouds. Merlin shivered despite his coat and new scarf and followed the others to the middle stone. “What now?” he asked to no one in particular.

Celimdol rummaged though his satchel and pulled out a scroll. “Myfanwy bade me to give you this. She said you would know what to do.”

Merlin took the scroll and unfurled it. A map of Gondor was drawn in black ink and he could clearly see the sea and the White Mountains but little in between. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see the beacons lit he mused. Then, on impulse, he turned the scroll over and could just make out a sketch of Arthur reclining on a sofa in his favourite shirt. “I drew this the last time I was in Middle Earth, but I don’t know what to do now.”

Then the thought hit him, the words that Tarrion had said while he had slept in Arthur’s car a few nights ago and he felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. “I need a black bladed knife. The one that the Halloween costumed little shit stabbed me with. We’ve failed!”

Morgana put an arm around his shoulder. “No, we tried.”

Gloom descended upon them until Arthur smacked his forehead. “Wait here.” He ran off into the night back the way they came. After long minutes he returned, his breath only slightly laboured. He handed Merlin a knife wrapped in a tissue. “Some short ugly guy tried to mug me outside your place and dropped this. It feels…wrong.”

Merlin knew immediately what he meant when he grasped the bone handle. It felt oily and slippery and squirmed in his fist as if it wanted to escape, or be used. “I…I can’t do this guys. I’m meant to stab the picture with this and I just can’t. What if it hurts…hurts…you?” He turned to Arthur.

The blonde just rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such a girl, Merlin.”

“Fucking prat,” he muttered and stabbed the blade into the middle of the picture. Nothing happened.

After a few minutes Lance spoke up. “What do we do now?”

Before anyone could answer a great wind swept around the field and three stones, though no tree branches moved and they were untouched. Merlin definitely did not give a girly yelp when the knife disappeared in smoke and the scroll started to burn brightly in red flames. He dropped it at the foot of the middle stone and it continued to burn but was not consumed.

“Look, the land’s fading,” pointed out Gwen and they saw the trees and field outside a circle where they stood turn to grey mist. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Celimdol gasped. “I see shapes moving around us.” He took out his hunting knife and handed it to Lance. He did the same with one of his swords, giving it to Arthur. “Stay close to the stone, all of you. Do not go into the mist.”

Then Merlin could make out humanoid shapes and flashes of fangs and claws.

“Arthur! Arthur, help me.”

“Mother?” Arthur took a step towards the sound.

“Fucking stay where you are!” shouted Merlin, grabbing onto his arm. His lover shrugged it off and took another step.

“You killed me Arthur, do not abandon me now.”

Tears in his eyes, Arthur answered and took another step. “I’m sorry mother. I’m coming.”

Wary of the sword Merlin stepped in front of his lover. “Arthur, your mother is dead. I’m sorry but it’s true. This is a trick.”

Arthur ignored him and seemed to see right through him. “I’ll save you mother.” The next step brought him so close to Merlin that he had to back off slightly. Lance and Celimdol came up behind the blonde and each grabbed an arm. Struggling, Arthur was pulled back and Morgana took the sword from him.

Merlin breathed a sigh of relief but then felt his scarf being snagged and he was pulled into the mist.

Claws ripped into his body and teeth sank into his shoulder, over an old arrow wound that had been made weeks (Months? Years?) ago. He cried out in pain but he did not fall, he dared not fall. “Fuck off you bastards!” he shouted and he felt a throbbing in his head while his vision took on a slight golden haze. A ball of fire was conjured in his palm and he threw it at a shadow before him. It yelled in terror and disappeared. He conjured another ball and kept it there in his palm, ready. He turned slowly and saw the shadows back off, but not go away. They waited silently for they knew, as he did, that he would eventually tire.

“Arthur! Gwen! Anyone?” he shouted, but there was no answer. “Right then you fucking fish sucking knob heads,” he said savagely while he conjured another flaming ball in his other palm, “if I’m to go, then I’m going out fighting!”

He was about to hurl his first fireball when he noticed a figure shining in a white light in the distance. It was slowly walking towards him.

“What the fuck is this now?” he muttered, but kept the flames in his hands, ready.

As the figure approached, the shadows fled into the mist, some screaming in terror while others cursed in tongues that made Merlin want to throw up. Then he recognised his saviour, or thought he did.

“Tarrion?”

The old man chuckled as he came within a few feet of Merlin.

No, not him he thought, for this man had a long white beard and his robes were a pale green and hooded. His staff was topped with a fist sized emerald, the colour of which matched his eyes. He bowed his head.

“Well met, most powerful of magi.”

Merlin snorted and let the flames die. “I don’t feel that powerful and I'm not a mage.”

The old man shrugged his shoulders. “As you wish. Tarrion, that old rascal, carries the Staff of Law and Good; the ignorant call it the Lawstaff. This little beauty,” he nodded towards the oak staff he carried, “is Earthstaff. The same ignorants call it Druidstaff.”

Merlin sighed with impatience. “My sort of dreams are getting weirder! Who the fuck are you?”

“Don’t fuck with me, you little shit, I’m only doing Tarrion a favour. He said you were stupid enough to get lost in the Deep Umbra.” The old man chuckled at Merlin’s shocked look. “Staffwielder Oakhaven to you and have a bit more respect.”

Merlin bowed his head, ashamed. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Oakhaven chuckled again, which started to irritate the youth. “Come on oh not so mighty non-mage, time to get you back to your dumb friends. I’m a busy Staffwielder.”

Gritting his teeth, Merlin followed the old man and within minutes he stepped into the clearing around the stones. Arthur hugged him and covered his face with kisses. “Celimdol said you’ve been gone for a day, although how he counts time here I don’t know. I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s okay lover, nothing to apologise for. He turned in his embrace and faced the old man. “Thanks?”

Oakhaven shrugged. “Whatever. Perhaps I’ll look you up on Terra Primus one day, if I am not too busy.”

Celimdol went on one knee and bowed his head. “My lord, would you help us and guide us the rest of the way?”

“Ha! No! Your Valar would not like my intrusion. Merlin here will protect you. He has balls, of fire.” Chuckling, the old man walked away until his form was lost in the mists.

“Weirdo,” muttered Merlin as the girls hugged him with Arthur’s arms still around his middle. Lance grinned while Celimdol stood and gazed at him in awe and love.

“Definitely a weirdo. I think I prefer Tarrion.”

* * *

Bedwyr rested on his haunches and looked at Wentwood Reservoir in the distance. The small stones that formed a circle and the few outlying standing stones did not interest him and he knew the sun would show its cruel face in a few hours.

He mused on the name that he had been given earlier that night. Merlin Emrys; was he a descendant of Myrddin or a reincarnation? Not that he believed in the latter, but he had existed long enough not to discount anything. Clumsily using a computer back at one his lairs, he had found out that this Merlin had one relative, a Hunith Emrys. Should he have gone there first?

Sighing with impatience he fished out an old mobile from the inner pocket of his denim jacket and tapped in a number. It was immediately answered by a female he had little love for.

“Is it done? Is he dead?”

“My prey did not arrive. You have sent me on a wild goose chase and wasted my time.”

“I was told he would be at Grey Hill tonight, it is not my fault you failed. The debt has not been paid, you still owe me.”

Bedwyr gave a low growl. “Do not play trifles with me, life witch, or I will hunt you down in that big city and rip your head off!”

The snort of derision he heard down the ‘phone made him angrier still, but he kept it in check.

“I assume he has entered the Shadowlands. Never mind, you will have to wait until he comes back. Deal with him and then we will be even.”

The call was ended. “One day Nimueh, one day…” he let the thought go unfinished and sighed again. He did not have time to get to Casnewydd, or as they called it now, Newport. He turned to mist and sank into the ground and planned for the following night. Hunith Emrys was easy to find, too easy. Unfortunately for her, that made her an easy target to kill.
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