The cafe had emptied except for a few patrons, and Merlin was hardly through his second coffee. He listened to Arthur reading out some of the more outlandish things from the paper when his friend’s voice was interrupted by a sharp tingle running up his back. Slowly placing his cup on the table he cocked his head, motioning for Arthur to stop talking. Arthur took one look at his face and his hand went down to his hip, only to come up again more slowly, his face a twisted grimace.
The door exploded in fragments and splinters of wood, dust circling through the air. He was already on his feet, arm flung out to try to ward off the heat of the blow. From the corner of his eyes he saw the waitress flung across the room. The crack of bones and Sally’s anguished cry as she landed shot steel down his spine. Arthur stood at his back, fists clenched.
“Tell me what to do, Merlin, I don’t know how to help.”
“We need to leave, get away from any civilians, there’s a back door.”
“Do you mean the one over there with the big scary man blocking it?”
Merlin risked a glance. Bugger.
“Okay, new plan, slightly different from the old plan, we get rid of the big scary man and then we go out the back”
“Right.” Arthur scanned the room. “I need a weapon, Merlin, something I can be useful with.”
Merlin’s arm was barely shaking with the power needed to hold back the onslaught of the women from the hospital. It would be easier if he was just covering himself and Arthur but the remembered crack of Sally’s bones and her frighteningly still body pushed him to extend the shield as far as he could. His eyes darted towards the fireplace. Brilliant, he thought he’d seen one before.
“There, Arthur, by the hearth”
“I see it, thanks Merlin!”
Arthur ran, barely pausing to snatch up the heavy iron poker from beside the fire. Whirling it, he charged through Merlin’s barrier, striking the big man on the side of the head. Although he stumbled, he didn’t go down and Arthur ducked as Big Man swung his own baseball bat, narrowly missing Arthur’s head. Merlin edged his way slowly towards the door – if he could block the magic of the two women, Arthur might have a better chance.
Movement caught his eye. Lance, forgotten in the furthest corner, stood with his mouth open, staring at Arthur.
He bit his lip. “Oh well, as good a time now as any I suppose,” With a flick of magic he sent a lampshade flying towards his assistant. Lance snatched it out of the air and knocked the lamp off the wooden pole before hoisting it like a javelin. He froze, eyes wide.
“Oh come on! Lance! Get on with it! You need to help Arthur!”
Lance dropped the wooden pole like it was on fire, stumbing back, his hand reaching out behind him to the wall.
Merlin cast a glance around the cafe. Apart from Sally’s still figure they were the only non-assailants left in the room. He risked it, switching all his power from his shield, thrusting it towards his cowering assistant.
“Lancelot! Awaken and serve your King!”
The force of the energy bolt hit Lancelot, knocking him into the wall. Shattering pain drove Merlin to the ground as a blast from the nurse hit him full in the chest.
He gasped for breath, winded, and pushed himself up, shaking his head to clear it. His eyes flashed gold and he sent a blast of power towards the approaching women. The matron was flung backwards but the other, the one who seemed in charge, flung up a barrier that held against his. His eyes narrowed. She had power indeed to stand against him. He cast a glance over to where Lance had stepped forward and taken up the makeshift spear. His former assistant met his eyes and lifted the lamp stick in a salute. After years of looking into Lancelot’s face and seeing only Lance, his friend had returned. Exhilaration swam like fire in his blood. A smile quirked the corners of his eyes and he left Big Scary to the two best knights in Camelot. The witches were his.
He moved closer to them, picking his steps carefully over the broken table legs and upended chairs.
“Who are you?”
“Who we are does not matter so much as what we will do, which is kill you and your king”
“Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” He flicked a hand and she staggered back but did not fall. He paced slowly closer to her.
“I have to say though, you do seem familiar. I’ve seen you before, but I don’t think it was this century.” He frowned, trying to catch the elusive memory. Her teeth bared in a snarl and he felt the memory slide past again. “At least tell me your name, I’m guessing it isn’t really Kelly”. Something pinged in his mind as he said her name and he shook his head. “No, not Kelly, but like it”
She shouted wordlessly and jumped at him, fire shooting from her hands. He smiled. Effortlessly, a wall went up from his outstretched hand and her flames dissipated around the edges. The magic flowed from him, through him. Fierce joy at the magic teased at his mind. Her fire sputtered out and her hands dropped to her side, her chest heaving. Her chin sank down and when she looked up through her lashes the shock of recognition caused his own shield to fall.
Her lips tight, her eyes burned him more than her flames. He stepped back, shooting a glance at Arthur. Her laugh brought his hand up again.
“Emrys. It has been so long. Youth suits you.”
“You look well too. Unfortunately.”
“Oh, always so snarky! I must admit I rather hoped you would have had some regrets but it appears not.”
He kept his guard up, trying to ignore the pounding of his heart. “You never did understand the true purpose of magic.”
Her eyes flew to Arthur and he refused to follow her gaze despite the noises coming from behind them.
“So, this is the man you spent eternity waiting for? Well, we have been waiting for him too.”
“Who is ‘we’?”
“You’ll find out in due time. Of course, you might not last that long.”
Her eyes flashed but he was faster. She flew across the room, colliding with the wall. He strode towards her as she dragged herself up and stumbled out the door before he got there. He looked down at his clenching fist, memories swirling.
She had always been strong.
Arthur twirled the poker. What he wouldn’t give for Excalibur. He’d have to remember to ask Merlin what he’d done with it. His first hit against the giant in the doorway crunched satisfyingly into the side of his head, but the big man just shook it off and glowered at him. Bugger. He swung the poker in a tight figure eight.
“You could make this a lot easier on yourself and just leave,”
A wooden post sailed through the air, knocking his assailant sideways and slamming him to the floor. Arthur swung the poker smacking the big man on the side of the head. This time he stilled and stayed down, his eyes closing.
Panting, Arthur turned to thank Merlin for a well-timed throw but saw him closer to the other door confronting one of the nurses. The man who walked towards him was dressed in the jeans and sweatshirt everyone seemed to wear now but there was no mistaking the walk, or the eyes. His heart stopped.
“Lancelot? Do my eyes fool me or is it really you?”
The man dropped to one knee in front of him.
“Sire, it is indeed and my heart is full that I should see you again”
He laughed, delight a flame inside him. He moved to draw Lancelot up to embrace him but memory came crashing in and he froze. A vision of Guinevere wrapped in Lancelot’s embrace, the soul-destroying pain of betrayal. He stepped back, absently trying to put the poker back in a scabbard that did not exist.
“Well. This is all unexpected. Merlin didn’t tell me you were here.”
“I didn’t know myself, sire. I have but now awakened.”
Despite the sense of betrayal still churning his gut he reached out and cuffed his former knight on the shoulder.
“Good timing as always Lancelot, you always seem to be there to save the day”.
The other man’s eyes darkened but he nodded. “My destiny has always been to serve you Arthur”
“Yes, destiny seems to be pretty busy really.”
He looked around for Merlin and saw him kneeling beside the still body of the pretty tavern girl. Waitress. She was a waitress.
“Come on Lancelot, let’s see if we can help”.
It was pretty hopeless but the stricken look on Merlin’s face tore at his heart.
“Merlin”. He put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Is there anything we can do? Is there a healer nearby?”
Merlin shook his head, tears making streaks in the dust on his face. “There’s too much damage. I’m going to have to try, I’ll need you to stand guard in case Keliandra comes back.”
“Keliandra? You know her then?”
“Later, Arthur, I need to do this now. Sally was always kind to me, even when she thought I was a grumpy old sod who drank too much coffee.”
He tightened his grip on Merlin’s shoulder briefly then stood back. “Of course, do what you can.”
When Merlin’s eyes turned gold and he began chanting he had to restrain himself from a sudden movement. He’d forgotten about the magic. He’d assumed Merlin would use the healing arts Gaius had taught him. Casting a glance at Lancelot he was surprised to see his face relaxed.
“I did not think you of all people would be so comfortable around magic, Lancelot.”
The other man smiled. “I have known about Merlin’s magic for a long time. He used it many times to save lives. His healing power doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Arthur looked blankly at him, his mind focused suddenly on one thought. “You knew? You knew all the time that he was a sorcerer?” The hurt was new and it stung.
He looked down at Merlin, his friend’s hands gentle as they stroked over the girl’s head as the words of magic surrounded them.
“When did he tell you?”
Lancelot shook his head gently. “No Sire, he never told me. I guessed. I did not betray him because I knew deep in my soul that he would only ever use it for good.”
Arthur inhaled deeply. “And indeed he did”
A moan from their feet brought both men’s eyes down. Merlin was smiling as he lifted Sally to a sitting position. Merlin’s tale of a gas explosion, whatever that was, seemed to satisfy the girl and they left her calling the police and the insurance company, the body of the dead soldier covered by a table cloth. The arrival of the nurses who were clearly witches was worrying, but he couldn’t deny a certain exhilaration in the midst of the fight.
Blue sky and green hills lifted his heart. So much had changed but some things were eternal.
“Where to now, Merlin?”
“You and I are going to my place, in London, and Lancelot – I need you to do a couple of things here and then join us.”
His smile was quiet, but fierce.
“It’s time to waken the others.”
From my Merlin fanfic i wrote in 2016. I tried to improve it a little before posting but it still needs a lot of work!