Chapter 1: Five Years Later
It was an apple.
A perfect, round, red apple- falling from the ripe brown branch of a tree above. Sparkling against the sky, unblemished of clouds.
And the stone-hard thump of the tough fruit on Myra's head was enough to knock her out cold.
It was just a tiny blow to her head, but it was suddenly like cold water on her face, bringing her back to the harsh reality of what was at hand, looking down upon the valley of green apple trees and summer warmth.
Myra's blue eyes beheld the procession creeping below the hill she stood on. The great crowd of people dispersed solemnly, circling the lake at the heart of the lush field, trailing little, fluttering showers of flower petals behind each mourner.
It was all coming back, slamming against her mind like a tidal wave, flowing against her toes, and then to her ankles, to her waist….
In seeing this dreamlike place unfold, Myra's heart stopped, witnessing the sun's gentle rays falling upon the young man in the bed adorned with flowers and the tears of the women who had brought him here.
At his side, his hand clutched at a magnificent sword, still stained maroon with horrid memory of battles, not to be soon forgotten. It lay on the bed amidst the glorious lilies, wavering in the sweet breeze, drifting in the smell of apple trees.
"I've been here before," Myra whispered, having realized that she'd spent the last few moments without blinking, or moving her gaze from the crowned man. Almost mechanically, she moved her hand down to pick up the apple that hit her on the head just minutes- hours?- ago. It was warm from having spent such time in the sun, but to Myra's clammy hand, it was a cold, hard rock, weighing her weak arms down slowly, like the way a frayed net begins to fall down when fish fills it up.
"You know what this is," a voice said to Myra. "He's dead, and you can't forget him. You never will. The one who wrought such death to the king will stay with you forever. And so shall he."
Myra shook her head. "No, it isn't true," she said, her fingers beginning to draw juice from the fruit in her hand. "None of this has happened. It never will. I'll make sure it won't!"
"You can only do so much, Princess. Even with your power to see the future, you will never know what is yet to come. Trying to protect the ones you love with mere power alone is never going to be enough to keep them all safe. Especially the life of your precious king."
Half of Myra recognized the voice, but it seemed to be caught in a stirring, restless wind, somewhat hushing the cruel, taunting tone she could so clearly hear. But she couldn't bring herself to think of who was invading this horrid mirage of memory and vision. She didn't want to.
And in the instant, Myra's lips parted to pledge something to her mysterious comrade, dead amongst mystical mourners below, bringing the apple higher above her head while her mind seemed to start to reel.
"Long live the king!" she said, her breathing starting to get faster the longer she gazed ahead. "Long live the king! Long live the king!"
The apple was just inches above her, clutched savagely in her curled fingers, making a cold shadow form over her ravaging brain.
"Hail King Arthur!"
With all the energy and might she could muster from the corners of herself, the apple was hurled down into the valley, hurtling towards the flowery bed with incredible velocity, straight for the sparkling crown on her friend's tender head.
The apple fell away from sight…
"Myra, come on, quick!"
Swiftly as a frightened squirrel, Myra whirled around to spot the familiar voice that seared through her like an ice-cold knife. At the same time, it felt as though her body was starting to fall, like a gaping hole was swallowing her whole while the voice put some kind of jolting spell upon her.
There was the voice again, and halfway through hearing her name being called out, Myra opened her eyes to find herself staring into the face of her good friend, Arthur, her feet roughly tangled in her silken bed sheets.
"Come on, quickly, Myra!" he said, gesturing towards the open doorway. "Merlin's waiting for you in the library. He says he can't wait any more for you to wake up."
Myra, still groggy from her heck-of-a dream, swept her long, brown hair from her face and glanced at the pocket watch sitting on her night table. She reached over, and picked it up, her eyes already beginning to widen in the process. "Um…define 'can't wait any more'?" she wanted to know, glancing between the clock and Arthur.
"The sun has been up for awhile," he explained. "Merlin says it's been at least two and a half hours since it rose, and he needs us both down for lessons right now."
Myra snatched the covers away from herself, racing for her changing screen, where she would dress herself for the day. "Why didn't anyone come to wake me up if this is such a great emergency?" she asked, throwing her nightgown over the side of the screen and rapidly grabbing her clothes from her chair.
"There's no real emergency, Myra," Arthur clarified. "Merlin says he has some news to give you. From the sound of it, it's supposed to be pretty wonderful."
"What sort of news?" Myra inquired, stepping out from behind her screen. She was dressed for her daily magic practice, in a red tunic tied to her waist with a thick brown belt, brown tights, and brown boots that hugged her feet. And as she side-stepped into view, she was tying her nearly waist-length brown hair into a ponytail at the nape of her neck.
"I'm not the one who's supposed to give you the news," Arthur said, holding up his hands. "I'm just the messenger sent up here to wake you up."
"I'm sorry," Myra said, hurrying to straighten herself out one last time before going downstairs. "I was having some pretty real dreams again. Not the good ones, I shall tell you."
Arthur led Myra out of her room, shutting the door behind him. As he looked at his friend, his expression was instantly coldly curious; slightly ill at ease.
"Oh, goodness, Myra," he said, his tone clearly expressing his look. "Did you have a vision in your sleep?"
Myra froze mid-step. Once in a while, an old, haunting vision from years past returned in her sleep, to torment her in silence. As a witch, Myra was gifted with the ability to look into the future, much like her and Arthur's wizard tutor, Merlin. He had taught her that the visions could be changed with time, but nonetheless, this was one vision that Myra feared above all the others she'd ever had. Since that fateful day, five years ago, when the vision first occurred to her, she had sworn to one day relay the news to Arthur. But even now, the idea was dangerous and tragic.
When Myra and Arthur were both twelve years old, Myra learned that she was a descendant of Morgan le Fay, a wicked witch who had been a student of Merlin's, and the half-sister of Arthur, who wanted to rid herself of both the children before their magic could overshadow hers. On the night that she and Arthur defeated her using their combined talents of Myra's magic and the magical sword that made Arthur England's king, Myra had foreseen the death of Arthur, and his kingdom, to the mysterious Battle of Camlann. Merlin had suspected her of not telling the truth about her fateful vision, and still, after all these years, Myra had managed to not utter a word about it. And as long as no one knew about the future, Myra silently pledged to protect Arthur so that his death in the Battle could be bypassed.
At seventeen years old, both Arthur and Myra were still practicing their control over the magic they both awakened. As king, Arthur looked out for the kingdom alongside Merlin and his faithful owl, Archimedes. And as princess, and self-proclaimed guardian to Arthur, Myra was training as future ruler, as well as royal magic-worker. While she toiled to perfect her powers, she was even being taught the arts of self-defense, using her body energy to take down enemies, working as hard as Arthur was to become the legendary hero that Merlin told him he would become.
Finally, Myra returned to reality when Arthur touched her shoulder. "Oh," she gasped, shaking for a moment. "I'm sorry, Arthur. I was pondering this dream, and I think…that it's not such a big deal as this news Merlin apparently has for me. We'll talk sometime about it, but not now." She didn't stop to let Arthur reply to this, as she immediately started bounding down the stairs, with a slightly stunned Arthur following her.
The library was a short walk from Myra's bedchamber, the duo arriving there in the nick of time, before Archimedes appeared outside the door.
He gave Myra an inquiring look, putting his wings on his hips like a disappointed father. "Where have you been at, girl?" he wanted to know, cocking an eyebrow at her.
"Just overslept, that's all," she rapidly replied, following Arthur through the doors.
She didn't see him do so, but Archimedes rolled his eyes at her reply, flapping close behind the two royals. "Merlin's been waiting for a long time, young lady," he said. "He had me look after your little sister, and believe you me, it is not pleasant having a five-year-old child wanting me to play paper dolls with her morning and night."
Myra turned around, and poked her finger at Archimedes teasingly. "When she asks you to play with her, that means she wants you to be her friend," she said sweetly. "And Archimedes, Tabitha's only five years old. You'll like her better when she can actually talk sensible to you in a year or so."
Archimedes didn't answer to that, only flying away to his library perch on top of a book stack. Myra grinned at him, chuckling under her breath. Tabitha had only been a little infant when they first arrived at the castle. But now that she was a little more grown up, she could actually talk a little. However, because she had taken such a liking to Archimedes, she wanted to play with him a lot. And an overbearing, practical mind like his couldn't stand that sort of childish ordeal for very long.
Merlin, who was sitting on the chair at the end of the long table they used to study, looked up at Archimedes' gentle flapping to greet his students.
"Good morning, Myra," he said, smoothing his hair under his long, blue cap. "I suppose you slept well, considering you were late to breakfast."
"Mostly," Myra answered, not daring to elaborate on her nightmare.
Merlin merely nodded, and much to Myra's relief, didn't react beyond that. He gestured towards the two empty chairs on the table, and both his pupils took their seats, opening the books placed conveniently in front of them. Myra was only too happy to oblige, welcoming a distraction from her rough night, even if this was a lesson in politics- her least favorite subject.
What interested Myra most about lessons, wasn't really becoming a true princess to a kingdom, but practicing her magic. She reveled in the adrenaline rush she got when she released the power coming alive from her spells. What powered her even more, was picturing herself one day protecting the kingdom alongside Arthur and his sword, in battles beyond even that of Beowulf, the great epic hero that Merlin had taught them about in their literature lessons. Fighting monsters to such an extent as that thrilled her, and it gave her a huge sense of purpose. She had even developed that mindset that if she didn't have her magic, she didn't know what she would do the rest of her years on Earth.
With these thoughts just barely enveloping her mind, Myra was stopped from peeking into her politics book when Merlin called her and Arthur to attention.
"Before I forget altogether," he began, "I have some rather exciting news regarding your magic education, Myra." When Merlin looked her way, he had that sort of twinkle that his pupils only saw when a grand lesson was learned well. Myra blinked twice at having seen that. It meant something big was about to happen.
"I've been teaching you magic myself for over five years as of today," Merlin stated proudly. "And thus, I think it's all the better for you to begin independently studying the subject."
For an instant, Myra was speechless. She had been expecting glorious news to begin with, but something like learning magic spells all by herself?
"Do you mean it?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
Merlin winked at his student. "You've learned well over the years, Myra. I think that if you can go five years as a good student and prove a responsible witch, then I'm trusting you to learn the art on your own time. At this point, it's perhaps more important that I help teach you to be a princess rather than a witch, with you becoming more of an adult."
Merlin spoke with a serene tranquility, but Myra- she was jumping like a rabbit loaded with boatloads of sugar inside. Learning whatever spells she wanted to? Whenever she liked? That was like telling her she was being given a formal title of royal guardian in front of the entire kingdom- in front of all England! Her eyes flicked to the tiny shelf stocked with Merlin's books on magic, where she learned the tricks of the trade. Having that corner to herself to learn on her own brought jitters into her legs, and chills to her spine. This was amazing!
"I accept, wholeheartedly!" Myra said, standing up from her chair, and raising her right hand in an oath. "I pledge to take your offer, Merlin, as seriously as you are in teaching Arthur and me how to be good rulers to England. And, if I should break my promise, please, please take me back under your wing."
"Quite a diplomatic answer," Merlin said, gently applauding. "Heavens, Myra, how did you and Arthur grow up so quickly? It's an incredible difference from when you both were still children."
"You've just taught us too well," Myra said, shrugging, while she got back in her seat. "And believe me, Merlin. By the time I'm twenty-seven, I'll be the best witch you've ever seen. I'll see to it, for the sake of Arthur, and this kingdom!"