So this week's episode is about the Fisher King, which while making me happy alerted me to the dire need to post this before I'm upstaged by BBC itself. I'll probably still post the part about the Fisher King (the 6th part in this series) after the episode of Merlin about it airs, but at least I've begun the process that will lead to it.
This idea came to me while researching Arthurian Legend (I can't remember if I had a purpose for the research in mind at the time anymore, but I was looking anyway) when I found out something interesting about Excalibur. So you get The Sword in the Stone series, in 14 parts. Each part will be a new chapter in this story.
Also, I started writing this before season 3 ever began airing, but I tried to include any details they mentioned in the new episodes that might affect what was going on in some chapter, so beware of season 1, 2, and 3 spoilers.
The Sword in the Stone
In the middle of a political uproar, word spreads of a sword in a stone that can only be pulled out by the true King; the Once and Future King. Every noble in the land travels to test their worth but none can retrieve it. When Arthur releases the sword, how will the world react?
Arthur sighed for the umpteenth time that hour. Merlin, seated across from him in the carriage, glanced up from the book he was reading.
"Do you need anything, sire? Something to stop the air from escaping?" he teased lightly.
Arthur frowned at him, but didn't seem to have the energy to care. He turned his attention out the window and watched the world pass by. He propped his elbow against the window ledge and his chin against his fist. "I don't understand why I must come to this meeting."
Merlin smiled. "Every noble in all of Albion is coming," he reminded his prince.
Arthur frowned deeper. "Yes, I'm aware of that, Merlin. I'm not an idiot." He leaned back in his seat and slouched. "But this is a magical event. I'm surprised father even considered coming, much less bringing me along with him."
His interest peaked, Merlin closed his book and leaned forward. "Magic? What sort of magic?"
Arthur sighed again. "The most powerful seer in the world let loose a proclamation: There is a sword in a stone just south of the Forest of Balor in the stone canyon of Balin. Only one in all of time has the right to pull the sword from the stone. He is the Once and Future King who will unite and rule over all of Albion in a glorious age of peace. Only he can release the sword," Arthur recited.
Merlin dropped his book, his mouth hanging open in blatant shock. "Wha…what?" he breathed out.
Arthur nodded in a way only a noble could. "Exactly. It makes no sense. I've never heard of anyone even considering trying to unite all of Albion. We make treaties, of course, but to be united under one ruler? I'm not sure any man has the right to that, sword or not." He frowned sadly. "I certainly don't."
Merlin shook his head. "No. You do. You have a kind and strong heart that understands and cares for the people, no matter their station. You could do it. I'm certain of that," he insisted.
In Merlin's eyes burned a fire of loyalty and truth that shocked and awed Arthur to the end of time. He would never understand this faith Merlin had in him. It made him feel warm inside and like he could conquer the world, so long as Merlin was at his side. Arthur shook his head, a blush creeping up his cheeks at the compliment and his following thoughts, and looked out the window again.
"Whatever," he brushed it off. Merlin smiled anyway, knowing Arthur wasn't actually annoyed with him. "The point is," Arthur continued. "That canyon is on Camelot land. Whether or not we want to believe the seer's words, we have to go and make sure no visiting lord takes this opportunity to invade."
Ah, right. Merlin leaned back in his seat. Right now, all of Albion was in a vicious political struggle. Every treaty currently in valid existence was being threatened by all the tension. It had all started when one king accused another of doing something or other to him. The second king got angry and called on his allies, who came to back him up. Then the first king called on his allies too. But some of the second king's allies were allies with some of the first king's allies and so on and so forth. It had all become so convoluted that Merlin wasn't sure which king started this whole mess any more. Actually, the world was balanced on the edge of a knife and the smallest movement would send everything tumbling into a disastrous war with countless casualties. The seer's words had put a hold on all of that.
No doubt every noble in Albion wanted to try and pull the sword from the stone to prove they were the best; to prove they were right. Depending on how the man who pulled the sword from the stone behaved, this could stop the war before it ever began. Looking at Arthur across from him, Merlin gave a little smile. Arthur was the Once and Future King who would unite the lands of Albion. He would pull the sword from the stone and put a stop to the war.
Arthur caught sight of the smile and scowled. "What? What's with the smile? You don't get a chance to pull the sword out, you know," he reminded in an almost cruel tone of voice.
Merlin smiled wider and clasped his hands together with his elbows on his knees. "No, I know," he agreed pleasantly. "I just get the feeling this will all end well."
Arthur's frown deepened in his confusion. "Huh? What are you babbling about?"
Merlin shook his head and bent to pick his book up from the floor of the carriage. He began reading again, completely (or mostly) ignoring the questioning looks Arthur kept throwing him.
The Canyon of Balin was quite the sight to see. Even without all the people gathered, the cliff faces and the shades of the stones that lined the walls were fantastic. The walls of the canyon were a good fifty feet high, with narrow roads etched into the walls. The canyon was several hundred feet long but only about three hundred feet across. People from every nation were camped in this great ravine. Merlin watched from the carriage window as they slowly descended into the deep and saw King Cendred's colors and the crests from many of the distinguished houses of his home country. The same was true for every land. There were so many tents and so many nobles that the camps had spread to the land outside of the canyon, high above the main attraction.
From high above, it was easy to see the stone in the center of the canyon and the glistening beautiful sword it held captive. Merlin blinked at it curiously, wishing he could get a closer look. Even now, he could see men of all ages in a circle around the stone as others took turns trying to pull the sword out.
"Pull your head in, Merlin," Arthur ordered in a drawl. "We can't have people thinking we're tourists in our own country, after all." Merlin did as he was told without complaint.
When they arrived at the bottom of the canyon, Merlin opened the carriage door and jumped out, setting a two-step stool just outside the door. Arthur then exited like the groomed horse he was, all decked out in the royal robes with his crown in place and his head held high. Once he was out, Merlin set the steps back inside the carriage and closed the door.
Arthur walked in the direction of his father's tent, where his own was also being set up. He gave the sword in the stone and the ring of nobles around it a good twenty foot berth. If Merlin didn't know better, he'd think Arthur was afraid of the sword.
"Father," Arthur greeted as he walked into the grand tent that held Camelot's king.
Uther looked up from the table he was bent over. On the table were the crests of all the houses camped in or near the canyon. "Ah, Arthur. Finally. I need you to go and pull that sword from the stone."
"What?" Arthur gasped out, looking like he'd been told the sky was actually pink and Merlin was a woman.
"You must pull the sword from the stone, or Camelot is ruined," Uther continued. "None of the men out there can be trusted if they managed to pull the sword from the stone. All of them will use the influence they gain to destroy our kingdom."
"Well, father, if any of them actually did pull the sword from the stone," Arthur paused briefly when Uther gave him a hard look, but continued after only a breath's time, "then they would be the rightful ruler of all of Albion and it would only be a matter of time before all the lands were under one name."
"Do not tell me you actually believe that sorcerer's words," Uther bit out in a quiet, dangerous voice. "No one who uses magic can be trusted. They are all out for their own benefit."
Arthur held his father's gaze for seven seconds before he lowered his eyes to the ground. "I will do my best, father," he acquiesced with a small bow before turning and leaving the tent. Merlin followed close behind.
They headed directly for the circle of men around the sword. Arthur didn't say a word. They were almost to the stone when Merlin finally tried to make conversation. "Arthur-"
"Can you believe him?" Arthur asked, stopped suddenly. Merlin nearly ran right into him. "No magic can be trusted," he scoffed. "If I managed to yank that thing out of that stone, he'll claim he believes every word and that I really am the rightful ruler of Albion. Sometimes," Arthur admitted, looking at Merlin, "I think all he cares about is power. Sometimes I think he's just as bad as Hengist and Cendred, always wanting more and more."
Merlin wasn't sure how to respond to that. Should he smile and agree with Arthur, or would that be bad? He gave a lopsided, nervous grin and Arthur seemed to snap out of whatever strange state he'd fallen into. He quickly looked away and over at the ring of men around the stone. From here you could just see the head of the man currently trying to pull the sword out.
"Magic," Arthur breathed out. Merlin kept his eyes trained on Arthur's face, trying to read his expressions. "I'm not sure I ever told you this, Merlin, but…When you were poisoned and dying, and I rode out to the Forest of Balor to find that flower….I would have died had it not been for some magic."
"What?" Merlin asked quietly.
Arthur shook his head and looked away from the stone to some point far off to his left. "There was a woman, a sorceress. She tried to kill me. I nearly died by magic. But then, in my darkest hour, when I thought all hope was lost….Someone sent me a light. A strange, blue orb rose from the deep and led me to safety. I know it was magic." He shook his head, took a deep breath, and turned to look at Merlin again. "Ever since then, I've found it harder and harder to believe my father when he says all those who use magic are evil."
Merlin found it hard to breathe for a few moments. Arthur…. He blinked and came back to himself. "But," he contradicted, "What about Morgause?"
Arthur's eyebrows came together and a sour expression overtook his face. "Yes….She was a particularly bad witch, wasn't she?" He sighed heavily. "She nearly managed to make me kill my own father. I owe you for that time; for stopping me." He waved his hand around like that would make the subject go away. "But that was one witch. Your friend Will was a sorcerer, right? He wasn't evil. He actually helped us save your village."
Merlin lowered his eyes to the ground in shame. "Y-yea," he agreed softly.
Arthur narrowed his eyes at Merlin's reaction. Before he could do anything about it, however, shouting came from the ring of men around the sword. Both Arthur and Merlin stared at it in shock. Had someone….
Merlin took off running, pushing his way through the crowd until he was able to see what had happened. The sword was still in the stone. Merlin took in a huge gulp of air in relief. Of course it hadn't been pulled out. Arthur was the Once and Future King of Albion, and no one else could be. But then…what was everyone yelling about?
Looking just a bit further down from the sword, Merlin saw a man holding his arm in pain. There was blood all down his arm from his elbow to his fingertips. "What?" Merlin breathed out.
"Stupid bastard cut himself trying to pull the sword out," a noble dressed in the colors of Mora, south of Camelot, said. "You would think after five futile minutes that he would have given up. I am surprised at how many idiots are here," the man scoffed.
"Such as mine," Arthur grumbled, grabbing Merlin's head and pushing down. Merlin griped as he was shoved to his knees. "Stop acting important and go help Gaius bandage the man," he ordered bitterly.
"I-!" Merlin stopped when he realized how many nobles were in the area, and how many were staring at him. "Yes, sire," he agreed quietly before hurrying into the clearing to where Gaius was just kneeling by the poor sap.
Arthur sighed as Merlin hurried off. He drew himself up to his full height and then, with all the grace he could muster, sauntered through the clearing around the sword and up onto the large stone holding it hostage. "Not like it matters," he murmured to himself, rubbing his hands together lightly.
After only a moment's pause, he grabbed the sword. Merlin looked up at him just as Arthur lifted up. The sword came out of the stone as if the stone weren't really there. Arthur held it up with shock on his face to the gasps of the men around him.
"It's….That was easy," he let out, dumbstruck.
"What?" the man on the ground yelled angrily. "Easy? I nearly lost my whole arm! It was not easy!"
"Maybe not for you," Merlin said easily. "But for Arthur….for the Once and Future King of all Albion," he looked into Arthur's eyes with pride burning all through his being, "it was a piece of cake."
"Like hell!" Another man shouted, and many others soon joined in. Arthur looked around in stupid fascination.
They were just like his father. Because they weren't the ones to pull the sword from the stone, the whole thing was a sham just so Camelot could rule. It would do no good for Arthur to tell them he hadn't even wanted to try to pull the sword out, or that his father would never resort to such stupid measures. They would simply think he was lying.
"Put the sword back in the stone! I bet now that you've undone whatever you did, it'll be easy!" the first man who shouted said.
"No!" another claimed. "I'll put it back! That way…we'll know it's not a trick!"
"Yea!" a bunch of the men agreed.
Arthur saw a servant running toward his father's tent. He sighed. Perfect. The second man ran up and practically tore the sword from Arthur's hands. Arthur stood tall as the man pushed the sword easily back into the magical stone. The man gave him a glare and Arthur stepped back off the platform to stand by Merlin, Gaius, and the injured noble.
The man tugged and pulled and heaved with all his might, but nothing worked. Then it began again. All the nobles wanted another try. Now that it had been pulled once, it should be easy to pull it again, right? But they all failed to pull the sword from the stone.
Arthur was barely paying attention. He was staring at his hands in awe. It was finally hitting him that it had been him who pulled the sword from the stone. Him. Arthur Pendragon. But he wasn't worthy. He wasn't a good enough Prince, let alone a King. If he tried to rule all of Albion, there was no doubt in his mind that he would fail.
"I just get the feeling this will all end well."
Arthur's eyes widened and he turned to look at Merlin, who also wasn't giving the sword a second look. It was as if he knew that Arthur really was the only one who could pull it out…
"We make treaties, of course, but to be united under one ruler? I'm not sure any man has the right to that, sword or not." Arthur frowned sadly. "I certainly don't."
Merlin shook his head. "No. You do. You have a kind and strong heart that understands and cares for the people, no matter their station. You could do it. I'm certain of that," he insisted.
Merlin…He'd known all along. Or rather, he'd believed Arthur could be the sort of King this sign showed he must be.
Arthur's thoughts were cut off when a large man grabbed him by the collar of his robes. "Pull it out," he huffed out in a dangerous whisper.
"What?" Arthur asked back, anger tingeing his voice.
The man gripped Arthur's shirt tighter. "If you're such a high and mighty destined King….then pull it out again," he challenged. "You should be able to manage that at least, right?"
Arthur put his hands on the larger man's hands and pried them off his shirt. The larger man was shocked at Arthur's physical strength and backed off as soon as Arthur released him. "Fine," Arthur accepted. "If it will shut your mouth."
He walked up the stone again with all the poise of a nobleman's son, but inside he was shaking beyond belief. Could he really be the Once and Future King? Staring at the sword, Arthur was frightened. He wouldn't admit it, but he was scared out of his mind. He looked over at Merlin, who was staring straight back at him with surety in his gaze, and all his fears were whisked away.
Merlin believed in him. Merlin would stand by him through it all. Maybe….Maybe he could do this after all.
With a deep breath, Arthur grabbed the sword and easily lifted it out of the stone. The other nobles stood in shock for several quiet moments, and then they all dropped to one knee. About that time, Uther came hurrying over. He stared in shock and awe at his son standing on the stone holding the magic sword, but did not kneel.
Suddenly, a light flashed through the area and when the world had righted itself, a woman with long chocolate brown hair stood across from Arthur on the stone. Arthur took a half step back from her in surprise but otherwise held his ground. Merlin stood in defense but did not move.
The witch smiled. "Congratulations, Prince Arthur," she began in a happy voice. "By facing your fears, you have made it to this point. Now, my King, you must find those noble men to sit at your table….and rely on they that are truly trustworthy and loyal to you." Merlin could have sworn she looked right at him when she said that. "I give to you the last of my proclamation."
All those in the canyon listened, and though she was quite far from some they all could hear her.
"The sword you have claimed, young Pendragon, is magic but for one reason: to identify the One true King of Albion. There is another sword; your true sword. That sword, which will aid you in uniting all the lands of Albion, was forged long ago…in fire and faith. And though this new sword is a formidable weapon….your greatest asset in all that you do, is the wizard that stands beside you."
Merlin felt all the air rush from his lungs just as Uther shouted in indignation. The whole crowd turned to look at the King as he made his way to the stone. "No!" Uther repeated. "No son of mine will rule with the likes of sorcerers."
"Father," Arthur tried.
"No, Arthur," Uther cut him off. He glared at the seer. "This is simply a trick. A way for magic to overtake the land and usurp all our powers," he said, motioning to the crowd.
"Father, stop," Arthur ordered calmly, quietly.
"This witch is no different from any of her kind. They want to rule over everything and send it all to death and corruption," Uther continued.
"Stop!" Arthur shouted, stabbing the sword harshly back into the stone with a clang. Uther shut his mouth and stared at his son in shock, like the rest of the nobles gathered. "Enough, father. Magic chose me to be King someday. Magic has saved my life, and that of Camelot, several times over! If this….seer…says that I'll meet a sorcerer who is good and loyal and will help me rule justly….then I choose to believe it." He stood tall. "Take that as you will."
There was silence for several long moments. The seer didn't move. No one moved. Not even the wind blew. Then someone started clapping. In less than a minute, every noble was giving Arthur a standing ovation. Arthur, and Uther, looked around with wide eyes.
"My Lord Pendragon," the seer said calmly, the smile still on her face. The clapping stopped almost instantly when everyone realized the seer was talking. "I wish you luck in your glorious future."
"Wait," Arthur said suddenly. The seer tilted her head slightly, showing her curiosity. "How will I know if a sorcerer I meet is the one you said is true?" He didn't want to accidentally trust a Morgause instead.
The seer smiled. "Your sorcerer….is the one who will give you your sword. He will be the one who hands you the true sword that you were meant to take up, the sword that can defeat any enemy living or dead and will never fail you unless you cast it away."
Arthur nodded. Uther's eyes were wide. The seer vanished just as suddenly as she'd appeared. Arthur stepped down off the rock and was instantly surrounded by nobles all wanting to congratulate him and compliment him. Most of it was simple flattery as they all hoped for high positions in Arthur's coming kingdom, but Arthur accepted it all the same. Uther, on the other hand, looked straight at Merlin. Merlin was helping Gaius finish bandaging the injured noble's arm with a huge beaming smile on his face.
Merlin had given Uther the sword that defeated the undead wraith that was Igraine's brother. Merlin had had that sword specially made for Arthur for that battle. He'd been adamant that only Arthur use it….Only Arthur. The sword that said "Take Me Up" and "Cast Me Away."
Merlin was a sorcerer.
How am I doing? Like it? Hate it? Constructive criticism?
Next Time: The First Challenger
Pelleas of Mora comes to Camelot to challenge Arthur. If he loses, he'll serve Arthur until the end of his days. If he wins, he gets the Sword from the Stone and all that that entails. Also, Uther looks into the Merlin issue.
Note: I'll be using spells in this story. All translations come from two online Old English translators/dictionaries: www. oldenglishtranslator .co .uk and home. comcast .net/~modean52/oeme_ dictionaries. htm
I must apologize in advanced in case anyone who reads these knows old English. I know nothing of old English and all I did was pick words that matched what I needed. I don't know anything about proper sentence structure or grammar or anything.