Title: Originating Agent

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Summary: One can be of Morgana's bloodline without subscribing to her beliefs. 1300 words.

Prompt: 24 Days of Ficmas, Day 6: For lady_with_cats. Brought to you by wishlist_fic. Prompt: Sorcerer's Apprentice, introspection. A slightly off-kilter look at a certain fanon idea; borrows several names from Arthurian legend.

Dave's early lack of training, and the crash course Balthazar condensed for him during the week before Morgana's reemergence, have left significant marks on his technique as a sorcerer. His first love is science, not magic; while Balthazar learned the physical rules that explain the way a sorcerer manipulates the universe around him long after he learned how to cast the spells themselves, Dave's perspective is oriented the other way around. He finds more comfort in solid fact than faith; he needs demonstrations, explanations, or an extremity of need to cast anything new- but once he does master a spell, he's surprisingly adept at finding new ways to apply it.

He's a delight to teach, when he isn't driving Balthazar insane. Balthazar never knows what creative spellwork the boy is going to surprise him with next- and now that Dave's got it through his head that defeating Morgana Le Fay is not the be all and end all of his magical career, Balthazar expects several lifetimes more of surprises yet to come. Provided Merlin's immortality spell holds out that long.

He hopes it does. Veronica spent the twelve hundred years and change Balthazar was combing the world for the Prime Merlinian locked up in a doll with Morgana; she'd missed so much during her long, featureless imprisonment. Balthazar wants to show her all the wonders of the world he experienced without her: to discover their marvels afresh through her eyes.

The boy's unconventional apprenticeship has led Balthazar to neglect certain areas of his training, though. Namely, his history: the back pages of the Incantus, covering the rise of Myrddin Wyllt, later called Merlin; his meddling in the life of the King who would be later known as Arthur; his conflicts with Arthur's half-sister Morgana, who had been trained in another school of magic; and the shadow wars those conflicts had sparked among generation upon generation of their apprentices and descendants. There'll be time for Dave to learn the whole litany later, Balthazar figures; in the meantime, control is more important. He has Merlin's talent, and his power will only grow in the years to come; his abilities are effectively limited only by his own will and imagination. And enough technical know-how not to blow himself up by accident. That could take awhile.

Balthazar wonders, sometimes, if things would be different if he had been able to train Dave from childhood. Or if he'd run into Dave's mother instead, thirty years earlier. Or her father; Balthazar's been able to trace the line back that far, just from Dave's observations about the strange things that happened around certain members of his family. Dave isn't the Prime Merlinian because he's the only boy in all of the world's history born with the ability to defeat Morgana; he's simply the first of Merlin's line Balthazar has ever tracked down with enough sorcerous potential to awaken Merlin's ring. It chose him- and he chose it; and that was enough to ensure Dave would be the Prime player in the Merlinian prophecy. But it didn't give him the ability to work magic; nor even the ability to work magic without a ring. That was in his blood; the ring simply functioned as training wheels and amplifier for his spellwork.

The only reason it had taken Balthazar so long to find him was that Myrddin hadn't exactly kept track of any children he might have sired in his travels. His master had been a great sorcerer- but he'd saved all his care and attention for his art and his apprentices rather than the support of a wife and household. All his magic could tell him was that such an heir existed: not where, nor by whom. And an entire continent- later, the entire world- was an awfully large haystack to seek that needle in.

For better or worse, the Morganians had never had that problem. Her direct line, like Merlin's, is capable of producing sorcerers strong enough to project the electrical energy of their nervous systems into the physical world without the intermediate step of a piece of specially made jewelry; there had never been many of them at any given time, but they had never been good at keeping a low profile, and they'd been far easier to track through history than Merlin's unknown offspring. Morgan Le Fay had married Urien, King of Rheged, and borne him a son: Owain mab Urien, who later seduced a princess named Denw and sired a son baptized under the name Kentigern. Though Kentigern, later called Saint Mungo, hadn't followed directly in his grandmother's tradition, he had taken up her conflict with Merlin after running into him under the name Lailoken in the late sixth century on opposite sides of a battlefield. That had been about a hundred and fifty years before Hrvat turned his back on Merlin's teachings and betrayed him; in the meantime, Owain's twin sister further tangled matters by bearing a child by one of Arthur's knights, and the line had continued.

Balthazar fought plenty of Morgana's blood heirs during his long search, until they stopped hunting him at last around the time of the Inquisition. He's not sure now whether they're truly all dead, or in hiding, or whether those left have simply lost track of their heritage as thoroughly as Dave's ancestors did, but he's grateful for the reprieve; it gives Dave time to learn what he can do before Horvath can train another apprentice and come back to take his revenge. And there is no chance any such Morganian apprentice might turn up with a ring or pendant as powerfully suited for sorcery as Merlin's dragon ring; when Veronica had ripped Morgana's soul from her body in Merlin's tower, all of Morgana's jewelry had been left behind on her discarded corpse. Balthazar had very, very carefully seen to its disposal after laying his master to rest. There will be no 'Prime Morganian' to threaten Dave in direct combat- because the 'Prime Morganian' was born more than thirteen hundred years in the past.

Prime: a word defined as 'first in excellence, quality, or value'. Or alternatively: 'originating agent'. Dave's title as 'Prime Merlinian' abides by the first definition: no other sorcerer has arisen to such strength from Merlin's bloodline in twelve hundred and sixty years. But the Morganians- well. One can be of Morgana's bloodline without subscribing to her beliefs; it had been such a triumph for Merlin to poach the first magical son of her line right out from under her.

Balthazar fans out his fingers, staring down at all the bands, jeweled and otherwise, he wears upon them, and smiles wryly at the green diamond on his index finger. He'd hoped to fare better against her, all things considered; but shared blood and a shared focus had only made him weaker, in the end. If he'd been thinking, he would have taken the ring off to fight her- but he'd grown used to relying on its support, and really, it probably wouldn't have made things any better. Merlin had been right to insist he find his opposite number to fight her, no matter how bleak the intervening years had been for him.

Bleak: derived from the middle English 'bleke' for pale; from the Old English word 'blac'. Or- Blake, in modern English usage. None of the family names he could have laid claim to instead had seemed- appropriate, when the time had come to select a surname.

He isn't sure yet whether he's going to tell Dave. It's not like it matters, not now. Merlin hadn't told anyone about his youngest apprentice's origins. The irony appeals to Balthazar, though, and he thinks it might to Dave as well.

The Prime Morganian training the Prime Merlinian? Merlin had had quite the sense of humor.