A/N: hehe. Hi. Err... :S I am aware that this has taken a long time. A stupidly long time. Sorry. But it's not insanely long! I am making an effort to shorten chapters just for you. I'll get back to the proper plot in Camelot and if you gave me ideas/I said you would make an appearance that will happen. I just needed to explain what was behind the door. Also... I thought I might as well make fun of my long absence. I'm sorry I haven't been updating/reviewing/replying/anything else you might expect. I have a fabulous excuse but I'll spare you the joy of my a/n getting any more rambly (it's a word if I say it's a word, m'kay?). It's been a long time and I'm nervous about this, but I figured you deserved me to stop withholding it. I hope it doesn't disappoint.
The door slid open and behind it stood a small child with a camera that Merlin had the sudden urge to describe as 'Muggle', although he didn't know what 'Muggle' meant.
"Hello," said the small child, smiling toothily. "I'm Colin Creevey, from the Harry Potter fandom. Merlin's beard!" he exclaimed suddenly, gawping at the pair of them. "You're Merlin, aren't you? I recognise you from your chocolate frog card!"
Merlin didn't really know what to make of any of this. He turned to Gwaine, confused. "Merlin's beard?" he asked. "Do I actually have that moustache the mirrors were showing me?"
Gwaine shook his head.
"Oh my!" yelped Colin, as if someone had pinched him. "This must be your first contact! I'm not really supposed to deal with those, you know; I'm only a first year."
Merlin and Gwaine nodded as if they knew what any of that meant.
Colin leant forwards into the story to have a little look around.
"Oh…" he murmured. "A similair. Nice. You don't see these often, most computers autocorrect that typo."
Gwaine turned to Merlin and mouthed: "Nutcase."
"I like your door," Colin commented, knocking approvingly on the dark oak.
"Our door?" Merlin wasn't having any of this. "It's not got anything to do with us. It just drew itself there, and then you walked through it."
Gwaine nodded decisively. They were not being held responsible for this one. No way. Colin sneakily snapped another photograph of Merlin looking baffled and annoyed. "Anyway," Colin cleared his throat. "You'd better come through, before the author notices."
"What do you mean 'before the author notices'?" demanded Merlin. "The author knows everything!"
"Ah! A common misconception, I'm afraid. We're off-plot, at the moment, and she has no idea what we're doing. But she could start writing either of you at any minute, so I suggest you get into the corridor, where you're safe."
Merlin and Gwaine looked at one another in amazement. "We're safe from the author in that corridor you're standing in?"
"Oh yes," Colin told them. "Quite safe."
It was hard to tell which of the two characters was more desperate to cram every one of their respective limbs through the doorway, and they eventually landed in one giant heap on the other side. Colin shut the door.
A/N: hi. Im not really feeling like i want to rite any more of this becayse tbh not many eople are reading it and some who are aren't being positive but leave men reviews and im just feeling bad about mnyself now. its not nice so im going to but this stroy on haitus for a bit till i feel better about things im not holding hostage for reviews or anything (tho reviews would be nice) i just dont have any inspration. if your one of the nice people whose reading and then im sorry :)
There was a sudden whirring noise in Camelot and some clicking, as if a computer was being turned on, or off. Then, from somewhere, someone yelled: "Hey! Who turned out all the lights?" But it was hard to tell who this someone was, because it had suddenly become pitch black.
"Ow!" yelled someone else, rather indignantly. "Who put that wall there?"
"Who said that?"
"Who are you?"
"Where are you?"
"I don't know! I can't see anything."
"Hm… good point. I'll come towards you and we'll figure it out together."
There was a pause.
"Am I any closer?"
"How should I know?"
"Guys? Someone's standing on my foot…"
"Oh, sorry, pardon me, excuse me. Wrong fandom. If I could just squeeze through here… Does anyone know where the lights are around here?"
"Oh, good, yes. Get Gaius. He always knows what's going on."
"Hm? I was having a nap… Who turned off all the lights?"
"Oh, not this again…"
"Gaius, we don't know. That's the problem."
"Is it a power cut?"
"Never mind. Oh, I know! Have you tried turning it off and on again?"
"Turning what off and on again? What powers Camelot anyway?"
"Shut up, you fruitcake."
"Money? Makes the world go round, doesn't it?"
"Who said that? I'll have you executed!"
"Hush, Uther. Now is really not the time for all that."
"It's Crazy!Uther, I'll have you know! I've been retagged!"
"Have you really?"
"Yes, I would have thought you could tell…"
"I can't see anything, can I?"
"Will you all shut up for a minute?"
"Actually, that's a good point."
Someone sighed. "What's a good point?"
"How many of us are there here?"
"I don't know! I can't exactly count."
"Well, that's helpful, thank you."
"Gaius, any ideas?"
"Oh, no… She wouldn't!"
"She… she… couldn't!"
"The lazy cow!"
"I am not sure…"
"Gaius, you're never sure, but you're always right."
"I'll try not to let that go to my head. As I was saying, I am not sure, for I have only heard rumours, whispers, from characters long deleted, of this ever having happened… But it is possible, I think for an author to stop writing a story."
"Well, of course it's possible," someone scoffed. "They finish, don't they. Is that what's happened? Because I don't remember us reaching a very satisfying conclusion."
"Oh no, that is definitely not what happened. We would know if we had been completed. There's a certain sense of smugness a story gains from it, a sense of superiority. This confusion, this darkness, this can only be gained from being abandoned."
"Yes. I fear our author has placed us on hiatus. And, from what I have heard, the longer we are here I am afraid that this void of darkness will only worsen. We may forget what it is like to actually exist, to be an individual."
There was a fearful pause. "How long will it last?"
"I'm afraid I cannot say. She may never bother to finish writing us. It may be our destiny to languish in this darkness for eternity."
Merlin and Gwaine got up and looked around themselves.
"Funny colour scheme," Merlin commented, eventually.
Colin nodded in agreement.
The walls of the corridor were a bright, almost blinding white that made your eyes itch if you stared at them for too long, and the only other colour was an offensively garish blue border running along the edges.
Gwaine squinted at it. "Eurgh…" he mumbled. "It's like being inside Delftware…"
The corridor itself was fairly narrow and ran endlessly in either direction, at least, as far as they could see. It probably stopped somewhere. Every few paces or so along was a new, interesting-looking door, and they were all shut. Behind some of the doors there appeared to be flashing lights and strange noises.
They began to march away from their door, down the corridor; where they were going, only Colin knew.
"Welcome to fanfictiondotnet!" Colin announced happily. "Before you say anything, there are a few things you will need to know… Err… I have some difficulty remembering things, so I'm going to get my pamphlet out." Colin rooted around in his bag for the pamphlet. "I'm actually a trainee guide," he told them nervously.
"Really?" muttered Gwaine. "We'd never have guessed."
"Okay…" Colin opened his pamphlet and began to read it. "You know what, I'm supposed to take questions at the end, but since you both look so confused, I think I might do that bit now."
"Why did you say it was 'our door'?" asked Merlin.
"Oh… That's easy. The shape of the door is chosen by the viewer, not the drawer."
The looks on Gwaine's and Merlin's faces told Colin that was not as easy to understand as he had though it was.
Colin tried again. "The person, or persons, observing the door being drawn influence what it looks like. That's why all of the doors to different fanfictions are different." He gestured to the doors they were walking past.
"Wait…" Merlin stopped walking. "All these doors lead to different fanfictions?"
"Cool…" murmured Gwaine, grinning and reaching out to open one.
"You really mustn't do that," Colin told him. "You have to have typed permission from an author to initiate a Crossover."
"A Crossover. It's when two different fanfiction worlds collide. Wow. I never realised a first contact could be so much work… You have to explain even the really obvious things!"
"Wait… Permission from an author?" asked Merlin, frowning. "But… authors are evil! They make us do things we don't want to do! And they spy on us when we go to the toilet!"
"Err… Actually, that's just your author. And we're monitoring her pretty closely." Colin took another picture of Merlin.
"Why do you keep taking pictures of me?" demanded Merlin, his gruff, manly voice on the verge of exploding.
"It's just in case I get a canon spot test."
"A canon spot test, to check I've been sticking to canon. We have to prove that we stick to character and do our jobs; otherwise we're not allowed to leave our stories."
Merlin did not appear to understand any of what he'd said and Colin realised he wasn't doing a very good job of explaining how Fanfictiondotnet was run. "Merlin, I think you've got the wrong idea about things. Most characters like their jobs. In fact, most characters can influence the author and make them write what they want them to write. Authors are always saying: the characters just write themselves! We find that pretty funny over here. I think it might be our site motto. Anyway, point is, most authors are puppets. isn't run by authors, Merlin. At the top, it's run by characters. It was founded by the characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1998, using a man called Xing Li as a disguise. The characters of the show thought it would be a nice way to relax from the stressful storylines, sometimes they take a holiday and swap with the fanfiction characters and nobody notices. Except, nobody anticipated whump." Colin shook his head sadly. "That was quite a blow. How could we have seen it coming? We thought they loved us. We didn't know they would want to hurt us. So… it's a more complicated system than it was originally intended to be. But is the only fanfiction site in the world set up and run by the characters, Merlin. And don't you forget it. Oh, and who are you, by the way?"
"I'm Gwaine," said Gwaine, who had been completely disregarding Colin's entire speech (most of which had been read off the pamphlet anyway) and was opening the nearest door to have a look inside.
"Don't bother them!" Colin snapped, shutting the door. "They haven't been published yet and they're busy rehearsing."
"Rehearsing?" asked Merlin, as they carried on down the corridor.
"Yes! They have to practise their lines to make sure they don't mess up! Don't you know that roughly half of the typos in a fanfic are the fault of the characters?"
"Do you know anything about fanfiction at all?"
"Not really. Only that we were in one and that was the reason why everything was going crazy."
"No, no, no, Merlin. You've got it wrong. You weren't in a fanfiction. You are a fanfiction."
"What? But I'm Merlin! The most powerful warlock of all time!"
"Cool, dude," said someone from behind him, who sounded awfully familiar. "Me too. Apparently."
Merlin turned around, and was suddenly face to face with himself. Only, this version of himself was wearing sunglasses, and had his arm slung around a pregnant Morgana's shoulders.
"Argh!" screamed Merlin suddenly. "Evil witch!" And he tried to shoot a spell at her, but it didn't work.
Morgana started crying.
"There, there, babe," cooed the Merlin in sunglasses. He looked up and glared at himself. "What was that for, man?"
Merlin gaped. "Are you dating Morgana?"
"No, of course not," sunglasses!Merlin laughed. "We're married. Why are you picking on my pregnant wife?"
"I don't know…" muttered Merlin, too confused to know what to do. "Force of habit?"
"Not cool, other me, not cool," said sunglasses!Merlin, before meandering off back from whence he came.
Merlin turned to Colin for an explanation. "That'll just be an AU future Mergana," he told them confidently, as if that made any sort of sense. "Wait, where's Gwaine?"
"I got bored of taking instructions from a two-year-old!" he yelled at them, from a very long way down the corridor. "I'm going to see if there's a tavern around here somewhere…"
"I am not a two-year-old!" insisted Colin, storming after him. "I'm a first year! And I've been a first year for the last seven years!"
Merlin shot him a puzzled look.
"Characters in a fanfiction don't age, Merlin! We just repeat the same chapters again and again and again, forever!"
Merlin considered this. He didn't believe a word of it. But something important was bothering him. "How come my magic didn't work in the corridor?"
"Nobody's magic works in the corridor," said Colin. "We had to level the playing field."
"To stop raging battles of good and evil?" asked Merlin.
Colin shrugged. "Actually, it was more about stopping Fred and George setting off Filibuster fireworks, but yeah, let's go with the good and evil thing."
A long way down the other end of the corridor, far away from them, there was a sudden shriek of: "We were on a break!"
To which the response was: "I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry."
This did not sound quite right, but they carried on after Gwaine regardless.
"We've had lots of reports about your story," Colin said to Merlin, as they jogged along, following the sounds of Gwaine's gloating.
"Really?" wondered Merlin.
"You can't catch me!" yelled Gwaine.
"Yes," said Colin.
"I'm the gingerbread man!" announced Gwaine, for whom over-exertion and excitement was not good.
"The administrators. We patrol the corridors and wait for reports of abuse from site users," Colin explained. "Like that."
Merlin didn't know what he meant by the last sentence, until he saw Colin was pointing up at the ceiling, where a small piece of paper had just zipped out of what appeared to be a ventilation system, and was now wafting down to land in the little boy's hand.
Colin laughed. "Perfect timing! It's a complaint about your story!"
"What does it say?"
"Bla… bla… bla… bla… mentally scarring… bla… bla… bla… Can't sleep at night… bla… bla… bla… Having to see a therapist… bla… bla… All the usual stuff. Oh and apparently no one needs to imagine Geoffrey of Monmouth without his shirt on. Ew."
Merlin pulled a face. "True that."
"It's reports like this that mean we've been trying to establish a connection with your story for months."
"Yes." Colin grimaced. "Usually it's easy. We just slip our doors in on the back of a typo or an anachronism, but Gaius has been patching up the errors faster than we can get to them. It's really very annoying. And, of course, we can't do anything while the author's looking. Your author is really very unusually aggressive, isn't she?"
Merlin nodded morosely.
"They're not normally like that."
"Thanks," muttered Merlin, glumly. "That makes me feel so much better."
"Anyway, by my calculations, you're all ready for some pretty serious counselling, and we have some professionals here who can take care of that. But we'll have to be sneaky. The author can't notice that you're gone."
"Won't she have noticed already?"
"Nah," Colin shrugged. "You've only been gone a second."
"No I haven't!"
"Yes you have. Time passes differently here. Besides, she won't notice if one of the others says your line for you just this once. They never do, they just think they typed the wrong name." Colin chuckled. "Authors are so gullible… Ah! Here he is!"
Gwaine was somewhere in the middle of a very large, very drunken crowd.
"Hey Merlin! Hey Kevin! I've made some new friends!"
"Hey Merlin!" yelled the crowd, who, now that they had got closer, could see was entirely made up of Gwaines.
"Wait…" muttered Colin. "You're Sir Gawain, aren't you?" he pointed at one of the many identical drunken Irish mop-heads, who was boasting about beating a 'green knight'. "I just got confused because of the spelling! Wow! Can I have a picture? I've never seen this many knights of Camelot in the same place before! And especially not the same one!"
"Sure!" the crowd of Gwaines mumbled, grinning at him. "Cheese!"
Colin clicked the shutter and the bright flash from the camera made the numerous drunken Gwaines shriek and scurry off in different directions. Colin quickly grabbed their Gwaine by the scruff of the neck to prevent him from doing the same.
"You know," Colin told Gwaine, as the crowd of him dispersed. "I met your ghost once."
Gwaine stared at him and Colin pretended he hadn't said anything.
It was up to Merlin to begin the conversation again. "So… You said before that the author couldn't see us?"
"Of course not," Colin smiled smugly. "You're not in the story anymore."
"Okay…" Merlin tried to enjoy his newfound sense of freedom, and maintain a level head at the same time. It was difficult. Gwaine was not trying at all. "But before, when we were in the story, you said the author couldn't see us then, didn't you?"
Colin nodded. "Ah. Yeah. You were off-plot: the author's attention was focused on a different part of the story."
Merlin nodded. "I think Gaius mentioned that before…"
"It's important to be able to tell when you are and aren't off-plot, that will be the best time to sneak our agents in."
"Yes. We have an entire SWAT admin team working round the clock monitoring your fanfic. Your author was bumped last week from 'seriously dangerous' to 'dangerously serious'; her error-count has been increasing tenfold with every chapter she publishes."
Merlin looked slightly nauseous. "SWAT admin team?"
"You should be flattered. They're the best in the business. At the moment it's the cast of Inception. They're the only ones qualified enough for this high level of nonsensery, and so their slots on the film have been filled by fanfiction characters. It's a confusing film as it is, so it doesn't matter if they get a few lines wrong here and there."
Merlin nodded as if he understood any of that.
However, before Colin could spend any more time confusing them, a loud siren sounded in the corridor, accompanied by flashing lights and the following announcement:
"COLIN CREEVEY00079182436 REPORT TO YOUR FANFICTION. IT IS BEING READ. REPEAT: IT IS BEING READ. THIS IS A READ ALERT. COLIN CREEVEY00079182436 REPORT TO YOUR FANFICTION."
"That's me!" squealed Colin, dropping his pamphlet on the floor in excitement.
"COLIN CREEVEY00079182436 THIS IS A READ ALERT. REPORT TO YOUR DOOR IN FIVE LINES."
"Eep! No one ever reads my story!" Colin jumped up and down, grinning like an idiot. "You don't have to tell me twice!" He began to scamper off down the corridor, before turning around and hurriedly telling Merlin and Gwaine, "You need to go to the Functioning Room. That's where the SWAT Admin Team work. I'm off!"
Colin legged it away down the corridor, yipping with glee.
Gwaine turned to Merlin and shrugged, prepared to disregard everything Colin had said and wander off on an adventure, but Merlin asked him, "Functioning Room?" with a frown. "Do you think that's what he meant?"
"Who cares?" responded Gwaine honestly.
Just then they noticed a large wooden signpost that may or may not have previously been there, directing them towards the Function Room.
"Function Room," muttered Merlin. "I'll bet that's it. Functioning Room doesn't make any sense. Let's follow that signpost."
Gwaine shrugged again. "Whatever. You're the all-powerful warlock."
Merlin didn't bother responding. Either Gwaine knew his secret, and that was his idea of a joke, or he didn't know his secret, and that was his idea of a joke. Whichever it was, he wasn't exactly posing much of a threat.
The walk down the corridor to the Function Room was largely uneventful. The word 'largely' is used here because one or two interesting things occurred. Gwaine tried to break into a number of fanfictions, but Merlin stopped him; a blue blur ran past them so quickly that it was impossible to tell whether it was a Smurf or a Na'vi; and a strange-smelling man wearing a sandwich board that read: 'ffnet is going to be shut down because of copyright infringements!' screamed at them that the time had come to flee to Google.
"Here we are," observed Merlin, rather unnecessarily, as he splayed his hand out across the door marked Function Room, before pushing it open. There simply are not words to express how unprepared the pair were for the sight that awaited them on the other side of that door.
Back in what was presumably Camelot (no one could tell, it had lost all sense of shape: they weren't going to be complaining about the author's ineffective descriptions any time soon), someone coughed.
"So…" said someone else, or it could have been the same person, they were all starting to sound the identical. "What do we do now?"
Another person shrugged. At least they thought they shrugged, but they weren't sure. And now they'd spent so much time thinking about shrugging, they couldn't remember the question. Who had asked the question, anyway? Was it them?
"We should count, so we don't lose track of time."
"That's a good point, how long has it been since this started?"
No one said anything in response to that, which worried them all, however many of them there were.
Someone started humming, which seemed a reasonable enough way to pass the time, so they all joined in.
Inside the Function Room, Merlin and Gwaine were spectacularly bamboozled. They had found themselves in a room of average width, but impossible height, with an infinite number of different floors, on which numerous ridiculous different things were all being done at once. The first floor they were immediately confronted with was a ballroom, and a large number of people in floaty, formal dresses were swanning around quite cheerfully to music that seemed to be coming from nowhere in particular. A few floors up from that a very serious board meeting was being conducted, where a short, stocky, red-faced man in a suit was banging his fist on the table and yelling a lot about the predictions for market maintenance over the next term, and, as he enunciated, was spitting unnecessarily in the face of the woman sitting in the swivel chair next to him. On the floor directly above that there appeared to be some sort of chess tournament taking place, above that there was a poorly attended screening of Singin' in the Rain and just above that there was a carpenter's workshop.
Gwaine squinted as far towards the top of the row of infinite floors as he could see, following a long thin line that was dangling down the front with a hook on the end. This hook was waggling from side to side, and wasn't achieving much other than occasionally getting stuck up one of the noses of a ballroom dancer who ventured too far or was unfortunately dipped by a daring partner. The long, thin line next to it eventually managed to hook the hat of one of the chess-players', and after an exceptionally faint cry of, "I got something!" the line and the hat disappeared skywards.
Gwaine pointed way up to where Merlin couldn't see. "I think they're fishing."
At this last word there was an odd, wooden, groaning, rickety-rockety sort of noise, like complaining cogs, and the floors suddenly flipped themselves around, so one of the very high floors, that had previously been almost out of sight, was now on ground level, and everyone else they could see was one floor up. The floor they were now confronted with was a pair of fisherman who had been dangling their legs over the edge, and now found themselves at a bit of a loss.
The first fisherman, who was wearing a pilfered chess-player's hat, scowled at Gwaine. "Just what do you think you're playing at, eh?"
"Sorry," Gwaine shrugged.
None of the other floors seemed particularly bothered. They had all continued on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. For all Merlin and Gwaine knew, nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
"Um," said Merlin. "We're looking for the cast of Inception? We're from a fanfiction, and it's all gone horribly wrong and Colin said to come to the Functioning Room…"
"Well that's where you went wrong then, isn't it?" observed the hat-less fisherman. "This is the Function Room. This is where holds all our functions. All characters welcome, of course, both malevolent and benign, as long as you keep your morality to your fictions. It can get a bit intense otherwise."
The hat-wearing fisherman sighed. "You want the Functioning Room. Go back out into the corridor, turn left, head straight down through the whole of Anime/Manga and you want your first right before you reach Plays/Musicals. Alright?"
Of course, it was not alright. It made no sense whatsoever. But the man looked angry, he had already been deprived of a space in which to dangle his feet, and they had seen that he had no problem stealing hats. Who knew what else he would resort to if pushed? Merlin and Gwaine backed out of the Function Room and decided to pretend they'd never seen it in the first place, which, honestly, is how the cast of Merlin deal with most things most of the time.
When they had crept out into the corridor and shut the door behind them, they backed straight into a madman. The madman didn't look familiar to either of them, but that was because neither Merlin nor Gwaine had ever seen Doctor Who or even Torchwood, and so the scrambled Captain Jack Harkness tag above the character's head wouldn't have made any sense even if they could have read the encryption. The character was stamped with the word STORY DELETED in bright, bold, red lettering, and he was wearing a sandwich board. The sandwich board read: "livejournal is stealing ff writers!" and it lacked any sense of imminent doom, but Merlin and Gwaine pretended to have been shocked by it all the same, so as not to cause offence.
"Flee!" yelled the madman.
"What?" asked Gwaine.
"Why?" asked Merlin.
"Flee!" repeated the madman. "Fanfiction is dying! There's no place for us here anymore! Flee! Flee while you still can!"
"Flee where?" inquired Merlin.
"Ask Jeeves!" the madman told them earnestly.
Gwaine frowned. "Why? Don't you know the answer?"
"No!" the madman shook his head. "It's a homepage. A very safe homepage, you can get to anywhere on the web from there, just by searching! And you can't be tracked. Not like you can if you go to Google." He tapped the side of his nose conspiratorially. "No… That's what they expect you to do. Everyone goes to Google, they expect that. You have to be sneaky!"
Then the madman cackled and ran off, shrieking.
Gwaine turned to Merlin. "He said left, right?"
"Does anyone remember why we're here?"
There was silence in the blank, meaningless vacuum formerly known as Camelot.
"You know, I think there used to be something else, before this."
"What do you mean 'before'?"
"I don't really know."
"Are we nearly there yet? How long is this going to last?"
"Are we nearly where? How long is what going to last?"
"I'm not sure… It just sounded like the right thing to say."
"Who are you?"
"I don't know. Who am I?"
"I don't know. Who are you?"
"You just asked me that."
"Did you what?"
"Who are you, anyway?"
"Where were you going?"
"Nowhere. We think it's an expression."
"Did somebody turn the lights out?"
"I think it's an expression. I'm so confused."
"Am I different from you? I don't feel different from you. I feel like we're all the same."
"I is just a word. It doesn't mean anything, does it?"
"Who am I?"
"I don't know. Who are you?"
"I'm so confused."
It was with a sense of trepidation that Merlin and Gwaine stood outside the door to the Functioning Room. Having taken so long to finally reach the place, they really, really didn't want to be disappointed; they wanted saviours, knights in shining armour (although Merlin was seriously dubious about the competency of knights in any sort of armour) to whisk them away from their big, bad author.
Merlin was fidgeting. He hopped from foot to foot in an anxious manner, repeatedly holding a hand out to knock on the door, then retracting it. Gwaine, although also nervous, was impatient, and could only put up with this sort of behaviour for so long.
"Oh give over, Merlin," he muttered, and rapped on the door very loudly, so that he had to be heard.
"Come in," called someone who had a decidedly strange voice.
They pushed the door open cautiously and were greeted by the sight of four brightly-dressed people and a dog, all of whom appeared to be two-dimensional. Merlin and Gwaine peered down at themselves, to check that this wasn't merely the effect that the room had on people: it wasn't, they were as three-dimensional as ever.
"You're cartoons," Merlin observed.
"Jinkies, you're quick," muttered one of them, a short girl.
"Are you the cast of Inception?" Merlin persisted, in spite of the sarcasm, as Gwaine winked at the redhead in corner.
"Nope," the short girl replied. "You must be Gwaine and Merlin." She stuck her hand out for them to shake, and it was rather awkward considering that, when viewed sideways, she was just a line. They just about managed it. "I'm Velma and this is Scooby Doo and The Mystery Gang. I'm afraid the cast of Inception resigned; apparently the mindmuddlery was too much for them. So we were called in to help you instead."
"But… but they said that the cast of Inception were the best!"
"Please," snorted Velma. "They might be the best in the third dimension, sure. But we handle stuff they can't even dream of!" The Mystery Gang laughed at that, and Merlin wished someone would explain the joke to him.
"Yeah, like, zoinks! I'd like to see them handle all the ghosts and ghouls we catch!" declared a skinny boy wearing a green shirt.
"You guys catch ghosts?"
"Well, we catch ghosts," answered Velma, gesturing to herself and the other two. "Shaggy and Scooby run away from ghosts."
"Hey, man! Like, not cool."
"Reh! Rot rool!"
"Your dog talks!" exclaimed Gwaine, who until that point had only been interested with flirting with the redheaded girl, which didn't appear to be going down particularly well with the blonde guy. Not that Gwaine was overly concerned.
The Mystery Gang stared at him. "Does your dog not talk?" asked the blonde guy.
"Like, maybe he's just shy," suggested Shaggy.
"And, anyway, the whole point is that they turn out not to be ghosts," said redhead.
"Actually, that reminds me," muttered Velma. "Fred, Daphne, check them!" she pointed at Merlin and Gwaine, and before they knew what was happening the blonde and the redhead had approached them out of nowhere and were tugging at the sides of their faces as if they were trying to pull them off. When nothing happened, they stepped back and apologised.
"Ouch!" Gwaine pouted.
Merlin stared at them all in confusion. His day was just getting weirder and weirder. "What was that for?"
"Sorry," Velma shrugged. "We have to check you're not someone else in disguise, wearing a mask. It's just a precaution."
"Does that happen often?" asked Merlin.
Fred nodded. "You'd be surprised."
Merlin remembered to remember that: he would try it out when he got back to Camelot, although it probably wouldn't be appreciated. None of his efforts to save Arthur's life ever were.
"Right." Velma clapped her hands. "I think we might be getting off-topic. You're here because there are some problems with your fanfiction. As you can see," she gestured to around the room, where numerous graphs and charts and bits of machinery were strewn about in a cluttered but scientific-looking manner. "For a start we have been monitoring your story's clichosity, that is its level of cliché, on our clichometer, and its readings are off the charts. Look!" She pointed to a chart where the line on the graph had indeed been drawn so that it literally came off the edge of the page and went all the way around the room on the walls, before disappearing under a desk. "Your story is so cliché it's less of a story and more a series of clichés that your author has regurgitated and assembled in a vaguely coherent manner."
"Ro-boy Relma," mumbled the dog. "Rarsh."
Velma scowled at him. "Merlin, Gwaine, come with me into the observatory. You've really got nothing to worry about, I promise. We've been keeping a close watch on your story and everything's going fine. The last I saw Gaius was on the toilet, Uther was asking Geoffrey to perform a puppet show with him and Lancelot was sulking. Apart from the obvious character defects and spelling mistakes, everyone's okay."
She beckoned them through into an adjacent room, ignoring Merlin's outraged cries of, "You watch us on the toilet too!", and pointed at dozens of blank screens. "See? Everything's fine."
"Um. You might want to turn them on," Gwaine pointed out.
"They are on," Velma insisted, looking up to see what they saw: dozens of blank screens. After staring at them in confusion for a second, and then fiddling with some buttons in a vain attempt to get them working, she squeaked. "Jeepers! She's put them on hiatus! Mystery Gang, get in here!"
The other strange, flat people entered the room and stared at the blank screens with similar expressions of horror on their faces. Merlin and Gwaine were experiencing sinking feelings in their stomachs: this could not be good.
Eventually Fred cleared his throat and muttered hoarsely, "Let's split up and look for clues…"