The only thing preventing the hill top being completely deserted, was a solitary rabbit, hopping from one dew covered clump of grass to the next. This was the reason that no one witnessed the unusual sight of an extraordinarily old man appearing apparently out of thin air, no sound, no disturbance of the air around him, nothing, he simply appeared. Almost blind, the old man gazed westward, resting wearily on his wooden staff, he watched the sun disappear behind his destination; the fortress of Tintagel. Silhouetted against the setting sun, the once proud castle was now reduced to a few remaining towers and battlements, the majority of the structure now in ruins. Not wanting to stop for the night when he was so close, the elderly man did another extraordinary thing, with any apparent means of support, he slowly rose into the air, and slowly started drifting forwards.
A few minuets later he had reached the gatehouse of the fortress, lowering himself gently to the ground, he looked up, the man couldn't help but smile to himself, in a barely audible whisper, he spoke to the castle. "I'm home, my old friend, Merlin has returned to you Camelot."
Merlin, now approaching one hundred and ninety four years of age, with only his vast reservoir of magic keeping him alive, had been away for far to long, much longer than he had originally intended. Shuffling over the rotting drawbridge, he made his way towards one of the remaining towers of the main keep. Mounting the smooth stone steps, warn through years of use, he made his way upwards, towards the once sturdy oak door, which now was hanging from one twisted rusty hinge. Entering the circular main hall of the tower, he made his way through the thick layer of dust, over to a blank stone wall, relying on his memory, rather than his failing eyesight.
Ignoring the cobwebs that hung thickly from the crumbling masonry, Merlin raised his staff in his right hand and pointed it at the wall. Murmuring one word, "aperire", a faint orange glow emanated from the tip of the staff, and headed towards the wall. Where there had once been a solid wall, a rough stone arch now appeared, without hesitation, he made his way through the arch, to the top of a staircase that appeared to be hewn from the granite that the castle was originally built on. Merlin knew that there were nine hundred and forty two steps between him and his final destination, as he had built them himself, when had first moved to the castle. that had been over one hundred years ago, when his age was still in double figures.
Now though, was not the time for him to dwell on the past, he had a self appointed mission to complete, slowly he started descending the stairs that corkscrewed down into the bowels of the earth. A long while later Merlin eventually reached the bottom of the staircase, and stepped into a round room,which was lit by two torches mounted in metal sconces. The walls, ceiling and floor were all carved out of rock. Three doors, each identical in appearance, led from the round room, ignoring the doors to his left and his right, Merlin made his way to the door that was opposite to the entrance to the staircase.
Opening the door, he made his way into what was obviously a bed chamber, the only items of furniture in the room were a simple wooden desk, with a lit candle upon it, chair, and an ornately carved four poster bed, with dark red drapes and blankets. Closing the door behind him, he looked in the direction of the bed, with the dim light, and poor eyesight, he could barely make out the shape of the bed, instead he reached out with his magic, to 'feel' for the beds lone occupant. Shuffling over to the left side of the bed, with a wave of his hand, he conjured himself a simple wooden stool, sitting down, he reached out and grasped the withered hand that lay on top of the covers.
"Ninianne my love, I have returned to you", the occupant of the bed stirred, turning her head towards the sound of Merlin's voice. "Is that really you Merlin? Have you come to me?"
"Yes my sweet, I have returned, as I promised I would". Merlin sighed to himself, the lady in front of him, although nearly forty years his junior, was close to death. Had he returned any later, his journey would have been in vain.
"Were you successful in you quest? Did you find the knowledge that we require to perform the ritual?"
Merlin smiled to himself, after all these years, she was still straight to the point with her questioning. But then again, Subtlety had never been one of Ninianne's strong points, a trait that he had always admired.
"Mostly", he replied, "we will succeed with what we set out to do, but it will not be as complete as I had hoped."
Seeming to ignore his answer, the lady turned her head away from Merlin, and called out "Pendy, come to me". An old house elf appeared at her side, "yes my lady, what is it that you is needing?"
"Merlin has returned, please, would you be so kind as to bring us some refreshments". With that, and barely a glance at Merlin, the elf disappeared with a soft pop.
Again, Merlin chuckled to himself, "you always did have a knack for names, I had forgotten what you had called the little chap. Some how though, I don't think King Arthur Pendragon would have minded having a house elf named after him."
"You haven't met his son yet, I named him Lancey". This earned her another chuckle from Merlin, "you always did have a soft spot for Sir Lancelot if I recall".
A comfortable silence followed whilst hey waited for the elf to return, once he did, carrying flagons of wine, and bread rolls, Ninianne turned once again to Merlin.
"You said 'mostly', which part is missing?
After a few moments thinking on how to reply, Merlin finally spoke. "We will retain our magical Knowledge, power, and abilities, that is all"
Ninianne pondered his answer for a short while, before asking, "What about each other my love? Will we remember each other?"
"Alas not, though the method that we have chosen to complete our rebirth, will mean that we will be drawn to each other, this pull we will feel will make sure that will find each other. We will not be complete without the other, as our souls will be linked."
"Linked? I take it then that you have found us a suitable vessel in which to store our souls? One that will hold both of them?" She had asked the final question because they had discussed the idea before Merlin had left, but had not wanted to raise their hopes because the object required would need to be extremely magical, something man made wouldn't have worked.
"Yes my love, you will remember it as soon as you see it, although I had a hard time relocating it, it will be more than suitable". With that, Merlin reached in to his robes and withdrew a sword,the blade dulled by age, though the gems in the hilt still twinkled in the candlelight.
"Excalibur!" cried Ninanne, "how did you find it? I thought it lost many moons ago".
"The Goblins of the island of Avalon had it in their possession, which is unsurprising after all, as it is Goblin made, because of my help during the war between the goblins and giants, they agreed to let me have it."
Almost reverently, Ninanne reached out to touch the fabled sword, "Hello, old friend, it is good to see you again". The highly polished blade reflected the dim candle light on her wrinkled face as she slowly turned it. "It's been long, to long; I should never have let you go".
Merlin gazed fondly at Ninanne, remembering the last time that she had held the sword, indeed, it had been many moons ago. At that time,the people, commoners and noblemen alike, had known Ninanne as the Lady of the lake. A simple bubble head charm was all that it took for her to remain submerged in the dark, murky waters, so that she could claim Excalibur; never for it to be seen by non magical folk again.
Ninanne returned her gaze to Merlin, "What do we have to do? Will our original plan still work?"
Merlin couldn't look her in the eyes, she had pinned her hopes on him, and he felt that he had let her down. They had wanted to be immortal, helping magical and non magical people. sharing their knowledge, using their skills to help, heal and teach. Now he knew that wasn't to be, yes he had found the way to accomplish this, but it was at to high a price, a price that he knew they would not be prepared to pay. Instead he had been forced to find an alternative solution, not as good as they had originally hoped, but it would still allow part of their plan to work.
Merlin slowly raised his head, his eyes not quite meeting hers, "I traveled to Greece, as I knew I would have to. As you will recall, I had to research the work of Herpo The Foul. At first I wasn't sure where to start, But I had a piece of luck, I discovered a reference to his work in an ancient temple on the island of Kos. From there it was easy to trace the steps he had taken towards immortality. He had discovered a way to separate a piece of his soul from his body, and place it in a container, or as he called it, a Horcrux".
Ninanne looked hopefully at Merlin, "that's what we wanted to be able to do, with a piece of our souls tied to the earth, we would never be able to die. So tell me, what is that would prevent us from creating our own Horcruxes?"
Merlin finally brought his eyes up to meet hers, "in order to create a horcrux, an innocent life must be taken, as it is this that is required to split the soul. It is something I know neither of us would ever be prepared to do".
"But Merlin, you said you had found a way, that we would be able to separate our souls from our bodies, I take it that you have found an alternative method?"
"Yes, I have, Herpo discovered a similar ritual whilst he was developing his satanic method of immortality. It is a way of letting yourself be reborn, reincarnated, if you like. By storing our souls in the sword, we can allow our essences to be reborn, our magical knowledge and power will be transferred to two newborns. We will die, there is no escaping that, but the magical world will still benefit from what we have learnt during our lifetimes. I cannot say how long it will be before this will happen, as it will take a pair of souls that will need to be compatible with ours, they will obviously have to be magical, they will need to be pure of heart, noble of spirit and..."
"And? and what Merlin, time is short, this is no time to be withholding anything from me."
"And they will need to be born within a few months of each other, as our souls will not be able to be separated for long. For two such souls to be in existence at roughly the same time, it could mean that it will take meany hundreds, if not thousands of years to come about".
Ninannne was silent for a few minuets, "what will happen to the souls of the newborns? What about their magic, how will that be affected? Will they be harmed at all by us doing this? If so, then I refuse to go ahead with this, I will not allow anyone to be harmed because of our actions."
"Fear not my love, their souls will merge with ours, with nothing but positive effects, they will know what each other knows, see what each other is thinking, they will feel what each other feels, they will share their senses, eyesight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. They will have our magical power, as well as their own, conceivably, they could be more powerful than we are. The longer our souls are combined in the sword, the more pronounced these effects will be, if left long enough, they will be as one being in two bodies."
Merlin took a sip from his goblet before he continued.
"No harm shall come to them directly because of our actions. However, there is one drawback, as our and their souls shall be irreversibly combined, when one dies, the other will follow."
Ninanne closed her eyes while she absorbed all of this information, did they have the right to change people they will never know in such a way? She still had some questions for Merlin before she could make up her mind.
"Before I give you permission to continue with this Merlin, there are some things I need to be sure of, how can you be sure that this will work? has it ever been tried before? And what about my er... my special abilities, will the recipient of my soul also receive them as well? Not that I mind in the least, but will my soul go to a female, or a male?"
Merlin stroked his long beard whilst he pondered these questions.
"I will answer your questions, but not in the order that you asked them, firstly although the human soul has no gender, we will be reborn as we are, me male, you female, that is part of the ritual, although it could be changed, I feel that it would be best if we remain as we are. Secondly, yes, your special abilities will also be transferred, as it is a part of your magic. Did you think I had forgotten your Veela heritage? It is part of who you are, no matter how much you have tried to hide it in the past. Your first question is perhaps the easiest to answer, I know it will work, because it has already been done."
At this, Ninannes head jerked up to meet Merlin's gaze. Her eyes locked on to his, as if she was debating as to wether or not he was telling the truth. "Surely I would have heard of whoever has already done this?" Merlin stood from his stool and approach the bed, he sat on the edge and took one of Ninanne's hands in his. "You have heard of him my love, as I have already mentioned his name tonight. It was Harpo the foul who has already achieved this. What I am about to tell you is hard to believe, but it is the truth." Merlin paused to brush a lock of hair away from Ninannes eyes. "Harpo was a brilliant wizard, not as powerful as me, but my equal in knowledge. Fortunately for the world though, he was extremely unlucky, as I have already mentioned, he split his soul in two by brutally murdering a young man who was in his service. He stored one half of his soul in a magical urn, effectively rendering himself immortal. He chose a location to hide his soul container, his Horcrux, that he though would be totally safe, the city of Atlantis."
At this Ninanne gave a snort, Merlin simply smiled and carried on. "Exactly, we both know what happened there. Harpo was unwilling to split his soul further, and so he came up with the alternative method that I am proposing. Unfortunately for him he made some simple mistakes that led to his downfall. His first mistake was that he was reborn by a virgin, I would imagine the poor girl in question was terrified. His second mistake was not ensuring that the person who shared souls with him was noble and pure; and most importantly, magical. As I understand it, the person who shared souls with Harpo, was rather vain, who loved to show off his special abilities. He walked on water, turned water into wine, cured lepers and fed five thousand people by conjuring loaves and fish."
Ninanne gasped at this, "Merlin, are you implying that the whole Christian faith is based on a reincarnation of a deranged wizard?" When he merely nodded his reply, Ninanne simply shook her head. "Unbelievable, simply unbelievable. I take it that we are the only two who know this?" Again, Merlin simply nodded.
Ninanne remained quiet for a long time, Merlin made no move to end the moment of silence, he simply sat on the edge of the bed, running his thumb over the back of her hand. Eventually she broke the silence, "then that is how it will remain, it gives people hope to believe that their is a higher being taking care of them."
The candle had by now burned half way down, and Merlin sensed that the lady in the bed before him was tiring quickly. "Have you come to a decision yet my love?" he asked. "I do not wish to rush you, but i feel that these old bodies of ours will soon be unable to carry on"
"Just one more question Merlin before I make up my mind, who will entrust with looking after our sword after we have gone?"
"Ah yes, I going to come to that, obviously it will have to be someone magical, one of the larger families I would think." Replied Merlin. "A family that has already proven that they will not be tempted by darker magic, so that will rule out the Black's, Malfoy's, Lestrange's and the Slytherin's. I had considered the Longbottom's, Hufflepuff's, Dumbledore's and even some of the older Scottish wizards, such as the Mcgonigall's. But I don't know them well enough to make an informed decision.
"So who will be entrusted with our Soul's?"
"I believe that there is only one family that we would both trust with this." answered Merlin, "the name of the family is Gryffindore."
"But they are not magical", protested Ninanne.
Merlin looked into her still clear chocolate brown eye's, eye's that had never aged, eye's that he could happily lose himself in. "While that was true about Sir Gwain Gryffindore, Knight of the round table, the same cannot be said of his grandson, Godric. You see, Sir Gwain's son, Godfrey, married the daughter of one of the more ancient magical families; her name is Lidia, from the house of Potter. She is also a direct descendent of the Peverall's."
Ninanne nodded her acceptance of Merlin's decision. "A wise choice I feel, I have had dealings with that family before, and have always thought them both honorable and trustworthy. When and how will you have the sword delivered to them once we have completed the ritual? And don't you think it would be wise to disguise it, after all, Excalibur is rather easily recognizable."
Merlin took the sword in his hand from where he had rested it at the foot of Ninanne's bed. Studying it intently for a few minuets, he seemed to be determining the best course of action regarding Ninanne's suggestion about disguising it. He eventually appeared to come to a decision. Lifting the sword so it was pointing towards the smooth rocky ceiling of the bed chamber, he slowly ran his left hand down the blade, until he reached the hilt.
"Will this be sufficient do you think?" asked Merlin, as he handed the sword, hilt first, to Ninanne. As she reached for it, she could tell that it wasn't the same sword she had received from King Arthur, many years ago. The blade now gleamed brightly, where it had once been dull, the gems that adorned the hilt had changed subtly as well. The major difference though, was the addition in bold script of the name Gryffindore, with the G near the hilt, and the E near the point, so that it had to be read downwards.
"I was planning on asking one of the elf's to deliver the sword to Gryffindor hall, once we have passed on. With a short note explaining that it was a present from us to the grandson of one of King Arthur's must trusted Knight's. Speaking modestly, I would hope that once he has learned from whom the gift was given, he will endeavor to take care of it. Once he in turn passes on, it will be in the hands of fate."
"I take it the transfiguration you have just performed is permanent?" Merlin simply nodded.
"Very well then, proceed with the ritual, I don't think I have much longer on this mortal plain."
Before he began, Merlin left her bed and walked over to the desk, picking up a quill he wrote a short note on a piece of parchment. Calling for Lancey the elf, who appeared before him with a pop; Merlin said, "your mistress and I will die tonight, do not be alarmed by this, as we have both lived long and happy lives. We have one last thing to ask of you though."
"The great and good Merlin asks something of Lancey? I would be honored sir"
Merlin handed to rolled up note and sword to the little elf. "I want you to take these to the house of Godfrey Gryffindore in the morning, once you have completed this task, you and your father will have no more duties, you may do as you wish. After that, these chambers will be sealed magically, so you will be unable to return here. Do you understand?"
"Oh yes sir", the elf replied whilst wiping a tear from its large bulbous eye. "It has been an honor to serve you master, mistress, do not worry about us, we will be finding work elsewhere."
With that, the elf disappeared, Merlin arose from the desk, carrying the sword, and approached the bed, sensing what he was about to do, Ninanne pulled back the blanket. Merlin sat on the edge of the bed, and after removing his boots, swung his legs onto it. Pulling the blanket over him, he placed the sword on top of the covers between them. Ninanne placed her hand on top of Merlin's, which was still holding the hilt.
As one, they turned their heads so that they were facing one another. "It is time Merlin, I have never told you this, but I love you, I always have, and if this works, I always will" Merlin Interlocked his fingers with hers, so they were holding each others hands, as well as the sword.
Both remained quiet, lost in their own thoughts, after a few moments, Ninanne spoke, "what do we have to do to complete the ritual?"
Merlin reached into his robes, and withdrew two small vials containing a clear amber liquid. Passing one to Ninanne, Merlin softly answered her, "all you have to do is drink this, it will make you fall asleep almost immediately, a sleep from which you will never wake. when you have done that, I have to recite a spell that will separate our souls from our bodies. Then I will drink my potion, and join you in permanent sleep."
Ninanne took the vial Merlin offered her, immediately pulled out the small stopper, and gulped back the contents. "Good night my sweet Merlin, I'll see you in the future." With that Ninanne started losing consciousness almost immediately, before sleep overcame her, one last thought entered her mind, one that had been bothering her ever since she had met Merlin. Why was it, that Merlin. the greatest, most powerful, most knowledgeable, most experienced, wizard ever to have lived, could not get his hair to lay flat?
Merlin knew that he still had a few minuets before he had to take his potion, with a single sweep of his hand, he ensured that the bedchamber was sealed, allowing for only more apperation in, and one disapperation out, so that the elves could carry out their final task. He pondered the choices he had been forced to make, he was certain that this was the only way to carry out their plan. But what of his other choices? He was sure that the sword would withstand the riggers of time, that it would be a suitable vessel for their most precious of cargo's, their very soul's. But what of the family that had the unenviable responsibility of being the one's to take ownership of it? Of course, that would not know the real importance of the weapon, to them it would purely be a parting gift from an old friend of the family. Were there other, more suitable families? Merlin had considered more families than he had told Ninanne about, the most prominent being the Weasley's, but they were currently involved in a feud with the larger Black family, and looked like they would lose all their wealth and property. If this did happen, the sword's ownership would also be transferred.
Merlin sighed as he realized that what was done was done, it was now to late to change anything, to late to worry about anything. Their future was now in fate's hands. He had tried to ensure that their future, if they had one, would be as comfortable as possible, he had deposited what money he had with the goblins, with instructions on how to recognize them in the future. That had been hard to explain, but being Merlin had some advantages. the Goblins had promised to invest his limited funds wisely, without asking to many difficult questions.
Knowing his time was nearly up, Merlin recited the long and complicated spell, this was made more difficult because it had to be done in ancient Greek. Satisfied that he had accomplished this part of the ritual correctly, he grasped Ninanne's rapidly cooling hand tighter, and pulling the stopper out with his teeth, swallowed his share of the potion.
Neither of them saw the effect the ritual had on their bodies, as they had all but left the mortal world. Spots of multi-coloured lights traveled down their arms to their joined hands and into the sword, eventually the stream of lights faded and stopped.
Silence and darkness greeted the lone elf when he appeared at the foot of the bed, with a snap of his fingers, a small flame sprung up above the bed, casting enough light for the elf to carry out his task. Stepping forward, he hopped onto the end of the of the bed, walking forward carefully, he took hold of the sword, and pulled it out of the combined grasp of the clearly dead couple laying in the bed. With one final look at his deceased master and mistress, he clicked his fingers again and the conjured flame extinguished, in the now complete darkness, the little elf, with his heavy burden, snapped his fingers was gone.