Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin.
A/N: I'll warn you right now that I'm not sure how long it will be until the next chapter is posted, which is why the story is now on hiatus (that's a warning for anyone new that I take forever to post chapters - read at your own risk). To those of you who have kept with me through all of this - thank you!
And if anyone becomes exceedingly frustrated and just wants the story done ("For crying out loud, she's taking forever!"), feel free to finish it or start your own version. Seriously. Surely I'm not the only person who's wanted to write fanfiction of fanfiction?
"Break it down," King Arthur's voice was cold.
The young sorcerer rubbed his palms together nervously. "I-I'll try," he finally conceded, and placed both of his sweaty hands against the cool wood of the door. He forced his anxious nerves to calm, trying to ignore the eyes of the varying nobility as they followed his every move. As a lowly citadel guard, he had never been privileged to enjoy such an attentive audience before, nor such an important one. But as determined as he was to impress them, this was Lord Merlin's study. Who knew what powerful magic the court sorcerer used to protect his inner sanctum?
The despondent thought cost him.
"Well?" the king snapped.
"Calm down, princess," one of the knights said (Sir Gwaine, the young man reminded himself), slapping the king's back. The gesture was playful, but the cheerfulness failed to light the man's eyes as he reassured the king.
With renewed effort, the young guard narrowed his eyes and stared at the door. "Tóspringe!" he commanded. There was a visible pulse of magic that slammed against the door, but nothing more happened.
The king pounded his fist against the wall in frustration.
"Again!" he ordered.
The young guard licked his lips. "Tóspringe!"
Still the door held.
"Again!" Kind Arthur ordered. He sounded a little hoarse.
"Tóspringe! Tóspringe! Tóspringe!"
A hand on his shoulder stopped the guard from releasing another spell. "That's enough," the knight named Sir Leon said. His voice was hard, but his eyes were gentle. "Thank you, Cordan."
The sorcerer slumped, his hands dropping from the door. "I'm sorry, my lord," he said, too miserable to realize that the Sir Leon had remembered his name.
King Arthur looked mollified for a moment. "It's not your fault," he said, looking as glum as Cordan felt.
Cordan jumped in fear as the king roared past him and unleashed his frustration on the door, kicking it and pounding it with his fists. The door rattled on its hinges (but then again, the small battering ram had done much of the same thing). "Merlin! Open the door! Open the door, you... you idiot!" King Arthur's voice started to crack as he pounded.
Sir Leon and Sir Gwaine, after recovering from their surprise, quickly moved in and grabbed the king by his wrists. King Arthur struggled, and Cordan narrowly avoided being knocked into the wall by jumping to the side.
"Arthur!" Sir Gwaine shouted into the king's ear. "You need to stay calm, sire."
Arthur straightened, his wrists dropping to his sides, but his entire frame was trembling. "He's in there, Gwaine. He's probably unconscious or…" he shook his head vigorously of the unthinkable. "Stupid idiot. Him and his confounded book."
He kicked the door again, but it was less violent and more of a miserable swipe.
"Remember when he was down there for almost a week?" Gwaine said in a reassuring, overly-optimistic tone. "It's only been two and a half days. I bet he's down there grumbling at us for distracting him and ruining a spell or something equally as ridiculous."
Arthur sent Gwaine a disbelieving grimace. "He's never locked his door for longer than a few hours," he snapped.
Gwaine grinned roguishly. "Always the sour-puss," he teased, but there was an uneasy glint in his eyes.
The king paced uneasily as they waited for more adept sorcerers to arrive. "A habit he picked up from Merlin," Cordan heard one of the knights mutter.
Cordan didn't know much about Lord Merlin other than what everyone else knew. The only time he ever saw the court sorcerer was in a public gathering, or maybe as he scampered through the hallways, officially robes billowing haphazardly behind him. "He used to be a servant, you know," his mother, who worked in the laundry rooms, had informed him one day. Cordan believed her, but still couldn't picture it, in much the same way he had troubling imagining the purge. The idea of not being able to use magic just seemed nonsensical to him.
Of everything he ever heard about the court sorcerer however, everyone seemed to agree on one thing:
"Him and the king are inseparable, they are."
"King Arthur uses far too many of our precious resources to accommodate that insufferable sorcerer of his."
"Lord Merlin? Oh, he's the king's best friend."
"Merlin's nearly died several times for the king."
"They might as well be brothers."
Or the whispers: "I hear tell that they're lovers."
Cordan doubted the last one. Both men were married, and even if he'd never seen Merlin's wife (a fairy goddess, they said), he saw how the king acted with Queen Guinevere; no one who was having affair ever treated their wife like that. Sometimes it actually made Cordan feel uncomfortable to watch the king and queen at banquets. Their hair was too gray to condone their teenager-like flirtations.
Either way, Lord Merlin and the king were obviously very close.
"They're here! Arthur, they're here!"
The king's agitated pacing immediately stopped and he stepped into the hallway to get a better look at who was coming down the hall.
"Iseldir!" the relief in King Arthur's voice was palpable. "Delphinus!"
Cordan craned his head to see the new arrivals. The first things he noted were their long, green robes that immediately identified them as druids. The older of the two men was being supported by a crooked walking stick. On his other side was a young man that looked similar enough to be related – at least their piercing eyes were the same.
"Can you open it?" King Arthur asked impatiently as he walked them to the door. "Iseldir?"
"I won't know until I examine it," the old man said mildly.
The king grimaced and made an impatient clicking sound with his teeth. Cordan thought it was awfully impertinent of him, even if he was the king.
But the druid called Iseldir ignored the fidgeting king and didn't award him with the death glare as Cordan had expected him to. Instead he handed the younger druid his walking stick, who reverently stepped back as the older man leaned forward to place his palms against the door, much like Cordan had done. Instead of speaking a spell, however, he inclined his head and pressed his ear against the door. No one breathed as Iseldir closed his eyes, watching him as he listened to the magic of Merlin's door.
After what seemed to be hours of standing stiffly as columns, Iseldir finally lifted his head from the door.
"Iseldir?" the king inquired, sounding like a small child.
"It is doable," the druid said. The anxiety of the group seemed to deflate at his words. "But we will need help. Boy?"
Cordan blinked and released that for the second time that day, everyone's gazes were focused on him.
"Are you trained in the words of magic?" the man asked intently.
Cordan nodded shakily. "Y-yes, my lord."
"Just 'Iseldir' will do," the man said, the corners of his eyes crinkling in vague amusement.
Cordan nodded, heat rising in his cheeks.
"You will do as we do, and say these words with us," Iseldir instructed. "Ic ábiddee for gecierrednes." He said it slowly so Cordan could follow. Cordan had never heard that particular spell before (that wasn't very surprising) but he recognized the individual words. Instead of forcing the door open, they were going to ask it for permission.
"Ic ábiddee for gicierrendnes," Cordan repeated slowly.
"Gecierrednes," Iseldir corrected kindly.
"Gecierrednes," Cordan repeated dutifully.
"Say all the words once more," Iseldir said.
"Ic ábiddee for gecierrednes," Cordan said, feeling bold. Then he repeated them again for good measure, "Ic ábiddee for gecierrednes."
"Good," Iseldir approved, giving the young sorcerer-guard a nod. Cordan stood straighter, feeling as though he'd been given highest praise.
All three sorcerers positioned themselves in front of the impenetrable door, with Cordan standing anxiously in the middle. He carefully watched Iseldir and Delphinus as they placed their right hands palm-down on the door. Their left hands were positioned inches away from the wood, with only the fingertips barely brushing the surface.
"Spread your fingers more," Delphinus instructed softly, flexing his right hand. Coradn immediately separated his fingers, not knowing why it was important. Neither druid took the time to explain.
"Say the words as we do," Iseldir enjoined. Cordan nodded.
"Ic—," Iseldir and Delphinus began and Cordan hastened his voice so that it would match theirs. "—ábiddee for gecierrednes."
There was a moment where nothing happened; Cordan despaired as he couldn't even feel the door responding to the magic. Then there was a click.
To the people with no magic, it looked as though the door had simply creaked open, but Cordan held felt the magic of Lord Merlin's protections writhing under his palms. It was as though a thousand deadbolts were being opened at once, all under the scrutiny of a watchful dragon waiting to gobble up the first intruder who didn't meet its requirements.
Even though King Arthur was the first to move for the opening, Sir Gwaine (being closer) managed to make it through the door before his sovereign. Cordan found himself being herded through the door with the rest of the knights. Somehow the druids managed to slip through without being trampled, as they were already examining their surroundings with Sir Gwaine and the king by the time Cordan managed to find a standing place where he wasn't being jostled.
At first, because of the dim lighting of the room (Lord Merlin's candles – even thought they'd been enchanted to last longer – were at the bottom of their wicks, if not completely melted into a puddle of wax), no one could find Merlin. Then someone gasped and everyone followed their turned head to a corner in the room were a small desk had been dragged through the mess of objects in order to find a clear space to work.
At first, Cordan thought his eyes had stopped working properly because of the low lighting, but slowly he began to realize that he wasn't hallucinating. The court sorcerer wasn't quite there.
"Merlin!" the king let out a strangled yell and pushed ahead of everyone in his rush to get to his friend.
"Do not touch him, Arthur!" Iseldir commanded before the distressed king could grasp his friend's translucent wrist.
King Arthur wrenched back his hand as though he'd been struck by lightning and seemed to collapse inward on himself.
"What's wrong with him?" the tallest knight asked, sounding horrified as he stared at the frozen sorcerer.
"Merlin…" Arthur said softly in the background.
Iseldir shook his head, looking uneasy. Delphinus looked slightly green around his temples.
"But if he's like this, then what are we going to do about-" Sir Gawine began, but he was interrupted by the sharp retort of Sir Leon.
"Not with soft ears listening in."
Cordan reddened when everyone remembered his presence all at once and turned to stare accusingly at him.
He was about to bow and apologize when the king seemed to gather himself together and walk towards the young guard.
"Cordan, was it?" the king asked, peering down his nose with unnervingly blue eyes. He looked tired.
Cordan nodded and managed to stutter, "Y-yes, milord." He bowed awkwardly as an afterthought.
"Tell no one what you have seen," the king commanded. "If any word of this gets out, I will know who told." He sounded grave.
Cordan felt a shiver go down his spine. "Yes, sire," he said in a whisper, bowing once again.
Arthur made a dismissive gesture.
Cordan gave the blurry court sorcerer one last parting glance before scurrying out of the study with as much dignity as he could muster.
When the door closed Arthur immediately turned to Iseldir. "Any idea of what's happened to him?" he pleaded, sounding desperate.
"Without knowing what he was doing…"
"Time travel," Arthur interrupted. "He told us all at the feast three nights ago."
Iseldir blinked. "To attempt such a spell…" he looked at Emrys with a newfound sense of fear. "I would not know where to begin," the druid admitted.
"What of that book of his...? 'Medicus de Galiwhat' or something? And his notes?" Galahad questioned from the back.
"They will take time to decipher," Delphinus said, hovering over Merlin's desk and sounding grave. "Emrys was more knowledgeable in ancient texts, particularly of the magical kind, than any man I know."
"We may need him now," Arthur insisted.
"Why?" Iseldir questioned, looking at Arthur sharply.
Arthur sent everyone uneasy looks before saying in a low voice, "Recently, everyone in Camelot has been afflicted with… strange dreams."
"And they're all connected," Gwaine said.
"And they're all of the past, set during the time of Uther," Percival added.
Arthur nodded and looked once again at Iseldir. "People are beginning to notice that their dreams… match," he had trouble explaining.
"It's like the past as we remember it…" Leon trailed off.
"… but it's not exactly the same," Arthur finished.
"Except it was for me," Percival pointed out.
"And me," Galahad added.
"The blue plague!" Leon reached for an example.
Arthur nodded. "I remember dozens of people dying," he said.
"But in the dream…" Leon said.
"…there were only a couple," Arthur finished, nodding. "We're worried that if someone is able to manipulate dreams on such a large scale, who's to say they won't try something worse?"
They all looked to Iseldir, who had been quiet through their rambling explanations.
"I too have been having these dreams," he said slowly, "as have many people in my camp. We were unable to explain the phenomenon, but discovered that the common factor in the differences between reality and the dreams lay with one man."
Everyone followed his gaze to rest their eyes on the frozen figure of Merlin.
Arthur's mouth dropped open slightly before he closed it abruptly.
"Ah, that makes sense," Gwaine said quietly to himself.
Arthur let out a strangled noise in his throat.
"I believe that Emrys must have been close to succeeding in his quest for traveling through time, but something must have prevented him from completing the journey," Iseldir said slowly, but even the druid looked uncertain.
"That would explain his ghostiness," Gwaine said with a nod, waving his hand towards Merlin's semi-solid figure.
"So Merlin's spell has something to do with our dreams?" Leon inquired, narrowing his eyes.
"I do not know," Iseldir said gravely. "I do not know."
A heavy quiet filled the air.
Arthur groaned inwardly and dropped his forehead into his hand, briefly wishing that he hadn't bothered to get out of bed that morning (because at least while he was dreaming, Merlin's idiotic face was there to insult him).
A/N: So basically, a month for Merlin is the equivalent to a day for King Arthur (not Prince Arthur).