A/N- I've almost finished this story, but still, I'm posting this with a warning- even the ending that will come is a bit inconclusive, simply because 'Arthur's destiny in modern-day England' seems too large-scale a story for me to handle. So… consider yourselves warned. :)
This one is set after "Drencan" in my "Laughlines" series. The chapters are itty-bitty, as you see. The whole thing is present tense, Merlin's first person.
Another thing- I began this with the intention of writing a creepy-thriller. I'm not sure it really comes off that way at all, but you tell me! (That's a subtle hint that I love reviews.) ;D
Chapter 1The rain is the first thing I'm aware of, a pounding head being the next. I raise a wavering hand over my eyes and force myself to sit up as I take in my surroundings.
I'm on the shore of an Avalon that the combined shower and winds have in frenzy. It was mid-afternoon that I last remember, and to all appearances, no time has passed. The sky's bleak, grey tint darkens with an approaching storm, but I remember last seeing it in almost exactly the same state- yet that now seems a distant memory. How much time has passed? Of greater importance, what happened in that stretch of time?
Arthur. I'm stumbling to my feet the moment he crosses my mind. He should have been first thought I became aware of, but I fantasized his existence for so long that- at times- I still have trouble accepting his actuality.
I close my eyes, holding my head in hopes that it will keep me from falling over as standing abruptly threatens to do. When I dare look up again, my vision still swims, but I can't afford to wait any longer to recover my equilibrium. I have to find Arthur. While I'm unsure how I know it, the one thing I really believe right now is that he's in danger- though of what is beyond my knowledge.
Even as I glance over the lake and along the shore, calling Arthur's name, I worry that I may not see or hear him because of the rain. It's so loud now, I can hardly think. Though it's small help, I cover my ears, shielding them as I wonder what to do.
I think he was with me before I lost consciousness, but that can't be, because Arthur would never have left me in this state, regardless of the fact that I can't be killed. He might have gone to get help- which he knows better than to do. I've not been in need of a physician's help for many centuries, and Arthur knows the hazard should my immortality be discovered. And if he even thought that I needed help, he'd have brought me to a doctor himself- no, he wouldn't have left me of his own will.
Except to draw the danger away from me. It's the only reasonable idea in my possession, and the vague memory that I can't presently access might account for my sense of fear.
I run as fast I deem wise into the trees, beyond which I'll find the small town that has grown around the Lake of Avalon. Under different circumstances I'd head for the cottage, but Arthur wouldn't lead anything or anyone who poses a threat to a place he knows I would go to find him. And with any luck- which I can surely use- someone in town has seen him, and can give me an idea of what peril my friend and I now face.
I skid to a stop in front of the first building I reach. It's a little coffee shop that Arthur and I frequent these days, and the woman who works here is one of the few who doesn't seem to find us strange. She looks up suddenly when I throw the door open. Once inside, I have to grip the side of the counter to keep myself upright.
"Megan," I say, catching my breath, "I need to know if you've seen Arthur."
She stares at me like I've lost my mind, and my patience for an answer only goes so far.
"Megan, please!" I cry. "He might be in danger!"
Still wide-eyed with confusion, she shakes her head. "Philip, who are you talking about?"
"Arthur!" I tell her quickly, absently wondering why she's called me by a name I haven't used in decades. "Please, just tell me when you last saw him."
My head spins from the shouting, but I'm able to read the further perplexity on Megan's face. I'm about to question her again when a hand of fear seems to catch my throat.
What if Arthur really has been an hallucination? I know for what I think of as sure that Megan has spoken to Arthur herself in the past. She would know who he is- unless I imagined all of that, too.
I back out away from the counter, fumble to open the door and once again I'm running down the street, though this time I'm unsure of my direction. I just can't face the possibility, even if it were true- it would be too hard to accept another time…
I stop myself in the middle of the street, standing still in what now is almost complete dark. The clouds roll overhead, bringing further sheets of rain. The drops are like ice on my skin, but I'm no colder than I already was, except in my heart, which is frozen with fear.
Too late I hear the blaring horn of a car, and turn in time to be blinded by the headlights before I'm slammed to the ground. What would have crippled another man stuns me for but a moment, and I'm pulling myself to my feet as the driver's door opens.
"Are you alright, mate?" they call in a panicky voice. I don't reply. I'm too busy regaining my feet, already racing back to Avalon.