Since I don’t have “novelist’s software” that magically pulls all the strands of my story together, I’m having to keep all the different bits of action in my poor old head. I need a BBC production team to co-ordinate this, methinks! Time lines are the most difficult things to remember. Who’s where at what time of the day or night…and how long is a ride from Camelot to Castle Deira as mentioned in chapter one….yeiks!
Maria Thermann’s fan fiction “Merlin” (BBC series) sees the action set between seasons 4 and 5. This piece of fiction is written purely as a fun writing exercise and was not created with the intention of any commercial exploitation on my part. The copyright for all BBC Merlin series characters & storylines remains with the BBC and Shine Ltd, the producers of the show.
The show stars Colin Morgan (Merlin), Bradley James (King Arthur), Angel Coulby (Guinevere), Richard Wilson (Gaius), Katie McGrath (Morgana), Rupert Young (Sir Leon), Eoin Macken (Gwaine), Tom Hopper (Sir Percival), Adetomiwa Edun (Sir Elyan), John Hurt as the voice of the Great Dragon Kilgharrah and Anthony Head as King Uther. Series 5 to be aired in the UK on 29th September.
Part 7 was created on 5th August 2012
The Honeymoon is over – Let the Questing Begin (part 7)
In the great hall at Castle Deira….
“You take the women. We’ll tackle the trolls!”
Sir Leon dropped his sword by a fraction and stared at his friend Elyan. “Which is which?”
“The trolls are less lumpy in their upper regions,” suggested Percival helpfully, before smacking a troll over the head with the broadside of his sword. The troll grunted, shook his head and attacked afresh.
“I can’t fight the women! I’m no good at hair pulling and biting. That’s what we’ve got Merlin for. Where is he by the way?” Sir Leon stood on his toes to peer over the heads of their attackers. A troll guard used his chance and kicked Sir Leon in the shins.
“Ouch! Was that manly, you lout? I might as well be fighting the girls!” Affronted, Sir Leon rubbed his leg with his left hand and dealt the troll a blow with his right. The guard staggered back, turned in mid-air and fell headlong into a fresh wave of trolls arriving from another part of the castle. “Any more of you ladies fancy a piece of my action?” Sir Leon challenged the troll next in line for a pummelling.
The guards had driven the knights into a corner of the great hall, where the friends stood back to back with their swords raised. Sir Leon’s head wound had started bleeding again and Sir Elyan’s cheek was marred by a nasty gash. The hall was filling up with trolls and the knights were too busy repelling their attackers to notice the three sisters, who were lighting another fire under the cauldron.
Sir Elyan grabbed a scaly arm and ducked, narrowly averting a blow from the troll’s mace. “Actually, that’s a good point, Leon. Our Merlin may not be a fighter, but he never misses the chance to fraternise with the locals. I’d call this a golden opportunity – so where is the lad?”
“Merlin was in the courtyard with me, before he ran onto the drawbridge. Arthur’s here…last seen enjoying a swim in the moat,” Percival panted, deftly parrying a sword attack by two huge trolls. “He must be with Arthur.”
Elyan punched a guard squarely between the eyes. “What’s Arthur playing at? They’d better not be sitting on the drawbridge with a fishing rod, when we get out of here!”
“Don’t you mean…IF?” Ethelgunda had parted the horde of trolls with a flick of her head and approached the knights. “Your friends Arthur and Merlin will be taken care of, don’t you fret, just as we took care of your friend Gawain. You might as well stop all this nonsense now. Look around you! Sooner or later all men who come here join our little family.” She glanced around the hall with a benign smile. “Don’t we take good care of you, my pets?” The troll guards nodded to a man, albeit after a moment’s hesitation, which didn’t escape Sir Leon’s notice.
“What do you mean…all MEN?” Sir Leon pointed at the ugliest of the trolls. “That fellow over there is even uglier than our cook at Camelot and that’s saying something. You’ll not convince me that’s a man! Just look at his tufty ears.”
Marigold and Yolanda risked a few steps forward. “We’re not to blame, if they turn out looking like that. It’s their own fault! The more they mock us, the uglier they turn out in the end. That’s the curse, don’t you see?”
Marigold twisted a strand of hair between her fingers and pouted. She eyed the knights one by one until her glance came to rest on Percival, who retreated to the safety of his circle of friends, but he wasn’t fast enough. Marigold darted forward, reached out and patted his biceps. “Oh my goodness, aren’t you a strong one?”
Seeing the blood rise to his friend’s cheeks, Sir Leon intervened. “Look, we can stand here all day and decimate your troll herd or you can let us go, your choice,” he detached Marigold’s probing fingers from Percival’s chest. “Just give us back our friends and we’ll go quietly.”
“You don’t understand. Even if we wanted to…we can’t. Nobody leaves this castle as they were, once they’ve set foot in it!” Yolanda sighed and looked Sir Leon straight in the face. “We’re cursed and with it every man who falls for our charms.”
Percival snorted. “Charms?” Marigold’s stare seared him like a branding iron; he recovered his wits and coughed. “Uhm…I meant to say…surely three charming young ladies like you couldn’t possibly be cursed. Who’d do such a thing?”
“Leofwine!” The three sisters replied as one.
“Who’s he when he’s at home?” Sir Elyan wiped the sweat from his face. “Don’t tell me he’s the woolly-headed creature we’ve just tied up in my lady’s bedchamber?”
Ethelgunda chortled and walked slowly back to the hearth, where her cauldron had begun to steam. “King Leofwine and his second wife Dragonara, who is godmother to your King Arthur, are both sorcerers. It’s thanks to them we’re in this sorry state.”
“We’re going to be saved now, aren’t we, sister?” Marigold beamed at Percival before Yolanda pulled her away from the circle of swords.
Ethelgunda responded with a mirthless cackle. “We’ll see.” She reached out and sprinkled some of Merlin’s hair into the bubbling broth of her cauldron. “Let’s not get our hopes up, just yet.”
Like the night before the broth started to boil and spit; smoke rose up and an explosion followed that nearly shattered their ear drums. The three sisters were flattened by the impact of the blow and landed on their backs several yards from the hearth. Some trolls were hit by falling masonry and the rest abandoned their siege and left the friends to their fate. Ethelgunda lunged at a fleeing leg and brought the traitor down. The troll hit the ground, nearly blinding Yolanda with his dagger. Yolanda clouted him on the back until he rolled off her and both troll and sister were able to rise. The troll mumbled an apology, but Ethelgunda barked a string of insults at the hapless guard and he hurried off to stop his fellow guards from leaving.
Black smoke filled the hall and Sir Leon urged his friends towards the door, but they had missed their chance; it was once again blocked by guards who had turned to come to their mistresses’ aid. Ethelgunda and Yolanda had already scrambled to their feet, but Marigold was still buried under a piece of masonry.
Disregarding their stricken sister, Ethelgunda and Yolanda bounced back to the cauldron and the elder sister threw the remainder of Merlin’s hair into the steaming liquid. “This will be a brew that’ll make your eyes water, boys!” Yolanda screamed over the din in the hall.
Ethelgunda gave the cauldron’s contents a stir and sniffed the rising smoke. A jet of brown liquid shot straight up into the air and hit her in the face. She squealed with pain and dropped the ladle, spattering everyone around her with the broth. The cauldron began to shake and tremble. Ethelgunda danced around the hall, howling loudly, her hands pressed to her face, while Yolanda picked up the ladle and gave the broth another stir.
A second spout shot up; however, this time the cook was prepared and Yolanda stepped smartly out of the way. The liquid landed back in the cauldron with a splash. A rumbling followed, which turned into a growl that resembled an angry bear about to attack. Everyone was staring at the hearth, waiting with baited breath for the next blow. When the growl turned into a thunderous roar, a second explosion followed and this time it brought down the rest of the marble mantelpiece and part of the ceiling. Men, trolls and sisters were either knocked off their feet by falling masonry or flattened by oak panels that came off the walls and shot across the hall like missiles. Everyone was covered in broth.
When the smoke began to clear, Sir Elyan scrambled to his feet and wiped the liquid off his nose. “Phew, that’s worse than Gawain’s socks!” He put a finger to his mouth and tried the stuff. “Hmmm, it tastes far better than it smells. Just like Merlin’s stews…but without the bits of rabbit fur to spoil the texture.”
Sir Leon rushed over and tore Elyan’s hand away. “Don’t! It might be poison or worse…witchcraft! You could end up looking like one of them.” The sweep of Sir Leon’s hands included both the sisters and the trolls buried under the rubble.
“Don’t fret! The worst it’ll do is put some hairs on your chest.” First to regain her wits, Yolanda picked up a piece of marble and hurled it at the knights. “Ethelgunda’s potions never work out.” She started sobbing. “We’ll be stuck here forever!”
Marigold was beginning to regain consciousness and sat up in a puddle of broth. Her dusty hair was glued to her face, the page of a book stuck to the back of her head. She began to wail. “Forever? I can’t bear it…I just caaaaaaaaan’t!”
Several of the trolls stood rooted to the spot and stared at the sisters with open mouths. One troll tip-toed over to Marigold and tried to put his arm around her shoulders, but she shook him off and punched him on the nose, continuing her wailing undeterred. Sir Leon shook his head. Why did the trolls bother with the sisters? It was ludicrous given the treatment they received in return. Meanwhile, Percival seized his opportunity and began fighting his way through to the door. He knocked out three trolls but was instantly surrounded by more.
Sir Leon came to his rescue and yelled: “Watch our backs, Elyan!”
“Will do…just as soon as I’ve helped this lovely lady back on her feet,” Elyan grinned back at his friends and sauntered over to Marigold, who stopped wailing and stared at Elyan’s face instead. He pulled her up roughly, slung her over his shoulder in one swift motion and used her legs as a battering ram to create a corridor wide enough for him and his friends to reach the door. Trolls were scattered left and right, as Marigold’s feet and buttocks collided with shoulders and heads. She screamed in protest but Elyan took no notice, no matter how hard her fists pounded the back of his legs.
The knights made it out of the door and down the dark corridor in one piece, but a horde of guards pursued them, forcing the friends, screaming Marigold and all, to hurtle down a flight of stairs and flee into the bowels of the castle.
“I have a feeling they’re driving us down into the dungeons!” Elyan panted under Marigold’s weight. He’d finally caught up with his friends.
Sir Leon turned his head but didn’t slow his pace. “Let’s not give them the pleasure. If we can make it out into the courtyard and to the stables…look! How about that set of stairs, where’ll it take us?” He pointed at a spiral staircase leading up, rather than down. Sir Leon stopped in his tracks without warning and half turned, causing Percival and Elyan to run straight into him at speed. Thanks to the force of their collision Elyan dropped his battering ram. Marigold squealed in protest; her head collided with a statue of Saint Winifred the Placid, lurking by the stairs. She tried to crawl away, but was too slow and Elyan’s boot pinned her to the flagstones.
He looked down at the prostrate woman and grimaced. “First time ever I’m grateful to a monk for depriving me of a woman.” Elyan rubbed the back of his legs. “The lady’s stronger than she looks.”
“Stop flirting and tell me, which way’s our best chance of escape!” Sir Leon turned and gasped. He stared at his friend. “What’s happened to your face?”
“What?” Elyan carelessly ran his fingers through his hair. “I’m just as dusty as you are and if I’m a little sweaty…well, so would you be, if you had to carry this…erm,” Elyan bent down and hoisted Marigold up by her girdle,“…delightful burden.” He shifted her weight on his shoulder and slapped her bottom to keep her still. She retaliated by biting his thigh. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go before this greedy woman takes another chunk out of me!”
Percival pushed past Leon, took the first couple of steps, hesitated, turned around and reached with one arm across Sir Leon’s head. “This is dust, is it, Elyan?” He grabbed the knight’s nose between index finger and thumb, pulling a long strand of hair up into the air. “I can’t wait to see Arthur’s face when he discovers you’re sporting a golden nose beard.”
Elyan squinted cross-eyed at the glittering strand of hair growing from his beak. “What the hell is THAT?”
“THAT, my uncivil knight, is the curse! You’re turning into one of them!” Marigold pointed at Unding, who had just appeared at the top of the stairs. “Unding, don’t just stand there gawping. Chop their heads off!”
“With pleasure, my lady!” Unding lunged forward and thundered down the stairs. “I’ve just about had my fill of uninvited guests today!”
Behind them in the corridor the guards were catching up.
“Damn! We’re trapped!”
“No, we’re not, Leon! On three, Percival! One…two…three!” Elyan tore Marigold off his shoulder and hurled her at the guards behind them. Her unexpected arrival in their arms sent the men flying; a confusion of troll arms and legs flattened Marigold and knocked her out.
Clearly not wishing to be outdone by his friend, Percival stretched out his arm, taking full advantage of Unding’s speedy descent down the stairs. The impact of Unding’s nose on Percival’s fist sent blood splashing across the walls. The leader of the trolls tumbled down the final steps and landed on my lady Marigold, where he lost consciousness among her ample bosoms.
“At least he had a soft landing!” Percival grinned. “Let’s not hang around to find out what the lady thinks of his advances.” He bounded up the spiral stair case with his friends in hot pursuit.
Thanks to the gloom in the bowels of Castle Deira none of the friends noticed a door being opened at the far end of the corridor. A hooded man stepped outside and considered the carnage at the bottom of the stairs for a moment, before grabbing a torch from one of the wall sconces. He turned back towards the half-open door and motioned to the inmates of the chamber to follow him.
Stepping over the unconscious bodies, the hooded man and his two companions crept silently towards the lowest part of the castle, where the wine cellar, dungeons and torture chamber were waiting to be used as her ladyship Ethelgunda pleased.
The three men reached a heavily studded oak door with carvings that seemed older than the castle itself. The hooded man reached out with a gloved hand and tore at the door’s handle. The door opened with a great deal of protest, squeaking so alarmingly, the men feared it would come off its hinges. It remained intact, however, and the men stole down a set of stairs that was as dark as the catacombs below Camelot. At the end of the stairs the men turned right and followed a dark passageway into the very heart of the castle. They came to another door, even older than the one on the floor above; this one was covered in runes.
“We’ve arrived, my friends!” The leader pulled the door open and raised his torch. The swift movement caused his hood to slide from his head and fall to his shoulders. He ignored it and stuck his torch into the chamber. The dancing flame lit up his face and blonde hair as if he had a halo. He turned and motioned his companions to enter the chamber. “Over there, let’s grab it and get out of here! For heaven’s sake don’t open it, whatever you do!”
../to be continued…