Part 12 was created on 20th to 23rd August 2012.
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. Latest BBC trailers and pictures are available at:
The ruined great hall at Castle Deira…
Everyone turned to Yolanda, who stood motionless by the hearth, staring at her waif-like hips. Merlin dug his ribs into Arthur’s side. “Look, no wart on her chin and her hair’s turning from grey to blonde. The curse is lifting!”
Instinctively, Arthur turned to look for his godmother, but she seemed to have vanished. Next to them their friend Gawain was beginning to moult at an alarming speed. He had begun to scratch his ears and neck, spreading fluff everywhere. Merlin sneezed, sending tufts of fur up into the air.
Arthur’s face lit up at the sight of his friend’s familiar features emerging from the fur. “Look Merlin, even the tavern-bags under his eyes are gone!”
“So they are, but I bet his feet still stink like a bear’s behind!”
“I can break curses and spells, but I cannot perform miracles, Merlin.” Dragonara waved across the crowded hall. Merlin beamed at her through clouds of fur. Every troll had started to moult. All around them the great hall was gradually filling up with handsome young knights – with the exception of one particularly bulky guard. He was still talking goose fat and still looked very much like a troll. Dragonara shrugged her shoulders. “Some battles are doomed to failure.” Merlin laughed and waved to her. She smiled and waggled her hand in a regal gesture.
Within moments Gawain had transformed into his old self. He threw his arms around Merlin’s and Arthur’s neck, hugging them close.
“But how is this p-p-possible?” Ethelgunda took a fresh ladle from a hook on the wall and stirred the caldron. She sniffed the bubbling contents and shook her head; her gaze fell on Arthur, who grinned back at her.
“Sorry my lady, I’m very much attached to my hair. You’ll have to find another noble scalp to spice up your soup. I thought to break the spell you needed high born blood?”
“It wouldn’t have bothered Yolanda or me, but Marigold was always so squeamish, we had to use hair.” Ethelgunda eyed Gawain keenly. “None of the others ever managed to resist a spell this powerful. Who is that man? And, come to think of it, who the hell are you?”
“Simple, I’m Arthur and this is my friend Gawain, the finest knight at Camelot. You wanted noble blood and he supplied it! Now be content and let us go.”
“But if you’re Arthur, who’s that?” Ethelgunda’s hand pointed first at Merlin and then at her ruined hall. “He’s responsible for all this mess and I have a good mind to make somebody pay.”
Arthur gazed at the remnants of her ancestral home and sympathized – to a degree. “This is nothing; you should see what Merlin does to my chambers at Camelot. Still, loyal servants are hard to come by and you’ll not find one more loyal than him.”
“A servant?” Ethelgunda screeched. “But…the brew seemed to work for a while…we all stayed young and hale for far longer than the usual hour…and then there were all those explosions…is he the natural son of an emperor that his blood should carry so much nobility?”
Arthur shrugged his shoulders. ”Nobility is not defined by birth; it’s a man’s choices and his actions that prove his worth…or hers.” He glanced over his shoulder at a point by the door, where Dragonara’s blonde head was bopping up and down in lively conversation with a handsome guard.
Meanwhile, Marigold and Yolanda had started to investigate the cauldron, too. Yolanda snatched the ladle from Ethelgunda’s hand and began fishing in the broth. “Look!” She caught Gawain’s handkerchief and held it up to the light. “The blood’s washed out.”
Marigold clapped her hands. “I told you so! The noble Gawain has set us free.”
A growl as loud as thunder silenced the hall. Everyone turned towards the entrance, where the two-headed dog had just entered and pounced on a member of their party. Merlin tried to get closer but several troll-turned-knight guards got in his way. He called out to Arthur, who snatched a sword from one of the knights and made his way across the hall to see his godmother prostrate, the dog’s mighty paws pinning her to the flagstones.
“Get your filthy paws off her!” Arthur pointed his sword at the dog’s throat.
The beast did not budge; instead, it began to tremble and shake. Slowly the paws turned to muscular hands, the fore and hind legs transformed into powerful arms and legs. The creature lifted both its heads and stared with four yellow eyes at Arthur, who dug the tip of his sword deeper into the beast’s broad neck. The creature’s transformation was almost complete. Two heads merged into one silver-haired crown. Finally, a crouching man peered down at Arthur’s sword, his eyes full of contempt.
With a swipe of his hand he pushed Arthur’s sword out of the way and rose to his full height. He spat on Dragonara, who tried to get up but was flattened by his boot on her small back. “You dare show your face here, you harlot? I should have you horse-whipped for what you did to me.”
Arthur took a step forward and raised his sword to the man’s chest. “Let her go or you’ll get acquainted with my blade!”
“Who’s this whelp, Dragonara? Your latest bed-fellow, I shouldn’t wonder.”
“He’s Arthur, King of Camelot. The lady Dragonara is his godmother.” Merlin stepped out from a crowd of onlookers. Arthur’s servant also pointed a sword at the old man.
Merlin’s gaze searched the onlookers’ faces. None of the knights around them was lifting a finger to assist their lord. Castle Deira’s owner didn’t appear to have the respect he took for granted. Merlin scrutinised the old knight’s features; he was a man of about sixty, with a long nose and deep-set dark eyes. He wore old-fashioned robes, the type a noble man would have worn before Merlin was born. There were pearls and semi-precious stones sewn around the hem of his cloak and embroidery decorated the sleeves of the old man’s tunic. The man’s face was full of contempt.
“Why should I believe anything you say, boy? Yesterday you told us your name was Arthur and you were the king of Camelot.”
“He speaks the truth today; Merlin was just trying to protect my godson, his lord. Let them go, Wulfric. Your quarrel is with me.” Dragonara tried to get up but he kicked her hard and the blow winded her.
“I was talking to the boy!” Wulfric kicked her viciously. “Leofwine’s throne wasn’t enough for you, Madam? You had to insinuate yourself into Uther’s court as well as this one?” He laughed wildly. “But where are my manners! We have guests from abroad! Let’s have a little celebration in honour of Castle Deira’s deliverance. We shall have a bonfire this lady and her friends won’t forget in a hurry. Unding, fetch wood and kindling. I shall end this enchantment once and for all.”
Merlin stared at the person Wulfric had just addressed. The handsome officer standing just behind Arthur met Merlin’s gaze and shrugged his shoulders. Wulfric turned on him ferociously. “Stir your limbs, idle fellow, unless you want to feel my whip on your back. My daughters are no longer giving the orders around here. You’d better get used to it – I’m lord and master of this house.”
Unding remained rooted to the spot, so did his men. Wulfric evaded Arthur’s blade and slapped Unding’s face hard, but the guard neither retaliated nor moved a muscle.
The crowd of onlookers parted wordlessly to admit Gawain, who strode up to the old man and pointed his sword at Wulfric’s chest. “A fire in July? I wouldn’t recommend it, Sire, far too stuffy in my lady’s bed chamber.” The old man stared coldly at the three blades pointed at his body and snarled.
Marigold’s anxious face appeared at Gawain’s side. He raised his sword higher offering Wulfric the chance to have his throat cut three ways. “Here’s the thing, you flea-bitten old knave: harm one hair on Unding’s back and your hide will get such a lashing, you’ll look back fondly on your days as a two-headed hearth rug. You heard my liege, let his godmother go, she came here to help.”
“We don’t need her kind of help. You fool! I have no doubt this latest enchantment will vanish at dawn and you’ll turn back into the worthless hog you’ve always been.” The old man’s hand crept slowly up to his belt; he drew a silver dagger and lashed out at the nearest target, which just happened to be Gawain.
Marigold screamed and threw herself into the path of the knife. Gawain caught her in his arms, but he was not fast enough; her slender body slid down to the floor and he dropped to his knees, her head resting on his chest.
“Little Marigold, what have you done? Your father’s right, I’m not worth losing your life over. I spent the night with your sister, when I should have slept in your arms.”
She smiled up at Gawain’s pale face. “Don’t fret, it doesn’t hurt. My turn to shed a little blood, dear knight. I couldn’t let him harm you…not after all you’ve done.”
“But I didn’t do anything, not really –“
“Yes, you did. You offered to marry all three of us, remember? You lifted the curse and now everyone’s free. And you were kind to me last night…when I turned back into a hag before my sisters did…I drank more brew to make myself beautiful for you again in the morning…but you didn’t mock when I was old and shrivelled, you took another turn around the dance floor with me and gave me a kiss.”
Gawain blinked and stared at the dagger in her chest. He shook his head, when Arthur bent down over them to offer his help. Marigold’s blood was beginning to seep through her gown and form a puddle on the ground.
Unding sank down beside her and folded his hands over hers. “My lady, please don’t leave us. I couldn’t bear to lose you…not now…after all we’ve been through.” He raised her hands to his lips and kissed her fingers.
“You mustn’t do that, Unding.” Marigold tried to withdraw her hands from his, but he wouldn’t let her. “My hands…so rough from all that baking and roasting…the hands of an old scullery maid…dear Unding, you’ve served us so loyally all these years…even when father mistreated you, you didn’t leave. I was so horrible to you…I teased you when we were growing up…I’d noticed you looking at Yolanda…she was always so beautiful…silly jealousy…you deserve a true lady as your mistress, one who treats you the way you deserve.” She freed one of her hands and touched his face gently, wiping away his tears.
Unding shut his eyes. “Oh no, my lady. You’ll always be my mistress; there’ll never be anyone else.” Her fingers slid down his mouth and chin and finally to the floor, where her small, white hand came to rest in the pool of blood that had gathered beside her. Gawain lifted her hand gently and crossed her arm over her motionless chest. He tried to detach Unding from her other hand, but the guard wouldn’t let go; her fingers were still curled around his. Yolanda cried out and rushed over to her youngest sister. Ethelgunda staggered to the one and only chair and sank down. Unding’s face had turned pale and his lips trembled.
Gawain placed his hand on the guard’s shoulder. “She was the finest baker and your devoted friend.” He looked down at her face, the skin smooth again, her hair as black as a raven’s coat, her limbs slender and youthful, as if the past twenty years had never occurred. “And the sweetest lady I’ve ever met.”
Beside them Wulfric stared down coldly. “Never was a father so burdened with a child as I was with this silly girl. No sense of decorum, no idea of obligation, not an ounce of nobility.”
“You flea-bitten monster! You shall pay for that!” Unding shot up and hurled himself at Wulfric; he punched his former master hard in the face. Surprised by the ferocity of the attack, Wulfric stumbled over Dragonara and fell. The old man had no chance of fighting back, Unding’s fists landed blow after blow, his boots kicked without mercy.
Arthur, Gawain and Merlin eventually managed to pull Unding off the old man. Arthur lifted him to his feet and Gawain searched him for any more concealed weapons, but found none. Gawain bound his wrists and pushed him into the centre of the hall, while Arthur held on to Unding, who snarled and fought to get free again.
The old knight spat contemptuously on the floor: “Had she lived, you could have had her and be welcome to the stupid mare. In fact, take your pick from the remaining two idiots; they have cost me dearly, so take them both away, if they please you! I even give you a dowry, provided I don’t have to see their faces ever again. I paid for their stupidity with twenty years of my life. No suitor was ever good enough for my conceited daughters – not until Leofwine came along and Yolanda fell for his charms.”
Arthur relieved one of the guards off his duster and rammed it into Wulfric’s mouth. “I liked you better when you were a two-headed hound. You smelled better and there was less noise.” He looked around for his godmother. “Merlin, go find my sword. It’s about time we found the others and returned to Camelot. I’ve had my fill of foreign hospitality and can’t wait to get back home.”
“With pleasure, Sire.” Merlin headed out of the hall, but stopped, when he found Dragonara hunched over Marigold’s lifeless form. Yolanda and Ethelgunda were by her side, one sobbing quietly; the other outwardly composed but clearly shocked to her core.
Dragonara had placed her hand on Marigold’s chest and was about to remove the dagger. Arthur stopped her. “Come, it’s time to leave. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent this. It is not your fault.” He laid his hands on her shoulders and tried to lift her up gently, but she resisted.
Her stern face looked up at him. “Nothing you can say will console me.” She stared at the substance clinging to her fingers. “This was my doing.”
“But you undid your sorcery! You helped break the spell. Wulfric caused her death, he’s to blame. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he didn’t offer his daughters to Leofwine in the first place.” Arthur bent down closer to his godmother’s ear. “If you feel the urge to turn him back into a hound, don’t hold back on my account, will you?”
Merlin blinked. Had Arthur just given his blessing to the use of magic for a good cause?
(source of animation: heathersanimations.com, photo credit Merlin Official Facebook)