The Wizard

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fan Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story fan fiction based on the Dresden files Universe by amazing author Jim Butcher. It is a rough draft and unfinished as of yet, but I felt like it was time to share it.

Submitted: June 03, 2010

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Submitted: June 03, 2010

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“Do you ever think, you know, that all of this is out of whack?” I looked over at my partner, a tiny little wisp of a woman name Evelyn. Sand filled wind whipped her short blond hair across her face, making her look years younger then the twenty one she was. Twenty one, and she hadn't even had a drink. I snorted, “You keep talking like that and they are going to label you a deserter.” Evelyn's eyes widened at me, her mouth opening in a terrified “O” shape. I couldn't help it. I chuckled and chuffed her lightly on the shoulder with a fist. Poor kid hadn't known anything outside of the Wardens, and even though she'd seen as much action as any of his men she was still as naive as when I'd met her twelve years before. Good for her, I thought. It would be a real shame if she became something hard and unrecognizable.

Like me. “Relax Evey,” I grinned, using the nickname I knew she hated. “It isn't our job to think. We just fight and die. Kind of like..Cows.” Evelyn rolled her eyes, but I hated to admit that my description was much closer to reality then either of us would like to admit. Stonehenge wasn't a likely place for any amount of wizards to have to protect, let alone a dozen Wardens of the White Council. But for some odd reason a very important woman had decided to hide here, and in all their pious intelligence the Senior Council had Decided to defend the spot until she could be extracted, Not that saving dames in distress was a bad thing. But when that same Dame was being hunted by some of the nastiest specters the Never Never had to offer, thats when I started to take offense. At least the Council had sent me some truly useful Battle wizards. None of the twelve others with me were powerful enough to be on the Senior council, and a few had barely even made it into the White Council at all, but among them there were a few hardened veterans I knew I could rely on. I spared a quick glance over at Evelyn, her childlike features lit by the morning sun. She wasn't anymore then five-two to my six-three, and my right hand could almost fit all the way around her neck, but damn if I wasn't glad she was here. She couldn't throw around the same kind of power I or some of the other Wardens could, but when you needed someone to put you back together afterwards, you went to Evey.

Not that any of that would matter if they didn't get out of here soon. Not only was the woman who was bearing the next Archive hunkered down under a tent in the middle of the stone scape, this was also a ley line for the magical energies that ran through the world. A big one. And all of it black magic. Not to even mention a portal to the Never never was less then a mile away. If the baddies brought someone with some magical talent to the party there would be a helluva lot of power for him to throw around. “Well, that's not fair to cows I guess.” Evelyn looked over at me arching a slender brow. I raised a hand in a, i'm not crazy gesture. “They make black and white spots look good. Gotta give praise to anyone who can do that.” Evelyn looked down at her outfit and blushed half out of anger and half out of embarrassment. The easiest way to get a force of wardens to Scotland was through paths in the Never never. It just so happened that the path they had needed to take was through a muggy swamp area.

The girls with them had lamented over their nicely pressed cloaks being stained with deep brown mud. They did resemble cows, some of the wider wardens a little more then others. It was at times like these, when the pressure was on that I couldn't help but imagine people naked. It wasn't a pretty sight. “Well atlea-” She began a rude comeback. “Contact!” the alarm came from somewhere to their right, a picket they had placed dangerously close to the portal to the nevenever. Except that the young Warden waving his arms frantically was not that picket. Which meant that the picket was more likely then not dead. Shit. They had set up a concentric series of circles around Stonehenge, layers so that you never had your back to the enemy without one of the good guys there to watch it for you. Myself and Evelyn were near the middle, and even though reflexes had us moving before the young man had stopped yelling we still weren't out of the first ring when the young wardens body was ripped in half by... something. It was a thundering beast as big as any house I had seen, its back hunched over, its front claws dragging on the ground leaving deep ruts wherever its fingers swayed. Green scales covered it from head to toe, ending in a very nasty tail with a razor edge to it. Four rows of teeth gleamed in the sun, some sort of green ooze slipping out and hitting the ground. Wherever the ooze hit, the grass died. Great. Acid. How could this get any worse?

Evelyn shot me a dirty look as if she had heard my thoughts. About three other creatures similar in size to the first rose over the hill, surrounded by dozens of ghouls and what looked like a few minotaurs. I only shrugged and grinned. “time to strap up munch kin. Think you can handle this?” Evelyn shrugged off the outer part of her cloak, drawing her silver rapier and staff. “what the hell. Let's go fight monsters.” “To the left!” I screamed until my voice was hoarse, not in time to save two wardens who hadn't seen the ghouls coming. Damn! A minotaur missing one of its horns slashed at my right arm. No time to grieve as I rolled away and sent a sliver of white hot fire through the beasts back. It fell to the ground writhing in agony. “Evelyn! Get back!” Evelyn looked away from the trio of ghouls she had been fencing and nodded. With a quick flick of the blade all three went tumbling backwards and Evelyn retreated in time for a large gust of wind to send them flying back into their comrades. Dennis stood there grinning, Staff in hand. “Wow. I. Am Good.” he said smiling. I tried not to snort in disapproval and turned to fight again, cutting down three more ghouls before I realized they weren't fighting back. Every single attacker had stopped moving seemingly simultaneously. Weird. That didn't mean I stopped to think or look, as fast as I could I grabbed the nearest wounded warden and began dragging him backwards into the defensive line.

Three more wardens were being dragged, totaling maybe six of the original twelve. Seeing the other six bodies, or pieces of them, in the battleground made me grind my teeth together in anger. “how bad is it Evey?!” I couldn't see her and wasn't even sure where she was, but she yelled back from somewhere in the distant. It was real bad. Of the six remaining Wardens, two were injured so much that they wouldn't survive, one couldn't move or he wouldn't survive. That left three remaining wardens to fight. Two, if you didn't include Evey. I glanced over Dennis, who winked back in acknowledgment. “Two is the loneliest number, eh?” he said with a grin. I grunted back in acknowledgment. As soon as any magical properties had begun flowing around the council would have known about it. At least one or two members of the council may even be on their way. I really hoped they were.

The bronze gauntlet I wore on my right arm was giving off steam. I used it as a conduit for my magic, in place of the staves others carried. It was lighter, more mobile.. and looked less geeky. Plus all the girls dig jewelry. A barrel of water was set up in one corner. Bloody rags hung off the side and I wouldnt dare try to drink it, but the relief it gave to my bare skin when I dunked my smoldering gauntlet in it was fan tastic. “WARDENS!” The line of enemies, thick enough to cover the entire hill in front of them, parted like moses had been there. A man strode forward, no taller then six three, all of it muscle. His white cotton clothes fluttered around his body, as if they had been made for someone much bigger then he. A gold earing glittered in his left ear, his short brown hair barely falling to his ears. A long nasty scar covered his neck from ear to ear. “May I have a word?” I looked at Dennis who only grimaced and mouthed the word “Dragon.” oh. Shit. There weren't that many dragons left, and there were even fewer that were old enough to know how and could take the form of a human. There was only two or three who have the power to call forth creatures of the never never to fight for him. They were all heavyweights out of his class, and probably out of the Merlin's as well. I grabbed a fistful of Dennies shirt and pulled him towards me. He squirmed at the awkward closeness and I didn't blame him, but I wasn't about to let Dragon boy overhear what our plans were. “We don't know what this guy wants. I'll go talk to him. If anything gets hairy, fall back to the never never and wait for reinforcments.” Dennis started laughing. Apparently his ears were ticklish and in my hurry to talk i had said it all in a husky... sensual voice. My face flushed and he started laughing more, which got me laughing.

Mr. Dragon sneered even deeper, if it was possible. Ok. Back to work. Dennis disappeared around the bend. “no more of you need die, wizard.” The dragons voice had me turn around suddenly, finding the man standing close enough to kiss me if he wanted. Homo-erotic. “I need only the Child that is about to be berthed.” “So generous of you” I chuckled. “And if I say go to hell?” The man cocked his head and smiled. “I'll assume your ignorance is misguided for your own sake. We got off to a bad start, mortal. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Ti- Lung. And you are Benjamin William Deangelo Bendle. Your whole family is dead except for one sister who lives in Portland, Oregon. You have spent your life defending the weak from monsters-” “Like you, “Benny interrupted. Ti smiled. “Yes, like me. You have wasted your life, young one. Fighting powers you cannot defeat. You need not die here. Give me the girl and you and the others can leave.” The fact that he knew so much about me was disconcerting. I fidgeted a little, hoping he wouldn't notice. Oh, I wasn't afraid, not that much at least, and there was no way in hell I was giving the girl to Ti-Yung. He was one of several Dragons from China, which meant he was old. Real old. Centuries old. He was also the earth Dragon, which meant he had power. Lots of it. More then any wizard that had ever lived except for maybe THE merlin. He was dangerous with a capital D. I glanced over his shoulder at the hordes of monsters. The captain had promised extraction in five hours. They'd been here, what, four and a half? Almost five. They just needed a little more time... So. that left me. Against a dragon and a few thousand monsters. Great.

My Fingers clenched into my palms. Blood began to trickle to the ground as power flooded through my arms. It wasn't my limit, but it was enough to hurt. “You are a fool!” I had barely begun gathering power and the dragon had noticed it. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. But it's not like i had any other. “you will die, and so will the others.” Ti-Lung snarled and the wave of creatures behind him surged forward. There wasn't much time, but this sort of magic was brute and didn't require a fine touch. I fell to the ground, grabeed fistfuls of dirt and began spreading them in a circle around me. Blood trickled and closed the circle. Power began to fill the space around me until static lightning began to flash. My eyes grew white hot and pain seared through my head enough to make me dizzy. That was good enough. I scuffed the circle with my foot, dircted the magic in a straight line to my left and right and let it fly. Earth shook and moved, rising from the ground into a giant wall at least twice my size and a few feet thick. It was a lot more power then I had ever thrown around beore. Not very often did wizards get to cut loose after all. It was more or less frowned upon in the magical community. Ti-Yung laughed. A loud, hearty sound that made you feel good inside even while it let you know something bad was coming. “Look at the sparrow mock the Eagle. Do you think your tricks are threatening?” Ti waved a hand in a gesture that seemed to take no effort and the walls of earth fell to the ground. Damn. That had taken all of me and more I didnt even have to put up. There was no way I could slug in this weight class. But running meant the death of at least four people. I only cared about two, really only about one, but it's not like I could pick and choose who to protect. “Face me one on one then. If you beat me you can go after the child.” It was a gamble. There was some sort of pact, or contract, or something that wizards had made back in the time when humans tried to hunt them to death. They'd helped them discover to take human form in order to survive, and the dragons had stopped killing humans and wizards for food. A challenge of powers could not go unanswered. “You challenge me young mortal?” “I do.” The dragon paused, waiting for something.

It finally dawned on me and I tried not to feel stupid as I repeated it all for the third time. “I, Benjamin William Deangelo Bendle, challenge you, Ti-yung.... Mister Dragon of Earth, to a challenge under the contract our forefathers.. and foredragons? To take place in no more then one hour on this spot.” ti-yung smiled. “Very well, I accept. You have one hour reprieve before you die. Use it wisely.”

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“You. Did. WHAT?!” Evey all but screamed at me. “Do you have any idea what the hell you've just done?!”

“Yes, but-”

“Do you have any idea who the hell that guy out there is?!”

“I do but-” “

Benny!” Evelyn broke down at last, burying her head in her arm and falling to her knees. “You're going to die!” She choked out between sobs. I wrapped my cloak around her shaking body, practically picking her up and carrying her to a cot that had been occupied this morning. “it's not all that bad,” I tried to comfort her. “The senior council has the right to object, and when they get here they will. There is no way they will let the fate of the Archive rest on a duel between us. And by that time we'll have enough muscle here to hold him off while we escape. It's a fool proof plan!” Evey shot me a very dirty look wiping away makeup that had clumped at the corner of her eyes. She was mad. More then I'd ever seen from her before. Her body began to shake as she started beating the living hell out of my chest. “You're not a fool your a moron! Is there a plan that is Moron proof?!” She was angry but I couldn't help it. She was cute when she was angry. Cute in a way that made you want to gather her up and just kiss her. Not that I would. She was in her twenties and I was.... Well I wasn't in my twenties.

We had talked about that, but the whole idea was just a little creepy. I was old enough to be her father. Still, the attraction was there, and I was a man. I let go of her, slowly. “Trust me, Evey. The council will arrive, object, and we all go home happy.”

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“What do you mean they don't object!?” The warden who carried the message held up his hands in defnse. “that's all they said sir. They will be here in a matter of minutes but word had already reached them.”

“But,” my mind raced, trying to understand what they were doing. “They do know I'll lose, right?”

“That's not for me to decide, sir. I just know what I've been told.” “I gave the man a sour scowl and dismissed him a little more curtly then was necessary. The council had just signed my death warrant. And it wouldn't be painless either. They'd be here in ten minutes, but the duel was less then eight away. Thy'd be here in time to watch me die, and I knew exactly where my death curse was going. The bastards. Well, there was nothing else I could do but go back to the cleansing ritual that had been so rudely interrupted. It was nothing fancy, I didnt have that kind of time. I closed the circle that I had created around my tent, a line in the sand drawn with my finger. Stepping into the confines of my tent, the world of magic outside shut off, I began cleansing myself. A wite robe in the corner replaced my grey wardens clothes. Candles came to life as one by one I lit them with a flint lock. The inside of my tent was bare save the candes, of course, and five mirrors set up around a mat in the middle of the floor. Uttering a small prayer I disrobed and sat in the middle of the mat. Five perfect images o myself stared back at me, along with the countless mirror images that created a labrynth of my tent. It was an old ritual, one that wizards didnt oft use anymore.

Each mirror image represented a part of myself, and as those parts went on and on my mind and soul slowly seperated, leaving me with thousands of images of myself, and my flaws. With a little bit of concentration and a lot of will I honed in on those flaws, bringing them to the front of the mirrors until all you could see were ugly, distorted images of myself. Five in all showing all the ugliness of my soul. It was enough to make me want to turn away, but with a confidence I didnt think I had I stared at each of them and, in turn, broke the mirrors with my hands. My body heaved and a feeling like the first breath of spring air came over my body. Each mirror broken released that part of my soul, leaving me left with the purest parts of me. It wouldn't ladt forever, and my hand had begun to bleed from the broken glass, but it had given me an advantage I wouldn't otherwise had. Magic is pure and holy, in some ways. It is all lie and creates as well as recycles. Monks and pristesses strive for years to try to be holy because of this fact. The purer you are the closer you feel to the source. What the source is, I couldn't tell you. Some believe it to be god. Agnostics believe it to be something else entirely. There is a higher power whether or not it is God. And that higher power oes indeed control the source.There were more important things on my mind then questions that had and never would be answered by mortal men however.

Time had run out, and even as I sat there, feeling light as a feather, I could feel the enourmous power of Ti-yung gathering just out of reach. Like a dark rain storm it fell and shattered itself against my circle, over and over again. Never did it ever penetrate to touch me, but it hovered there, always just out of reach, always ready to gather me up and rip me to shreds. I had made a very big gamble,and in the end it hadnt panned out. Nobody had rode to my rescue. It was time to lay in the bed I had made.

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Ti-Yung stood before me, his clothing had chaned from loose billowy cotton into tight fitting leather which seemed to be from some sort of badger. His hair had been cut military short and his eyes gleamed a dangerous silver. I admit it, I was intimidated. But, hell, I was still high on my ritual cleansing ans was ready to sling around some serious power. A minion to the right of us held a tiny horn, made from some bull probably, gave it a short blow and then ran away as fast as he could. Ti-yung stood there, waiting for me to make the first move. Not that he would need me to run out of juice, but he had to know that even with my cleansing I didn't have the kind of magical resevoir he did. All he had to do was wait for me to run out and he could torture me as much as he wanted. Stubborn as I was that wasn't how I was going out. so... we stood there, neither of us moving, neither blinking until a shrill horn, not from ti-yungs side but from mine, broke the silence. Nine or ten Wardens burst out of nowhere and into the circle of engagement, which held no real power but to devise a limit of movement. The encircled me, pushed me back and raised their staves and various weapons at Ti-Yung.

I blinked in confusion but wasn't about to argue as I was led back away from the makeshift arena. Nine or ten wardens were a much more even match for Ti-Yung then I was, and if they were willing to fight them go ahead. It wasn't until they had set me down, at sword point mind you, in front of the Senior council that I realized something major, or more major, was up. The ENTIRE council was there, not just one or two members like I had thought. The GateKeepr was there, along with Luccio, captain of the Wardens, Simon Petrovich, which was weird, and another man whom I had never seen before.

They stood in a half circle, swords drawn and held in hand over their shoulder in a ceremonial gesture. At the center stood, of all people the Merlin. He was the youngest Merlin to have served on the Council, a enormously powerful Wizard by any comparison, and a child protege who had enter the White council as a full member by the age of seventeen. There was no love lost between him and any of the council, and he was a reformist that most of the older wizards hated, but he was a wise man in his mid thirties, had taken down several beings no wizard had dared to confront, and had brought a level of peace to the magic world nobody else had before. He was Bad-Ass in other words.

“Warden Bendle, you have overstepped your bounds as a Warden, bringing forth this challenge to a truce you have no power in,” he said with a slight glint in his eye. Merlin Arturio was fond of mischief. “Likewise, you have challenged and accepted a right to duel of power against a foe who has no authority over the charter. Do you Agree, Ferro?” The man, well being, I hadn't recognized stepped forward, a lazy grin on his face. He was dressed in all purple, a large hat with the feather of a peacock stuck into the brim hund low over his head. A cane hung at his side, a fragile looking thing of ivory no thicker then a mans finger. His eyes were a bright gold, his skin that of pearly milk. He spoke with a deep, resonant voice that shook Barry to his core. “Indeed, Enchanter. Young Ti-Yung has made a deal he cannot afford to make.” That was not exactly a relief. This being, assumedly another Dragon, had referred to Ti-Yung as youngling, which meant he was older then the Earth Dragon himself. Which meant he was bad news.

Merlin Arturio also had used a shorter version of his full name, which didnt mean they were close friends. Names held power, and apparently the Merlin was hesitant to use the full name of this Dragon in a formal setting. Worse news. “However,” The Dragons voice broke my train of thougth abruptly. “There is the matter of the youngling over stepping his bounds by stepping on your Enchanters sacred ground, no?”

The Merlin glared and replied, “True, though we do not seek bloodshed for either side. Merlin (THE merlin) did not raise Stonehenge for Arthur to serve as a battleground.”

“nonetheless, Ti-Yung has lodged a great insult to you and your race. Since your kind has lobbied the challenge, I am inclined to support my younglings acceptance. And, as is supported by the Contract of neutrality, there Are two ruling powers for both sides here. If you support the challenge the duel wil lcontinue," Ferro finished, his voice holding just a little bit too much satisfaction.

My heart sank into the bottom of my feet. In few words Ferro had hedged me into a duel I could not win. Stonehenge Was like the Vatican to some Wizards, and had been neutral ground since Merlin himself had raised it for King Arthur. It was a focul point for magic in that part of the world, and throwing around any major power was dangerous enough to him, and to the cities within a few thousand miles of it. Ferro had lobbied a challenge of complaint on his own kind, and challenged the Council to meet that complaint by putting Ti-Yung down to satisfy the peace contract. Whether or not Ferro actually disapproved didnt matter. The Senior Council had begun to whisper amongst themselves almost immediatley. This was a big deal. They could not dismiss this challenge to their holy ground, but none of them had any faith that Barry could actually put Ti-Yung down either. Losing the duel would be worse then fighting it. In theory it would tear the Council apart and cast the magical world into enough chaos to harm the world of men.

Merlin raised a hand and the chatter stopped. “you are correct, great dragon. But, the details of such a duel were constructed by two junior members of both our races. I cannot abide by what has been set up for the rules of conduct. Thy must be revised.”

“Of course, Great Enchanter” Ferro returned the grace of title. “What, then, do you suggest?”

“I ask for your grace in this matter. Let me consult with my senior members on what shall be at stake and how it shall be conducted.”

Ferro nodded. “One hour from now then.” He turned, gave Barry a look, chuckled, sniffed the air in a arrogant “I'm better then you, and you know it” way and walked off.

The Merlin turned without another glance at me, gatherd the gatkeeper and Simon, along with a detail of Wardens, and retired to what had been my tent once. I was left kneeling. In the dirt. Four swords pointed at my neck, one of them belonging to a very pissed off looking Luccio. Fantastic. I was making new friends. Luccio yelled at me for about a half hour, then stared at me in silence for another half hour. Meanwhile the most powerful men in the world talked inside my own tent while i sat there in silence. The time passed quickly. Not quick enough, I still had plenty of time to worry about myself and my fate. I was young in wizard years, and hadn't been around for the treaty they had signed. Neither had the Merlin, but he at least apparently knew what it was. And then... it was over. I hadn't seen them leave the tent and start talking, but apparently they had. The talks were over. Whatever the terms had been they had agreed, and now the matter was what to do with the archive. She could not stay here. So they moved her to the small town of salisbury wheer she and her unborn daughter would await the result of the battle. The rest of us retired to Edinburgh to wat the mandatory seven days of reflectment. We got back to Edinburgh in less then five minutes of walking through the ways, silent all the way back. There were whispers among the column of people as we walked, but none of them got back to me in tact. Apparently, according to the younger wizards who sounded more hopeful ten they should, the Merlin had declared a battle royale and no less then thirty wizards and dragons would do battle. Others thought it would be, of all tings, an old fashioned wrestling match. Yeah. That made even me go what the hell? Edinburgh was big. I don't know if you have ever been to a football stadium, but take that general size, stretch it into long tunnels that connect to baseball stadium size cathedral like rooms, and you start to grasp the size of the place.

The Merlin was whisked away as fast as possible to his quartes, where he was either confined by himself or the Wardens that guarded his door. Nobody would tell me anything and when they did it was some rude remark. Evelyn was busy in the infirmary, and even then they banned her from speaking to me. So I sat alone in my room for the first three days. Wardens brought and gave me my dinner. Thank goodness I had a bathrrom in my room or I was sure theyd bring me a bucket to use. I spent my time reading and thinking. There was an entire library in my room. Books by famous Wizards who had faced insane odds in marvelous battles. They had always come out on top, and when they hadn't... well those guys were mentioned in books they didnt write their own. There was very little literature being written at the time of Dragons major rule, and he didnt own any that hadn't been re-written and changed. Apparently Dragon information was a taboo, and all he learned was common knowledge. It still killed the time well enough, until day five, when I finally started getting visitors. Wardens came in, took away my gear, and brought it back repaired and shiney. New runes and sigils had been added. New metals have been woven into the weapons to strenthen them, and they were somehow lighter. Day five, brought Evelyn. She looked tired and wraped herself around me unti lyou could barely tell where I started and she ended. Her tears stained my shirt, her hair was up in a ponytail. I batted at it while she cried, making it wiggle. It brought a laugh from her and she smiled briefly.

“Oh benny,” she whispered, her voice hoarse. “I was so worried. They said so many thigns...” I hugged her again, soothing the last few tears from her before we sat down in front of my fireplace. There were so many questions to ask, I wasn't even sure where to start. So... we sat in silence,staring at each other. It was a comfortable silence, like you have with your grandfather, only I got to look at a pretty girl instead of an old wrinkled man. She stared, like she had seen a dead man come back to life. So i made faces at her until she couldnt help but smile. “they've kept me cooped up in here so long Evey, I think the voice in my head has gone insane.” She smiled, put a hand on top of mine. “Benny... you need to know what's going on.” mood killer. “What is it?” She shook her head, started to speak when a knock at the door interrupted her. Without waiting for an answer in walked, of all people, Merlin Arturio. He gave Evey a go away nod, and she peeled herself away from me reluctantly.

My bedroom door closed with an audible click. Arturio sat down where evey had been, but not quite as close. We were guys. We didn't do cuddling. “Hello Bendle.” I nodded. “Merlin arturion.” He smiled, waved a hand over us and the air in my room shivered, spun, if tha makes sense, and stabilized. A sense of power hummed around us. I'd seen these used. Cones of silence. We could hear each other, but nobody else could unless they broke the cone. Broke the MERLINS cone. Good luck with that. “Call me Andy. Please.” I stared at the Merlin. Nobody called him andy. Nobody even used his first name. He was an icon. A figure, to be hated or loved, depending on how old you were. He was the embodiment of magic, the glue that held the council together. He could take on the top three wizards on the planet and win. You didn't call him Andy. You were too scared. I was too scared. “I don't know if that is proper, Merlin.” He smiled. “Benny, do you remember how Merlin died?” I didn't. “Exactly. Do you remember how the last merlin died?” I didn't. And not that I'm stupid. The last Merlin had been old. Centuries. When he died nobody was surprised, except for how and why. It was violent, i knew. Painful. Other then that it had been kept under wraps. “No sir, I don't.” Arturio sighed. “I'm going to tell you thngs, things nobody else knows or wants to believe.” I leaned forward. “tomorrow, whe nthe duel is well underway, I am going to die.” I rocked back, my face a frozen mask of shock.

The Merlin die? How? Why? I made my mouth form the words but they came out in a shouting gurgling noise. I stood up and started pacing. Now, some of you might think, well, maybe he was kidding. Maybe the smile on his face would have made you believe it even more. What people don't realize is that, when yu are the Merlin, you don't have friends. You have subjects, companions, ally's but no friends. You don't joke. You don't play. You work, study, and manage the council. So when the Merlin sad something, something serious, he meant it. I shook my head. “No, the duel is mine. Why would you die?” “Because of the terms. Much has happened, Benjamin. In short, I will be taking your place.” My mouth mimed the word why. “Because. You cannot and would not win. Too much is at stake?”

“You mean...”

“No,” he shook his head. “Ferrovax would not back down from the child. You had already agreed on the terms, there was nothing he nor I could do but modify them.” Ferrovax. My eyes closed in sudden understanding. He was the oldest living dragon. A relic from before time. The most powerful being I could name, and someone you didn't mess with. “Fortunatley for us, he wants ti-yung as dead as we do. And no, don't ask why. “ The merlin slumped in his chair. His head fell back and he stared at the ceiling. “I have been Merlin for five years. In which time i have killed more beings of power then any other Merlin.” He smiled sadly. “No merlin has ever died of old age. Did you know that?” I shook my head. I didn't want to interrupt. I had never seen his human side before. “Merlin gave pieces of himself away, made bargains. At the time Merlin meant just him, but somewhere down the line....” His eyes unfocused, looking into the distance. “Becoming Merlin changes you. There are obligations, rules, responsibilities. None of them yours but you still take them on. In the end we all die violently. It is a rule.”

Silence, “

Tomorrow.. is my last day alive, and all I can think of is what I didn't get to do.” He laughed, a sad sound. “i've never Kissed a wman before!”

“Well i'm not volunteering.”

He gave me a smile, like what i had said was almost funny. Pity. I love pity smiles. “You are so young.” I looked at him, the grey hair at my temples a clash against his dark black hair. He laughed. “Well, sort of. Your burdens are light. You have a lot of life ahead of you. Don't waste it. And dont get into politics.” He stood up, met me gaze for gaze, looking away before a soulgaze could start. I wishd he hadn't. For all his pomp, for all his power and responsibility, he was a human. And damn likeable. I'd never talked to him before, but he was like a younger brother. I wanted to hug him, but he surprised me and did it first. For a few seconds he just clung there, like a little kid. When he pulled away I could see tear drops on his cheeks. Damn. The most powerful wizard alive was scared.

“t is very important, Benny, that you do not interfere tomorrow. If we win, things will get bad. If we lose, even worse. Nothing you can do will change it.” The merlin wiped his eyes, shook my hand and headed towards the door. “It was an honor to meet you. You did the right thing today.” Without another word he turned and left. I went to my bedroom door, opened and found evey, ear to the door, crying again. At least I wasn't the only one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It is amazing how pretty stonehenge can look when somebdy actually pays attention to it and pretties it up. When the humans living near it threw a party it could even look festive. Not today, not for this reason. Banners were hung from every single rock, different emblems for different families and nations that had shown up for this day. There were at least two dozen of them, flapping in the wind. Anybody who was anybody in the magical community had shown up it seemed. To be anywhere near the edge of the place would make me nervous, and I was at the center of it. A large circle had been paved with bricks ometime in the last few days. A thick wooden wall surrounnded the circle wth chairs set up on either side for the audience,. A tiny balding man that may not have been fully human stood in the middle. It didn't look like he was shouting, but his voice was loud enough to reach even the people in the back of the crowd. I didn't listen to him, my eyes were only for Evey. She stood in the middle of the crowd, a tiny figure in a sea of black robes.

My best friend. No, my only friend, and I realized how true it was just then. No person here would lay their life down for me but Evelyn. And the Merlin. Him and his opponent stood in the circle now, just facing each other as the balding man laid out the different rules and conditions for the fight. Straightforward for the most part. Fight to the death, if one of them got cripple their back up would step in and finish the fight. The balding man left the circle and a crowd of people surrounded both of the fighters. They were about to begin. As a backup I had a good view from the side of the ring. I felt like vomiting.


© Copyright 2019 Cole Dawson. All rights reserved.

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