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Thread: Memories of a King - the story of Arturia Pendragon

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    Memories of a King - the story of Arturia Pendragon




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    AUTHOR'S FOREWORD:

    This is a pet project of mine that I wanted to do ever since I read the Fate series ( which wasn't really that long ago, actually ).
    I've always liked the legend of King Arthur in its numerous different incarnations and retellings, and Nasu's version is probably my favourite. What can I say, I like strong female characters and I found the spin that Nasu put on the legend and the character of Arthur by changing the king's gender to be very intriguing. "The King's Memories" chapters were some of my favourite parts of F/SN, and I thought it'd be neat to tell the whole story of Arturia's childhood and kingship.

    Yes, the idea is far from original, to say the least. Yes, we already know the most important bits and how it ends. I am fully aware of all that.
    But my intention with this project was not to create something completely new and original - this is my first major and serious attempt at writing fiction ( there were others but those will never leave my hard disk ). My intent with this story is to hone my writing skills while further exploring the Nasuverse version of the legend. Since the basic plot is already set, I will focus on further developing characters - while the story will naturally be centred around Saber, the majority of development will actually go to the "supporting characters", primarily Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Bedivere, Gawain, Morgan and Mordred.

    While I intend to keep it as close to the established canon as possible, there will be some minor tweaks and changes, but nothing that would retcon or otherwise mess up canon. I think.

    So I present to you the prologue of this story.
    Hope you enjoy it!


    Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Type-Moon characters or properties expressed in the work of fiction below. They belong to Type-Moon and their creator, Kinko Nasu.
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    Prologue
    Chapter 1: Dreams and Prophecies
    Chapter 2: Sorcerer's Apprentice
    Chapter 3: Many Farewells

    Chapter 4: Two Princesses
    Chapter 5: Apprentice
    Chapter 6: Utopia
    Chapter 7: Knights ( I )


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    Prologue


    The noise on the streets of Londinium was louder than ever on that particular day of March. The year was 407 CE and the Roman military in the province of Britannia was on the move. Only a few months ago, on the last day of the previous year, the barbarian hordes from Germania had crossed the frozen river Rhine, taking the outnumbered defenders of the Roman Limes completely by surprise. After they overwhelmed the border defences, the barbarian tribes proceeded to devastate and pillage across the length and breadth of Gaul; the weakened Roman Empire was powerless to stop them, as most of its remaining forces were tied up elsewhere, defending the long and vulnerable borders from numerous other incursions by the attacking barbarians.
    Emperor Stilicho had stripped Britannia of much of its military forces back in 402 in order to bolster his own army in his wars against the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Because of this, the fortifications along the Hadrian’s Wall had to be abandoned, and the barbarian raids and incursions against the civilian property had become commonplace in the north of the province.

    All of this contributed to the chaos and uncertainty amongst the people of Britannia, and once the contact with Rome was severed by the barbarians from Germania, the army decided that they’d had enough and they took the matters into their own hands. Finding themselves cut off from the rest of the Empire and with an attack by the Germanic tribes across the sea being very likely, the Roman military in Britannia revolted and dispensed with the imperial authority. The troops had been waging endless bloody campaigns against the Picts and the Scots in the north for many years, and hadn't received their pay for almost five years.
    The army was practically a band of mercenaries, loyal not to a military code of honour, or some distant emperor in Rome, nor to the country they were ordered to protect - they wanted to be payed for their services as warriors and thus sought a commander who would secure their future by leading them to victory and rewarding them with plentiful spoils of war.

    The first two aspiring candidates for the position of a leader of this new independent army did not meet the criteria of the soldiers, and were promptly disposed of. The third and final choice of the troops was one of their own, a common soldier by the name of Constantine, who was recognised by his fellow men for his considerable abilities as a fighter and a leader and thus became a newly-appointed general of all the Roman military forces in Britannia. An ambitious and greedy man, Constantine decided not to bother with the defence of the island country that he and his troops had guarded for so many years, and instead sought to pursue glory on the battlefields of Gaul, in the hopes of uniting the scattered remains of the Empire in the West.
    And this is why the streets of Londinium were noisier than usual.

    The air was filled with the rattling, metallic sound of thousands of horseshoes, laced boots, and caligae treading the gravel-covered city streets and shields and spears chafing against the armour, and all the other noises that usually permeated the streets were now suppressed by the hurried march of the legionnaires.
    The rumours that had been going around for the last few weeks were now confirmed to be true – the troops were leaving Britain, and Londinium was to be their last stop before they boarded the ships and sailed down the river and towards Gaul. The privileged soldiers and officers were to take quarters in the city’s numerous inns and public houses, while the rest of the army set camp outside the city. Many people gathered in the streets and squares to watch this majestic, yet depressing, procession – almost four hundred years ago the Romans invaded this island with a huge force, and native Celtic tribes yielded to the overwhelming might of the unstoppable Roman war machine. The city of Londinium was founded in the same year the invasion took place, and its wide streets and majestic public buildings were a testament to the glory and wealth of the Empire.

    But now, the situation was reverse – the temples and palaces of Londinium were in a decrepit state due to decades of economic downturn and neglect on the side of the authorities; a sad symbol of the collapse of the Roman Empire as a whole. The exhausted remains of the Roman army, many of them barbarian or native auxiliaries rather than actual Romans, were retreating from this furthest province of the Empire, leaving the defenceless Britons to their fate at the hands of the invading barbarians. Unlike the children, who were thrilled at the sight of infantrymen clad in silver armour and cavalry officers with their crimson capes and golden helmets, the older citizens of this proud city shuddered at the thought of being left without any military protection.

    The departure of troops also meant the complete collapse of Roman civilisation and civic way of life, for the resources needed to maintain the civil services and public buildings will have to be redirected towards defence against the invaders, who were sure to flock in even greater numbers once they learn of the army’s departure. And that was still no guarantee that the defence would be successful. So it was no wonder that the troops were greeted by the cold stares of contempt, fear, and anger – the stares of the people who knew that they were being left to their doom, were unable to do anything about it, and yet had to provide lodgings and supplies for this selfish army. Indeed, the silence of the citizens of Londinium was more deafening than the sounds of the soldiers marching down the streets.


    (...)

    The morning after the first troops arrived to Londinium, a second detachment of the Roman forces approached the city. As it could provide no more lodgings for the soldiers, the new troops had to set camp outside the city walls alongside those from the previous group, and the fields to the west of the city were dotted by thousands of tents, shacks, and makeshift stables – a whole new town in its own right.
    The morning was cold and the soldiers lit countless fires to both warm themselves and cook some food to recuperate from a three-day long forced march from the north, shrouding the entire camp in smoke. Coupled with the coldness of the air, a thin layer of unexpected frost that had covered the ground over the course of the previous night, and the unusual eerie silence amongst the soldiers ( caused in equal measure by the weariness after the march and the uncertainty of the upcoming campaign in Gaul ), the entire scene was quite surreal and all the more stranger to behold for the citizens of Londinium who had gathered on the city walls to gaze at this rare and unexpected sight.

    Through this maze of improvised quarters, stashes of spears and shields, stacks of hay for the livestock, and scattered groups of tired and ragged men gathered around small heaps of charcoal, three cloaked riders were slowly making their way towards the city gates. One of them was small, hunched, and the clothes he wore underneath his black cloak were only a step above the rags of the homeless beggars that roamed the streets of Londinium. His horse wasn’t in a much better condition than its rider.
    The other two men were a stark contrast to the first– not only were their horses strong, trimmed and obviously well-fed, but they wore armour and insignia of the Roman army. Richly decorated breastplates and belts, comfortable and well-stuffed boots that were hard to find in the army these days, and ornamented sheaths for their swords rather than simple leather ones for the common soldiers – all these things indicated that the two men were not just regular cavalrymen, but rather some very highly ranked army officers.

    The two men did put some effort into concealing their attire by wearing long and thick hooded cloaks, but they still attracted some attention from the few people that were on the streets at this early hour.

    The two officers were following the third man’s lead as he was navigating his way down the streets and alleyways of Londinium. Thankfully, the grid layout of the Roman city was easy to navigate and they reached their destination within minutes. The building in front of which they stopped was not much of a sight to behold – a regular two-story tavern, with drinking and eating space on the ground level and sleeping quarters on the first floor. Just one out of dozens of similar establishments in the city. But the three men didn’t come here in search for lodgings or food.


    “He’s here?” one of the officers asked their guide.

    “Yes. I sent him a message two weeks ago and told him to meet me here.”

    “Did he reply to confirm?”

    “Of course he did. He said he’ll come. Or do you think I’d bring you here if I wasn’t sure he’ll be here too?” the little man retorted, somewhat irritated.

    “Hmm...”

    The officer didn’t really trust this little freak of a man, but he decided not to argue any further, as it would be fruitless. The man didn’t have anything to gain by tricking them, so he decided to suppress his usual distrust and skepticism towards strangers for the time being. The ones selling miracles were on the lowest possible level in his eyes, but if his commander decided to trust him, then he would obey.

    “Shall we, Sire?” he asked his companion.

    “Yes. Let’s go” the man replied.

    The three dismounted, tied their horses by the roadside and entered the tavern. The sight wasn’t very welcoming. The ceiling was low, and a particularly tall man would have to hunch in order to move around. Three small windows and two equally small oil-lamps were the only sources of light in the room, so the place was in a sort of half-light that made it seem as if every time of the day was dusk. The originally white walls were gray from the accumulated smoke and soot coming from a small hearth in the corner of the room.
    The officer, named Marcus, also noticed traces of moisture at the corners and near the ceiling. And yet, despite being such a shabby and unwelcoming place, the tavern was noisy, full of people and activity. There were about a dozen tables in total plus a pair of large benches, most of them already taken. The customers were diverse; half of them were legionnaires that took lodgings here, the other half a mixture of merchants, clerks and various craftsmen. They were served by two young women, presumably the daughters of the innkeeper; he himself was nowhere to be seen.

    “Over there” the midget guide said to his two companions, pointing at the table in the far corner of the inn. “In that corner”.

    The three men removed the hoods of their cloaks and made their way across the room and towards the table situated by one of the small windows. It was occupied by a single customer who, having finished his meal, was leaning on the table with his left hand pressed against his chin and gazed absentmindedly through the window.
    The few faint rays of sunlight that managed to make their way through the dim and dirty glass were illuminating the man’s face. He appeared to be middle-aged, probably in his early thirties, but whose face was a testament to a harsh life he must have led. He was bald and clean-shaven, the skin on his cheeks was rough from the cold winds and winters of Britain, and there was a long and deep horizontal scar on his left cheek, one that only a knife or a sword would leave. His cold gray eyes seemed empty at first glance, but were capable of piercing anyone who looked into them with a stare that made one feel uncomfortable; as if the man was able to read your every thought and feeling just by locking his gaze with yours. All in all, a bit intimidating face.

    As the three companions approached the table, the man snapped out of his pondering and turned his gaze towards these newcomers. He immediately recognised the small one that had led the two officers.

    “Long time, no see, old boy“, the man said with a weak smile.

    “Long time indeed, my friend. Hope you're doing well.“

    “No worse than usual. But I hope your visit might improve my fortunes.“ The man produced a small piece of parchment from his coat and put in on the table as the midget seated himself at the table opposite him. The two Roman officers were still standing.

    “Haven’t heard from you for months, and then you suddenly write to me, talking of a job.”

    “Does that mean you’re accepting it?”

    “Well, a man can’t live from air alone, but before I say yes...” said the man, turning his eyes to the two officers, ”I’d like to know what is it that I’m getting involved in.”

    The officers exchanged a look, nodded and finally seated themselves at the table. The one to speak first was the officer Marcus:

    “My name is Marcus Cantius, a tribunus of the Roman Army. My companion is General Constantine III, the supreme commander of all the Roman military forces in Britannia.”

    The man, Constantine, nodded in confirmation and placed his left hand on the table. It was adorned by a single large golden ring bearing the mark of the legions – a Roman eagle – that was only carried by the military commanders of the highest rank.
    The fourth man narrowed his eyes and stared at the Roman general in distrust. After a few long moments of silence, he finally moved and spoke to Constantine in a sleek and ironic tone, not bothering to hide his sneer while talking to the man.

    “So, what can a humble commoner do for such a noble gentleman, General?”
    Marcus didn’t miss the mocking way he pronounced the last word, and wanted to repay the man for his insolence, but Constantine didn’t seem to notice or mind the man’s tone.

    “Well, I hope that calling yourself ‘humble commoner’ is nothing more than false modesty, for I am in a need for a man of special skills.” the general retorted.

    “Special skills?”

    “Yes. I need someone skilled in the ways of magic. I need... a wizard.”

    After another short period of silence, Constantine continued.
    “Your friend” he said, pointing at the midget, “told me that he knows one such person. A great sorcerer, he said, who could easily solve my problem. I trusted him, and he brought us to you. Are you really a wizard, mister...?”

    The man sneered at Constantine again, but this time it was a little less malicious. At least the conversation seemed to intrigue him. After all, it’s not everyday that a general comes to ask for a special service.

    “Merlin”, he replied. “Call me Merlin.”

    “Well then, Merlin, are you interested in the job I have for you?”

    “I’d lie if I were to say that I’m not, having a customer of such calibre, but are you willing to pay the price for my services?”

    “The price shouldn’t be a problem. I can give you all the money you want.”

    “I didn’t say that the price will be in gold and silver. Only after I’ve heard your request can I determine the appropriate compensation for my efforts. It all depends on you and your request.”

    It was Constantine’s turn to be suspicious now. The man in front of him wasn’t just after the money, and it made him feel uneasy. He wasn’t thrilled about dealing with Merlin first and knowing what the price would be afterwards. But he didn’t have much choice.

    “Very well. I give you my word that you will be compensated in any way you wish, as long as it is within my power to do so.”

    “Alright, then, let’s hear your request.”

    (...)

    Later that day, Merlin was walking slowly along the muddy and marshy banks of the river Thames to the west of the city, lost in his thoughts. The meeting he had this morning with the Roman general Constantine had entertained him greatly; he found out for sure, and much to his amusement, that human arrogance really knew no bounds.

    The ambitious general wanted to make his name in Gaul and eventually maybe even rise to the position of an Emperor, but he wasn’t willing to completely give up on Britain just yet. Confident that he would emerge victorious from his campaign on the Continent, he intended to return to this island and claim it back once his quest for power had been completed. Not out of goodness of his heart or the concern for the population that was being left to their doom, of course. Constantine felt no emotional attachment to Britain, but he still wished to possess and rule it – after all, if one’s ultimate goal is power and wealth, then it’s only natural to wish to extend one’s domain as much as possible.

    But as arrogant as he might have been, Constantine wasn’t completely stupid. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to hold on to Britain once he has departed for Gaul along with all the troops stationed on the island, and he knew that as soon as they were gone, the country will fracture into a thousand little fiefdoms, and the barbarians from the north and from Germania would only make the situation more chaotic. Internal struggles between warring states and clans would tear the country apart and a prolonged and bloody warfare would be the only means of uniting the former province into a single country again, and Constantine wanted to avoid that. That’s why he needed a miracle.

    He found out that there was a powerful and skilled sorcerer in Britain, and the rumour was that he could perform any kind of witchcraft and make miracles come true. Although he was very skeptical of such rumours at first, after he came across someone who claimed to know the wizard personally, he decided to give it a try. As he couldn’t see any other way to solve his problem, he rested his hopes on a miracle. At least there wasn’t anything for him to lose. So he devised a plan.

    “He is quite an imaginative man”, Merlin had to admit as he watched the ships moored in the port of Londinium being loaded with supplies for the upcoming voyage, “even if he is a complete fool.”

    The plan that Constantine came up with was this: if he were to one day return to Britain, he needed the people to embrace and acknowledge him as the rightful ruler of the country, for without the support of the people he couldn’t hope to gain the upper hand against the warlords and dukes he would challenge for supremacy. A miraculous symbol of his right to rule over the country was needed for him to have legitimacy in the eyes of the people, and the weaker lords would probably ally with someone wielding such authority rather than opposing him. So even if his military forces weren’t enough to retake the country all by themselves, a miracle would make it possible.

    The miracle itself was simple – drawing a sword from the stone.

    When he was but a common soldier, Constantine met, talked to, and befriended many Germanic people who served in the army as auxiliary troops and mercenaries. Just as the legionnaires introduced these barbarians to the Roman customs and ways of life, the barbarians from Germania shared their own native culture and traditions with the Roman troops. This way the soldier Constantine learned bits of their legends and folklore, among other things.
    The legend he liked the most was that of the warrior who drew the sword of the Gods from a tree. No other man but that warrior could draw the sword, and upon pulling it out, the sword was given to the man as a gift, and he went on to accomplish many great deeds with it. The legend originated in the far northern parts of Germania, and was passed down for many generations before the migrating Germanic tribes brought it to the Roman Empire along with them.

    Merlin had heard of this legend too, having traveled to Germania twice over the course of the last decade, but as far as he knew, that’s all it was – a legend. Not that it mattered to either him or Constantine whether the warrior and the sword in the tree were real or not; what mattered was their legend. With his magic, Merlin was to put a special spell upon a sword provided by Constantine, and would put the sword into a stone somewhere in or outside the city on the day of the departure. The spell would prevent anyone but Constantine to pull the sword out of the stone, and people had to be told of the sword’s magical properties. Upon his triumphal return, Constantine would draw the sword and claim his right as the supreme ruler of all Britain, and the people would bow before such a miracle.

    “Honestly, what a fool!” Merlin chuckled.
    When he first learned of his customer’s identity from the officer Marcus, he was furious at the man who was leaving Britain to ruin without batting an eye, but the more he learned of the general and his wish, the more he entertained and amused him.

    Just how stupid did the general think these people were? Granted, they were largely ignorant and superstitious, but to expect them to forget that it was that same general who left their country to chaos and destruction, and to expect them to bow to him just because he drew a sword no one else could? The Roman general must have lost his touch with reality after he had risen to power overnight.

    “A sword that only a worthy man can pull out, huh? A sword that would make him king.”
    Oh, how he wanted to use his wish against him and blow the general’s endless arrogance and conceit back into his face. What a sight it would be to behold – no matter how many years he would have to wait for it, to see his bewildered and confused face once he tried to pull the sword out but failed... seeing that face would be the greatest reward.
    One cannot rule over the hearts of the people with magic, and drawing a magical sword from the stone wouldn’t help a man like Constantine regain control over Britain.

    “But in the hands of a righteous man...”

    Merlin was surprised at himself; this same thought came to his mind back at the inn when the general made his request. The foolishness of the man’s wish was apparent to him at once, there was no need to ponder over it any further. But the idea itself had stuck in Merlin’s mind. “In the hands of a righteous man...” A righteous man.

    Constantine wasn’t the right person to rule Britain, that was obvious to anyone. The miracle of a magical sword would be wasted on a man like him. But if there was someone truly worthy of ruling, then such a miracle would be very useful, and it would make it easier for the man to unite the country that was sure to fall apart as soon as the Roman ships crossed the Channel.
    If there were such a worthy man somewhere, then the Roman general’s foolish wish might actually prove to be useful and serve a greater purpose than as a mere prank aimed at the conceited general.

    Well, it wasn’t that Merlin didn’t love his country, and if there was a way to save it from the destruction it was heading to then he was willing to try - but he was not a naive dreamer either. Turning back towards the city, he was still contemplating what to do.

    He ended up walking around the city for the rest of the day. With his hands behind his back, he wandered around the busy city streets aimlessly. One moment he would decide to “grant” the general’s wish and trick him, the other to use the opportunity and one day select a proper king with the sword, only to decide not to bother with any of it a few minutes later.
    Constantly torn apart between the choices, he suddenly realised that the sun had already set and that it was getting really dark. He told the general that he’ll need a day to think about his request and determine an appropriate compensation. They were to meet at that inn again once the sun had set. But after an entire day of thinking, he still couldn’t decide.

    “Well, I guess a little bit of waiting is a small price for a miracle” he told himself as he turned around and made his way towards the inn.

    (...)

    The inn was full and even livelier than it was in the morning. After a hard day’s work, many people decided to brighten up their lives in a tavern through the magic of food, ale and wine. Additional chairs were brought by the innkeeper to provide for all the extra customers; the lodgers were now only a small minority among the people gathered at the inn. The gloomy future didn’t seem to bother the blacksmiths and carpenters who were toasting to something as they started to drink their second round of ale.

    It didn’t take long for Merlin to find his company – they were seated at the same table where they met him in the morning. Approaching the table, Merlin could tell that the officer Marcus was slightly agitated and it wasn’t difficult for him to guess why.

    “Good evening, gentlemen.” he said to the three men who were sipping their wine in silence. He was almost an hour late.

    “You’re late!” replied Marcus, unnerved by Merlin’s nonchalant greeting.

    “Yes. Yes I am.”

    Marcus was dumbstruck for a moment by such a straightforward answer, and Constantine took the opportunity to speak to Merlin. Unlike his companion, who got unnerved at the sight of the insolent latecomer, the general breathed a sigh of relief when Merlin finally showed up. For a while he was afraid that the wizard won’t even come, which could only be interpreted as refusing to grant his wish. This way, there was still hope.

    “I don’t usually take kindly to those who show up so late, wizard. I am a man of the army after all. But I’ll make an exception for you this time.”

    “Well, beggars can’t be choosers, general.”

    “Indeed. So, what have you decided? Will you do as I ask?”

    If he were to be honest, Merlin would have to answer “I don’t know”.
    While he was walking back to the inn, he decided to clear his thoughts. The general’s request bugged him much more than he expected, and the idea that was formed in his head was something he never thought he’d even think of – indeed, he had a hard time admitting to himself that such a foolish thought would even cross his mind at this point in life.
    He eventually got angry at himself for that, and decided to push all of his thoughts about the general’s request out of his head. He was able to relax for a short while, and by the time he had entered the inn he had forgotten all about it. As far as he was concerned, he came there to have a nice drink with an old friend and his two companions. General’s question suddenly brought him back to reality.

    Having to think about it again agitated him greatly. He was tired and wanted to get done with it all as soon as possible and return to his normal life. ‘To hell with it!’ Merlin thought and decided not to bother about what will come later. ‘I might as well get a little fun out of this entire charade.’

    “Yeah, I’ll do what you want.” he said with a faint smirk.

    “Excellent!” Constantine exclaimed. He was visibly relieved and happy upon hearing Merlin’s words.
    “I’m really glad you’ve agreed to take part in this.”

    “Pleasure’s all mine, general.” Merlin replied, barely managing to hold back a chuckle.
    Constantine’s boyish enthusiasm entertained him a lot. This man might be a capable warrior and a good tactician, but he was foolish and horrible at reading people. He would never make a good politician.

    “We have to make a toast! You there, girl!” the general called for one of the girls who were serving customers at the table next to them.

    “Yes, mister. How can I serve you?” the girl asked tenderly.

    “Bring us more wine. The best you have, and an extra cup for this man!”

    “Right away, mister!”

    As the girl hurried to fetch the wine, Constantine turned to Merlin again.

    ”I am very thankful that you’re so willing and understanding. So, in what way shall I repay you, Merlin?”

    Another thing he didn’t decide upon. Actually, he didn’t really think about it at all.
    “I don’t know. I haven’t decided what I’d want.”

    “Then I’ll reward you the best way I can. After this is done, you’ll probably be the richest man in all of Britain! How about it?”

    “Hmm...” Gold and precious stones never interested Merlin a lot. He had his own ways to obtain money, and he didn’t really need much money anyway.

    “Come on Merlin!” his midget friend urged him, “you can’t honestly tell me you’d refuse such an offer?!”

    “I really can’t. Well, how about this general – I’ll think about it until the designated day, and if I can’t think of anything by then, then I’ll gladly take your gold.”

    “Excellent. I am glad that we have reached an agreement. Three days from now, we shall be leaving Britain. I will keep in touch with you until then. After you’ve fulfilled your end of the bargain, I’ll give you your reward. I give you my word as a Roman general.”

    Merlin grinned again, but the general didn’t notice.

    “Now man, let us shake hands to seal our deal like gentlemen.” Constantine said, reaching out to Merlin.

    “Gladly” he replied. This general kept amusing him.

    As they grabbed each other’s hands, a cold shiver suddenly went down Merlin’s spine and he froze for a moment.

    “Is something wrong?” Constantine asked. Merlin’s thoughts wandered off for a split second.

    “No, no, everything’s fine” he replied as he came back to his senses.

    Two of them exchanged a strong and hearty handshake, and just as they let go of each others’ hand the girl returned with their drinks. Constantine raised his cup of wine and proposed a toast:

    “Gentlemen – for a bright future!”

    Other three men raised their cups as well.

    “For a bright future!” Marcus and the midget exclaimed, while Merlin just murmured the words in a quiet voice. But no one noticed.
    They emptied their cups and ordered another round. The four spent the rest of the evening drinkin and chatting merrily and Constantine in particular was very talkative, speaking with enthusiasm about his future plans. Merlin, on the other hand, was mostly silent and seemed somewhat dispirited throughout the evening. Something bothered him again.

    (...)

    Two nights later, Merlin was lying fully awake in his bed, staring at the ceiling of a small room which he rented when he arrived in Londinium three days ago. No matter how much he wanted it, he could not fall asleep for even a minute. Magic was always an option, but he hated using it for such trifles, and besides, that would be a cheat in a battle against his own mind. A battle he had to win one way or the other.

    But no matter how much he tried to push these unwanted thoughts out of his head, every time he got close to clearing his mind, the presence of a certain object in his room reminded him of the problem at hand, and he’d be thrust into a spiral of doubt and questioning once more.
    The said object was a sword.

    It wasn’t a normal, regular spatha which the legions used, nor a Celtic longsword that was widely used by the barbarian auxiliaries and even the native Britons. Its blade was roughly the same length as an average spatha, but the hilt was much longer, 8 inches in total and clearly tailored for two handed use. The elaborate and detailed decorations that adorned both the hilt and the blade would make it apparent to everyone who’d see the sword that was not a weapon to be used in combat – it was a ceremonial sword, an ornamental item that served as a proof of power and royalty.

    The grip of the hilt was dyed blue and a small pearl was embedded in the pommel. While the normal spatha only had a minimal guard at the top of the hilt, this sword had a prominent and gilded cross-guard with further decorations.

    The central ridge of the blade also seemed gilded, but the most striking and most richly ornamented part of the sword was the 6-inches long portion of the blade directly under the cross-guard, the part that was merely a naked blade on every other sword – but not on this one. On one side of the sword it was decorated with a beautiful pattern of blue and gold, and graced by yet another small precious stone. But the even more important and unusual was the same part of the blade on the opposite side of the sword. On this side it was a flat silver surface with a thin golden frame. A text was engraved on the blade in golden letters.
    The text, written in the native language of the Britons, rather than Latin, was as follows:

    “Whosoever pulleth out this sword of this stone shall be the rightwise king of all Britain”.

    The wording was suggested by Merlin himself during his meeting with the general two days ago, when he agreed to take part in this little endeavour. Constantine liked it, and the finished sword was brought to him on the following day so that he could perform his magic. But that was not needed – he only needed a moment to cast his spell, and he would do it when he inserts the sword in the stone.

    The troops were leaving the next day at noon and this was the night during which he had to take the sword to the designated place and put it in the stone that Constantine had arranged to be brought there. Since the storm of his conflicting thoughts promised him no rest, he suddenly sprang out of bed, grabbed the sword, wrapped it in some cloth that was lying by the bedside, and left his room and the inn.
    Walking hurriedly down the mostly deserted city streets, he headed to where the stone was. It was near the edge of a large meadow to the north of the city, not far from the now abandoned and ruined amphitheatre and a stone’s throw away from the edge of the forest. The stone was a slab of sandstone, one foot high, three feet wide and two feet long.

    No decorations, runes or reliefs adorned it, but one word was carved into the stone on the frontal side, facing westwards: “CALIBVRN”.

    It was the name given to the sword by the Roman general.

    Merlin approached the stone and unwrapped the sword. It was a truly beautiful piece of craftsmanship that could probably withstand blows from even the hardest and sturdiest blades, despite its ceremonial and ornamental nature. However, what occupied Merlin’s thoughts weren’t the rich decorations, but the words imprinted on the blade.

    Whoever pulls this sword from the stone shall be the rightful king of all Britain.

    Two days ago, as he was asked by Constantine what his answer was, Merlin quickly made up his mind and decided to pull a prank on him. The spell he’d put on the sword would not allow anyone to pull it out of the stone, including the arrogant general. Constantine’s face when he failed to accomplish the feat would be the pay he wished for.
    However, he had to abandon that plan after he shook hands with the general.

    For as long as he could remember, Merlin had the ability to see the future. Well, it wasn’t simply seeing the outcome or predicting the future as he pleases. It was far more useless than that. From time to time, under various circumstances, he saw visions of the future. They were mostly very short, merely brief flashes of things to come, and they rarely contained any specific details. As the years passed, he got better and better at interpreting these confusing visions, and accepted this ability that was both a gift and a curse.

    As he grabbed the general’s hand, one such vision assaulted him, and it didn’t take him long to figure out its meaning – he was shaking hands with a dead man. Constantine would never return to this island from his campaign in Gaul. Instead, he would end up just the way Merlin himself predicted when he first met him and heard his wish – his ambitions would amount to nothing and he would die only a few years from now So his own wish to make a fool out of Constantine through his wish would not be granted either.

    Standing next to the stone, Merlin was at a loss about what to do. The idea that was conceived in his head two days ago would still not leave him. He could use this sword to select and empower a person who’s fit to rule Britain. But seeking such a person was a long and ardeous journey with no promise of results, a journey he wasn’t too eager to embark upon at this point in life and with his current mindset and experiences. Chasing such a dream would be foolish. It’d be much simpler to just put the sword in the stone and leave it there for all eternity.

    Still unable to make up his mind, Merlin suddenly heard a faint noise and turned around. A few feet from him were two small children, a boy and a girl. Neither of them could have been more than 8 years old, and they were both dressed in dirty rags.
    ‘Orphans’ Merlin realised ‘Street urchins.’ They were quite pitiful to behold.
    The children and the wizard kept staring at each other for a while, until Merlin finally broke the silence:

    “What do you kids want? What are you waiting for?”

    “I dunno.” The little boy replied, looking at the beautiful sword in Merlin’s hands. “Something miraculous I guess.”

    “Will you make something amazing happen?” the girl asked.

    “I...” the words stopped in Merlin’s throat.


    What will he do? What does he want to do? There are two paths in front of him now, neither of them very appealing. But the two children who followed him all the way here keep staring at him with their large, dark eyes, demanding an answer.

    “I...”
    He has to make a choice now.

    And he does. He finally makes a decision.

    “I can’t make anything truly amazing happen. But someone else can.”

    He says so to the two curious children and turns to the stone. He takes the sword Caliburn in his right hand and raises it over the stone.

    No special incantation is needed for a magus as powerful as him.

    He lowers his hand and puts the spell upon the sword.

    ‘Let no man pull this sword out of this stone unless it deems them worthy. Let them try and fail until I find a man deserving of this sword!’ He can feel his magic flowing through his Magic Circuits, down the hilt and the blade and into the stone. Once the first part of his magic is complete, he puts another spell upon the sword.
    ‘Let my impure blood give the one who pulls out this sword the part of my power. May they never age from the moment this sword is set free, so that they may rule over these lands for many years and bring this troubled land the prosperity and peace it craves!’

    As the magic is cast and the sword lowered into the stone, a thunder suddenly pierces the dark skies and breaks the silence of the cold night.
    It may not be anything particularly flashy and impressive, but as he turns around, Merlin sees that the two children were satisfied by his performance. Honest smiles of excitement and adoration brightened up their dirty faces at the sight of Merlin’s trick with the sword and the thunder.

    “That was indeed miraculous, Mister!” the girl says earnestly.

    “No.”, he says smiling and shaking his head. “A true miracle will be pulling that sword out.”

    “Can you pull it back out?” the boy asks him.

    Merlin smiles again. He hasn’t smiled this much for a long time.

    “No, I’m not worthy. But I will find someone who is.”

    He says so and heads back towards the city along with the two orphans.


    (...)

    The next day the Roman troops left Britain for good.
    The magical sword that no one could pull out was found soon after, and the bishop of London interpreted it as a miracle from God. On Merlin’s instructions, of course.

    General Constantine III enjoyed several early victories in his campaign in Gaul and was even recognised as a co-emperor by the Emperor Honorius in 409. However, his luck was not to last, and the tide of war turned against him soon enough. He was betrayed and forced to surrender to his opponents. Constantine III was executed in the year 411.

    As expected, Britain was plunged into a long period of chaos once the Roman army left, and thus began the period that would latter be known as the “Dark Ages”.

    The magical sword Caliburn remained fixed firmly in the stone outside Londinium.

    Its miracle was not realised, and was thus relegated to the realm of legend.



    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____

    Author's notes ( explanations ):

    - While my intention was to keep the setting as historically accurate as possible, there are things I had to sacrifice for the sake of the story.
    At the time when these events ( Roman withdrawal from Britain ) took place, Londinium was already half-deserted and in a sorry state, far from being able to house half the Roman army. But I needed a proper setting for this whole chapter, and for the sword in the stone itself, and London was the most obvious choice.
    - As you can probably tell already, my version of Merlin's character is somewhat different from his ( short ) depiction in F/SN. I'll keep his womanising skills and tendency to tease people, but I'll tone it down considerably. I can't squander such an important character and relegate him to a bungling buffoon for the sake of "canon".


    Also, any suggestions and constructive criticisms are welcome.

    You can read it on FFN here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9046563/...ries-of-a-king
    Last edited by Polly; April 20th, 2014 at 04:46 PM.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Eh, this is looking pretty darn interesting! You put quite the curious twist on the creation of Caliburn, and I think you made a good decision with starting this by following Merlin, as he provides a different outlook from Arthur.

    You're off to a promising start! I think this story will prove to be quite enjoyable in its handling, if nothing else.
    Last edited by YeOfLittleFaith; February 26th, 2013 at 07:32 PM.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    Eh, this is looking pretty darn interesting! You put quite the curious twist on the creation of Caliburn, and I think you made a good decision with starting this by following Merlin, as he provides a different outlook from Arthur.

    You're off to a promising start! I think this story will prove to be quite enjoyable in its handling, if nothing else.
    Thanks! I'm glad you're liking my take on Caliburn and Merlin. Such a compliment is also a great confidence-booster.
    The next ( few ) chapter(s) will also be Merlin-heavy. Even though he won't be in the focus later on, I plan on using him as much as I can throughout the entire story.

    The next chapter is about Merlin, Uther and the conception/birth of Arturia. If it ends up too long I'll split it into two chapters.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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    The No Sleep King mAc Chaos's Avatar
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    I never thought Merlin was portrayed as a bungling buffoon, just that he liked people to think of him as such.Also wasn't Caliburn made by fairies?
    He never sleeps. He never dies.

    Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Merlin (マーリン, Mārin?) is an incubus hybrid who serves as Altria's magus. He is an elderly man with an awful, childlike personality who is said to be a prankster and a womanizer. He is the cause of a number of problems, including stealing women's underwear, and the world would have been less chaotic had he not been so fond of pulling pranks.
    Please don't kill me for using TM wiki...

    You're free to make what you want out of this. Anyways, he'll tease people and pull off a few pranks and stuff, but he'll mostly be srs business.
    There's some reasoning behind the way I'll write him, and I'll explain once it's relevant.

    As for Caliburn, I looked and researched and never read that it was made by the fairies. Besides, if it really were made by fairies, then how could it break and how could Gil have a prototype of it?
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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    el bolb Bloble's Avatar
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    Yeah, it was only Excalibur that was made by fairies. I recall no such statement for Caliburn, so your interpretation is valid.

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    The No Sleep King mAc Chaos's Avatar
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    Shirou projected it so it could break. But the fact that he could in the first place means you must be right.
    He never sleeps. He never dies.

    Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

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    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Very interesting . . . Please, keep going.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

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    I am pleased! Be thankful, for the King has given this story his blessing.

    I wish to read more of my future Queen and her exploits. Do not disappoint me or I'll have you fed to the crows.

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Detective Blackstone View Post
    I am pleased! Be thankful, for the King has given this story his blessing.

    I wish to read more of my future Queen and her exploits. Do not disappoint me or I'll have you fed to the crows.
    Sorry Goldie, but the King of Knights belongs to no man. She has already given her heart to her people.

    Still, I hope I won't disappoint you.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Chapter 1 – Dreams and Prophecies


    August, 482 CE


    ---

    Merlin was standing at the top of a mountain shrouded in mist. The razor-sharp rocks that covered the entire surface of the ground disappeared into the haze only a dozen yards away. A cold wind swept across the mountaintop and made him shiver. He looked around, trying to determine his surroundings through the thick wall of fog surrounding him, but to no avail.

    Then, as he stepped forward, intending to make his way downhill regardless of the poor visibility, the surreal and eerie silence was suddenly broken by violent roars of inhuman origin. The mist parted to reveal two giant beasts engaged in a ferocious fight to the death. The beasts were dragons – one of them white like the snow, the other scarlet red. Two dragons were locked in an endless and desperate struggle until the red dragon finally emerged victorious, its opponent reduced to a lifeless mass of burned flesh and its formerly snow-white scales dyed vermilion with the beast's own blood. Merlin watched in amazement as the scarlet dragon suddenly spread its wings and took off. The gale it produced by flapping its wings was so strong he had to drop to the ground and hold onto the rocks with all his strength in order not to be blown away by the hurricane-level winds.

    Suddenly, the winds stopped. Once he rose to his feet, Merlin saw that the scenery had changed completely. He was now standing in the middle of a large meadow. Judging by the colour of the skies, it was only moments before the dawn. And then, just as suddenly and unexpectedly as before, the red dragon appeared in the sky, flying from the west. As it got nearer, Merlin realised it was also descending, and it made him uncomfortable. He wanted to run, but for some reason, his legs wouldn't listen to him – it's as if they were stuck in stone. The dragon was now only a few dozen yards away, but instead of attacking the defenceless Merlin, it just flew over his head and landed not far behind him.

    He turned around, only to see that the monster had disappeared and that a human shape was standing where the dragon should have been. The person's face was hidden in shadows and Merlin could not even tell whether it was a man or a woman or how old the person was. As he was trying to get a glimpse of the person's face, something else grabbed his attention, something he only just realised was there.

    The person was standing in front of a sword stuck in a large stone. The moment Merlin noted the stone and the sword, the mysterious person in front of him stepped forward towards the stone and pulled the sword out of it. In that instant, the sun rose over the horizon and a flood of bright light blinded Merlin. He raised his hand to cover his eyes, but the staggering light burned his retinas.


    The pain in his eyes woke Merlin up.

    'That dream again?' he thought as he raised his hand to cover his eyes. The rays of sunshine that were coming through the narrow gap between the curtains were certainly real this time, and they just so happened to land where his eyes were. Just his luck.
    Merlin removed his blankets and sluggishly rose to his feet. It was still early in the morning, but he knew that any attempts to try to go back to sleep would be futile; once he woke up, he could never fall asleep again until the end of the day, or if he was overtired. He stretched his limbs and yawned, and then started to walk around the room to shake off the sleepiness and stiffness in his body. He finally stopped in front of one of the windows, and after a short pause, spread the curtains and opened the window. He expected a flood of light to fill the room and had already raised his hand to cover his eyes, but the actual amount of light that came through the window was rather underwhelming.

    Apparently, those few rays of sunshine that landed on his eyes and woke him up were more or less all there was. The sky was overcast and only a few feeble rays of light managed to get through the small cracks in the clouds. After gazing absentmindedly at the gray skies and distant green fields, Merlin lowered his gaze and surveyed the courtyard beneath the window. The Pendragon castle was mostly empty, with only a few guards patrolling the castle walls and a lone blacksmith sorting out his tools in his shed in the yard. Cold wind was blowing from the east and the castle's banners were flying high, tightly fastened to the poles on top of the fort's numerous towers and wooden ramparts.

    Merlin fixed his eyes on one of the banners – the Pendragon standard was a red flag with a black dragon in its centre. King Uther adopted it along with the epithet “Pendragon” when he achieved an astonishing victory against the Saxons several years ago. According to Uther, he saw a falling star in the shape of a dragon on the night before the battle, and interpreted it as a sign from God. He had his army bear the dragon standard in the next day’s battle, and after he won, he gave himself a new name and made the dragon-banner his new royal standard.

    Merlin closed his eyes for a moment and let out a small sigh. The sight of the banners reminded him of his dream. It wasn’t the first time he had that dream. The vision of the two dragons and the sword in the stone had been occasionally plaguing his dreams for several years now. As the matter of fact, the first time he had that vision was only shortly before Uther Pendragon’s faithful battle against the Saxons. This vision wasn’t like his usual ones, which were flashes and glimpses of real events that were yet to come true; this one was clearly symbolical and mysterious. The first time he saw it, he was confused and unable to figure out its meaning no matter how much he tried. He had no problems understanding the second half of the vision, but the meaning behind the dragons, their fight, and the red dragon’s connection with the sword in the stone continued to elude him.

    And then, like a divine revelation, the meaning behind the vision was suddenly made clear. The news spread across the country like wildfire: king Uther had achieved a miraculous victory against the Saxon hordes and pushed them back to the sea. Merlin was in London when the news reached him, and the rumour that followed them was that the king was heading to London to have himself crowned as the High King of Britain. Naturally, Merlin was interested in seeing who this king Uther was. At the very least, he had to be a capable and charismatic commander if he had managed to win against the overwhelming Saxon forces, something you couldn’t really say for most warlords and dukes in Britain. Defeating the Saxons had already brought him some popularity among the people, and he would probably rally many more allies if he can keep winning and make use of the initiative he had gained by turning the tide of war in his favour. It was only natural for Merlin, who had spent the last 70 years or so supporting and helping countless different warlords and would-be kings in their quests to unite and rule Britain, to try to meet this aspiring young king who had just won the greatest military victory for the Britons in their long fight against the Saxons.

    Ever since he placed the sword Caliburn in the stone outside of London, Merlin had been searching for a leader worthy of the magic sword and its miracle. He spent decades traveling across the length and breadth of Britain, from Cornwall to Clyde Rock, trying to find a man he’d deem capable and worthy of uniting and ruling the country. Decades of political manipulations, alliances with the wrong people, back-stabbings and scheming, using his magic to give a certain warlord an extra push and advantage over the opponents, all in hopes that one of them would turn out to be able to rally the people and bring peace to the country.

    But each and every time, he would be disappointed. It never took him long to judge the character of a duke or a king he would ally himself with, and every time he could see that they were ruthless, power-hungry barbarians, many of them willing to sell their mothers for a few extra dominions. And every time, he’d ignore his better judgement and keep helping and advising them in hopes that they’d eventually become good kings and leaders worth following. He was only deceiving himself, of course, and he knew that. That’s why he never took any one of them to the stone and had them challenge the sword of selection. Because he already knew that they’d fail to pull it out, and that would also kill his own hopes. Still, he kept going forward regardless, clinging to his hope.

    When Uther Pendragon and his troops entered London triumphantly five days after the news first reached the city, Merlin was sure that his prayers had been answered. The battered but proud army was flying the red banner with a black dragon. Soldiers were cheering and shouting the name of their glorious leader: “Uther Pendragon”.

    Merlin felt excitement in his chest, the kind of which he hadn’t felt since he put that sword in the stone all those years ago. His vision was finally clear to him: the red dragon symbolized the Britons and Uther, who flew the dragon banner as his royal standard. The white dragon were the Saxons, who usually flew white banners and painted their shields white. Thus, Uther Pendragon, as the victorious red dragon, was destined to pull the sword out of the stone and unite Britain. Merlin’s visions always came true, and he was certain that his long quest was coming to an end. However, he didn’t let his new found hope get the better of him. He did not need another disappointment, no matter how unlikely it was.

    Merlin approached Uther after the coronation and was soon appointed as the king’s chief advisor. While the two men quickly forged a strong friendship, Merlin wasn’t as thrilled with their partnership as Uther was. Certainly, the young man was a talented general and a great warrior, there was no doubt about that. He was a good king, and his soldiers and subjects were loyal to him and respected him, but Merlin was aware that he wasn’t the exact kind of man he was looking for. Too many imperfections, too many human weaknesses, and a hot head meant that, even though he held the title of the High King and ruled over much of the island, he couldn’t unite all the people under his banner, or create a long-lasting legacy. For all his considerable strengths and talents, Uther was still a barbarian, whose great charisma only shined on the battlefield. Outside of it, he was just a particularly powerful and affluent warlord. Miles ahead of most others Merlin had encountered over the last few decades, yes, but still a barbarian. While he could always find a common topic of conversation with Uther and enjoyed the king’s company during the hunts or feasts, a certain sense of disappointment haunted Merlin every time he talked with his king about matters of state, or when he thought of the sword in the stone.

    He had actually taken Uther to the stone about a year after the coronation in London, more out of curiosity than anything else. The sword had a part of his mind and soul in it, so even if Merlin himself wasn’t 100% sure of his choice, the sword would definitely make only the right choice. As expected, Uther failed to pull the sword out. He reacted as all men in power would: at first he was in denial, then he was angry, and in the end he decided that he didn’t care.
    “I don’t need a magical sword to tell me if I’m the true king or not. I’ll rule Britain either way. You can keep you precious sword.”
    Merlin just shrugged his shoulders and said nothing. He wasn’t intending to leave Uther’s side just yet. He still believed that his vision would come true. They always did.

    (...)

    A breeze of cold air snapped Merlin out of his thoughts. The morning was unusually cold for this time of year, and he was standing by the open window in nothing but a nightgown; a sure way to catch a cold. He closed the window, and with the last gaze before turning away he saw a lone rider approaching the castle by the main road.
    ‘Must be a messenger for the king. Too bad the king’s not here.’
    In fact, it wasn’t just the king who was absent. The emptiness of the castle was almost tangible as Merlin walked down the hallway and descended the stairs that were leading to the main hall. After he got dressed, he realised he was in fact famished, having skipped dinner last night, and decided to scavenge for any food that might have been left over in the main hall or in the kitchen. He didn’t meet a single soul along the way, which would normally be very unusual even for this early hour.
    As he entered the main hall, a cloaked man stormed into the room through the main entrance, looking around intensely while trying to catch his breath. Just as Merlin was about to call him, the man turned in his direction and approached him.

    “Sir Merlin, I’ve got a message for you from king Uther.”

    Merlin knitted his eye-brows a little, surprised at the news.

    “A message for me?”

    “Aye, sire. King Uther requests your presence at his war camp.”

    “Why didn’t the king leave a message behind for me to join him as soon I return to the castle from my journey? Why is he requesting my presence this late?”

    “I do not know, sire. He did not say the reason for your summoning, just that you are to take your...ehm, ‘chemistry set’ were the words he used... and ride hastily to his camp outside the castle of Terrabil. He has arranged for a change of horses to be carried out on the halfway point of your journey, at Glastenning*, and you are to ride day and night in order to join him as soon as possible.”

    “I see...” said Merlin, frowning further.

    The king had set out on his campaign 10 days ago, taking every man he could find along with him, and marched tirelessly towards Cornwall all day and night. Merlin had returned a week ago from one of his journeys, only to find the castle empty and the king gone. While it was starting to get a bit boring, he enjoyed the unusual peace and quietness of the castle, and was mostly spending the lone days reading, sorting out the king’s correspondence ( some of the letters from Uther’s vassals and allies were over a month old! – the king really wasn’t the most diligent and responsible person, that was for sure ), and gambling with the few guards that were left in the castle for minimal protection.
    And suddenly, Uther wanted Merlin to join him on the front lines, and to take his equipment with him. Something strange was afoot, he could sense it.

    He gave out a small sigh before talking to the messenger again.

    “Very well. I need to make preparations first, so in the meantime make yourself useful and fetch me a horse from the stables. And pack the supplies for me as well. Thanks to you, I’m skipping breakfast.”

    “Very well, sire, I’ll arrange for everything.”

    “Good. Where did you say the king had set up camp, again?”

    “At Terrabil, sire. 20 miles west of Caer Uisc*.”

    “Right. Off you go, then.”

    The messenger bowed and ran out of the hall to make the needed preparations for Merlin’s journey.

    “Dear, dear, you always find a way to inconvenience me, don’t you Uther?” Merlin sighed, shaking his head. After doing nothing for a week, this was quite a routine-breaker. A non-stop journey of over 120 miles; he could make it in two days if he forces the horses to their limits. Hopefully the animals will survive.
    ‘Well, better get prepared.’ he thought as he was climbing up the stairs and back to his room.

    (...)

    Merlin checked if the belt which kept the bag with his equipment attached to the saddle was tightened enough. After making sure everything else was in order, he climbed into the saddle, fixed his feet in the stirrups and took the reins. The horse he was provided with was a good one; a strong black steed, well fed and fresh, and apparently eager for a gallop. Merlin noticed that and grinned a little. What awaited this horse was more than just a good gallop – he had to cross quite a distance over the course of merely two days; such a journey was bound to take a huge toll on both the horse and its rider, but at least Merlin wasn’t the one who’ll have to do the running.

    “After this journey, my friend, I think you’ll have enough running for the next few months.” he whispered into the horse’s ear as the guards opened the castle gates.

    “Go, boy!” Merlin shouted, forcing the horse into gallop. The animal responded instantly, letting out a brief but loud “neigh” before running through the castle gates, across the bridge over the defensive moat and down the road at full speed.

    Fields, streams, forests and lonely cottages flew by Merlin’s eyes in a haze of green, blue and brown. The horse slowed down from its high-speed gallop after a few miles, but it kept running at a considerable speed, in part due to Merlin’s relentless use of reins that made the horse keep its pace for seven hours straight. After a short breather by a small lake, during which he pretty much annihilated his entire food supply for the journey while the horse kept drinking without a pause, he continued his trip and didn’t stop until he reached Glastenning late in the evening. There he switched horses and immediately continued his journey, rather than resting in the town a bit. However, he had overestimated himself; fatigue caused by the long and exhausting journey finally caught up to him an hour after he left Glastenning and forced him to take a rest in the forest.

    Taking off the boots to ease the pain in his legs, Merlin cursed Uther for forcing him to embark on this journey in the first place. He took a sip of wine from his small leather flask and gave out a long sigh. He wasn’t grateful to his king for dragging him across half the country for such a ridiculous reason.

    ‘Honestly, I never thought I’d see someone go to war over a woman. It’s like those Greek poems, only much less epic and much more stupid.’ he mused to himself.
    Indeed, the military campaign that Uther Pendragon had initiated was caused by a woman. She wasn’t just any woman, but of the rare kind that made men go crazy after her to the point where they were willing to gamble their entire kingdoms and the lives of their men in a game to win her for themselves.The fair lady’s name was Igraine, and she was the wife of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall.

    Gorlois was one of Uther’s vassals and most trusted allies. Two lords had fought side-by-side for six years, ever since Uther achieved his great victory against the Saxons. Eight months ago, Uther was invited to the New Year’s feast at Gorlois’ castle of Tintagel. During the banquet the High King had laid his eyes on Gorlois’ wife, lady Igraine, and not without reason, for she was elegant, noble, eloquent and gorgeous; it wasn’t only Uther who was mesmerized by her beautiful emerald eyes. The king couldn’t help himself; a strong desire to make this fair lady his own started to burn in his heart, and from that moment on, he was driven by this newly born passion.

    Ever since that day, Uther and Gorlois were regular guests at each other’s courts, mostly on Uther’s initiative. Uther and Igraine spent lots of time together, and she soon fell in love with the handsome and dashing High King. However, while she didn’t have any romantic feelings towards her much older husband, she was still loyal to him, for her nobility and pride didn’t allow her to break a promise she gave to her husband when they married, even if the marriage was not of her own choice.

    And then, two weeks ago, the secret relationship between the king and his ally’s wife came to an abrupt end. A feast was being held at the castle Pendragon, and Gorlois and his wife were also present. Uther, who had grown very impatient in regards to his relationship with Igraine, had consumed one goblet of wine too many ( though, truth be told, so had just about everyone else at the feast ) and somehow his cheerful conversation with Gorlois turned into a bitter argument which ended with Uther unsubtly hinting that his vassal’s wife wasn’t completely loyal to him, but had instead given her heart to him. The awkward situation ended in Gorlois’ fury, and he left the castle along with his retinue on the first light of the next day. Before he left, he declared his oath of allegiance to the High King void, and everyone sensed that a war between the king and his former ally was merely a matter of time.

    It didn’t take long for Uther to take action; two days after the quarrel he had already assembled his troops end set out on a forced march towards Gorlois’ realm.

    Merlin, who was absent when these unfortunate events took place, was angry at his king’s rash decisions and inability to control his temper, but he was also angry at himself for not being there in the hour of need; if were he present at the feast he would have restrained his king and prevented all this from happening. He was extremely furious when he heard the reason as to why the king was absent and the castle empty when he returned from his trip.

    And right now, he was playing Uther’s lap dog, traveling day and night across the country to reach the king’s camp as soon as possible, without even being told the reason why. Too exhausted to swear at his irresponsible king, Merlin leaned against a nearby tree and closed his eyes. Even if it’s only for an hour, he needed some sleep.

    (...)

    The sun was setting when Merlin finally reached Uther’s camp outside Terrabil. His horse was completely exhausted and looked like it could collapse at any moment, and Merlin himself wasn’t in a much better condition either. His first order of business after getting past the guards was to find someone to take care of the horse and get some food and water. After he had taken care of his stomach and the animal, he started to search for the king. He found him in the front lines, talking to the commander of the archers.

    Terrabil castle was a formidable fort, situated on an isle at the confluence of two rivers flowing from the south. It was located along the main road leading into Cornwall, and as such served both as an important trading post and a strategic military point that effectively controlled the main point of entry into the realm. Vast open moorlands stretched for many miles to the south of Terrabil and to the north lay a huge swamp, forcing any invading forces to take a long and exhaustive roundabout way if they wanted to get into Cornwall by avoiding the fort. To put it simply, Terrabil was the key to Cornwall, which is why Uther had little choice but to lay siege on the castle if he wanted to win this war.

    The field to the east of the castle gates was turned from a beautiful green meadow into a huge military camp, full of tents, shacks, war machinery and the area nearest to the castle was criss-crossed with trenches and stockades. Several ballistae and onagers were firing their missiles at the castle. Wave after wave of flaming arrows was launched at the wooden ramparts and the castle gates, but the defenders kept putting out the fires before they could do serious damage to the castle defences.

    However, despite the defenders’ best efforts, after five days of siege the combined might of Uther’s siege artillery and archers was taking a visible toll on the fortifications of Terrabil. Gorlois’ men had destroyed the wooden bridge over the river that served as the main barrier for the attacking army, but Uther had ordered a construction of a mole. The troops kept bringing in dirt and rocks to bridge the wild stream, unfazed by the enemy arrows as they constructed a protective canopy out of their shields. By the time Merlin had arrived to the battlefield, the mole was only a few feet away from the castle gates.

    But even though the siege was going in his favour, Uther did not seem to be particularly happy when Merlin found him. As he was approaching the king from behind, he couldn’t see his face, but his body language and the tone of his voice were those of the somewhat irritated and perturbed man.

    “What’s the trouble, old friend?” he said, slapping his king on the back as hard as he could. It was a little revenge on his friend for dragging him all the way here without bothering to at least tell him why. He knew it was petty, but he enjoyed it nontheless.

    “What-a...?” shouted Uther, greately startled by Merlin’s “greeting”. He had already reached for his sword, but stopped himself when he recognised his trusted friend.

    “Oh, it’s you Merlin. Thank God you’re here. I need you.”

    “I’m sure you do, but couldn’t you have at least told your messenger why is it that I had to suddenly ride across half the country, nearly killing both my horses?”

    “Now, now, don’t be angry. Do you think I’d call for you if it wasn’t very important?”

    “It wouldn’t surprise me at all, really.” Merlin muttered to himself.

    “What was that?”

    “Nothing, nothing.”

    Uther was a capable, strong king and a good friend, but he occasionaly had bursts of foolishness ( one of which caused this entire conflict with Gorlois ) and great immaturity. Although it was unlikely to happen in this situation, he often tormented Merlin with requests one could only deem pointless or childish. They weren’t to Uther, of course, and he often gave the impression he wasn’t even aware that what he was asking of his friend was weird or stupid.

    “You look exhausted Merlin. Let’s get away from here and get something to eat. And drink.”

    “I already ate. It was the first thing I did when I got here.” Merlin did not hesitate to make it clear where his priorities lied. Whatever it was that king wanted of him, it wasn’t on the top of the list. “But I won’t refuse a drink.”

    “Excellent. I can always count on you in that regard. Let’s go, then.”

    A few minutes later Merlin and Uther were sitting comfortably in the king’s tent and were sipping some wine. Uther had his guards and servants leave and the two men were left alone to their devices. After some hesitation, Uther spoke:

    “I guess it’s time I tell you why I sent for you.”

    “I’d say that time was when you dispatched your messenger, but that’s beside the point. So, what’s the issue here? Why did I have to bring my equipment with me? You now I’m not gonna blow any holes in that castle’s walls for you, so why have me bring it along?”

    “I know, I know”, said Uther, sighing. His good mood from a few moments ago seemed to have vanished. The king was uneasy, clearly hesitant to tell Merlin what the reason for his summoning was.

    “Come on, man, speak!”

    “You’ll get mad at me.”

    “I’m already mad at you for dragging me all the way here, while I should have been lazing around your castle, sleeping ‘till noon, drinking your ale and robbing your guards of their last treasures.” Merlin replied cheerfully, taking another sip. “And besides, it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve bothered me with some foolishness of yours.”

    “This time it’s different.”

    “How so?”

    “It’s because of... her.”

    Merlin inadvertently rolled his eyes. Uther didn’t seem to notice.

    “Her? You mean Lady Igraine?”

    “Yes”

    “The woman over whom you started this whole bloody mess?”

    “Yes” Uther replied, somewhat agitated by Merlin’s choice of words.

    “The same woman whose husband you insulted and made angry two weeks ago, and made a mortal enemy out of one of your most trusted and most powerful allies?”

    “Yes, I know!” The king was now visibly upset.

    Merlin wanted to continue like this but he restrained himself and stopped. Uther knew he was right and Merin could see that. His loyal friend and advisor had been helping him expand and strengthen his kingdom for many years now, and he blew lots of that effort into smoke in a single night. And all that because he couldn’t control his drinking.

    “So what do you want from me?” Merlin asked after a brief silence.

    “Gorlois is in that castle right now, leading his men. But Igraine isn’t with him.”

    “Where is she, then?”

    “After they returned to Cornwall from my castle ten days ago Gorlois stayed in Terrabil to prepare the defences, while Igraine was sent to the castle of Tintagel at the coast. My spies told me that.”

    “So what’s the problem? Once you’ve sacked Terrabil and killed Gorlois, all you have to do is to proceed to Tintagel and Igraine is all yours.”

    “I wish it were that simple.” Uther said, frowning.

    “What do you mean?”

    “First of all, Tintagel is impregnable unless you cut it off from the sea as well as the land. And I don’t have any ships.

    Secondly, even if we were to breach the castle, Gorlois must have given orders to his men to make sure Igraine dies before I can take her. He said something like that when he left, and I have no doubt he’d sooner kill her with his own hands rather than let me have her.”

    “So what do you want me to do?”

    Uther emptied his cup and started to walk around the tent.

    “I want her Merlin. I’ve never been so passionate about a woman in my whole life.”

    Merlin said nothing and just stared at his reflection in the wine.

    “I can’t let Gorlois have her. Not after coming this far. I’d look like a weak fool in the eyes of the entire kingdom if I were to just leave now.”

    “So how do you plan to get her? You said yourself that Tintagel is impregnable. How do you intend to snatch her away?”

    “That’s what I need you for. I already have an idea.”

    “Let’s hear it then.”

    “I want to personally infiltrate Tintagel.”

    “What? How? What do you plan to accomplish?”
    ‘And what do I have to do with it?’ was what he also wanted to ask, but he already had a gut feeling about that.

    “I want Igraine. Maybe I can take her with me, maybe not, but I want to spend at least one night with her.”

    “But how do you plan to get past the guards? Not to mention spend the entire night there, with the Duke’s wife, without anyone noticing?”

    “It’s simple really; I need you to disguise me as Gorlois with your magic.”

    Merlin already had a feeling something like this was coming. Uther was expecting his friend to attack or mock him for his request, but to his surprise, Merlin remained silent and absorbed in his thoughts. He was staring blankly at his cup, his mind wandering elsewhere. Having known him for six years, Uther knew that the wizard was contemplating a much deeper and more complex scheme than assisting his king in his love quest. Indeed, what haunted Merlin’s mind at the moment was an old dream, and an even older journey. Finally, he snapped from his thoughts and started to speak slowly:

    “Uther, do you remember the dream I told you about six years ago, when you became the High King?”

    “The one about the dragons and the sword in the stone? Sure I do. What of it?”

    “Do you also remember the prophecy I made in regards to that dream?”

    “That I was destined to pull the sword out and rule Britain? Yeah, I remember that too.” The king grinned a little. “Still disappointed it didn’t work out quite the way you thought it would? No need to be ashamed, everybody makes mistakes, prophets are no exceptions.”

    “True, but I don’t think my prophecy was completely wrong. My visions always come true, I’m sure this one will too. My dream wasn’t wrong, what was wrong must have been my interpretation of it.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The red and the white dragon, the sword... I thought you were the red dragon from my dream, but I was wrong about that. However, I firmly believe that a person of Pendragon blood is destined to pull out that sword. Even if you failed, one of your heirs must succeed.”

    “I believe you, my friend, and I hope your words come true. But what does that have to do with my wish?”

    Merlin frowned, took a sip from his cup and put it down on the small table in front of him. This wasn’t the first time he was to use his magic to help an ambitious warlord with their wishes. He had been doing so ever since a certain Roman general approached him. However, this time it was different. This time, he felt, he could actually do something worthwhile. He continued:

    “I have a feeling about this whole thing.”

    “What kind of feeling?”

    Merlin was still hesitant to spill the beans. He rubbed his fingers against his temples.

    “If I help you, and you have your night with Igraine, will you promise me one thing?”

    “Whatever you want, my friend. A night with her is more valuable to me than my whole kingdom.”

    Biting his tongue to refrain from commenting on the foolishness of such a sentiment, Merlin said:

    “Should you and Igraine conceive a child on that night, promise me you’ll make that child your successor.”

    Uther stopped walking around the room and got back into his seat. He was frowning too.

    “I don’t mind, on the contrary, but you do know that Igraine is barren? She hasn’t been able to bear children ever since the birth of her first and only child, her daughter. Gorlois has been unhappy about that for years – he reproached her for failing to provide him with an heir. She told me that.”

    “I will take care of that. You just promise me.”

    “Very well, Merlin.” Uther said, his mood suddenly greatly improved. The prospect of Igraine, the woman of his dreams, giving birth to his successor must have pleased him almost as much as Merlin’s willingness to assist him in getting to spend the night with her. “I give you my word as the king, that if a child is conceived on my night with Igraine, I shall make him an heir to the throne of Britain.”

    “Then it is settled.” Merlin replied. “I shall make the neccessary preparations.”

    “Do it, and make it quick. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to completely encircle the castle. There’s still plenty of space for the defenders to escape, and should Gorlois retreat to Tintagel before we get there, our plan is doomed to failure.”

    “It won’t take long, I just have to get my... ‘chemistry set’.”

    “Ah, so he told you I said that? Pretty good, huh?”

    “My king, your humour is too much for the common mind to comprehend and appreciate.”

    “I know you’re mocking me, Merlin. Come on, off you go!”

    “Yes, sire.”

    Merlin gave a small bow and left the king’s tent.

    (...)

    In the middle of the night, two riders left the camp of Uther Pendragon’s army, heading south. After reaching the edge of the moor, they turned west and soon disappeared into the thick forests of Cornwall. At dawn, Uther’s army launched a direct assault on the castle, as per king’s orders. The scouts reported that reinforcements were coming to aid Gorlois in his defence of Terrabil, and Uther couldn’t afford to waste any more time taking the fortress. Besides, even if the attack is unsucessful it would at least serve as a distraction for Gorlois, allowing Uther and Merlin to reach Tintagel safely, not having to worry about Igraine’s real husband suddenly showing up.

    The castle of Tintagel lay 30 miles to the west of Terrabil as the crow flies. The ground distance that the two riders had to cover was almost two times longer. Forcing their horses to run for hours on end, they managed to complete their journey in a day. As the dawn of the next day approached they found themselves on the edge of a forest only a mile away from their destination.
    “Time to stop for a moment my king.” Merlin said and dismounted. Uther followed suit.

    Merlin took the bag with his equipment off his horse and unpacked its contents on the ground in front of Uther, who had seated himself on a nearby log. The sight of numerous bottles filled with liquid, teeth, horns, hair and various strange instruments amused Uther. He always admired his friend’s unique talent, and no magic trick was too simple to amuse him.

    “So, what are you planning to do?” he asked his wizard.

    “Well, thanks to my blood, I can shape-shift as I please. Transforming you, however, will be a much more difficult task. If it’s only for an hour or so, I could do it with no extra help. But to turn you into Gorlois for a whole day requires a catalyst. I need something to channel and bind my power inside your body. Here, drink this.” Merlin said, giving Uther a small bottle filled with crimson red fluid.

    Uther took a sip and started coughing violently immediately after swallowing it. Merlin quickly took the bottle back to prevent him from spilling the rest of the liquid on the ground.

    “Be careful! That stuff is incredibly rare and difficult to get, you know!”

    “What the hell was that?! I thought it will burn through my throat!”

    Merlin grinned a little.

    “Dragon blood.”

    “What?!”

    But Merlin had already proceeded to the second phase of this “ritual”. He took out a huge tooth out of a leather purse and made a deep cut on the palm of his right hand.

    “What the hell are you doing?” Uther asked, bewildered.

    “I’m going to give the potential future heir of yours a little gift. I’ll make the name Pendragon into something more substantial than just a fancy title you took after your victory. Give me your right hand.” Merlin said, not letting go of the tooth. Uther could already guess what kind of tooth it was. He held out his hand hesitantly.

    Merlin grabbed it and quickly made a long cut on the palm with the tooth, just like he had on his own hand. Blood covered the entire palm of his hand in a second.

    “Gha...!”

    “Shut up now and take my hand!” said Merlin, reaching with his right hand, in which he was now holding the dragon’s tooth.

    As soon as Uther took his hand, Merlin started to perform his magic. He was muttering strange and incomprehensible words with great speed, and the only word Uther managed to catch from the long incantations was “draco”. Their blood mixed as they kept holding each other’s hands, and after a minute, the ritual was over. Uther could see that the wound on his arm had healed, as if it was never there to begin with. Merlin’s hand, though, was still bleeding, so he bandaged it with some cloth.

    “Why is your hand...” Uther started, but the intense pain in his head prevented him from finishing the sentence.

    “Easy now. The transformation is complete, but you’ll continue feeling the after-effects for a few more hours. We’ll use that – we’ll deceive the guards at the castle by saying that you’ve fallen sick during the siege and have returned to Tintagel to rest until you get better. I am one of your soldiers, and there’s no one else accompanying you because you didn’t want to weaken the defences at Terrabil by taking away any more troops. Got all that?”

    “Hmmm” Uther nodded. His vision was blurry.

    “Good. Dawn is breaking, and we’re only a mile away from Tintagel. It means you have plenty of time to spend with your beloved Igraine, but by the next dawn, we have to be out of the castle, or else our lives are forfeit. I can use my powers to deceive the guards while you spend time with Igraine, but if they see Uther Pendragon in their lord’s castle, not even my hypnosis would be enought to stop the from chopping our heads off. Understand?”

    “Y-yes.”

    “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything. You just stay in Gorlois’ chambers and play sick. Enjoy your night with the woman of your dreams and be ready to leave quickly in the morning. Now, let’s go, my king! Your beloved Igraine waits for you!”

    Merlin packed his equipment and the two mounted their horses again.
    A quick jerk of the reins forced the animals into gallop. The tall grass that covered the field in front of them was shaking under the mild morning wind. The sun was rising behind their backs, its warm yellow light illuminating the ripply surface of the sea and the great fortified castle on the cliff – Tintagel.

    __________________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____

    Author's notes:

    - Glastenning = Glastonbury
    Caer Uisc = Exeter
    It is my wish to make this fic as historically accurate as possible, and since I'm going to rape history soon enough with the concepts of chivalry ( that was invented during the High middle ages, probably around 11th/12th century ), I might as well minimize damage elsewhere, so I'm trying to use the names these places could/would have had before the Saxons took over the entire country.

    - This chapter involved a lot of exposition, backstories and narration, and very little plot. Unfortunately, this chapter is pretty important in the grander scheme of things ( especially for Merlin's character ) and I couldn't just skip it and go straight to Arturia's birth. Writing all those scenes that were narrated would have made this chapter at least three times longer, and that was something I didn't want to do. This is primarily a Saber-centric story, and Merlin will play a large role as it is. I can't write his entire life-story just to avoid expository narration; in that case I might as well make a whole fic just for him.

    But enough of my rambling. This chapter took me a while to publish. It was a real bitch to write and I also had college-related business, so sorry for having to wait two whole weeks. Hopefully the next chapter won't take as much time. I won't spoil anything but you can expect moe-Morgan to make an appearance.
    Last edited by Polly; April 20th, 2014 at 04:52 PM.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Well, this was an interesting rendition of events.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    Well, this was an interesting rendition of events.
    Thanks. This chapter was a necessary evil, but I hope I made it interesting enough.
    Next one will have more "original material".
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

  14. #14
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    It was an interesting interpretation on how Saber got her Dragon Reactor.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

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    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Chapter 2 – Sorcerer's Apprentice


    November, 482 CE

    Everyone who knew her would agree that lady Igraine of Cornwall was a rare flower. Apart from the beautiful emerald eyes that captivated all men who looked into them, her most striking feature was her dignified and noble bearing, which she expressed in both her posture, manners and speech. The air of almost surreal nobility surrounded her, and many wondered if a great queen or empress from a bygone age had by mistake found herself in this poor and backwater country.

    Igraine was of both British and Roman blood; her family could trace its roots back to the times of Roman conquest of Britain, and in spite of the collapse of much of the old Roman civilisation and way of life on the island, they clung onto their heritage, educating and raising the future generations in the same way as they did while the Empire was flourishing. However, Igraine was by no means timid or frail. Her commanding presence and resolute speech earned her the respect of both men and women of the Pendragon court– all her orders were carried out swiftly and thoroughly, and no one would ever dare to disobey her.


    "You know, some would say that you are the true ruler of this castle." Merlin joked as he watched the Queen dispatch the messengers who came with news for king Uther, but were intercepted by Igraine in one of the hallways and were coerced into reporting to her instead. He was leaning against the wall next to an open window, taking a short break from his work and trying to get a breath of fresh air.

    "My husband already has his hands full with numerous other obligations. I thought it would do no harm if I were to make his duties a little easier for him." she replied gracefully and confidently.

    "My king is most fortunate to have a Queen like you. But I think you should leave these matters to your husband. He can take care of them."

    "Why? Do you think I'm not capable of handling even such trivial matters of state, Merlin?" Igraine said, folding her arms and frowning a little.

    "On the contrary, my lady. Sometimes I think you could handle the matters of state better than the King." Merlin replied with a small chuckle.
    This left Igraine somewhat surprised.

    "I appreciate the fact that you think so highly of me, Merlin. I know such words have weight when they're coming from you, rather than being merely empty flattery. But if so, why don't you want me to help my husband? You should know better than anyone how much work he has at the moment."

    "I do. But I think the king shouldn't have others do his duties for him. At least not now. Uther should clear up his own mess. I am his advisor and a friend, I help him however I can, but I won't solve his problems for him, and I don't think you should do so either."

    Igraine could tell Merlin was not joking. While he rarely passed a chance to jest, you could easily tell when he got serious.

    "You must be pretty busy yourself, Merlin."

    "I am."

    "Does it bother you when you to talk to the woman who's the source of the mess that makes your hands full?" she said with a small grin.

    "Bother me?" he replied, somewhat stunned, walking away from the window and towards her. Igraine couldn't tell if the surprise was genuine or feigned.

    "No, my lady, having such a pleasant company is a refreshing change, even if all we do is make small talk. And besides, I know better than to blame you for Uther's foolishness."

    "Do you think love is foolish, Merlin?"

    "In a way... yes... I guess. But I'd say what we do for love is even more important. And I think you and I know the best how foolish it was of Uther to do all this."

    Igraine opened her mouth to reply, but stopped halfway through it. Even though she loved her new husband dearly, she had to admit Merlin was right. After all, she was there when Uther and Gorlois had their fight.

    "Well, people do crazy things when they're in love. We're all human."

    "True, but a king should be able to restrain himself from acting rashly and should consider the outcome of his actions before making decisions. Actually, that goes for everyone; it just so happens that kings also have responsibilities towards their subjects and the realm, which means they should be more prudent than regular men."

    Merlin's logic left Igraine soundly defeated.


    Three months had passed since the king went to war with Gorlois over Igraine. Upon returning to the camp at Terrabil after their journey to Tintagel, Uther and Merlin were in for some surprising news: Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, was killed during the attack on the castle on the day they left for Tintagel. The strategically vital fort was now in Uther's hands.

    These news shocked Uther, but they also delighted him – with their Duke dead and Terrabil taken, the remaining armies of Cornwall ceased fighting and pledged their allegiance to Uther. But not only did he conquer Cornwall with this, he was also free to marry Igraine, who was now expecting a baby. During their night together they had indeed managed to conceive a child, and since Gorlois had been killed before the child was begotten, he could make him a fully legitimate heir. Things had turned out better than Uther had expected, and even though it turned out that infiltrating Tintagel and tricking Igraine was unnecessary, he was delighted that the woman of his dreams was his to marry, and the ceremony was carried out within two months.

    However, Uther's enthusiasm and good mood were not to last for long – the schism between the High King and one of his loyal vassals did not sit well with many of Uther's other lords and dukes. Several of Gorlois' good friends and allies had forsaken their oaths of fealty to Uther and those who never acknowledged his title were becoming restless. There was never true peace during his reign, since the Saxons and the Picts remained a constant threat and there were still Briton warlords who didn't recognise his authority, but he managed to keep a fragile balance for the time being – however, that balance was now in danger. Smaller conflicts and occasional barbarian raids now threatened to erupt into a full-scale war, and the country was on the brink of absolute chaos once more.

    Thus, Uther and Merlin were busy day and night negotiating with the lords, making promises, inviting the allies whose loyalty was wavering to feasts, and generally trying to contain the damage. Igraine couldn't help but feel slightly guilty about that.

    "Well, there's no point brooding over it. We should do our best to cope with the present situation, and this will hopefully teach Uther a lesson." Merlin said to break the silence.

    "But 'doing our best' doesn't include me? Doesn't my help relieve you of your work too?"
    Igraine wasn't willing to let go of that just yet.

    "Like I said, you shouldn't bother with it. It's Uther's responsibility and mine."

    "Even if I'm good at it? I took care of the King of Gwent a couple of days ago if you remember?"

    "I remember, alright. And I think you will be great support for Uther in the future. But it wasn't necessary for you to go through all that. You should relax and enjoy the court life for now. I'm sure there will be other opportunities for you to partake in politics. Let Uther suffer the consequences just this once."

    "But what if I want to do it?" Igraine said with a small grin.

    Merlin paused for a second, thinking, and then replied with a grin of his own.

    "You should have been born a man. You would have been a great king."

    Igraine blushed a little at such a compliment.
    "You're quite a flatterer, Merlin, did anyone ever tell you that?"

    "Quite a few people, actually. None of them seemed to mind, though." he said nonchalantly.

    "Well, if you're trying to seduce me, then give up. I've only just married Uther and I'm not planning to love another man anytime soon. Besides, what if your king finds out you've been trying to steal his wife from him?" Igraine retorted with a chuckle.

    "I imagine he wouldn't be very happy. But rest easy, my lady; I have no such ambitions at the moment."

    "Speaking of which; what are your ambitions Merlin? Why does a powerful sorcerer serve as the king's lackey?"

    "My only ambition is to serve the realm, my lady." he replied with a small bow and an ambiguous smile. Igraine had already noticed during their earlier conversations that Merlin loved to answer vaguely when she inquired him about his personal matters.

    " 'To serve the realm'? That's some answer. And what do you get as payment for your service?"

    "Oh, you know, things."

    Igraine was slightly annoyed with his refusal to give concrete answers, but she didn't really expect anything else. And she didn't really mind. After a short silence, she noticed that Merlin was staring at her. More precisely, at her stomach. She could easily guess why – it's been over three months since her night with Uther, and her belly had already grown considerably, especially considering her usual slender figure.

    "What are you thinking of?" she asked.

    "Nothing in particular."

    "Judging by your expression, I don't think that's quite true."

    "It seems I just can't fool you, my lady. What about you? Are you glad to be able to bear another child?"

    "More than glad. It's the greatest wedding gift Uther could have given me."
    To Igraine, who became barren after giving birth to her first and only child, this baby was a blessing from God.

    "I'm sure Uther is just as happy as you are."

    "I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I think he might be even happier than I am. Every evening he caresses my belly and talks to the baby. He's very impatient, too."

    "I can understand him. He finally has a family and will have a proper heir to succeed him."

    "I do hope it's a boy. I wouldn't really mind having a daughter, but I already gave birth to one, and I've never had a son." Igraine said, gently stroking her stomach and smiling.

    "I'm pretty sure it's a boy. And I think he'll grow to be a good king, even greater than his father." Merlin declared confidently. He was certain that this child was the person from his vision.

    "I most truly hope so. And I'm sure Uther would be most delighted too. There's no doubt in his mind that he will be getting a son."

    "Have you started thinking about a name yet?"

    "Uther has already decided that we name him Arthur."

    "Sounds like he didn't leave you with much of a choice."

    "I have no objections, though. I think it's a wonderful name, befitting the king's son. All that's left now is to wait for the baby to be born. I must admit I'm a little impatient."

    "Well, I'm quite impatient for the boy's birth myself. If he inherits even a fraction of your nobility and intelligence, then Britain's future lies in capable hands."

    "You incorrigible flatterer!" Igraine snickered at Merlin's comment. "Don't you have work to do?"

    "Indeed I have." He smiled and bowed. After hours of exhausting work, this short conversation with the queen refreshed him and raised his spirits. "I hope we speak again soon, my lady. A decent conversation is hard to come by in this castle."

    "You're being a bit too harsh on the people of this court Merlin." she replied and giggled.
    The wizard was usually serious and dedicated to his work, and didn't speak that much for most of the time, but he could occasionally be very entertaining and pleasant, in his own way.

    "If you say so." he said, already walking away. His break was over, and many tasks awaited him. Igraine kept watching him go until he reached the end of the hallway and disappeared behind the corner. Then. she left and returned to her chambers.


    (...)

    "You're late, Merlin!"

    Loud echoes that filled the air of an underground chamber that Merlin had just entered made his ears ring. He instinctively raised his free left hand to cover his ear from the deafening noise, but it was of little help.

    "What a warm and pleasant welcome. Is this how you greet your teacher?" he asked the person standing in the middle of the room, waiting for him. The said person was a slightly angry nine year-old girl dressed in long black robes; she looked at Merlin with a frown, her small hands pressed firmly against her hips.

    "Hmph! If you were on time there would have been no need for me to do it! And besides, I did it so that you learn to be punctual!"

    "What are you talking about?! I'm always on time!" Merlin teased her.

    "Except for two times last week, then yesterday, when you were fifteen minutes late, and finally today, when you're almost half an hour late!" the girl retorted, refusing to yield to her teacher.

    Merlin sniggered, then walked to the large oak desk on the opposite side of the room and put the bag he carried in his right hand on it. As he proceeded to take out the contents of the bag and place them on the desk, he continued his conversation with his student:

    "I apologise, my lady. I'll try not to be late in the future."

    "Why am I not convinced, Merlin?" the girl said, pouting.

    Merlin laughed and turned around, taking a look at his student.

    Princess Morgan was truly a fascinating child. She had inherited her mother's dark brown hair and slender figure, but her dark blue eyes were the same as those of her late father, Gorlois. Even though she was only nine she was unusually tall for her age; combined with her inborn beauty and the same noble bearing her mother had, it made her appear much older than she actually was. Even more unusual were her sharp and quick mind and refined manner of speech, all of which contributed to an image of a grown princess trapped inside a small girl's body. Well, it wouldn't be exactly true to say that she was completely mature; despite her noble bearing, she was still a nine year-old girl and she would often act in a manner that was in line with her real age – teasing her servants and maids whenever she was alone with them, being petulant when her mother refused to bow to her whims, and tormenting her teacher when he was late.

    But Merlin couldn't really blame her for that. On the contrary – it showed her dedication and wish to learn.
    Even though her parents were just normal humans, Morgan was born with Magic Circuits, the ability to perform magecraft. Of course, she was unaware of this at first, but Merlin detected this potential when he met her in Tintagel during his and Uther's infiltration of the castle. Once Uther married Igraine and brought her and Morgan with him to his castle, Merlin approached the girl and told her about this hidden talent. By his estimate, she had roughly twenty Circuits, but they were all of unusually high quality. With a good teacher and lots of effort, she could become a rather good magus, at least for a first-generation one.

    Upon hearing of her gift, Morgan was delighted; finding out that she's different from others, special, made her overjoyed and proud. Even though Merlin instantly noticed that it made her think of herself as inherently superior to just about everyone else, of which he did not approve, he was elated by her childish enthusiasm and an earnest wish to learn. He took her under his tutelage and started to teach her magecraft daily. For that purpose he procured a cellar on the dungeon-level where they could do all their lessons in peace.
    He taught her about Formalcraft and Elements and other basics of magecraft, and she absorbed all the lessons with ease and enthusiasm.


    "Fine then, I promise to be on time. Is that good enough?"

    "It'll have to do. But mind you, if you show up late again I'm going to make you pay!" she exclaimed, pointing her finger at him. She didn't look very intimidating.

    "And how do you plan to do that? Are you going to blow up the whole room again?"

    Merlin's teasing made Morgan blush and clench her little fists in anger and shame.

    A few days ago, when she tried to activate her Circuits on her own and channel her prana into an oil lamp to ignite it ( against Merlin's better judgement ), she ended up infusing it with so much energy that the fragile clay lamp broke and the oil inside of it scattered across the room in a million tiny drops, burning out in mid-air. It was nothing serious, merely a small display of fireworks and Merlin could easily prevent it from doing any real damage to the books and rolls in the room, but it was sudden and flashy and it frightened Morgan a lot. Merlin referred to it as "her blowing the room up" on a few occasions, and Morgan didn't like to be reminded of her failure – she disliked losing.

    Since his student remained silent in defeat, Merlin continued:
    "We've been practicing for what, a month now?"

    "Thirty-four days to be exact, including today."

    "Good memory. As you know, all these lessons were just the most basic things. I mostly just tested you in order to evaluate you correctly and get a good grasp of your talents and affinities. At this point, the introductory stage of your lessons is at an end and we can start focusing on the more specific things. I think I have some idea of what you'd be good at."

    Morgan nodded in understanding. Merlin had already told her about the individual nature of every magus and different affinities and specialities of their magecraft.

    "So - what did you find out about me?"

    "Well..." Merlin said, browsing through the pile of books that lay on the table, "...I'd say that Alchemy is the kind of magecraft that would suit you the best. You seem to have an innate talent for manipulation and transfiguration of materials, especially liquids ( 'at least when you're not busy blowing them up' he muttered to himself ).. Your knowledge of herbs is impressive too..."

    "My mother thought me that!" Morgan declared proudly.

    "Yes... Anyway, fire is definitely not your element, and I'd say neither is the wind, so it leaves either water or earth or both, but it's still too early to tell."

    "What about Runes? You're good at that, can you teach me? They sound way more interesting than making potions."

    Merlin shook his head at her immaturity. Being rather skilled in Alchemy himself, he couldn't let her underestimation of such an important field of magecraft pass.

    "Alchemy is much more than just making poisons or medicines. A talented alchemist can manipulate all forms of matter in many different ways. Understanding the nature of the matter and its flow and synchronising it with your own flow of prana can allow you to do all kinds of special things; for example, Transmutation allows you to shape the matter as you see fit, from making weapons to creating artificial organs. Some schools even apply alchemy on human mind in order to increase its performance in different ways. Do not dismiss alchemy just because it may seem as passive compared to other fields of magecraft."

    "But couldn't you still teach me Runes along with Alchemy?" she insisted.

    Merlin sighed, turning away from the books and towards Morgan.
    "Listen Morgan, you're a very talented magus with lots of potential, and you learn fast, but don't overestimate your abilities. You're a first-generation magus, meaning that you're in the weakest tier. You do not have a Magic Crest nor will you inherit one from your parents. These are the limits that you simply can't overcome, no matter how hard you try. Therefore you shouldn't waste your energy and efforts pursuing multiple goals, but should focus on what you're good at and hone your skills in that particular area to perfection. That is the only way for you to achieve your full potential. I believe Alchemy is the area in which you can do that.
    Besides, runes have relatively poor effects unless they're used by top-tier magi. Also, apart from the offensive types of Runes, there is little you can accomplish using them that cannot be done using other forms of magecraft. So give up on it Morgan."

    "But..."

    "I said, give up. My judgement as your teacher is that Runes are not the most suitable form of magecraft for you. As my student, you will respect my judgement."

    Merlin's strict and harsh words ate at Morgan, but she knew he was right. Despite her occasional brash attitude towards him, she had great respect and admiration for her teacher, and had to accept his words. But the damage had already been done – she hated the fact that she'll always be inferior to most other magi and that no matter how hard she tried, no matter how much she worked, some things will remain out of her reach forever.

    Merlin noticed her unease and displeasure and decided to confront her. He knelt in front of her and put his hand on her shoulder.
    "Don't be upset. Even the weakest magus can do things that are impossible for normal humans. You, who are very talented, will be able to achieve great things. No need to despair just because you won't be able to become the strongest of them all."

    "I know." she said bitterly.

    "Besides, would you rather be a normal princess whose greatest achievement would be to marry a rich and powerful lord? I think being a magus is much more fun than that."

    "Everything's more fun than that!" she replied, her energy apparently back.

    "That's the spirit! So, if you want to be something other than an obedient house wife, I'd say we better get to work."

    "Right!" Morgan said and ran off to the desk to get her notes.

    Merlin smiled at his enthusiastic student for a few seconds and then followed her example and took out the equipment needed for the today's lesson.
    Bottles filled with various coloured fluids were carefully arranged on the table and a small cauldron was placed over a fire that was already burning in the small fireplace in the corner. The teacher and his ideal student executed the preparations for the lesson in perfect harmony.


    (...)

    Merlin got another opportunity to speak with the Queen that day. It was during a feast which was being held that evening in the castle.
    The castle's ill-lit dining hall was filled to the brim with all sorts of people, from maids who stood in the corners in small groups and gossiped, to off-duty knights and soldiers of the Pendragon castle who were engaging in courtship with every available good-looking lady whose attention they could grab, to several noblemen from around the country who mostly came to discuss politics. The entire hall was shrouded by a thin layer of smoke rising from many lamps, candles and fireplaces, and the number and sizes of the windows in the hall was insufficient to properly ventilate it. The dining tables were scattered around the room and crammed with all kinds of food and drinks. Most of the people, though, were on their feet, dancing to the tune of the flutes and drums or conversing with other guests.

    Uther was busy talking to some of the lords that he had invited, and Igraine, who was sitting next to him, was getting bored. Merlin drew himself a chair and sat next her. His slightly disheveled appearance was a stark contrast to hers – she wore a simple yet elegant green gown and a thin golden diadem adorned her head.

    "Good evening, my lady." he greeted her while calling on a servant with his left hand.

    "Merlin! What a pleasant surprise. What are you doing here?"

    "Saving both you and me from boredom, my lady."

    "Well, I have to admit, I could use some company. Uther is too busy with his guests."

    "Good. It means he's doing his duty. Which leaves us free to enjoy this little festivity to the fullest." he said, emptied the cup which the servant-boy had just filled with wine for him in one go, and then asked for a refill.

    "Now that was quick! How much can you drink Merlin?"

    "A lot."

    "And do you use your magic to help you stay sober?"

    "No need to. I've developed a natural tolerance."

    "You must have attended quite a number of feasts like this."

    "More than you could imagine." he replied and gave another one of his ambiguous smiles. Then he took another sip from his cup.

    "In that case I'll think twice before challenging you to a contest in drinking." Igraine said with a chuckle.

    "Smart move. If only Uther were always so reasonable."

    "Now, now, you're being too harsh. We both know Uther is a good king."

    "I know, I know. But there's always room for improvement.
    So, are you enjoying the life at the Pendragon court?"

    "I guess. It's not that different from Tintagel, though."

    "Do you miss your previous husband, Gorlois?" Merlin asked, narrowing his eyes a little.

    "A little, yes. I never truly loved him, to be honest. I was betrothed to him when I was seventeen and he was twelve years older than me. Our marriage was prearranged and I didn't see my husband until a week before the wedding."

    "Was he a good husband to you?"

    "He was, for the most part. He wasn't exactly happy with the fact that I couldn't give a birth to a son to succeed him, but he still treated me well, and I respected him. And even though I fell in love with Uther, Gorlois was still my husband and I didn't intend to break my vow as his wife."

    "What about your daughter? He must have been disappointed his only child was a girl and not a boy."

    "Probably, but he never reproached Morgan for that. He loved her very much and she loved him. She was very sad when the news of his death reached us. She stayed in her chambers, crying, for many hours." Igraine replied in a slightly sorrowful tone.

    "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to open your wounds."

    "It's alright. I expected something like that to happen from the moment Uther and Gorlois had a fight, so I was somewhat prepared for it. Morgan on the other hand... I don't think she's recovered from the impact it had on her yet."

    "How so?" he asked.
    The only Morgan he knew was a bright and energetic little girl with an unquenchable thirst for learning magecraft. But, it wouldn't really surprise him if she was hiding some deeper feelings underneath that. Losing a father at such a young age must have been devastating for the girl, and he sometimes wondered how she felt about this whole situation.

    "For starters, she doesn't talk to me as often as she used to, and when she does, she can feel a little cold and distant. I suspect she's not completely fine with me re-marrying so soon. I can understand her – Uther is responsible for her father's death. But I don't want her to hate me because of it!"

    "I'm sure she will get over it in time. She's just a child, of course things like that would upset her. Give it time, she'll come to understand."

    "I hope so. I'm not so sure about her feelings towards Uther, though."

    "Hm?"

    "Well, she might be cold towards me from time to time, but it's much worse with Uther. She barely speaks when he talks to her, and her tone is not really pleasant when she does. Uther is patient and does his best, but she's almost openly hostile towards him. When the time came for us to move here from Tintagel she didn't want to go, and I get the impression she is not very happy here."

    "Again, understandable – her father's only been dead for three months and she has to live in the castle of the man who killed him." Merlin replied, looking at his cup. "But time heals all wounds. She'll get better."

    "If she does, then it will be mostly thanks to you, Merlin."

    "Oh?" he was a little surprised at Igraine's words.

    "No matter how unhappy she might seem at times, whenever it's time for her lessons with you she's so full of spirit. I don't know what exactly it is you're teaching her, but I'm grateful to you for making her happy like that."

    "It's nothing, my lady. It is me who is happy to have an apprentice as talented and eager as your daughter."

    "It's not nothing. It means a lot to her. Uther is not too happy with it, though." she continued with a chuckle.

    "Really?"

    "It's nothing really serious; he won't stop you or anything. I don't think he would even dare, considering everything you've done for him. Not to mention I would get involved too. Morgan is my daughter, after all. But he did say something along the lines of: 'Great! Now I'll have two conjurers running around my castle!' " Igraine said.

    Merlin had to admit that her imitation of Uther's voice was quite convincing. It made him laugh.

    "That's Uther, alright. I should remind him that he owes quite a lot to my 'chemistry set'!"

    They laughed together and ordered the Servants to refill their cups. The feast was at its height and the entire court was engaging in excessive drinking, eating, dancing and singing. In the corner, the flute-players were pouring their lungs into their instruments and the drummers were losing strength in their arms fast.

    "So, what's your story Merlin? How did you end up here?"

    "It's not a very interesting story."

    "That's something for me to judge."

    Merlin took a sip of wine and put his cup on the table.
    "Well, my mother's family was originally from Rome. Due to some disagreements with the circles of power, they had to flee, and they decided to settle here, in one of the furthest provinces of the Empire. My mother married a Briton and gave birth to me, her only child. They taught me everything I know, and raised me to love this country. And so, here I am, serving Uther, the High King of Britain. That's about it."
    "Liar. I'm sure there's much more to it than that."

    "Maybe." he replied absentmindedly and continued sipping his wine.

    Igraine wanted to know more about this mysterious sorcerer, but she knew he wouldn't tell her anything else no matter how much she inquired him, at least not now. They spent the rest of the evening chatting casually about the most trivial of things and making fun of people whose minds and stomachs weren't quite as resilient against alcohol as Merlin's.


    __________________________________________________ ________________________________________________

    Author's Notes:

    - Well, this update took forever. Blame my muse and college duties.
    Luckily for you, this will be a double-update.

    - Just one minor thing: When I use the word "castle", I'm not referring to the structures that were built during the High and Late Middle Ages. Seeing as this story is set in the Dark Ages Britain, the 'castles' I'm having in mind are either heavily fortified hill-forts or converted Roman fortresses built during the Late Empire. The Roman forts were actually pretty similar to the later medieval castles, with round towers, high(er) walls with battlements, portcullises to protect the gates etc.
    Only they had a more strict geometric layout, the walls weren't as tall and they didn't have proper citadels (
    these forts do have them, since they are no longer exclusively military structures and they house the courts ).
    Just so you get a better 'feel' for the setting.
    Last edited by Polly; April 20th, 2014 at 04:55 PM.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

  16. #16
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    Chapter 3 – Many Farewells



    13th of May, 483 CE

    There was much commotion in the Pendragon castle that evening – everyone was excited because the queen was about to give birth to her second child. Several senior midwives were ordering the younger servants around, making sure all the preparations were made in time so that the delivery can proceed as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

    The queen was in labour for almost eight hours by now, and the baby was due to arrive any second now. Uther and Merlin were sitting in the room next to the queen's chambers, where the childbirth was taking place. Both men were restless, both very impatient. Sipping some wine to soothe their nerves, they sat opposite each other in silence for almost an hour. Hoping that everything goes well was the only thing they could do at the moment. Noise from the queen's chambers was muffled by the thick walls, but they could still discern the voices of the midwives who were performing the delivery as they cheered Igraine on. What was surprising was how little she screamed; the labours must have been extremely painful for her, especially considering how frail her body was, yet she kept clenching her teeth, only letting an occasional scream when the pain truly became unbearable for her. Everyone who was listening to it in the hallway agreed that the queen was an incredibly strong and brave woman.

    Finally, an hour before midnight, a child's scream pierced the air. Uther and Merlin both sprang to their feet immediately and rushed as fast as they could to the queen's chambers.
    By the time they entered the room the midwives had already wrapped the child in cloth and cut the umbilical cord. One of the younger midwives was currently cleaning the child with powdered salts while an older one who was holding the baby checked for any traces of abnormalities. Other midwives prepared to deliver the placenta.

    Uther ran to Igraine first and held her by her limp right hand. She was too tired to talk at the moment and just gave him a weak smile of relief. While the king was mostly concerned about his exhausted wife, Merlin kept his eyes focused on the newborn child wrapped in white cloth. Once the midwives cleaned the baby of all mucus and birth residue with powders, olive oil and clean cloth, the eldest midwife took the child from them and gave it to Igraine, who held the baby tenderly in her weak arms. The child's head was covered with short golden hair. Its cries died down only moments after the midwife placed it in Igraine's arms.

    "So, tell us; is everything alright with the baby?" Uther asked impatiently.

    "Everything went fine and without complications. We haven't noticed any problems or deformations with the child. Congratulations my lord, it's a perfectly healthy girl."

    Uther, Igraine and Merlin were all stunned for a moment.


    "Excuse me, did you just say it's a girl?" Merlin asked the old lady.

    "Yes, I did. She might be a little skinnier than most babies but overall it's a completely normal girl. And quite a beautiful one, if I may add."
    Igraine looked at her baby daughter's face. She was indeed beautiful, and her eyes were of the same emerald-green colour as hers. No – they were even more beautiful.

    "Look at her my love, isn't she..."

    She stopped in the middle of her sentence as she turned to her husband who was kneeling next to her. His expression was far from the joyous one on Igraine's face.

    "Darling...?"

    Uther was silent and expressionless. After a while, he stood up and said shortly:

    "Nobody leaves this room while I'm gone. Nobody, understand?"

    His tone left no room for negotiation and nobody thought of trying to disobey him. Uther walked hurriedly across the room and when he reached the doors, he turned to Merlin and said quietly:
    "You – you come with me."

    He obeyed and followed his king out of the queen's chambers and back into the room from which they just came. Uther locked the door behind him. Merlin could tell he was extremely upset, and it didn't take a genius to figure out why. It's not like he felt any differently.

    "What is this Merlin?!" Uther asked in a low voice while pouring wine into his cup with a trembling hand.

    "Your wife just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, my king."

    It was not the smartest reply he could give, Merlin knew that. Uther will probably erupt after this but he just couldn't say anything else. In a situation like this, Merlin decided to put on a mask of indifference and sarcasm, but the truth was he was just as upset as the king. When the midwife announced that the child born is a girl, his vision crumbled in front of him; decades of his efforts had been for nothing, all his hard work and schemes had hit an obstacle that seemed insurmountable – the heir both he and Uther wished for was not a boy.

    But to his own surprise, he did not give in to despair at this new and unfortunate turn of events. Maybe it was because Uther seemed desperate enough for both of them, maybe because he had already been disappointed and unrewarded so many times, or maybe it was something else. Yes, it was not in his nature to despair, no matter how difficult the situation seemed. Whenever an obstacle presented itsself, he just changed his plans accordingly and fought on. So he won't stop now either – he can't. His vision is the thread of hope he clings to, and he won't let go of it no matter what.
    As the matter of fact, this situation opened new views for him – the fact that the child that was just born was not a boy offered new and different opportunities and perspectives. After all, his vision said nothing about the sex of the person who would pull out the sword from the stone.

    In just a few seconds between his answer and Uther's reaction, a storm of thoughts had suddenly risen in his mind and then subsided just as quickly. By the time Uther spoke again, he had already made up his mind and prepared his answer.

    "I know that, you worthless soothsayer! You promised me a boy, an heir to my throne once I'm dead ( which may not be that far from now! ), you convinced me to believe in your stupid prophecy, and now this?! Half the lords are on the verge of deserting me after that whole thing with Cornwall, I have Saxons and Picts ready to jump at my neck, just waiting for an opportunity, and the only thing that gave me hope that all of it wasn't for nothing is now gone! How can I make a girl my heir? They will never accept her, no matter her abilities, no matter her title!
    And then you have the face to talk back to me like that, you insolent pig?!"

    Merlin just sat calmly while Uther poured his frustration and anger onto him. It was wiser to let the king get all that off his chest than to try and argue with him while he was so upset. After he had finished his tirade, Uther sank into a chair and started to slowly sip his wine. Once it seemed that the worst had already passed, Merlin decided it was time to counterattack.

    "I understand how you feel, my friend..."

    "Do you, now?!" Uther replied bitterly.

    "Yes, I do. If you remember, I prayed for the child to be a boy too. I wanted him to succeed you on the throne as much as you did. However, the child turned out to be a girl. There's nothing we can do about it; instead, we should adapt to this situation and take the right course of action."

    "What would you have me do? Can't you help us with Igraine's infertility once again? Maybe the next child will be male?"

    "I really don't recommend doing that. Such magecraft is very dangerous to perform in the first place. We were lucky once, but if I were to try it again, it is very likely that the child will be stillborn and that the mother will die while giving birth to it, or even earlier. I won't have your wife's life on my conscience."

    "Is there really nothing you can do?" Uther pleaded desperately. His anger had disappeared and he seemed quite pitiful.

    "Nothing of that kind. But I don't think you should give up hope just yet. On the contrary – this turn of events makes me even more confident in my vision."

    "How can you say that? I already told you – I can't make that girl my heir."

    "So we'll just hide her gender, make her look like a boy."

    "How? Someone in the court is bound to notice."

    "We'll send her away from the court, raise her in anonymity. She'll return to the court once the time comes."

    "But how are we going to explain that? Everyone in the whole kingdom knows my wife and I were expecting a baby, how are we going to explain the child's sudden disappearance?"

    "Easy – we'll convince them that the child died immediately after delivery, and I will make sure the midwives keep their mouths shut. When the time comes, Igraine and I can testify that the girl is your successor and that the child's supposed death was a lie."

    "And how do you intend to justify that lie?"

    "Come on, it doesn't really take much imagination for that. We'll say we did it because we feared some of your enemies might try to assassinate the young heir before he can take the throne. It won't even be a complete lie."

    "Well, at least that's true. I was actually worrying about that myself. Sending the child away anyway wouldn't have been a bad idea."

    "It's settled then. I will take the child away this very night."

    Uther still seemed depressed, despite Merlin's new-found enthusiasm.

    "Come on, don't lose hope. It will all work out eventually."

    "I wish I could share your enthusiasm, Merlin. But I just can't. That girl will never be king."

    'Just wait and see.' Merlin thought as he watched his king's despair.

    Uther somehow managed to get back on his feet and then the tow men slowly walked back to the queen's chambers.
    Merlin explained things to Igraine while Uther sat in the corner, burying his head in the palms of his hands. As Merlin kept talking, Igraine started to despair.

    "NO! You can't do that!" she exclaimed when Merlin said he had to take the girl. "She's my daughter, I won't give her to you because of some stupid succession or your plans!" In her despair she turned to her husband. "Say something! She's your daughter too!"

    But Uther just remained silent.

    "The king agrees with me, my lady. Please, be reasonable."

    "Reasonable?! I only just brought this child into this world, and already you're taking her away from me? You won't allow me one night with my own daughter? What kind of a monster are you?!" she yelled at him.

    Merlin just endured it calmly and then turned to Uther. "There's no time to lose if we want to make this work."

    Uther raised his head and spoke in a broken voice:
    "Do whatever you want. That child is not my heir."

    Merlin frowned but said nothing. He knelt in front of Igraine and whispered to her:
    "I want this child to be happy as much as you do. The king has many enemies, don't you think some of them might try to kill her? Do you want to see your little girl dead?"

    "Of course not!" she replied through tears.

    "Then let her go. She'd be safer somewhere far from the court. Is there anyone you could fully trust with your child's life?"

    Igraine returned to her senses a little and wiped her tears. She knew there was no point resisting so she might as well do the right thing.

    "Yes, there is. My cousin, Sir Ector, lives on a farm five miles to the north of Corin ( *Cirencester ). I know him well. He's a good man, and he was one of Uther's most loyal warriors until he had to retire due to an injury he sustained in battle. He lost his wife recently, but I'm sure he'd be delighted to take my daughter under his protection. Give her to him."

    "As you wish, my lady." he replied, rising to his feet.

    "Merlin!" she exclaimed, grabbing his sleeve.

    "Yes, my lady?"

    "She needs a name. I have to give her a name before you leave."

    "Do you already have one in mind? I didn't know you prepared one in case it's a girl."

    "I didn't." she replied bitterly, still holding back tears.

    "What's it going to be then?"

    After a short pause, Igraine looked into her daughter's eyes and smiled.
    "Arturia." she declared, kissed her daughter on the forehead and reluctantly gave her to Merlin.

    He nodded, turned around and left the chambers as quickly as he could.


    (...)

    one day later

    Merlin knocked on the gates of Sir Ector's home. It was the middle of the night and the entire household was fast asleep. Still, he had to deliver the child he carried in his hands to Ector. After a few minutes of violent and loud banging on the front entrance, the gates opened and he was greeted by a sword aimed at his neck. 'Not really surprising.'

    "Who are you?" asked the man who was pointing his sword at Merlin. "What business do you have here at this hour?"

    "I need to speak to Sir Ector. Where is he?"

    "Sir Ector is asleep. I won't wake him up because of some homeless beggar."

    "I'm not a beggar. I have important business with Sir Ector. I come here by the order of King Uther Pendragon."

    Saying the king's name seemed to have worked, for the servant lowered his sword and relaxed a little.

    "Tell me what you have to say. I'll pass on your message to my master in the morning."

    "That won't do. I have to speak to him right now. It's urgent."

    The servant was still distrustful towards Merlin, but after a short silence he finally caved in.
    "Fine. Wait here till I wake him up. He won't be happy, though."

    The man closed the gates straight into Merlin's face and left. Merlin wasn't completely assured that he actually went to bring sir Ector and didn't just trick him, but he didn't intend to trouble himself over it. One way or the other, he was delivering the child to Ector. The only question was will these doors still be in one piece once he's gone or not.

    While he waited for the servant to return with his master, he took a good look at the girl he carried in his left arm. She was fast asleep thanks to his magecraft.

    To think that this little girl would be the final instrument of his decades-long quest... he still had trouble believing it himself. He smiled a little as he watched her sleep, but his smile didn't last for long. He had already decided to steel his mind.
    Taking the child away from the castle to live in anonymity had many positive sides. She wouldn't get spoiled and pampered by the life at court, but will lead a more simple life. Once she reaches a certain age he will return here and take her under his tutelage – he had it all planned out already..

    "You know, I have spent many decades searching for a person you might call an ideal king, but I never managed to find one." Memories of repeatedly trying and failing at steering the country towards greater good overwhelmed him. "So – if I can't find a worthy king, then I'll make one instead." he whispered the words to the sleeping child.

    He'll raise her to become what he wanted. She will adopt the needed ideas and principles, and he will make her into a king he wished for.
    Doing something like that was impossible with grown men he served for so many years, but a child's mind was fertile ground for such ideas to grow and take shape.
    He knew it wasn't very ethical of him to control her life like that, but he was desperate. She was his last chance, and he was determined to make the best use of this chance no matter the cost –if the price for saving the country is her life and her humanity, then so be it.

    "I'm resting my hopes on you, little one." he said gently. The tone of his voice surprised him, for it was very much at odds with his intentions. He snickered at his own weakness.
    The wrongness of manipulating a girl's life like that ate at his conscience, and he had to do his best to rationalise his reasons for doing it. When he already thought he'll lose his mind if he doesn't get rid of the girl, the doors finally opened.

    "Who the hell are you?!" a man holding a lantern asked Merlin.

    Despite being blinded by the bright light for a few seconds, he could see that the man was middle-aged, somewhere in his mid-thirties, and that he was a limp.

    "Sir Ector, I presume?"

    "Indeed I am. And who the devil are you and what do you want?!"

    Merlin had Ector send his servant away before he explained the situation to him. Ector was a little bewildered by the whole story, but he seemed to understand.

    "So what do I have to do with it?" he asked Merlin once he finished talking.

    Merlin handed him the child.
    "Take this child and protect her. She is destined to become a king one day."

    "Please, don't give me that 'destiny' nonsense. What, you had some kind of a vision?" Ector sneered at him.

    "As the matter of fact, I did." Merlin replied confidently.

    "Well I don't really give a damn about your so-called 'visions', wizard." Ector retorted bitterly.

    "But you will take the girl?"

    "Of course I will! She's Igraine's daughter, after all. And I'm sure as hell not leaving her with you!"

    "That's all I need." Merlin replied shortly and turned away, going back to his horse.

    "What would you have me do with her?" Ector yelled at him.

    "Do what you want, I don't care." Merlin replied, climbing into the saddle. "You can teach her how to fight or something. Like I said, I don't care. Just keep her safe and sound until the day I return. And don't reveal her true identity to anyone."

    Merlin jerked the reins and his horse started trotting down the road. Ector stood in front of his house and watched the wizard disappearing into the night.

    "Oh, I almost forgot!" Merlin shouted and turned around in the saddle.
    "Her name is Arturia."


    (...)

    one year later

    Merlin stood in the courtyard of the Pendragon castle and absentmindedly watched the two servants who were busy loading a horse-cart with trunks, bags and blankets. The said trunks and bags contained the personal belongings of princess Morgan; she was being sent to a convent in Glastenning as per Uther's orders.

    After the birth of his daughter Uther fell into despair which in time turned into bitterness and distrust towards most of the people around him. His relationship with Morgan worsened and he started to look for a way to get rid of the daughter of his vanquished enemy, at least in part because she was a walking reminder of a diplomatic debacle that destabilised his rule and the effects of which still threatened his kingdom, one year after the event.
    Naturally, Merlin opposed his king; not only did he disapprove of Uther's attitude towards the girl, he also didn't want to lose his student and see her sent away to a nunnery. Morgan had improved at an astonishing rate over the past year, and his lessons with her allowed him to preoccupy himself with something in his free time and helped him get rid of stress of the everyday life at court. He enjoyed the time he spent with the little princess in that chamber, teaching her magic rituals and Alchemy. Plus, there were still many years left before Uther's daughter comes of age and the time comes for him to take her as his next student.

    However, Uther could not be persuaded to change his mind. He was often in foul mood during this last year, and less willing to tolerate other people's opinions and objections. Neither his trusted friend and advisor, nor even his own wife could make him alter his decision. It was regrettable, but Merlin had to accept the fact that he will be losing his beloved student. He could only imagine how Igraine felt about losing a daughter to Uther's whims again.

    Just as the servants finished loading the princess' luggage, Morgan came into the courtyard through the main gates of the castle citadel, followed by Uther, Igraine and an entourage of servants.
    Morgan seated herself in the back of the cart while an older servant occupied the driver's seat and took the reins. Once all the servants and maids said their farewells to the young princess, Igraine approached her daughter and knelt in front of her.

    "Well... time to say goodbye." she said, holding back tears. "Stay strong my daughter, until we see each other again."

    Morgan kept her head down, her eyes fixed on her feet, and just sat there in silence. When it became obvious that she won't say anything, Igraine sighed and rose back to her feet. She tightened the knot on Morgan's black leather raincoat so it doesn't fall off and then took a step back.

    "Goodbye, then, Morgan."

    The girl responded with a small nod.

    Igraine exchanged looks with Uther, urging him to say goodbye as well, but he just stood motionlessly in the back. Since it was clear that everyone who had anything to say had already done so, Merlin approached Morgan and put a small bundle in her hands.

    "This is for you. Open it."

    She looked at him in surprise and quickly unwrapped the brown cloth. The contents of the bundle made her eyes widen in joy. Wrapped in cloth were several grimoires from which she had been learning Alchemy with Merlin over the last fifteen months. There was also a box containing several small bottles filled with coloured fluids.
    She looked up at him again, her mouth wide open in amazement and her blue eyes radiating happiness. The sudden change of her expression took everyone there aback.

    "Do you like it?" Merlin asked, smiling.

    Morgan grabbed the bundle and pressed it tightly against her chest.
    "Yes. Thank you, Merlin."

    Her answer was short, but there was no need for many words. The tone of her voice alone was enough to let him know how she felt and how grateful she was for this.

    "I thought it would be a shame for you to stop studying magecraft like this – it would be quite a waste of talent. And besides, it's better if you take them. Here, they'll just collect dust on the shelves. I wrote some notes and instructions in the books for you, so you don't have too much trouble studying on your own."

    "But will they allow me to continue my studies at the convent?"

    "Don't worry. I know the mother superior of your convent, I'll make the necessary arrangements so that you can keep studying. She owes me a favour anyways. Just don't cause any trouble, alright?"

    "Alright."

    "Promise you will work hard and stay strong until we meet again?"

    "I promise."

    "That's a good girl. Off you go now."

    Once he said his goodbyes, Merlin gave a nod to the driver who had been waiting for him to finish. The man whipped the horse on the back and the cart started moving towards the main gates of the castle. The people gathered in the courtyard kept waving to Morgan until the the cart disappeared into the distance, with the exception of Uther who left as soon as it passed the gates. Merlin and Igraine stayed in the courtyard for quite some time, immersed in their thoughts. It wasn't until it started to rain that they finally decided to go back inside.
    Last edited by Polly; April 20th, 2014 at 05:01 PM.
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

  17. #17
    Drunk Anime Is The True Path. Mattias's Avatar
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    Wow, Uther's a dick.

    Reminds me of BBC's 'Merlin', where almost every episode for the first three seasons had me saying that.
    Atlus: Just Make an Eroge Already.


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  18. #18
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six
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    I think you're doing a fine job adapting Arthur's story with what's given to us from the Nasuverse. Thank you.

  19. #19
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Wow, quite a large and well-written update! I really liked Merlin's banter with Igrane and Morgan's portrayal! And now the story of King Arthur finally begins to kick into motion...

    I'd say you're doing an excellent job with this, keep it up!



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  20. #20
    I'm bored Polly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mattias View Post
    Wow, Uther's a dick.

    Reminds me of BBC's 'Merlin', where almost every episode for the first three seasons had me saying that.
    Wouldn't know, I've never watched "Merlin".

    As for Uther being a dick... well, he was an OK guy until Arturia's birth ( and he's still better than traditional Uther who basically rapes Igraine - at least my Uther and Igraine were in love when the whole sex-while-disguised-as-Gorlois thing happened ).
    Remember, the country he's ruling is on the verge of chaos because he couldn't control his passion and he actually feels pretty guilty about that. A son would help him establish a dynasty and thus strengthen his rule over the country. And he was really looking forward to being a father. Arturia's birth got him down real hard. Being a dick is his defensive mechanism against this pear.

    But yeah, he's still a dick towards both Arturia and Morgan ( and indirectly, Igraine ).


    Anyways, thank you all for your comments. Come next chapter, the story's focus will shift from Merlin to Arturia ( finally!).
    My attempts at being a (fanfic) writer:

    Eclipse - a Saber Alter oneshot
    Requiem for a Race - Altrouge and Ortenrosse hunt the TAs ( 1/3 chapters, discontinued )
    Memories of a King - a 'Saber Origins' story ( 8/? chapters, discontiuned )
    A Small Warmth - a post UBW-Good oneshot, Saber/Rin
    Devil's Thrill - Narbareck hunts down a DAA Blackmore ( 10/10 chapters, finished )
    Boundary of Loneliness - Ryougi Shiki/Alphard Al-Shua oneshot. Lemon-flavoured

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