The Time Machine Strikes Back (The Final Chapter)

24 06 2010

Yes it took me weeks to get here (literally) but we have arrived. I will end this thing or die trying. Thanks to Jenn, Alex and Robin for being the reason I kept going. It may not be great writing (first drafts never are) but it is FUN. And fun, in this world, cannot be rated too highly. At least not if it’s good clean fun. 🙂

Merlin, whatever he may have been, was not a man prone to exaggeration. The spectacle that greeted me as I was frog-marched onto a dirty sort of parade ground was blinding in its’ magnificence. There were women in gaudy colours, men in gaudier hats and knights in armor so bright it made the sun seem washed out. The sheer amount of people is what got me, though. There must have been almost a thousand of them.

It didn’t take long for someone to figure out that I was the guest of honor. A wave of humanity came surging and threatened to swamp my small guard. I thought for sure they’d smother us but a couple of knights on horseback knocked a few heads together and the press receded.

Casual violence as crowd control is effective if not reassuring.

At the far end of the grounds a stage had been erected and hung with banners and flags. On the stage stood Merlin, Arthur and a woman who could only have been the queen. She was a rather plump  woman but pretty and I saw more than one knight giving her the eye.

I’ve heard it’s a mark of shock that one observes inane details and fails to take in important facts. No doubt that is why I missed both the empty platform set up on the stage as well as Richmond standing quietly behind the King. Missed them, that is, until I was dragged onto said platform and saw Richmond nod slightly at me.

My feet were put into a rough sort of clamp by two of my guards and Merlin began a tedious monologue addressed to the gathered crowd. As the circulation in my feet faded I saw our plan fading away. We hadn’t anticipated Merlin binding me in any way.

Hopelessness comes very easy when one is faced with certain death. I’m almost ashamed to admit it but I began to grow faint and tunnel vision set in.

The world closed in to a pinprick view of swirling blue and yellow. Is he still talking? I wish that man would just “SHUT UP!”

My own voice broke like a whip across a convenient pause in Merlin’s monologue. A heard a gasp from the crowd and my eyesight broadened again. I took in everything from Merlin’s astonished face to the shine on Arthur’s crown to the blue eyes of one of the peasants.

Then the anger kicked in and I screamed at Merlin. “Would you just shut the bloody hell UP! You’re nothing but puling spawn and someone should have shot you for a mad dog!”

Merlin still hadn’t moved. Most ham actors take time to adjust to someone stealing their spotlight and Merlin was really the hammiest of actors at heart.

Richmond began oozing closer to Merlin. I kept screaming. “Come here you pitiful excuse for a man and face me! Come on!”

I threw my weight forward and fell sprawled at Merlin’s feet. The clamps, though painful, were apparently useless. Before I could recover Merlin remembered himself enough to kick me in the teeth. Hard.

I spit blood and rolled, hitting Arthur’s legs. He didn’t move but when I shoved myself onto all fours he grabbed my shirt and heaved me the rest of the way.

Arthur pushed me toward Merlin but Richmond got there first. The two men were grappling. I dove for Merlin’s legs and pulled him off balance. We three fell into the crowd who obligingly retreated so we could land on hard dirt. I was still spitting blood, now mixed with dirt.

Richmond bit Merlin on the shoulder and I grabbed for Merlin’s weapon. It was a scramble and something scratched me and something else had me by the neck.

The crowd had begun cheering, egging us on but I heard them only dimly. I’d managed to get a grip on the weapon but it was affixed to Merlin’s leg and would not budge. Richmond somehow noticed my plight and, after punching Merlin in the throat, bent to help me.

Together we pried the device away from Merlin’s wheezing body. I shoved it fully into Richmond’s grip and devoted myself for several minutes to pounding every available inch of Merlin’s body with every ounce of my strength. We can thank my years of devotion to academics, and the accompanying lack of muscle development, for the fact that I didn’t kill him.

Richmond brought me to myself by way of a pitcher of wine dumped over my head . The entire crowd had fallen completely silent. Only Arthur broke the stillness. He was laughing.

After long moments during which Arthur laughed and I breathed heavily and wiped blood (not all my own) from my hands and face Arthur commanded his men to haul Merlin’s inert body onto the platform. He had Richmond and myself brought up as well.

Ignoring us Arthur turned and addressed the crowd. “What you have seen here is to be remembered. This Merlin was weak and evil for he would have killed a magician greater even than he. We shall deal with him as he deserves. Go home, now. There will be a feast tomorrow in remembrance of the Magician’s Battle.”

The crowd, who had looked murderous at their dismissal, were reassured by the promise of a feast and departed. All except the knights and some of the members of the court.

Arthur turned back toward us and waved to his men to stand Merlin on his feet. He looked at me a little queerly then turned to Richmond. “You failed in your side of the bargain. I told you to kill him and all you’ve done is maim him.”

“Has not your purpose been served?” Richmond was breathing a little heavily himself and there was no sign of Merlin’s weapon.

“It has. Which is why I will now offer you the post of Merlin.”

“Beg pardon?”

“Merlin. It’s a job, not a person. This man’s name was Hector and he served me ill.” Arthur spit onto the platform.” You dealt with the problem and are a magician yourself. Take the post of Merlin.”

Richmond laughed then. The laugh of a man overwhelmed. “I will have to consider your generous offer, my King. But what of my friend here?”

“Ah yes. A good fighter but an inferior magician. I have no use for him. Even if he be the master of many tongues.”

I spit out a tooth and broke in “That’s just fine with me, sire. I’ll go back home if you don’t mind.”

“You have my leave to go.” Arthur turned back to my friend. “You may attend him in his preparations to depart. Then return here and serve me as Merlin.”

Richmond nodded and turned away but held my ground.

“What will you do with Me…er…Hector?” My curiosity had to be assuaged before I could leave.

Arthur seemed slightly puzzled for an instant, then his brow cleared and he smiled.

He was still smiling when he slit the former Merlin’s throat and he kept smiling as the body was hauled off.

“Most effective, wouldn’t you say?” He waved his knife around.

His laughter was ringing in my ears as Richmond marched me off the parade ground and threw me on a waiting horse.

Our entire entourage gathered around us as we rode out of the city, then departed when we finally arrived on Richmond’s lands.

It was only Richmond and I, both saddlesore and exhausted who rode into the glade where I’d hidden the Machine. We stood and stared at it together.

Richmond grabbed my arm and grinned. “What an adventure you have had here, my friend. And how good it was to see you again. I never thought to see another man of my time, nor could I have hoped that it would have been you. Fate has indeed been kind to me. But you must understand that I cannot return with you. My place is here now. I am old and there is no time left for me there.”

I wanted to protest but could not. “I understand, Richmond. But are you sure?”

“Oh very sure, my friend.” He laughed and squeezed my arm. “I will set the dial for you this time, eh? Hate for you to end up in some god-forsaken dark age again!”

And so I returned to my own Time.

Not long after my return I had the machine destroyed. Now I have only my scars and this journal to help me remember the Time Machine and the journey it dropped me into.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is more than most people dream of…

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2 responses

25 06 2010
Idhrendur

*applauds*

25 06 2010
Meghan

Hooray it’s OVER! Now I need to write another one…

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