27 August 5192 (Earth Standard Date)
(Six Standard Days Previously)
Merlin was incandescently angry.
He stormed down the hallway, toward the lecture hall, and a few students that were in the area scattered immediately at the sight of him. He wondered vaguely if he was wearing his father’s Oncoming Storm face, and decided he didn’t care.
He felt justified in it.
The lecture hall door was closed, and he yanked it open, breaking into the current lecture going on inside. The teacher, an older woman named Stella Courtney, looked up from her notes, her eyes widening in shock as she noticed who’d just broken into her class. “Headmaster Williams-Song!” she exclaimed, her normally alto tone rising up into a near-squeak.
“I apologise, Ms Courtney, but I need to take Lucy Cole out of your class.” He was growling enough to do his dragon relations proud, and the woman flinched. He would have felt bad about it, if he wasn’t so very furious at the moment.
The students in the lecture hall began to murmur, and Merlin just knew the stories that would be popping up about this would make the rounds of the campus at the speed of hot gossip, but he didn’t care. He’d try to do damage control later on, but at that moment he needed to address things now.
The object of his ire stood up from her seat, gathering her materials. The expression on her face was of confusion, but Merlin knew differently. Lucy had lied to him, and was up to something so inherently dangerous it had to be stopped.
He’d given her a chance. Now he was seriously regretting that decision.
All eyes were on her as Lucy made her way down the steps and toward Merlin. She was dressed in her usual red; today, it was a bright red tunic, darker red trousers, and matching shoes. It made the porcelain of her skin seem even paler, and her dark eyes larger. Her blonde hair was loose on her shoulders, and she looked so very young and innocent as she presented herself to him.
“My office. Now.”
Merlin spun on his heel and left the hall, his magical senses telling him that Lucy was following. He made certain the door was shut, hoping that Ms Courtney would be able to get back to teaching her lesson. He hated to be that person, but as soon as he’d discovered what Lucy was up to he’d needed to fetch her immediately. He simply couldn’t trust her any longer, and sooner she got her away from the rest of the students, the better.
His thoughts were in turmoil as he led her out into the quad outside, and then across it and toward the building where his office was. Merlin had no idea if there were other students out there who were into the same thing as Lucy was, but he was aware that she had her own personal charisma, one that drew people to her. It as a combination of beauty and brains that made her desirable, as well as the magic that she was able to wield.
Merlin was so very disappointed, as well as angry. Lucy had shown such promise, when she’d first come to the school. He’d seen something in her, something that Merlin had wanted to cultivate, and when she’d proved to be just as powerful as he’d thought she might be he hadn’t hesitated to take on at least part of her training onto himself.
He’d heard the rumours about the reasons he’d accepted her into the school in the first place; about her wealthy family, and how her father had bought her way in. That was patently not true, but it hadn’t mattered just how Lucy had excelled. Merlin would never have let anyone in who didn’t have a talent for magic. A person had to earn their place. It wouldn’t have just been handed to a person.
They were both silent until the door to Merlin’s office was closed, and his wards were in place. He didn’t even head around his desk; he simply stood there, glaring at her, while the confused expression on Lucy’s face had morphed into a smirk.
“If you’d wanted to get me alone,” she purred, “we could have done without the drama.”
“Stop,” he snarled. “Just stop. I want to know what the hells you think you’re up to, and I want to know now.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean.”
He wasn’t buying that for a second.
“I know you’ve been looking for something, Lucy. I know what it is.”
Her eyes flashed in anger, but it was quickly gone, replaced by something Merlin couldn’t read. “Do you?” she challenged.
“I do. And it doesn’t matter where you search…you’re never going to find the Darkhold.”
His blood had frozen when Merlin had figured out just what Lucy was up to. The Darkhold, or The Book of Sins as it was also known, was quite possibly the most powerful book of dark magic ever created. Having been transcribed by the Elder God, Chthon, the Darkhold was the repository of every black spell ever created. Many times over the billions of years since its creation its pages had been scattered throughout space and time, only to be collected together once more.
Merlin knew quite a bit about the Darkhold. He’d been the one to find it nearly two hundred years ago, in the Torchwood Hoard on Hubworld. He was also the one to arrange its current location, and there was no way anyone was going to get to it, even if they could figure out its whereabouts.
“I knew it!” she exclaimed. The smile on her face looked as if it had been slashed there with a knife. “I knew you’d know where it is!”
“I’m sorry, Lucy…but I can’t let you continue on at the school. The problem is, I’m also sure you’re not going to give up this quest.” Merlin didn’t want to hurt her, but he only really had one choice. “You can’t be allowed to get your hands on the Darkhold.” He felt his power rising within him, tinged with regret that such a promising young woman had fallen so far.
The binding spell would make certain that Lucy wouldn’t be able to access her magic, ever again. He would have to have her imprisoned, to keep her from trying to find the Darkhold. Then he would have to try to discover just who – if anyone – had been in on this with her. Lucy had a quite a circle of friends, and each one of them would have to be vetted. He knew he could ask Phillip for help, and he’d gladly give it. Phillip was aware of what could occur when a rot began within an organisation; he’d had to deal with that, back in his SHIELD days, with HYDRA.
The fury on her face matched what Merlin himself was feeling. “You don’t understand! I need to bring him back! It’s my destiny!”
And there it was, the reason for the need to find the Darkhold. The reason she’d begun asking questions about necromancy in the first place.
His fury left him in a sudden wave, replaced by sympathy. “I’m sorry, Lucy. But you can’t bring anyone back. Once a person is dead, they’re gone. There’s nothing that can be done.”
That wasn’t exactly true, but he wasn’t about to explain that to the raving young woman in front of him. His Granddad Jack had been brought back, through Rose Tyler and the Vortex. Phillip had been dead for days before science and magic had combined to resurrect him. And they still weren’t completely sure what had brought Henry back, although Merlin could sense the magic within him.
There was also reincarnation, but that was something completely different. That wasn’t using dark magic and a book that should never have been created in the first place.
“He should never have died,” she raged. “That damned dragon gutted him like a fish! He was a great man, and he didn’t deserve that sort of death!”
Her face was red and blotchy, and her breathing was ragged. Her fists were clenched at her sides, her tablet and books dropped to the floor. She was glaring at him with sheer hatred, and a slight breeze was ruffling her hair, from her magic reacting to her mood.
Merlin did notice all of that, but it was her assertion that a dragon had killed whoever it was that she wanted to resurrect from the dead that really had his attention.
What dragon had that been?
“My Harry had a destiny!” she went on. “He was going to rule, and I was going to be his Queen! But then that dragon had to do it, he had to kill my Harry! He wrecked it all! Him, and that bastard Doctor!”
Merlin reared back from the vitriol she was spewing. Now she was going on about his father being involved?
No, this had to stop now. He could ask questions later.
He didn’t know the whole story, but he knew enough to figure out that Lucy was borderline insane, with either grief or revenge he wasn’t sure. His own magic reacted to the danger this young woman was posing, and he lashed out with the binding spell, needing to shut her down now before anything bad happened.
Lucy went to her knees as Merlin’s magic swirled around her. She bared her teeth up at him, snarling like an animal, her magic trying to strike back, but the binding spell was already taking affect.
Just when Merlin thought things were over, the door to his office opened.
The movement distracted him.
The young man who stepped inside the office was dark haired and well built, with a handsome face and well-defined cheekbones and dark eyes. He was dressed much like any other student, but Merlin didn’t recognise him.
But how had he gotten past the magical wards on the office?
And then Merlin registered the gun in the man’s hand.
The binding spell he’d begun on Lucy was powerful magic. He needed to keep it in strict control, and the man’s sudden appearance had him losing his grip on that control, for just a single instant.
Merlin was the most powerful wizard in the universe, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be distracted.
Even as he was pulling his magic back under his command, the man with the gun pulled the trigger.
There was an intense pressure in his chest.
His magic vanished. Fear took its place, because whatever he’d been shot with must have been responsible for his power being snuffed out.
Merlin collapsed to the floor, on his side, completely unable to move. His eyes were still open, so he could just make out the man’s shoes as he walked past. “Are you alright?” he asked.
The wizard realised he wasn’t speaking to him, but to Lucy.
“Perfect timing,” she answered, her voice rough. There was a thin edge of irrationality in the words, and Merlin would have shivered if he’d been physically able to.
“You signalled me, and I was here. Did you find out what we needed?”
“In a way. I don’t know where the Darkhold is, but he does.”
“Well, then,” the man said, sounding perfectly reasonable, “we’ll just need to take him with us.”
“Can we get him out of here without anyone noticing?”
“Oh, ye of little faith,” the man chuckled. “I have a ship in orbit, and we have these.” Merlin couldn’t see what the man had, but he knew it couldn’t be good. “I also have access to a mind probe. That should get us what we need.”
Merlin’s hearts hammered in his chest at that. He was well aware of just what a mind probe could do, and he didn’t want anything to do with it. He’d seen people who’d been under its influence, and there was a reason they were now outlawed within the Human Empire, except as a last resort. As developed as his mind was, there was no way he could hide anything from a mind probe. He might have been able to fight it for a while, but eventually they would get what they were looking for.
He had to escape.
He couldn’t let the Darkhold get into their hands. It was too dangerous, and he was now fairly certain that Lucy was mad, that losing whoever she’d lost had unhinged her. He had no idea what dragon had killed her Harry, but he just knew a member of his family was now under threat as well.
Someone grabbed the ends of the scarf he wore, yanking him up into a sitting position. Merlin had no choice but to flop around as the man attached something to the front of his shirt. Merlin couldn’t get a good enough look at it, but he suspected it was some sort of personal transporter.
Where it had come from, he didn’t know. Such things weren’t common, since most people relied on either ship travel or transmat. They’d once been standard kit in Vortex Manipulators but since they’d been mostly taken out of service they just weren’t easy to find. It showed that these two had some fairly major resources, and he had to wonder just who this ‘Harry’ person had been.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” the man said. “We’ll know what he knows soon enough.”
A tingling began in his chest, flaring out along every nerve in Merlin’s body. It was the feeling of teleportation; completely unlike what he usually experienced when using a transmat, but there was no doubt that whatever device these two had was working.
He couldn’t even fight back as his office faded out around them. He only hoped that Arthur would find him.