14 April 3257 (Earth Standard Year)
The roar of battle settled deeply into his ears, the clang of sword and screams of the mortally injured creating a horrible music that he wished he could escape. But there was nothing around him but blood and bodies and the horrific sight of men killing each other, and no way to regain the peace that had reined just a week past.
The sorcerer kept walking, the battle surging around him, a sword in one hand and the other clenched tightly, trying to keep his magic from running rampant and striking down both friend and enemy. There was other magic as well; it permeated the air, and it allowed him to follow it easily, and he knew he was walking into a trap even as he kept moving forward, dodging men in their deadly dance upon the field of war.
When he found the source, he would find his soul mate.
An enemy soldier tried to attack, and he let his magic toss the man aside before he could get within ten paces. Others moved out of his path, obviously knowing there was no stopping the armed sorcerer with simple steel.
And still, he strode forward.
He cleared the battlefield and kept walking, stalking his prey through the magic that tainted the air like a plague. His soul mate would never have left the battle at his own volition, which strengthened the notion that this was, indeed, a trap. His enemies knew they would have to take both himself and his King out of the picture in order to win decisively, and this would be their one and only chance.
If they failed, there would be no stopping the bloody vengeance that would come.
He could see them, just ahead: the man in black armour, and the woman who he once thought of as a friend. He picked up the pace; as he watched, he saw the man fighting the King, and the sorcerer’s soul mate was giving no quarter.
But he was not only fighting steel, but magic as well. His King would not stand a chance…
Just as the sorcerer moved within magical range, the killing blow was struck.
His King – his soul mate – went down into the mud, but not before striking his own mortal wound against his enemy.
The sorcerer screamed, throwing out every bit of his power at the woman, who was flung backward and landed with an unmistakable crunching sound, making him wish he’d killed her all those years ago before things had gone so far out of control.
He dropped his sword, falling to his knees next to his King, taking in the horrible wound that had penetrated battle-hardened armour to pierce his heart. Blood stained his blond hair a russet colour, and the sorcerer levered the barely-breathing body up into his arms in a terrible parody of how they’d awakened together the morning before they’d heard their enemies were on the outskirts of the kingdom.
Tired, pain-filled blue eyes met his, and a weak smile painted his King’s pale lips. He tried to speak, but the sorcerer stopped him by leaning forward and kissing him, not caring that his soul mate’s breath tasted of copper and death.
The magic poured from within, and it bathed both men in its power…
Emrys Gryffudd jerked so suddenly his head hit the back of his cubicle, his chair skidding slightly as he was abruptly pulled from the strange dream he’d been having. It wasn’t the first time; the dreams had been occurring more and more over the last month, culminating in this last one, which had happened while he was supposed to be working. He didn’t even remember falling asleep…
He glanced up, and cringed when he saw his boss, Dorian Estrom, standing there, looking quite cross. Emrys didn’t blame him; after all, he’d just caught one of his employees sleeping on the job. “Sorry,” he mumbled, pulling his chair back up to his desk. “Long hours on Project Knight…”
Project Knight had been taking up Emrys’ time for the last two months, including insane amounts of overtime. It had been the baby of Emrys’ department for well over a year, but suddenly it had been shifted into high gear when upper management had demanded it be ready for human trials in May. There’d been some who’d thought it couldn’t be done, but Dorian – and his team, including Emrys – had proved them wrong.
Dorian looked sympathetic. “Well, you’ll get a chance to unwind over the weekend. Word from up high is we all get the next two days off.”
“Thank God,” Emrys sighed. He didn’t think he could really recall what the inside of his flat looked like when it wasn’t dark outside.
He just hoped, now that the stress was just about over, that the dreams would end.
Emrys sat in the best coffee shop in New Cardiff, enjoying a cup of his favourite blend as he watched the offices empty for the weekend. He’d be heading to his own flat as soon as the traffic cleared a bit, and it was relaxing just knowing he wouldn’t have to see the inside of his cubicle for two whole days. He’d started thinking that he lived there, surviving on bad coffee and takeaway with his team.
The door opened, the bell ringing cheerily. Emrys paid it no mind, continuing to stare out at the mass of workers bustling on their way. He let his mind wander, going back over the last month of work…and then he cursed himself for thinking about his job when he should be considering what he wanted to do with his unexpected weekend off.
“Mind if I sit here?”
Emrys nearly jumped out of his chair. Looking up at the interruption, he didn’t even have time to get a good look at the stranger before the man had taken the chair opposite, setting a cup down on the table.
Once the man was settled though, Emrys noticed several things about his sudden tablemate. He seemed young, but there was something about his green eyes that just seemed to scream ‘age’. His hair flopped forward over a high forehead, and a cautious smile graced his lips. He wore a tweed jacket that looked like something out of an historical programme and, of all things, a bowtie.
“Of course not,” Emrys said, even though he really didn’t want the company and there were other tables free.
The stranger’s smile widened. “Thanks.” He took a sip from his cup. “They certainly make a good cup of tea here.”
Emrys didn’t have anything to say about that, never having tried the tea himself. He was a coffee man.
Even if he had wanted to mention anything, the man started on again. “It’s been a while since I’ve been to New Cardiff. Well, when I say a while, I mean not since the city was called New Cardiff…well, not even then, because I remember the original Cardiff…”
It was all Emrys could do not to let his mouth drop. Was this man really saying what he thought he was?”
“Okay, I know that sounds a bit strange –“
“Just a bit?” Emrys managed to blurt out.
“Oh, I’m called the Doctor.” A long-fingered hand stuck itself across the table, leaving Emrys no choice but to shake it. “Tell me…have you been having weird dreams lately?”
Now, this was just too bizarre. “How did you know?” Emrys asked, even before the thought that he should keep his mouth shut crossed his mind.
The green eyes suddenly turned intense. “There are things happening…things that you don’t know about, but will impact your life, Mr. Emrys Gryffudd…Emrys. Can I call you Emrys?”
“How did you know my name?” Emrys felt as if he’d somehow fallen down a rabbit hole and that he’d ended up in Wonderland.
“It means ‘immortal’…your name, that is. Very appropriate, although you’re not immortal…at least not in the way most people would think. I happen to know someone who is truly immortal,” a look of sadness crossed the Doctor’s face, and then was gone quickly, “and I can tell that’s not you. But there are other forms of immortality that don’t entail a person walking around not staying dead.”
“Look,” Emrys said, his confusion being quickly replaced by anger, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but you’re obviously a bit touched in the head.” He went to stand.
“I assure you,” the Doctor once again pinned him with those eyes, “I am very serious. It just doesn’t seem like it.” He leaned back in his chair. “Please remain seated, Emrys. It’s very important that I convince you that I know what’s going on in your own head.”
The command was implied, but Emrys found himself back in his chair. The stranger exuded a power that he just didn’t understand, and he felt as if the world was suddenly and completely out of kilter.
“Let me tell you a story.” The Doctor scooted his own chair closer to the table, leaning his elbows on the top. “Once upon a time, there was a Prince and his servant, and they lived in a kingdom that’s now just a legend among humans. The Prince and the servant were linked by a great destiny, and after a while the Prince became a great King, and ruled wisely and well. His servant, unknown to him, was actually the most powerful Sorcerer that the world – the universe – had ever seen. They worked together to make their kingdom a peaceful place, and for decades that peace held.
“But, like anything else, it wasn’t meant to last. The King and the Sorcerer had made enemies, and those enemies struck, bringing war to the kingdom. In that last battle, the King was killed. But, the Sorcerer couldn’t stand the idea of the man he’d loved for so long being taken away by his remaining enemies and violated, so he bound the body with powerful magic, and then hid the King where he believed no one would ever find him.”
Emrys’ head was throbbing as he listened to the Doctor’s almost hypnotic voice tell that incredible tale, knowing that it had to be some sort of children’s story. And yet, he spoke with the absolute conviction of complete truth.
It didn’t help that Emrys had dreamed of the King’s death, with him playing the part of the Sorcerer.
“Eventually,” the Doctor went on, “the Sorcerer also died, as all things must…well, except for my friend the immortal, but that’s for another day. But the magic that he’d used to bind the King’s body also bound the Sorcerer’s soul to the Earth, where he would be reincarnated down through the ages, until the King would need him once more.”
Now that was ridiculous, and Emrys snorted. “There’s no such thing as reincarnation,” he denied.
“Come now, Emrys…have an open mind! There are more things out there than can be explained away from your work cubicle.”
“No, Doctor. I’m sorry, but reincarnation is a load of bollocks. There’s nothing after we die.”
The Doctor favoured him with a look that was calling him a close-minded idiot without the man actually coming out and saying it. “How can you know that when you don’t have first-hand knowledge of the afterlife?”
Emrys had to concede that point. But he still wasn’t ready to accept reincarnation that easily.
He’d been dreaming of another life, of being a servant in a great castle. In his dreams he’d served a Prince who had become a great King, and had become his lover. He’d been a powerful Sorcerer, and had protected the kingdom to the best of his ability. And yet, in the end, he hadn’t been able to save the man he’d loved from his enemies.
The Doctor simply stared at him, taking sips of his tea, and Emrys knew he was waiting for him to put it all together. The thing was, it was just so unbelievable, even though he’d been seeing this other life that the Doctor had described.
But there wasn’t such a thing as reincarnation…or magic.
“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking his head, “but I can’t believe this. You’re asking me to accept that I somehow had another life before this one. You’re asking me to accept that magic is real.”
The Doctor looked sympathetic. “I understand it’s hard to believe, but you’re dreaming of your past life for a reason. None of your other lives have done it, and yet you are.”
“But why?” All his life, Emrys had been raised to have a logical mind, to accept science and not any sort of blatant mysticism.
“Because,” the Doctor murmured, “someone has found the King’s final resting place. They’ve found Avalon.”
In that moment Emrys knew just what the Doctor was talking about. “Wait a minute,” he exclaimed. “You’re talking about King Arthur and Camelot! That’s nothing but a fable!”
“No, I promise you, Emrys…King Arthur and Merlin his Sorcerer and lover were all too real.”
He seemed so very earnest, and Emrys found himself actually starting to believe him…he shook his head. No, this was insanity. He wasn’t going to be suckered into this.
This time, he got up and didn’t sit back down. “No, sorry Doctor…I don’t believe you. What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. Now, I’m going to go home and I’d appreciate you leaving me alone.” He turned his back on the table.
But the Doctor’s voice halted him in his tracks. “And what if I could prove what I’m saying is true?”
How Emrys allowed the Doctor to talk him into going up to the roof of the tallest building in New Cardiff was something that he would never understand.
The Doctor looked pensive, and Emrys wanted to ask why but for some reason kept silent. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet, hands stuffed into the pockets of his tweed jacket. “Just how is being up here going to prove to me that you’re telling the truth?” Emrys demanded, crossing his own arms over his chest.
A small grin graced the Doctor’s features as he stepped right up into Emrys’ personal space. “You’re just gonna have to go on faith.”
Cool hands were suddenly on Emrys’ face. He tried to pull away out of panic, but the Doctor held on, keeping him steady. Emrys’ heartbeat ratcheted upward, and he found himself drowning in those ancient green eyes.
Something snapped within him.
Strange words flooded from Emrys’ mouth. A niggling voice in the back of his head told him he should recognize the language, but it was unfamiliar to him as he shouted the words to the cloudless sky. An odd feeling of euphoria flowed through him, and tingling began at the base of his skull and travelled down toward his fingertips.
Just as suddenly as the words began, they ended, and the Doctor pulled away. “Sorry about that,” he said. “Well, not sorry, because you wanted proof, but sorry I didn’t warn you I was going to pull that particular spell from the depths of your mind.”
“Spell?” Emrys stepped back, out of range. “What do you mean by spell?” How on Earth had that come from him?
The Doctor made a twitchy movement with his fingers, and Emrys got the hint, even though he couldn’t accept it. “You’re saying that I can cast magic spells?” he scoffed.
“Well, not so much now, because you don’t remember them. But everything Merlin knew back then, you do….you just can’t get to the memories. I managed to pull that particular one out of that place where your mind keeps them hidden. If whoever it was hadn’t found the King, they would have remained dormant for the rest of your life.”
Emrys couldn’t help it; what the Doctor was telling him was insane, and simply not logical. There was no way magic existed, and he said so.
“You asked for proof,” the Doctor said, “and you’re going to get it. All we have to do is wait.” He resembled nothing more than a child who’d been offered every sort of candy imaginable.
So instead, he asked, “Wait for what?”
The Doctor glanced up into the sky. “It’s easier if you see it yourself. I don’t think you’d believe me otherwise.”
Emrys wanted to leave. He wanted to go back to his flat, perhaps call some friends, and decide what he wanted to do with an entire weekend off. He hadn’t seen his own mother in weeks, and she’d probably forgotten what he looked like.
But there was another part of him, a secret part, that wanted to wait to see what the Doctor had done. That was whispering to him that magic truly was real, and that, somehow, it was inside him. He’d never been one for fairy stories, but he was apparently living in one…unless the Doctor was as mad as Emrys considered him to be.
And so, he settled in to wait.