There was a time, Myrddin mused, that he would have been inclined to reach out to the horizon and murmur a soft spell, just to make the sun linger a few seconds longer on the horizon, just to treasure the rich red hues and the marvellous indigo that spread like an exhaled stain across the tops of the far mountains.
Everything in this world has been carefully crafted, built slowly and to Myrddin's specifications, threaded through with the power and secrets of his venerable people; he could slow the sun for his own amusement if he so wished.
Today, he was contented to just let the natural world run its own course; for the planet to turn, and the sun to vanish out of his sight. He had been more inclined to do so far more often lately. Let nature take its course, that is. Myrridn had been less and less disposed to meddle.
From the battlements of the castle walls, he could see the people as they moved off home from the wells, stalls, shops and markets that made up the majority of the rabbit's warren of humanity spread out below the castle of Camelot. They were, each and every one of them, people he knew well. He had, at one time, brought them or one of their ancestors to this place, personally. He had held them as squalling newborns, and for their predecessors, he would have closed their eyes for them after death.
He had so planned to do so for them, as well, these living ants in their fantastic colony. But, no.
It was too heart sore a gesture to perform any longer – seeing them lying there, empty, unable to rise up and join their far ancestors on another plain of being. Just one more reason why Myrridn was so bent on keeping this place and these people safe, secret and secure, and away from his own kind.
In the courtyard behind him, he could hear his young apprentice Gaius calling welcome to a party returning home from the scout, the cluck of chickens and the clop of hooves on stone. The boy was clever – when his master didn't return, he would find the books left behind for him, for the purpose of continuing his study, science disguised as magic, maths as spells, technology as power.
Power. It was an important thing here. Myrridn had made certain of that.
The city's last warrior-king was nearing an age when someone was bound to challenge his power soon.
Myrridn would have interfered there, too, in his youth. Now, he found he didn't much care how the tide turned, as long as whoever rose to the throne would keep his ancient and situational trusts and vows with Myrridn. Nature could take care of nature.
He had already planted a seed to ensure that the son of the most likely victorious warlord –an Uther Pendragon of great lineage - would be a worthy leader. His job was done. Camelot only needed a King who protected his people, encouraged them to flourish, and treasured the Gifts of the Ancestors. This boy would do so. His father, too, if Gaius was able to convince him of the worthiness of those with the Ancestor's gifts.
Myrridn had no doubt of that. Barring some great tragedy, the next few generations of Camelot's rulers would be almost as powerful as Gaius and his nearly-pure blood.
When the sun fully set, Myrddin turned rheumy eyes to the stars. The first of the small pin pricks of light were sparking into sight high above him; on another world, outside of this place, the stars would be slowly emerging just the same, but their patterns would be so different. Myrddin closed his eyes and sighed.
He was tired.
He was an old man and he wanted rest; yearned for it.
He could go, for a while, if he chose. This place could continue without him for a few decades. He could come back, but later. He could be born again, if he so chose. Perhaps he might choose. The Golden Dragon had already offered, and more than once, to be its protector and shepherd if Myrddin decided to step out of the world or sleep.
And Myrddin was ready for sleep.
Myrridn made up his mind. It was time to rest. But before he could do that, he had to make sure that the doorways to this place were locked, and his cave of wonders shut up. No one, either of his people or of the people of this world, must find what he left behind. And that meant returning back through the Ring.
Bidding no one goodbye, fearing that they would plead for him to stay, that they would not understand, Myrridn descended from the battlements and vanished into the trees of the thick old forest that hemmed in the northern wall of the castle.
The walk to the misty Valley of the Ring took Myrridn most of the night, even with his power enhancing his stride, and he was fatigued by the time he arrived. He stopped for a day and a night at the rim of the Valley, looking down into its bowl at the clear, sparkling lake it cradled. He watched the sun rise and traverse the sky above the small island far out in the centre of the water.
When the sun set again, he summoned the small boat that he kept tied on the far side of the water. It took him longer to pull the boat to him with his mind than it used to, and it made the spot between his eyes ache fiercely. Myrridn paddled the boat back manually, tying it once more to its moorings on the dock, wet with mould and disuse.
The exercise made his shoulders ache, and it was delicious. There were so few physical sensations left to him: he no longer hungered, no longer lusted, no longer slept. Pain was a strangely welcome visitor, simply because it existed.
A thousand crumbling stairs later, Myrridn stood before the Ring. Even upon this open stone platform, it was shrouded in the thick soupy mist that he had sculpted the landscape and weather patterns to produce. Natural camouflage, making the island totally unwelcoming to the humans that dwelt nearby. Waving his hand before the Ring, Myrridn watched with quiet joy as it flashed and spun into life.
Such a legacy his people had created.
And such a tragedy to have followed.
When the spigot of energy that spat from its core settled, Myrridn could see his own reflection in the pool of the event horizon gazing tiredly back at him – and behind that, the Dragon. Myrridn had not heard the creature arrive, but no matter; he had designed it to be quiet. Still, the cloying fog could not block out the spark of fire that glanced off its scales. The Dragon nodded its goodbye to Myrridn in the reflection, which Myrridn, without looking backwards, echoed back.
Myrridn had made the Dragon immortal – he would see the riddlesome creature again, anon.
Then Myrridn took his last breath of Avalonian air, and stepped through.
He felt his physical being split apart and this time, it was so much harder to allow the 'Gate to reassemble him; the pull for something greater was almost too much. Soon, he promised himself.
Back in his laboratory, Myrridn shook off the cold of the subspace journey and moved to his workbench, and the control console it held. The power cell shone a frosty blue through the cylindrical pane of transparent metal that hemmed it in. With a few swift keystrokes, he shut down the doorway to his private experimental civilization, to that mirror of the five kingdoms that made up the Albion he was now situated within.
The terraforming had taken the most work on that other planet; the people, less, though they were his favourite part of the creation. That, and the fantastical creatures he had lifted straight from the tales of the people of this world, made into flesh and blood and living bone on another planet.
The last part had been the deliberate modifications in the wormhole speed; Janus, as outlawed as the man was, did have some rather excellent, and useful, theories.
The experiment secured against any accidental entry by base humans, Myrridn then reached out with his mind and found that the disagreements between his brethren was no more settled than it was when he had departed for respite in that other place. A thousand years had passed in the decade that Myrridn had made his stay in Camelot, and still none among the Ascended had settled their differences. It made him even more exhausted.
Leaving the laboratory, Myrridn walked out into the open air, headed towards the great stone circle he had placed many hillsides away to point the direction. To any humans watching, it would have appeared that he might have walked straight out of the hillside. In fact, as Myrridn turned to catalogue how the passage of time had treated the exterior of his hidden bunker, he could see that at some point some human must have witnessed this very thing, for now the face was decorated with a laboriously cut down monument of earthen banks and exposed chalk; it was in the outline of a man, reaching out as if to open up the place where Myrrdin's invisible door stood.
The sight warmed Myrridn. Clever little humans.
He had such hopes for them, even now.
For a moment, he let his thoughts linger on their potential, their fierce and desperate little joys and triumphs, the way that they, unlike his kind, wanted terribly to live. Myrridn had found their passion emboldening, inspiring. The others called it 'sinking to their level' or 'rutting with people barely evolved past opposable thumbs', but Myrridn had found his interactions with these clever creatures to be more invigorating than anything he had known back on Atlantis.
Long ago, when this incarnation of himself was far younger, Myrridn had sewn his wild oats, as the humans were wont to say, with a viciously clever girl child of a northern clan chieftain. It had been years since he had been back there to check up on his descendants; he wondered if any of them had grown into the sorts of people he picked specially for his experiment. It was always difficult to ensure and determine which of his people's progeny would be endowed with the use of their technology. With so few of them left walking the Earth, their blood already so diluted among the humans they had coupled with, Myrridn did what he could to keep the genetic material strong.
His only regret was that he often grieved parents by snatching their children away into his underground laboratory, off to his strange and distant kingdom where time moved differently. There were stories sprung up about it, he knew – they called him a malicious fey, a changling maker – just as there were myths about Zeus and Apollon, and their vigorous appetite for human women. Myrridn took these demigod children too, the Heracleses and Perseuses of the warm south. The children of Foxes in the East, the spawn of Coyote and Raven in the West, the Anansis and the dyamphyrs, the Aztec sacrifices and the Inuktitut.
But the blood – and the 'magic' within it – must survive into the next millennium if his people were to ever have a chance to take back Pegasus from the scourge of the Wraith, and live once more in bright and shining Atlantis. And it must be strong.
Or else his bright and shining Atlantis would remain forever in the cradle of the cold sea.
The grand plans rushed back into Myrridn's head and for a moment he felt young and enthusiastic again. He recalled his days plotting and planning, building and directing, his many years wandering the Earth. The weapons he had designed, the plots he had laid.
Then the weight of his age and the chill of the air crept back into his bones, and he stooped, head heavy, and sighed.
Tired. He was just… so, so tired.
Sleep. Yes. Perhaps, just for a little while, he would sleep.
Raising his hands to the night sky – seeing again the same stars, but from a different point of view – Myrridn of Caerdyff, advisor to the Kings of Albion, closed his eyes, gave up his flesh, and Ascended.