The first Christmas had passed by in Camelot, the first of the new age as many called it. A time when magic was once more a part of the Kingdom. It had been a busy and fraught time for all, yet the festivities had gone by in an instant. At the heart of the celebrations had been the newly born heir, Prince Lachlan. Camelot had celebrated his birth as though it was coming out from under a dark shadow and into the light. In way it was true, as the death of Morgana had at least brought some relief. But to Merlin, Arthur and Guinevere, also some regret for the person who she’d once been.
For now, those in power elected to continue to rebuild the Kingdom. With plenty of work still to complete, the festivities at least gave people a chance to take some leave. The celebrations had gone off into the night and into the next day, an endless noise and excitement taking over the castle and the lower town, as everyone came together. As the fireworks hit the sky a new feeling overcame the Kingdom and joy erupted, embracing every walk of life.
Like all parties, it had to come to an end, by mid-day of the next morning, a more sedate atmosphere prevailed. By the time the darkness returned, Camelot was once more on alert, for anything which may occur.
Two Days Later
Merlin was in his apartment one night when he discovered the papers. The two pages had been shoved into one of his old research books. His first thought, had been to discard them but as he noticed the ancient old language written on the pages, his curiosity got the better of him. He strained his eyes scrunching his face up in concentration. He managed to translate a couple of sentences, but as the language became more difficult, was forced to abandon the effort. But something about the text intrigued him and he decided to pay Gaius and Alice a visit.
He blew out the candle on his table before quietly closing the door. He made his way down the corridor, briefly pausing at the door of the young newly born. He watched him from a distance a smile on his face, as he noticed the infant stir in his sleep. He had been surprised when Arthur and Guinevere had asked him to be a Godparent to the young Prince. At first, he’d been lost, knowing little about what he had to do. But as he talked it out with Gaius, he relaxed and a bond had grown between Lachlan and himself. He knew the young boy held the future in his tiny hands, he would be the one to take on Arthur’s work eventually. Merlin knew in the meantime he’d do anything to protect the young boy. Happy, that Lachlan had settled, he ran down the stairs.
After knocking and hearing Gaius’s cheerful voice he opened the door and smiled as he took in the scene. Alice and Gaius were at the table finishing a potion together. Since Alice had arrived back, Merlin marvelled at how easily the two of them had come back together in such harmony. Gaius was looking ever younger, he guessed Alice had a knocked a few years off his age mentally, if not physically. He waved at Gilli, who was washing some containers in the back of the room.
“Oh Merlin, I wasn’t expecting you to come tonight. Do you want something to eat?” Gaius asked,
Merlin smiled even now Gaius couldn’t stop fussing whenever Merlin paid him a visit.
“Thank you, but I’ve already eaten Gaius.” Merlin assured him. “I was hoping you could help me translate something,”
“Anything interesting?” Alice asked, her eyes coming to life.
“I’m not sure. I was reading one of my magical books when I came across these two pages,” Merlin explained, “They had been slipped into the book,”
“Oh, let me see then,” Gauis replied.
Merlin carefully put the sheets of paper on the table and everyone stared at them for a couple of seconds. Alice reached for one of the pages.
“This is a very ancient old language, I’m sure I came across it when I was with Roland.” Alice sighed, “He had such a flair for transcripts like these,”
“I remember you telling me that,” Gaius said, “I’m finding it quite difficult to recognize many words in it,”
“Hang on, I know that name,” Alice cried out, pointing at a few words, which to Merlin meant very little.
“Who is it?” Gauis asked,
“Attila Ludwin,” Alice replied, a smile on her face, “you must have heard some of the tales of old Gaius?”
“I’ve heard of him, but I know very little about him,” Gaius admitted.
“Who is he?” Merlin asked, looking to one than the other. He felt strangely excited all of a sudden as if a mystery was about to be explained.
“Atilla Ludwin, was an old ancient Sorcerer who once dominated the Kingdom. Camelot was his home territory. I believe he ruled for over two hundred years, or so the transcripts of old claimed.” Alice smiled.
“But I thought Cornelius Sigan was the main Sorcerer that ruled Camelot,” Merlin said, confused.
“This was a long time before Cornelius Sigan, Merlin.” Alice explained. “It was said that Cornelius learnt a lot from Attila. Attila was a Sorcerer without parallel, no one of his knowledge and power had existed before he came along. He was as much a scholar as a Sorcerer in truth. I remember Roland saying much of what we take for granted now, started from his reign.”
“So, what happened to him?” Merlin asked, “Why is so little known about him?”
“A lot of things happened around that time. Magic was becoming more accepted within the higher power. This was before it was accepted that magic’s ultimate power came from the Isle of the Blessed. There were different beliefs in those early times. In those days, many tribes existed who had their own forms of magic and hierarchy and firm ideas of where it came from. Different groups had different types of magic, none of which held domination over any other.” Alice explained,
“So how did the Old Religion begin?” Merlin asked, truly intrigued now.
“Mainly due to Attila Ludwin. It was he who found out about the secrets of the Isle of the Blessed. It was he who discovered the root power and how magic translated itself through the land. Not everyone was prepared to follow his opinion, indeed for centuries afterwards some people were reluctant to accept it at all. It is true to say the likes of Cornelius Sigan took parts of what Attila learnt and bended it to their own will,”
“I still don’t understand why so little is known about him, if he was that incredible,” Merlin said, a bit frustrated that nothing more had been translated.
“In the years that followed, magic took on its own path,” Gaius explained, “By then the belief of the Old Religion had been established, meaning that magic users followed the procedure that was laid down. There were still odd groups which argued with the logic though.”
“Can you leave these sheets with me Merlin?” Alice asked, “I will have another look in the morning and see if I can work anything else out,”
“Of course, Alice,” Merlin agreed, “Let’s hope a good night’s sleep will refresh your memory,”
“You always learn something new in this place,” Gilli smiled, “If you excuse me, I’m going for an early night,”
“Or visiting a certain young lady perhaps?” Alice asked, a twinkle in her eye.
Gilli laughed, “I couldn’t possibly say,”
“I’ll walk back with you Gilli,” Merlin said, “I have some notes from the last meeting I’ll bring over tomorrow for you to read,”
“Yes, that’s fine Merlin. I think we could all do with an early night,” Gaius replied,
Merlin made his goodbyes, and closed the door walking back along the corridor with Gilli.
“How’s everything going?” Merlin asked,
“Very well, thanks. I am finding plenty to do now the School is taking shape. I am also looking forward to the visit to Nemeth in the spring,” Gilli said, holding the door open for Merlin.
“Thanks,” Merlin replied, “It will certainly be interesting visiting the old school. I am really intrigued with learning about how it all came about. It must be exciting with so many people registering an interest in Summer Hall,”
“It is yes, but also daunting. There will be a lot of work to get through,” Gilli admitted.
“There is no pressure, we can take our time to make sure we give people the best possible start,” Merlin cautioned, “If it’s delayed, it’s delayed until you’re happy with everything.”
“Hopefully, it will all come together in time. We are getting some good people involved and there is the right spirit and determination to make a success of it,”
“I’m sure you will do a great job Gilli, I have every faith in you,” Merlin replied, smiling.
“Thank you, Merlin,”
They were at Gilli’s apartment and after a couple of minutes of polite chat, Gilli excused himself and Merlin continued walking to his own room.
He still felt quite alert as if he wanted to get his mind into something. He remembered he still had his father’s book and decided to do some more reading. He had received a note from Mervyn about Aithusa. It seemed the young dragon was quite restless and moving around quite a bit. Merlin guessed she was just exploring the boundaries of her new home, but he was concerned about any problems, which could materialise if she met anyone untoward.
It bothered him that he still knew so little about how to help her. A lot of the text in the book was quite ancient and Merlin found he had to look words up, to fully understand the pages. It meant nothing could be done quickly which just increased his frustration. He worried that something could occur before he had the chance, to actually help her. But at the same time, he knew he had to tread carefully. He had already worked out that any assistance would involve quite intense magic, so knew he had to be sure he was using the right spell. He had already discovered a new type of magic, which seemed to be acquainted with the Dragonlords. It was described as a Senses type of magic which connected with certain places. Some of the areas mentioned Merlin had barely heard of at all.
The more he read the ancient magic book the more he realised there were so many different paths and magical interpretations to consider. He began to appreciate Alice’s knowledge from earlier on more, as he continued to read. The whole history of magic inside the Kingdom was complicated by the different beliefs and ultimate suspicions which existed in many different walks of life. It meant nothing seemed to be clear-cut.
He had learnt this especially when dealing with the non-magical people in Camelot. It was not just reassuring them about magic, but also correcting wrongly held views, which existed from the Purge years. He could appreciate the fear that some people held, but at the same time was frustrated that it led to inevitable delays. Realising his mind was wandering he decided to have an earlier night and so reluctantly closed his father’s book and blew out the candle.
It was just before Merlin was about to have a break late in the morning, when Alice knocked at the door. He smiled, as she made her way over to his table with the two pieces of paper in her hand.
“How did you get on?” Merlin asked, holding his breath, “did you manage to translate anything else,”
“Not in the fine detail,” Alice admitted, “It such a long time ago, since I’ve read this language. But I have remembered something that my old colleague told me about Atilla,”
“Oh?” Merlin asked, slightly disappointed but one look at Alice’s face told him, what she was about to say could indeed be important.
“Roland used to research old forms of ancient magic. Back then it was the age of experimentation. As a result, people followed few rules which meant the boundaries were very unpredictable. It appeared one of the magical formulas he discovered was senses magic,”
“I’ve been reading about that the other night,” Merlin interrupted, “In my father’s old book, do you mean this could help me in my quest for curing Aithusa?”
“It’s possible,” Alice admitted, “But you have to be aware it’s one of the hardest types of magic to learn about. I would urge you to do your research before you go travelling to places and disturbing old spirits. I can tell you though the place you need to be researching, is Daobeth,”
“That was the Kingdom that the Dragons destroyed if I’m not mistaken. I’m sure I remember Arthur telling the story when we were on a quest,” Merlin said, grimly.
“They did, but before that event they had a special affinity for that part of Albion. It held one of the most sacred old religion secrets, outside the Isle of the Blessed,”
“Which was?” Merlin asked, now fascinated.
“The Alter of Mount Devla,”
Merlin shook his head, “I’ve not even heard of the place, what more do you know about it?”
Alice shifted in her chair, as she described one of the biggest hidden secrets of Albion’s magical past.
“Before magic became fully accepted, the Dragonlords controlled the Dragons all over the Kingdom. I remember reading a book on how if you travelled through the Northern Plains, Dragons were as common as the rains on that desolate plain,” she began,
Merlin leaned forward, fully engaged in the story Alice was telling.
“Dragons were adaptable creatures, who could live in many different environments. Some were meat eaters, other could live on nothing but plants, as I’m sure you are aware. That meant they were numerous all over Albion, in virtually every type of terrain. Even near the big towns people would cite Dragons flying overhead. At first, they were tolerated. But then as different Kingdoms fell and a new ones were born, so the dividing lines between the Dragonlords and the rulers changed.”
Merlin grimaced understanding only too well how things could change virtually overnight, as new people with different beliefs intertwined with those Dragonlords who were already there.
“To cut a long story short, it wasn’t long before isolated conflicts began, between those who wanted to cause friction. All of a sudden battles would break out, as boundaries between the two sides were tested. It caused death and destruction on both sides and many Dragonlords, paid with their lives.
But one incident in particular was especially serious. A gang of bandits working for one of the newer Kings made their way to the edges of the Northern Plains. It was a place were many of the young dragons were kept together, one night a battle ensued and before the end of the night all the young dragons had perished,”
“That’s terrible,” Merlin murmured, anger lingering for a moment, as he thought about the wanton destruction of such a noble breed. “Who was responsible for that?”
“The old stories state that it was King Taegar who had taken over the next Kingdom. As Daobeth had a lot of natural sources not surprisingly it was sought after by many a ruler. When the Dragonlords from some of the other Kingdoms found out there was a real battle between the two sides,”
“Where does the Alter of Mount Devla come into the story though?” Merlin asked, intrigued.
“Mount Devla, was at that time, the most sacred place in Albion. The Alter was on top of a hill and it was there that the Dragonlords would first assemble and pass on their secrets to one another. Ordinary men feared going near the place, as they claimed spirits walked among the forests and villages around,”
“And did they?” Merlin asked, already realising this was the place he needed to find out about.
“Probably not, to the non-magical people any site of magic was rumoured to be full of spirits with indescribable happenings. They were always in isolated places after all where the mist would cover every part of the ground. I think their imaginations would get carried away. None the less the Alter is still there, but rumour has it, its is guarded by an old wizard called Nameon.”
“Do you believe that?” Merlin asked, curiously staring at the bits of paper on the table.
“Perhaps, there is something to the tale. Gaius told me you met the Fisher King who after all was centuries old,” Alice replied, looking at him intently.
“You are right of course, anything is possible. Either way its obvious I need to do some research on Daobeth,” Merlin said, watching Alice as she unfurled another piece of paper.
“This belonged to Roland, it’s an old map of the region of Daobeth. It may come in useful the Alter was rumoured to be in a place called Prydwen which is over here,” she pointed at the top of the map.
“May I keep this map?” Merlin asked, suddenly keen to get started.
“Of course, its no use to me now.” Alice smiled, “I am only sorry I couldn’t tell you more.”
“You have been a great help anyway, and thanks for the map,” Merlin said,
“That’s okay, I never thought it would have been of use again, took me back to my early days with Roland,” Alice admitted, getting up and pushing the chair back.
“You must miss him,” Merlin replied, wondering if she would ever tell them more about him.
“I have Gaius now though and that’s enough,” Alice replied, “Speaking of which I had better go and collect some herbs,”
“Do you want any help?” Merlin asked,
“Thank you,” Alice answered, “But Gaius is coming with me, we’re making an afternoon of it,”
“Oh well,” Merlin grinned, “Enjoy yourselves and once again thanks for your help in this,”
Alice nodded as she reached the door and with one last look around Merlin’s room, the door shut and once again Merlin was alone. For a second, he wondered what to do next, then realised he was late for a meeting with Arthur. He hastily shoved the map into his pocket, collecting the notes he needed and made his way over to Arthur’s chambers, almost bumping into Lancelot en route.
“Sorry,” Merlin apologised, a grin on his face.
“You know Merlin, with your magic surely there is a way for you to transport yourself to places without causing mayhem around you!” Lancelot laughed,
Merlin turned around and giggled, “Yes, you’d think so wouldn’t you. I will see you later have to meet Arthur,”
He waved and ran down the corridor knowing only too well Arthur would be awaiting his presence with a detached amusement. Merlin knew his timekeeping was still little better than when he’d been a servant and knew the conversation would start with that very point. He burst through the door after a brief knock.
“Ah Merlin, I did ask for the meeting to start on time, but obviously I knew that would be highly unlikely,” Arthur remarked, his eyebrow rising.
“Sorry, I got a bit carried away,” Merlin admitted, with a tight smile.
“With?” Arthur asked, pouring them both a drink.
“I found a couple of sheets of paper in one of my magical books. When I started reading them, I had trouble translating them. So, I took them to Gaius and Alice and it ends up being about an old ancient sorcerer called Attila Ludwin. Did your father ever mention him to you?” Merlin asked,
“Not my father no. But there is something familiar about that name.” Arthur admitted,
“He was in power some years before Cornelius Sigan became known,” Merlin began,
“Now his name is definitely familiar,” Arthur said, a look of recognition, on his face.
Merlin grimaced thinking vaguely about Cedric and the brief reincarnation of Sigan. “It turns out it was Ludwin who discovered the importance of the Isle of the Blessed and its relevance to magic.”
“I always assumed its importance was always known anyway,” Arthur replied, a look of surprise on his face.
“Not in the beginning, there were many tribes who had different beliefs and theories. I suppose you could say it was Attila who put everything together. People like Sigan, took parts of what Attila discovered and used them for their own ambitions,”
“I see,” Arthur said, “so what did the papers say?”
“Alice couldn’t translate them, she did give me some other interesting background stuff. It is something I may look at, though I will have to do some research first.”
“Oh? Anything interesting,”
“Well, if Alice is right in her assessment it could lead me to a place called The Alter of Mount Devla, which is a place where the Dragonlords used to meet to pass on their secrets. I’m hoping this could help me cure Aithusa,”
“Right,” Arthur nodded, “That would be interesting certainly. Where is this place?”
Merlin took out the map Alice had given him and put it on the table. He pointed at Prydwen.
“I’ve been to Prydwen, it is very isolated though make sure you take some Knights with you,”
“I’ll take Lancelot with me,” Merlin promised,
“Why don’t you also take young Galahad with you as well,” Arthur suggested,
“Do you think he’s ready for such a mission, it could be dangerous,” Merlin explained, “I know very little about the place,”
“He has very impressive fighting skills and he needs to start somewhere,” Arthur pointed out,
“I suppose so,” Merlin agreed. “Will you put it to him then?”
“Yes, leave it to me. When are you thinking about going to Nemeth?” Arthur asked,
“Probably in the spring, think it will be quite tricky at the moment,” Merlin said, “Gilli is going to visit the Druids over the next couple of days,”
“I see people are still showing interest in the School then,” Arthur said, “What’s going to be the timetable to the opening?”
“I’m going to leave that to Gilli, as I think he’s in the best position to bring it all together. He will get an idea from the Druids over how many people will come over from them. I gather there is already quite a number,”
Arthur nodded, “Good to see its all coming together. You are doing well Merlin I have to say,”
“Thank you. At times it feels very slow moving but it seems as if things are finally advancing. Anything I can help you with?” Merlin asked, hoping Arthur would say no.
“I think everything is in order. When are you going away to Prydwen?” he asked,
“Shortly, if possible. So, if you could ask Galahad, I would be grateful,”
“Not a problem and make sure you take enough provisions Merlin, there isn’t much out there,” Arthur warned him.
“Yes, I’d already worked that one out,” Merlin grinned.
In the next couple of days Merlin made sure they had enough provisions to last them for a month. He knew with the weather still unpredictable, they could be delayed once they set off. He still had private doubts about taking Galahad with them, the young man seemed a very quiet and private person. But he ultimately trusted Arthur’s opinion on him and knew there would be security in numbers.
He spent a couple of hours with Lancelot working out the best route and decided going cross country despite the weather risks, would probably save them some time. He could already tell by the map that parts of the journey would be tricky, so the night before he left decided an early night would be best.
To be continued.