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Burned Parchment

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The ancient room smelled like burned parchment, which made sense… in one way or another. Because of all the lit candles stocking up the shelves and filling up a bit less than half of the desk. It was most defiantly possible that the old gentleman, who once roamed this room, had at some point or another, accidentally burned one of his documents. What was a bit more, concerning, considering the matter, was that the smell had simply stayed.

The room long abandoned by breathing souls, so should a not-ever-lasting smell of burned parchment do. Disappear, that is. The explanation was maybe not so peculiar as it should have been. Because the old lord, who once owned the former burned parchment, had been a man who was a bit interested in the legerdemain, or as others would call it… magic.

Because of the gentleman’s superstitious beliefs, he had owned a bit more than a few documents, containing spells of all kinds, from necromancy and exorcisms to the simplest bewitchments and small predictions.

The lord liked to think of himself, as a well-educated man, even though he understood the fact, that he had only dipped his toes into this world of knowledge and power. He also understood, that he, a plain man with a plain mind, was not suitable for said world. He couldn’t preform the easiest of the spells and wasn’t at all brave enough to sacrifice some of his mind, his most precious belonging, to obtain a power, he didn’t even fully understand.

Therefore, he hid his obsession, in a dusty old basement. Burned what he deemed too precious for this world, and accidentally started an old enchantment, by flaming one specific parchment. It was in such an ancient language, the lord couldn’t be sure if it was magic of death, or just a levitating spell. So, he put it aflame, and by doing that, every candle in the room, was doomed to burn forever, and the scent of the burned paper just wouldn’t disappear after that.

And because of that little accident, the lord decided, it wasn’t exactly a thought-through plan, to burn the documents. Something worse might have happened. He stopped, and buried them in a library far underground instead.

In the mess of the mentioned library, in his section of unimportant, and small predictions, laid an inconsequential piece of paper, with a few lines, telling a story of two men, in a world of self-driving wagons, and buildings taller than castles, reaching as far up as the sky. Living in a never quiet city, the size of a small kingdom. Two men, who lived again. A second chance, since they failed the first.

No one had, of course read this document more than once. It wasn’t judged important. Hidden away with everything else.
Not so long after the lord buried his passion, the king of the country, he lived in, lost a wife, gained a son, and possibly misplaced his sanity. And because of that, our beloved lord possibly also misplaced his head.

That is now 1400 years ago and isn’t at all important to the story. Not in any way, what so ever.

Because this is a story, about a young man, moving from the country side, to the big city, to meet his destiny, as an employee at his uncle’s bookshop, Hiraeth. Not that Merlin Wyllt had much experience in selling books. He was much more interested in reading them, which possibly made him perfect for the job. Gaius certainly seemed to think so, and so did his mum. It could also have been because he was 25 and still living at home. But that was not at all his fault. He had lived in his own apartment for 5 years, right up until Will… Well, the crash.

So, no one could really blame him for moving back to his mum, for a year, until he was sent on his merry way to start again. And you couldn’t exactly say he was complaining. He liked Gaius when he was younger. The man had been real fun at Christmas, and always came with the weirdest presents, Merlin had ever seen. His uncle was also the one, who had given Merlin the leather bracelet with the weird symbol, that he hadn’t taken off since he was 8. Somehow it still fit. Merlin had learned over the years, to not ask questions about such things.

Besides Christmas, Merlin really only saw his uncle one week every summer, when he came to Ealdor, to teach Merlin things, you don’t learn in school. Or more accurately, how to hide those things.

And Merlin became good at hiding. He went mostly unnoticed all the way through his primary and secondary education. Only maybe making Mrs. Addington’s coffee too cold, warm, or even making it vanish once in a while. Those were the easy tricks. He also found himself disturbing Mr. Beckwith’s internet. Not entirely intentional. At least not the first few times. But there was something amusing about watching their tech-expert being baffled by something as simple, as connecting his computer to the Wi-Fi.

Besides, who would ever think, that the quiet scrawny kid with his magic-less mother, would have anything to do with any of that. But the fun and games, as all good things do, stopped. Merlin was around 12 when this happened. Thomas, a boy, a few years older. His mother was a well-known witch. Specializing in alterations, Hunith had said. Not that Merlin’s mum knew anything about what those words meant, but Merlin had not been slow to ask Gaius about it, that Christmas.

Thomas was a nice kid. Merlin didn’t really know him that well, and he wasn’t even sure if Thomas was aware that Merlin existed. Now he would never find out. Because the older boy, had been caught digging into something about occultism, which was high on the List of the Forbidden, Pendragon Co. had founded.

So, Merlin’s small public trickeries stopped, the second he heard Thomas’ body had been found in the river. 3rd degree burns around ankles and neck, animal-like scratches following closely around them, and his own skin, trapped beneath his fingernails.

A statement some called it. Gaius just called it murder.

So, Merlin stopped making coffee and Wi-Fi disappear, and instead started doing exactly that to himself. He became even more unnoticeable than before. Right up until he met Will. William Barlow, the most extraordinary 16-year old, that Merlin had the fortune to know. Will was extroverted in every possible way, he was open, accepting, and defiantly a party-goer, or… maybe more of a party crasher. But that didn’t mean people hated him every time he showed up with seemingly endless supplies of vodka and beer. Plus, he noticed Merlin, and pulled him along to every single party, even though the chair in the corner of Merlin’s room, was much more comfortable. But he could live with that, because seeing Will, in an environment like that, was something else entirely, than seeing him at school, half sleeping, with a pen behind his ear, or seeing him at home in his bed, laughing at that ancient photograph of baby Merlin, and his mum. Deep inside, Merlin knew Will loved that photo. But seeing Will drunk, with his head in the toilet, blabbering on and on about how much his dad would kill him, because of it, and how much he would kill Merlin, because it was 1 am and Merlin was already sober again. They could only really laugh at that.

For some reason those moments were the best. When Will was so vulnerable, and showed so much trust in Merlin, that he would often dose off with his head on Merlin’s shoulder. After all that time in the restroom, Merlin eventually also ended with his head first in the toilet, and all Will did was laugh at him for at least 20 minutes, before he sat down beside him, and they shared a drunken minute of starring into a wall, while slightly floating above the suspiciously yellow floor. Will didn’t really float, Merlin might have just a tiny bit.

“I’m gay.” Merlin whispered. It wasn’t exactly a secret at this point. He was pretty sure everyone had figured out by now, and it wasn’t as if he was trying to hide it. He just hadn’t said out loud before. And in his most disoriented time of his teenage life, he fought fuck it, and told his best friend.

Will, as predicted, wasn’t surprised. Just smiled, and laid his head on Merlin’s shoulder again, while an almost non-existent sound came from his mouth, that sounded a lot like, “same.”

They didn’t really talk about that part of the night again. The thing that happened a few seconds before it though, that was talked about plenty. Will did not hesitate to bring Merlin’s first head in the bowl moment up. It happened 5 times a day. At least that was what it felt like for Merlin.

No, it wasn’t really brought up again, until Merlin found himself at another party, in a neighbouring village, where he only knew Will, and suddenly Merlin remembered the ending of the conversation that first night.

Because Merlin in his drunken state, ended on the couch in the living room, with some really attractive stranger, and had his first many kisses. The sweetness ended though, when he made eye contact with Will, who stormed out of the house. Obviously the only logical thing to do at that time, was to leave his newfound stranger, and go running after his best friend.

The next few moments were probably the most memorable in his life. The sun had set hours ago, and the only thing illuminating the street, was the vague light from the party. But Will didn’t care. With a beer in one hand, and the other in his pocket, he stormed out onto the road, and didn’t see the car coming from his right. Worse thing was, the car didn’t see Will either.

Two screams, a pair of golden eyes, and a completely normal boy, thrown into the air, landing in the field, meters away from where he stood seconds before. Will’s widened eyes was the most frightening thing Merlin had seen is his very young life. All of it while, he could feel his golden iris not disappearing. He soon understood, that a sprained wrist was not the worst thing, that came out of that night.

Will seemed to have figured it all out, when he refused to speak to Merlin a few days later. And Merlin acknowledged that. He didn’t accept it, but he knew that Will needed space, for now. So instead of knocking on Wills front door for hours, he called Gaius, and the old man came as quickly as he could, when he heard what had happened.

His uncles’ words would follow and haunt him in the back of his mind, for the next few years, “You spared his life this time, but that means, he’s only living on borrowed time from now on.“ And oh, if only he knew how true that was back then.

It took Will the rest of the summer, and a month into the next school year, before he spoke to him again, and Merlin wished with all his heart, that it had been for another reason. Because on that rainy autumn day, it wasn’t Merlin who came storming to his former friends’ door, knocking aggressively, hoping that someone would answer. This time it was Will. And of course, Hunith let the poor boy with thousands of tears in his eyes inside. And when he started screaming about how he had just talked to his mum, and she had roughly told him, that his dad would not be returning from his trip to Mercia. Tears everywhere and a running nose, he sobbed through the sentences, saying things like, he didn’t know where else to go, because he didn’t want to be home or alone. So, he stayed the night, and the night after that. Actually, he stayed the entire week.

To see some light in the darkness, it brought Merlin and Will closer than ever, and Merlin let himself forget Gaius’ ominous words. On Wills 18th birthday, a month later, he didn’t really want to do anything special. So, they stayed at Merlin’s, just the two of them. Hunith was out of town for the week, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to free his mum of some red wine, she never had had the occasion to drink herself. They were now old enough to buy their own wine, but there was just something a bit fun and daring about taking his mums, like they were young and wasn’t allowed to drink, when in reality Hunith had told them to take as much as they wanted, she just didn’t want to hear from the hospital. Which in all honesty was fair.

The night ended sort of blurry, but kisses were exchanged, and the idea of buying an apartment together was also thrown around. So that was exactly what happened, the following year.
5 years they lived in that small apartment together. Young and fooling around, while being responsible enough to take an education. Merlin somehow ended up studying English literature, while Will took the more medical route.

Young and fresh out of university. And everything went sideways, because Gaius’ statement proved true. And how ironic that Will would be the one driving the car this time. No one came out alive.

 

For a year, Merlin didn’t know what to do with his life, and that is how he ended up here. In front of Gaius’ small unique bookshop, Hiraeth. The bell above his head chimed, while his foot hit the wooden-floor for the first time. He had never been there before, but he already loved the very distinct scent of burned parchment.