The spell itself was relatively simple – it was the ornate figures and designs that Merlin had to draw that were the hard part. Gaius had helped clear the furniture out of Merlin’s bedroom, asking the whole time whether Merlin was sure he knew what he was doing. Merlin’s answer was always yes. He was thankful, though, that Gaius never asked whether what he was doing was wise.
The process of painting the designs on the floor and wall was macabre. The sticky blood filled the room with the stench of terror and death. Merlin’s gut twisted at the thought of what sort of magical being would respond to such a thing. But the book had been very specific – the summoning would not work with anything else.
As Merlin performed the last brush stroke, he wondered what language the weird lettering was in. It was not the language of the old religion. It was something Merlin didn’t know, and he knew that was part of the reason Gaius was so on edge.
Gaius had retreated to the main chamber, ready to call the guard with a pre-arranged story should things end badly. It was all down to Merlin. Merlin, who had to wake the King in the morning – something he couldn’t very well do if he were dead.
There could be no turning back now, Merlin thought, focusing on the centre of the design, where there were some familiar letters, though he did not know what they meant in this context. He spoke the summing spell slowly and carefully, waiting for the accompanying swell of magic.
Merlin tried forcing his magic into the spell, but it refused to respond. He thrust the candle into the bowl that held the ingredients for the spell – salt, iron, herbs, ale, leather, oil, and Merlin’s own blood. The contents ignited, burning brightly, but still Merlin felt no magic. Merlin’s heart sank. He threw the burning bowl violently into the centre of the design.
Pointless. He had done all that gruesome work for nothing.
Merlin sighed, looking at the mess he’d made of his room. He’d just have to figure it out himself, as usual. He stepped forward to stomp out the bits of fire before they ate through the floorboards, but before his boot touched the design he realized that only the writing had caught fire, and as he stared, the red flames turned into a bright white light that stung Merlin’s eyes and forced him to look away.
As suddenly as the light had erupted, it was gone. Merlin blinked, his eyes slow to re-adjust to the dim candlelight.
Something looked back at him.
In an instant, Merlin found himself with his back to the wall, a cloth-covered arm pressed against his throat.
“Start talking and this sure as hell better be good.”
Merlin had prepared a speech, full of careful language and humble grovelling. As he looked into angry eyes, he forgot it all.
“I need your help,” he said instead. The fearful squeak in his voice would have to substitute for all the humble pleading.
“Ever hear of a phone?”
“No,” Merlin answered.
There was a snort of possible amusement. As Merlin wondered whether that was a good thing or not, he realized that someone else was moving around the room.
Of course, there were two of them after all.
There was a small grunt from the direction of the window. While Merlin had to stand on a table to look out the high window onto Camelot, the one who was roaming the room simply pulled himself up by the window ledge to peer out.
“What are you?” The arm at his throat pressed tighter.
“Where are we?” the man by window asked at the same time, only his question was less threatening, more curious, and with a note of something that Merlin couldn’t put his finger on.
“I can explain,” Merlin said, gasping for breath around the pressure at his throat. The magic was itchy beneath his skin; the reflex to push the threat away was strong. “Please, if you let me, I can explain. I have a speech and everything-”
Eyebrows raised in disbelief but Merlin was saved when the large shadow by the window spoke.
A name or a title? The one in front of him was Dean.
“Yeah, okay.” The arm against his throat dropped. Merlin only realized that he had been held on his toes the whole time when his heels hit the floor. He took a deep breath and tried to calm his racing heart, rubbing at his poor throat as he did so.
Merlin studied the two men who were now in his chamber. They carried themselves like warriors – intimidating even in their strange clothes. Their trousers were blue, in a material Merlin did not recognize. Dean had a richly dyed shirt of fine linen under a jacket of well-stitched leather, the other a brightly coloured woven shirt the likes of which Merlin had never seen. They were both tall, but the second one was taller, as tall as Percival at least, if not more so. Merlin still couldn’t tell who the elder was; both had eyes older than their bodies.
Merlin lowered his head, as he used to do while speaking with Uther, while the two men looked at him, expectant and wary. Merlin thought of those who came to Arthur to plead for help. He dropped to one knee, then compromised and raised his head to look them in the eye.
“Welcome Warriors. I apologize for summoning you from your realm, but I am in desperate need of your help…” Merlin paused and corrected himself. “Camelot is in desperate need of your help. We have been besieged by monsters from another world – your world. Our weapons have no effect, and our people are dying. The King-”
“Yes,” Merlin said, then added, “My Lords,” remembering that he was supposed to be polite and humble. Arthur would laugh if he saw Merlin now. No, Arthur would probably kill him without any amusement whatsoever.
“What year is it?” Dean asked.
“It is the second year of King Arthur’s reign,” Merlin replied.
“No, what year is it?” he asked again.
“It is the second year of King Arthur’s-” Merlin repeated slower.
“That won’t work, Dean,” the tall one said, and narrowed his eyes at Merlin. “Who are you?”
“My name is Merlin.” Both sets of eyes widened at this. The tall one ran a hand through his long hair.
“Holy shit,” he said, and began to look around the room again. Dean studied Merlin.
“Aren’t you supposed to be some old guy?” he asked.
“You know me?” Merlin’s jaw dropped, not only had his name had been recognized, they knew he was Dragoon, or more likely Emrys. This could be bad.
“Yeah, you’re a legend,” Dean said. “Merlin and King Arthur, the sword in the stone – you know, all that stuff. Only you’re supposed to be old. So, I guess history got that wrong.”
“History?” Merlin said. “How is that-”
“Dean,” the tall one interrupted. “We’re not in the past.”
“What do you mean we’re not in the past?” Dean turned to ask. “We’re in freakin’ Camelot with freakin’ Merlin, in a room lit with candles - it sure as hell looks like the past to me.”
“Look at the writing,” the other replied, pointing to Merlin’s meticulous painting on the floor and walls. “Sideways, not across.”
“Use your words, Sam,” Dean sighed. “You know, I can’t read this crap as well as – hold up, is that Enochian?”
“Yeah, it’s an inter-dimensional summons.”
“How the hell can we be summoned?” Dean exclaimed. Merlin watched as he touched the writing with his fingers.
“Is this blood?”
“Yes,” Merlin replied. “The spell was very specific. I nearly didn’t have enough, what with the boy only being seven and-”
“What?” The stare Dean turned on him was chilling. “What boy?”
Merlin hastened to explain. “The blood of the innocent-”
“Did you bleed a boy dry to summon us here?”
This wasn’t going well.
“No,” Merlin said. “I mean, yes, but-“
Merlin found himself thrust against the wall again before he could speak another word. This is probably why Gaius had insisted that he stick to the speech.
As if he knew Merlin was thinking of him, Gaius coughed in the other room, and the two warriors simultaneously turned their heads toward the door.
“Who else is here?” Dean asked him, his voice cold and furious.
“Gaius, the court physician. I– I don’t know what you think I did, but-”
“Shut-up,” Dean’ forearm cut off Merlin’s air just enough to enforce the message. “Sam, go check it out.”
Sam nodded and left the room. Merlin considered whether or not he should use magic to free himself. He honestly didn’t know whether Gaius was in any danger – the warriors were supposed to help. Though the dragon had warned him-
“Dean,” Sam called from other room. “Let Merlin breathe and come look at this.”
Merlin gasped as soon as Dean released him, and stumbled out of the room in his wake. Gaius was standing at the end of the table near Rhodri’s feet. Sam had pulled the sheet back. Merlin didn’t want to look at the sight again, so instead he observed Dean’s reaction. The warrior closed his eyes and swore under his breath, before rubbing a hand down his face.
“Let me guess,” Sam said to Gaius, “the only thing missing was his heart.”
“That’s correct ... My Lord,” Gaius said, looking quickly over to Merlin for direction.
“Our introductions were interrupted,” Merlin said.
“Sam,” Sam said, pointing at himself, he then pointed to the other warrior, “my brother, Dean. Are there others?” he gestured to the body.
“I am Gaius, the court physician,” Gaius replied, though Sam hadn’t asked. “And yes, there have been many victims of the attacks.”
“Where are they?” Dean asked, looking around the room as though Merlin had hidden the other bodies under a table.
“Laid to rest, or awaiting their burial,” Gaius said. “We only brought in young Rhodri in order to extract the blood for the summoning.
“I tried to tell you,” Merlin interjected. “The spell was specific. I had to use the blood of an innocent victim of the attacks. Rhodri was the most recent.”
Merlin was thankful when Sam carefully pulled the sheet back over the young boy.
“Okay,” Dean said, “family meeting time, if you’ll excuse us.” He graced Merlin and Gaius with an insincere smile and then nodded towards Sam, “Sam, a word in the summoning room, please.”
“Back in a minute,” Sam smiled at them, a little more genuinely, and followed his brother into Merlin’s chamber.
“So...” Gaius said in the silence, “those are the legendary warriors?”
“Yes,” Merlin said, “They’re not exactly what I was expecting, believe me.”
Gaius had been against this plan, but now that it was done, there was no going back. They lapsed into an awkward silence, listening to the murmurs from behind the closed door until:
“No, seriously, what the hell!?”
“I don’t know!”
Merlin glanced towards his room and fidgeted.
“Do you think I should go in there?” he asked Gaius.
“Not if you value your life.”
“So, you’re saying we just do whatever he wants?” Dean asked.
“I’m saying I don’t think we have much of a choice,” Sam sighed. “Unless you know how to un-summon yourself.”
“I didn’t even know I could be summoned!” Dean said.
“And I did?” Sam asked. “Listen, Merlin-”
“If that is Merlin,” Dean interrupted. “Did you look at him? He’s just a kid, Sam.”
“Yeah, well that kid happened to know how to summon us, happens to live in a place called Camelot that’s ruled by a king named Arthur – and yeah, knew how to summon us,” Sam repeated. “He’s our best bet for someone who might know how to un-summon us, so I say we help the guy out – and hope that he sends us on our way after. Look, you saw the dead kid out there – they’ve got a werewolf loose. We can hunt those in our sleep, no big deal.”
Dean was doing that calming breaths thing, so Sam knew that he had won this argument – or at least that Dean had stopped freaking out and started thinking rationally again. Either way, Sam was counting it as a win.
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Dean said. “So... Camelot?”
“Apparently,” Sam said. “Did you look out the window?”
Dean’s answer resulted in Sam crouched with his hands laced together under a dirty boot, as he gave Dean a boost so that he could look out the window.
“Holy shit, Sammy,” Dean said. “We’re in a freakin’ castle. This is awesome.”
“You done sightseeing? Your heavy ass is hurting my hands.”
“Fine, quit your bitching,” Dean grumbled as he stepped down. “Come on, let’s go talk to Merlin.”
Merlin was just coming in the other door when Sam and Dean returned to the larger chamber. The dead kid’s body was gone. Sam assumed Merlin must have taken the corpse somewhere. The old man, Gaius, Sam reminded himself, was stoking the fire.
Merlin smiled at them hesitantly but hopeful, but Dean spoke before Merlin or Sam could say a word.
“You can send us back, right?”
Sam watched as Merlin’s whole face fell, as though the very universe had betrayed him.
“But we need your help,” Merlin pleaded. “You’re supposed to...”
“Oh my god,” Dean said. “We’re going to help, stop looking at me like that. You’re worse than Sam. I just meant after – after we kill the bad guy, you can send us back, right?”
“Oh.” Merlin’s smile was ear to ear and nearly blinding. “Yes, of course Yes. Thank you...yes. So you’ll help?”
“Yes,” Sam confirmed, and as if that was the magic signal, Merlin whirled into action, grabbing a bucket of water and a mop from the corner and heading towards the summoning room as he spoke.
“Great, great, now, first is clothes – you can’t see Arthur looking like that,” then Merlin disappeared from sight and there were words Sam didn’t understand, followed by the sound of water sloshing and a mop hitting the floor, noises which continued as Merlin rejoined them empty-handed. “…Never thought I’d see another person as big as Percival…and Dean’s about Leon’s size, don’t you think, Gauis?”
Dean nudged Sam, motioning towards the door to the smaller room. Sam looked back and saw the mop moving on its own in the candlelight, mopping up the blood used in the summoning ritual.
“Full on sorcerer’s apprentice,” Dean said softly.
“-we’ll have to say you’re mercenaries, of course,” Merlin continued, “since I know from experience that saying you’re a noble only buys you a day or two before someone figures out that you don’t exist and then it’s jail or exile and me burning at the stake, and I’ve managed to avoid that for eight years-”
“Wait, what?” Sam said.
“I’ll just go get your disguises,” Merlin said, already at the door with a large bag slung over his shoulder. “Then we’ll go over the story for the King. Back in a moment!”
“What?” Dean said to the back of the door and Merlin’s fading footsteps in the hall.
Sam turned to the only other person in the room. Gaius was also casting an annoyed look at the back of the door, one eyebrow raised.
“Disguises?” Sam asked.
“You don’t exactly blend in,” Gaius answered. Sam looked down at his bright plaid shirt and jeans.
“Yeah, but-” Sam started.
“Do we get to dress up like knights?” Dean asked from beside him. Sam turned slowly to stare at his brother.
“Mercenaries,” the old man said.
Dean looked a little disappointed – but shrugged, and then made the face that meant he was trying to act like he wasn’t super excited about something.
Sam felt a headache coming on.
It was nearly dawn when Merlin finally decided the brothers were ready to meet the King. He had carefully explained the story he had invented for them. He dressed them in cast-off armour that had once belonged to Leon and Percival, hiding their foreign clothes along his magic book underneath the floor boards in his room. The warriors had listened attentively, with Sam asking the most questions. Some of Sam’s questions seemed overly simple – how to address the King, court etiquette, basic things that Merlin thought everyone would know. On the other hand, Merlin conceded that he might have asked the same questions had he been transported to their world. Their language was certainly odd, with words and phrases that Merlin didn’t know, and accents that belonged to no land that Merlin had ever visited.
“Most importantly,” Merlin stressed. “You cannot tell anyone that I summoned you here – or that you are not of this world. It could be seen as magic, and therefore punishable by death.”
Sam and Dean both nodded and then seemed to pause and stare at Merlin in disbelief.
“Are you saying magic is punishable by death in Camelot?” Sam stated.
“Yes, exactly,” Merlin said. “No one can know.”
“But you’re Merlin,” Dean said, staring at Merlin in disbelief. “You’re- you’re magic. You’re the most...magic.”
“Yes, and it’ll be our little secret, understand? I very much like my head on my shoulders and my skin not burned from my bones.”
“That can’t be right,” Sam said. “This can’t be... does Arthur know?”
“No!” Merlin said. “And he can’t find out.”
“But you’re his wizard!” Dean said.
“I prefer warlock,” Merlin answered, scrunching up his nose at the other term, “and no, I’m not. I’m King Arthur’s manservant.”
“Manservant?!” Dean exclaimed.
“But you’re the most powerful wi- warlock, to ever live!” Sam frowned.
“None of that will matter if I’m dead,” Merlin said. “Which is why you cannot tell Arthur...But how is it that you know so much about me?”
“How is it that you knew how to summon us?” Sam asked back.
“It was in a book,” Merlin answered.
“Well, so are you,” Dean replied.