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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 16: Hastings 49
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Previous chapter: Chapter 15: Brown 5
Merlin's home was not much more than a hollowed stack of sticks and dirt; his classroom was the forest. But with the help of his magic, it was all comfortable and wondrous.
It was difficult to determine what year it was; the calendar with which she was familiar was unknown. She gathered that Merlin was still looking forward to his place in history, his associations with Uther Pendragon, Arthur, and Camelot. It was strange, because Merlin seemed to know something about these things but only in the vaguest and broadest terms, and Lauren knew mostly what she had seen in movies, the legend and the fiction. She remembered that in the multiverse it seemed that there was no fiction, only the truth of another world. This, however, probably was not her world, and she could only guess which stories were the history here.
That led to discussions of her experience–that, and her need to explain what she already had learned about magic. She told him of her life as a housewife and mother, and of dying and passing through the scriff to NagaWorld. She explained what she had learned about mental powers while there, and showed him the several psionic devices she had collected. Then she went on to talk about her battle against the vampires in Philadelphia, the fights she had with Jackson and with Gavin, her meeting with Bethany of Wandborough, her alliance with the werewolves, and the assault on The Pit. She showed him the magical objects Bethany had given her, explaining what she knew about them. He was as fascinated by them as objects as he was by the magic within him. She asked him about the acorn, but something seemed to bother him, making him uncomfortable touching it or even considering it. He wouldn't say what it was, but that somehow it reminded him of his fate, and he wasn't certain how. She told of the battle she fought with the vampire magician Horta, in which she killed him but died in the effort. After that, she laid out the tale of her visit to the parakeet people, working together with Joe Kondor and Bob Slade to rescue the young female she called Speckles, surviving the winter only to kill herself trying to fix the disintegrator rod. Merlin was interested in everything, and asked many questions; she tried to explain that she didn't know the future of this world, only that she had been in other worlds for which this might be part of the past. It didn't seem to matter to him; he had a keen intellect and an amazing thirst for knowledge. He wouldn't give up until he had learned how to use each of the psionic machines and to do any of her mental tricks he had not already mastered. Bob Slade seemed to catch his interest, and he pulled from Lauren many details of his adventures and Joe's as well which she had not thought to mention. Mainly, though, he reviewed her magics in detail, what she said, what she did, what she expected, what occurred, and why she did it that way.
This led to even longer discussions about her faith. Christianity had not yet come to England, and would not come for some years yet in her world. It would arrive on the coattails of the Roman Empire. But that might be another world, another history. It was possible that God, for some reason, chose not to reveal Himself in that way to this world; it was as possible that she had been sent as a missionary to bring that truth here. She did not know how she could know, but she explained the facts, the history of faith, to her teacher, along with her own uncertainties.
Merlin closed his eyes for several minutes. Lauren started to say something, but he raised his hand to silence her. Then he opened them, and spoke.
"The God of the Hebrews, Creator of All Things, as you call Him, has not yet stretched His hand to touch these isles. He has left Avalon in the care of His servants, the gods of the druids, until that time, and has limited what they are allowed to reveal to us. I will not dishonor that at present. I have many years before Nimue will take me from this world, and although the future is darker there may be years beyond that, a time when you, Laurelyn Spellsbreath, will free me from my imprisonment. At that time the worship of the Creator will be known, and those who serve good will be called to serve Him. But for now, I am called to serve only His servants, and have not graduated to serving Him myself."
He had her tell him her stories several times–not just the exciting adventures, but the times between, of teaching the parakeet people and talking to others. He also drew from her more than she had expected to remember of the stories Bob and Joe had shared in their times together. Their tales of medieval castles seemed particularly to interest him, and he would get a faraway look, as if he were trying to match their tales to places he knew. He took almost as much interest in the rare times Bob had used magic, such as in rebuking the wind so they could cross the log bridge, as he did in her own magic use.
The wizard also took a great interest in her possessions which went beyond the psionic and magical things she carried. Her bow and arrows led him to a myriad of questions. How did sights work? What did the stabilizers do? Why were the points so strong yet so thin on the hunting arrows? The pistols fascinated him immensely. It went beyond that. Her sleeping bag and her parka both had nylon shells and zippers. In addition to the zippers, he was intrigued by snaps, Velcro, elastic, and even buttons. He had a wealth of questions about materials, from the plastic bags in which her food was kept to the chlorine and iodine tablets to the bungee cords. He noticed everything, and asked about it all.
There was a moment when Lauren thought Merlin had learned far more from her than she had from him. But even as the thought occurred to her, she realized he was not merely learning, he was also teaching. He had taught her to understand her own possessions and her own abilities. She had learned to think more deeply about her powers, to see how they were alike and how they were different. He had also been teaching her how to learn, how to examine each thing and question it until it yielded up all its answers. Further, he was teaching her how to teach, preparing her to pass on what she knew to others. Perhaps he had learned nothing at all; perhaps he already knew all that he had asked. She, though, had learned more than she realized.
It was almost immediately upon that realization that the lessons shifted, and he began to talk about the nature of magic and how mortals were able to use it.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #78: Novel Fears. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: