Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
Today marks week 37 of the 52 week writing challenge!
The prompt for Sunday 17th September is ‘Heroes’:
This weeks attempt is based on the Turtle Writers weekly image prompt:
Normally I have an idea for each prompt, but this week I got stuck. I’m grateful the image inspired this idea because it was so much fun! I decided to experiment more with Merlin and Arthur in space, because the giant snails in the image prompt certainly appear otherworldly.
Background: Set around the year 3000. Merlin has lived for 2500 years, waiting, and Arthur is the reincarnation of Prince Arthur.
‘It’s so hot,’ Arthur complained as he took measured steps through the sand. He ran a hand over his brow and glanced at his companion, draped in desert robes but no younger than Arthur, at least for now. ‘Can’t you cast a spell or something?’
Merlin shrugged and turned his face up to the sun.
‘I guess I could have done,’ Merlin said, with a quick glance around them. ‘But I kind of like it. Reminds me of old times.’
‘Like it? I’m roasting,’ Arthur replied with a glare. ‘We used to do this a lot?’
‘All the time,’ Merlin said with a small smile. He stopped and pointed straight ahead of them. ‘We’re nearly there anyway.’
Arthur squinted and held up a hand to shield his eyes from the bright sun. In the distance, a large sandstone wall circuited a sandy hill. Atop the hill, a desert palace stood.
‘That’s Agrabah?’ Arthur asked with a huff. ‘I thought the palace would be more… elaborate.’
‘You’ve been studying historical Disney in school again, haven’t you?’ Merlin replied with a grin.
Arthur flushed and looked away to the few sparse bushes around them. ‘Maybe. I had expectations, all right?’
Merlin smirked and looked straight ahead, froze for a second, and then scampered behind a bush.
‘What now?’ Arthur complained. ‘Come on Merlin, let’s just get to the village already so I can have a drink.’
Merlin said nothing, but pointed at the desert. Arthur glanced over his shoulder. His mouth dropped open. Three giant snails slid across the landscape in front of them.
‘First that purple space dragon, and now giant snails? Why is everything in outer space so big?’
‘They won’t hurt us, Arthur. We’re heroes,’ Merlin replied from behind the bush.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. ‘So why are you hiding?’
Merlin beckoned Arthur closer to the bush. Arthur shrugged and crouched to join him.
Merlin dropped his voice to a whisper. ‘Giant land snails are fiercely territorial. If they see us, they’ll charge.’
Arthur’s eyes narrowed. ‘But they’re snails…’
‘Do you think snails that big are normal?’ Merlin asked. ‘Magic. They were born of magic.’
‘So they move faster than a typical garden snail?’
Merlin bit his bottom lip. ‘Exactly. Maybe I should teleport us the rest of the way…’
‘Teleport? You could have… When we get inside I’m going to kill you, Merlin,’ Arthur said with a glare.
‘You don’t mean that,’ Merlin replied with a grin. ‘You love me.’
Arthur rolled his eyes. ‘I wouldn’t go that far.’
Merlin smiled and stood. He lifted his staff and took Arthur by the arm as the staff began to glow purple. Arthur blinked, and when he opened his eyes they were in front of the walled city.
‘We’re still outside…’
‘I can only teleport to things I can see,’ Merlin replied. ‘I couldn’t have done it before I saw the walls.’
Arthur shook his head and pulled his arm free. ‘Come on, they’re expecting us.’
Once they convinced the guards they were indeed the fabled warrior and sorcerer, a guard led them through the gates and into the palace.
‘We’ve been expecting you,’ the mayor greeted from his position on a high throne. He raised an eyebrow in distaste. ‘Although we were not expecting someone so young.’
Arthur glared at the mayor. ‘I’m twice the warrior you’ll ever be!’
Merlin placed a hand on Arthur’s arm and said in a whisper, ‘Let me do the talking. We want them to like us.’
‘Fine,’ Arthur replied. He crossed his arms over his chest, and Merlin watched as Arthur looked away to hide his discontent.
‘We get the job done,’ Merlin said. He turned to the mayor with a confident grin. ‘So tell us what you need.’
The mayor shrugged. ‘Your funeral.’ He snapped his fingers and two guards appeared from behind the throne. ‘Escort us to the fields.’
The fields stretched far in front of them. Giant snails left trails of slime across the sand.
‘Let me guess, the snails are out of control?’ Arthur asked, with a gesture towards the giant snails.
‘The snails farm our land. They are not a threat,’ the mayor replied. He grabbed a large jar and handed it to Arthur. ‘Here, put this on.’
Arthur stuck a hand in the jar and pulled out a slimy substance. He wrinkled his nose. ‘On where?’
‘Face and hands,’ the mayor replied. ‘Snail slime covers scents and will allow you to approach safely.’
Merlin shrugged and did as asked. Arthur hesitated. Merlin stared at him and nodded at the slime. Arthur grimaced and scooped up a handful to cover his face.
‘So if the snails aren’t the threat, what is?’ Merlin asked as they walked towards the fields.
The mayor said nothing, but he pointed towards the sky and ducked. ‘That.’
A giant black shape swooped down out of the sky and plucked one of the snails off the land. Arthur drew his sword.
Merlin took a step back and tilted his head to the sky, eyes wide. ‘And you thought the snails were big.’ He looked at Arthur and snickered. ‘Oh put it away, what are you going to do? Poke it?’
Arthur grumbled something unintelligible under his breath as he sheathed his sword, but his wary eyes tracked the bird until it disappeared into a cave in the distance. Only then did he turn to the mayor. ‘What do you expect us to do about it?’
‘Kill them!’ the mayor said. He waved his arms and pointed towards the desert. ‘Why else do you think I advertised for heroes? I can reward you. Handsomely.’
‘All we ask for is your support,’ Merlin replied, palms open by his side and eyes clear. ‘You’ll owe us one.’
Arthur muttered and kicked the dirt. ‘We’re broke, Merlin.’
‘It’s important, Arthur,’ Merlin replied with a hard stare at his friend.
Arthur deflated. ‘Fine, but you better conjure me something amazing for dinner.’
Merlin grinned and nodded.
‘Well in that case, you have my word,’ the mayor replied with a smirk. ‘I’ll even throw in a few jars of snail slime.’
Merlin’s eyes lit up, and he held out his hand. ‘You have a deal.’
The mayor shook Merlin’s hand and nodded to the desert. ‘Get to it then.’
With Merlin’s magic, and Arthur’s insistence that Merlin use it this time, the pair of heroes traversed the desert much easier.
‘That mayor doesn’t think we’re coming back, does he?’ Arthur asked when they arrived at the bottom of the mountain. The cave loomed high above them.
Merlin shook his head and bent over, hands on his knees and breaths coming in harsh pants. ‘The nest… the bird went in the cave,’ Merlin said, and he broke out into a coughing fit.
‘Are you all right?’ Arthur asked. He placed a hand on Merlin’s shoulder and ducked to meet his eyes.
‘Fine, just give me a minute,’ Merlin replied. ‘Teleportation spells were never my strong point, and they take a lot of magical energy.’
Arthur nodded and led Merlin over to a rock. They sat for a few moments looking out at the desert and basking in the sun.
‘So what’s the plan?’ Arthur asked, when Merlin’s breathing had calmed.
Merlin ignored him and gestured upwards. ‘Do you hear that?’
Arthur cocked his head and listened. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. He frowned and turned to Merlin. ‘That sounds like more than one.’
Merlin shot to his feet and began to scramble up the cliff, staff secure on his back. Arthur strapped his sword to his own back with a sigh and followed him. About halfway up, they reached a large cave carved into the face of the mountain.
Merlin peered over the lip of the mountain and gestured for Arthur to look. ‘Not just more than one. Babies.’
Arthur’s face scrunched up as he peered over the top, but he moved to pull himself up onto the ledge. Merlin grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back. ‘You smell like snails, they’ll think you’re dinner if you go any closer.’
Arthur nodded and dropped back to rest on the cliff face with Merlin. He glanced at the babies again. ‘I don’t feel comfortable killing baby birds, Merlin.’
Merlin bit his lip. ‘Neither do I, it’s not very heroic. Perhaps there’s another way.’
‘When you said another way, I didn’t think you meant we’d be trekking across the desert again,’ Arthur said, and he broke off into a cough as the wind picked up and blew sand in his face.
‘We have no choice Arthur. We have to find somewhere else for them to live,’ Merlin insisted. He stared out across the desert and shielded his eyes. ‘There!’
Arthur glanced in the direction Merlin pointed. A mountain protruded from the landscape, and snails crawled at its base. ‘It’s near some of those snails too. Are they wild?’ Arthur asked.
Merlin grinned and nodded. ‘Not a settlement in sight. So long as it has a cave, it’s perfect.’
‘Even if it is perfect, can you manage a teleportation spell of that distance?’ Arthur asked. He blinked and turned to where Merlin had stood moments before, but he’d disappeared. ‘Merlin?’
He glanced to the left. He glanced to the right. Merlin was nowhere to be seen.
‘Great,’ Arthur muttered to himself, and he slumped to the sandy floor to wait.
A few moments passed. Moments turned to minutes. The sun moved across the sky, and Arthur’s shadow taunted him. He got to his feet and began to pace. When his shadow had moved more than enough to be a concern, Arthur headed towards the mountain, sword in hand.
Arthur’s water flask was empty by the time he reached the cave halfway up the mountain. Merlin lay still a few feet away from the entrance.
‘Merlin!’ Arthur called, voice low as he rushed to Merlin’s side.
Merlin groaned and blinked up at him. ‘Arthur? What are you doing here?’
‘What am I…?’ Arthur asked. He ran a hand through his hair and offered Merlin a hand. ‘You were gone over an hour, I was worried you’d gotten lost, or worse, killed.’
Merlin clasped Arthur’s hand and let Arthur tug him into a sitting position by the wall of the cliff. They sat side by side and stared out over the desert. Merlin sighed and broke the silence.
‘I’m sorry,’ Merlin said. His eyes slipped closed and he sighed. ‘I thought I could do it easily and be back before you knew it, but that last teleportation spell took it out of me.’
‘Are you okay?’ Arthur asked with a frown.
Merlin nodded and gestured around the corner, one finger raised to his lips. ‘They are too,’ he whispered.
Arthur crouched and crept to peer into the large cave. Three large starlings and four chicks sat feasting on a broken snail. Arthur grimaced and left them to it.
‘Very heroic Merlin,’ Arthur said with a sigh. ‘But next time don’t push yourself so hard.’
Merlin’s lips twitched into a fond smile.
‘What?’ Arthur asked with a raised eyebrow.
‘You always used to say that to me, before,’ Merlin replied, and when Arthur looked away, Merlin hastened to add, ‘I’m sorry. You’re not him, but you act so much like him sometimes…’
‘It hurts, doesn’t it?’ Arthur asked as he offered Merlin a hand up.
Merlin shook his head and took Arthur’s hand. ‘You remind me of him, and after so many years without him there’s nothing better than this.’
Arthur bit his lip and glanced down. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Merlin watching him with a hesitant smile. Merlin was right. These adventures? There was nothing better. Arthur hid a fond smile and turned to Merlin. ‘Guess we’re walking back then.’
‘Yeah. Sorry,’ Merlin replied. He ran a hand through his hair and glanced at the setting sun.
Arthur shook his head, and this time he didn’t hide his smile. ‘It’s okay. I’ve come to like the desert, and you can tell me more about those old times you’re so fond of on the way.’
Merlin grinned. ‘Awesome! There was this one time where you and I fought a three headed beast which could only be harmed by magic. It was the day you found out about me…’
They climbed down the mountain and walked back across the desert to the village, arms around each other as Merlin talked animatedly of their past adventures. The sun had set by the time they arrived, and the mayor begrudgingly bequeathed them with a declaration of allegiance and as many jars of slime as Merlin could carry.
‘Why do you want so much slime anyway?’ Arthur asked, as he watched Merlin shrink the tenth jar and stuff it into his bag.
‘It’s rare, and useful in a few spells,’ Merlin replied with a grin. ‘I’m pretty sure I can turn myself invisible with this. I haven’t done that in years!’
Arthur groaned, but his smile was fond. ‘You’re a nightmare. Come on, let’s go home.’
Thanks for reading!
This is another short story from the same universe as my Arthurian Legend based story set far in the future. It’s still in the planning stages, but I hope to have a complete plan by NaNoWriMo!
I went to a wedding yesterday, and I’m a bit out of it today. I caught a few crazy typo’s when reading over this. If you notice any more let me know so I can fix them!
Next Sunday’s prompt:
The prompt for 24th September is ‘Hoard.’
If you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 24th September, and leave a link in the comments below this post so I can read it 🙂
If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I am super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂