Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
This Sunday’s prompt is: Story.
This week’s story combines history, Merlin, and tales of magic. Since the prompt is story, I decided to write about a storyteller. It’s also based on my current work in progress, where Merlin is one of my MC’s. I wish I had magic. I’d use it to fix our boiler!
This week’s top tip is:
Keep warm when you write. Typing with cold fingers is no fun!
This week’s top tip is brought to you by someone with a broken boiler. It sure is cold without heating when there’s snow outside!
Onto the story!
Around a campfire, a group of children chattered with gleaming eyes as they crowded around with marshmallows held over the flame.
A young blonde girl glanced at her friends. ‘Do you think he’ll tell us a story today?’
‘I hope so. One about the knights,’ another girl, a brunette, replied. She stood and waved her stick with the marshmallow on above her head. ‘Those are the best.’
‘Magic’s far more fun,’ a young boy said. ‘A sword wouldn’t stand a chance against it.’
‘Shh,’ the blonde urged, with a furtive glance around camp. ‘You know what happens to people when they talk about magic.’ She mimed a knife slitting her throat with her finger and gestured across the camp. ‘Look, there’s Myrddin. Let’s ask him.’
An elderly man hobbled across the village towards the campfire, wooden staff with a beautiful purple crystal atop it glistening in the firelight. He leant on it heavily as he chatted with the market stall owner, handed over a few pieces of gold for some bread and meat, and shuffled to sit on a log by the fire.
The three friends nudged and whispered amongst themselves for a moment, before the boy, Percy, found himself pushed towards Myrddin. The girls motioned with their hands towards the old man. Percy gulped and stepped in front of him.
Myrddin’s eyes darted up. ‘Can I help you?’
Percy twisted his hands together. ‘We were wondering if you’d tell us another story tonight.’
‘Again?’ Myrddin raised an eyebrow. ‘You’re not bored of them yet?’
The brunette grinned. ‘We’d never get bored! You’re far more interesting than Percy’s dad.’
‘Hey!’ Percy objected, but he glanced towards his dad and grimaced. ‘No. You’re right. If I hear one more fishing story-‘
‘I’ll die of boredom.’ the girls finished in a chorus. They turned to the old man expectantly. ‘Please?’
Myrddin ran a hand through his hair. ‘Fine. Should I tell you about the round table? The Holy Grail?’
‘Everyone’s heard those ones! Tell us something new!’ Percy said. He lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘Something with magic.’
Myrddin flinched and looked around. When he realised no one was in earshot his gaze settled on the fire. ‘Magic is not something I can speak of freely. People have burned for less.’
‘Take us somewhere you can?’ the blonde girl asked with an unnatural gleam in her eyes.
Myrddin sighed. ‘All right, Lizzie. Meet me at the edge of the village after dinner.’
After dinner, as they waited by a rickety shack on the outskirts of the village, the sun began to set.
‘Where is he?’ Percy asked, when they’d been stood a good while waiting for Myrddin.
‘Probably off telling our parents. We were asking about magic.’
The brunette girl tossed her hair. ‘It’s true,’ she replied. ‘Magic isn’t safe. It’s the work of the devil.’
Lizzie bit her lip and clasped a pendant around her neck. ‘Not all magic is bad, is it?’
Aldan shrugged. ‘That’s what Mr Hopkins says, an he’s an expert.’
Myrddin stepped out of the shadows and stared at them. ‘Matthew Hopkins is a fool. Ready?’ The three friends nodded. ‘Come on then, it’s not far.’
They followed Myrddin along a dirt track leading away from the village, sticking close together and matching his slower pace. He stopped at the edge of a stone circle.
Aldan shuddered. ‘Mr Hopkins says this place is cursed.’
Myrddin stepped forward and placed a worn hand on the closest stone. ‘Like I said, he’s a fool.’ His eyes slipped closed, and a chill wind blew around them. ‘It’s sacred.’
Lizzie stepped up beside him. ‘They’re magic, aren’t they?’
‘So the stories say. This place used to be full of magic. Spirits. Wisps. Ghosts of the past. With every day its power fades, and those who can sense it are dying out.’ He raised a hand to his chest and his jaw trembled. ‘Come on, let’s sit.’
He led the way towards the lower rocks in the middle of the circle and sat with a groan. The children sat cross-legged on the damp grass in front of him and glanced up with eager eyes.
Myrddin smiled, but it was far off and his distant gaze was focused on the darkening sky. ‘It was the wizard Merlin who created this circle.’ He frowned and looked around at the stones. ‘Although more accurately, he moved them here from Ireland.’
‘But why?’ Aldan asked. ‘They’re just rocks.’
Percy glared at her. ‘Keep quiet and he’ll tell us!’
Myrddin laughed, although it contained little humour. ‘A favour for a dear friend, Aurelius, to honour those slain in battle. He’s buried here you know. With his brother, Uther.’
Aldan’s eyes darted around. Percy shifted where he sat. Only Lizzie remained still, eyes transfixed on a point behind Myrddin. Myrddin glanced behind him, where an ethereal apparition shimmered. A ghostly knight. His eyes widened, and he turned back to Lizzie with a raised eyebrow.
Lizzie shrugged and her eyes darted up to meet his. ‘Under that stone?’
Myrddin nodded, and his eyes slipped closed for a moment. When he opened them, he shifted his staff onto his lap and gestured for Lizzie to sit beside him. As she pulled herself onto the rock, they shared a brief smile.
‘But how did Merlin move it?’ Aldan asked.
‘He had help,’ Myrddin replied with a smile. ‘You think these stones moved on their own?’
Percy shook his head. ‘Was it giants? They’re the only ones big enough to move em.’
Aldan rolled her eyes. ‘Giants aren’t real! If they were, we’d know about it.’
Myrddin sighed. ‘They are. They’re just really secretive.’ He straightened, and for a moment he looked years younger. ‘Merlin travelled to Ireland in pursuit of the perfect stones. At the top of one of the tallest mountains, Killaraus, he found them. The Giants Dance.’
‘Why was it called that?’ Lizzie asked.
Myrddin laughed. ‘Because there were giants dancing around it, about a hundred of them. To say they were surprised to see me… Merlin, would be an understatement. They grabbed him by the arms and tied him to a stake next to the fire, where a cow and a pig were being roasted. It- I can only imagine the stench of burning flesh.’
‘But Merlin’s supposed to be an all powerful wizard!’ Percy said. ‘How did he get captured so easily?’
‘Maybe he thought magic should be used as a last resort!’ Myrddin replied. ‘He tried to talk to them first.’
‘So he just wanders into the middle of a circle of giants and tries to talk to them?’ Aldan asked. ‘Giants. Did he have a death wish?’
Myrddin shook his head. ‘He just had faith it’d work out. All the giants saw was dinner though.’
‘Did Arthur and the knights save him?’ Aldan asked with a hopeful gleam in her eyes.
Myrddin shook his head, and for a moment his face twisted in pain. ‘Too busy chasing Guinevere and ignoring warnings it’d end in tears.’
‘All romance does,’ Aldan replied. ‘Least, that’s what my dad says.’
‘Not all,’ Lizzie said earnestly. ‘At least, I’d like to think so.’
‘Can we get back to the story?’ Percy asked with a grimace. ‘I want to know how Merlin escaped.’
Myrddin nodded. ‘Right. Tied to a stake, with no help forthcoming, Merlin hatched a plan. He conjured a flame to burn the ropes around his wrists, untied his legs, and stalked towards the giants ready for round two.’
‘No sense of self preservation,’ Aldan muttered. ‘I’d have been out of there.’
‘He wouldn’t leave without the stones,’ Lizzie said with a sidelong glance at Myrddin. ‘Right?’
Percy sighed. ‘I wish I were that brave.’
‘It’s not about bravery, it’s about realising something’s more important than fear. The stones were important, thought to have the power to heal any ailment and stand the test of time.’ Myrddin tapped the stone he sat on with his knuckle. ‘Still here, so must be true.’
Lizzie looked down at the stone. ‘So Merlin approached the giants again?’
Myrddin nodded. ‘He asked them to help move the stones. They laughed at him.’ His voice lowered as he impersonated the giants. ‘Why would we want to move, human? And who’s going to make us?’
‘But Merlin could, right?’ Percy asked. ‘Magic can make people do anything.’
Myrddin waved his hands in an earnest gesture. ‘Magic’s not like that. It has limits. Merlin knew the leader’s brother, Geryon, recently met his end when he fell from the mountain. Caused a hell of an earthquake. He suggested the giants move to lower ground, but they wanted proof Merlin was worthy of recommending a spot.’ Myrddin’s smile was smug as he glanced at his captive audience. ‘So Merlin said, ‘I can lift these stones as easily as any of you.’
Lizzie’s eyes were the widest of the three friends. ‘Magic can do that?’
Myrddin nodded. ‘By this point the giants were in hysterics, but Merlin ignored them. When their laughter died down and the ground stopped shaking, they asked him to prove it. With a gleam in his eyes, Merlin raised his staff above his head and levitated a stone into the air.’
‘Wow!’ Percy said in awe. ‘The giants agreed after that?’
‘Of course,’ Myrddin replied. ‘Stones under their arms, and large sacks slung over their backs, Merlin and the giants travelled down the mountain and across the sea to place the stones here.‘
Aldan glanced around at the mismatched pattern of stones. ‘It’s so messy. Did they just dump the stones here and leave?’
Myrddin laughed. ‘Merlin said as much, but the giants demanded he recreate the Giant’s Dance exactly as it was in Ireland. It was supposed to be that way. The formation embodies magic itself, or used to before the witch hunts killed so many of our kind. Now its power is fading.’
He drew in a deep breath and closed his eyes, but looked up when small fingers entwined with his own. Lizzie nodded so slightly that only he could see, and there was a flicker of power between their joined hands. Myrddin offered her a small smile.
Percy sighed and rested his head on his hands. ‘You always tell such fantastic stories.’
Myrddin smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘They’re not stories, they’re the truth.’
Aldan scoffed. ‘How do you know?’
‘They’re my past. My memories.’
‘Give over. Your stories happened centuries ago. No one’s that old.’
Myrddin sighed. ‘They could be, if they had magic.’
‘Magic can make you live forever?’ Percy asked with a gleam in his eyes.
Lizzie squeezed Myrddin’s trembling hand, and he smiled a weak smile. ‘Unfortunately.’
Percy frowned. ‘How is that unfortunate? It’s awesome.’
Aldan’s eyes lit up. ‘Think of all you could do. The fun you could have.’
‘It’s no fun when everyone you care about is dead, and everyone you meet grows old and dies.’ His eyes slid behind him, where the ghostly figure stood. Lizzie’s eyes widened as it turned and vanished. When the other villagers discovered Lizzie’s magic, Myrddin helped her vanish too.
Thanks for reading!
There are so many references in this one. Mr Hopkins is the witch finder general, who led the witch hunts in the 1600’s. There’s Arthurian legend references to the holy grail, the round table, and Merlin’s involvement in building stone henge. Percy is short for Percival, one of Arthur’s knights, and Aldan was the name of Merlin’s mother!
Why not write a short story based on a prompt yourself? The prompts for March are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
If you use one of the prompts, feel free to share your story links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!