The Birth of Modern Merlin

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 14

I felt reassured when I saw Eilidh weigh anchor and move the large boat out of sight. As soon as she rounded the north end of the island it hit me, I was on my own. That was OK, it was time to get on with it and begin the search for Arthur 2.0.

The sun was strong and warm that June day, hovering high in the Hebredian sky. The sustained wind blowing from the west was constant, about 15 knots. If you were a backpacker, it didn’t get any better than this. I shouldered my pack and tightened the waist belt which allowed the stronger muscles in my legs to bear most of the pack’s weight instead of the weaker muscles in my shoulders and back. As soon as all my straps were tight and adjusted, I took one last sip of water, returned the plastic bottle to its pouch and was off, heading west on the only road out of Solisdale Bay.

The beauty of backpacking isn’t about adding another summit to one’s bagged peaks list or the dogged pursuit of more digits for your pedometer, but from the solitude one finds along the way, refreshing mind, body and soul. When you’re on the trail, the rest of the world melts away, leaving behind just you and your mind, you and your muscles, you and the trail. That’s it.

The trail cares not for the dull ache in your shoulder or the blister on your heel. It goes forward whether you do or not. But if you push through these minor inconveniences, your soul is freed from its cage and you begin to think and feel in new, fresh ways.

On the trail, you don’t set the mental agenda, rather, your mind says, “I’m going to think what I want. You’re welcome to come along, but you’ll have no say in what gets thunk.”

The deserted road eased towards the west, across the width of the island, then turned south, delighting the hiker with beautiful views of Coll’s empty and secluded white sand beaches. To see them and the ocean, you had to hop a fence on to private property and climb to the top of a rocky outcrop, just one of thousands of such rocky summits littering the landscape of this windy island. The farms and pastures lay mostly to the west of the road while the endless line of rocky outcrops occupied the east.

I had only been walking for an hour and had yet to see a single person. That was to be expected. Coll’s 200 residents were mostly concentrated in Arinagour, Coll’s main village, and in the more populated southern end of the island. I was in no rush. Taking my time and soaking in all this remote beauty was its own reward.

Flowing outward from the island’s high points were many small streams, some so small they were hardly worth mentioning. One stream in particular caught my eye. The water looked dirty, strangely out of character for such a beautiful place. I expected to see pristine, clear water running freely towards its rendezvous with the ocean. I looked further west, towards the sandy white beach where the stream met the ocean. There I saw a wide, ugly, brown swath of discolored sand where the fresh water stained the beach.

I was curious now. I followed the stream a short distance from the road to the beach to see if I could find the cause of the brown stained sand. Did it come from a man-made source of pollution? Was it naturally occurring? The small mystery felt like it was worth a short side trip.

I hopped the fence, walked through pastures and fields, avoiding all the rocky outcrops and the fifteen head of long haired, long horned, stumpy cattle who didn’t mind my trespass.

I soon came to the beach of discolored sand. What I didn’t expect to see was another person, not here, not after walking for an hour without spotting a soul. Was this the landowner? Someone who might take offense after I trespassed on his land? Or was this just another tourist, out for a day hike, taking in the wild sights of this pristine place?

I walked closer towards the man, at times looking right at him. It didn’t look like he was upset or even concerned I was there. That was good. As I got closer, it seemed he didn’t see me, and yet, I wasn’t even twenty feet away. He kept looking straight ahead, not acknowledging me at all. We passed each other, not a word spoken between us.

Could he see me, I thought? Then, it struck me, maybe he couldn’t. Perhaps, the dark energy wall surrounding the island also rendered me invisible. What a horrible thing. For the first time, I had to believe this might be my new reality. So before he got too far away, I turned around and called out to this stranger.

“Excuse me, sir. Could you answer a question for me?”

The man stopped in his tracks and turned around to look at me.

“You can see me?” he asked.

“Yes, I can. And hear you too. But can you see me?” I asked, worried he could not.

“Oh, yes,” said the man, now clearly excited and happy as he began to walk back towards me, his step much quicker than before. “That was never the issue. I can see everyone on this island. But they can’t see me, or hear me, and after a while you just start to ignore everybody. What’s the use, if you’re invisible?”

“You’ve got a point,” I said. “But I can see you just fine so there must be something strange going on here. Why can I see you but others cannot?”

“This won’t be the first strange thing that’s happened here,” said the man. “But these things seem to be happening more and more now. That’s alright, it gets lonely out here. I welcome the company.

What’s your name, young man?” he said, reaching to shake my hand.

I thought about it for a second. Should I say, “Merlin” or should I stick with “Magnus?” Better to play it safe. At least until I got a better read on the unfolding situation.

“My name is Magnus Cook,” I said. “Though my family came from Scotland, I am from America. Nice to meet you. And your name, sir, is?...”

My simple request seemed to catch him off guard. What’s so hard about telling me your name? Are you trying to hide something? He rolled his eyes a bit, like he was trying to remember something, long forgotten.

“I didn’t need a name; Nobody to talk to. It’s Caecus, though; my name is Caecus.

From America, are you? I’ve heard so much about it. Never met anybody from America.

Walk with me, Magnus Cook; I have much to ask you.”

Alright, I thought, this seemed to be a fortunate development. Caecus must be affected by the dark energy surrounding this island, just like me. He might be able to help. Maybe he could lead me to Donald Og. That question could come later. For now, I was content to go with him and see what developed.

Before I got to the serious work, I was still curious. Why was the sand stained brown? It was the reason I came here in the first place. So I asked him. The answer was quite simple.

“It’s the peat,” he said. “The rainwater flows through all these peat bogs and picks up that brown color before it reaches the sea. The brown water won’t kill you, if you drink it, but it doesn’t taste very good.

Are you thirsty? It looks like you’ve been hiking a while. Come over to my little place. I’ve got good water there.”

Caecus and I walked back up to the road, then about a half a mile further inland, well away from everything.

There was no road leading to his cottage, no well-worn path to his front door, no fences, no cattle grazing nearby. It was as if Caecus’s little cottage dropped into this area of rocky outcrops with no plan or site preparation. Despite its strange location, the home seemed neat and well-constructed.

Caecus dressed casually, a collared shirt, fleece jacket and kakis, sporting a closely cropped white beard. His full head of white hair was longish but clean, neat and well groomed. He seemed to be about 65 years old, five feet ten inches tall, weighing about 170 pounds with a stocky build, but not overweight. When we walked uphill from the beach to his cottage, his pace was brisk. He seemed to be in relatively good shape for a man his age.

“Come in,” said Caecus, upon reaching the front door.

The door opened before we got there.

“Thank you, Rachel,” said Caecus as we entered. There was nobody in the house.

I looked around the small cottage but saw little to give me any clues about who this Caecus was. There were no family photographs hanging on the walls, no framed diplomas from schools and universities, nothing with a woman’s touch. There were no telephones, radios or electric lamps, just a few oil lamps atop simple wooden tables. A peat fueled fire burned in the fireplace. For the most part, this looked like a simple home from the 19th century.

When I thought I had this simple, clean, old home figured out, I went into an adjoining room only to be surprised by the large, analog television hooked up to a dvd player and an older videotape recorder. All three were connected to an extension cord to the outside, powered by a small gasoline powered generator. This small generator seemed to be the only source of electricity for the house and while that didn’t seem strange on the surface, the fact there was no refrigerator seemed weird. But there were no weapons I could see, no memorabilia to provide context and clues. I was stumped.

“Can I get you anything to eat? Something to drink?” said Caecus, a most gracious host.

“No, thank you, Caecus; I’m fine. I just had breakfast a short time ago.”

“Very well, then” he said. “Let me ask you about America. Tell me everything about it. I want to learn it all.”

Caecus was eager to learn, I’ll give him that. Full of energy, curious. I could see it in his eyes. Here was a guy starving for information and his inquisitiveness seemed sincere.

“Everything?” I said, laughing at the immense nature of his request. “That’s a tall order, Caecus. America’s a pretty big place.”

“You’re right. You’re right,” he said. “Then let’s start with you. Where are you from in America? Tell me everything about that place.”

I chuckled again, but I just went with it and said, “OK, I’ll do my best. I am from a part of America called New Jersey. Are you familiar with that? It’s on the Atlantic Coast, just south of New York City?”

“Yes, Yes! New Jersey. Carol? That’s where that singer on the tele was from, wasn’t it? Bruce Springsteen. He was from New Jersey, wasn’t he?

I looked around but didn’t see any Carol, or any other women, or men, for that matter. It was still just the two of us in the house.

“Alright,” he continued, speaking fast, full of energy, eager to learn. “That’s good. That’s good. Tell me more about New Jersey.”

“It has a lot of nice, long beaches. A lot of people spend their holiday’s there. Summer time at the shore…”

“No, no, no,” he interrupted. “I don’t care about that. I’ve got beaches here. What about the people? Are they good people in New Jersey? Or are they nasty, evil people who make everybody’s life miserable?”

THAT… was a funny question.

“Caecus, my good man, there are about 9 million people who live in New Jersey. I’m sure some are good people, some are nasty and a whole lot are something in between.”

“Right. Nine million people. Right.”

Caecus stood up. He looked confused or anxious or both as if he was a kid in a candy story with permission to eat as much candy as he wanted. It’s as if I represented too, too much information, good information he wanted and needed and he was having a hard time figuring out how to proceed with his good fortune. But then his expression changed again and he started to talk to all these people I couldn’t see.

“NO, you cannot,” he said, sternly, speaking to the wall. “Agatha, I gave you my answer, please do not argue with me… That was yesterday, this is today… I would hope that… OK, let’s stop this, right now.

Ladies, gather together. Everybody please. Call in the folks from outside, too. This is important.”

Caecus looked over at me and apologized.

“I’m sorry, Magnus Cook. I need to take care of this now. It shouldn’t take long.”

“Caecus,” I said, “I’m on vacation and I have no plans whatsoever. I don’t have to be anywhere or see anyone. Do what you need to do; I’ll be fine.”

“Thank you, Magnus Cook.”

Caecus’s attention returned to all the invisible people who seemed to enter his small cottage. It looked like he was counting people.

“Twenty seven. Twenty eight. Has anyone seen Sweetness yet?” he said, addressing the invisible crowd. “I don’t see her. {pause} She’s under her Rock? Again? Carol, can you get Sweetness, please? Thank you. We’re still missing one. Who’s missing? Who? Oh, there she is, late, as usual. Thanks for joining us, Amor. Better late than never.

Alright, quiet down, everybody. I have an important request. I need you all to go to Oban immediately, right now, and all of you need to find something made in America. If it was manufactured somewhere else, you will be disqualified. You each need to find something different. It’s a competition. And when you return, each with your own American manufactured product, I will judge them and the winner will be named this month’s favorite fairie. {pause}

I know, I know, it’s not the end of the month, but as your lord and liege I decided to make this choice early and therefore, the winner will be accorded most favorite fairie status for the rest of June and throughout the month of July.

Off you go; all of you. Yes, Sweetness, you can take your rock with you. [shouting into the distance] Be well my fairies; make me proud of you.”

Caecus stood in the doorway, waving into the distance, smiling and waving for much longer than one would expect, until he closed the door and flopped in his easy chair, exhausted.

“They have the best of intentions,” he said, “but sometimes you just have to kick them in the arse without kicking them in the arse because then all thirty of them will start to cry and that’s a five week mess to clean up. Made that mistake once; won’t do that again.”

“Who are they?” I asked, getting to the heart of the matter.

“Well, first things first,” he said. “I assume you can’t see or hear them, is that right? [I nodded yes] “I’ve never met anybody who could. But they can’t see or hear anybody else either. Except me, of course. It’s like I’m the only Earth human they can see.”

“They’re not from Earth?” I asked.

“Don’t know, exactly,” said Caecus. “The fairies have been on Earth for a very long time, longer than anyone can remember. Are they originally from Earth or somewhere else? Can’t say. But enough about the fairies. They’ll be gone for a few days. Enough time to clear our heads. Let’s get down to more important matters.

Like you, Magnus Cook. Why is it you can see me and nobody else can?

I was back in that same old position I’ve been in many times before: The dreaded, “decision.” Do I tell this person about my Time Pilot status or should I do the old slight-of-hand and divert the conversation in another direction? The default decision is always to avoid telling the “whole” truth, if possible. That’s what I decided to, for now.

“I don’t know, Caecus. It’s a new one on me.” I said, without any conviction in my voice.

“Not good enough, Magnus Cook! You’re different than the people on this island. Or the mainland. People like you do not walk into my life every day. I’m not going to let you get off with a simple, ‘I don’t know.’ You do know, Magnus Cook. I think you’re not telling me the whole story.”

“It’s the truth, Caecus. I have no idea why the people on Coll can’t see you. I just got here, I have no idea what’s happening on this crazy island.

Let me be honest. All I’ve seen so far is a guy who lives alone in a small house, who refers to himself as lord and liege, and he talks to 30 invisible people. Tell me that’s not weird.”

Caecus paused for a moment, taking in all I said. I saw he was processing everything, trying to come up with the right decision. Then he spoke, calmer and more in control of himself than a moment ago.

“I apologize, Magnus Cook, I do. It’s just that I’m so glad you’re here. You’re someone like me. You have no idea how long I’ve been trapped on this island or the other place I was trapped before I came here. Time is my biggest enemy and you are the best hope I’ve had in ages to get back to the world you all take for granted.”

While I’m sure Caecus felt better because he unburdened himself, telling me his deep, dark secret, from my point of view, he couldn’t have said anything worse. He used the word, “trapped.” If we were so much alike, enough so we could see and hear each other, was that to be my fate, too? I hadn’t met any other people on Coll. Would they be able to see me? Or would I be invisible to them, as was Caecus? Trapped and lonely for, who knows how long? I dreaded the thought.

“You said you just arrived on Coll,” continued Caecus. “Then why did you come here, Magnus Cook? I sense you are not a tourist.”

“You are very perceptive,” I said. “I came here because I was supposed to meet someone. He was to introduce me to a third person. But something went wrong and my plans were altered. I still need to meet this man. Maybe you can help me find him. His name is Donald Og.”

“Now there’s a name I have not heard in a long, long time,” said Caecus. “What business do you have with Donald Og?”

“I don’t know that either,” I confessed. “All I know is I was supposed to meet him and Gordon Graham MacLean was supposed to introduce us.”

“Gordon Graham?” exclaimed Caecus, now very upset and agitated. “How do you know that scum sucking pig? You’re not one of those Time Pilots, are you?”

Wow, did things change fast around here, or what? One second, I’m Caecus’s new best friend. The next, I’m an evil Time Pilot.

“How do you know about Time Pilot’s” I answered, not willing to show my hand.

“Time Pilots and the fairies are the only people who can see me. There’s a couple of them here, came to the island a few years ago to build that new pole. GG is one. Bad blood he is. How do you know GG?”

“I don’t know him, never met him. He caused that change I told you about. Had a bad run in with some friends of mine earlier today. I think you’re right, Caecus, he’s bad news.”

“Tell me, what you know about these Time Pilots?” asked Caecus “That thing they built; big silver pole sticking in the ground? I’ve got a bad feeling about that thing.”

“That’s probably the new cell phone tower. It’s all modern technology. It lets people communicate in places like this. By itself, it’s probably not a problem. That doesn’t mean THEY aren’t a problem. I think they are. I’m just not sure how or why.”

“So, these Time Pilots? Are there more of them coming here? I hope not.”

“Why are you scared of Time Pilots?” I asked. “Have they done something to hurt you?”

“No,” he said, “Not yet. But they want something of mine. I can’t let them have it. The problem is I don’t possess it. And I can’t find it. When I told them, especially that fat bastart, MacLean, when I said I didn’t have it and I didn’t know where it was, I told truth. They didn’t believe me.

Yes, I’m afraid, and I don’t know what to do. I’m trapped on this island. It’s not like I can run away and hide.”

This was now three people MacLean scared or threatened and though he didn’t know what I looked like, he was on the lookout for me, as Merlin. I had to be on my toes, aware of my surroundings and circumstances at all times.

If I couldn’t tip my hand and tell Caecus my Time Pilot truth, maybe I could ease his anxiety a bit and tell him about the rest of us, the good guys he hadn’t met. I decided it was worth the risk, or rather, he seemed to be worth the risk. Caecus was growing on me and the more I talked to him, the more I liked him.

“Let me tell you what I know about Time Pilots,” I began. “To begin with, they’re not all bad, not like those dunderheads you met. They’re screened and vetted so only the best and brightest make the cut. I’m sorry, but I can’t explain why you met a few bad ones. Personally, I’ve never met the bad ones, just the good guys. Their purpose is to serve and help those to whom they are assigned. Sometimes they fill a role as mentor to a young person. At other times, they might be a trusted confident, an advisor to someone who’s older. In any case, their job is to make life easier and better for that person. To help them become all they are meant to be.”

“How do you know this?” asked Caecus.

“Because I’ve met a few over the years and they’ve filled me in. You’ve probably never heard their names before and you wouldn’t recognize them but, wait a minute, maybe you have. Of course you have. You’re heard of Merlin, right?”

“Of course; everyone knows about the great wizard,” said Caecus.

“I don’t know about the wizard part, but I know Merlin was a Time Pilot, one of the best. In the school they go to, Merlin comes up as a case study all the time. He’s used as a good example, a Time Pilot we should all try to emulate.”

“We?” asked Caecus.

Ooopps. This guy was sharp, didn’t miss a thing.

I just included myself in what should have been a third person description. Caecus didn’t deserve to be told a lie. The poor guy went through a lot. He’d probably pick up on my bad attempt to lie and then I’d lose any trust I’d already built up. No. It was time to come clean.

“Caecus, I’m going to break a rule which rarely gets broken. I’m going to lay it all out there for you.”

Caecus beat me to it. “You’re a Time Pilot, too, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. But everything I told you is true. There’s no reason to fear me. I’m as angry with MacLean as you are. Whatever he’s up to, I’ve got nothing to do with that. I’d like nothing more than to get him out of your life. Mine, too.”

Caecus was silent for twenty seconds or so, thinking, trying to decide the right course of action. Then he started to tell a story I didn’t expect to hear.

“When I woke up this morning,” he began, “the fairies were all a twitter. I don’t know how much you know about them. They are good, pure souls. They are all about virtue and kindness and helping and all the good things you’d wish more humans embraced. Yes, they’re bad ones, just like your Time Pilots. They’re called witches and, well, that’s another story.

I got up and they were all over me, ’Go to the beach! Go to the beach!” they said, all thirty of them, insisting. That was unusual. Fairies are individuals and though they work together, rarely do they agree. They did this morning.

I knew something was up. I didn’t know what.

I ate breakfast and went to the beach with thirty chatty, happy, fairies flitting all around, like a swarm of happy gnats. I waited and walked, waited and walked. Then, there you were.

I believe you, Magnus Cook. I believe there are good Time Pilots and bad Time Pilots just as there are good fairies and bad witches.”

“Thank you, Caecus; I’m relieved to hear you say that.”

“The story isn’t over yet, Magnus Cook. So how did the fairies persuade me to go to the beach? I’m pretty set in my ways and when I don’t want to do something, it’s hard for me to change my mind. When I woke up this morning, I didn’t feel too good, too much of the local scotch last night, if you know what I mean. I didn’t want to go anywhere this morning; just wanted to sleep it off. But when the fairies said something about Merlin, that caught my attention, I had to go, no matter how poorly I felt. Then, just a moment ago, when you said Merlin was a Time Pilot too, I knew what the fairies said was true.

That’s my story, Magnus Cook. Tell me yours. How do you know about Merlin?”

“It’s complicated,” I began.

“Take your time,” said Caecus. “I’ve waited this long to hear your story, I can wait a little longer. Go ahead.”

“Have you ever heard about the Tunguska Event?” I asked. “It was when an asteroid hit the earth in 1908.”

“Yes, I know a lot about it, actually. MacLean explained it to me when we first met, before I realized he had an evil side.”

“Good. Then I don’t have to go over all that. And did he explain about dark matter and energy? Does that seem familiar?”

“Yes, he did. Actually, the fairies are from that world, it’s why humans can’t see them. But he also said people like me can see them because we live with one foot in that world and one foot in this one, if that makes sense.”

“Yes, it does, it makes a lot of sense,” I said. “But here’s the Merlin part.”

“I’m all ears,” said Caecus, wide eyed with excitement.

“When the Tunguska Event happened and all that dark matter and energy was thrust into our world, the boundary between this world and that one became a chaotic mess. Time lines long dormant came back to life and it all had to be fixed. For example, the lineage of King Arthur became activated and one of his descendants is, as we speak, alive and well, living in the 21st Century. We think he’s probably a young man in his twenties. He doesn’t know it and he probably wouldn’t believe it if you told him. But it’s true; this unknown young man is the heir to the throne of Camelot.”

“Amazing. Absolutely amazing,” said Caecus. “That’s how it was back then, too. Arthur didn’t know he was King, he was just a boy, and Merlin helped him. Is that what’s happening here? Is Merlin here to help this boy King?”

“Good questions. The problem is we don’t know who he is. We don’t know where he lives. It’s a big world out there. He could be anywhere. We don’t even know where to begin our search. That’s why Merlin’s here.”

Caecus couldn’t contain himself he was so excited.

“Is he here? Is he here? Is Merlin here with you?” he pleaded.

“Whoa there; not so fast,” I said. “I thought you were all about taking your time?”

“That was before I knew Merlin was here. Where is he? Can I talk to him?”

“First things, first,” I said. “Let’s start with… Merlin isn’t here. Not yet.”

“Oh,” said Caecus, disappointed.

I launched into that whole stupid explanation, how Merlin was like a franchise, how the new Merlin wasn’t THAT guy but the guy who inherited the name and the job description. Like I said at the beginning, it was complicated. But Caecus was smart. I felt he understood.

“So the old Merlin, King Arthur’s wizard, he’s not here, but the new Merlin is? Is that about it?” asked Caecus.

“Pretty close,” I said. “Just one little thing. It seems the new Merlin isn’t really Merlin yet; he still has to finish a few projects. But when he’s finished, then he’ll be Merlin, 100%.”

“Alright,” said Caecus. “I understand. And is that why you’re here, Magnus Cook? To help this new Merlin finish his homework and prepare him to take his final exam?”

I chuckled at his suggestion. How much better it would be if I was here merely to assist some other guy as he began his final steps towards becoming Merlin. But my fate was sealed. I had to do my duty.

“No, Caecus,” I said. “I’m not here to help anybody else and nobody is here to help me. The truth is… I’m the new Merlin. I hope you’re not disappointed, hoping to see the old Merlin when all you’re getting is me.”

“You’re the new Merlin, are you, Magnus Cook? That’s alright. New world. New day. New ways of doing things. I just thought you’d be older. How old are you, by the way?”

“If you count my Time Pilot age, I’m thousands of years old. If you just count me, now, since I emerged a few months ago, I’d say I’m in my mid-twenties. Don’t know for sure.”

“That’s an honest answer, Mr. Merlin Magnus Cook. And I’d say you haven’t lied to me yet, unless you’re very good at it and I’m so old I can’t tell a liar any more.

So let me be honest with you. Caecus isn’t my real name, either. I got it after they moved me from the other place. Yes, I’ve been around that long. Even longer, actually.”

“What was your real name, the name your parents gave you?”

“It’s Arthur,” he said. “Arthur Pendragon.”

“Arthur Pendragon!!! That was King Arthur’s full name. Are you telling me you’re King Arthur? From Camelot?”

“Yes,” said Caecus, “I am; one and the same.

And I’ve been trapped on this rock or that other place for 15 hundred years now, not that I’m counting. So if you really are the new Merlin, and I hope to God you are, and you’re telling me I have family out there in this modern world, like a Grandson a hundred times removed, then we really, really need to talk.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us:

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.