The Birth of Modern Merlin

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Chapter 20

The Next Morning, June 20, 2016

The Summer Solstice and The Full Moon.

Cuideachaidh called it the alignment. An internet search and a bit of research quickly revealed what he meant. Today, June 20, is the date of the summer solstice. It’s an annual event, marking the sun’s highest climb into the Northern Hemisphere.

What makes today unique is, 2016’s summer solstice falls on the same date as the full moon. The last time this happened in all the earth’s time zones on the same day was back in 1948. It won’t happen again until 2062. It’s a once or twice in a lifetime event.

After a good night’s sleep, Arthur and I rose early, unable to sleep any longer do to the excitement in the air. While we didn’t know exactly what would happen at the exact time of the alignment: full moon at 12:02 pm, rising in the east at 9:38 pm; solstice at 11:34 pm, we knew deep in our bones it had to be a big deal.

We hadn’t planned on being out this long. Our food supplies were low. We ate a light breakfast, saving the last of our food for later. Since this would be our last day at the site of the megalithic stones, we packed up the tent, cleaned the site and left no trace we had been there.

As we were about to leave the site, with everything packed, I looked through some of the smaller pouches on the outside of my backpack for the utility knife I misplaced. I unzipped one of the pouches and there, inside, was one of the green marble stones Swede kept onboard Poseidon’s Trident. Arthur took notice of its dark beauty and smooth surface.

“Doesn’t that look nice,” he said. “It’s beautiful; where’d you get it?”

“Swede got it on Iona around twenty or thirty years ago. He’s the guy I told you about, the guy who was Merlin before I came along.”

“Then what’s it doing way out here?” said Arthur. “I would think you’d want to save weight in your backpack and not carry around a load of beautiful rocks.”

“It’s not actually my backpack,” I said, defending myself from his logical conclusion. “It was what was on the boat; I didn’t even know the stone was in there. We’ve eaten most of the food now, the pack is lighter. I don’t mind carrying it; it’s not that heavy.”

“Suit yourself,” said Arthur, now adjusting the shoulder straps on his backpack. “Let’s go; day’s a wast’n. Time to meet the Lady of the Loch.”

“Cuideachaidh didn’t mention anything about meeting some lady,” I said, a bit perturbed at this sudden addition to our agenda.

“He didn’t have to,” said Arthur. “She’s an old friend. She already knows we’re coming.”

There was a quickstep to our gait as we made our way south to the loch. It was a short distance from the campsite so we arrived on the western side, as instructed, with plenty of daylight left before the big event which would take place later that night.

Even though the water was stained brown from the peat tannins suspended in the water, I hadn’t taken a shower or bath since I left the boat. The discolored water wasn’t a big issue; you do what you’ve got to do. I used this down time to swim and soap up, feeling refreshed and clean when I came out.

There wasn’t much to do. The long morning begat the longer afternoon. Once again, time seemed to stand still.

Maybe excess time is a good thing; maybe not. It certainly leads to much second guessing. As I sat near the quiet loch, waiting for my future to unfold, I started to rethink the events of last night, specifically, the “passing” grade Cuideachaidh gave me for my patience and faith when no answer was imminent.

Arthur could read people like a book. He watched me fidget and wriggle. He knew something wasn’t sitting well with me.

“What is it, Mr. Wizard?” he said with a saucy, but good natured smirk. “It’s going to be a great day. But you’re squirming like you’ve got a clowder of cats trapped in your stomach.”

“It’s what Cuideachaidh said last night. More like what he didn’t say. That whole scene didn’t play out like I expected.”

“What did you expect?” asked Arthur.

“It’s not that it went badly,” I replied. “I prepared for something else and that something else never happened.”

“Explain,” said Arthur, looking all mock professorial, poking fun at the way Cuideachaidh conducted business. “OOhh, this is fun,” he continued. “Maybe I should be a taibhsear. Enroll in taibhsear school after all this craziness dies down. I can do this…Explain!.. Explain!…” he said, pointing at imaginary people, finishing off the last word with a deep pseudo-authoritative voice, “Explain!”

He was in a good mood. After all he had been through, he had the right to be. I wasn’t going to take any of that away from him. Nevertheless, I sort of ignored his invitation to have fun and began to “explain,” as he put it.

“It’s like you’re in school and you know you’ve got this big chemistry test.” I said. “Chemistry is hard; it’s not the kind of class you can bull-shit your way through, getting all this crap credit for ‘class participation.’ If you don’t know the material, you fail, simple as that. So I study and study. I think I’m well prepared. Then, at the last second Cuideachaidh says, ‘oh, surprise, it was an astronomy test, and, by-the-way, congratulations, you passed.’

So I’m thinking, ‘what the hell?’ I did all this work. Good work. I was prepared. And now, hocus-pocus, it all gets shoved into the ‘doesn’t matter drawer?’”

“Does it matter?” said the familiar voice from behind the large rock.

Arthur and I both turned in the direction of the voice to see Cuideachaidh emerge from behind the rock and walk towards us.

“What are you doing here,” asked Arthur. “I thought you only came out at night.”

“The moon was full shortly after noon,” he said. “We have a lot of flexibility under these circumstances. I sensed Mr. Cook was having difficulty. Like I said when we first met, I am here to help you in any way I can. Please, share your concerns with me, Magnus.”

“OK. Arthur, you were right, as usual. It’s like I’ve got a bunch of cats… what’s the word you used?”

“Clowder,” said Arthur. “It’s a group of cats.”

“Right. It’s like I’ve got a clowder of cats agitating in my stomach. It’s not just now; it’s been going on for a long time.”

“Continue,” said Cuideachaidh.

“I’m a Time Pilot. I’m supposed to help people. Guide them. Mentor them. But throughout my life, either this one or my 18th century life, I never knew who I was to guide. I can’t say the 19th and 20th centuries were much better. It is SO frustrating.

Mr. Sinclair, he knew. He was assigned to guide me, in my youth. Why weren’t the people in Time Keeper Central coming forward to tell me who my assignment was? And why did I emerge with no warning or time to prepare?

You congratulate me on having patience. I’m not patient; I’m frustrated. I’ve been given this great responsibility and yet I don’t know who I am to guide and mentor. Can you see how unsettling that is?”

“Magnus,” said the taibhsear. “Let me put your mind at ease. Even for Time Pilots, understanding the vagaries of time is difficult. Since you live with one foot on the earth and one foot in the other world, it’s often difficult for people in your position to see the whole picture. Like your brothers and sisters on earth, you still see time as a linear progression, taking the world from yesterday to tomorrow.

But if you are a taibhsear, as am I, we don’t live in that same progression. From your perspective, we live time backwards. We can compartmentalize time where you only see it as one unbroken line. Our understanding of time is not limited to one definition.

Do you speak Greek, Mr. Cook?” asked Cuideachaidh.

“No, sir, I do not. I didn’t grow up in an academic environment so it wasn’t…”

“It’s alright, not important,” he said.

“In English,” he continued, “there is just one word it: T.I.M.E. Time. That’s it. I would suggest the English language is insufficient to convey the broadness of the subject.

The Greeks have two words translated as, ‘time.’ The first: Chronos. It’s the root word of Chronometer and Chronological. It is clock time; the linear passage from yesterday to tomorrow.

But the Greeks have a second word for time: Kairos. It is best translated as ‘the appropriate’ time. So when a father scolds his son and says to him, in anger, ‘Billy, it’s time you grew up,’ he is not referring to the clock on the wall. He means his son has reached ‘the appropriate time’ in his life when he needs to act more responsibly.

In some kids, it happens when they are fifteen. In others, not till they are twenty-five. Unfortunately, some never get there at all despite being labeled ‘adults,’ which they are, chronologically speaking.

Do you understand, Mr. Cook?”

“Yes, I do. You are an excellent teacher, taibhsear,” I said. “That was quite clear.”

“Let’s put things in perspective,” continued Cuideachaidh. “Perhaps your Chronos was ready to be a Time Pilot, but your Kairos was not.”

“I’ve been at this for centuries. That doesn’t sound right.” I said.

“Might I offer a suggestion,” he said. “Recalibrate your Time Pilot’s chronometer. Turn months into years; turn years into decades. Turn decades into centuries, and so on.

Then embrace the Kairos of the universe. Things happen at the appropriate time.

Perhaps your first few centuries were like Time Pilot grammar school and these last few centuries were like Time Pilot University. And you’ve been growing and learning during this whole period. Perhaps, only now, have you reached the point where you can pull it all together and live into your destiny.”

“He’s good,” said Arthur, who had been listening all this time. “He makes a lot of sense. I don’t think I’m the same person who went into Avalon fifteen hundred years ago. Maybe I’ve had to wait for my ‘appropriate time’ too. Maybe we all do.”

Cuideachaidh had a way with him. It was the way of all good teachers. They instinctively seem to know which students need a kick in the arse and which ones need a pat on the back. And even though we all need both remedies at some point in our lives, good teachers seem to know exactly ‘when’ it is appropriate to use which technique.

I thought about what the man with the second sight said. He was right, of course. So was Arthur. And when I just accepted the truth of their collective wisdom, and trusted they had the best of intentions for me and my mission, the cats in my stomach settled down and I began to feel better about the moment and the moments soon to come.

“I guess you’re never too old to learn,” I said.

“Hear-Hear” said Arthur, raising his hand high as if he held up an invisible glass of liquor, a toast to my new found wisdom.

“Hear-Hear, indeed,” said Cuideachaidh, “Well said, Merlin; well said.”

The subject changed over the next few hours, lighter, a lot of joke telling. It was good to keep loose as we anticipated the big event to come. I was thankful the serious nature of our situation was on hold.

As 6 o’clock approached, just 5 and a half hours until the summer solstice, Cuideachaidh asked if I had any other concerns before we proceeded with the task at hand.

“When I relived my 18th century life,” I began, “I became much more aware of the motivations which drove the American Patriots forward than I was the first time I lived through that era. Then when I arrived here, talking with Arthur about Camelot, I came to the conclusion that our quest was the same. 6th century, 18th century, 20th century, even now, the struggle remains the same.”

“And what is that struggle?” asked Cuideachaidh.

“Everywhere we look, back then, today, we see bad things happening… to the people, to the earth. Simply put, the struggle is to fix what needs to be fixed so the world becomes a better place.”

“And how does one go about doing that, Merlin Magnus Andrew Cook? Do you have a plan in mind?”

“Virtue,” I said. “It comes down to virtue. Good people need to recognize and claim the virtue within themselves, then nurture its growth. People need to encourage the pursuit of virtue, to enable it to rise within others. Only then can we take on the inequities of the world.”

Cuideachaidh stood up and walked away. His face became serious, almost ominous. The lines in his face began to deepen; his complexion became ruddy. His appearance seemed to change before my eyes. I did not know why.

“Arthur,” I said, now deeply concerned. “What did I say? What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, Magnus. It seemed good to me. I don’t know why he’s reacting like that. Really; I don’t. Let me go and talk with him.”

Arthur stood up and crossed the 20 yards between Cuideachaidh and the two of us. I couldn’t hear what they said. After a few minutes, Cuideachaidh ran towards me, clearly upset.

“I was afraid of this,” he said. “You touched on it last night, but I elected to let it go. It’s here now, I have to address it.

Have you no idea about the dangerous path you are on? Of course you don’t.

VIRTUE? We need to, how did you put it? ‘Claim the virtue within ourselves,’ something like that?”

Cuideachaidh spread his arms wide, arched his back and looked towards the heavens. Tears flowed from the corner of his eyes.

“Tha e a ‘sireadh de chraoibh eòlais a’ mhaith agus an uilc,” he said.

“Arthur, what did he say? What’s that mean?” I asked.

“I don’t know what it means,” said Arthur. “But he said, ‘he seeks the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Do you know what that means?”

I shook my head, “No.”

It sounded so cryptic, so mysterious, as if it was an ancient riddle.

“People only see the good side of virtue,” said Cuideachaidh, addressing me directly. “Nobody ever sees the unbridled pursuit of virtue. It leads to great evil. Great suffering.”

The taibhsear walked to a place immediately in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders and clenched them with purpose, as if he wanted to emphasize his point.

“Feumaidh tu a ’sireadh craoibhe na beatha. You must seek the tree of life, Merlin. Craoibhe na beatha. Without humility and love, the pursuit of virtue becomes self-righteousness and arrogance.”

Cuideachaidh walked towards Arthur and addressed the King.

“Your Majesty, I am sure you understand this. It was the unfortunate decision Mordred took when he went wrong. Nothing has changed all these many years later.

Look at ISIS. Supposedly, they are motivated by virtue, calling those who lack it, ‘infidels.’ Unworthy. In an evil display of self-righteous arrogance, ISIS claims permission from Allah to chop off the heads of these infidels because they deserve it. ‘Impure,’ they cry; ‘Lacking virtue’ they say. It’s all the justification they need. In a flash, the enforcers of purity become the instruments of evil.”

Cuideachaidh’s rant didn’t have a ‘stop being such a bad boy’ quality to it. It was bigger than that. He touched on eternal questions, the fight between Good and Evil, no small stuff.

This wasn’t a scolding; more like a deep, dire warning to someone he had come to love.

I was the inexperienced adolescent who did not see the danger when the pursuit of virtue becomes one’s chosen path. He was the adult, protecting a child learning to cook, a child enamored by the magic of fire, a child who does not know that fire can burn down the forest.

Not me, not Arthur, not even the second sight man himself could see what was about to happen and, yet, here I was, about to light the flame of virtue pursued.

“Cuideachaidh,” I began. “I’m sorry if I said…”

The taibhsear waved his hand, cutting me off, mid-sentence.

“Time for words has ended,” he said. “The teachings: complete. The warnings: issued.

[Turning now to Arthur.] Your Majesty, I apologize if my words of warning seem to have been spoken in anger. That was not my intention.

[Turning now to me.] And to you, Merlin…Magnus…Andrew…Cook, also, my sincere apologies for the inappropriate emotions contained in my outburst.

To both of you good, good men, I make no excuses, merely, to ask for your forgiveness.”

“I see no reason for apologies, sir.” said Arthur. “There was no offense given or taken.

“With your permission, then, sire,” said the taibhsear, “I shall take my leave. I believe you… how do the young ones say it these days? I believe you… know the drill?”

Arthur and I laughed, a welcome touch of levity.

“Indeed, I do, teacher,” said Arthur. “I know the drill quite well.

Before you go, sir, if I may speak for Merlin. We want to thank you for your noble service. Your guidance, your teachings, your admonitions, yes, even your warnings, are much appreciated. Go in Peace, my friend.”

“Your kind words are too much for me to bear, Your Majesty. But I thank you, again.”

Cuideachaidh raised his hand, palm forward, and said, “beannaich sibh cho dòcha gum bi thu beannachd do dhaoine eile,” before turning and disappearing behind the giant rock.

“There he goes again, with the Gaelic. What’s it mean,” I asked.

Arthur smiled a quiet smile of understanding and agreement.

“Let’s just say… he wishes us well,” said the King, only partially revealing the truth behind Cuideachaidh last words.

“That’s not fair,” I said, in mild protest. “He said more than that; I know it. Tell me the whole translation.”

“OK,” said Arthur, “I’ll make you a deal. If we get through these next few weeks without getting killed, then I might tell you. Might.”

“If we’re dead, you’re not going to tell me. Is that it?” I asked.

“Exactly!” said Arthur.

“A few weeks? Really?” I said. “With that whole hand raising thing he did? I’ve got a feeling what he said was pretty important. And you won’t tell me…”

“You’re right, said Arthur, “it was pretty important. Let’s just say I’ll tell you…at the appropriate time. Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah!!!”

Arthur knew he dumped a good one on me and started to walk towards the shoreline of the loch, having a good laugh at my expense.

“Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah. Appropriate time. May the Kairos of the Universe be with you, Magnus, Merlin, Cook, Andrew. All of you. Ah-hah-hah-hah.

Follow me, wizard boy; we’ve got an appointment, a lady with a blade She’s a mighty sharp woman” bellowed Arthur, dropping his bad puns on the only audience he had….me.

“Magnus? Get it? Sharp… like a sword?” he asked, so proud of his silly wit. “Ah-hah-hah-hah-hah. Yup, she sure is sharp.”

I shrugged my shoulders and winced.

“Tell me you’re not headlining here at Club Coll,” I said. “I can’t do this for all eternity.”

“I crack myself up sometimes,” said the comedy King, “I really do.”

I obeyed the funny man and followed the sound of his gregarious laughter all the way to the edge of the loch.

It was Time: Kairos and Chronos.

Time to meet… (duh-duh-duh-dummm) …

The Lady of the Loch.

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