7pm. The sky was still full of daylight as we stood at the shoreline of Loch nan Cinneachan. The moment of truth was upon us.
“Excalibur is out there; somewhere,” said Arthur. “We, or should I say, you; you summon the lady, she gives you the sword. Off we go. Then what? We’re still stuck on this island, unless you’ve got some idea you haven’t shared with me yet.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” I said. “And just how do I summon this lady? Isn’t there some magic word I ought to say; maybe pour a secret potion into the water, that sort of thing? She’s not going to hand this sword over to just any old bloke who dives in on a hot summer’s day.
Maybe you should get the sword and hand it to me once you get out of the water.”
“I don’t think it works that way,” said Arthur.
“Alright, then. So, I wade into the water. What happens when seventy five of your fairie lady friends show up? How will I know who’s who? It’s not like I’ve ever met this woman. You said she was an old friend of yours? What’s she look like?”
“You’re over thinking this,” said Arthur. “I can’t tell you what she looks like. It’s not like we went on a date. All I saw was this arm sticking out of the water. She held Excalibur in her hand. I took the sword, the arm sank: That was it.”
“Arthur? Has anybody ever told you you’ve got a lot of creepy friends? I think you need to get out of here, get back to the real world.”
“No argument there,” he said “You show the way, Mr. Wizard; I’ll be right behind you… on dry land. Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha. Wade on out there; let’s see what happens.”
“Alright; I don’t see any instruction manual lying around. Here goes.”
I took off my shoes and took one step into the brown water.
“HOLY SHIT; it’s FREEZING out here!!!” I squealed. “Isn’t there anything in this God forsaken country that’s warm? And they wonder why people left for Virginia and Australia. Damn, that water’s cold.”
Seeing no alternative, other than turning around, I continued to wade deeper into the loch, waiting for something to happen.
“Wading…Wading…Waiting and wading; Not warm, waiting and wading” I said, now talking to myself. “Listen to me; I’m going insane. I’m turning into a crazy, old, cat woman.”
By now, the water had soaked the bottom half of my pants. I decided to stop when the water reached my knees.
“Why’d you stop?” called Arthur from his position, high and dry. “She lives out there, in the deep part of the loch. You need to keep going. Swim on out there,” said Arthur, trying to goad me into a soaking.
“Arthur,” I said, now turning to face him. “You need to see a shrink. You’re messed up, man. Totally messed up. If we ever get out of here, I’m making an appointment for you. I’m staying right here.”
So, I waited. I was knee deep in brown water and nothing changed on the surface of the loch’s calm waters. Arthur, comfortably watching from shore, loved every minute of it.
“Magnus; you’re such a failure,” he said, sticking it to me. “When I claimed the sword, the arm came right up. I don’t think she trusts you.”
“You want me to take a dive, don’t you?” I said. “Just to see me drip and freeze. I don’t care what Cuideachaidh said. Arthur Pendragon? You are NOT a good man.”
“Maybe you need to ask her for the sword,” suggested Arthur. “Better yet, maybe you should command her: ‘Give me the blade! NOW!’ Go big. Real dramatic. You are Cecile B. DeMille. It’s a Hollywood Epic. Think like a wizard…. Become the wizard…. Be the…”
“Shut it, Caecus! You’re not helping.”
I shook my head and chuckled. Arthur was pretty funny, in his own sort of way.
“Arthur, maybe you can do the whole “I command thee’ thing because you’re a King and you’ve practiced this stuff. Middle class Americans don’t do that. What would you have me do? Face the loch and in my best, booming baritone, proclaim: ’I AM THE GREAT AND POWERFUL MERLIN. I COMMAND THEE… COME FORTH!!! Is that how it’s done?”
Three seconds later, the brown water began to boil and bubble. A female hand emerged from beneath the surface, holding a spectacular sword. The silver blade, dripping wet, gleamed brightly in the reflected rays of the setting sun.
“YEAH! All Right!” exclaimed Arthur, now standing and applauding. “Way to go, Merlin; snatching victory from the hands of defeat. I guess that IS how you do it. Who knew?”
Though the Lady of the Loch emerged and held Excalibur high, her forearm, the only part of her body above the surface, was still ten yards further into the loch. I’d have to walk further to claim it. The water got deeper and colder with every step.
“Merlin, as your King and Sovereign,” bellowed Arthur, “I decree; thou shalt not stay dry. I command it!”
The King was having a lovely time, delighting in my sodden predicament. By the time I reached the Lady of the Loch, the water was over my head. I had to lunge and swim one stroke forward in order to grasp the sword and take it from her hand. Luckily, she released it quickly and her arm descended into the murky water, gone forever.
The full weight of the sword dragged me under. I walked a step or two on the silty bottom of the loch before my head emerged above the surface. I rose from below, walked through the water and up on to the land. All I heard was the King, beside himself with laughter.
“I don’t have any money. If I did, I’d buy a ticket for this performance. Whatever it cost, it would be worth the price of admission,” he said.
I was cold. I was wet. I was tired. Not in a mood to celebrate. But Arthur seemed happy. I guess, I was too, beneath all the moisture.
“Here,” I said, presenting the shiny blade to him, hilt first. “I believe this belongs to you.”
Arthur looked me in the eyes. A look of profound appreciation crossed his face.
The sword was about 4 feet long. It looked like it had just been forged yesterday. The blade was as sharp as a razor; the handle, hand carved with intricate Celtic scrolling, indulged by its swordsmith with the highest quality steel and silver.
“You know,” he said, looking up at me from the shining blade, “you originally forged this for me; well, your predecessor did. It was before I was born. It’s said he used the hot fiery breath of a dragon to melt the metal so he could cast the blade.”
“I wish I knew him,” I said. “I have a lot of questions I’d like to ask.”
“That was then; this is now,” said Arthur. “Excalibur belongs to you now, Merlin. I guess I should start calling you that. You have your job to do. Here, take the sword; it’s yours.”
I was in no rush to get on with the next step, the trip to Iona. No need to take Excalibur away from Arthur, not now; I saw how much it meant to him. There was time enough for all that, later. Assuming we could find a way to get off the island.
“That’s OK, you hold on to it,” I said. “I don’t need it right away. I do need to get out of these wet clothes. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
I left Arthur with the sword in his lap and headed back to the place where I dropped my backpack earlier in the day. I changed out of my wet clothes, repacked my backpack and tied my shoes, ready to return to Arthur’s location. Just as I stood up, I heard a loud but muffled sound coming from his direction, quickly followed by Arthur’s voice, crying out in pain.
I picked up my backpack and ran back there as fast as I could. Before I arrived, I heard the sound of an engine followed by its roar as a four wheeler sped off towards the Northwest.
When I got back to Arthur’s location, the ATV was gone. Arthur was on his side, his hand holding a spot on his head where blood flowed from a newly opened wound.
“Arthur, Arthur,” I shouted, “What happened? Are you alright?”
Clearly, Arthur was not alright. But he was conscious, just now beginning to sit upright. The wound did not look too serious. The blood flow was closer to a trickle. What was a problem, however, was apparent… Excalibur was gone.
“It was MacLean,” said Arthur. “He came up behind me. Demanded I give him the sword. When I refused, he whacked me on the head, took Excalibur and drove off.”
“Stay here; I’ll be right back,” I said, as I ran in the direction where MacLean’s ATV was last headed.
I couldn’t catch him but I hoped I might see where he went; if I was lucky. With Coll’s treeless landscape, maybe my view to the Northwest might be unobscured.
I climbed to the top of a rocky outcrop and concentrated on the direction from where I heard his engine when he sped away. There he was. The ATV’s head lights and tail lights gave him up as he moved northwest, towards the cell phone tower rising high above the granite landscape.
“I’m so sorry, Magnus; I never saw him,” said Arthur. “He came up behind me. Before I knew it, I was on the ground and he was gone, with the sword.”
“Are you well enough to travel,” I asked. “I know where he went.”
“Yes, I can travel,” said Arthur. “He didn’t hit me that hard; just enough so he could grab the sword.”
“Good,” I said, helping Arthur to his feet. “We need to move fast, towards the tower.
Do you have any idea why he’d go there? Why the cell tower?”
“Because he built it,” said Arthur. “That tower is his baby.”
“How far?” I asked.
“Not far, a couple of miles, at most,” said Arthur. “We can make it by sundown, certainly before the alignment, if that’s what they have in mind.”
“That’s exactly what they have in mind,” I said. “A once in a lifetime alignment of the earth, sun and moon; planning for the tower all those years, getting Excalibur; it’s all got to be related. Arthur; I think you nailed it.”
“Then let’s go pay him a little visit, shall we?”
It’s called: Cnocan na Ban. One would be hard pressed to call it a mountain; it wasn’t that tall. Cnocan in Scots Gaelic means “mound,” an accurate term for the location of Coll’s new 4G cell phone tower. Finished in 2014, located in the center of the island, the tower represents a determined effort by the government to provide the latest, most modern communications technology to all the far flung outer islands which dot the coast of Scotland.
When Gordon Graham MacLean arrived on Coll a few years ago, to supervise the construction and installation of the tower and all its technologically advanced components, there were no red flags; it all seemed to be part of the plan. If you were an average human, none of what they did was reason for concern. But, if you were a Time Pilot, a Capacitist or even a Fairie, what they had in mind would have HUGE implications for the future.
Their big plan, centuries in the making, was hours from liftoff.
Arthur and I made our way to the tower site in less than an hour. When we arrived we noticed a chain link fence surrounding the remote site. Inside the fence, sitting in a collapsible chair, was GG MacLean, holding Excalibur in his lap, comfortably waiting for the clock to reach its appointed time.
We took a position behind a large rock so we could easily observe GG and the tower without being seen. Though we were confident he couldn’t see us and he didn’t know we were there, nevertheless, our clear view to the west reminded us of the rapidly setting sun, soon to disappear beneath the Atlantic’s waves. When it did, at 10:15 pm, there would only be 79 minutes left until the exact time of the Summer Solstice.
“Now what?” asked Arthur.
“Let’s access the situation,” I began. “GG’s got a weapon. We’ve got nothing, unless you want to count the multi-purpose knife in my pack. He is surrounded by a large metal fence which, under the circumstances, is as good a defense against our naked fists as any castle. He’s not coming out. We can’t get in.”
“Do you think he’s got a gun?” asked Arthur.
“Hard to say,” I replied. “If he does, it might be to our advantage. If we can get him to shoot, the sound of the gun might attract attention. Other people might show up to investigate. He wouldn’t want that.”
“Or,” said Arthur, “if we go up to the fence and talk with him, tell him the discharge of any firearm will attract unwanted attention, we will have negated one of his advantages.”
“Talk to him? That’s your plan?” I said. “Really?”
“Sure, why not,” said Arthur. “He’s not going anywhere. Let’s find out what he’s up to.”
With no further discussion, Arthur walked out from behind the rock. I had no choice but to follow as he walked towards GG, the tower and the fence.
“Mis…ter… MacLean,” said Arthur, walking up to the fence with a confident gait. “That wasn’t very nice. Robbery and assault were crimes even back in Camelot. But I’m willing to forget this whole little mess if you are. Give me my sword and I promise not to kill you where you squat.”
GG didn’t move. His big butt filled the wide collapsible chair. When he heard Arthur’s threat he began to laugh the laugh of a confident man.
“Oh, I don’t think so, Mr. King,” said GG with a cocky, arrogant tone in his voice. “I’ve got the sword, you don’t. Unless you’ve got some special equipment I don’t know about, you’re not getting inside this electrified fence. Yes, it’s true, it’s electric. Be careful, Artie; 50,000 volts will rip out your heart. I don’t want to clean up that mess. I really don’t.”
Climbing the fence was out. Good to know. But now that GG offered up this nugget on his own, what other information might we gather from this overly confident Time Pilot?
I walked up to the edge of the fence, stood beside Arthur and introduced myself to this person I had never met.
“Hello, Mr. MacLean,” I said without one touch of warmness. “It’s time we met; I’m Magnus Cook.”
“Magnus Cook is it?” said the fat man, rising out of his chair. “This, I’ve got to see. Last I heard you were puking out yer guts, good as dead. Glad to see my little scheme didn’t do any permanent damage. Feeling better now, are ye?”
“Is that what happened,” I said. “I thought it had something to do with the shutdown. So it was you? Poisoned my food?”
“What’s he talking about,” asked Arthur.
“Oh, just a little misdirection to get me to come to Coll,” I said.
“Worked pretty well, it did,” said GG, beaming with pride. “It was my idea, actually. Mr. Black loved it. Once we got Nimue involved and she got Swede to take the bait, the rest just fell into place. Before we knew it, the great and powerful Merlin just shows up on my island. Oh, by the way, nice voice inflection on your speech to the loch lady. Very convincing.”
“You are such a prick,” I said, my anger and rage rising.
“Oh, one more thing, before I forget,” said GG. “Your lady friend, Miss MacEachern, she sends her love and said to tell you that everything is alright.”
“YOU FUCKING BASTARD!!” I screamed. “What did you do with her? Where’s Eilidh? If you harmed one hair on her head I’ll…”
“Magnus, Magnus, calm down,” said GG. “It’s OK; everything is OK. Really; it is. Mr. Black has everything figured out.”
“What did you do with Eilidh? What did you do with Swede?” I demanded.
“Nothing; he’s fine,” said GG, trying to calm the situation. “Him and Nimue are just on a long, well deserved vacation, that’s all.”
“Then why get rid of him?” I asked, still furious we were played by these people.
“Because Swede wasn’t a Team Player,” said MacLean.
“Good for him,” interrupted Arthur. “I never met this Swede. But after the way you two low lifes treated me, I can see this Swede made the right decision. You used me; you used him, you used Magnus. You’re a couple of fuckwads!”
“Arthur, Arthur,” said GG, trying to calm the angered King. “No need to get snippy. Swede didn’t understand the big picture; none of you do. He wasn’t going to get the sword for us; Arthur, you weren’t going to give us the sword, either. We were running out of time. Our only option was to initiate an early Merlin transposition. That’s why Magnus had to emerge so suddenly. It was a long shot, but we had to take the chance. But it worked and here we are on the cusp of something marvelous. You’ll see.”
“We’re supposed to trust you and wait until the solstice arrives, is that it?” I asked.
“You know about that, do you?” said MacLean, surprised. “No matter. The sword is here; I’m here, the receptacle is ready. It will all be over, shortly. Or, should I say, it will all begin, shortly. Yes, that’s it. It’s a beginning, a much more optimistic way to put it; don’t you think? Yes; we’re going to turn this place into a Garden of Eden. You’ll see.”
“If this is such a big deal, where’s Mr. Hissy-Fit?” I asked.
MacLean laughed out loud when he heard the nickname I placed on Jameson Black all those many centuries ago.
“Is that what you call him?” he said with complete understanding. “He does tend to squeal and carry on when he’s angry, you’ve got that right. Magnus, I can assure you, he holds no ill will towards you; none. He’s completely forgotten about that dental incident between you two; I promise. It happened so, so long ago; it’s forgotten.”
“GG,” said Arthur, “You’re a terrible liar; that’s bullshit. You know it; I know it; Magnus knows it. When I get my sword back, the first place I’m sticking it is right up your arse.”
“Arthur, Arthur,” said MacLean, contempt now bleeding through his fake sentimentality. “You’ve become such an angry man. That doesn’t sound like the kind King Arthur I learned about in school. Whatever happened to: ’All for One; One for All?”
“That was The Three Musketeers, ye daft huddy,” said Arthur. “Never read Dumas, did you? No? Didn’t think so…”
MacLean’s face turned white when he realized his self-induced gotcha, got him. He fought back in the only way dysfunctional people know when they’re confronted with facts they don’t like or don’t understand: they double down on the bluster, crank up the belligerence, go over the top and start bullying.
“Smirk all you want, King, you’re days are numbered,” he bellowed. “The carnage, it’s your fault. It’s insider elites like you who ruined this world. You and the dishonest media. If you’re not from Washington or London or Camelot, you don’t count. That’s going to change. I promise. 100%. March 20, 2016 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this world again. The forgotten Time Pilots of our world will be forgotten no longer. We’re going to make the Garden of Eden great again.”
With the mighty power of Excalibur in his hand, supremely confident in his super-sized righteousness, Gordon Graham MacLean turned away, unwilling to further defile himself by contact with low caste peasants like us. We were infidels, best ignored…or buried.
GG walked to a more secluded place near the tower. Time was on his side. He knew it. We knew it. There was little Arthur and I could do to stop Jameson Black’s grand plan from beginning at 11:34 pm.
Arthur and I retreated from the electrified fence and returned to our hiding place behind the rock. The setting sun continued to descend. It was 9pm, two and a half hours…
Toc, tic, toc…Toc, tic toc.