“Any ideas?” asked Arthur.
My friend’s inherent good nature and fun loving personality were gone, replaced by the knowledge that whatever new world MacLean and Black proposed, did not include him.
Arthur knew about fights to the death and this looked like the real deal. But without his precious and powerful sword, with no modern military experience or equipment, Arthur did not feel confident about our immediate future.
“I don’t know which is worse,” he said. “Death or knowing you’ll still be trapped here for all eternity.”
“Arthur, you’ve faced death before,” I said. “How did you do it? When everything seemed hopeless?”
“I never felt that way,” he said. “I always had confidence in myself, in my sword, in my army. We always felt like we had a chance, even if it was a slim one. This feels different. No sword, no army. I don’t even think I’m the same person I was back then. Frankly, Magnus, I’m out of ideas.”
“Is there anyone here on the island you can ask for help?” I asked, grasping at straws. “Anybody?”
“Not a one,” said Arthur, “I’ve been invisible for so long, there isn’t a person on this planet who even knows I’m here.”
This was all so depressing. Facing imminent death, or worse, with no control over our circumstances, I felt helpless.
Resigned to our fate, I thought it might be a good idea to lighten the mood a bit.
“We sure could use a good Hollywood scriptwriter right about now,” I said. “When John Wayne found himself in a helpless situation, you knew the cavalry wasn’t far away. You just knew they were going to ride in and save the day. But this is Scotland. You folks don’t do cavalry, do you?”
During the many years Arthur was held captive, the fairies provided him with as many books, movies and TV shows as they could, anything to help him while away the time. He knew exactly what I meant when I referred to John Wayne. As soon as I mentioned the word “cavalry,” Arthur’s quick, nimble mind leaped into action.
“Merlin, you never cease to amaze me. This is why I kept your bony old arse around all those years. For situations just like this.”
“What? What did I say?” I asked.
“This might work, it might not,” said Arthur. “But let’s give it the old college try.”
Arthur brought his hands up to his mouth to form a megaphone and shouted:
Gràdh… Spèis… Urram… Mar Thoradh
Agus a h-uile do pheathraichean
Tha àm mo bhàis luath dòighean-obrach”
Finished with his call to the wind, Arthur sat down on the grass beside the big rock, unfazed, as if nothing significant just happened.
“You ARE going to tell me what that Gaelic jibberish meant, right? If I’m going to owe my life to you, I have a right to know.”
“No big deal,” said Arthur, now rummaging through our food, looking for the last orange. “I did what you suggested; I called in the cavalry. Give them a few minutes.
Orange slice? Condemned men get a last meal. Here, I’ll share it with you.”
Arthur’s attempt at gallows humor was appreciated but did little to easy my anxiety. I was more focused on the danger ahead.
“What’s up with the sword,” I asked Arthur. “You know it better than anyone. What power does it have that makes it so important?”
“All I have to go on is my 6th century information. We didn’t know about dark matter and energy back then and Merlin didn’t try to explain it. He said, ‘Yes, it was a weapon, that’s why it was shaped like a sword. But it wasn’t JUST a weapon. It was also like a light, illuminating the way to another world. But be cautious and careful,’ he said, ‘and do not let it fall into the hands of the unworthy.’ So, yes, I’m distressed because that’s exactly the kind of person who holds it in his hands, Mr. Unworthy MacLean.”
“What do you think he’s going to do at 11:34?” I asked.
“He said something interesting,” said Arthur. “MacLean said ‘the receptacle was ready.’ I assume he’ll put Excalibur into this receptacle where it would do whatever it’s meant to do.”
“Then maybe the fact that Excalibur is a weapon is irrelevant,” I added. “Maybe what your 6th century Merlin said, being a light to illuminate the way to another world, maybe that’s what they really want. Could that world be one that’s infused with dark energy and dark matter?”
“A world full of persecuted and ignored Time Pilots who deserve better?” added Arthur.
“Time Pilots who have suffered through all the “carnage” of this world? True believers who deserve to be honored and fetted in, where? The new Garden of Eden?”
“Let’s connect the dots,” said Arthur. “What happens at 11:34? Coll, infused with dark matter and energy, like Camelot, gets connected to Excalibur which is inside some receptacle. At that precise moment, the earth is aligned with the moon which is aligned with the sun and, what, some other world beyond the stars?”
“Excalibur is the missing link,” I surmised. “It connects two ends of a line, two ends infused with dark matter and energy.”
“Sounds like a dark energy transmitter is about to get activated,” said Arthur.
“If MacLean and Black can light the way TO this other world, it’s logical to think you could get here if you came from the other direction.”
Arthur listened intently. When I made that final connection, he nodded in silent agreement. His expression didn’t change, the concerned look never left his face.
“Arthur, what do you know about the Garden of Eden?” I asked.
“Not much,” he said. “Average Christians, even Kings and Queens, we weren’t very knowledgeable back then. The priests and monks locked up in their monasteries kept those details. They didn’t filter out to the rest of us. We were supposed to trust the priests.
I bet your magic electric box knows a lot about The Garden of Eden,” he said. “Since we’re still waiting for the cavalry to arrive, ask it about the Garden of Eden.”
I took out my smart phone and connected to the internet. After a few minutes reading through some of the passages from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, I came across one which looked particularly relevant.
“Arthur, listen to this. Genesis Chapter 3: ‘He drove out the man, and at the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.’ What do you make of that?”
“A flaming sword guarding the way to the Garden of Eden? A sword that ‘turned every way’? Sounds like Excalibur,” said Arthur. “I don’t know if it’s the same sword but here’s how Excalibur worked.
It could tap into some powerful energy source. I could flip a switch on the sword’s hilt and it emitted a blinding light. Was it an arc light? A laser? I don’t know; it was the 6th Century. It just worked. It was a useful tool; I left it at that. I’d switch it on and my enemies were blinded by this intense light. I used it to my advantage, offensively, or in some cases, as a screen to enable my escape.
The other thing it could do was generate a powerful torque. You had to be careful with this one. If you weren’t familiar with how this turning motion worked and you didn’t grip the handle tight enough, with both hands, the sword could twist itself right out of your hands. You had to be strong, and careful.
If you found yourself surrounded, like at the end of the Battle of Camlann, I could turn on the torque function and the sword enabled me to spin rapidly. It was like I was a figure skater spinning with a sword in my hands. I was a tornado, able to move laterally and slice my way through waves and waves of attackers. It was bloody, but very effective.
Unless you were a sadistic demon who enjoyed human carnage, when the fight was over, and you used it, you’d feel terrible. I only used it if I had no other choice.”
Arthur’s description of Excalibur’s torque power was frightening. Knowing GG MacLean held it in his hand made me scared all the more.
“Do you think MacLean and Black have come into possession of this Old Testament sword designed to protect the Garden of Eden?” I asked.
“If your opponent has a battleship, you want a battleship,” said Arthur. “If they have a flaming, twisting sword, you’ll want a flaming, twisting sword. Looks like MacLean and Black have one. Its true origin seems irrelevant.”
They came from all points of the compass rose. One batch looked like a swarm of locusts flying in from over the mountains of Mull. Some ran; some flew; others appeared all at once, out of nowhere. They were of one mind, this army of fairies, much larger than the thirty Arthur sent off on their phony quest for American made merchandise the day we met. Thousands upon thousands now gathered at our location.
“Assemble. Assemble,” commanded Arthur.
As the multitude pressed in closer I asked him, “Do they only understand one word sentences? Assemble. Explain. Continue. Not much for conversation, are they?”
“It’s just their way,” he said. “I assume you can see them now. I guess that’s OK. Your body must be pretty acclimated to the island’s unique physics by now.”
When it looked like the crowd reached its maximum Arthur addressed them as would a King, not like the injured and helpless hostage they cared for all these many years.
“My friends,” he began, “thank you for answering my call for help.
I see we have fairies from everywhere joining us today. Blue fairies and The Opaque, you must have come from far, far away. I thank you for your sacrifice. I see a battalion of hairy fairies has joined us. Yes, there they are, over there, on the left. Your mirth and merriment are second only to your dedication. Thank you for joining us today. And yes, over there on the right, I see a nice contingent of Stalwarts has joined us from the West. Look at you, not a button un-buttoned, not one tie untied. Your attention to detail is legend. Your love of all that’s true and proper is known by all.
Yes, you all are my friends, those whom I recognize and those I have yet to meet. You are friends who cared for me during my rehabilitation, friends who cared for me during my trials, friends who cared for me as I endured profound loneliness. I thank you all. But at this time, I must not speak to you as your friend; I must speak to you as your King.”
A hush fell over the crowd. Arthur was hesitant to invoke his title. When he did, the fairies knew the situation was special, warranting their complete attention.
“The situation is dire,” he said. “We must do all we can to prevent, what I believe, will be a great tragedy. I will explain in a moment.
But first, I want to introduce someone I have come to love and respect as much as I do all of you. He is a man of the highest honor, a man who, like you, seeks the highest virtue.
He is a man who goes by many names. I know, over the years, many of you knew the men who shared his name. As time marched on, the name of the first passed to the second, to the son and to the grandson, and so on, through the millennia, until now, when the grandson of the grandson’s grandson comes to join us in our noble quest. Let me introduce to you, my friend, my mentor, my guide… Merlin.”
An audible gasp rushed through the crowd as if thousands of fairies inhaled, all at once. The rush of astonishment gave way to a joyous roar. I heard affectionate screams, wild applause, Gaelic words I did not understand and few “Hip-Hip Hoorays.” I witnessed more than one tear of joy. I even saw a few teenagers try move the crowd into doing The Wave. It was weird, exciting and unnerving, yet deeply satisfying, all at the same time.
I felt in awe of that first Merlin, and of all the Merlins who followed, including my beloved Swede. This moment belonged to them more than it did to me. It was their reputation which prompted this outpouring of love; I merely reaped the bounty of their brilliance. I felt deeply humbled by the challenge, to live up to the lofty expectations of this multitude whose passionate devotions now reigned down upon my head.
“Quiet, quiet,” commanded Arthur, trying to silence the excited crowd. “I’m sure Merlin appreciates your expressions of love and devotion, but we have much work to do. So, if I may have everybody’s attention, please…”
In less than thirty seconds, thousands of fairies went stone cold silent, awaiting the news from their King, ready to jump into action at his earliest request.
“We are in a dire situation,” began Arthur, addressing the crowd of hushed acolytes. “It is why I summoned you. First, let me tell you two things: One, you know; a second, you do not.
In less than two hours, the Summer Solstice will coincide with the full moon on the same day in all the earth’s time zones for the first time in decades. Of this, I am sure you are all aware. What you do not know is this once in a life time alignment is being used by the forces of evil as an occasion to do harm to the world, to me, to Merlin and, to all of you.
As many of you know, I once possessed a mighty sword, Excalibur. When I was injured and you came to my rescue and removed me from the field of battle, the mighty sword was given to the Lady of the Loch for safekeeping. Save for one other time when Merlin retrieved it, it has been in her possession ever since. Until today.
I am sad to report, these forces of evil conspired to trick Merlin into coming here to Coll so he could, once again, retrieve the sword from the Lady of the Loch. Though he was lured here under false pretenses, nevertheless, he was successful in his endeavor and, earlier today, he retrieved the sword. He handed it to me and I held my precious Excalibur for the first time since that fateful day at Camlann.
My joy was not to last. Within minutes, these forces of evil accosted me. They seized Excalibur from my weakened grip. Therefore, I am so, so sad to report: Excalibur has been stolen. I do not currently possess this mighty and powerful weapon.”
If this was a normal human crowd, they would react with a collective sense of righteous anger, aghast at the treachery which so harmed their Sovereign and his right-hand man. But these fairies were not normal, earth bound humans. To a man, to a woman, they stayed silent until their King completed his address.
“My friends, all is not lost,” said Arthur. “Merlin and I have tracked down the thief and we have located the sword. It is there [pointing towards the cell phone tower.] The thief’s name is…well, that’s not important now.
Can you help me? Will you help me? Only you can penetrate his electric defenses. If you will accompany Merlin and me across the mount, we will ask the thief to return the sword and prevent the impending calamity which, I can assure you, will take place at 11:34 pm.”
Arthur stepped down from atop the rock and led the enormous mass of beings slowly, deliberately and politely to the edge of the electric fence and a second confrontation with GG.
“Gordon Graham MacLean… I, King Arthur Pendragon of Camelot, do hearby demand your surrender… and the surrender of Excalibur. You have one minute to comply.”
Arthur looked towards the base of the tower to an unlit, secluded area where he thought MacLean was hiding. After fifteen seconds, no reply.
“I didn’t really have to lay it down like that, you know,” said Arthur, whispering in my ear so the fairies couldn’t hear him. “The fairies like the big show. That whole commanding, big voice thing you did back at the loch was so good; I thought I’d give it a try myself. What do you think? Will it work? Will GG give up the knife? Or will he time out and force our hand? Place your bet, Merlin.”
“I’m not a betting man,” I said. “But, if I were, I’d bet Mr. MacLean is a “Fuck you, Asshole” kind of guy who will tell you, straight away, ‘geeze a gobble’”
“Time to find out…
Ding! Ding! Ding!” said Arthur, shouting in MacLean’s direction. “Time’s up, GG; what’s it going to be? Don’t make us come in there and get you.”
“Fuck you, Asshole,” shouted the voice at the base of the tower. “You’re out of time. None of your fruity, fairie fuckers can do anything about it.”
“Right you are, GG, right you are,” said Arthur.
“Merlin, I think you’re developing the Second Sight yourself,” he continued. “That’s exactly what you said he’d say. You win! Remind me to never make a bet with you, ever again.
Alright, fairies, listen up. Mr. MacLean has not acceded to my demands. We have to go in and arrest him. I’d do it myself, but I can’t; I can’t get past his electric fence.
I am looking for volunteers. I need eight people to go inside the fence, arrest Mr. MacLean and bring Excalibur out here to me. Raise your hand if you’d like to volunteer.”
I turned around to look at the huge throng of assembled fairies, to gauge their response. I was blown away. They stood as one, these 10,000, responding faithfully, every last man, woman and child, hands raised as high as they could stretch, each fairie clamoring to volunteer in their Sovereign’s time of need.
With every hand raised high and no sub-commanders to make the difficult decision, Arthur had to choose which fairies to send into the cage.
“Hairy fairies; you’re up,” he commanded. “The first eight I point to: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8… Just ask for his surrender and ask for the sword; that’s all I want you to do. Keep it light, no pressure. Do you understand?” asked the commander and chief.
“Yes, we do; don’t we boys?” said the grey haired fairie, the oldest of the lot.
They all nodded in agreement.
“Alright,” said Arthur, “off you go.”
These profoundly hairy fairies were the eight midgets of mirth. Blonde hairs and black hairs, red hairs and grey hairs; hair, hair, hair, everywhere. As they passed by Arthur and me, they lit up the sky with their jokes and good humor. They also appreciated the honor of being the first to be called to duty.
“Thank you, Your Majesty, for giving us this great honor to serve you,” said the first black haired fairie, bowing before Arthur.
“Your Majesty,” said another, a blonde haired fairie. “Did you hear this one? A priest, a rabbi, a minister and an imam go into a bar...”
“Wait a minute, you idiot,” interrupted the red haired fairy. “Good Muslims don’t drink alcohol. An Imam would never do that.”
The blonde haired fairie stopped and thought about it for a second.
“Your Majesty, the red haired dobber’s right. Let me get back to you on that one. It’s a work in progress.”
“Very well, then,” said Arthur. “I’ll hold you to that. Off you go.”
The eight hairy fairies walked up to the electric fence and walked right though it as if it wasn’t there, singing and laughing, with a few ribald accusations thrown in for good measure.
“Who you call’n a dobber? Don’t talk like that around His Majesty, you muttonhead!”
Not affected by the high voltage, the hairy fairies walked through the fence, into the electrified castle and quickly out of sight. The rest of us settled in to wait.
It was a time fraught with anxiety yet the assembled mass was as quiet as an empty church. After a few minutes, the eerie silence ended, pierced by the shriek of a dying man.
“Stalwarts!!!” commanded Arthur, quickly responding to the horrible sound, “Triple up. You, in the red bandana, are you in charge?”
“Yes, Your Majesty; my name is Joan, Lieutenant Joan. My platoon is ready, Your Majesty.”
“Hop to it, Lieutenant,” commanded Arthur, “fastest possible speed. GO!”
“You heard the King! 1st Platoon, ATTENTION!” commanded the young woman. “Tuck your wings! 10%. Full flight speed. On my mark! GO, GO, GO!”
In a heartbeat, twenty-five flying fairies, all dressed in business suits, every button, buttoned; every tie, tied; not a wrinkle or stain among them, flew off in perfect formation. Just like that… they were gone.
We didn’t have to wait as long for the next response to come from within the electrified site. Within seconds after their arrival, multiple screams gushed from the hidden place near the base of the tower, loud, painful, shrieks, cries born of intense conflict.
The group directly behind us heard everything and the anxiety of the moment moved through them like an enraged bull attempting to start a stampede. These were young, idealistic fairies, teenagers, frothing with righteous anger, eager to seek justice for their anguished comrades.
“Your Majesty, my name is Publius,” said the tall boy, their leader. “We call ourselves, The Grandsons of Liberty. We are ready to move forward in support of our stricken brothers and sisters. We await your command, Your Majesty.”
Arthur did a quick count. About 500 Grandsons of Liberty stood before him, at attention, each restless and angry, ready to fly or fly off the handle. Arthur was not sure which response was most likely. He was reluctant to send such a young, juiced up, inexperienced group into battle. He hoped for other options.
“Thank you for your courageous offer, Publius,” said Arthur. “I think under the circumstances it would be wise…”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the eager young boy. “We’ll make you proud, I promise…Grandsons of Liberty, your freedom awaits. GO, GO, GO.”
Misinterpreting Arthur’s gracious expression of gratitude for permission, the amped up throng of 500 children sped towards the tower. Arthur could do nothing to stop them.
Within seconds, screams cascaded upon screams, wail begat wail and the stench of death began to waft through the porous squares of the chain link fence.
This was the sound of terror, made ever more horrible because there was nothing to see. Without visual confirmation of what we heard, our minds filled the vacuum. We pictured the horror in our own, unique way, painting gory canvases with our own shades of red.
Propelled by love, willing to offer their greatest sacrifice, unquestioned, each fairie entered the electrified castle unarmed, yet unafraid.
But now, their commander, King Arthur Pendragon of Camelot, ordered a pause in the action and an eerie silence returned to the rocky mount. The price of virtue at the Battle of Cnocan na Ban had become too high.
The silence didn’t last long. Once the final screams of the soon to die fell silent, Gordon Graham MacLean emerged from behind the tower and walked confidently towards the fence, still coursing with 50,000 volts of lethal electricity. His clothes soaked in blood, GG still held Excalibur in the grip of his strong, calloused fingers, dripping with the blood of the fallen fairies.
“Hey, Artie,” said the fat man. “This is quite a stick you’ve got here. Well balanced; it feels lighter than it looks; handles well. I especially liked that twirley torquey thing it made me do when I pushed that button. That was pretty cool. Those stupid kids never saw it coming. Oh well, sacrifices have to be made if we want to right a sinking ship. Don’t we, Artie?”
Arthur was beside himself. I guess he didn’t realize how brutal and evil GG was. In his defense, he was used to commanding well trained and experienced soldiers. This army of fairies was anything but. They were untrained, unarmed and inexperienced and yet they still threw themselves at that powerful man with the powerful sword as if nothing else mattered. But it did; it mattered a lot, and Arthur needed time to reassess. He ordered a retreat back to the rocks where we first hid, to try and think through this difficult situation.
Toc, tic, toc…Toc, tic, toc…
99 minutes to go.
“If you’ve got any good ideas, Wizard Boy, now would be a good time to share them.”
“I don’t know, Arthur,” I said. “Maybe we're overreacting to a lot of stuff. We’ve made a lot of assumptions, you know. Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Jameson Black’s big plan might be all for the good. ‘Make the Garden of Eden Great Again?’ What’s not to like about that? Who wouldn’t want to go to the Garden of Eden? That sounds pretty good, right about now.”
“Stop there, witch doctor!!! I’ll throw your arse right over to Mull, I will. Live out the rest of your sorry life with your own putrid kind.
You have no idea how evil works, do you?” yelled the exasperated King. “It starts just like you’re doing now. You delude yourself. Evil? It can’t really be THAT evil, you say to yourself. You think too rationally. Evil isn’t rational.
Are you familiar with the term, ‘con-man?’” asked Arthur.
“Sure,” I replied, “it’s a word for bad guy.”
“It’s short for, ‘confidence man,’” he explained. “That’s how evil works. These guys are very good at doing a sales job on you, persuading you, gaining your confidence until you come to trust them. Lying comes naturally. When they tell one, their pulse rate is as low as a healthy resting marathoner. Then, when you aren’t looking, they exploit your ‘confidence’ in them and rob you blind. That’s how it works.
That’s what this Black guy is selling… confidence, IN HIM. Place your hope, IN HIM. It’s a sure thing. We’ve got a plan. It’s all thought out. We’ll make the Garden of Eden great again…Bull Shit!
Trust him? No fucking way. Over my dead body,” howled the angry King.
“It might come to that if we can’t think up a better idea than what we’ve got now,” I said.
“Here’s my problem,” said Arthur, calmer now that he vented some of his frustration. “I know I’ve got 10,000 zealous, unarmed amateurs who are willing to die for me if only I give the word. I don’t want to give that word. Asking those fairies to attack a determined evil who possesses the power of Excalibur would be like ordering a million pitchfork carrying peasants to attack an Abrams tank. You might catch a break. Most likely though, the tank wins, the peasants die; game over. There’s got to be another way.”
Toc tic toc…Toc tic toc…
“Maybe it’s time to pray,” I said. “We’re running out of time.
Arthur, you said you were a Christian back in the 6th Century. Maybe you should ask for help, again. It worked when you summoned the fairies. Maybe it will work again.”
“OK, why not,” he said, his hope about to fade away. “Sure; what the hell.
You think I should do that big King, big Wizard command voice thing again? That seemed to work, twice.”
“No, Arthur, let’s not do that,” I said, truthfully. “I think recalling the young and humble boy who once lived in Sir Ector’s house is the flavor we’re looking for.”
“OK, consigliere,” said Arthur, “I’ll defer to you on this one.”
Arthur looked to the stars above and said, simply. “God, we need your help…please.”
It looked like he wanted to say something else, something more, like he was searching for reverent and holy words to match the seriousness of the moment. But he said nothing else and stopped short, remaining silent beneath the star filled sky.
“Do you think that was enough,” he asked. “It was kind of short.”
“I think it was perfect, Your Majesty, absolutely perfect.”
“Good,” he said, wiping away the solitary tear. “I think I’ll take a walk now. If you’ll excuse me, Merlin...”
Arthur walked away, about to disappear into the throng of adoring fairies. Before he was enveloped, he turned to me and said, shouting from some distance, “You know, if we ever get out of this mess, you’re going to need a last name. This isn’t ancient Greece, you know. Only arrogant bastards have the balls to go by just one name. I’m just say’n.”
“I’ll take that under advisement, Your Majesty, I’ll get back to you; I’m still a work in progress.”
Arthur disappeared into a mass of flapping wings, eager multitudes pressing forward, hoping to catch a glance of, or, better still, to touch the mighty King. I sat down beside the big rock and checked the time on my phone. 10:10 pm; 84 minutes to go.
Toc, tic, toc…Toc, tic, toc.