by Philip-Todd Franklin
At first the two fairies left behind in the chamber had taken their assigned duty very seriously and had faithfully watched the two bowls and the great-sized crystal ball. After the first few hours had elapsed, however, they had begun to grow lax with their vigil. It was hard to blame them; there were only so many times you could look around an empty room and see nothing but the same glass cases holding various trinkets of power before lethargy set in.
Taking one last glance into the scrying bowl on the left, Frick looked at his companion Frack and sighed, restlessness plainly showing across his face. “This has got to be the most boring of duties our great king has ever assigned us. How about we do something to liven things up a little?”
“I don’t know…” Frack replied slowly. “We shouldn’t be playing around. This is a big responsibility from the king.”
Sighing, Frick continued as if his companion had not said a word. “We could always play bones, or just stack cards to see who is able to make the highest house.”
“But, Frick, this too important to be ignor… igner — forgetting,” Frack said.
Unbeknownst to either of the fairies, a light had begun to dimly glow from one of the scrying bowls, and a figure could be seen walking into the room viewed through the bowl. The figure started to make his way toward one of the cases of magical items, then stopped and frowned, slowly turning to look all around him while speaking a couple of arcane words. After repeating the circle once more, he audibly cleared his throat and said in English, with a slight German accent, “I do not like being watched within my private ministry chambers.”
Speaking a few more words of arcane magic, the figure said, “Hmmm… though I cannot locate you with my magic, know that Doctor Thirteen is aware of your presence and does not approve.” With those words, he began to quickly chant in an ancient language thought lost many ages ago. When he finished, the scrying bowl slowly raised from the large oak table and went zooming across the room, barely missing both stunned fairies, to crash into the far wall.
“What happened?” Frack said, completely shocked.
Frick continued to float in midair beside his companion for a moment, then replied, “I don’t know, Frack, but what I do know is that I’ve got to inform our great king.” With that, Frick quickly disappeared from the chamber, leaving a very confused Frack floating in the air of the room alone, before he also disappeared from the chamber.
In moments, both Merlin and Mary arrived in the great chamber, where they immediately noticed the scrying bowl lying upon the ground, its contents spilled onto the floor. Standing on the table next to the other bowl and the great crystal ball stood the fairy leader, King Wingdore.
As he noticed the two enter the room, he spoke up, worry etched upon the great fairy king’s face. “Great Merlin, it is as we both have feared. Even with all of our protection and planning, the evil one has knowledge of us.”
Nodding, Merlin absently began to stroke his long beard, stopping only long enough to speak. “Do you think the security of Avalon has been breached, King Wingdore?”
Not knowing what else to do, Mary went over and grabbed an old stained cloth from the table and was just about to kneel down to clean up the mess that had been made, when her grandfather shook her by the sternness in his voice. “No! Do not touch anything yet, child! It could very easily be tapped, if the evil one was able to affect that bowl even within Avalon.”
Mary quickly backed away from the bowl, looking first at her grandfather, and then at the fairy king, who nodded in agreement. “I’m sorry, Grandfather,” she said. “I didn’t know.”
“Nor have I had reason to teach you until now, child, so the wrong is my own — as will be the price, if my fears are correct,” said Merlin. As he spoke, he began to trace symbols in the air before the mess on the floor. For a moment a bright light flared, becoming utterly black, then changing to red and then bright green. Then the bowl slowly rose from the floor, and another cloth from the table flew down to clean up the liquid on the floor.
“Was it tapped after all, great one?” the fairy king asked.
Merlin shook his head and said, “Thankfully, no. I dare say we’ve been blessed this day. But I’m afraid our own barrier, which keeps all of Avalon hidden from prying eyes, has been breached.” Turning to Mary, he said, “You, young lady, need to locate those who can help you in this most grave of quests.”
“Yes, Grandfather,” Mary replied as she walked over to a shelf of books, slowly scanned the many titles, and then slipped one off of the shelf. Before leaving the great chamber, Mary walked over to her grandfather and gave him a big hug before silently exiting the chamber.
“Do you think we need a guard posted upon each of the isles, great one?” King Wingdore asked.
Watching Mary exit the chamber, Merlin replied, “I do not know. But I do pray that my granddaughter is ready to confront the dangerous road she’s now forced to travel.”
Mary silently walked past several buildings before reaching one of the smaller houses and entering it. I don’t want to let Grandfather down; I know he’s counting on me even more now than ever, she thought to herself as she softly sat the old tome upon the book rest on the wooden table in her study room.
Lighting a few candles, Mary closed her eyes and began to slowly focus her mind just as her grandfather had taught her to do many years earlier. Once her mind was completely focused on the task at hand, she reached out to a vial of clear liquid and emptied the whole contents into the bowl before her. Replacing the stopper on the vial, Mary began to look through the tome on the table until she located the symbols she was looking for.
For just a moment, Mary peered over the many different symbols and patterns that would be required to perform the scrying. Slowly she closed her eyes and began to softly chant a simple mantra. Starting first with Latin, she slowly made her way into a language that defied description. As she opened her eyes, she began to create the symbols, one after another. Within seconds, the clear liquid in the bowl began to cloud as the bowl began to softly glow.
When she was done, a room could be seen within the bowl, in which two figures were standing. In the span of a few moments, Mary watched as a young man who appeared to be Japanese, was shot by an elderly man in old combat fatigues. Mary gasped in shock, instinctively cupping her mouth with her hands as the sound of the gunshot still echoed in her study. She saw the figure of an old woman appear, and the brightness of her appearance was nearly blinding to Mary’s eyes. Yet she continued to watch. After a few moments, the scene in the bowl took another turn for the worse.
For a moment the bright, shining old woman watched as the old man left before offering her right hand to the young Japanese man. “Let me help you up from there,” she said in a dulcet tone.
Taking her hand, the young man slowly got up from the floor and said, “What’s his problem, great lady?”
Sighing deeply, the shining old woman replied, “Rick Flagg was the leader of another team long ago, when World War II first started. He and his team would take on suicide missions, accomplishing tasks that others wouldn’t have believed possible. Over the course of the war, members of his Suicide Squad came and went, and several were killed in the course of the missions. Still, a core group always made it out alive. One of those was a young woman by the name of Dr. Miranda Chase. He had fallen head over heels for her in their first mission together, and just before their last mission he asked her to marry him. She was to give him an answer after the mission, only… they failed…”
As Mary watched in horror, the old woman began struggling to speak another word, gasping as if she couldn’t breathe, and her skin began to turn pale.
“Great lady, are you OK?” asked the young man.
After a few seconds, an alarm could be heard screaming through the great hidden complex seen in the scrying bowl, and a voice came over a speaker hidden in the walls. “All personnel to your stations, and team members to briefing. I repeat: all personnel to your stations, and team members to briefing.”
The old lady continued to gasp in a desperate attempt to breathe, and then her eyes slowly rolled up in their sockets as she passed out. The young man quickly reached out and caught her before she could fall to the ground, then quickly ran out the door with her in his arms and kept running down the hall, calling out for someone to help.
With a soft wave from Mary’s hands, she centered the scene in the scrying bowl onto the young man, so that it would follow him.
After a few moments, the young Japanese man came running into another room, his eyes by now glowing an unearthly white.
“What’s happened here?” cried the old man, staring at the unconscious elderly woman. Mary realized this old military man was the one called Rick Flagg.
A tech in white combat fatigues looked up and replied, “I don’t know, sir. It doesn’t make any sense.” The tech had been looking after two other strangely dressed figures who seemed to have the same kind of spiritual power as the great lady, based on the way they glowed. She was surprised as she suddenly recognized each of them from her esoteric studies.
The serious-looking soldier with the small mustache, and wearing a nondescript brown military uniform, was the legendary Vagabond, who had dedicated his immortal life for freedom in Europe. And the rotund, English country squire with muttonchops, wearing a top hat and an eighteenth-century suit emblazoned with a Union Jack, was none other than John Bull himself. These were the so-called spirits of Free Europe and England, respectively, much like Uncle Sam was the spirit of America.
Rushing over to the tech, the young man gently laid the old woman down and pleaded with him, “You’ve got to help her! Someone, anyone — please!”
Mary could feel a great evil pulling at all three great spirits in the room, the two men and the old woman, and through the scrying bowl she could sense the link between the young man and the great lady he had carried into the room.
For a moment Mary thought of rushing to her grandfather and asking him for advice, but something in the young man’s plea for help made her change her mind. “I’ll most likely be considered rash and unthinking when I get back,” she said to herself as she quickly changed her clothing and dashed down toward the large round dials of stone.
Speaking a few words of Latin and waving her hands, she caused a white portal to open in the center of the dials, and then, without a second thought, Mary took a step into adventure.
In the scrying bowl, a swirl of light could be seen forming in the room, looking for all the world like reality folding in upon itself. After a moment, the form could be seen of a young woman with dark black hair and hazel eyes, wearing close-fitting clothing of alternating black and red. “I need your help, and it would seem that you can use mine,” she said.
“Who are you, lady?” demanded Rick Flagg.
A gentle grin crossed her face as she replied, “Merlin. Mary Merlin, magician-at-large.”
Long into the night, both Merlin and King Wingdore worked at strengthening the barriers guarding the isles of Avalon and cloaking their many tributaries from prying eyes. Thus it was to a tired and weary Merlin that a young female fairy in bright green appeared.
Bowing low, she said, “My king, great one. Young Mary has left in such a great rush that she did not dispel her scrying window. I felt that you should be made aware.” With that, she bowed once again.
“Yes, thank you, Shanki. Your thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated,” Merlin said to the female fairy. “If you would be so kind and continue to watch her bowl till she is able to return.” He glanced at King Wingdore for approval.
King Wingdore nodded softly and said to the young fairy, “Yes, please do. I shall have your meals brought to you, my child.”
“Yes, my king, great one.” Bowing low once again, she disappeared in a small flash of light.
“Would that it was I who was going to face this danger, old friend,” said Merlin, “but I fear that I’ve other paths to follow. Nor can I abandon the eternal king to danger.”
“Very much understood, great Merlin,” said King Wingdore. “I, too, dislike having to send others into harm’s way when I myself must stay behind.”
“Still, I have a debt to repay as well… a very old debt,” Merlin said as he walked over to a shelf lined with many different boxes. Slowly making a few gestures, Merlin spoke a couple of words in an ancient dialect, and soon one of the boxes lifted up into the air, floated out, and came to rest in his hands.
As Merlin made his way back toward the table, King Wingdore’s eyes grew wide as he noticed the box in the great wizard’s hands. “Are you sure such a course of action is wise, great one?” he asked with concern.
Laying the box onto the table, Merlin slowly opened it without reply, and they both gazed down upon the contents within. Four nearly identical rings rested within impressions in the box, while one space sat empty. “The Rings of Sature,” Merlin spoke in a near-whisper. Without waiting for a reply, Merlin made a few more gestures, and a smaller box soon appeared upon the wooden table. Turning to face King Wingdore, he said, “Great King, I would require a messenger of great nobility and honesty. Do you know of one?”
Nodding, King Wingdore replied, “I do, old friend, and shall retrieve him.” With that, he disappeared in a flash of light, only to reappear nearly as quickly. Now standing beside him was another fairy, young in looks and wearing what looked like a miniature black and white tuxedo.
Merlin quickly took two of the rings from the box and spoke a couple of arcane words over them before placing them in the smaller box and closing the lid. With a thought he closed the original box, and it softly replaced itself onto the same shelf it had come from. Merlin then took a quill pen and a piece of parchment and began to write upon it.
After a few moments, Merlin looked up from the parchment and began to fold it as he looked at the young fairy beside King Wingdore and said, “Ah… Melvin, I believe?”
“Yes, great one,” replied the fairy Melvin, bowing low.
“I would have you deliver this gift to a dear and noble friend of mine whom I’ve not seen in ages, and who will soon be busying himself with wedding preparations for his new bride. I will be sending you to a time in the future, shortly before the actual nuptials are to take place one year and some months hence. You’ll also need to carry proof of our longstanding treaty with the Monitor Council in order to pass through the barrier unobstructed. The old wizard is a bit of a stickler for rules, especially when it comes to traversing time and space.” A small smile played across Merlin’s face as he spoke these words, pulling out a well-used envelope and setting it onto the box along with the note.
Melvin gently lifted the box from the table, and as he applied a small amount of concentration, it began to shrink to a small enough size to allow him to place the box, the envelope, and the handwritten note into a jacket pocket. “According to your own words, it shall be done,” said Melvin the fairy.
“Then you have my eternal gratitude, and I wish thee a safe journey,” said Merlin.
King Wingdore nodded to Melvin and quietly dismissed him. The fairy bowed low before his king and Merlin before disappearing in a flash of light.
“Do you think he will have any trouble, King Wingdore?” Merlin asked.
Shaking his head, Wingdore replied, “No. I expect his journey shall be without adventure.” (*) With that, he also disappeared in a flash of light.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Batman Family: The Wedding March, Chapter 2: A Strange Turn of Events.]