Catch Me If You Can
"A Young King Arthur Story"
By John Pirillo
It was neither dawn nor dusk, but a twilight of a heavy sort where the clouds veil the skies in somber hues of gold and red, daring you to try to sleep or awaken beneath them. It was an auspicious time and a dark time, a time of light and life, and a time when dark forebodings rose like mists from the heaves of the earth below.
Merlin sat with Arthur beneath that shroud of mystery, himself a mystery, as his thoughts flew where only one such as he could travel.
"Were I a magician, I would make the clouds go away so the sun could shine and make all the bright and pretty things shine and grow beneath it." Arthur ranted, the hint of amusement touching his lips as he watched his master.
Merlin continued his restful pose, both legs intertwined in that strange position he had learned in the Far East from the dark skinned men there who worshipped a thousand different gods, but obeyed only one. His skin was bronzed just like the skies at that moment. Merlin spent many an hour outside tending to the needs of the wild life that was sheltered neared his Crystal Cave, and the needs of the people who came to him for healing and health.
"Were you a magician." Merlin finally said, with a light smirk on his lips. "I would be out of a job."
Arthur unraveled himself from his position on his elbows, and sat up, startled by the statement. "If I were a magician? Are you saying I could be one?"
Merlin opened his eyes and Arthur could see a vast depth of gold light emitting from within them, as if someone else were watching him through Merlin's eyes, and not Merlin himself.
"Could I really become a magician?"
Merlin loosened his legs from each other, and propped his head on his knees watching Arthur go through all the motions of trying to figure out what he meant. The young lad was a very bright soul, but had a tendency at times to get lost in the intellectual side of things. Something that Merlin hoped in time to wear away at until the pure pristine hope of Britain shone with the Light that had been promised by his birth.
"I would think even the least of God's creatures could be a magician, Arthur."
"How is that possible?"
Merlin spread his palms and a beautiful butterfly fluttered from above and lit upon his right palm. It had triangular shaped blazons on its wings that seemed to pop out in gold and red. Its eyes were a gold color and its antenna a soft brown. It began to wash its face, as it that was the normal thing for it to do on a stranger's hand.
"For instance this tiny being. Just look at how much magic it offers in its gentle touch, its beautiful colors, and its dainty, carefree leap through the airs."
Merlin lifted his palm and the butterfly spiraled upwards, trailing a soft dust from its wings behind it, like a fairy taking flight.
"It is beautiful. But I'd hardly call that magic." Arthur finally ventured. "Wouldn't it have to be able to transform one thing into another?"
"Arthur, were you but to see your eyes when it landed on my right palm and began to wash its elegant face, you would no longer doubt magic in such a creature."
A cry in the skies drew Arthur's attention. It was a small white dragon, leading a larger golden one that seemed to be alert to all about it as the baby flew. When the baby flew too close to the ground, the mother dragon soared beneath it to urge it back into the air, and when it flew too high, she flew above it to help it back down before its wings lost their grip on the tenuous skies.
"It's a baby dragon."
"Not just any baby, Arthur. It's a King of Dragons."
"Yes. Only the purest of colors can find such a dragon. This dragon one day will carry a great leader into battle to fight the forces of darkness, and shall carry him like a chariot to the very gates of heaven itself."
When Merlin spoke those words, his eyes were on Arthur, as Arthur's eyes were on the baby white dragon. He smiled at Arthur's look. "No magic?"
Arthur looked at him and smiled. "The mother's love? She never lets him venture too close to the earth, nor too high in the heavens."
"And what else, Arthur?"
Arthur thought about it.
"It makes my heart dance."
Merlin clapped his hands.
"And isn't a dancing heart...magic?"
Arthur giggled, then grabbed Merlin's magic staff, leaped to his feet and ran away. "And so is your staff!"
"Arthur you come back with that staff!"
"Catch me if you can, old man!"
Merlin laughed and leaped to his feet.
Arthur led him past the Crystal Cave and along a narrow path about the mountainside it was embedded upon. Arthur, for his part, knew the path quite well as he used it daily to return home to his home with his Uncle, and to serve the Dark Queen Morgana, a task that fraught his nerves with fear and doubt, but that he did with a sense of urgency because he wished to serve his people, and could not do so, if he were ignorant of what they needed...and feared.
Arthur leaped across a fallen tree, and then scampered up a steep slope, using the staff to dig into the loose soil so he could make better headway. He looked back and Merlin was no longer behind him. He grinned. "Gotcha, old man!"
Suddenly, a pair of strong hands gripped him and pulled him up into the air and Merlin was whirling him around like a small child.
Arthur cried out with laughter and shouts to let him down, but Merlin was relentless. The more Arthur cried for release, the more he turned him, until he was so dizzy he thought he might throw up, then Merlin set him down on a large boulder, depositing him on the cliff of a great overhang that overlooked the Golden Forests below and the distant towers of the castle where Lord High King Uther Pendragon and the Dark Queen Morgana lived.
Merlin sat beside Arthur, and gently prized the staff from between his fingers, then set it between them. "I may be older. But I'm not that old!"
Arthur laughed, and then almost gagged as his stomach heaved for a moment.
Merlin reached onto his belt and loosened a flash attached there. He opened it and handed it over. Arthur took a long drag, and then his pale face brightened. "Honey water."
Merlin and Arthur sat there upon the wide boulder, dangling their feet over the edge of the drop, watching as the clouds finally drifted apart to reveal a setting sun, which kissed the distant black towers of the Dark Ones, and softened its dismal appearance.
"Some day I will build a new city here, Merlin."
"I pray that day comes soon, the world needs order, but..." He looked at Arthur. "It needs love even more. Never forget that, Arthur. Law is only a part of the structure of life. Without love, law is cold and spineless, like that which the Dark King and Queen wield, but with love, it becomes like a radiant sun supplying life and vigor to all it shines upon."
Arthur nodded. "I'm not sure such a day will ever come to these lands. The Dark Ones have such a powerful hold on it, and the wealthy, Merlin, they have forgotten the laws of charity. They take from the common man, more and more, and give back lashes and abuse, with little to eat and sustain the souls and bodies of the peoples."
Merlin put an arm about Arthur's shoulders. "Maybe someday you can change all of that. You think?"
"I don' know what to think."
Arthur's face hardened. "But if I could do it right now, I would. I'd have the heads of those Dark Ones..."
Merlin put a finger to Arthur's lips.
Arthur gave him a surprised look.
"Arthur, all is part of God's Creation and part of his body. We must never forget that in God's eyes we are all each other's brothers and sisters."
Arthur sighed and put his head in his hands. "It's so hard to remember that sometimes, especially when I see Morgana's guards whipping a young girl because she kept a loaf of bread for her ailing father, instead of tithing it to the Dark Queen."
"Patience, Arthur. Just like a tree plummets the earth with its stout roots, some day you shall also do that, and your roots will sustain you when you need to shelter and succor those of need."
Arthur looked up and brightened.
"You think so?"
Merlin gave Arthur a knowing look. "I know so."
"Can't catch me, old man!" Arthur cried out, snatching up the staff again and sprinting back down the mountainside.
Merlin watched Arthur run and smiled. "A child must be a child before he becomes a man."
So having said, he took himself back down the mountain, already knowing exactly where to surprise Arthur and recapture his staff. Some magic requires magic, but some only requires patience and maturity.