22. Heady

Lady Viviane’s head floated about the great hall of the castle as Merlin rocked backwards in his oak chair and sipped wine out of a crystal glass.

“So, I think I’ve figured out who you are,” Lady Viviane said.

“Go for it,” Merlin replied. “Humour me.”

“You’re the second coming of Jesus, our lord and saviour, aren’t you?”

Merlin giggled, nearing knocking over his glass.

“No,” he said. “That’s… literally the furthest thing from the truth, my lady.”

“Okay then, maybe…” she continued. “Judging by all these portraits, you must be related to King Vortigern.”

His eyes widened.

“Very good, my Lady!” he said, astounded.

“You’re one of his barons,” she said.

“Ah, wrong,” he replied wth a smirk. “I’ve no lands to my name. Nothing to my name, really. I was King Vortigern’s aide.”

“Impossible!” she remarked, squinting her eyes at him. “If you serve King Vortigern, you’d be either falling apart or dead by now. How old are you?”

“Older than I appear to you,” he said, taking a sip in between his words. “That’s all you need to know.”

Lady Viviane shook her head.

“I don’t believe you,” she said, then a flash of pain came over her face.

“Then, I was aide to King Ambrosius,” Merlin continued.

“After King Vortigern was burnt to death by the pro-Roman King Ambrosius and his Greek grenadiers, no doubt,” Lady Viviane murmurred to herself.

“What was that?” Merlin asked.

“Nothing,” she replied, wincing as she clenched her jaw. “Continue.”

“Then, later, to King Uther,” he continued, swirling his glass. “That’s King Arthur’s father.”

“Yes,” she said, annoyed. “I know.”

“And now I’m aide to King Arthur,” he said. “That’s who I am. I am an aide. I provide counsel and advice.”

“And what is this place?” Lady Viviane asked as she studied the great hall that they sat in. Light trickled in from the many windows that lined the stone walls. The windows were filled with thinly sliced alabaster rock, and tinted the light they let in to hold a soft yellow glow.

“This?” Merlin asked as he looked about. “This is a castle of my own creation. Admittedly a bit too gothic for this time period but who’s going to complain?”

“Not the castle,” she clarified as she moved her head left and right. “The… this! All this! How are we in a bag?”

“Sack,” he corrected her. “A bag is made of soft or flexible material not intended to hold many objects. We’re in a sack. It’s rough, tough, and made of jute fibers. And designed to hold many objects. Well, not as many objects as this, but this here is a special sack.”

Lady Viviane pursed her lips and frowned.

“Explain more,” she requested.

“This sack is enchanted,” he continued, looking about. “Its opening is a portal to a realm. A rather spacious realm, as you can clearly see.”

“How did it come to be?” she asked.

Merlin swirled his glass, then watched the sediment fall to the bottom.

“It used to belong to a powerful enchantress named Rhiannon, who was betrothed to Gwawl, the son of Clud,” he said. “Rhiannon, instead, chose to marry the King of Dyfed, Pwyll.”

Merlin swung his glass about as he pointed at Lady Viviane, spilling a bit of wine in the process.

“And this enraged Gwawl,” he said, wagging his finger at her head. “So Gwawl tricked Pwyll to give his wife, Rhiannon, to him. Pwyll could not renege on his promise to Gawawl, so he turned to Rhiannon to help him. She chided him for his error, but also provided him with an idea to rectify the situation. She enchanted this sack and gave it to Pwyll so that he could play his own trick on Gwawl. She intructed Pwyll to station his men outside of the feast, and to intrude upon the feast of her wedding with Gwawl under the guise of a beggar. Pwyll is to ask Gwawl if he could humbly fill his small sack with food, for it is only when someone is persuaded to interfere to control the magic of the sack that one can use the sack to trap another. Gwawl obliged at first, but then grew more and more frustrated at the amount of food that Pwyll was able to fit into his small sack and stepped in to stop Pwyll. Pwyll threw the bag over Gwawl and trapped his, then ordered his men to invade the feast and proceeded to put them in chains. Then, together, they beat the infinite sack with sticks until Gwawl could take no more and promised to relinquish Rhiannon to Pwyll… and vengefulness from his heart.”

“Very clever of her,” Lady Viviane said. “What happened to her?”

“She became Queen of Dyfed,” he remarked.

“Excellent,” she said with a smile. “That’s great!”

“Then falsely accused of infantide and cannibalism and forced to offer all travellers to Dyfed a ride upon her back as penance.”

“How… horrid,” she remarked with a grimace.

Merlin’s head perked up.

“I must return out there to speak with someone,” he said, pushing aside his glass of wine. “Provide him counsel and all that.”

“A King is out there?” Lady Viviane asked.

“Ah, good idea,” Merlin said, slapping his forehead. “You truly are gifted, my Lady.”

Merlin hopped off the ground and hovered in the air.

“Please, in the meantime,” he said as he extended his arms outwards. “Make yourself at home.”

Merlin floated up towards the stony ceiling of the large hall.

The ceiling parted like soft curtains. Just enough for him to slip by and, in doing so, he let a pillar of sunlight shine through. Merlin floated through the bright beam. Then, the bright light—and the small patch of blue sky—shrank until it vanished. Lady Viviane sat alone in a dark and damp deserted castle.

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