It seemed as if no time had passed when they reached the clearing with the little huts. Hands were lifted in greeting as the Hermit passed by.
Merlin could see the roof that needed help, and the man he had met before stood outside. The man asked the Hermit if he had a good journey, and Merlin listened to the hermits answer. “There is still so much to do, yet I am hopeful…”
Hopeful for what, Merlin kept repeating in his head.
“I see you have brought young Master Merlin with you…”
“Stop hanging behind, boy. Meet Grombold, he will show you what needs doing.”
Hearing the Hermit call him ‘boy’ something he hadn’t done before made Merlin wonder if he was angry. He was feeling as if he had been sold into service, but he was wrong, of course. Looking around the clearing, he could see that everyone was working. The women were cooking and those of his own age were cutting wood and piling thatch together. The very young were playing close by their mothers.
Merlin noticed a young girl crying. She held a small dead bird in the palm of her hand. As he watched, she took it to her mother, who took it from her outstretched hand. “No need for tears, little Blossom…”
Merlin watched, transfixed as the bird was handed back to the child, who kissed its head, held out her hands and watched as the bird flew away.
This had been no dream. The bird had clearly been dead…
Was it the mother or the child who had worked the magic?
Merlin walked towards them but was stopped before he reached them by the Hermit putting a hammer and nails in his hands. He pointed towards Grombold. “They need you over there.”
Merlin walked over to the hut that everyone was working on and a young boy told him which pieces of wood to hammer the nails into. He had hardly begun when a terrible grumbling began inside his head. Words crashing together, making no sense. Merlin wanted to ask questions but they wouldn’t come to mind. Something was stopping them from forming.
He knew who to blame. Looking around for the Hermit, he was nowhere to be seen, but Grombold was standing close by.
“Don’t worry about the Hermit, he will be back by tea time.”
By this time, Merlin had had enough of secrets and magic. He walked away from Grombold without saying a word.
The journey back to the cave seemed a great deal longer without the Hermit. The sky was beginning to darken and he could feel rain in the air. He whispered, “Please hold the rain back until I reach the cave, for I don’t need a bath.”
Within a short distance, the heavens opened and Merlin was soaked to the skin. It would seem that someone disagrees with me about not needing a bath, he thought.
Merlin started running. The Hermit was up to something, he could feel it. The people in the clearing didn’t need his help, they had magic of their own. He wanted Merlin out of the way!
When he was within a few feet of the cave he could see people leaving and walking towards the lake. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes, unsure of what he was seeing. These were not people, they looked like wisps of coloured smoke. Their shape was bigger than a man. Merlin watched as each one followed the other, floating across the lake. The last one turned to face the watching Merlin and he heard a voice say, “We will see you soon…”
Merlin fell to his knees, tears fell from his eyes and his breath was laboured. His head was full of strange images. He instinctively wanted to leave this place but knew he couldn’t, not yet. Then he had another thought, that one day he would have to leave.
He kept repeating “Not yet,” until he reached the mouth of the cave.
The Hermit greeted him as if nothing strange had taken place, and Merlin was far too tired to push his luck and lay down on his pelt. As he drifted off to sleep, he tried to remember what had happened that day. A sweet voice began to sing softly, lulling him off to sleep. It was only in the morning that he knew it had been his mother’s voice.
Swinging his legs from the cot, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He looked around for the Hermit and spotted him sitting in the corner of the cave reading a book. It was a big book with a black cover covered with strange signs that seemed to glow with a soft blue light.
The cat made a sound, causing the Hermit to close the book, realising that Merlin had witnessed something he shouldn’t. Too late, the Hermit knew Merlin had seen the glowing signs on the book cover and would want to know more. He would have to find a new place to hide it.
The Hermit wondered if Merlin had seen his company leaving last night, for that would explain his being so tired this morning. The Hermit had been working too hard. He needed to take a dip in the lake, maybe teach Merlin how to swim…
I think I will put Merlin on a back burner for a while, but I am sorry if I have disappointed anyone…
I think I might have bitten off more than I could chew with this, and wish I could place this in more capable hands, such as JK Rowling…