I find myself chained to a dungeon wall. The smell of feces and urine is overpowering and disgusting. I have been here only four hours and I already wonder if I will ever recover. If Yal-hune is trying to teach me a lesson, and cure me of wanting to travel through time, it is a good one.
Next to me is a thief who has been here for weeks, judging by the looks of him. He looks diseased and filthy. He stares at me and smiles a sickly smile. Only three teeth are left in his smile and those don't look too healthy.
"Ye be the dark knight. Arthur must be rejoicing now that he has ye. Ye will be dead by sunrise methinks. Me be just a trifling horse thief and they beat me within an inch of death's doorstep. How did Arthur ketch ye? Where be ye army?"
"I need to see Merlin. No one is listening to me. I am not the dark knight."
"Oh...I see how it is. Ye be mad. Me half-brother was hit by the blunt edge of sword and he's all but useless. It happens to the best of men and the worst"
I wonder where the girl is. Her words were not listened to at all. And despite her protests the guards dragged me down to this dungeon without a moments hesitation.
"No ye're not mad are ye?"
I turn and look at the stairs which descend into this pit. A man stands there. Long white beard, tall and lean wearing a dark robe and with penetrating blue eyes which are staring me down. It can only be Merlin.
"Ye should know me, we've met before."
"That's what I've been trying to explain. I'm not the dark knight. Well not really him - this is his body, but not his mind. I come from the 21st century...the future. I'm not this monster, the dark knight."
"Ye speak wholly different than ye did in past days. If ye be from the future you should know what happens to you here."
"Time doesn't work like that. When I went back in time I arrived here and my presence changes things. I emerge in a parallel time. It's hard to explain, but it's sort of like my arrival created a new stream branching off a main river. So I don't know what will happen now."
Merlin has descended and stand in front of me. He's tall. Even taller than me. Probably 6'6".
"Ye speak riddles well. Far more skillfully than ye spoke in my presence two seasons ago. I know not who or what ye are, but I will find out."
"I arrived here with a woman, she's a great sorceress of sorts. She brought me back here in time but left me here. I don't know what happened to her. Her name is Yal-hune and if I can find her, I know she can return me to my time."
"And when ye leave the real dark knight will return to this body ye possess?"
The horse thief is staring at us both. He is absentmindedly drooling out of one corner of his mouth.
"Listen, Merlin. I know so many things. Science. Medicine. Inventions and tools that have yet to be invented. I could assist you in bringing civilization to this time."
"If ye be from out of the future, I want no part of ye're tools and science. I know about time and I know that messing with it causes untold suffering, evil and death. Leave such to Morgan Le Fey and other witches. They be ignorant enough to call upon these outside forces and destroy their souls in the process."
"Will you help me find Yal-hune? Will you get me out of this dungeon? I'm not evil and I did not commit the crimes I am accused of."
"King Arthur is aware of ye're claims and sent me to find if they be true. Methinks ye are not the dark knight, even though thine body be one and the same."
"So you will help me?"
"Great. I would like to meet King Arthur. I've heard so much about him and Camelot. I want to know if the legends are true."
"Yes. In my time King Arthur is but a myth. No one is certain he even really existed. Authors have written tales about Camelot and the King Arthur and his knights...and you too. But most think it's all just a story - a fiction."
Merlin calls to a guard and instructs him to unchain me. The guard is looking at me with utter contempt and I sense he would kill me if he would be permitted to.
"The stories tell of battles and heroic deeds and they tell the tale of betrayal and of the destruction of Camelot."
"At your hands?"
"No, they talk of Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere having an affair and splitting up the kingdom. Then of Mordred and a war that leads to Arthur's death."
"Fascinating. But there is no one here named Lancelot and Guinevere is but a castle serving girl who is but 15 years of age. As for Mordred, that name is common and could be any of a number of men."
"Does Arthur have a half-brother?"
"Nay. King Arthur was an only child and had no brothers."
"Is there a round table where the knights meet?"
"In the main serving hall there are tables, but none be round and they are not used by knights more than anyone else."
"What about you? Do you know about science or chemistry? Do you really believe in magic?"
"Alchemist? Yes, I know of these things and believe in all. Magicks are very real and sorcery is very real. So is alchemistry and divination. Ye may have traveled through time, but I have seen into the darkest, foulest worlds that be not of any time or any place and creatures that be not men, nor demons but something related to both. Morgana Le Fey was long ago seduced by these dark creatures and they do their bidding through her."
"Is she Arthur's half-sister?"
"What? I told ye, Arthur was an only child. Morgana Le Fey comes from Gaul. She and Arthur share no blood...such a notion is vile."
"Fables and legends clearly have much wrong."
"Lies and evils outlive the words of truth in any time period."
Merlin motions me up the stairs and I ascend, glad to be leaving this revolting dungeon and its stench.
We emerge in a long hall. Tapestries are hung up to block drafts, but the castle is still cold. Torches set upon the walls provide light, too much smoke but very little warmth.
At the end of the hall...I would swear I see Yal-hune standing there for a moment. But as we get closer I see she seems to morph into someone else before my eyes.
"Hello Merlin, ye doddering old idiot. What have we here?"
"They are all sleeping. They will awaken later...perhaps."
"Ye evil witch! I will..."
"Ye will what!!? Ye are old and powerless. Your spells could not even keep me out of Camelot."
Morgana looks young, yet wizened simultaneously. Probably about 27, but her face is sort of timeless. She could be a decade older - or younger and one would never know for certain. She wears a crimson gown edged in violet. She is very pale. Her hair is reddish brown and she has weird arcane symbols that are sewn into her gown. She looks "goth" centuries before "goth" would become an alternative fashion statement.
Merlin grabs a wand out from within his robe and it shoots forth some sort of smoke or gas at Morgana.
Morgana twirls her gown and the gas dissipates. She pushes Merlin aside and sticks something to my garment.
"You, time traveler, will come with me!"
The castle interior and Merlin fade away before my eyes.