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The Merlin Factor. Chapter Twenty.
Topic Started: Dec 17 2015, 10:28 PM (77 Views)
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The Merlin Factor. Chapter Twenty.

Part Four: Marion.

Final Absolution.

England: Gunton Park, Norfolk, 1990.

I stood, at last, before the shiny brass mermaid, admiring it while Daphne opened the door.

She turned to me, reached out and kissed me, smiling that lovely, round-cheeked smile that spoke so much of things to come.
Little wrinkles at her eyes. A spark, a glint of intimate mischief.
"For you" it laughed, running. "All for you if you can catch..."

It all seemed so familiar. The twin gatehouses, the little lake. The ruined mill.
Her home was ancient, rounded flint and red, clay-tiled roof. A muddy, English park. So peaceful now. No more engines thundering overhead.

An owl hooted somewhere nearby and I turned as the round red housekeeper bustled, smiling, to welcome us inside. We said our hellos, a rush of too many stories told too fast to do them justice, and gladly accepted the offer of some hot tea.
Daphne led me to the living room, where, as if she had lived there her whole life, sat Kilo. I stared, spellbound, at this impossibility. It couldn't - simply couldn't - be. Could it?

Daphne asked me: "What is it, Johnny? That's just our puss, Cleo. Why are you staring like that, dear?"
I turned from Kilo, to Daphne, back to Kilo. Walked over and scratched her behind the ears, the way she'd always liked to be scratched. I leaned forwards and kissed the top of her head, the way I'd always done it. She rolled over and stretched, purring, just the way she always had. It was Kilo!
"This - ah - you remember I told you about my cat, Daphne? The one on the boat?" Daphne smiled an enchanted smile, cocking her head, inviting yet more magic.
"Well..." I shook my head, mouth open, still incredulous. "Well this is her. This is Kilo. Here. Now. And you know? Her name used to be Cleo. Before I started calling her the two-point-two pound cat..."

We gazed into each other's eyes, Daphne and I. In the thrall of magic. Another magic moment. Endless. Nothing but. Magic without limit. What was happening to us?
"Cleo has lived here for nine years, dear," Daphne smiled.
"My Cleo was nine, too," I said. "She never did have kittens..."
"No. She never did..."

We stood over this incredible creature who led her mysterious double-life, on two sides of the planet. She promptly fell asleep, the most attractive of cats: pale grey with pastel camouflage in white and peach. No other cat, anywhere, looked anything like her. Our cat. Always had been. Still would be.

Daphne hugged me and shook her head, loving this. Loving me. We drank our tea, bemused, and admired the reclining, dozing Cleo, while Rose, the housekeeper filled us in on the current goings on. She was concerned and not a little worried...
"Lady Marion's not bin doin' alt'gether well ma'am, I fear," she said in her North-Norfolk accent.
"Pale as a cloud she's bin. Oi reckon she's roight poorly, an' not to worry you, but oi'm thinkin' you'd best go roight upstars an' visit her, loike."

Daphne turned to me, a sad look in her eyes, along with something like apprehensive anticipation. It was a look I'd never seen before, but still I recognized it for what it said: We were - the two of us - on the brink of some enormous unknown. Something both fantastic and inevitable. She knew it and I knew it, but we never could have defined the feeling at the time. We didn't speak, barely breathed, feeling destiny thundering down on us. Unavoidable. Unstoppable.
We embraced, each feeling the other's fluttering heartbeat, then, hand in hand, we turned together and made our way upstairs.

The hallway beckoned, calling to me, bringing an enveloping sense of deja-vu. An old familiar friend.
I knew this place, felt so at home. The little stairway leading up to the attic...
I paused, trembling, excited beyond understanding, and turned again to Daphne. Her eyes were very wide. Very bright. Her mouth part-opened, little breaths fluttering like unseen hummingbirds. She whispered:
"Can you hear it, Johnny? Can you hear the sound?"
A low groan of some emotion too rare to have a name escaped from deep inside me as I became aware. A far off whistling, moaning thunder, like a great wind rushing towards us...
I knew that sound. I knew it!

We stood before a door. Daphne stared at the brass handle, swallowed, a tear running down her cheek. She didn't want to open it, I knew. But knew she had to. I reached for her again, held her close and said the words I'd never known how to say:
"Please... Take me Home..."

The door opened. I stepped through into a bright, feminine room, lacy curtains and soft, still-warm eiderdown...


...our eyes met...and...


...there...on the bed...

For one timeless moment, she had looked like death. Emptied out and gone. So very, very tired. I reached for her. Called her back. Pleaded for the impossible. She hesitated, so very tired. Her eyes focused - widened. Her lips trembled. And then she smiled. A smile so radiant it brought tears to my eyes. Blinding beauty. Too much for mortal man. She - she glowed.

Daphne had gone. The door was closed. I stood there bathed in light, while the Sound grew, deep inside me.
Home, I thought. Johnny's Home. At last.

She seemed to float. Weightless. Reaching forth to touch. My mouth opened but breath just would not come.

Blood rushed, a great roaring in my ears.
The Sound!

The whistling, moaning thunder of a still-proud Merlin. I reached for her.

Oh God! Oh dear God! Oh my love! Oh Jesus! Could it really be?

She pulled me down into her marvellous, down-soft breasts and rocked me to and fro. Cooing like a quiet dove at dawn. So smooth and soft and safe and warm.

The Sound!

A million voices sang inside my swelling heart. The glory! Oh the sweet, poignant, glory.

Marion! The Sound of fulfillment. The very name of life.


She gazed at me - into me. Loving me. Covering me with her light.
"I always waited...dearest Johnny..."

The words tinkled like far away chimes; stained-glass sonnets in a ghostly breeze.
"I always...knew...that you would come..."

She trembled, poised on the brink of forever, finely balanced on the razor's-edge that is all that separates the living from those who live no more, gathering herself for the one final effort...

"You...never knew...Johnny..." another timeless pause while we floated on an ocean of Sound.
"...our... We had...a child..."

I gasped in sudden all-seeing awareness. My mind opened wide and yielded to the ecstasy of knowing. An avalanche of images - memories - cascaded around me, burying forever what once had been, creating a wonderland - a place where anything was possible - in its place. My God!

Marion shone like an angel, gently nodding her head, knowing the gift was given, the circle closed.
"Daphne." I blinked, eyes tearing, vibrating like a bowstring at full-draw. "Daphne is your daughter."

I held Marion close, gently, firmly, finally. She moved from her body, into me, for one instant was me, speaking my own thought:
"She is me and she is you, dearest Johnny. The Johnny I loved, and who loved me. She is us, my love. Our love. Always..."

And then she slipped away, her body letting go the golden soul that itself became the Sound, the filigree of fading breath, almost lost but growing. Rising again, one final, just-in-time...

The Sound rolled over me, unstoppable, universal; the awesome, unendurable organ note of final absolution.

I swirled and floated, climbed and dove, laughed and cried. Over and over.
I went with her as far as I was able, escorting her to where she had to go. To the very edge of life. To that strange frontier: that old, familiar place. She was so heart-rendingly happy. So very touched that I should come. My heart could not contain the gift she planted there for it was so much more than I could yet appreciate. A gift that would never, ever die.

Love is its own end, transcending all ends. A circle. It has no end. She turned for an instant, looking back fondly, capturing one final glimpse of the love she had waited a lifetime to complete.
"My own sweet Johnny," she smiled. "My own...sweet...Man..."

She turned away, spreading her wings, the snowy-white veils of many years flowing like windblown sea mist around her. Free again. Free at last. And most of all, fulfilled.

The unearthly music tinkled and echoed, growing fainter. Fainter. I lost sight of her at the moment of flight.


Daphne came for me some vast time later.
She soothed me as I trembled and murmured, curled up on the soft, soft bed. She brought me back from the gates of Eden, led me back to life. She held me, softly, warmly, for she knew...

"I'd suspected you were the one," she breathed. "I really don't know why she wanted me not to tell you I was her daughter." She pursed her lips, looking down at her hands as they held mine, troubled by this small deceit. She glanced up again, into my eyes:
"I'm sorry, Johnny."
I shrugged, sighed, attempted to smile, all at the same time: "She had her reasons, Daphne. She must have..."

The woman before me, my present love, my daughter somewhere in time, melted into my arms in the sweetest embrace I'd ever known. The ultimate gift of love, to love...

"I had to find you, Johnny. Even though it seemed such an absurd, impossible quest. I loved her too. So very much. She had to see you, just one last time. Her soul could never rest." She kissed me softly on the neck. She turned back to gaze at her mother, bowing her head respectfully.
"Look at her," she whispered, lest the sound somehow disturb the sight. "Look at her, Johnny. Have you ever seen such peace?"

There it lay. Her faithful flying-machine. Her trusted friend. Now just an empty shell. But the beauty on its face! The smiling, soft serenity. Her final, parting gift.
"I think I understand now," Daphne's voice might have been an angel's. "I think I know who Merlin was..."

She gazed into my eyes again and shared what she knew. Somehow I wasn't even surprised. It was all a circle. All of us connected. And time just a long, long moment. A very magic moment.
"Merlin," she whispered to me, eye to eye. "Man of a million magic moments." And of course, I knew it too. For what is real and what is not?
In the beginning there was the Word. And the Word was God. The Word. The Sound. Love. Life. Absolute.

First came the Sound: And all the rest just followed...


"Marion," I thought. My voice could not be found. "Marion. What can I say? To have finally made it back to you. To have made it back in time."
We held each other. Daphne, Johnny, Marion, Merlin. Somewhere along the perfect and infinite circle of this bright new life we'd found. Marion had written about it. Her entire heart - our hearts - laid down for those with eyes to see. She'd always known that someday I would read it. The key to knowing. Her perfect gift among so many. For those few who would understand it...

The very, very few.

"My own sweet Johnny," she had said. Her final, fleeting words.

"...my own... ...sweet... ...Man..."

*** The End. ***

The Merlin Factor. Epilogue.

Part Five: Camelot.

The Holy Grail.

Camelot. Forever.

"Morgan!" Merlin held out his arms to the Woman he had always loved. Always would love.
"Dearest Morgan! Welcome, my Queen. Welcome home, at last!"

She smiled, tearful as ever, at this man she had once punished so cruelly, for his sin of being more than she, for being something that she was not, remembering, wondering how she ever could have forgotten.

But it was all so long ago. So very, very long ago. She had, in her way, slept as long as he...

"Oh, it is so good to be home, My Lord. Life has had its wondrous moments, but how I have missed you." She fell into his arms.
"Forgive me, My Lord. I did not know what I was doing. Did not understand. Oh, hold me, dear Merlin. Never let me go..."

Merlin's smile turned dreamy, beyond joy. Beyond all frontiers.
"You are forgiven, My Morgan, My Love. Are you well?"
She cast her mind back over all her lives, all her loves, all her pain, fear, suffering. All her wars and all her children. All her magic. All her mistakes. And decided...
"I am well, My Lord Merlin. At last. Thank God!"
"Can you love me now?"
"Forever, Merlin. Oh, forever!"

They walked, arm in arm, through forests green, through golden clearings, loving, loving without limit. Not just each other, but the land and everything in it.

"Nobody knew, you know," he said, in a voice grown soft and wistful.
Morgan gazed into his eyes, seeing serenity and grace.
"Nobody understood what they were looking for, when they all went off, searching for the Holy Grail..."
He smiled his Merlin smile. Love surrounded him: a golden halo of light.
"I could not explain it, at the time, for all my magic."
Morgan kissed his cheek, chuckling softly, now that it no longer mattered. Now that she knew.
"It was all just too simple," she breathed. "Too simple to grasp. I could not. None of the knights could."
He stopped, eyebrows raised, and asked: "Do you think I just tried too hard?"

She laughed in delight. Nodding. Yes. That was it. He had simply tried too hard.
"But no matter. All's well that ends this well," he said, resuming their stroll - he had always liked to stroll...

"Love, is the Holy Grail. Always was. Just Love."

And Camelot was complete.
An Age after its conception, Camelot finally was complete.

Voices sang joyous from her lofty towers and love spread out like sunlight over all the land.
Children ran laughing in the woods and bright fish leaped from silver streams.
Deer trod without fear, through forest glades, and swallows took up residence under eaves, nesting and bearing young, year-round.

It was an age of wonder.

In the crystal ball, the King and the Queen gazed fondly upon themselves, their other selves, living somewhere far off in space and time, yet only a heartbeat away.
Upon Arthur and Guinevere, living out their final, earthly lives, spreading love throughout the land...

"See how they shine," breathed Morgan, her head nestled comfortably against her Lord's neck.
"See how the mortals love them in return. Sweet, sweet love: how did I ever miss its wonder?"

Merlin stroked her raven hair, at peace with his universe.
"You were Woman," he murmured. "I gave you so much power. More than I should, perhaps, but see, how it has turned out? Do you see?"

Morgan, the Great Enchantress, forever Woman, once evil, once dark, gazed up, into the eyes of Love:
"Without the power, My Lord, how could you ever have Loved me, as you did? As you still do?"
And he laughed.

And Camelot, the legend, was no more. For Camelot, the soul of every being, had at last become real.
Arthur's Love, for England, for Guinevere, for Merlin, and especially, for Morgan, had made it so.

It was a Golden Age, without an end.

It was an Age of Magic...


"Squawk!" said the crow, and then made space.
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