He walked slowly through the felid as though in a dream. The blossoming orchids around him shredded a few white petals and flying gently past, brushing over his face. He was barefoot and his feet pressed into the lush green grass below him, relishing the soft silkiness. He had originally thought this to be a field but it was by far better. It was an orchid of puffy blossoming trees that hung over the grassy path he was hovering along. He wondered if this was heaven, it was so perfect and peaceful it hardly could have been anything but, yet he somehow knew it wasn’t.
The cherry blossom on the trees were letting loose a pleasant smell of wildness that flowed around him like dancing fairies.
As he walked (he couldn’t stop and didn’t want to) he noticed a beautiful, yet quiet song that was coming from all around. As he got further into the orchid the song got louder until he could hear the words being sung. They were not English but he still understood what it was saying. It was telling him of peace, happiness and beauty. It was the song of life as it should be, no war or hatred, just joy.
It made Merlin want to run and jump but also lie down and sleep and the same time, and not only that. He wanted to laugh, cry and shout.
It was incredible.
He blinked sleepily as something slowly appeared in front of him. It was a ladder of golden, brown wood that grew up into the sky with nothing to lean against, just standing there. Merlin’s eyes followed its path up to the sky and gazed at the sun that shone, warm and bright above the world. Before he knew it he was griping the ladder and beginning to climb it slowly as though he just couldn’t be bothered to go any faster.
After only a few minutes he had gone extremely high (which was strange as he was going very slowly) and could see the vast orchid below that seemed to go on forever. He was really high up but he wasn’t afraid that he might fall.
Still the song played, tinkling all around him, harps, violins, flutes and that amazing voice.
Suddenly the sun was beginning to shine even more brightly, causing Merlin to just look up sleepily and gaze at the intense brightness that was flowing all around. The golden light encased him and he was flying up in the brightness at an alarming speed but still he just blinked happily as though nothing were happening.
He was too at peace to worry, it was beyond him now.
Suddenly (though nothing was really sudden in this place) he was in a bed with plump pillows and a puffy white quilt. The room was hazy white and had long slender beams of wood on the walls that snaked up like long strands of grass, looking like they had been grown, not cut. The door was open and a gentle breeze blew in, bringing to him a warm smell of trees and flowers.
He sat up and looked slowly around, becoming free of the sleepiness of the orchid. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his face, feeling like he had been asleep for years.
The song still played through the open door and he decided to find out what it was that sung it. He floated out of the room and found himself on an open balcony what was held up by huge wooden poles. It led to an incredible view of a rocky waterfall and a river with a bridge arched over it. Everything was so beautiful and peaceful around here it made his breath catch in his throat.
The song was getting more and more amazing by the second and he simply had to find the singer even if it meant not drinking in this incredible view. Wildly he began to run up the stairs that he saw to the right of the balcony near the door he had come by.
The place (wherever that was) was beautiful, all very similar to the room he had first woken in but with different furnishings. The décor however remained the same, creamy whites and golden wood. There was no one there, it was empty.
Still the song played, getting increasingly victorious and Merlin found himself becoming frantic in his fruitless search to find the singer. Just as he was about to give up he saw a flicker of something in the corner of his eye. He jumped away to the balcony he had seen it (the place seemed to consist of half rooms and half balconies.)
What he saw there made his eyes water he kept them open so much, not wanting to miss a second of the beauty before him.
There was a bird, unmistakably a phoenix, perched serenely on the balcony rail with a long sweeping tail that was very similar to what a fire that had been frozen mid flicker would look like. Its plumage was orange but as it moved Merlin could see that it was two-tone and shone gold when in the right light. It had long feathers on its head that were peacock like except red and orange like flames. It was quite big to, about half his height, which is big for a bird.
It was the singer of the song, the notes flowing out of its black beak perfectly. It didn’t acknowledge the stupefied Merlin until it had finished and he immediately wished it wouldn’t stop. He would have been quite content to stay there forever and just listen to it.
But it had stopped and there was nothing he could do to make it start again so Merlin wondered what he should say, if anything. It was a bird. Could it understand him if he did speak? He also wondered how anything so obviously good could do anything so extremely bad such as turning Arthur into gold. Gaius must have been mistaken, he thought.
Man and beast (though you could hardly call that thing a beast) gazed at each other for what seemed like an age, the phoenix’s amber eyes boring into Merlin’s own rich blue ones. He couldn’t look any more and he flicked his gaze away and stared at the floor. The birds voice still rang in his ears and he wished that it would sing again and stop staring at him so intently.
“Why have you come here?” The phoenix suddenly spoke, though not moving its beak.
“I…I…” Merlin spluttered.
The bird just stood there and waited.
“How what?” The phoenix asked gently as though asking a young child what the problem was.
“How…how can you have…?” Merlin could not understand how it could have done what it did when it was so good. It must have been this bird though, only one phoenix is alive at a time and that fire he had saw was most defiantly a phoenix.
“You are referring to prince Arthur.” The bird said, not asking but stating.
“Yes…and why he’s currently made of gold.” Merlin managed to regain his wits. Maybe it was the mention of Arthur that did it.
“All phoenixes have a purpose that they must for fill in their life time.”
“And yours was to turn Arthur into gold?” Merlin fumed.
“Then why’d you do it?”
“How do you know it was me? I know who you are, Emrys. Did you use magic?” The phoenix fixed him with its amber stare.
Merlin had been called Emrys before by the druid boy who had been in Camelot all those months ago. He still didn’t understand what it was all about.
“Might have done.” Was all he said.
“Excellent. I have watched the world for a long time and I know it is no easy thing to do what you did, yet you executed the spell without fault. This is good indeed.” It said.
Merlin wondered why it was “good” and “excellent” but he thought maybe the bird was trying to distract him from the purpose he had come here for so he took no notice of it.
“I know it was you. There can only be one phoenix alive at any one time. Tell me why.”
“Very well.” It said, “As I said all phoenixes have a purpose. Mine was to protect Arthur Pendragon, as is your destiny.”
“And turning him into gold is your way of protecting him?!” Merlin was stumped.
“Let me finish young warlock and then maybe you will understand. Phoenixes are magical creatures. Uther Pendragon is against all such things. I cannot protect the son of such a man. I cannot. I would rather die.”
“I do it even when Uther is killing sorcerers left, right and centre. I don’t let it stop me.” Merlin said.
“It is for you to decide what you do and do not do. I on the other hand have chosen this.”
“What is this? Turning Arthur into gold? I thought that would be the last thing you would want. When Arthur becomes king then magic will return to Camelot. If he’s a golden statue he can’t be king!”
“Do you know that for certain? Does he know about your magic? Are you sure you can trust him? He may not return magic to the kingdom.” The phoenix asked slyly.
“I…” Merlin began and then stopped. Was he sure that he could trust Arthur? He wondered what the prince would do and say if he did know about his magic.
“Well?” The phoenix broke the silence.
“I don’t know.” Merlin answered truthfully.
“So how can you say that magic will return when Arthur is king? The dragon told you that no doubt.”
“But why did you do it to Arthur? If you had done it to Uther then surly it would have been better for you?” Merlin asked.
“The best way to hurt Uther is to hurt his son. Turning him to gold is worthy of that I think.”
“Turn him back.” Merlin commanded suddenly.
“And how do you plan on making me?” The bird sung, laughing.
Merlin knew of the things this creature was capable of. He had experienced it once before in Arthur’s memory and did not wish to do so ever again.
“Please.” Merlin tried a different approach, “Turn him back and you can continue living up here. I will protect Arthur. You don’t need to for fill your purpose.”
“I cannot let Uther get away with killing all those people. I must do this.”
“You mean your only hurting Arthur to get to Uther in the best possible way and for your own ends not for the good of the world? You are a selfish pig.” Merlin spat.
The phoenix bristled at what he had called her and Merlin was sure it was beginning to smoke slightly.
“Yes. I am doing this for my own ends. That’s none of your concern.”
“Everything that concerns Arthur concerns me! I’ll ask you one more time, turn him back!”
“Then you give me no choice.” Merlin threw his hand forward and worked a spell to the tip of his tounge, just ready to be unleashed.
The phoenixes eyes blazed like two flames in its head and she stared at him intently.
“Do you really think you can kill me?” It asked.
Merlin suddenly was unsure of whether he could or not. It was so beautiful and serene. Could he really bring himself to even harm such a thing? If he killed it then she would never sing again…
“I shall sing for you if you do not kill me. You want that don’t you.” The phoenix breathed, locking Merlin with its eyes.
“I…” Merlin lowed his hand slightly. He did want it to sing. He really wanted it to sing. He just wanted to stay in this place forever and listen to it, never to return to earth. He put his hand back down to its side.
“You can stay here. Forget your destiny. Just stay here.” The bird said in a hypnotic voice.
Merlin blinked sleepily again like he had done when it had been singing and his tensed shoulders relaxed.
The bird began to sing again, even better than before if that was possible. The sound washed around Merlin making him feel sleepy and happy. It was singing a mixture of English and some other language now.
“May it be an evening star shining down on you. May it be when darkness falls your heart will be true. You are a lonely god, how far you are from home. May it be when shadows fall you will find comfort. May it be you journey on to find love and hope. When the night is overcome you may rise to find your soul.” It sung.
Merlin let every word and note wash over him like it was all he needed and he began to sway slightly as though he were becoming dizzy and too sleepy to stand. All thoughts of Arthur and his mission swam out of his head and all he saw was the phoenix, sitting and singing on the rail.
I cannot hope to describe to you just how beautiful that song was so I am not going to attempt it. Just know that it was impossibly perfect. It made Merlin think of hope, victory and most importantly magic.
“A heart of gold and a soul of courage shine forth in the darkness. The shadows are gone and life prevails.” The phoenix sang.
The words it sung made Merlin think suddenly of Arthur. A heart of gold he most certainly not own but right now he was made of gold…and he did have a soul of courage that was for sure…
His mission flashed back into his head. He had to stop the song; it was putting him to sleep. He snapped out of the trance he had been in and before he had even thought about the aftermath he was rushing at the golden bird on the rail and throwing them both off the balcony.