Rightful King

~ Rachel Baril

Merlin tugged his young charge after him, cursing under his breath. He didn't know how it happened, but years of planning had now gone straight to Hell.

Arthur stumbled a third time. He had never been good at seeing in the dark and brambles were hindering the both of them.

And naturally I can't use any spells to quicken our route; that would send out an alert like nothing else, the wizard thought sourly. The one thing I don't need is witnesses!

It seemed an eternity before they came to the old churchyard where Merlin had placed the key to Arthur's kingship.

Whoever had stolen the boy's destiny would have a very irate, very annoyed, and very over-tired wizard to contend with.

Arthur fell to his knees in front of the stone, now carved open like a cheese wheel. Gently, he put a hand to either side of the great crack.

"Who could have done such a thing?"

"That'd be me."

Both whirled in time to be blinded by fresh firelight.

A peasant some years older than Arthur sat back and grinned. "I take it you'll be wanting to talk about the sword?"

"Indeed," Merlin answered coolly, a sure sign all those around him should run and hide. "Along with how you managed to utterly and completely destroy this boy's role in Fate and the entire future."

"Now, now, I don't see anyone's name on this blade," he patted the gleaming sword next to him. "I just did what any sculptor would have done."

Arthur peeked around Merlin and made an inquisitive noise.

"It's all a matter of thought, isn't it?" the peasant continued, picking a whetstone from the detritus that surrounded him.

"Now, I'm bloody inept at heavy lifting. These arms here are made for different things than yanking an admittedly wellcrafted hunk of metal from stone." He ran the whetstone over his chisel once before pointing the dulled tool at Arthur's face. "And don't ask what sort of 'different things', lad. You'll learn, God willing."

Arthur sulked.

"Where was I? Right, heavy lifting. So I asks of myself, 'Self, what are all these carthorses of men doing wrong?' And I answer, 'idiot, they try to pull the sword out. Odds are against anybody yanking that thing out if a wizard is involved. You got to figure a way around it.' And I, being the simple sculptor that I am, carved open the rock with my chisel. Quickest way to something encased in stone is straight through."

He looked to the old man as he began packing. "You may want to try a less porous rock if you ever want to do this again. Those are damn near impossible to chip without imported tools."

"I'll make a note of it," Merlin grumbled.

"Right," the teenager lifted the sword's hilt and examined it in the firelight. "Now, according to this, you should bowing down and trotting me off through the village to the castle. It'll be fine wine and roast meat every day of the week, my word is law, riding about and waving, sleeping on piles of gold - or is that dragons? - and my choice of blue-blooded princesses."

He tossed the sword at the boy's feet, got to his feet, and walked off into the night. The last words Arthur and Merlin ever heard from him were filled with disgust.

"Lad, you can have it."