The sound of the explosion echoed ominously throughout the forest. Merlin knew immediately that his young apprentice must have ruined yet another attempt at his forgetfulness potion.
As he gathered the rest of his herbs and began to head back to his humble home he was again thankful that he had opted to build his house with stones and mortar rather than sticks and trees. He was certain that a timber home most certainly would not have survived these short six months since he had taken on his apprentice. He sighed and thought that maybe he should have known better for taking in a Gryffindor. Noble at heart they may be, but he had never met anymore more dimwitted and foolish.
When Merlin reached his home and opened the door he was immediately overwhelmed by thick plumes of smoke that engulfed the interior of his house. With a quick flick of his wand he opened the windows and simultaneously released his owl Archimedes, who was hooting incessantly from her cage. As the smoke began to dissipate he was not at all surprised to find that his apprentice was absolutely nowhere to be found. This boy was always more interested in taking unannounced trips into the village to make a fool of himself to the muggle female population that lived there than he was to his studies.
Just as the last of the smoke was fading away, a flustered, out of breath young man ran into the cottage. When he noticed Merlin standing next to the ruined cauldron he smiled sheepishly
“I am ever so sorry, Merlin! I honestly didn’t plan to be gone this long, but I got distracted. The innkeeper and his daughter were telling me about yet another village that was destroyed by a giant! They said that this one was bigger than the last by at least two heads!” the man relayed breathlessly.
Unable to hide his frustration Merlin exclaimed, “Silly boy! How do you ever expect to become a potions master if you keep getting distracted by pretty faces spreading muggle gossip? What are you going to do when some great king comes to you asking you for some potion or draft and you only manage to prove yourself to be worthless?”
The young man’s face fell and his look of dejection and defeat was more than evident.
“Who are we kidding, Merlin? We both know that I am never going to get the hang of all this,” he said with a sweeping of his arm towards the cauldron. “I will never become a potions master. I never told you how horribly I did in school. I was so horrible that they have to invent a new grade just for me. T for Troll! I’m hopeless!” he finished as he sat down heavily on a nearby stool. Unfortunately the force that he had flopped down onto the stool caused it to collapse beneath him.
Fighting back the urge to laugh at the sight of his young apprentice sprawled out on the floor he struggled to find the words that could placate the poor man’s worries but could find none. He knew that the words the young man had spoken were the truth. He could never and would never have any success with potions.
“Perhaps you are right. Where does this leave you then? What are you going to do with yourself?” Merlin resigned with a sigh.
The young man scrambled quickly to get up from the floor with a renewed enthusiasm and grabbed his old friend’s hand’
“Oh truly, Merlin? Can I do anything I wish?”
Merlin nodded hesitantly almost afraid of what was going to be said.
“Then I want to be a knight in King Arthur’s court! I want to go out on noble quests and slay dragons and rescue damsels in distress!” he exclaimed excitedly.
As much as Merlin hated to admit it, becoming a knight was most likely the only option available to this boy. He supposed that he should have come to this conclusion long before this moment, but when the boy had come to him and begged him to be his teacher he had just felt obligated to try to help him. Had he known at the time how inept the boy was he would have saved both of them all of this frustration.
“Very well. If you want to have any hope of catching the attentions of King Arthur you shall need to first prove yourself as a worthy knight,” Merlin instructed. “I would suggest enrolling into one of the tournaments during the summer solstice festivities.”
“I was thinking about going after that giant prior to the Christmas celebration,” the young man replied.
“Christmas?! Surely you jest! That is only two months away! There is no way that you can be trained up and ready to fight giants by Christmas!” Merlin cried.
“What is there to get ready? All I have to do is find out where the giant is and then just bring him down,” relied the man smoothly.
“Oh. Just like that huh?” quipped Merlin under his breath.
Beginning at dawn the next morning Merlin set out with the young man to seek out a blacksmith that could outfit the young knight-to-be. The village nearest to them did not have very many tradesmen so they would have to make their way towards Cambridge where they were sure to find everything that was needed to make a knight.
At the end of the first day of traveling the pair came to a small farmhouse where they decided to rest for the day. The farmer and his wife were more than happy to put them up to rest for the night.
After dinner the farmer making conversation, asked what had brought the pair along this way and where they were headed.
“We are off to Cambridge so that I may be outfitted to defeat the giant that has been terrorizing villages in the north,” the young man declared.
The couple were quite impressed with this news and told the young man that they would be most honored if he would take their deceased son’s armor to wear on his quest. If only he could retrieve it from the enchanted lake.
The old man explained that their son had trained in Cornwall with hopes of being a knight in King Arthur’s court. The day before he was to journey to Camelot he was confronted by a mysterious woman who promised him that she could arrange for him a place at King Arthur’s round table if he could just do her a small favor. He, of course, agreed and was told that he only needed to fetch her a stone from the bottom of the enchanted lake. She explained that the people of the lake did not like intruders and would not allow anyone access into the lake. The woman told him that she could turn our son into a fish which would allow him easy access to the lake.
Once he was turned he easily reached the bottom and was able to scoop up a nice sized stone from the bottom in his mouth. He swam up to the surface and spat the rock out to the woman. Before she could transform him back to his true self, however, he was eaten up by a giant snapping turtle. The woman, who was afraid of her unfortunately tragic deed being discovered, threw his armor into the lake. Many men have tried to recover it but it has been said that the people of the lake would scare them all away before they could reach the bottom.
The young man was overly excited at the challenge that this presented to him and told the couple that he would go to this lake and retrieve the armor. He was confident that, with Merlin’s help he would have no troubles getting the armor and so set out immediately at daybreak to the lake.
When they reached the lake Merlin walked to the very edge of the lake and began speaking in a loud screeching language. He waited for a few moments before he stepped back from the bank with his attention focused on the center of the lake. Four merpeople with their grey skin, green hair and yellow eyes emerged from the lake holding the suit of armor high over their heads. After a few more words from Merlin in Mermish they swam over closer and then lightly tossed the suit to the young man. With an astonished murmur of thanks from the boy and a deep bow from Merlin, the merpeople retreated back into the lack as quickly and quietly as they had come. The young man donned the suit of armor, quite astonished at how well it fit him, and then he and Merlin were off once again on their way.
A few hours into their journey they soon came upon a strange frantic creature that stood no more than three feet tall with large pointed ears and huge bright eyes. The creature, that Merlin explained was a house-elf, began tugging on Merlin’s sleeve and begging him to come help his mistress.
Wasting no time, the two travelers hurried off with the elf, who lead them to a large house that appeared to have been very recently heavily damaged and was even still smoking in several spots. They were lead by the frantic elf into the house where a woman was laid out by a make-shift bed that had most likely been prepared by the elf.
“Mistress is still alive, but house-elves not knowing healing spells, sir. Please fix Mistress sirs,” the creature begged as his large eyes filled with tears.
Pushing aside both the elf and the young man, Merlin dropped quickly to his knees and began quickly mumbling spells over the woman. After a few tense moments the woman stirred and opened her eyes.
She studied the older man hovering over her and said very softly, “You must be Merlin. It was rumored that you lived in this part of the country.” At his confused look she clarified, “We heard about you in school.”
Merlin gave a short laugh. “All lies. Whatever you’ve heard must be all lies I’m sure,” he said as he helped the woman into a sitting position. “What happened here, my lady?”
“Goblins,” the woman said with a sigh. “They said they came to claim the shield that they have crafted for my husband’s father. See, when his father died the shield was passed along to him along with the rest of his father’s possessions. The goblins, however, insist that my husband stole it from them! It was all just so ridiculous. They came to the house and insisted that my husband either return the shield or pay them five hundred galleons to keep it! When he refused and kicked them out of our house they attacked us. They killed my husband and kidnapped our daughter as “payment” for the months that we had kept the shield without paying them!” the woman finished with a sob.
“This is unfortunate. I have, of course, heard rumor of the goblins getting restless, but I never imagined they would resort to murder and kidnapping,” Merlin replied quietly.
“We will go and rescue your daughter!” the young man exclaimed suddenly.
Merlin’s head snapped up and was about to chastise the boy when he was interrupted by the distraught woman.
“Oh would you?! Could you?! I would be eternally grateful! And if you could recover the shield I would bestow it upon you as payment for your deeds!” the woman pleaded.
The young man agreed wholeheartedly and gave her his promise that he would rescue her daughter and return her safely home. Then young man bowed deeply and then nearly dragged Merlin out of the smoldering home, eager to begin his quest.
When they were out of hearing range of the woman merlin finally spoke. “What in the world were you thinking? We do not need to be getting ourselves involved with goblin affairs!”
“We had to do this, Merlin! Who else was she going to find to help her get her daughter back?” replied the man excitedly.
Merlin growled loudly. “Fine. But if we are to do this, we will do it my way. There is no way that we are going to be the start of some wizard versus goblin war.”
The pair of them made their way deep into the forest and the young man could not help but notice that it was becoming increasingly darker the further they went in. Finally when the sky was no longer visible through the thick canopy of leaves overhead, they came upon a cave that had been carved into the side of a mountain.
Merlin took the hero-to-be aside and explained to him that goblins were notoriously tricky and vengeful so they would be expecting a retaliatory attack or at the very least for someone to attempt to rescue the girl.
“We must be extremely cautious. I will not have you running in there and getting yourself killed. You will sneak in concealed and sneak the girl back out as well,” Merlin explained quietly.
“On my word I will not! I will not sneak about like a common thief!” the young man proclaimed loudly.
Merlin shot him a dangerous look, but did not say another word. He began silently waving his wand over the young man. With a yelp of surprise, the young man began to shrink inside his armor, until it was much too large for him. He stepped out of the armor and was amazed to see that he no longer recognized his own hands or feet. In fact, he very much looked like a goblin, himself.
“Now you can easily enter the cave and walk among them. Getting back out with the girl will be a bit trickier, but I will make sure that they are all adequately distracted,” Merlin said mischievously.
The young man disguised goblin gave his mentor a queer look, but immediately turned and walked into the cave. Despite his initial apprehensions about Merlin’s plan, he found that he was paid no attention by anyone and was quickly able to locate where the girl had been being kept. He was most amused to find that the girl, who was not yet ten years old, was being held in an unguarded cage closed with only one lock. A simple unlocking spell easily opened the cage door.
He muttered a quick explanation to the frighteded girl and then began leading her cautiously back toward the front of the cave. He had not gone, but a few steps when his eyes caught the glint of the torch lights upon a magnificent shield hanging upon the cave wall that he presumed to be the one that had originally initiated the whole conflict. Unfortunately for him, the shield was on the opposite side of the cave from where he stood with dozens of goblins between him and it.
As he pondered how he would be able to retrieve the shield, he heard someone begin to scream. Soon the single scream turned into many screams and goblins began to run around the cave frantically. Seeing this as the chance that he needed, he told the girl to run as fast as she could to the cave entrance. As she started to run he sprinted to the other side of the cave, grabbed the shield and began running towards the mouth of the cave as well.
He stopped running abruptly when he realized what it was that was causing the disruption of the goblins. Just inside the cave was a very small dragon that was running around looking just as scared, or possibly even more so, than the goblins were. The dragon was so small that it had to be in its infancy. He noticed several goblins with rope and nets that began to enclose the small creature as if they intended to capture it.
The young man shook himself out of his shocked trance and remembered that he was supposed to have been leaving the cave. He sprinted out into the forest and quickly met up with Merlin and the girl.
“Was that you,” the young man asked as he was being returned to his natural human self. “Did you really send a dragon in there?”
Merlin chuckled. “I did. The poor dragon’s mother was killed not very long ago and this poor youngster was as good as dead without her. I saw this as a perfect opportunity for the poor thing to be properly taken care of.”
“Taken care of?!” the young man shrieked. “Those blood thirsty beasts are going to kill him and eat him for dinner!”
“Oh heavens no, dear boy! Goblins are very opportunistic creatures. They will no doubt keep the dragon and train it to protect their many trinkets and treasures. No, I think all will work out just fine for all involved,” Merlin finished contentedly.
The trio returned back to the ruined manor to deposit the girl back to her mother. They graciously received their praises and then hurried on their way. They traveled on for many more hours until they reached a small village and in at the inn for some much needed sleep.
The next morning their breakfast was interrupted by a young squire running down the main street, and past the open window of the dining room shouting, “Giants are attacking Camelot! Arthur and his knights have all gone to Cornwall for the tournaments leaving no one behind that can stop them!”
Merlin’s young charge jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “We have to go Merlin! We have to help!”
“But Camelot is a good two days journey by horse and that would be with no stops! We could never hope to reach it on foot in time to be any help! Besides you have no weapons and no training. It would most certainly be a suicide mission,” Merlin reasoned.
“Well surely, Merlin, if ever there was a justification for apparition this would be it! You know the city well enough to bring us somewhere out of sight of any muggles,” he replied quietly.
“But I have never attempted to bring someone along with me when I apparated. I doubt there are many wizards at all who have!” Merlin countered with a hint a panic.
“If there was anyone capable of doing it, it would be you. There is no greater wizard than yourself!”
Merlin sighed. He truly did not wish to go running off to confront any giants, but knew that the boy’s foolish sense of bravery would most certainly cause him to run to the rescue regardless of how high the danger was. He supposed that there would be a much higher chance of survival if he was accompanied.
After checking to be sure that no one could observe them, he held out his arm and the boy clutched onto his sleeve and they disappeared on the spot. When they reappeared they found themselves in the gardens just outside of the city. From their viewpoint they could easily see not one, but two large giants that were lumbering around the city with large wooded clubs stomping and smashing things at random.
“We are going to have to draw them out of the city! We don’t want more damage done than they already have done. We are going to have to split up. Remember that spells most likely have any effect on them because of their thick skins! Your greatest weapon will be your mind, since giants are particularly dim. You need to outsmart them,” Merlin shouted as they ran into the city.
“Oh yea, that shouldn’t be too hard,” the young man remarked with a hint of nervousness in his voice.
Merlin watched him run away and was very much aware that he may have been asking too much from the boy considering his penchant to forego rational thinking when he was overexcited. He forced himself not too think on it too hard as he ran towards the largest of the two giants.
As he reached the giant’s feet he magnified his voice and called to the giant, “Hello there!! Yoo-Hoo! Down here!”
The giant stopped swinging his club and began searching the ground. When he noticed Merlin standing there looking quite unafraid of him he took a menacing step closer to the wizard.
“Whoa! You are a frightening fellow aren’t you? Not at all what I was expecting. Your brother told me and my young friend that you would be the weakest of the pair of you. It appears maybe he underestimated you,” Merlin shouted at the giant confidently.
The giant just stared at Merlin looking confused at first. But as Merlin continued to taunt him the confusion seemed to be shifting to anger. Merlin began trying to convince the giant that the brother was planning on challenging him.
When the giant heard enough he began making his way to his brother on the other side of the city. Merlin ran along with him, working hard to avoid the massive feet as they ran.
The first thing Merlin saw as he approached the other giant was that his former pupil was not faring well against the oversized menace. The giant held that young man tightly in his fist despite his enthusiastic struggling and shooting spell after spell that bounced harmlessly off the giant’s thick skin.
The giant was distracted when he noticed that he brother approaching him loosening his grip on the young man slightly. The young man was now able to reach to his side when a sheathed sword with distinct inset of rubies on the grip had quite suddenly appeared. He withdrew the sword and thrust it with both hands as hard as he could into the hand that was holding him. The giant roared in pain and dropped him.
He dropped harmlessly to the ground, glanced up at the giant and began running to the city gate. His giant was soon in hot pursuit of the young man with Merlin’s giant pursuing his brother.
Once they were safely outside of the city gates and on the grassy plains between the city and a dense forest, the young man made a quick turn around and ran straight at the giant. He began running in, out and around the giants leg using the sword to take swiping slashes onto its legs as he ran.
The giant stopped running and began trying to stomp on the little man. While each wound inflicted was no more than the equivalent of a parchment cut his annoyance of the persistence of the man was growing greater with each pass he made.
As the first giant was distracted by the pestering human at his feet, his brother came up from behind and hit him across the back with his club. The stunned giant spun around and started swinging his club back at his brother. The young man scrambled out of the way as the giants dueled each other.
The duel went on long into the night with each of them delivering hard and damaging blows to each other. Finally as the sun was rising over the horizon, the giants both simultaneously delivered fatal blows to each other and fell down dead to the ground.
Before Merlin and the young man could celebrate, the sound of approaching horses was heard. King Arthur and his knights had returned to Camelot. The stunned knights examined the dead giants while King Arthur greeted Merlin as he would an old friend.
“Merlin! How wonderful to see you! I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for bringing down these beasts and saving my city,” the proclaimed.
“Ah, but I had nothing to do with this incredible feat, my lord. It was all the efforts of my young friend here,” Merlin explained.
“Truly? My apologies my young man! This was all you? I am most impressed,” the king said. “Pray tell me, from where do you come sir knight?”
Stuttering slightly the young man said, “I come from a land far from here, to seek you out, kind sir. It is my greatest desire to be accepted into your court as a knight of your round table!”
King Arthur dismounted from his horse and approached the young man. “You are a friend of Merlin’s and have accomplished the greatest of deeds. It is I would be honored if you would accept a seat at my table. If this is your wish I must ask you to kneel before me.”
The young man dropped to his knees and the king began to swear him allegiance to Camelot and himself. The young man’s excited trembling was so great that he could barely repeat the words back to King Arthur.
King Arthur reached out his hand to the young knight and said, “Welcome to Camelot brave hero. Rise up and come with us to take your place at my table...Sir Cadogan."