Arthur, Merlin, Hector…Greg
Since four-thirty this morning Arthur had been assaulted by a police officer, kidnapped by a wizard, assaulted again by guns and cars, had a muscle man swear fealty to him, gotten tattoos grafted onto him by ethereal essence, discovered he was a king, though that apparently didn’t mean anything in particular yet, arrived at the seat of his strength, which incidentally was a tenement, fainted, pissed himself, nearly died in a magically propelled rickshaw, and accidentally transferred the idealized soul of a Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty amalgamation into the brain dead body of comatose sixty-year-old, who also decided it was a good idea to swear fealty to him. Now he was sitting at a circular table, surrounded on all sides by these… nutters… in the middle of a dingy kitchen which had, according to an offhand comment he overheard from Merlin, not been used since nineteen-forty-six. On his left was Hector, to his right, Merlin, and directly in front of him was the strange creature, Moriarty Holmes, or Greg — as he apparently liked to be called — looking conspiratorially in all directions and somehow managing to seem far too stimulated to be conspiring with anything at all. Everyone took their queues from Merlin and stared attentively at Arthur.
After a few minutes of this, he spoke.
“Hello. What the bleeding fucking fuck is fucking going on?”
Merlin spoke, gaining the attention of attendees. “You are Arthur Pendragon. Your soul is destined to rule England. Many men and women around the world were likewise fated to be your knights and noblemen. This all follows the legend that was created about you many hundreds of years ago. Are you clear thus far?”
“Yes,” answered Arthur, glowering.
“Your rise to power either implies or necessitated many people die. People that were supposed to help you. Ideally, you would die as well. They’ve been being killed for the last eighty years. They have been hunted down and killed. Old men, babies, children. If it forced the death of the wrong people, then they were killed to prevent the corresponding events that led to their deaths.” The wizard’s eyes grew wet, and he looked at the table, cloaking this truth from the gathering. “They found you, tonight. If they had know who you were, they would have sent an army of men like him,” Merlin said, nodding in Hector’s direction.
“What’s stopping them from finding the boy now?” interrupted Greg, whose eyes were closed. He had leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers.
“Their methods of acquiring such knowledge are limited. It is not time for you to die, and thus by beginning the first steps to achieving your destiny, those methods will no longer work.” Merlin sighed. “They’ll have to find new ones.”
“Ah,” said Greg.
“Ah: That’s all you can say?” shouted Hector, slamming his hands on the table. “When I saved you idiots, I thought it was because you were powerful enough to save me from the repercussions.” His face was turning red.
“And yet the thought of killing all three of us right now seems so morally repugnant to you that it is unacceptable,” finished Merlin.
“Yes, but…” Hector was confused.
“I’d like to see him try to kill me. It would be an interesting experiment in which I could examine the capabilities of this body,” said Greg, which made everyone stare at him very quietly.
“Alright, ignoring that preposterous dialogue: no, Hector.” Merlin wiped his face and looked up, staring straight into Hector’s eyes. “You can’t because you know what the right thing to do is. Your soul knows what the right thing to do is. You’ll do the right thing,” Merlin said gravely.
Arthur folded his arms across his chest. “Oh, well that’s a fucking relief, at least this guy won’t kill me.”
“Well, that’s one less thing you have to worry about,” said Greg.
“Shut it, Holmes,” replied Arthur.
“Arthur, you created this man,” rebuked the wizard. “He literally became alive to serve you. And his name is Greg.”
“I do prefer Greg,” Greg agreed. Aside from his lips, he hadn’t moved.
“So, what are we going to do?” Hector asked.
“Well, first, we are the only ones right now that any of us can trust,” Merlin explained.
“How the hell are we supposed to win this?” The question left Greg and hit the gathering like a wet slap.
“He’s right,” Arthur said.
Hector looked over at Merlin. “Do you have resources?”
“I have faculties, and that should be enough.”
“Nobody ever built anything on faculties alone, old boy,” said Greg. He crossed his legs and balanced them straight out on the small table.
“Ah, to that extent, no.”
Arthur was starting to freak out again. “You’re a wizard, right? Can’t you just turn some things into gold?”
“Chaps, we don’t even have a plan. What are we going to do with money,” said Greg. Hector had taken to just craning his neck and looking at whoever happened to be speaking. He felt out of his depth.
“That would be your job, mister tactician was it?” Arthur countered.
“Ah,” which was the best Greg could do for an answer. He’d only been born forty minutes ago, after all. He sorely craved a pipe.
“We begin at the beginning,” said Merlin. As he spoke, he cast his elder gaze around the table, encompassing all of his fellows there. “Arthur has to end up being the King of all England, which means running the show, as it were. The first step, as sir Hector has kindly pointed out, is acquiring resources,” he gesticulated his hands out in a classic don’t ask me I have no idea sort of way, “of which, we have, as was said, this home.” There was silence in the room. “On the bright side, once there are a few more knights, the house will change and take on its true form!” announced the wizard brightly.
Nobody felt consoled.
Arthur decided to take a lead. “Very well, Merlin. Greg, your job is apparently to be a man with a plan. So plan, Greg.”
“Without a pipe?”
“Without a pipe,” said Arthur.
“Ah.” And Greg thought. All was silent.
After a few minutes, he said, “Merlin, do you know who any of our enemies are?”
“The foes who are trying to kill us?” Merlin felt very tired.
“Yes, I believe I do.”
“They have money,” one steepled hand freed itself and flitted about, “you know, to hire killers and this and that.”
“I would not disbelieve it, yes.”
“So, ideally, we get some of their resources,” concluded Greg. “It is twofold. We strike out whilst supplying our coffers with the needed pick-me-up.” Arthur had to admit that the logic was very good, but saw a flaw. It was Hector who identified it.
“And how would you propose doing that.” Greg’s eyes snapped open, clearly focusing on the muscle man.
“Why, old man. It occurs to me that we have a wizard, a genius, and a gunman. It can’t be that hard. Magic, after all.”
“What about me?” Arthur asked.
“Ah,” said Greg. “You’re pretty useless, sorry to say.” Arthur knew that from the beginning, but resented hearing it being spoken aloud. He wished that he could show them all how not-useless he could be, if they would let him have a chance. He could…He found his conclusions depressing.
He said, “Then why am I supposed to be king? If I’m useless, why is this happening to me?” His question was met with silence. He closed his eyes tight, trying to hold back the trauma of all that had happened.
He felt a touch on his shoulder. It was frail, but kind. “This boy has more power than you can imagine. He’s right before the beginning, as we’ve all been. He’s born to greatness, Greg. He is our king. He is the moral compass that guides us, and without his leave we could not act.”
Arthur thought that was cheesy and unhelpful. Hector said, “But in terms of stealing from the people trying to kill us, is that really what we’re going for?” Merlin turned on the man.
“Okay, don’t believe the bleeding great wizard. Let me give you a practical example,” he swung his gaze around to Arthur. “Boy, without looking, how many corners, including the ones on objects, are there in this room?” Arthur didn’t need to look around.
He went through the room and mentally counted, from the old pans to the door frames. “One-hundred-twelve.”
Greg’s chair tipped over. He fell backwards hitting the hard, stone floor. Hector jumped a little. “Are you alright?” he asked.
“That was correct!” shouted the floored tactician. “That was correct!”
Arthur suddenly became aware of what he had just done.
“I suppose if you think so, it is correct, my friend,” said Merlin. “Now, Arthur, how many pistols does our good, sir Hector carry on his personage?”
Arthur didn’t need to look. “Four.”
Greg and Hector, who had managed to pull himself off the floor, looked at the old wizard, who was smirking. “What good is a king who doesn’t understand his subjects?”
Astonishment crossed Greg’s face. “You mean to say that he is capable of taking onto himself the talents of his knights?”
“In a sense,” Merlin replied.
“Do I get to say anything aside from numbers, because I’d like to know what the hell you’ve done to me,” Arthur yelled, disoriented and flumuxed.
“No,” snapped the wizard. “This boy may use your talents, but he lacks your experience with them.” Hector and Greg stared at Arthur.
“You mean he can fire a gun as well as I can?” asked the muscleman.
“Not as well, no. But very, very well, if given the opportunity. This is the king’s right. To command his subjects, he must also understand them.” Arthur thought to demand why the wizard hadn’t mentioned this earlier, but then realized that this was earlier.
“So as the number of his knights rises, he becomes more capable. Fascinating,” murmured Greg, rearranging his chair. “He’s like an simpleton bestowed with incredible gifts.”
“Listen, you really need to stop insulting me,” interrupted Arthur, angry.
“I suppose I do, your majesty,” Greg said sarcastically, his eyes closed and his body resettled into his contemplative position from earlier.
“And don’t call me that, either.”