When Nora Joyce was asked what her husband James Joyce had enjoyed reading during his life she replied with “mostly he read himself.” Now I suppose this could be taken to mean that he was one of these writers who believed that everything he wrote was sheer gold or just that he spent so much time editing that he could never get around to doing very much or anything else. Either way it makes for a good quote and one that I like.
But I have a question I want to ask you. Have you ever read or written fanfiction?
I will admit that I used to read and write a lot more than I do now and what I did write I didn’t take all that seriously. (I did become rather popular though.)
The bulk of my fanfiction writing was in the BBC Merlin universe, with me shoehorning my own characters in. Other people seemed to think they were a lot better than I did. At least that was my opinion until the other night.
I realised, (while procrastinating heavily and reading though my own incomplete fanfiction) I’m funny. I was making myself laugh and I was enjoying reading my own writing. This does not happen often, as in, almost never. I am constantly nitpicking, pulling at dialogue and kicking around scene description until we all end up in a hysterical ball on the floor. Not a pretty scene let me tell you. However, I really did like what I had written over a year ago.
So if you have the time here is one of the chapters. Tell me what you think.
Chapter From My Merlin Fanfiction
“You might almost think he was alive.” Ghret said, gnawing at his bottom lip as he looked up at his older brother. The marble statue seemed to stare back, stone eyes darkened by the shadows in the crypt. Even in death his figure was mockery against the infallible Balinor.
The two brothers had never been alike. Ghret was shorter by a good foot and a half, leaving him to crane his neck every time he wished to look someone in the eye. Children and cripples were about the only ones that stood shorter than he did, his brother’s hair was an ebony black while his own always seemed rather greasy and was the same colour as muddy ditchwater. The only skill he could really boast of was an impeccable aim. One that had never failed him when it came to using a crossbow.
Balinor had always been better suited to kingship, winning tournaments, swaying nobles to his way of thinking, drawing in the most beautiful and eligible noble women from across the kingdoms…
As the second and less favourable son, Ghret had received his brother’s cast offs, choice of the women that not only his brother had turned down, but the ones that were only one step away from being entered into the old religion. Only the second son of Fraener stood between them and a life spent under the rule of the high priestess. More than one had chosen the old religion and Ghret wished he had been there to see them burn when the Great Purge took place.
“I would not have been fool enough to trust Uther.” Ghret spat. He was talking to the statue and the servant he had brought down to hold the lantern shifted nervously. Prince Ghret was unpredictable at the best of times, but the thought of his brother seemed to send the man into a blind rage. His indiscretions were always carefully handled afterwards. Neatly swept away so that his mother need never notice one less servant, and the pretty present girls that wandered across Ghret’s gaze… Their mothers were told that they had run off with some stable boy or farm hand, a travelling performer or something of the like.
The servants had learnt to ignore the sound of crying when it came from Ghret’s chambers, even if it carried down the castle corridors on a nightly basis now that Hemlock no longer prowled around the castle. Hemlock may have scared the peasant girls, but the wolf had kept them away from Ghret.
“You were truly an idiot.” sniggered Ghret, still absorbed with talking to his brother. “Anyone with any sense could have seen that Uther had something else up his sleeve, something that was designed to end us all! Now all you have to show for your legacy is an impertinent daughter whose mother was so sickly she barely survived long enough to give birth, and a lover whose mind cracked when your only son died before his first word. He wasn’t even legitimate. Your only heirs, a female and a dead bastard.”
The servant shifted again, causing the light to flicker as the lantern swung.
“Hold that dam thing still boy!” Ghret snapped, spinning around to face the servant. “Can you not see that I am in the middle of an incredibly important discussion? I cannot afford to be distracted by your uselessness! I should have the skin off your back, the nails from your fingers, the scalp from your skull! I will—”
The stream of threats dried up and Ghret turned towards the foot of the steps which led into the crypts.
“What do you want?” he asked, squinting into the gloom. The figure who’d spoke seemed to merge into the shadows, his edges blurring so effectively that Ghret could not tell exactly where the figure was standing.
“My lord prince.” said the figure, sinking into a low bow. “It is an honour.”
Ghret smirked. “Well of course. I am the heir to Canicus’ crown, and the last male of the Fraener bloodline.”
The serving boy whimpered when he heard a low chuckle roll across the room. The cloaked figure was laughing at Prince Ghret.
“I was not speaking to you little Prince.” said the figure. “I was addressing your brother’s effigy, may the goddess keep his soul. I find it unlikely that any would see your presence as anything other than irritating and unpleasant.”
“How dare you!” Ghret’s hand flew to his belt, his finger’s wrapping around the hilt of his short sword. “I will have your tongue for that.”
The sword came free with a rasp of steel, glinting as the flames from the lantern caught on the metal. Ghret kept hold of it for all of three seconds before the hooded figure was cradling it in one hand, examining the metal work as Ghret stood in the same position, his palms empty.
“Such fine work to be wasted on one such as yourself.” said the figure, “However, it may be useful for something.”
Ghret flinched as the sword clattered against the stone floor of the crypts.
“I will return it to you for now.” said the figure.
“Who are you?” Ghret demanded. Leaving his sword where it lay for now. The stranger had already proven that the weapon was useless in this situation. He would have to find another way to remove the figure’s head from its shoulders.
“Who I am is of no concern.” replied the figure. “Who you are though, well that is another matter altogether, and one I’m much more interested in. You see, male heir of the Fraener bloodline you are I’m afraid, only male heir, you most certainly are not.”
“My brother is dead, you acknowledged as such yourself. Surely you cannot be referring to that bookish son of mine? A Fraener he is not, he has no capability for power.” Ghret said, glancing at the staircase beyond the figure. He dismissed the concept of running quickly, if the figure was fast enough to remove a sword from an opponent’s grasp before a move could be made, he could slit Ghret’s throat before he took two steps.
“Yes your brother is most certainly dead.” said the figure. “You saw to that most effectively. I was almost impressed with that little act of fratricide.”
It was involuntary but Ghret smiled. It had taken years, and more gold that he cared to count, in order to find his brother and make sure that the Dragon Lord was dealt with permanently. It was such a shame that informing his mother of her son’s death would risk implicating himself.
“I’m deeply offended.” said Ghret, forcing his smile away. What you speak of is horrific; I would never stoop to such a level!” The smile crept back despite Ghret’s best efforts. He really was rather proud of himself.
“I see.” said the figure. “But then again, if you had been plotting your brother’s downfall, you would have already been informed that Arthur of Camelot and his manservant were present at Balinor’s death.”
Ghret didn’t say anything.
“You would also have been informed that it seemed as if Arthur had persuaded Balinor to help Camelot, helping Uther in turn. Helping the man who tore Balinor away from his true love and the son that she would find herself to be carrying.”
“Balinor would rather slit his own throat that aid Uther Pendragon.” Ghret snapped, straightening his spine in the hopes of standing taller. As always, this action failed.
“Really?” asked the figure, sounding amused. “Even if the Pendragon’s used Balinor’s own son to retrieve the Dragon Lord. Imagine it, Balinor’s flesh and blood, begging for him to come and save Camelot. What would your brother have done?”
Ice seemed to have settled in Ghret’s veins, spreading through his limbs and turning his lips to useless weights. He swallowed.
“So imagine-” said the figure, “imagine if this son of Balinor stood before the Queen of Canicus. The picture of his father, the grandson she thought she had lost and the son she feared never to see again. If he was to stand before her and ask her for anything—”
“She would hand it over and more.” Ghret interrupted. “She would deny him nothing, give him everything and bend the knee to rest at his feet. Canicus and its dragons would bow to his command in a heartbeat.”
“Unless…” prompted the figure.
“Unless he lay next to his father.” Ghret grinned.
Silence fell across the room and the serving boy shifted, edging away from the conversation.
“No.” said the figure, drawing out the word as one would when chastising a child. “No. If you kill the boy then you shall simply have one dead brother and one dead nephew. Neither of which will be any good to anyone since it will make no difference to your mother the Queen and you will remain as you are.”
“The what should I do?” asked Ghret, furrowing his eyebrows. “If I must keep the boy alive then what should I do with him?”
“Think about it you stupid man.” said the figure. “What would anyone do with a powerful weapon? They would wield it in whatever way would suit them best.”
“I see.” said Ghret. “And what way would suit you best? Why would you advise me in such a way if this did not help you?”
“Ah.” said the figure. “That is a question that you will have to answer for yourself since I never reveal what I want. It makes it so much easier for others to keep it from me.”
The figure bowed again and disappeared into the shadows. Ghret thought he might have vanished up the steps but without the sound of footsteps he could not tell.
The servant stood rooted to the spot, holding the lantern with unsteady hands.
“I’d say this was a shame.” said Ghret, plucking his sword from the ground. “But you really are an awful servant.”