Once And Future Alchemist
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…What did I do? That’s a complicated question. Honestly, I can’t remember parts of the process, and at one point something had definitely happened during the night while I was asleep. I don’t think I could ever replicate that kind of imbuing again, and attempting it would kill me…

-Ruslav Diaghilev/Nimue’lar

A small leaf floated down over the hillock outside of the gates of Camelot. A tiny manipulation of the Aeronous aether brought it to Arthur’s hand. He smiled slightly crumbling it in his fingertips. He turned towards his companion in the saddle of his horse, one hand on the hilt of the sword at his hip, “Welcome home, Lancelot. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Beside him, Lancelot looked out over the sprawling town, the keep looming in the distance. “I’ve never seen it's like, Sire. I’d heard of its majesty even in my village, but I’d never imagined it could actually live up to those descriptions.” Lancelot’s simple clothing stood out from Arthur’s, sturdy but unremarkable. His hands were scarred and calloused from both the sword, and the plowshare.

Arthur squeezed with his knees, and his horse trotted forward, down the hillock and on to the simple cobbled path which led to the city. They rode in relative silence, townsfolk nodding and bowing to their king, the party behind them a minor uproar as always. Horses, retainers, and armsmen made an absolute cacophony at the best of times, and their approach to Camelot was hardly stealthy.

Arthur dismounted as he pulled up short to the stable outside of the city, patting the palfrey on the neck as he handed the reins over to the ostler at the outer stable, “He’s a little tense today, I think his left hind leg is a little tight.” Arthur’s aetheric senses had ranged over the horse most of the morning, concerned with the knot of unease in the creature’s frame.

The ostler nodded a bit stiffly, “Yes sire, I’ll take a look.” The ostler mumbled something under his breath.

The sword on Arthur’s hip pulsed slightly with aetheric currents, and Arthur looked over at the ostler and felt a sense of unease. The blade was one of a kind, but Arthur was still trying to determine exactly what it could do. Since he’d taken it up he’d discovered powers and expansions of his senses nearly every day. Nimue’lar’s efforts had been successful beyond anyone’s expectations, and Caliburn as they’d named it was a uniquely empowered weapon, a fusion of human potential and lunarian science.

Near the gate, the tall form of Gawain loomed, hands together waiting for Arthur. The tall man’s shoulders were broad, more used to a felling axe than a sword, but he’d taken to the blade with distinction. Merlin’s recommendations for champions hadn’t led Arthur wrong so far.

“Thank you, I’ll return later. Lancelot, Gawain, with me,” Arthur said, walking through the doors and beyond the gates of the city, several guardsmen posted near the portcullis and on the ramparts of the outer walls. There’d been far too many attacks for Arthur’s comfort lately, but there were only so many men that were available to defend the city, while Arthur was out on his expeditions.

Lancelot struggled to keep pace with Arthur, and the taller Gawain flanked their king on the other side as he entered the city. As they passed by, people bowed and muttered their obsequious as their lord passed. It always made Arthur uncomfortable, but asking them not to treat him as a king only made them anxious and angry. “Gawain, report.”

Gawain nodded at Arthur eyeing Lancelot warily, “Yes sire. Fourteen men have responded to our calls, and an additional forty six dependents have come to the city and its outskirts. The plans to expand the wall has been…progressing, but I have to point out, again, that the funds for the wall, plus the new armsmen, plus the various other projects is…” Gawain's voice trailed off to nothing.

Arthur stopped, and turned, “Untenable? I understand. Speak to Merlin, he will find the funds.”
From a shadowy corner of an alley, Merlin strode out in his broad cloak, covering the shoulders of his freshly ensouled host. “Merlin finds the requests to find funds continually demeaning, sire.”

Arthur frowned at his friend, “Merlin, you know why we need it, and you’re the only one capable. Quit your complaints, and do as you’re asked. Or am I not sar to you, any longer?”

Gawain and Lancelot traded glances as their king and Merlin argued. Just out of earshot, Lancelot leaned towards the taller man, frowning slightly, “Does he always…with…”

Gawain shrugged, and looked at the younger man, his dark brown eyes unconcerned with the odd behaviors of his king, “It’s not my place to ask why. He united the britons and pushed back the invaders. I’ll forgive a bit of an oddity here and there. And you are?”

Lancelot looked at his hands sheepishly, “Lancelot. Arth— the King told me to come with him. So I did.”

Gawain nodded, as if agreeing, “What did you do before he found you?”

Lancelot shrugged, “I was a farmer, playing soldier.”

Gawain laid a hand on his shoulder, and squeezed slightly, “No more playing, Lancelot. Welcome.” Arthur and Merlin stalked away, still deep in conversation, half of the words unknown to either man. They hurried to catch up, following as closely as they could while not intruding on the conversation.

Arthur’s eyes ranged over the smallfolk within the city, various merchants, artisans, and professionals. Each of them a valuable part of the machine of the kingdom. He was always startled at the depths of his affection for them. The affection this man had before Arthur had ensouled his dying body, and saved his life. While at the same time stealing it. “Merlin, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to save them.”

Merlin growled at Arthur, and reached for the hairs of his chin which were only fuzzy grey stubble at the moment. He missed the beard he’d always sported in his natural body, “This isn’t our war, Arthur’sar. It never was.”

Arthur stopped, and stared in to his eyes, fixing him with his gaze. “If you insinuate, once more, that these people aren’t worth protecting and saving, we will have words of an aetheric variety. Am I clear?”

Merlin stood dumbstruck, Arthur’s words tantamount to threatening his life. Merlin was powerful, one of the strongest Alchemists their society had ever produced, but Arthur was…even before the sword, he was made for the fight. He swallowed hard, and let out a curt nod. He wasn’t sure what it was that forced him to comply, but he knew he would say yes.

“Good. It’s our war now, regardless, unless you have a spare lunarian body laying around somewhere?” Arthur’s easy smile returned to his face, the sword at his side vibrating slightly. Arthur’s hand tightened on the grip of the sword.

A flash of movement caught the eye of Gawain, a streak of blonde. The knight whirled, in the blink of an eye, his feet a blur as he put himself between his king and the moving object, intent on stopping it no matter what it was. A tiny blonde girl stood struck with fear as the tall knight’s hand half-drew his sword from his hip, his eyes blazing for a moment before he realized the “threat” was a small child with a flower in her hand. He sheathed his sword sheepishly, and relaxed, the entire town stopping to stare at the knight.

Lancelot marveled at the speed Gawain had reacted. How had he done that? He’d barely even seen the girl and Gawain was there between them. Behind Gawain, Lancelot caught Arthur resheathing the iridescent sword he wore, fully ten feet closer to him than he’d recalled. Gawain was fast, but how had Arthur done that?

“Stand down Gawain, I don’t think she’s an assassin,” Arthur said, striding forward, his sword safely returned to the scabbard at his side. Arthur crouched down, and looked the girl in her eyes, still wide with apprehension. He smiled wide, and reached out, a small cloth in his hand to wipe away the tears of fear. “I’m sorry about the big knight, lass, he’s very protective of his king. What’s your name?”

She blinked a few times, and mumbled out “Aeleen…”

Arthur’s eyes drifted down to the flower in her left hand. Her right arm was clutched close to her chest, and in a sling. “What happened to your arm, Aeleen?”
The girl shrugged, “One of the sheep was mad and broke it when it got scared.” She shifted slightly, and held out the brilliant red rose, the stem long and thin. It was on the verge of blooming, “This is for you, milord…my ma told me to give it to you, on account of you being our king.”

Arthur took the flower from her, his fingertips cool against her tiny hand, smiling, and taking a deep inhale of the flower. The scent was brilliant, and bright. After eons on Luna, the smells of the earth were so sharp to his nose. “Mmm….I love the smell of roses, Aeleen, thank you for this.” His right hand reached out, and touched her shoulder, that same familiar feeling of affection filling him, contented by the simple gesture of this girl and her parents. His left hand gripped Caliburn for balance as he squeezed, and smiled.

A flash of white and blue light rang out, aether’s flowing freely as energy flew from Caliburn, to Arthur, and into Aeleen. Lancelot and Gawain both let out a sharp gasp, seeing the aether currents with their own eyes for the first time, a spark of understanding coursing through them. A feeling of awe came over Lancelot, and he knew that his life had changed forever in that moment.
Arthur’s hand pulled away from the little girl quickly, surprised as much as everyone else at the aetheric energies pouring out of him, and the flashes of light. Aeleen gasped and blinked at her right hand, flexing and moving free from the sling. Her mouth opened in joy, and she jumped forward, hugging Arthur tightly. “Thank you! My ma was right, you are a good king!” She turned, and ran back to her waiting parents, both of them dumbstruck.

Arthur stood slowly, looking down at his own hand, the same feeling of love, and connection easing now, fading with the last of the Aetheric energies. “I…don’t…what?”
Merlin stumped forward, and looked Arthur hard in the eyes, “What did you just do?!” he hissed, the aetheric currents that had appeared a magnitude higher than anything he’d even witnessed Mordred wield.

Arthur let his grip relax on the hilt of Caliburn, and took a deep breath, “I don’t know why this sword would let me,” he trailed off, before clenching his right hand into a fist, “But I know how.” Arthur turned, and drew Caliburn, facing Lancelot and Gawain.

“Both of you, kneel,” Arthur said, his tone absolute. His grip on the sword tightened, and both men knelt without question. Arthur stood before Gawain, and laid the last six inches of Caliburn on one shoulder, releasing the same aethers into Gawain that he had into the little girl, just in a different fashion. He swept the sword to his other shoulder, and released more energies, of a different kind, tying the two of them together. “You are now Sir Gawain, knight and personal arms-guard of your king. Rise, and walk in fellowship and power with me.”

As he repeated the process with Lancelot, Gawain stood to his feet, struck nearly dumb by the surge of power flooding his body. All around him, he could see the currents of Aether clearly, flowing in and out and around everyone and everything. Merlin and Arthur practically glowed, something else inside both of them. With a thought, he drew those currents in, and time slowed, his perceptions expanded a hundredfold. With another feeling, another current pulled in, his hands and fingers a blur to even his own increased perceptions. He met Arthur’s eyes…and the creature that inhabited the body of his King’s eyes as well. “You see now, don’t you Gawain? And you can feel it. Just as I can.” Gawain could only nod in numb confusion.

Merlin glared at Arthur, "What do you think you're doing, you just exposed us to every human in Camelot?!"

Arthur turned, and resheathed Caliburn, facing Merlin. “I know how we can defeat Mordred, Merlin."

…In the end, the powers that the sword gave were less fantastic than you’d expect, and they all came from the same source: Arthur. He forged it, in the end, to the weapon it was. All it did was make him more of what he was…but more of what he was happened to be more power than anyone had ever wielded in history…and the only time anyone would again was the single time I had to brandish the blade millennia later…

-The Administrator, aka Merlin’Aer

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