(first published in Spelk Fiction, Oct 7th 2019)
Anthony Morgan, Professor Emeritus, came away from the staff seminar (on Malory’s story of the Death of Merlin) feeling ruffled and bruised. Anthony hadn’t expected his comments on the paper to be treated with murmurs of respect and gratitude. But the junior staff member delivering the paper had, after some prevarication, actually confessed that she believed that Anthony had misremembered the circumstances of Merlin’s death (in his earliest incarnation as the pagan sage, Myrrdin). Moreover, the young woman, Dr Tamsin Ajebo, had been backed up by Anthony’s successor as Head of the English Department, Jim Lawton. And what’s more, Prof Lawton had referred to Anthony as “Tony.”
Anthony sighed heavily as he headed for home. He hadn’t really wanted to go to the seminar in the first place: the paper had been on the links between Malory’s Merlin and later literary incarnations, like Tolkien’s Gandalf and JK Rowling’s Dumbledore. Anthony had previously made a study of William Morris’s prose romances which, as precursors of The Lord of the Rings, had made him rather snobbish about Tolkien. He’d attended out of a sense of duty, only to be told he was now “Tony,” and losing his marbles.
There was a queue of traffic at the lights on Newport Road. Gazing out the window, he caught sight of a newspaper billboard: “University Cuts — Staff Redundancies.” So, he nipped out to buy the evening paper from the vendor. As he pocketed his change, he caught sight of his bus starting to pull away, and he stepped nimbly aboard.
Hearing him open the front door, Dorothy called out: “How did the seminar go?”
He called out in return, “Young Tamsin Ajebo told me I’d misremembered the death of Merlin.”
Dorothy didn’t reply immediately. As they sat down to the evening meal she said, “Surely, Malory wrote that Merlin, in his dotage, fell for a young woman at Arthur’s court and taught her the binding spells that cannot be broken, remember? She eventually tired of the old fool, and cast a spell to imprison him forever in a cave, below Tintagel.”
Before Anthony could reply, there was a ring at the door. “I’ll go,” he said.
Dorothy heard the continuing murmur of voices in the front hall and went to investigate. “It’s the police, dear,” Anthony said. “Apparently, I left my BMW ticking over at the traffic lights on Newport Road.”