It’s time for September’s Promptly Penned. This month’s prompt is: You’re in an interrogation room. A man walks in and throws a bunch of photographs on the table in front of you. The photos are old and were taken at different points in history. You’re in each one. He demands to know who you are.
This was the perfect prompt to fit into my Albion’s Circle series. So, here we go.
Eyes closed, I focused on my breathing. It was over, finally. I’d spent the last week cleaning up Mordred’s mess. Now, I could rest easily that nothing with his taint remained or influenced anyone or anything.
Of course, now that it was over, that meant I was alone. And nothing could distract me from that cruel fact. My chest ached as I drew in another long breath. It wasn’t the first time, and likely wouldn’t be the last. But I’d hoped. Even knowing, accepting, that we couldn’t come out of the ages old battle with Mordred without casualties, I’d still hoped and prayed that someone would be left behind with me. While preparing for the opposite.
But even preparing didn’t diminish the overwhelming press of anger and grief. Yes, we had prevailed—Mordred was defeated, again, this time around—but Annwyl was still lost. And Arthur…Morgana…the knights. I wouldn’t see them again until the next life. All I could do now was wait. And I hated every second of it.
“Mr. Eliad, thank you for coming in. I’m Detective Andrews.”
I opened my eyes, watching the tall, fair-haired man enter and close the door behind him. “You’re welcome, though I was hardly given a choice, detective.”
“Well,” he lifted one shoulder as he sat across from me, “thank you for coming in so calmly, then.”
“Mm hmm.” I folded my hands and rested them on the metal table and straightened in the less-than-comfortable chair. “Perhaps you could let me know what this is about?”
“You were seen near the site of the explosion in the warehouse district last week.” When I didn’t answer, he sighed and laid the folder he held on the surface between us. He withdrew a couple of photos and set them, one by one, in front of me. “You were caught on camera. You look injured, covered in dirt or soot.”
I glanced down at the pictures. Though grainy, they were clearly of me. And certainly not at my best. I met his gaze and lifted a brow, remaining silent.
“Could you tell me what you were doing in the area?” he asked.
“Just walking around.”
“Really?” He snorted. “You just happened to walking around an area that had practically been leveled, looking like you’d barely made it out of said area?”
“Why were you so dirty, then? You strike me as a fairly well-kept person.” He gestured towards the clothing I currently wore then tapped one of the photos. “Nothing like this.”
“I’d been gardening before my walk. It’s messy work.” I couldn’t hold back the smirk curving my mouth.
“Messy work?” He pursed his lips then nodded. Opening the folder, he continued, “I did some digging and found that you often find yourself around ‘messy work’. Nearby the wreckage of another explosion, the fallout of an earthquake that decimated half a city out west, evacuating another city from a horrendous flood…” As he spoke, he flipped picture after picture toward me.
I lifted one, stared at my own face—filthy, grief-stricken, exhausted. This photo was a copy of a one from decades ago. This was more than just a little digging, and something this detective—or anyone else—shouldn’t have access to.
“Where did you get these?” I demanded, voice soft and steady.
“That’s not important. What I want to know is how you’re in all these photos—because as impossible as it seems, they’re all of you! What did you have to do with the explosions last week? Good men and women died, and I want answers!” He slapped a palm on the stack of photos…and looked vaguely disappointed when I didn’t jump or outwardly react. “Mr. Eliad, you need to start talking. The truth now, not some inane tale of gardening and walks.”
“The truth?” I laughed harshly. “Okay, the truth is my name isn’t Eliad. I just took that name this time around. My first name is Merlin, though—I bet that seemed odd to you, right? Not exactly a common name, nowadays. Well, I wasn’t named for the famous wizard in all the stories. I am him. I am King Arthur’s Magical—yes, the King Arthur. And the truth that you want so desperately is nothing like those stories, which for the most part are ridiculous, and I had a hell of a fun time making them up.
“I, along with my king and others, are brought back to fight Mordred—another familiar name, yes?—and save this wretched Earth and its people, time and time again. That was what was happening last week, and that was just the final battle. This time, we’ve been fighting for months, and now, I am tired. I’ve lost people, as well, Detective Andrews, and now that the mission is complete, I would like my time to remember and grieve for those lost…including those good men and women you mentioned.”
“You’ve got to be—”
I waved a hand between us, and he froze. Rubbing my aching temples, I stared down at the photos. “Though it seems I’m not done cleaning up quite yet. Where did you get these photos?”
“They were mailed to me,” he responded woodenly.
“All of them? Even the ones from last week?”
“Do you know who sent them?”
“No.” He shook his head. “They were in large envelope. There was no note, no return address. The lab wasn’t able to find any fingerprints on the envelope or the photos so it was all a dead end.”
“For you, maybe,” I murmured. “Do you have the envelope? The original photos you received?”
“Yes, in evidence.”
“Go get them, please.”
Without a word, he stood and left the room. I stacked the photos neatly and closed them back into the folder, annoyance filling me at the inconvenience of all of this. When Detective Andrews came back in, he immediately handed me the evidence bag containing the envelope and photos. I tucked that into the folder, as well, then pushed to my feet, taking all of it with me. I met the other man’s gaze and sighed.
“You seem like a good cop, following any lead. Unfortunately, this is one case that the truth isn’t going to be revealed. Can’t be.” I reached up and touched his forehead, muttering the memory spell quickly. “Forget the photos; they don’t exist. I came in today to tell you what I saw when I was out for a walk the night of the explosion.”
I dropped my hand and cleared my throat. Andrews blinked several times then took a step back, opening the door for me.
“Thank you again, Mr. Eliad, for coming in. We appreciate your help in the matter.”
“Of course.” I strode out the room, but before leaving the building, I went to bullpen and asked where Detective Andrews’ desk was. Then, walking by it on my way out, I spoke the spell that would erase any mention of me from the good detective’s notes—both written and on his computer.
I tightened my grip on the folder as I stepped into the bright sunlight. I needed to get back home and figure out who had sent these in.
It wasn’t quite over. The mess wasn’t completely cleaned up. My grief would wait…my ever-patient companion.