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Title: History 101
Author: dogmatix_san
Rating: G
Warnings: Er, none? How'd that happen?
Word count: +- 4600
Summary: Without Staynair to vouch for him, Merlin decides to tell Cayleb anyway.
A/N: I have an entire page of author's note, so I decided to stick it at the end.

History 101


Part 1

Cayleb knocked on Merlin’s door, then opened it without waiting for a reply. It was late, and Merlin sat on his windowsill, looking out over the lights of Charis. There was a faraway look in those sapphire eyes.

He was seeing his visions, Cayleb knew. Merlin could see almost anything, anywhere, if he looked. He’d warned Cayleb that he could see almost anything, but not everything. Even so, Merlin was the only reason the Kingdom of Charis still stood, managing to hold out against all the kingdoms arrayed against her by the Group of Four. One kingdom against a dozen or more, it shouldn’t be possible, and yet Merlin made it so.

Cayleb laid a hand on Merlin’s shoulder. “Anything interesting?” he asked.

“No, not so far. Nothing new, at least, all the messages are still in transit,” Merlin said distractedly, then blinked and focused his attention on his Prince. “How’s your father doing?”

As if Merlin wasn’t keeping an eye on King Haarald himself, but Cayleb grinned, “Better.” He sat down opposite Merlin, so that their knees almost touched. “Thanks to you, that is.”

Merlin shook his head, “I only helped. Haarald has the constitution of a draft dragon.”

Cayleb didn’t say anything, but he knew better – the near-fatal wounds his father had sustained in that battle aboard ship, defending Charis, should have killed any man in a day. Demon or no, Cayleb owed Merlin the life of his family and his kingdom. And Merlin was a demon, Cayleb no longer doubted that. Or if he wasn’t a demon, then he might as well be for all the difference it made. Cayleb never said that aloud, but every now and again his heart would clench up cold and painful in his chest as he contemplated that he, Cayleb, was a heretic, an apostate, working against Mother Church and using Merlin’s more than mortal abilities to help him.

But he meant what he’d said that night aboard ship, when he’d pressed Merlin into helping him communicate with King Haarald, four thousand miles away. It didn’t matter what Merlin was; if God could let His Church become so corrupt that it would attack a kingdom without need or warning, if Merlin could lead him to damnation by asking no more of him than that he follow his better nature, then the God of Safehold was no longer his God.

He was, fortunately, old enough to know not to reveal that to anyone.

“What’s bothering you?” Merlin asked.

“Don’t you know?” Cayleb asked his friend with a lopsided grin.

Merlin snorted, “I see visions, I don’t read minds.”

“Just… glad my father survived. Worrying about the war. Wondering about you, again. Sorry,” Cayleb added, suppressing his grin at Merlin’s sour look, “but you’re just so interesting.”

“Ha! I guess I should know better by now – there’s no distracting the Ahrmakh curiosity once it’s gotten the scent, is there.”

“I know you’ve said you’re neither angel nor demon, but for all people call you a seijin, you’ve admitted you’re more than that.” Cayleb shrugged, “And I don’t really care what you are – you’re certainly more than mortal – but I just can’t help… wanting to know.”

“I shouldn’t tell you,” Merlin said at last, but Cayleb thought he detected a slight wavering there. “Where would I even begin?” he asked helplessly.

“At the beginning?” Cayleb said hopefully, giving Merlin a wide-eyed look of innocence.

Merlin almost said something, then changed his mind, and got a thoughtful look instead. “The beginning…”

“Merlin?”

“Cayleb, remember what we talked about on Dreadnought that night I went to warn your father? About the Proscriptions?”

Cayleb’s heart skipped a beat, and a part of him writhed in unease. The Proscriptions had been handed down by the Archangel Jwo-jeng, but… Merlin had said that the Proscriptions were a lie, and that Jwo-jeng wasn’t an Archangel at all…. And Cayleb believed him, but the idea was still terrifying. “…Yes,” he said after a too-long pause.

Merlin looked at him with a small, pained smile. “It would be more of the same, Cayleb. A lot more. Explaining everything to you.. I honestly don’t know how.”

Cayleb wavered for a moment, new uncertainty nagging at him. Merlin was willing to back Charis in the face of the entire rest of the world – for this explanation to have the demon at such a loss, it must be truly terrifying. Cayleb thought that Merlin would be willing to try if Cayleb insisted, but did Cayleb himself want that truth?

What must it be like, he wondered suddenly, to live with people who didn’t, who couldn’t know all of you? How lonely must it be? Merlin had shared everything he thought he could, Cayleb suspected. He’d even let Cayleb press him into revealing more than was safe, that night on Dreadnought. And yes, Merlin might be a demon of Shan-wei sent to tempt Cayleb into damnation, but Merlin wasn’t the one threatening to burn Charis to the ground and rape or kill all her people. No, that was Mother Church, directed by the Group of Four.

Merlin was a demon. And yet Cayleb trusted him with his life, and even with his soul. Cayleb might be wrong, but he’d committed to this path and he didn’t regret it.

If he was going to trust Merlin, he decided suddenly, he was going to go all the way. Besides, he might not want the truth, but maybe he needed it. “You said, you said the truth involved ‘ideas and concepts’ that I didn’t have.”

Merlin nodded slowly, reluctantly. “Yes.”

“Then why not start there?”

“Cayleb,” Merlin said, still looking a bit uncertain, “once I start this, there’s no turning back.”

“I want to know, Merlin. I want to know the truth.”

“Are you sure?” Merlin asked.

Some part of Merlin wanted to tell Cayleb, but he was afraid to, the prince realized. Maybe demons weren’t so different from humans.

“Yes, Merlin, I’m sure.”

Indecision showed plainly on Merlin’s face for a few seconds, then the seijin let out a huff of air. “Alright, alright. I still don’t know if this is a good idea, but if I tell you, we do this my way.”

Cayleb nodded solemnly.

“And this isn’t something I can do in a night, it’s going to take a while, weeks even, otherwise none of it will make sense.” Merlin warned.

“I understand.”

“Okay,” Merlin paused, gathering his thoughts. “I suppose the beginning is as good a place to start as any. Alright, this probably won’t make much sense at first, so try to bear with me.” Merlin waited for Cayleb’s nod.

“Imagine a world that isn’t Safehold.”

“Another… world?” Cayleb blinked. “Did God create this other world?”

“Mm. I believe so, but I can’t give you a definite answer, because I don’t know it,” Merlin said, and gave Cayleb a moment to think that over.

“And on this world, a long, long time ago, people started living together in large groups that eventually formed cities. Nobody is exactly sure when this happened, because all this happened before the people there could write.”

Cayleb frowned. “Before people could write? But that doesn’t make any sense. Did God only give them writing later?”

“Well, you see… Nobody gave them writing,” Merlin glanced up at Cayleb’s perplexed face, “they invented their own.”

“People can do that?” Cayleb asked, dumbfounded. “But, why didn’t God give them writing? Did they reject His gifts somehow?”

A conflicted look settled on Merlin’s face, like he was desperately looking for a way to delicately word something. “Merlin! I’m not made of blown glass – I’m not going to shatter if you tell me something impossible. Something else impossible,” Cayleb corrected himself. “Just tell me!”

Merlin grimaced, but continued. “You know just how to ask the really difficult questions, don’t you. Okay. It was never a possibility for them. They didn’t worship God, or even a god, they believed in many gods, and even goddesses, most with specific domains. A god of the sun, a goddess of childbirth, and so on.”

Cayleb felt like he’d been hit between the eyes, “what-“ A thousand questions crowded his tongue, but Merlin continued before he could pick one to start with.

“Of course, that group of people is long gone now, and nobody worships those gods anymore. Most people who came after them considered those gods to be nothing more than stories, made up to explain rain, and illness, and things like that, things that people didn’t understand.”

“But,” Cayleb frowned, head whirling. People inventing writing? And a different god, many different gods, but they might not have been real? Where could anywhere be that wasn’t Safehold and how did Merlin know about it? How- Why-

Cayleb found himself standing, hands on Merlin’s shoulders. He was breathing heavily and the skin across his shoulders twitched like someone was about to put a blade between them. “Stop.” He managed, voice thick.

“I’m making a mess of this,” Merlin said unhappily. “I shouldn’t have- Cayleb, I’m sorry.”

“No,” Cayleb shook his head and squeezed Merlin’s shoulders – warm, solid, and real under his grip. “No, just… just give me a minute.”

“I know you’re probably having a hard time believing me-“ Merlin started, and Cayleb startled both of them with a bark of laughter.

“That’s actually not the problem, you know. I do believe you. I don’t think I’d be panicking half this much if I didn’t. It’s just… I don’t understand,” Cayleb managed to make himself say. Merlin had always said that Cayleb wouldn’t, but Cayleb had never quite been convinced. He supposed that’d teach him to have a little bit more humility.

“It’s just not like anything you know here,” Merlin agreed quietly. “Cayleb, I think this is enough for tonight.”

Cayleb made to protest, but Merlin held up a hand. “I think I’ve unbalanced your world enough for now. It’s not going to get less strange from here on out,” Merlin added, “give yourself some time to think about what I’ve said so far.”

That… might be a good idea, Cayleb conceded reluctantly. “But you will continue?” he asked.

“Yes,” Merlin’s lips twitched into the ghost of a smile. “You’re remarkable, you know that?”

“Just too stubborn for my own good,” Cayleb said, amused in spite of himself. Trust a prince of the House of Ahrmakh to walk into his own damnation with eyes wide open.



Part 2

It became their nightly habit, the Prince and his bodyguard sequestering themselves in Merlin’s chambers for an hour or so, and the rest of Cayleb’s protective detail adjusted around it.

Cayleb wondered if his bodyguards would have been quite as blasé about it if they knew what their charge and the resident seijin were discussing each night. It never became easy to hear Merlin’s tale – Cayleb always came away feeling like his brain had been scooped out with a rusty spoon – but after the first week Cayleb thought he was starting to get a handle on it. He could just about imagine the world Merlin was telling him about by now; a world where people invented their own writing systems, where there were many ways of thinking about the spiritual world, where the Proscriptions were being learned through trial and error and the consequences of violating a Proscription weren’t a targeted punishment, but a natural law. Merlin had spent an entire night just explaining that one. Illness due to not following the dietary rules, for instance, was a natural consequence, like falling if you threw yourself over a cliff, instead of a direct intervention of holy wrath.

An unanticipated result of their nightly discussions was that Cayleb would almost without fail end up holding Merlin by the wrist or hand. It was a kind of anchor, a reassurance that however much it felt like his world was turning to sand beneath him, Merlin would always be there, real and solid. Very, very solid, in fact – Cayleb had held so tightly once or twice that a normal man would have been in a fair amount of pain from the bones grinding together in his hand. Merlin never gave so much as a grunt of discomfort.

The concept of the other world developing in radically different ways in many different areas had been bewildering at first, but Cayleb had gotten his head around it more quickly than he’d thought he would, and the most difficult thing now was keeping track of all the different strands – Europe, Asia, the Americas, and even the smaller island nations, although not much had happened on the continent called Australia for a long time. Merlin had recounted what he called the ‘Renaissance’ in the European area of the other world, which sounded akin to the Asian area’s flowering of technology during their Han Dynasty. Interwoven with the Italian Renaissance was the history of Catholicism. Judaism, Islam, and Catholicism, which all came from a common point of origin, were very, very close to the Church of God Awaiting, and it made Cayleb frustrated and uneasy that Merlin was being cagey about those similarities. There was something there, something that Merlin didn’t think Cayleb was ready for yet.

An offhand comment that Merlin was glad Cayleb knew that worlds were round had occupied them for an entire evening, as Cayleb pestered his demonic bodyguard to recount the progression of knowledge from the sight-based assumption that the world was flat to the people’s logical conclusion that the world must be round, which had been proven by the European discovery of the American continents. Even though the Europeans were actually thoroughly lost and not at all where they thought they were. It fascinated and amazed Cayleb, this fumbling, haphazard journey towards what God had seen fit to provide to Safehold at the outset.

Even with Merlin’s graphic descriptions of how horrible life had been for most people without the Proscriptions in place to govern diet, hygiene, and construction, Cayleb developed a healthy admiration for the people of the other world.

Merlin had described the blossoming of the sciences that followed after the Renaissance, including the Scientific Method and all the advances in weaponry that resulted. Here, Merlin had become vague, giving Cayleb only theoretical overviews (if anything at all) of some of the weapons when they came into the narrative.

“These, these are more advanced than ours,” Cayleb had said with wide-eyed wonder as Merlin rushed over the description of automated guns. At least now he knew where Merlin’s store of knowledge about ships and weaponry came from. Merlin flat-out glossed over the mechanics of the atom bomb, although just that vague outline was enough to make Cayleb ill.

Merlin’s description of outer space had taken some getting used to, especially when the seijin had explained that the other world, Terra, orbited around its sun, instead of the other way around. Several grapes and an orange had been called upon for scale-model purposes, and Cayleb still wasn’t sure what to make of it. But space-flight! Merlin’s description of that had Cayleb wanting to experience such a thing with a fierce hunger. To stand on a moon, or a different planet. To see Safehold as a burning blue jewel in the utter blackness of space… Merlin’s description had been so vivid that Cayleb knew without doubt that this was something Merlin had experienced personally.

Cayleb almost couldn’t imagine the enormous space-ships that Merlin described, and he felt even those imaginings must fall far short of what Merlin was describing as if he could see the sprawling, floating machines stretched out before him. There was a kind of joy, and a kind of hunger, in Merlin as he did so.

These, Cayleb realized with a shock, were Merlin’s ships. Could Merlin… could he be from that other world? Were all the people there demons? Was… was the world he was describing somehow.. hell? For a fleeting instant he considered that – the lack of divine presence made sense if Terra was hell… But no, Merlin hadn’t described those people as capable of feats like his. Not that Merlin had really concentrated on individuals, but the people as a whole all sounded perfectly human. Well, outside of the ridiculously long lifespans, at least.

And then Merlin described the new threat. Aliens from another world that were nothing like humans, that did not think, act, or look like humans. And he described the war. The first encounters, the battles, the arms race. And the end result.

Merlin clasped his hands together and waited for Cayleb’s response.

“Humanity… lost?” Cayleb asked, stunned.

“Yes and no. The aliens, the Gbaba, were beating them, but the Terrans were catching up to the Gbaba, in terms of weapons and technology – maybe even starting to surpass them. But there weren’t enough Terrans left, and they didn’t have enough time to get their weapons widespread enough to make a difference. So, they devised a plan. A last hope, you could say.”

Cayleb took a deep breath. “They took their ships and fled.”

“Yes. Operation Ark, they called it. The plan was to start a new colony, far, far away, where they could hide and heal. There was a decoy maneuver involved, and ships were sacrificed to make the Gbaba think they’d gotten all of them, but even more, the remaining Terrans had to erase all traces of what the Gbaba tracked them by.”

“The advanced technology.”

“Yes. And to do that, the colonists agreed to let their memories be erased, so that they would never be tempted to create something they couldn’t remember, at least for the next few centuries.”

Cayleb looked up, a horrible, absurd suspicion starting to kindle in his mind.

“Some of the naval officers and scientists suspected a plot by the colony leaders, to… adjust the memory wipe. They were right, but even they didn’t think the new colony’s Administrator would go as far as he did.” Merlin fell silent.

Merlin was perched on the edge of his bed, while Cayleb sat in a chair at a slight angle to his friend, their knees almost touching. Now, Cayleb reached out and took Merlin’s hand to get his attention, and out of a nameless dread that he could feel building in his stomach. “Merlin?”

“The colony’s Chief Administrator was Eric Langhorne. The Chief Psychiatrist was Dr. Adoree Bedard.”

Blood pounded in Cayleb’s ears. He felt like throwing up. He felt cold. “No,” he breathed in denial, but it was as much question as statement. Merlin had told him that the angels and archangels were men, that night on the Dreadnought, and he thought he’d come to accept that, but this was so much larger than anything he could wrap his mind around.

“The memory-wipe was effective. So were the memories given to the colonists. Langhorne and Bedard chose parts from several religions from Terra-“

Cayleb breathed out harshly, unable to find his voice. Those religions that had seemed so similar to the Church of God Awaiting… He tightened his grip on Merlin’s hand. “Stop,” he strangled out.

Merlin fell silent. The only sound in the room was Cayleb’s harsh breathing. He wasn’t sure what to think, or whether to think anything at all. Cayleb found himself sitting next to Merlin. They stayed there the rest of the night, not speaking.

The next day passed in something of a haze. Several people asked him if he was feeling ill. Cayleb kept coming back to what Merlin had said and shying away from it. Cayleb didn’t go to Merlin’s chambers that evening, and Merlin didn’t come to him. Cayleb was guiltily grateful for it. It felt like his head was about to explode. He wanted to reject what Merlin had said, but he realized with helpless and slightly hysterical amusement that some part of him had already accepted it.

The following day was easier, or at least he’d stopped feeling like the world was about to fall out from under him. Instead, it was as if he was seeing everything for the first time. Everything seemed… deeper. He thought about the stories – the histories – that Merlin had told him about. He looked around him and considered what had been stolen from him, from his people – the history of getting this far not through divine intervention, but by themselves. Then he thought about God. He thought about God for a long time. He prayed, even though going into a church and seeing a mosaic of the ‘Archangel Langhorne’ almost made him walk right back out again. Then he wondered why he was praying, but he prayed anyway. He worried his new knowledge one way and another until his head felt like it was going to fall off. He didn’t come to a definite conclusion.

But he supposed he didn’t need to figure out everything right this second.

It was like everything snapped into focus then, and he realized he was at dinner, fork halfway to his mouth. Suddenly he wasn’t just there, he was present again. He saw Merlin’s furtive glance at him from down the dinner tables, and realized that Ahrnold Falkahn had been guarding him for the past three days. He brought his fork the rest of the way up, chewed, swallowed. “Hey, Ahrnold,” he leaned over to talk to his bodyguard, “ask Merlin to see me in my chambers later.”

There was just one last thing to figure out, Cayleb had realized. Exactly how Merlin tied into all this.

Cayleb wasn’t surprised to find Merlin knocking on his door later, and even managed a respectable smile for the seijin. Merlin nodded and returned the smile, but there was something careful, something uncertain in the set of his face.

“Worried I was going to condemn you as a demon?” Cayleb asked once Merlin was safely inside and away from prying ears.

“A bit, maybe,” Merlin admitted. “I do technically qualify.”

“You do. I just don’t care,” Cayleb admitted with a grin that felt real, and he realized he was telling the absolute truth. Huhn. How about that. “There are one or two more questions I have though,” he added as he seated himself. Merlin settled into the chair opposite Cayleb’s.

“I’d be worried if you ever stopped having questions,” Merlin said, amused, his good humour starting to resurface.

“First off, who was Shan-wei, really?”

“A scientist and historian who disagreed with Eric Langhorne,” Merlin said, a sad note in his voice.

“Did you know her?” Cayleb guessed. It surely wasn’t possible, but he had to ask.

“Yes. Her and her husband, Kua-yung.”

“Then, I suppose that brings us full circle,” Cayleb said. He caught Merlin’s gaze and held it. “Merlin. What are you?”

“That was what started all this,” Merlin said, bemused, then scrubbed his hands across his face. “Okay. Do you remember I told you about the mechanical prosthetics, the artificial bodies?”

“Picas, right?” Cayleb had been a bit perturbed by the idea of a mechanical toy made to resemble a person, a machine even more advanced than the communicator Merlin had shown him one evening. The idea that people could move their memories into something like that was disquieting, although Merlin had reassured him that not only were Picas uncommon, but that strict laws had governed their use and the time someone was allowed to stay in one. At the time, Cayleb had thought that Melin was using these mechanical toys as an example to illustrate what the Terrans had been capable of. Now, he wasn’t so sure.

“Personality-Integrated Cybernetic Avatars, or PICAs, yes,” Merlin nodded. “There was a member of one of the fleets, a woman named Nimue Alban, whose father had bought her a PICA. She was part of the decoy effort-“ Merlin stopped abruptly. He took a deep breath and Cayleb could see tension being forced out of his shoulders. “She was part of the decoy effort, but her PICA was stored with the main colonist cargo. The last memory recording Nimue made for her PICA was in preparation for going on a vacation with her father.”

“So imagine my surprise when I woke up in the Mountains of Light a thousand years later, instead.”

It took Cayleb a moment to connect it all. “But you- you’re not- you’re not-“ he sputtered, shocked.

“I’m not-?” Merlin asked, expression strangely closed.

“You’re. Not a, a woman.” Cayleb blurted out the first coherent idea that blundered onto his tongue. When Merlin had explained that PICAs were machines, he hadn’t exactly pictured something made of metal and wire and wood, not after having seen that communicator, but he certainly hadn’t imagined something indistinguishable from a person.

Merlin shrugged, looking a bit… uncomfortable? Embarrassed? “Picas are. Malleable, to a degree. The model that my father bought me was meant as a toy for the very rich. I suppose it made sense to add all the bells and whistles to it that they could. You can change a PICA’s gender, hair colour, eye colour, even its height, a bit. I actually shortened myself by an inch.”

“But. Wait, you said there was a time limit on PICAs, that they could only be active for a few days.”

Merlin nodded. “That’s true. There was a computer programmer. A… a scientist, who worked with machines. He, hmmm,” Merlin frowned, searching for the words – Cayleb knew that expression all too well by now, “PICAs have certain built in instructions, like a valve that shuts off automatically when a tank is full enough. The ten-day time limit is like that, and it’s very hard to tamper with. However, the programmer found a way to… break that part of the instructions, or at least bridge over it, so that this PICA’s countdown timer doesn’t work.

“You. You’re a machine? Like the machines that ran the star-ships?”

“An Artificial Intelligence?” Merlin gave a smile, but it was a sickly, broken thing. “I suppose I am.” Merlin stood so abruptly he almost staggered, and went to stand in front of Cayleb’s window, staring blindly out through the closed glass.

For a handful of moments, it was all Cayleb could do to sit there and gape at Merlin as the seijin, the machine stood by his window, ramrod stiff, arms closed around himself like he was holding in a belly-wound.

“Are you-“ Cayleb floundered to a stop. What could he say?

“Sometimes,” Merlin said quietly, voice thick, “I don’t even know if I’m real.”

Oh. This, Cayleb realized, was the weight Merlin had been carrying. This maelstrom of doubt, of difference. Merlin wasn’t even alive. Or was he? Cayleb felt torn. Seijin, demon, woman, ghost, machine. What was Merlin, really? Was he even a person?

Cayleb felt shame flush over him. ‘Was he even a person’? What kind of question was that? What did it matter exactly what Merlin was? Hadn’t Cayleb already accepted that Merlin was a demon, or the next thing to it? Merlin was a person. A brave, loyal, lonely soul who made Cayleb strive to be a better man and a better prince, just by expecting the best from a reckless young hothead.

Cayleb put a hand on Merlin’s arm. The seijin turned his head stiffly, eyes too bright. And Cayleb put his arms around his friend, and hugged him. It was like hugging a statue, at first, but gradually the inhuman stiffness bled out of the seijin, until Merlin was leaning into Cayleb’s touch. Finally, Merlin returned the hug. Even if Merlin hadn’t been physically indistinguishable from a human, he would still have been real.

“It doesn’t matter what you are,” Cayleb said with certainty when he drew back to meet Merlin’s eyes. “Because I already know who you are, and that hasn’t changed just because I know more about you. Whatever you are, it’s still you in there.”

“Cayleb….” Merlin started, ran out of words. The last of the storm seemed to settle then, and Merlin quirked a shadow of a smile at Cayleb. “Thank you.”


*******************************************************************************



A/N: I was desperately looking forward to the whole ‘Merlin comes clean with Cayleb’ conversation/situation that I was sure was going to crop up in the Safehold series. And then Weber went and short-circuited it with the Order of St Zhernau and a cut-scene explanation that we’re told only lasted three hours, fooey. :P Don’t get me wrong, I love the series, but I really wanted to see this play out between the two of them. So I decided to write it myself. ^.^;;;;

See, even with Staynair to vouch for Merlin, I don’t know if it could have only taken three hours, and certainly I doubt that Cayleb would have been hung up on Merlin’s dead/female status of all things, unless it was as a defense mechanism to prevent him from having to examine too closely that Merlin and Staynair had just nuked his entire worldview. Unless Cayleb still doesn’t have the whole truth, but I don’t see how they could have explained just a part of it to him, Cayleb’s too smart not to ferret out the parts that don’t make sense(to him), and the only way it’d make sense would be if they gave him at least an overview of everything. I mean think about that.

Yes, Cayleb is smart, open-minded, and determined. I think Cayleb can take it, but it’s frankly a huge adjustment. Yes, Cayleb basically rejected the Church’s version of God on the Dreadnought, and conditionally disassociated himself from God if God wasn’t a loving and just God. But he’s still using a framework of ‘God created everything’ with no idea that there could be different worlds or, I mean, he doesn’t even have the concept of ‘ancient, defunct cultures’ because on Safehold there is no such thing.

It’s like the whole blue pill/red pill scene in the Matrix – his entire reality is about to be revealed as a lie, an illusion, a fabrication made for cynical, self-serving ends. And Cayleb didn’t grow up in late-20th Century USA like Neo did, and late-20th Century USA is pretty dang open-minded in comparison with the Safeholdian company line.

Also, I tweaked this so it’s a bit AU, making it so that King Haarald survived that last battle, because that means that Cayleb isn’t king quite yet (and I like Haarald =P ) which gives him more time to hang out with Merlin as opposed to getting caught up on OMG KINGSHIP!

I'm also not entirely happy with the ending, it feels a bit abrupt. But anything past that feels supurfluous, so, I dunno. =/

1 - yes, Safehold canonically subscribes to the geocentric theory of the universe (ie. sun circles around the planet).
2 - I don't know if Merlin adjusted his/her height, I made that up. (PICAs heights are adjustable in canon, I just don't know if Merlin took advantage of that)

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
fenikkusuken
May. 28th, 2012 09:41 pm (UTC)
No clue as to this fandom or these characters, but this was extremely well-written and obviously a labour of love! It kept me engrossed right up until the end - well done!
dogmatix_san
Jun. 11th, 2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Thank you ^_^ I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
jedibuttercup
May. 29th, 2012 12:11 am (UTC)
I gave up on the Safehold universe around book 4, mostly because of things like the copout with the Order of St. Zhernau; thank you for writing this.
dogmatix_san
Jun. 11th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading. :)

I'm hanging in there with the series, but the Order definitely greased the wheels too much. I liked it more when there was still that medieval/pre-renaissance mindset from Caleb, and he had to trust himself rather than taking the Order's word for Melin's non-demon-ness.

Plus I reeeaaaally would have preferred Merlin get to know Sharleyn(spelling? XD;) a lot better before spilling the beans like that. Although with Caleb to vouch for Melin, that would have helped a lot. And it would have been.. earned? I mean, with Caleb's built up history of mutual trust and respect, that would have carried a lot more weight than the Order's vouching for Merlin. Or something.

I won't be writing this, but in my head the logical extension of this is that when Caleb and Sharleyn get engaged, they swap bodyguards, so that Merlin can get to know Sharleyn, and vice versa. And then later when it all hits the fan, it would be nice if she either made that call to trust him independently, or did freak out about the 'demon' but kept on having to rely on Merlin due to circumstances. ....and I should stop talking about this before I talk myself into writing it *hides face in hands* XD;;;;;
mel_redcap
May. 29th, 2012 10:47 am (UTC)
It became their nightly habit, the Prince and his bodyguard sequestering themselves in Merlin’s chambers for an hour or so, and the rest of Cayleb’s protective detail adjusted around it.

Cayleb wondered if his bodyguards would have been quite as blasé about it if they knew what their charge and the resident seijin were discussing each night.


Some of the bodyguards probably think this fic needs warnings, ya know. *waggles eyebrows* >:D And I still love the scale model. :)
dogmatix_san
Jun. 11th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
XD hahaha! True! And man I wanna do the fic where Cayleb's all 'so... that rugby game *eyebrow waggle*'
Merlin: *quellingly* Yes. But after that I... didn't.
Cayleb: You can control that? *surprise*
Merlin: *even more quellingly* Yes. And I've had more important things to think about.
Cayleb: So you've never even.. *makes wanking motions and grins*
Merlin: *VERY quellingy* No.
Cayleb: Huhn. We'll have to work on that. 8D
mel_redcap
Jun. 11th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
I will totally read the follow-up fic if you write it, y'know. :3 And now I'm imagining Cayleb giving Merlin 'hands-on' instruction on how to wank properly... *snicker* >:D
skitscare
Jun. 2nd, 2012 03:04 am (UTC)
I actually went and bought the kindle version of the safehold series because this was just too interesting. :)
Although I have to agree with you about the explanation shortcuts the author uses. To me, how and when, and how much, you explain something is really important to character development and relationship development between characters.
I will probably insert this as my personal head canon when I get that far in the books. ;)
Thank you for the wonderful story and the introduction into new fandoms.
dogmatix_san
Jun. 11th, 2012 04:20 am (UTC)
^__^ Whoot! I'm glad you liked the fic, and I hope you enjoy the series.
seshat_maat
Jul. 23rd, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
Yes. This. I like the elaboration in later books that the Order has laid some of the world-disbelieving groundwork, but the way it gets used to evade describing the process of realization is...frustrating. Especially in the case of Cayleb, and you do a spectacular job drawing that out here. I love the specificity of the things that he has trouble understanding, and the way that he simultaneously clings to and is disturbed by Merlin.
dogmatix_san
Aug. 16th, 2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :) I loved doing this fic so much, and feedback like this is wonderful. I hope I do the source material(the first book in the series) justice, because Weber did such a marvelous job of slowly bringing Cayleb around from Church-canon to trusting his own sense of justice even when the Church/Group of Four would tell him it was wrong.

And that's a large part of what made the Merlin-Cayleb dynamic work for me, that slow dance where Merlin would try to be sneaky somewhat ordinary(and sometimes fail horribly at it XD ) and Cayleb would be smart and think things through and then call Merlin on it.

I think it also helps that Cayleb was still a teenager, still flexible and growing, when he first encountered Merlin. And of course the fact that the Church is an active opponent, but it's still a huge show of trust for Cayleb to throw in with his 'demon' in the face of his worldview.

And Cayleb does have a worldview that is completely based in Church doctrine. It's not that he chooses to believe that God created Safehold, he knows that God created Safehold and gave people writing etc, for a fact. And here's Merlin telling him that a lot of what he knows is wrong, while Merlin himself is strange and quite literally unnatural.

I had to work out what Cayleb's worldview would be, for the fic, and even I was surprised by how different it was from what Merlin's telling him, because on the surface the two realities are pretty close, or at least how they express themselves. But once you get down into the nitty gritty... I found myself going 'huh...' quite a few times because yes, Cayleb knows that the sun orbits around Safehold, and that God created mankind and awoke them all at the same time, and he has no idea about things like hardware vs. software or computers or even electricity, and here's Merlin explaining spaceships and Artificial Intelligences.

That's actually a subtle thing that I put in - Cayleb is still having difficulty with the whole idea of software vs. hardware, and with the idea of computer programs. He can just barely get his mind around ships(and other objects, like the communicator) that involve very small cogs and levers and moving parts(which is to say, hardwired decision making), but software? Not so much. So Cayleb equates 'really adavanced machine' with 'artificial intelligence' pretty much on faith - he can kind of grasp the shape of the idea, but it's hard for him.

And I admit for the later books I kind of... felt a bit let down? That everyone just kind of goes with it I mean, because they have the exact same worldview that Cayleb started with, and lack Cayleb's basis of trust with the 'demon' that's the source of all this new knowledge. And the Order of St Zhernau, er, honestly felt a bit like cheating, and also I don't know if even that would have been enough to have everyone accept it like they do. Because it is a big deal, and should be treated as such, and the Merlin-Cayleb situation was handled so beautifully in the first book that I wanted more of that kind of dynamic. (man this comment is almost starting to get as long as the fic XD;; )

I also have a very tenacious plunnie that's insisting I do the Merlin-Sharleyan(sp) reveal, and do it in a very different way. I'm not sure when it will be done, but... expect it in the next few months? X3;

Edited at 2012-08-16 10:46 pm (UTC)
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