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The Key, the Sorcerer and the Gate

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Summary: Dawn's powers land them in Colorado Springs. Random? Yes. Supernatural? They don't think so... until Merlin discovers the dimension is magicless and Dawn feels an unusual sensation.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Merlin
Stargate > Dawn-Centered
morenaFR15320,1702325,94213 Jun 1214 Aug 12Yes

Part 1 of 3

Okay, so I promised and now here I'm delivering. This story is a sequel/side-story to my much longer story Key in the Kingdom. I strongly recommend to anyone unfamiliar with it, go back and read it first as otherwise the entire premise of this story won't make a whole lot of sense. Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy the insanity I've created! This story takes place sometime during the beginning of 7 of Stargate:SG1.

Thanks to theGlaistig for betaing this story!

Disclaimer: Merlin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stargate: SG1 all belong to their respective studios and writers. All I did was mash them all together.



The Key, the Sorcerer and the Gate
Story 1 of the Continuing Adventures of Dawn and Merlin


It had taken a few months, but finally Merlin had gotten used to the twenty-first century. He still found it too fast, too loud and too cluttered, yet he also loved how interesting that made it. City streets were so vibrant and lively even though so much of them wasn't actually alive in the sense that Merlin could feel. And the different types of people! And the sheer amount of information he could access! And, and... he could go on.

It wasn't until his travels with Dawn that he realized how much he truly loved learning new things. Learning medicine from Gaius had been a necessity and not even one of his own choosing. Studying magic had been a love/hate affair at first: he loved using his magic and learning new spells, but he hated having to do so in secret, resenting that he couldn't do it freely, without the sliver of fear that haunted his steps. Later, when he'd been able to practice magic freely, he'd had responsibilities and developing his magic, learning new spells or creating them himself was always tied in to whatever problems were arising in the kingdom. Only rarely did he manage to have time completely to himself to practice or study whatever struck his fancy (he'd always wanted to learn to fly – without calling on the dragon).

Now, however, despite the great gaping hole where the other side of his coin was missing, he had the opportunity to simply be Merlin. Inasmuch as he could ever be simple...

After visiting two demon dimensions (because Merlin found himself fascinated by the differences and similarities between the magic of the Old Religion and the wilder, darker, non-human magic) Dawn had taken them to her own dimension, where he'd met Buffy Summers properly and gotten a more comprehensive crash-course in the twenty-first century so that he wouldn't make a complete idiot of himself should they get separated.

Their first two dimension hops after that were fairly uneventful. Well, relatively speaking. To Merlin everything was new and exciting. He was continuously amazed by how easily books and other things could be obtained. Both dimensions seemed more like alternate universes, as Dawn called them, being magically similar to Dawn's own. It was in the second dimension that Dawn had bought a large, hardcover notebook in order to keep notes on the attributes of each dimension/universe they visited.

By their third hop, they'd figured out a system. As soon as they came out of their bubble, they began to walk, just wandering around aimlessly until they figured out where they were. Usually a quick glance at a newspaper stand would tell them that, or else some business would contain the city's name in its own. This time it took all of two minutes for them to figure out where they were, because, as it turned out, they'd entered the dimension two alleys down from the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Merlin turned to Dawn.

“Alright, where is Colorado Springs?” he asked. Figuring out geography was her job for now; most of the geography Merlin knew was horribly out of date.

“America, in the state of Colorado,” she answered with a frown. “Wow, that's really random. Why here? First time we were in another version of London and then the second time we weren't in London, but close enough for it to sort of make sense. This, however, is, like, nowhere near the area.”

Merlin shrugged.

“Should we get a map?”

“Uh, yeah, probably. It's big enough and I've never been here.”

So they found a small grocery (another thing Merlin couldn't quite get used to, having all that food together in one place and all year round) and bought some bottled water, a couple of apples and bananas, some energy bars, a newspaper and a map. Then they made their way to the closest park and it became Merlin's turn.

He sat down on the grass, took a deep breath and gently sent his magic into the ground. After a few moments, he frowned and pushed a little more, expanding his senses further, deeper.

Dawn sat nearby watching him with half an eye as she studied the newspaper, trying to figure out why her powers would've brought her here. Was there some sort of magical focus here, like a hellmouth? She didn't feel anything out of the ordinary, but then it had been proven to her more than once that having grown up on a hellmouth meant such things rarely felt unusual to her.

The newspaper was a bust as well. It was the perfect example of a city paper: crime seemed average, obituaries consisting of octogenarians and one cancer victim and no unusual-sounding sightings of anything. Or strange gas pipe explosions.

She skipped the sports, business and entertainment sections and then blinked in surprise when she suddenly found herself at the end of the paper. Merlin was usually done by the time she was finished the locals, let alone the rest of it. Dawn looked up, worried. Merlin was still in his meditative trance, although there was a confused frown on his face.

“Merlin?” she asked softly.

For two heartbeats, nothing happened. And then Merlin slowly opened his eyes, the golden glow of magic bright as he gathered his magic back to himself. It was an amazing thing to watch. Even if Dawn couldn't see magic the way Willow could, she could sense it enough to feel how the vast well of Merlin's magic retracted from his surroundings and was absorbed back into the shell of his body, filling each of his cells and giving them a vitality that had been lacking only seconds before. It wasn't that Merlin otherwise looked wane or unhealthy, but rather with his magic, Merlin somehow glowed. Seeing the transformation, subtle though it may be, made Dawn wonder how anyone could ever look at him and see just an ordinary man.

“It's... odd,” Merlin finally said after the golden glow disappeared from his eyes. “The magic's there, it has to be: I'm pretty sure the world needs magic to exist as much as it needs water and sun. But, it's like...” He paused, looking thoughtful for a moment. “It's like the magic is dormant, asleep. I had to dig really deep in order to find it and then it felt more like a bubble somewhere in the centre of the Earth instead of a flowing entity.”

He met Dawn's eyes, wincing slightly.

“I was a bit worried about what it meant, so I just sort of poked at the edges. It seemed to react to me, but sluggishly, um, like it wasn't used to being found?”

Dawn thought about this, wondering what it could possibly mean.

“So, you're saying you don't think anyone uses magic around here? That for all intents and purposes, this dimension is totally magicless?”

Merlin shrugged.

"Looks like it.”

“Wow.” Dawn paused. “I mean, I guess I always considered that a possibility. If there's dimensions out there with mostly demon-y magic, then there has to be one where there's no magic. It's just so... weird.”

“Absolutely. It's like there's something missing.”

“Do you think you can still do magic?”

Merlin looked at Dawn as though he were shocked by the very suggestion.

“Of course!” he exclaimed, looking almost offended. Then he made a slight face and shrugged as Dawn giggled. “I mean probably nothing too powerful, but as I'm apparently the only sorcerer in this dimension, I don't think I'll need to be able to fight another magic user.”

Just then, something happened.

Dawn had no idea what this 'something' was, only that she felt the rush through her bones and it wasn't anything like the rush of magic, yet it was also exactly like it. She gasped with the sensation, her head snapping in the direction it was coming from. In the far distance, somewhere behind all the buildings of the city, she could see a faint glow of... something. It almost felt familiar, not like something she knew, but maybe a second cousin of something she knew.

It vanished.

“Dawn, what is it?” Merlin asked.

He was standing next to her (when had she stood up?) looking in the same direction, eyes glowing with magic. Then the glow faded and he shook his head and turned to her.

“Your eyes were glowing green; what did you feel?” he asked.

Dawn blinked. Her eyes had been glowing?

“Oh. I'm, uh, I'm not sure. It was like magic, but not.”

“It wasn't magic, I would've felt magic.” He paused for a moment. “Want to check it out?”

“Oh yeah.”

And that was how they found themselves hiding in the forest just as the moon was coming up, looking down at the huge, heavily-guarded gates of the Cheyenne Mountain USAF base. Dawn had felt the same sensation twice more during the afternoon, both times confirming they were going in the right direction and allowing her to consult their map and make a few guesses as to where they were likely coming from. A few city buses later, Dawn and Merlin had found themselves close enough to the edge of the city that they could walk into the forest and make their way towards the air force base.

Merlin was trying to wrap his head around the idea that a military fortress was inside a mountain instead of on top of it. Meanwhile, Dawn was suddenly confronted with the reality of her utterly insane plan. In order to find out what it was she'd been feeling all day, they were going to have to break into a heavily-guarded military base.

Boy would she be embarrassed if they managed to get in and it turned out all she was feeling was the Santa-tracker. Fun story to tell Buffy, but maaajor embarrassment.

“Okay, so don't suppose you have any stealth spells we can use to help us get in?” she asked Merlin.

“You mean like turning us invisible or stopping time so that we can get past the guards?” Merlin answered with a smirk.

Dawn gaped. Merlin looked smug.

“Um, yeah, that'll do.”

They decided to wait until morning, when more people would be moving in and out of the base – which went against Merlin's instincts, but after Dawn's description of security cameras, he agreed to her plan of following someone in. It also gave them the opportunity to grab a few hours of sleep before attempting to sneak into the mountain.

After a quick breakfast of energy bars and apples, Dawn and Merlin crept along the edge of the forest, until they'd gotten as close to the base as they could without using any magic. They'd ended up deciding to take their packs with them in case they got caught and Dawn had to hop them out of this dimension in a hurry.

Merlin whispered the spell, his flashed and Dawn felt the familiar tingle of magic settle around her. Her eyes widened as she suddenly realized the one major problem with an invisibility spell.

“Uh, Merlin, how are we going to do this if I can't see you?”

She jumped as something touched her arm and held on. She heard Merlin whisper something else and then another tingle layered itself over top of the first one. Merlin's figure shimmered into existence beside her, holding her arm, though he looked slightly paler, more ghost-like than usual.

“Merlin?”

Merlin grinned at her.

“I've perfected this one over the years. The first part of the spell is to make us invisible and then the second part makes us visible to each other.”

“Oh. Cool.” She echoed his grin. “So, we good to go then? No second thoughts?”

Merlin snorted.

“This is hardly the craziest thing I've ever done. Going out to face a dragon when I had no idea if I actually had the power to control it? That was insane. This... well alright, so this may be one of the more insane things I've ever done, but at least they aren't likely to kill me the second they see me.”

“Because we'll be invisible.”

“Exactly.”

Dawn took a deep breath.

“Right, let's do this then.”

Dawn thought that walking through the guard station, right in front of the guards, was very, very weird. Also, extremely cool. While they'd waited for the guards to open the gates for a legitimate person to drive through, she'd amused herself by making silly faces at them. The one on the right was especially cute, so she pinched his butt as she walked by. He yelped and swung his weapon around, looking for the evil, butt-pinching enemies. When his co-guard called out to him find out what was wrong, he flushed and resumed his post.

Merlin had to drag Dawn off before she gave them away by laughing out loud. But she could tell he was amused.

“That's nothing, you should've seen what Gwaine used to do,” he said - well whispered, since they were trying to be as quiet as possible.

Their first snag awaited them just inside the entrance to the base. Dawn had to pull Merlin to the side.

“You know how you said you could stop time?” she whispered into his ear. He nodded. “Well, I think you'll need to use that now.”

Merlin looked confused, glancing with a frown to the entry, which had two guards standing on either side of a white arch and a third manning some sort of moving counter like the grocery stores used. People were placing their bags onto it before passing through the arch and then picked them up on the other side. It all seemed a little silly to Merlin.

“That white thing they're all walking through?” Dawn began to answer his unspoken question when she realized this wouldn't make sense to him. “That's a metal detector – it'll sound an alarm if anything metal passes through it and I don't know about you, but I've got a short sword and a collapsible crossbow in my bag and at least two knives on me. And that's just the actual weapons.”

A machine to detect metal? Merlin decided it was a really good thing no one wore armour anymore in the twenty-first century.

He grabbed Dawn's hand and told the world to stop. He never had managed to figure out how to describe to others exactly how he did it: whether just to stop the time of a specific thing, or for everything, it just sort of always happened when he wanted it to.

Everything around them froze and then Merlin led Dawn through the white metal detector arch. When they were on the other side and safely out of the way, he let loose his grip on the world and time around them resumed. They looked back at the security checkpoint.

“You know, if they do catch us, they'll never believe how we got in,” Dawn whispered.

Merlin chuckled.

Dawn suddenly felt a faint brush of that same 'something' she'd felt yesterday coming. She turned around, trying to pin-point where it was coming from. She ignored Merlin's enquiries, focusing all her attention on that feeling. Finally, she spotted a woman with short blonde hair walking towards a set of elevators. Dawn followed quickly. Luckily, there was another security checkpoint between them and the elevators, which slowed her down.

Someone grabbed her arm and the world around Dawn froze. She blinked and then turned to Merlin, whose eyes were glowing.

“I figured we needed to get around the security station here anyway,” he said by way of explanation. He motioned towards the woman. “I take it you want to follow that blonde woman, who just entered the line?”

“Wha- oh, uh, yeah,” Dawn answered. “She feels, sort of the same as that whatever it was from yesterday, except not nearly as strong. Kind of... more like she's come into contact with it and I'm feeling residue from the contact.”

Merlin nodded. “Magic does that too. I can't feel whatever it is you're feeling.” He frowned. “At least I don't think so, anyway. Either way, there's definitely something off about her. I can feel it in the same way I can sometimes tell when a woman's pregnant or a person's near death. Except... “ He shook his head. “I don't know, I really don't.”

“But I guess that means you agree with my choice to use her to get in?”

“Yes.”

They strolled past the security checkpoint. Dawn took a peek at it as they passed.

“Oooh, palm scans. Fancy.”

“What do they do?”

“Scan your palm to make sure you're you.” Just then, she noticed the emblem on the wall. “Hoshit! This is freakin' NORAD!”

“Which is?”

Dawn opened her mouth to answer. She closed it again, frowning. “You know, I can't remember what it stands for. It's some sort of national defence system of satellites and radars and stuff, to defend against attacks from the air. I think.”

“Like those airplane things?”

“Yeah, like those.”

Just then Dawn noticed Merlin was sweating a bit.

“Hey, are you okay?” she asked.

Merlin nodded. “The lack of natural magic is making it more difficult to do spells. I mean, I'm nowhere near my limit, but it's like trying to walk against a gale-force wind.”

“Oh my god, why didn't you say anything?!”

“Sorry, I wanted to test it to see if it was just my imagination.”

“Well, we're past the checkpoint now, so you can let it go.”

The world resumed its regular motions.

Dawn and Merlin waited for the woman to pass through security. Just as she'd done so, something seemed to draw her attention and she looked back. She smiled widely at someone and then stepped to the side, waiting until a small brunette passed through security and signed the book at the end.

“Okay, new problem,” Dawn hissed at Merlin. “What if more people join her in the elevator? We won't be able to hide if they're on top of us!”

Merlin looked behind them and his eyes glowed. If Dawn hadn't been looking, she probably wouldn't have noticed the floor suddenly become slightly shinier. They slipped into the elevator and stepped into the corner opposite the two women. Merlin grinned as several big, burly men suddenly had trouble keeping their balance on the smooth tile floor.

The doors closed just as the two women noticed the commotion. Dawn noticed with surprise they were going all the way to the bottom floor. During the ride down the two women chatted about random, inconsequential things. The two infiltrators did find out the shorter one was a doctor and her name was Janet and the blonde women they were originally following was called Sam and she was some sort of scientist.

Then the conversation turned much more personal and Dawn had to stuff a hand into her mouth in order to stifle the giggles that threatened to erupt at a pink-eared Merlin, who suddenly looked like he wanted to melt into the elevator wall.

Finally, the elevator stopped and the women got out.

And walked up to yet another security checkpoint. With a single elevator behind it. Dawn paused, looking around.

“Uh, Merlin, do you mind stopping time so we can just run to the elevator over there? I don't think I trust the empty corridor. This is starting to look like something super top secret and I'm thinking there might be, like, heat or motion sensors or something built into the walls that I can't see.”

Merlin blinked, but nodded. He waved his hand and, once again, everything froze. He and Dawn quickly crossed over to where the elevators were. Once there, he resumed time and they waited for the two women to get in before following. There were clearly a lot less people going down to wherever it was they were heading.

Dawn was beginning to get really nervous. They were infiltrating a highly classified US military project. This was big deal.

If only her sister could see her now. No, scratch that. Buffy would kill her. Xander would find it very amusing, but would put on a 'responsible older brother' front. Spike and Faith would cheer her on and then demand to know why they weren't included in the fun.

The second elevator ride was rather short (although Dawn couldn't help but note that at this point they were very, very deep underground). They followed the women out of the elevator, down a hall and then into a relatively large room lined with metal lockers and full of women in various states of undress.

Thankfully, there was enough noise in the room to cover the stuttered choking noise Merlin made before he turned bright red and practically ran back out of the room. Dawn followed, her own face red from keeping her laughter in.

Eventually, the two women emerged from the locker room now dressed in military fatigues and looking like the air force officers they were. Dawn read the stitching on their uniforms as they stood by the elevators again: Major Janet Fraiser and Major Samantha Carter.

“So, I hear SG1's off on a mission tomorrow?” Janet was asking.

“Yup, briefing's in less than an hour, but I think I've pretty much already got my notes together,” Sam answered. “I just want to go check and see if Daniel's in yet first. There's something that's bothering me about one of the MALP images.”

“Well, when you see him, could you kindly remind Doctor Jackson to come by for his anti-histamine shot at some point today? Preferably in the morning, since SG12 are due back around eleven hundred hours and SG3 somewhere around fourteen hundred.”

“Sure thing, Janet.”

“Thanks.” The elevator stopped. “Oh, well, guess this is my stop. See you around.”

“See yah!”

Janet stepped out of the elevator and two men in camo fatigues took her place. They nodded a greeting to Sam, who nodded back, but none of them spoke. Dawn and Merlin had to do some clever side-stepping to avoid bumping into any of the them.

The floor they got off on looked exactly the same as both of the other floors they'd seen.

Following behind Sam became a bit more difficult as they had to dodge a lot more people on their way, many of them moving hurriedly along from place to place, which made them more erratic in their movements. As a result, they were quite a few feet behind Sam when she stopped at a door that was slightly ajar and didn't hear her address the person inside at first. They did, however, catch the slightly exasperated, worried look she directed at said person.

“-briefing in an hour,” she was saying when they finally made it to her side.

“Briefing?” came a voice from the inside of the room – Dawn glimpsed a man with glasses sitting at a large computer desk and figured it was likely an office. “Wait, what time is it?”

There was a pause and then a string of curses in a surprisingly diverse number of languages. Anyone, who managed to curse in multiple languages and include at least one Dawn didn't recognize impressed her (especially, since there were a few languages she, thanks to Spike, only knew how to curse in). This man was also very inventive. Beside her, she could see Sam grin fondly at him.

“Guess this means you won't have time to look at something before we meet with the rest of the team?” she said lightly, clearly amused by her friend's panicked shuffling and file-saving.

“Uh, maybe...?” he looked back at the clock and sighed. “No, probably not.”

Beside her, Dawn suddenly felt Merlin tense. His head whipped to the side and then he was quickly backpedalling as a large, dark shape moved into the space he'd just vacated. Dawn's eyes widened. She hadn't felt anyone approaching.

“Good morning, Major Carter, Daniel Jackson,” the large, black man said in clipped, formal manner, nodding to each of them in turn.

“Good morning Teal'c,” said Sam.

“Oh, hi Teal'c,” Daniel echoed. “On your way to breakfast?”

“Indeed.”

“Well, I'll be happy to join you.” Sam smiled up at the big man, who somehow managed to take up half the corridor without trying. Then she turned to Daniel. “Daniel?”

“Um, you two go ahead and I'll meet you in the commissary after a quick shower,” he said as he gulped down the last of his coffee.

The other two stepped to the side as Daniel ran out of his office with a parting 'See you in fifteen”. Sam and Teal'c exchanged amused smiles. Sam shook her head, not noticing when her companion stiffened and frowned, eyes narrowing in suspicion as he began scanning their surroundings.

Dawn held her breath. The man was an imposing presence, but it was the coiled energy she could feel just underneath his skin that had her on edge. He reminded her of Buffy or Spike: a predator, a warrior. Odd Egyptian tattoo on his forehead aside, he also simply felt a bit off in a way that had Dawn's Sunnydaledar sounding Red Alert. He wasn't a demon, though.

Dawn took a step backwards, feeling the wall against her backpack. She twisted a bit to the side, so that her clothed arm was touching the metal wall and then, as quietly as possible, slid down the wall. He took another step towards her, now looming over her and Dawn wondered how long she could go without breathing.

“Teal'c?” Sam asked, finally noticing her companion's actions. “Is something-”

She froze mid-sentence and Dawn looked over and met Merlin's glowing eyes. Without a word, she slipped away, her eyes wide as she realized the man looked like he was about to reach out to touch the wall she'd been curled against.

“Okay, he's no ordinary soldier,” she said needlessly.

“He feels different in the same way, uh, Sam does, but stronger,” said Merlin with a nod. “Almost, I don't know, less human.”

“He's not a demon though.”

“Nor does he have any magic. I've never encountered anyone, who feels like him.”

“Hmm... either way, he's a warrior and he's got great instincts. Which, you know, yay for him, not so yay for us.”

“Do you still want to try and follow Sam?”

Dawn grimaced. “Not if this Teal'c guy sticks with her. And, come of think of it, that's a really weird name. I can't think of what language it would be from, but it doesn't sound like one of those made-up hippy names either. I suppose it could be from some small African tribe or something.”

Merlin shrugged. Dawn looked over and noticed how pale his skin looked.

“We should probably get out of the way and let them leave. You need to conserve your energy.”

Merlin had no objections to that, so they moved to the end of the corridor and then Merlin released the spell and the world moved on they way it was supposed to.

Teal'c reached out to touch the wall, sweeping the area in front of him with his hand and finding nothing. Sam looked worried, but eventually, he shook his head and stepped away from the wall. He took one, last look around him with confused eyes, which had Dawn and Merlin ducking down and around the corner, just in case he could feel their eyes on him. Both of them had experience dealing with seasoned warriors and neither one of them was willing to take any chances.

Finally, he seemed satisfied nothing was out of place and he and Sam walked off to get breakfast. Dawn and Merlin breathed a sigh of relief.

“So, what now?” Merlin whispered. Dawn thought about it for a minute.

“Wanna check out that office?” she whispered back. “Might give us an idea of what's going on here.”

“Sure.”

Had Dawn not needed to remain silent in order to maintain their cover, the office would've sent her into proper Californian throws of squealing rapture. It was a relatively large office lined with shelves full of texts, not one of them military. It didn't take her long to realize Daniel Jackson was a doctor of either archaeology, or linguistics, or possibly both, but either way something very close to Dawn's heart. There seemed to be a lot of ancient civilizations represented in both texts and artifacts around the office. Mostly Egyptian, but she also recognized a whole slew of others. The centre of the office was taken up by a large table littered with tablets, more artifacts, both open and closed texts and miles of papers.

It reminded her of Giles' office, only less organized.

Dawn sat down at the computer and wiggled the mouse to get the screen to come up. She swore when it asked her for a password. Hardly surprising, but annoying nonetheless. Then she noticed the ceramic jar sitting beside the computer. There was a legal pad full of hand-written notes. She began skimming the notes. Apparently, Jackson had been trying to decipher what was written on the jar in order to figure out what it was for and where it was from. As she read through the notes, she became more and more intrigued by the jar itself, but also by the mystery surrounding the project she and Merlin had infiltrated.

The very fact that the location the jar had been found in was written as a series of letters and numbers instead of a set of GPS co-ordinates or by the name of a country, town, or region was very curious.

Suddenly, Merlin was hissing a warning and Dawn put the legal pad down and stood up. Daniel Jackson entered his office in a hurry and Dawn and Merlin dived under the table. She winced at the pack she'd accidentally left laying beside the desk and hoped the man didn't trip over it. Thankfully, it still seemed to have that ghostly see-through look that meant it was invisible to everyone but her and Merlin.

From underneath the table, the two of them watched as the lower part of Daniel Jackson raced around the room. Dawn heard him fiddling with some sort of contraption on top of a table beside his desk, there was the sound of running water and then minutes later, Dawn had to nearly physically restrain herself from groaning as the wonderful aroma of coffee began to permeate the room. Then there was a lot of paper shuffling as Daniel frantically searched through the piles of paper on his desk and the table they were hiding under. Finally, the coffee finished brewing and the archaeologist poured himself a cup before grabbing a CD off the shelf above his desk along with a thick file and rushing out the door. He turned abruptly at the last second to turn off the lights and shut the door.

Several moments passed. Then, with a few whispered words, a blue ball of light floated upwards from Merlin's palm and bathed the office with an eerie, pale glow. They crawled out from under the table and Dawn walked over to turn the electrical light back on. The blue ball slowly shrunk and disappeared.

Dawn made a bee-line for the coffeemaker. She then frantically searched for an extra mug, making a face at the unidentifiable sludge at the bottom of the mug sitting next to it. She snorted at the mug though: it was covered with a print of the old movie poster for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, except that someone had taken a permanent marker and crossed out 'Jones' and wrote in 'Jackson' and drew in a pair of glasses on Harrion Ford's face. She found five other mugs scattered around the office, all containing cold coffee of various ages.

“Need some help there?” Merlin finally asked.

“No, what I need is a clean mug.”

Merlin walked over to the back of the office, where they'd heard running water from earlier. Sure enough, there was a small washroom there. Merlin turned the water on and whispered a spell he'd once used so often he no longer needed to think about its casting. He swallowed around a sudden lump in his throat as he remembered the first time Arthur had caught him using it. He heard Dawn yelp from the other room as the mug she was glaring at jumped up and floated away from her along with all its brother and sisters scattered around the room. Several plates, some cutlery and a water glass followed them.

Dawn peeked around the corner. For several moments she did nothing, merely stood there staring at Merlin, who was leaning against the wall next to the sink, smirking as the dishes all washed themselves, left the water and then became dry and gleaming in seconds. She stepped out of the way as they then floated out of the washroom and stacked themselves onto an empty space on the large table (the only empty space on the table).

“Remind me to make you watch The Sword in the Stone,” she finally said. “Also, thank you; you're amazing and I love you.”

Merlin chuckled.

“You're welcome,” he answered.

Dawn grabbed the Indiana Jackson mug as it floated past her and went to pour herself some coffee. She took a sip and groaned happily.

“Oh wow, this guy's got the really good stuff,” she said with a wide, blissful smile.

Then she walked back to Daniel Jackson's desk to take another look at the jar. She picked it up and blinked, turning it around completely around and blinked again.

“Huh,” she said softly. “It's written in Fyarl. No wonder he's having such a hard time translating it.”

“Dawn?”

“This jar, it's written in Fyarl, which is a demon language. Not a super uncommon one, but it's purely demon, no human influences whatsoever. Also, fyarl demons are kinda on the duller end of the tack box, so finding any sort of art with their language written on it is just plain weird. I wonder where the military got it from.”

Dawn flipped through the legal pad Daniel Jackson had been using until she found a blank page. Then she folded all the other pages over so that she could write and set to work. Fyarl was a bizarre language: long-winded and prone to repeating itself in its natural form (people, who learned to speak Fyarl tended to dispense with the repeating and so the spoken language was slowly becoming shorter and simpler, but even more modern Fyarl was fairly long-winded in its written form and what Dawn was looking at had clearly never seen a modern dictionary of any kind). She'd done more difficult translations before, but this one was going to be tedious.

As Dawn concentrated on the demon jar, Merlin occupied himself by browsing through the books that lined the office walls. He wished he had the time to properly browse through the volumes, but they had only limited time and needed to figure out what was going on. Though warfare had clearly changed quite a bit since his time, he was certain that no army would study history or ancient artifacts just for the sake of knowledge. Especially with magic out of the equation altogether.

Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious to Merlin he had no idea what he was looking for. The history he was reading was fascinating. He'd heard of Egypt, certainly, and had always meant to someday go visit and learn from the magician priests he'd heard of, however he knew next to nothing about its actual history. In short, he had no idea whether what he was reading was at all out of the ordinary.

Looking over, he saw Dawn studiously writing on the legal pad, pausing every once in a while to adjust or squint at the jar in front of her. After a few moments of internal debating, he decided to leave her be for now. As he replaced the book he was currently holding back onto the shelf, he spied another shelf further to his right, this one full of large, black binders, each labled clearly with a white lable. Curious, Merlin walked over to them.

This, he decided, looked infinitely more promising. He pulled out the binder labled 'System Lords' and began leafing through it.

Dawn finally sat back and looked at the clock. Just over an hour had passed. She smiled proudly down at the finished translation.

“Finished?”

She turned to Merlin, who was looking up at her from the binder he'd been reading from. She smiled at him.

“Yup, all done. Although I still haven't got a clue where they got this thing from, but I think it actually explains a few things.”

“Oh?”

Merlin placed the binder down on the table and went to walk over to her. Dawn got up to stretch her legs a bit.

Which was when the office door opened and Doctor Daniel Jackson walked in.



Well, so how's that for a start, huh? I'd love to hear your comments now!
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