A Charade of Humanity
I do not own Merlin or Angel the Series. All rights reserved to the actual owners. Author’s Note:
Yes, I realize (now) that in chapter 1 I say that Wesley doesn’t have his collapsible sword, and in chapter 2 I have him use it. Call it what it is – brain fart on the part of the author. We’re going to go with the chapter 2 version going forward. So yes, Wes has his collapsible sword with him.
Thanks to deiticlast, for beta-reading. The Ruins of My Kingdom to Come
Chapter 3: A Charade of Humanity
“How can you not determine where on this world we are?” Illyria demanded of him as they stopped their trek through the forest. As Illyria continued to berate him, Wesley took a moment to give the clearing they were stopping in a quick once over. As per usual, there were no signs of civilization. “We have been walking through this forest for two days.” Yes. Two days through a generic forest. The Earth had quite a lot of them fourteen hundred years ago, in case you didn’t notice, Illyria.
Not that she likely had noticed, he admitted.
The two days they had spent wandering through the forest had been far from enjoyable. They had come across a few streams and Wesley was at least able to quench his thirst at them. He tried not to think about how unhealthy the water was likely to be. And last night he’d killed a rabbit and cooked it, so his hunger was at least a little dealt with, but he would be quite grateful when they finally reached some form of civilization. Wesley was not one for spending excessive amounts of time in wilderness.
“I have not been able to determine our location because I’ve yet to see any landmarks or historical anchors I could use to extrapolate our location. Were we to see the Great Pyramids or something like that, I could tell you we were at Giza, for example.”
“Pitiful monuments to pitiful kings.” Illyria said, softly. “Vahla ha'nesh was far grander than they could ever be.”
“Perhaps.” Wesley didn’t concede the point. But he wasn’t in the mood to argue with her either, regarding the legacy of human history. One didn’t argue with Illyria and expect to win the argument. “From the climate, the flora and the fauna, I can surmise that our most likely location is somewhere in northern Europe. But I can’t be sure, nor can I be more exact than that. I am not a meteorologist, botanist or a zoologist.” He sighed. “Our best bet is to keep wandering until we encounter someone living and then we can find out from whatever language they speak where we are.”
“You will be able to understand them then?” Illyria asked, raising an eyebrow in an astonishingly human-like movement. “Or will you need me to translate for you? The number and nature of the languages you speak is unknown to me.”
“And you would automatically necessarily know whatever language it is that we end up encountering?” Wesley asked, raising his own eyebrow in response. “As I recall, Fred only knew, apart from English, Latin and Pylean. Adding in the various demonic languages you would know, yes, but I fail to see how you feel you can be guaranteed to be able to communicate with whatever humans we do encounter.”
“Do not mistake the human form of this shell, or the fact of my recent weakness as evidence of thinking like a human, or being possessed of a mind that operates like that of a human.” Illyria said, a hint of sternness in her tone.
“I never have.” Wesley replied truthfully.
“So you believe. But by assuming that a mere human language could prove any difficulty for me, you in fact did. Given a few minutes of listening, I can understand and speak quite clearly any language spoken by your kind.”
“That is…interesting.” Indeed it was. Wesley filed it away in his mind, for later. Even in their current situation, Wesley never stopped being who and what he was. Learning more about Illyria remained one of his primary focuses, and this bit of information simply enhanced his larger understanding. Finally, Wesley decided to answer the question she had asked him. “I speak a number of languages, as you know full well. And among them are effectively any languages we are likely to encounter if we are indeed in northern Europe as I suspect.” He turned to look at her. Illyria still wore her characteristic armor – not that he’d ever seen her wearing anything else – and her hair remained blue, her skin still possessed of the patches of blue here and there.
“Is there any way you can change your appearance to look…more human?” Wesley held up a hand to interrupt her and elaborated. “Yes, your form is human, but humans don’t tend to have eyes so…crystalline as yours, nor do they have patches of blue coloration as you do. At the very least, it’s going to attract the wrong kind of attention. And in this day and age, assuming something strange looking isn’t human is not that much of a leap.”
Without a word, Illyria’s appearance changed. Suddenly, she didn’t look like Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, possessing Fred…she looked like Fred…down to the clothing. The exact clothing Fred had worn… “Does this serve adequately with your intent, then, Wesley?”
It was…incongruous to hear the harsh, inhuman tone of Illyria coming from what was so obviously Fred…but seeing her again…seeing Fred again…but knowing the truth. Knowing that it wasn’t Fred… it felt like a blow to the stomach, and it was all he could to not actually double over in pain…it wrenched at his heart. “No.” Wesley replied harshly. “Return to your normal appearance.” He said it like an order, and Illyria changed back. “Never do that again.”
“Do not seek to order me, Qwa'ha Xahn. I am not yours to command.” Illyria’s tone was more imperious – which was saying something – than it had been recently.
“If you want me to remain as your Qwa’ha Xahn, you will never wear the form of Fred again.” Wesley replied, his tone as harsh as it had been moments before. “Is there no way you can appear less so obviously not human…without appearing as Fred?” He forced himself back on topic, but the pain was still throbbing within him.
“I am Illyria, God-King of the Primordium.” She replied. “I will not disguise who I am –“
“You will if you expect to get anywhere. Your name may be largely unknown, but there are those who will realize who and what you are, and you are in no position to deal with the powers of this era.” Then he paused, and considered. “Speaking of, you may want to, when you eventually get the opportunity, see to it that the Slayer’s Scythe is hidden somewhere else, since it would remain the most efficient way of killing you.” Wesley hadn’t seen it, but he’d heard Angel and Spike describe the weapon and its apparent effectiveness. He’d done some research using the Wolfram and Hart source templates, out of curiosity. The research had been…enlightening, to say the least.
“If you pretend to be human, you will be able to situate yourself more effectively to begin building your Kingdom once more.” He paused, then sighed. “You made me your Qwa'ha Xahn, your guide because you did not know this world, and you wanted, needed to understand it.” Illyria seemed about to open her mouth to speak, so Wesley paused to let her, but when she said nothing, he continued. “I am serving as your guide now. Please believe me, allowing others to believe you human will serve your interests best for the time being.”
Illyria cocked her head to the right slightly, considering his words, then after a moment, nodded. “I will take your advice into consideration, for now. But I suggest you be more sparing with your advice for some time.”
“I will do my best.” Wesley replied. “Is there, then, any way you can appear as more human…in ways that are…less…” His voice trailed off.
“The grief coming off you leaves an unpleasant stench. I suggest you overcome it soon.” Illyria replied, coolly. She closed her eyes a moment, then re-opened them. They were still a distinct and memorable shade of icy-blue, but they lacked the crystalline, inhuman appearance they had had before. Illyria’s skin rippled a moment, and the patches of blue on her face and hands vanished. Her hair remained blue, but Wesley had no protest on that. Hair color was easily explainable in any number of ways. He nodded.
“Thank you.” He said softly.
“Spare me your gratitude.” Illyria replied.
Wesley was about to reply when he heard a loud voice from the left. “State your business!” Wesley turned to see a tall, blonde-haired young man with a sword leveled at them. From his stance alone, Wesley could surmise he was a noble of some kind. Perhaps a knight, judging from his weapon and armor. It took Wesley a moment to realize that the man was speaking in Old English.
Illyria’s response to the barked order was to clench her hands into fists and move towards him. Moving quickly, Wesley placed one hand gently on her arm. “Illyria, killing the first human we meet – and likely a man of some authority – is going to get us nowhere.” Before she could respond, he turned to the blonde man and spoke. “You must forgive the Lady Illyria. She does not take to demands well. She may not speak your tongue, but she knows a demand when she hears one.” And that was true. Even by her own admission, she didn’t yet understand the language being spoken. Wesley slowly approached the man, mentally going over his plan for an eventuality like this – he’d had a different plan had they encountered a peasant or someone quite obviously of the lower class first.
“That’s close enough.” The man said, moving his sword just a little to emphasize his point. “I said, ‘State. Your. Business’.”
Wesley raised an eyebrow. The man was quite used to being obeyed by just about everyone. If he was a knight, then he was an unusually arrogant one – which would hardly be that surprising, if one were to be honest. “And who might you be, exactly, to order us about like that?”
“I am Prince Arthur Pendragon, of Camelot. This forest is my father's land, in his kingdom.” The man replied.
Wesley nearly staggered back a pace and it took a moment before he had full control of his voice again. “I'm sorry. Did you say Prince
Arthur of Camelot
?!” He tried to wrap his brain around that for a moment as the man spoke.
“I did.” The man – Prince Arthur – confirmed. “Why does that seem to surprise you?”
The common historical and cultural opinion, in the modern world, was that King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and Camelot were largely, if not entirely, pure myth. Some of the more generous granted there might be certain hints of truth in regards to some small aspects of it, but only a few bits of truth.
The Watchers Council knew better. The records they possessed made it quite clear that Arthur, his round table and Camelot had indeed existed. A slayer had even been based out of Camelot for a few years in the latter part of Arthur’s reign. However, very little was known of Uther’s reign as king, and even less about the first few years of Arthur’s kingship.
The ban on magic, on the other hand… that relic of Uther’s reign and the early years of Arthur’s rule was a known quantity. This will make my life so much fun.
He thought sarcastically. Then, taking a quick breath, he supplied an answer to the Prince. “I…I did not realize that we had come so far as to be in the territory of Camelot.” The lie – well, truthful lie – rolled off his tongue easily. He hadn’t
realized that they had come into the territory of Camelot, but the implied context of the statement was as false as the prophecy he’d read that had gotten them into this mess, the root cause, as it were. Arguably the root cause, anyway.
He forced that train of thought out of his mind. For the time being, at least, he couldn’t afford to think about it.
Wesley watched as Arthur lowered his sword, Speaking of, where is Merlin anyway?
The Wizard Merlin’s early biography was even more vague than the record of the early reign of Arthur. So he might not even be in Camelot at this point – and he would have to be hiding his magic if he was in Camelot.
“Who are you?” The princes asked.
Wesley bowed. Just enough to be just a little bit respectful, but not all that much, compared to the usual bows reserved for a man of Arthur’s position. “Forgive me, your highness. I am Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, scholar and guide of the Lady Illyria, of Los Angeles. And her translator.”
“Los Angeles? I have never heard of that kingdom.” Of course not. We’re over eight hundred years before the Spanish even reach the new world.
Still, “I am not surprised. It is far away, to the south.”
“What brings you to Camelot?”
“Nothing brings us to Camelot specifically, but the Lady Illyria simply wished to travel, to see the world far from her home. Unfortunately, our party was set upon by bandits, the rest of the Lady’s retainers other than myself killed and all our supplies taken, several days ago. We’ve been wandering since.”
“Neither of you carry a weapon.” Arthur noted. “Were all your guards killed in the attack?” Definitely not the pistol. Far too flashy. Can’t afford to waste the bullets either.
“I do actually carry a weapon. If you will allow me to demonstrate.” He flicked his wrist and let the collapsible sword slide out of the wrist device. The look of surprise on Arthur’s face spoke volumes. He thinks…or is at least considering the possibility that it is magic. Best to nip that in the bud fairly quickly “It is not magic, your highness, merely science. The scientists of Los Angeles are quite skilled.” He flicked his wrist again and the sword re-entered the device, vanishing into his sleeve.
After a moment’s further silence, Arthur spoke. “Interesting.” Then he shifted his gaze to Illyria. “Am I correct in assuming that your Lady Illyria is capable of fighting?” Correct would be one word for it.
And…Illyria was finally at the point where she could understand what they were speaking. Wesley pre-empted her before she could speak.
“She is. Quite well, in fact.”
“I would like to ask her a few questions.”
“I can translate them for you.” Wesley replied. “But I do warn you, Illyria can be impatient. She does not like to be kept waiting, and she has little stomach for extended questioning. She can be...” He paused. “Difficult.” He turned to Illyria and spoke in modern English. “Can you play along?”
“What is the purpose of this charade of translation, now that I can speak the requisite tongue to communicate with this human?” Illyria replied in the same language as she walked closer to him. They were perhaps a foot apart as they spoke fairly quietly.
“Because while you have many strong suits, diplomacy is not one of them. I don’t want to needlessly antagonize him with you threatening to rip off his arms and beat him to death with them, or something like that.” Wesley bit his tongue before he said anything more on the subject.
“Continue the charade for now.” Illyria said after a moment. Wesley could almost see the wheels in her head turning, though she’d be offended at the very idea of that fact. She is more human in the way she thinks than she would care to admit, even to herself. I suspect that Fred left her more than just memories, or all three of us would likely have been killed before she went through the portal to Vahla ha'nesh, for having the temerity to even consider attacking her.
“Ask your questions.” Wesley told Arthur.
“Why did you choose to travel so far from your lands that no one here would have heard where you came from?” For appearances sake, Wesley ‘translated’ it for Illyria.
“Because my Qwa’ha Xahn made his device incorrectly and forced us through the currents of time.” Wesley could almost hear sarcasm in her voice. Well, no, he couldn’t, but were the words coming from anyone else, he could have heard sarcasm…
After a moment, Wesley settled on a more suitable answer. “Because I wished to explore distant lands.”
“The expense and risk of such a journey purely to settle your curiosity?”
“I am more than capable of taking care of myself.” Illyria replied. “Tell that,” The next word had to be in Primordial Sanskrit…if it was what he thought it was, it had no real analogue in any human language. Wesley translated the first part, but not the insult.
Clearly though, Arthur guessed something was missing. “What did she say?” The Prince demanded.
“It would be…undiplomatic for me to translate Illyria’s words.” If I could even find the right words to use…
“Needless to say, she does not find this interrogation,” Or this entire charade,
“Tell him to get to the point.”
“However, she would like you to get to the point.”
Wesley smirked as he saw Arthur scowl. “You are trespassing on the lands of my Father, the King. If I were to order you to surrender your weapons and –“
Before Wesley could stop her, Illyria cut in. “Were you to try anything of the sort, young Prince, I would leave you tied to that tree,” she pointed to a tree at random, “with your arms and legs broken.”
Arthur raised his sword at her words and spoke, “So you can speak the same language as I do.”
It was all Wesley could to prevent himself from facepalming. He cut in before Illyria could make things worse. “Yes. She can. But as you can see, diplomacy is not exactly Illyria’s strong suit, but she does get to the nub of the problem. We’re not going to surrender our weapons. We will leave your Kingdom if you insist, but I cannot believe your noble father would turn away a noblewoman in need, however…blunt, and violent she can be in her tone. Then he turned to Illyria and spoke in English. “Illyria, keep your-“ She glared at him dangerously, and Wesley stopped talking.
“I don’t tend to trust people who level threats like that against me.” Trust the people who make the threats more than the people who appear to be your friends. You can certainly trust Illyria to be as violent as she proposes, always.
“And I do not like people who consider themselves superior to me, when they most definitely are not, young Prince.” Illyria replied to Arthur. “If you give me no cause, I will do you no harm. I am no enemy to you.”
“Look, your highness, it has been several days since either of us have had a decent night’s sleep, or a meaningful meal. We are at our wits end.” I’m starting to get there, anyway.
“I have to ask you to please lead us to Camelot and let us speak with your father.”
Wesley watched Arthur, hoping it had worked. Finally, he lowered, then sheathed his sword. “Alright.” Next Time, on Ruins of My Kingdom to Come: Wesley and Illyria reach Camelot, and Wesley finds that the King is a surprisingly familiar face. A brief conversation with the two strangers sets Merlin on edge, and Morgana’s nightmares take a strange turn.