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By the Trousers of Merlin!

by on June 17, 2013

Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine had been confronted by officers of the Dolphin Expeditionary Reality Preservationists (“Ermahgerd! Derphins!”), who were trying to prevent her from restoring the world after she had inadvertently destroyed it by triggering the Norse apocalypse Ragnarok. Meanwhile, in Shmirmingard Castle several centuries back….

Perry paced back and forth along the top of the castle wall. The army outside was still holding their position, just as they had been the day before. And the day before that, and the day before that. Perry had read books about dramatic sieges of castles; oddly, none of the books had mentioned how boring the sieges actually were. The fighter planes weren’t even buzzing the castle anymore. Not one trebuchet had been fired since the first day. Mostly the various trolls, frost giants, knights, and other foul beasties milled about at a fair distance from the walls, and did nothing. Even Utgarda-Loki, their leader, didn’t seem inclined to action. He mostly seemed inclined to nap. Perry hadn’t thought naps were a part of traditional siegecraft.

He supposed he should do something about them. He was, after all, married to Princess Catrina, which made him…well, it made him something. Perry had been slightly dismayed to learn that, under the various succession laws and title statutes of Catrina’s realm, marrying a princess did not automatically make one a prince. It seemed he couldn’t be a prince until Catrina actually became queen in her own right, and since Catrina’s parents were quite healthy and showed no signs of sudden death, that probably wasn’t going to happen for a long while. Catrina had employed some legal advisers to see what title might be granted to Perry in the meantime, but nothing had come of that yet. At any rate, whatever his technical position was, the castle’s people were looking to him to provide some leadership. (Catrina’s parents were on vacation, but their cruise galleon had broken down near the Crispy Islands, so named because of a rather nasty infestation of dragons. Very unfortunate).

The problem, Perry mused on the wall top, was that he was only a sidekick. Catrina had all the adventures; he just popped in occasionally to lend advice. But Catrina had gone off on her own, as she often did, and here he was by himself. He didn’t have sword-fighting skills, or magical powers, or anything, of his own. All he’d ever been was an assistant to the castle’s librarian. They’d once had a pair of magical socks that a genie possessed, but of course Catrina had freed the genie, and the socks were pretty well useless now, except as socks. But that thought sent another thought scurrying in Perry’s mind. “I say,” he said to his cousin Percy, the elderly main librarian of the castle, , “do we have any other magical objects lying about that might be of some help?”

“Er, well…there are the trousers of Merlin….”

Perry had just taken a drink from some cocoa; he promptly spluttered and nearly choked. “The trousers of Merlin?”

“Why not?” The librarian answered, shrugging creakily. “There’s stories of sorcerers who possessed magical hats. If hats are magical, it stands to reason that trousers might be magical too.”

Perry’s first instinct was to study the trousers of Merlin very carefully, do thorough research as to their provenance and magical abilities, make sure they really were the trousers of Merlin and not, say, the trousers of some half-rate wizard relegated to tricks involving rabbits and hats. But then he thought, what would Catrina do? Catrina would jolly well put those trousers on, wouldn’t she? Well, literally she wouldn’t, Catrina didn’t much care for men’s clothing in the technical sense, but it was the spirit of the thing. So Perry, without any further hesitation, demanded to see the trousers of Merlin.

He had thought that they might be kept in some chamber deep underground, with an enchanted door and a golden key, as befitting their magical nature. It turned out that the trousers of Merlin were kept exactly where a normal person would keep his trousers: in the bottom drawer of a standard dresser. It wasn’t terribly hard to find; Perry found it on his search of the castle’s third spare room. He pulled open the drawer, and gasped.

There they were. The trousers of Merlin, Merlinus Ambrosius, the most powerful wizard ever known. Adviser to Arthur, and all that. The last Perry had heard, the poor man had gotten himself enchanted by the Lady of the Lake, who apparently hadn’t stopped at lying in ponds distributing swords, but had gone on to other things. Merlin was now rumored to be lying somewhere magically asleep. Perry hoped he wouldn’t miss his trousers.

They were solid blue, dotted about with dimly glowing silver stars. Perry could practically feel the power emanating from them (or at least he thought he could; whether or not power was really emanating was an open question). Slowly he stretched out his hand towards them. His fingers brushed the fabric, ever so gently, and then suddenly there was a flash, and Perry was thrown clean across the room into a chamber pot.Β  Fortunately the maids had cleaned the chamber pot that morning and scented it with daises, and it hadn’t been used since, so nothing icky or untoward happened. Still, it was terribly embarrassing.

“Oh, dear,” Percy the librarian commented, “I’m afraid we might have a problem.”

“I’ll say we have,” Perry said, scrambling out of the remains of the chamber pot, very red-faced.

“You see, those trousers are not ordinary trousers.”

“I know. That’s the whole reason I wanted to put them on,” Perry said, wondering why his cousin was pointing out the obvious.

“Well, they can only be put on by someone pure in spirit, and particularly by someone who’s not otherwise enchanted in some way. If someone who’s under an enchantment touches the magical trousers, then, well, there’s rather a frightful clash of magics. And…” the librarian gestured to the wrecked chamber pot.

Perry was staggered. “So…I’m under an enchantment? I could be a prince in disguise or something, not just a sidekick?”

“Er, the thing is, for the trousers to react that violently, it couldn’t be just an ordinary prince in disguise enchantment. It seems more like the enchantment that’s put on princes who are changed into hideous beasts. Or possibly werewolves.”

Suddenly Perry felt an uncomfortableness. “Ah…Percy?”

“Although…” the librarian mused, “even a werewolf wouldn’t cause a reaction quite that startling…hm…”

“Percy? I say? I think something’s happening!” Perry’s shirt ripped. Fur ran everywhere. His head shot towards the ceiling. His hands warped into immensely powerful paws.

The librarian glanced up, slightly irritated. “Perry, I am trying to consider for a moment…” He went pale as a linen sheet in a snowstorm. “A BEAR!” he shrieked, achieving remarkably high notes for a man of his years. “A BEAR! A BEAR!”

Indeed it was a bear, and he was very much put out, as any bear would be if the bear’s maiden fair had gone off to the 21st century and started a Norse apocalypse. With one swipe of his massive paw, the Perry-bear shattered the dressed into wooden bits. The trousers of Merlin narrowly escaped being ripped into shreds, but many other trousers hadn’t. Then the bear stormed roaring out of the room and down the halls of the castle, in instinctive search of whatever bears want to search for. Possibly other bears, or honey. In its wake, Percy the librarian attempted to cope with the fact that his cousin was, it seemed, an enchanted bear. “I think I need to lie down,” he said, and tottered off towards his room.

This has been another exciting episode of the Catrina Chronicles. For previous episodes, go here. For the two novels I’ve written starring Catrina (well, Catrina in Space stars her, in Nuclear Family she has a prominent cameo), go here. Thanks for reading!


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  1. This made me die of a laughter-induced apoplexy. Where does it all come from?? You apparently have a fountain of fantastically bizarre randomness in your head, from which you can draw whenever you like. It’s great! I mean, the trousers of Merlin. Just brilliant.
    I also like the bear who is put out. Reminded me of a certain prince who said something remarkably similar in understatement, once upon a failed evil plot…..

    • I’ve had the idea of doing something enchantment-wise with Perry for a while, but the particular spark for this one was Hermione Granger and her use of the exclamation “Merlin’s pants!” I got to thinking, what if Merlin actually had magical pants?” And then I was informed that the word “pants” has a quite different meaning in Britain than it does in America. So I tweaked it a bit. πŸ™‚

      • Ahahaha yes quite right. ‘Merlin’s knickers’ (which is what that would do in a British brain for the split second before the US babelfish kicks in) doesn’t quite have the same ring :-/

  2. You slay me, seriously πŸ™‚ You snuck a watery bint into what would be Westeros in a bizarro universe with a little Hermoine thrown in, and it still sounds totally like your voice. This is an impressive feat sir, and highly entertaining as always.

    • Thanks. And may I say, the fact that you not only recognized all those references but recapitulated them in a single sentence is also an impressive feat. πŸ˜€

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