Readers Gazette Short Stories


Short Story Merlin and the Magic Stone

Merlin and the Magic Stone by Daniel Diehl Fantasy short story

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In the days of King Arthur, when the first dragon attacks were launched against Arthur’s kingdom, there was destruction, devastation and misery throughout the kingdom and across the British Isles. As one village after another was consumed by fire, the peasants faced almost certain starvation. Their livestock had been burned alive, their crops scorched black in the fields and their granaries burnt to the ground. With winter coming on a time of slow, agonizing death could not be far behind and the people were terrified that they would all die.
One day, the great wizard Merlin wandered into the charred remnants of a small hamlet. All around him the blackened remains of houses and barns jutted up from the ground like withered fingers clawing their way out of the soil, reaching for the weak light of the winter sky. From out of the few remaining structures and hastily built lean-tos came the wretched survivors of the dragons’ attack. Clustering around Merlin as he walked, tugging at his sleeves, the villagers begged him to help them, to save their loved ones and their children from a slow, painful death by starvation.
Trying to reassure the people, Merlin joined them at their small campfire, inviting everyone to circle around him. When the people were seated, anxiously waiting to hear what the king’s wise man would have to say, he smiled and asked them if anyone had a large cauldron.
They told him that they did, but that there was no food left to cook and that all the cauldrons and frying pans on earth did no good if there was nothing to put in them. Nevertheless, Merlin insisted that they bring out the largest cauldron they had in the village, suspend it on a tripod over the fire and fill it half-full with water.
When the big kettle was in place and the water was beginning to heat, the people asked Merlin what good this was doing? Did he expect them to live on hot water? Could he magically make meat and vegetables appear in cauldron?
Nodding knowingly, Merlin reached into the big leather bag he always wore slung over his shoulder, set it between his feet and riffled through it. Eventually he extracted a stone about the size of a man’s fist and held it out for everyone to see.
“This,” he said, “is a magic soup stone. All you have to do is place it in a cauldron of hot water, allow it to simmer for two hours and it will produce enough hot, nourishing soup to feed the entire village. The stone can be used again and again for as long as you need it.”
The villagers thanked him effusively, proclaiming him the greatest wizard in history and the kindest man in all the kingdom.
Merlin thanked them for their generous words, scratched his long grey beard and said “The stone makes wonderful soup, but if any of you happen to have any onions it might improve the flavor of the broth.”
Two of the women insisted they certainly did not have enough onions for everyone, but they scurried away, returning shortly with a few onions that had survived the dragon attack because they were in underground root cellars.
Merlin told them to cut up the onions and put them into the soup. When the onions had gone in, Merlin said “The onions are good, but if any carrots or cabbages survived, they would add a lot to the flavor of the soup.”
And so a few carrots and several small, withered heads of cabbage were chopped up and added to the kettle. As Merlin suggested more possible ingredients to add to the flavor and richness of the magic soup, more and more vegetables went into the pot. Eventually, after much prompting and suggestions were made and rejected, one scrawny chicken and a plump rabbit - who had been unlucky enough to step into a snare - went in to the cauldron along with the vegetables.
That evening the people of the village had their first hot, nourishing meal in the three days since the dragons had destroyed their homes and farms.
The following morning, Merlin said good-by, assuring the people that they were welcome to keep the magic soup stone and promising to tell King Arthur of their plight and ask him to send men and timber to help rebuild their village.
When he reached the edge of the village, after he was well out of sight of the people, Merlin kicked a fist sized rock out of the hard packed surface of the road, dusted it off on the rough, homespun fabric of his gown, slipped it into his big leather bag and continued on his way.

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Images used for the article belong to Daniel Diehl except.
Ishtaure Dawn On Flickr.

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In the days of King Arthur, when the first dragon attacks were launched against Arthur’s kingdom, there was destruction, devastation and misery throughout the kingdom and across the British Isles. As one village after...

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