Mercury-Marvin Sunderland

Sword in the Stoned


MERLIN: A wizard. Like, a really obvious wizard with the big white beard and the staff. He’s got a matching set of robes and a pointed hat, which are purple with a white star pattern. Yeah, that kind.


MERLIN: A wizard. Like, a really obvious wizard with the big white beard and the staff. He’s got a matching set of robes and a pointed hat, which are purple with a white star pattern. Yeah, that kind.

RIVER: Also a wizard, with a similar beard and staff. His robe and pointy hat have no pattern, and are a much more weathered shade of blue. He has pointed ears.

MERLIN and RIVER are sitting on a public park swing set. It’s midnight, and no one else is around. Merlin lights a joint, gives it a good smoke. He offers it to River, who takes a small, polite puff, and hands it back.

MERLIN: Are you sure you don’t want more?

RIVER: Not right now. But later.

Merlin focuses on his joint. He’s not looking at River. River hesitates, then produces his own joint. He lights, gives a hearty smoke.

MERLIN: You had that all along?!

RIVER: Shhhhhhh.

MERLIN: Ugh. Weed’s expensive, you bastard. It’s not easy on the market like eye of newt—new

RIVER: Merlin.

MERLIN: FINE. It wasn’t that much. STILL.

Merlin puts his face in his hands, exasperated. His fingers still hold tightly to his joint. River continues to quietly smoke. Merlin sighs, and goes back to smoking.



MERLIN: This is it.

River looks around.



RIVER: And they’ve built a big park around it.

MERLIN: You can’t possibly be that stoned right now. Yes, dummy. They built a big park around it. We wouldn’t be sitting here if that wasn’t true.

Merlin excuses himself from further conversation with a big puff of his beloved joint. River quietly observes him as if he is a caged mouse. He eventually takes a decided puff of his own joint.

RIVER: So don’t you want to take a closer look at it?

Merlin whips around to stare at him.

MERLIN: Are you out of your goddamn mind? Do you have any idea what spells have been cast on that thing?!

RIVER (blankly) : What spells?

Merlin glares at him.


He gets up. River follows.

You’d better not follow me like some lost puppy at the dog show.

RIVER: What?

MERLIN: You know what, never mind. The stone’s this way.

RIVER: Haha, the STONE, ‘cuz you’re—


River giggles to himself quietly. Merlin rolls his eyes like a twelve-year-old. He walks over to the edge of the stage. He points directly into the audience.





A giant stone with a sword in it appears on stage left.

MERLIN: Pull it out.

RIVER: That’s what—


River realizes.

RIVER: I’m not Arthur.

MERLIN: I know you’re not Arthur. Do you realize how short-lived non-magic lives are? They’re lucky if they live past one hundred.

RIVER: I’m just saying–

MERLIN: Look, you pansy, Arthur was the one who I kept having to put spells on for his constant alcohol binges. The guy wasn’t all round tables and glory. He was kind of a huge drunken jackass, honestly. Now wrap those hands around that handle and pull.

RIVER: Wrap those hands around my—



River attempts to grab the sword. He’s expecting much resistance, but it flops out easily. He stares at the sword, dumbfounded.

Wh–I– what?

MERLIN: Impressive, isn’t it?

RIVER: Am I–do I–I–I–

MERLIN: Give it to me.

RIVER: What?

Merlin snatches the sword without asking again. He places one foot on the stone, takes a long drag from his joint, and shoves the sword back in with ease. He pulls it out. Puts it back in. Pulls it back out. He notices River’s reaction, which is even more flabbergasted than before. He laughs, and confidently pulls the sword over his shoulder. He takes another drag. River stares at the rock, unable to return Merlin’s gaze but still trying to make sense of this odd spectacle.

I don’t understand.

MERLIN: Exactly.


Oh, come on. You can’t have seriously thought that Arthur actually pulled this thing out of the stone.

RIVER: But … I did …

River stares hesitantly at his joint, but eventually smokes more.

I just—I don’t—

Merlin sighs obnoxiously.


He storms over to the swingset. He grumbles, staring at the sword in his hands. River stands there, staring at him.



Merlin smokes some more.

RIVER: Can I have the sword?


River grabs the sword. He carefully turns it around in his hands. He tries cutting tall grass with it like he’s Link from Legend of Zelda. It barely achieves the task.


MERLIN: Exactly.

Merlin snatches the sword from his hands and swings it hard against the metal poles supporting the swingset. It retaliates, as a cheap piece of metal is expected to do. He laughs loudly and bitterly.

The only magic thing about this hunk of junk is that only wizards can take it from stone.


RIVER: Then why is it here?


RIVER: Why is it back?

MERLIN: I had to put it somewhere.


I mean, did you have a better idea?


Merlin hits the swing part of the swingset. It shudders but doesn’t take much more than a dent.

Don’t bang that thing up.

MERLIN: What’s the point?

He throws it unceremoniously on the ground. He sits back on the swing, ignoring the scene.

I’ve been so lost ever since the Lady of the Lake left me. I’ve tried to be on good terms with her again but I just can’t.


I tried to do one stupid favor for one stuck-up knight who’s got his kingly ego and HE’S that stupid bastard that all the historians like. I can’t believe I wasted my shapeshifting energy on giving him all the fame and glory.

He’s pacing.

I just wanted King Pendragon to notice me. If I could help his family enough maybe he’d see me as more than just a royal wizard. I hated his son, but I did it all for him.


RIVER: Is that why we’re here?

MERLIN: Pardon?

RIVER: The Lady of the Lake.




I don’t give a shit about her.

RIVER: It sure seems like you do.

MERLIN: Listen here, you little shit. Why the fuck would I bring the sword anywhere near her. You know that she’s confined to water. And even if she wasn’t, she most certainly wouldn’t approve of me turning the sword into a tacky park decoration.

He angrily tries to smoke some more.

RIVER: Merlin, you’re trying to smoke the roach.

Merlin angrily throws down the burnt paper.

MERLIN: Go fuck yourself.

RIVER: You know, I never really understood why that’s an insult. I quite love fucking myself.

River goes back to his joint, as if taunting him.

MERLIN: I hate you and your cheap jokes.

RIVER: The lake.


Points at the audience.

RIVER: It’s in the center of the park.

MERLIN: Yeah, but the stone is on land.

River ignores him with his joint.

You know, I liked this conversation better when it was just about Pendragon’s son being a jackass.

RIVER: Is this really about the divorce?

MERLIN: We were never married.

RIVER: To whom?

Merlin blushes.


Merlin shies away, turning around childishly in his swing. It spins, as swings do. He is forced to spin, spin, spin, which forces him to face River multiple times. He tries to stop the swing. He tries to brake with his feet. But his robe is long and all it does is get caught. He trips and falls flat on his face. He doesn’t pick himself up. He’d rather kiss the woodchips than face River right now.

MERLIN: I hate you.

RIVER: You say that a lot.

River paces, giving little puffs to his joint.

You always do get personal when you’re high.

MERLIN: Shut. Up.

River laughs. Merlin growls to himself.

RIVER: Do you still like her?

This is what prompts Merlin to jolt up. His beard is sprinkled with wood chips. He’s absolutely furious despite the fact that he looks ridiculous.

MERLIN: Pendragon’s been dead for hundreds of years. Same for his stupid son. Pendragon never even gave a shit about me. It was the Dark Ages. I had to pretend to be heterosexual. You realize how hard it was to be a flamboyant wizard in a time like that? I had to work so hard to protect his entire family that the historians keep saying they never existed.

River stares into the distance.

RIVER: The tide’s coming in.

MERLIN: Yeah, big whoop. The moon does her function. What else is new.

RIVER: No. It’s. Really coming in.

There are waves cascading over the audience. They’re coming closer and closer.


RIVER: Have you shown other wizards how to take the sword?

Merlin opens his mouth to say something, but then closes it.

I left the lake.



The tide is rushing in even more. It’s starting to meet the edges of the stage.

MERLIN: You gave up the lake?

RIVER: Not exactly. I was never really confined there. But, you know, like you said, it was the Dark Ages. It wasn’t safe for me to be a trans man. So I just learned to hide myself in water depths and speak to no one.

MERLIN: But couldn’t you have just—

RIVER: You know that shapeshifting doesn’t last like that.

Awkward silence. Merlin turns around. He holds River’s fingers gently. River turns around to face him, returning that gentle grasp.

You don’t have to love me.

The tide has reached their feet. It’s just an inch, barely wading height.

MERLIN: I don’t.

RIVER: Do you miss Pendragon?

MERLIN: Of course I do.

The tide has risen another inch.

I don’t have to love you. And I couldn’t have forced myself to as our inauthentic selves. I don’t have to feel any particular way about you. But it’s been hundreds of years, and I’d like to get to know you again.

The water drains. The tide leaves the stage. Lights dim.

RIVER: I’d like to get to know you again, too.

Lights out.

End of play.

Mercury-Marvin Sunderland is a transgender autistic gay man with Borderline Personality Disorder. He’s from Seattle and currently attends Evergreen State College. He’s been published by University of Amsterdam’s Writer’s Block, UC Davis’ Open Ceilings, UC Riverside’s Santa Ana River Review, UC Santa Barbara’s Spectrum, and The New School’s The Inquisitive Eater. His lifelong dream is to become the most banned author in human history. He’s @RomanGodMercury on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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