Hello, guys! *waves cheerfully*
It's been a long time since I published a one-shot that wasn't part of my collection. I published this as a separate piece because this is very important for me - it was written as a tribute to Merlin. It should have been published in time for Christmas, but I have been quite busy and then forgot about it (yeah, I know, that was clever of me).
So, I was wondering what happened to Merlin and the others immediately following Arthur's dead. Did Merlin go back to Camelot? Did he leave forever? This is the result. It's canon, excluding the scene set in modern times.
Slight Arthur/Gwen and Merlin/Freya. Includes canon deaths, major character deaths and the death of an OC.
DISCLAIMER: I'm writing fan fiction for a reason, ain't I? Still, I plainly state that Merlin and all things related belong to BBC Network and not to me.
Oh, this is also my (veeeeeery belated) Christmas for the wonderful MagicGirl41.
Thanks to xXTheDragonRiderXx for beta-ing this. She's awesome.
I hope you'll like it!
Lots of love,
Arthur was looking at him with a quirked eyebrow, trying to hide his amused smile. Merlin rolled his eyes and gestured to the fine jacket he was holding.
"Didn't you say that this was 'too girly' for your tastes, sire?" the servant inquired, his brow furrowed in confusion. (1)
The king grinned devilishly, eyes sparkling with victory. "True. That is why I'm giving it to you, of all people."
The younger man rolled his eyes. "And here I was thinking you were being nice for once. Obviously, I should have known that receiving a new jacket for your wedding would implicate some kind of bad joke on your part," he sighed, feigning disappointment.
The blonde huffed. "You're still upset for that time I made you wear that ridiculous hat," he said, with a smug smile on his face.
Merlin's eyebrow shot up. "You mean the time I drank poison for you? Oh yes, that hat was the first of my concerns," he exclaimed sarcastically.
Arthur sobered quickly and the smile slipped from his face. He laid a hand on the servant's shoulder, much to the latter's surprise.
"I'm glad I found the antidote in time, Merlin. I'm glad you're fine."
The first thing Merlin thought when he woke up was that everything had been a dream.
A horrible nightmare, actually – the worst he had ever had – but he was sure it was a trick his mind had played on him, no more, no less.
Because Arthur couldn't be dead.
He refused to believe it.
He remembered throwing the king's blessed sword into the lake, he remembers laying his hand in his brother's forehead and crying, sobbing, howling like a wounded beast.
Half of his heart had died with Arthur, and everyone knows that half a heart is good for nothing. He was good for nothing if Arthur wasn't there.
But Arthur was there. He was fine – alive, breathing, smiling, calling him 'idiot' and 'lazy' and looking at him as if he were some kind of extinguished animal to study.
Merlin opened his blue eyes, certain that everything had been a dream, safe in the knowledge that Arthur was fine, that he was alive. The beginning of a careful smile lightened up his face for the shortest of moments before his eyes took in his surroundings.
The smile fell when he realized that he was not in his chambers, but in the middle of the woods, laying on the shores of a lake – the Lake of Avalon, his mind whispered, and he told his brain to shut up.
But it didn't mean that the nightmare had actually been real. No, it could mean a lot of things different from Arthur being dead.
He had gone to the Lake of Avalon to... To see Freya, probably. No, he was sure. He had gone there to see Freya.
Arthur was in Camelot, safe and sound and 'delighting' his wife with disgustingly cheesy sentences found in some petty book of poetry. Thinking about his home made the smile return to Merlin's face.
He stood up and was surprised by how weak he felt. What had he done to tire himself out so much?
Oh, yeah – he must have arrived to the lake by foot. That was why he was so tired.
And if his eyes were strangely sore and puffy, it was because he had cried for Freya, his lost love – was there anything else that could have made him cry?
No, there wasn't – or so he kept repeating to himself.
There was a small and traitorous part of him that was perfectly aware of what had happened and knew that he was just trying to fool himself into thinking that everything was fine.
But the biggest part of him – the part he had always reserved for Arthur and Arthur alone – was tethering on the edge of despair and insanity and denial. If he kept thinking that Arthur was still alive maybe it would become true.
He looked up at the sky and saw the sky beginning to darken, so he decided to go back to Camelot. He left the lake with a wistful glance over his shoulder – for Freya, he thought, not for Arthur, because Arthur was fine.
He walked on unsteady feet for about a mile before his knees gave out beneath him and he found himself slumped on he ground, his back touching the wet grass and his eyes looking at the bluest sky he had ever seen.
He turned his head to the right for no particular motive, but when his eyes landed on a body, he gasped, eyes widening at the sight.
He crawled towards it, needing to see with his own eyes that it really was whom he thought it was.
Unexpected tears gathered in his blue eyes as they met Morgana's unseeing gaze. His hands hovered on the body, not sure where to touch, while he tried not to dwell on the deathly paleness of the woman who had used to be his friend.
He sighed and settled for resting his hand on her forehead, before moving it to close her eyelids, blocking his view from those icy green eyes.
He gathered her in his arms, carefully and gently, knowing that – in spite of her latest deeds – she deserved a proper burial, at least in the memory of the girl who had once been the king's beloved ward, a kind and just lady who cared not about ranks.
The walk back to the lake was slow and painful – not only physically – and when he arrived he let himself fall on his knees, still holding Morgana's unmoving body tightly.
He allowed himself to look down at her face again, all hollowed cheeks and cracked lips. His gaze traveled across the body, stilling when he noticed the drying blood glistening on her dress from where he remember stabbing her.
He had felt her go limp in his arms, he had seen her surprise and had felt her breath on his face. He remembered feeling things he wasn't supposed to feel in a dream.
He felt dizzy when he finally realized that it had not been a dream.
He had really fought in the disguise of the old Dragoon, he had killed Morgana, met the dragon, revealed his magic to Arthur. Arthur had died, and it hadn't been a dream.
Arthur was dead.
A brand new wave of grief washed over him, so strong and painful that it took his breath away.
Warm tears trickled down his checks as his body convulsed with sobs – he had always been ashamed to cry, but he had lost a half of his soul. No one would blame him for showing weakness.
There was no Arthur to call him 'a girl' for crying. There was no Arthur to whom he could give advice and there was no Arthur he could make fun of. There was no Arthur to share his smiles with, to joke with, to just be with. There was no Arthur to protect and there was no Arthur to live for.
He had nothing to live for anymore.
He cried himself dry, sobbing for hours, before he managed to get a hold of his emotions.
He still had things to do, and the first of them was laying Morgana to rest.
He could have burned her body, he could have given her a noble funeral, the funeral the Morgana of old deserved.
But he knew that this Morgana, the Morgana with magic, the Morgana who had been scared of her powers and then had been proud of them, the Morgana who had killed to obtain what she wanted – he knew that this Morgana hadn't feared anything more than burning.
It was the destiny of every sorcerer in Camelot, after all, to burn at the stake and be called a traitor.
He knew that she feared fire because he had feared it for a long time, too.
He had always feared fire while being strangely attracted by it, just like with his magic. He feared his magic for he knew not how much power he held, but he was still entranced whenever he managed to do something no man would have ever thought possible with no more than a flash of his eyes.
He knew what it was like to be afraid of himself, ashamed of how he was born.
Morgana had always been the one who could understand him the most, but he had turned his back on her, leaving her thinking that she was alone until she had turned to Morgause for help. And that had been the beginning of the end.
It had been his fault that she had become like this, and he blamed himself for it.
It was the least he could do – give her the funeral she not only deserved, but the funeral she would have wanted.
That was why he let his magic create a beautiful boat from the trees surrounding him, not different from the one he had laid Arthur upon.
Merlin swallowed the lump that had formed in the back of his throat as he thought about Arthur's pale yet peaceful features when, with his last words, he had thanked him for his help. He had waited years for that moment, the moment he would receive a reward – a 'thank you' so heartfelt had been more than enough – but that moment had been the last time Arthur had spoken to him, and no matter how happy he should have felt when the king had recognized magic as something that didn't have to be feared, the despair that Arthur's death had left in his heart had overshadowed everything else.
He sighed, suddenly feeling a thousand years older than before.
He stood up, still holding Morgana in his arms, and laid her almost tenderly upon the boat. He looked at her for the last time, before pushing the boat with his arms – he couldn't use magic for her, because his magic had only been meant for Arthur.
His eyes followed the boat as it got farther and farther away from the shores, until it was nothing more than a tiny dot in the horizon.
His lips curled up into a small, mirthless smile when he realized that what Arthur and Morgana hadn't been in life – a brother and a sister – they would be in death.
He sat upon the wet grass until the sun dawned.
The warlock, then, stood up on shaky legs and tried to wipe away the apparently ever-falling cascade of tears from his eyes.
He cast one last long glance to the lake – the place where he had buried friends and foe alike – and turned away, forcing his feet to drag him back to Camelot.
Arthur was looking at him with a strange expression on his face, studying him while still struggling to keep his eyes opened.
"I don't want you to change," he said suddenly. "I want you," he paused to take in a shuddering breath, "to always be... you."
Tears prickled at Merlin's eyes as he noticed the sincerity and deep trust in the king's eyes, and he had to stop himself from crying. He had to be strong. Arthur needed him.
"I'm sorry about how I treated you."
A mirthless smile found its way to Merlin's face. Arthur had nothing to be sorry for. He had lied to Arthur, he had hidden things from Arthur – not the opposite. It was all his fault.
He just hoped they would get to Avalon in time. He needed to repay his friend's trust by showing him that magic was not something to be scared of. Gwen, Gaius, Gwaine – a whole kingdom – were waiting for their king to come home.
But what mattered the most was Arthur was his friend, and he couldn't bear to lose him.
Merlin felt a pang of guilt when he realized that he hadn't kept his promise.
Arthur had wanted him to always be the same, but he had changed so much in so many ways that he was ashamed of himself.
He had forgotten who he was, who he had been.
And that had happened as soon as he realized that he had forgotten Arthur's voice. He couldn't remember his laugh, he couldn't remember the tone he used when he had to call his servant. Hell, he struggled to remember his smile. Even his smile.
How could he not change in those long thirty years?
Not that anyone would notice – his appearance was the same, after all. The warlock hadn't aged a single day since Arthur's death, he was still as strong and youthful as he had been decades before – only on the outside, though. He wasn't the same man, he was an old man inside, wrinkled and wasting away in his despair.
And even if he looked like he had thirty years before, time had still passed.
Gwaine had been brought to Camelot by Percival, lying pale and limp in his friend's arms – his last thoughts had been that he had failed, and Merlin regretted nothing more than the fact that such a loyal man would blame himself for something he couldn't have resisted.
Gaius had passed away months after the king's death. The man Merlin had loved as the father he had never had, the constant support he had never lacked – even he had left him.
Hunith, too. His mother – the woman he had always seen as invincible – had caught an illness, and not even his magic had been enough to heal her. Her last words were for him, and he had told him she was proud of the man he had become. He missed her so much.
Percival and Leon had died in a battle, fighting valorously for their beloved kingdom. They had left behind two grieving wives and five crying children.
And then there was Gwen. Sweet, kind, wise Queen Guinevere – the woman Merlin had always cared for as a sister.
She had died of old age and heartache after almost twenty years of ruling. She had abdicated in favor of her son, Amhar, born the same year of Arthur's death.
Merlin still remembered how scared she had been when she had found out about her pregnancy. She was alone, a widow, how could she rule on her own while caring for a small child?
Her fears had proved pointless, though. She had given birth to a healthy boy, the picture of his father – Arthur's last gift to her and their kingdom. When Amhar's tiny hand had curled around her finger she had smiled and offered her big heart to him.
The little prince had been the light in their lives – the people loved him as much as they had loved their king – and Merlin, the Court Sorcerer, Amhar's 'uncle Merlin', had been given a second chance.
The warlock had been sure he would never smile again after Arthur's death, but Amhar looked so much like his father that Merlin couldn't help but grin whenever he saw the young boy running in the halls.
All in all, the years after the battle of Camlann had not been as horrible as Merlin would have he imagined. He hadn't been happy – how could he be happy without Arthur? – but he had lived on, in a rich kingdom with wonderful friends.
But everything must come to an end, and Emrys was being forced to watch as the Saxons killed King Amhar Pendragon before his eyes.
With a heartbreaking cry, Merlin gathered the royal in his arms, tears of despair falling from his eyes. He sobbed even harder at the thought that Arthur's son would meet the same fate as his father.
Someone had found the sword Mordred had used on the plane of Camlann, left as a trophy by Morgana beside the traitor's grave. The sword burnished by the breath of a dragon – Aithusa, the mere thought of her made Merlin shiver. He had failed as Emrys, Arthur's protector, and he had failed as a dragonlord.
And he was failing again, a supposedly strong man breaking down over a dying king for the second time in his long life.
Amhar's struggles to breathe were getting fainter, and his eyes were getting glassy. Merlin begged him to stay with him – he couldn't lose him, he couldn't lose him – and tried to heal the hideous wound on his chest.
But just like Arthur, Amhar died in his arms with a barely audible 'thank you' leaving his bloodless lips.
Merlin screamed long and loud, and the Saxons were blasted away by his raw power. He didn't spare a glance at the man he had just killed. He only lifted up Amhar's body and walked away.
But not even two steps later, he felt a burning pain in his back and gasped, almost losing his grip on Amhar.
He whirled around in fury, but he could only see a dead Saxon on the ground, who had probably decided to stab him with the last of his strength. The man's hand was still curled around the hilt of Mordred's sword, whose blade was glistening with fresh blood.
Eyes widening in realization, Merlin backed away, his grip on Amhar's body tightening instinctively.
He winced when a wave of pain washed over him, and he swallowed a scream. The wound hurt, it hurt like hell, and he couldn't help but think that it was nothing compared to what Arthur and Amhar had felt when they had been stabbed.
He had not only failed as Emrys, as a dragonlord and as an uncle, but he was apparently failing as an immortal, too – but maybe it wasn't such a bad thing.
He left Camelot with quick strides, knowing that he didn't have long, and numbed the pain in his back with a spell, until it seemed no more than a dull ache.
The warlock reached the lake of Avalon after hours, and he fell on his knees when he reached its shores.
He laid Amhar on a boat, one he had created from the trees surrounding him, and watched as it sailed away towards the Isle of the Blessed, where the spirits of his family would welcome him.
Merlin's hands were trembling and his heart was heavy, his body weak with blood loss as he awaited the moment of his own death.
The sun rose above the horizon, and he raised a hand to shield his eyes for the light. When he lowered it, a woman he knew only too well was standing in the waters.
"Merlin," she called, her voice as sweet and melodious as he remembered it, "my love."
She extended her hand towards him, her eyes full of compassion and kindness. "It is time," she whispered.
The warlock walked towards her on shaky legs and gripped her hand tightly, smiling sadly. He felt a strength he hadn't felt in years – not in his body but in his soul – and he realized that now he would finally, finally be happy.
Merlin's feet touched the water of the lake, and he sighed dreamily. It wasn't the end, it was the beginning.
He hugged Freya tightly, a grin lightning up his ageless features, his eyes bright with joy as he thought about Arthur Pendragon, the other half of his coin and his greatest friend.
He had supported the weight of a whole kingdom on his shoulders, with nothing more but Destiny's gleaming promise of a shining future. And what a Destiny had theirs been.
They would never be forgotten, for the tales of their lives would become legends, myths – they would be remembered throughout time until the very end of the world.
Many particulars would be changed as time passed, their stories traveling from mouth to mouth, but one thing would always be the same.
Never would the world see anyone rise as high as they did, with the glowing crown of Destiny resting upon their heads and the gleaming promise of a shiny future in their golden hearts.
Merlin looked over his shoulder to say goodbye to his mortal life, and with a single tear slipping from his eyes, the greatest sorcerer to ever walk on earth followed his beloved into Avalon.
"Merlin," called Arthur under his breath.
"Yes?" the warlock acknowledged softly, not wanting to break the silence of the forest. He turned his head to the right, and met Arthur's cerulean eyes. "What is it?"
The king turned his head to look at the sky. The position they were in was uncomfortable, but at least they could share their bodies' warmth.(2)
"Do you believe in the afterlife?" he inquired, his eyes reflecting the light of the stars.
Merlin's brow furrowed in confusion, not knowing why the blonde would ask such a question. "Yes. Why?"
Arthur shifted and let out a soft sigh. "I've never feared death, but I do fear what comes after it. What if there's only a black void to wait for me? What use has my life been if I can't rest after it's finished?" he explained, his voice barely above a whisper.
Merlin swallowed, surprised by the fact that Arthur would have such a difficult question in store for him, and even more surprised that it was a question he had asked himself countless times already.
"I don't know. I've never died," he said, trying to lighten up the moment. Arthur snorted half-heartedly.
"But don't worry," Merlin continued, his eyes full of determination. "I told you I'd protect you or die at your side. And that includes following you to the gates of hell," he declared, only partially joking.
Arthur huffed, feigning annoyance. "I'm stuck with you, then," he sighed, shaking his head in mock despair.
The warlock grinned. "For a very long time, I fear."
Avalon was nothing like what Merlin had imagined – it was better than anything he could have dreamt of.
Endless green fields extended before his eyes, shining under the bright light of the sun. An enormous quantity of people was there, talking with others or running it just spending time alone in that beautiful place.
A blond head caught the warlock's eye, and he walked quickly – he ran, really – towards it, until he found himself standing before a man dressed in white.
"Arthur," he breathed in awe. Not knowing his to break the awkward moment, he playfully punched his friend's arm.
Arthur rolled his eyes and hugged him. "You idiot," he whispered fondly.
Merlin stiffened, before returning the hug almost desperately, burying his head in his brother's shoulder. To Arthur's and Freya's joy, he laughed heartily and wiped the tears from his blue eyes.
He laughed for the first time in what seemed like centuries, for he was finally where he was meant to be.
(1) Inspired by the scene in 4x09 in which Merlin shows to Arthur the red coat and Arthur says that it's "too girly". Merlin is seen wearing it during Gwen's coronation.
(2) I wrote this thinking of that scene from "Arthur's Bane" (can't remember what part) when Merlin and Arthur sleep back to back, just before Arthur says that he'll "rescue his men or die trying" and Merlin promises that he'd "protect him or die at his side". That's, like, one of my favorite scenes ever.