Hello! I know I'm stating the obvious but long time no see!
This is one of my dearest headcanons (Merlin explains it all on the very last part.) and there's no reason to not share it with you wonderful people. I've always been curious of the relationship between Merlin's magic and Arthur- it seems to me that this is something that should have been explored further in the show although they did take their time during 'The Poisoned Chalice' to mention it. Now, this plot bunny started bouncing around after listening to the song that is referenced throughout this, which is Sleepsong by Secret Garden. I highly recommend ( *cough* command.) to listen to it while reading. :) (The very first quote is meant to explain a lot.)
So! Hi! I am still alive as this proves but I am swamped with college. However, I hope you will enjoy this little piece.
Speaking of which, this little fic goes to you, Oz, in celebration for being practically done with nothing less than an epic work of art, her amazing and brilliant Heart of Gold. Oz, your writing, your ideas and your brilliance have made the Merlin archive ten thousand times better and greater than what it was before and you've raised the bar higher, my friend. (I guess that this is my way of saying 'thank you so much for Heart of Gold- and for the entire Prophesied Series-Thank you.') I believe I speak for everyone that has ever read your writing when I say that you've given us an invaluable gift. I knew that a late review wouldn't cut it when it comes to expressing how grateful I am for what you've done so here you go my friend. This is for you.
"Your soul sings to mine. My soul is yours, and it always will be, in any world."
- Laini Taylor.
Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?
- Cormac McCarthy, 'The Road.'
Lay down your head and I'll sing you a lullaby
Back to the years of loo-li lai-lay
And I'll sing you to sleep and I'll sing you tomorrow
Bless you with love for the road that you go.
The path that Arthur had taken was soft and gently illuminated with the flickering rays of the sun, for the star (that he would one day be named after,) could barely penetrate the thick foliage of the trees above him. They seemed to twist and turn as their branches met and interweave together, enveloping him and his knights in a canopy of secluded silence that Arthur dared not break.
He could hear Bedivere and Kay (1) bickering behind him but he said nothing, too far gone in his contemplation to pay attention to Kay's words, even though a few minutes before he'd been laughing merrily along with them. When Leon asked him if he had seen something move he could only shake his head and shrug his shoulder for he did not know…
Was it the lack of sun? The prince of Camelot asked himself. Was it the way the trees loomed above them all like great fingers ready to pull them from the ground and into the view of a magical creature, like he had once read in one of Gaius' old volumes? But shortly after he knew that was not it and that even though the interlacing branches did resemble the fingers of an ogre he was not in the least afraid.
It was not the unusually soft path either. His well-trained stead peacefully trotted on, looking for all the world as if he could not conceive the thought of a misfortune falling upon them.
No, he knew that was not it. No, it was something in the very air, in the breeze that flew by and ruffled Arthur's golden hair away from his brow, in the soothing sound of something he could not place.
"It's like…" he finally said, knowing that Sir Leon needed at answer to feel at rest. "It's like nothing I've ever felt before and yet…"
His words died on his mouth and he did not even notice it. They were no longer important. There was light ahead and the soft force that begged him to listen was no longer begging him but demanding him-
When his father's loyal knight placed his gloved hand on his shoulder the sensation was all but gone, yet it snapped him out of his reverie and he turned his head to look into Sir Leon's light eyes.
"…It's familiar." Arthur said at last, as if it was not a wonder but a fact.
Leon's face fell and Arthur felt torn- this man, so loyal to him and yet unable to know what he was trying to put into words (years later the High King would understand he could not.) was quite possibly thinking of the worse possible outcome, as he had been taught. As they all had been taught.
Yet it was Kay who said it, "D'you think it could be magic, Wart?"
His tone was almost joking and so an onslaught of comments followed his but Arthur did not hear them joke about the possibility of Camelot's prince being ironically and against every possibility 'attuned' with magic.
He was again consumed by the incessant and indescribable stirring of something deep inside of him, almost like the weak fluttering of a bird's wings that had just been awoken. Shielding his eyes against the light of the sun he looked down at the land that would one day be his.
"No." Arthur said with surety, knowing that Sir Leon thought it could be magic as well. "No, it cannot be. This place feels…" he fought to find words: safe, warm, right, good.
It was more than that though, but he readily shook his head to rid himself of the thought and noticed that his knights had fallen silent behind him. 'They probably think I'm mad,' Arthur realized suddenly, and he pursed his mouth and shook his head once more until the unexplained light inside him was all but gone.
"It's not magic." Prince Arthur spat derisively after a tense silence. "I would know it."
He looked over his shoulder towards his companions and wondered if his father would let him venture further into Camelot next time.
Sir Leon bowed his head, "If you say so, sire."
Kay and Bedivere said nothing but nevertheless they both smiled, as if they agreed with Arthur's judgment for, truly, they could not- and did not want- to do otherwise.
"Now," Arthur said, "Where are we, exactly?"
"Right in the outskirts of Camelot, sire." Sir Leon answered, brushing his curls away from his face.
And Kay added without a hint of his usual smile, "The lands you see over there are Essetir's."
Arthur looked over his horse's mane and saw fragile houses made of wood and stone and then a vast field that, he supposed, was used for crops. "They don't seem to be very prosperous." The young prince observed.
"No, they do not." Leon said somberly. "I don't believe their king cares much for them."
And Arthur, his eyes wide and darkened, looked on at the land below from atop of his horse, knowing that it was in his power to do something one day for the sake of these people, even though his father might not agree. But in a few years, once he was a crowned prince and heir…
"Shall we go back now, sire?"
But Arthur, as he turned around his horse, asked Leon evenly if he knew what the name of those small unfortunate towns were. The knight cleared his throat before answering and there was something in his eyes that Arthur couldn't quite place.
"I don't really know, sire. Forgive me."
"Wait, wasn't there a riot a few years ago near these lands?" Bedivere commented casually and offhandedly, startling the young prince when Sir Leon's face fell. "I remember my father had to come over the borders to chase a renegade sorcerer. Told me he was deranged. Don't you remember that Leon?"
Both Kay and Arthur looked at the oldest among them and the knight, his cheeks visibly red, said softly. "I don't believe so…"
"You lot would not know about this, you were only babes." said Bedivere with a smile as his young prince faced him again. "But, by the gods, was that a mad chase. And to think this happened about ten years ago…well, I was only a child myself! But I still remember all those knights going after him…" (2)
It took Arthur no longer than a heartbeat to realize that this sorcerer had been chased away right the year after his birth and so he frowned in time with Kay, who seemed to be thinking among those lines.
"That's enough, Bedivere."
Arthur felt himself grow worried when he heard Sir Leon's tone, for the young knight was anything but harsh and yet now it seemed that he would do whatever it took to stop Bedivere from talking. For the first time he wondered if there was something he should have not known hidden in Bedivere's words and narrowed his eyes at the country scenery that opened before him, trying to distinguish something that he might not have seen before.
His eyes saw nothing. But, even though prince Arthur never knew the High King of Albion one day understood that the village he saw below him was named Ealdor and that the path he rode and the earth he touched on that day were the same that a boy named Merlin played on every once in a while, letting his magic run free around him and envelop him whole.
But the child that one day would become the golden King only shook his head and decided to ask Geoffrey later for the names of these small towns he would one day make his. He just turned away and, with his heart lighter than it had been in many years, commanded his horse to turn back.
Ignoring the palpable relief on Sir Leon's face and facing instead the path that zigzagged out of his view Arthur closed his eyes and relinquished once more in the – was it even possible to feel as safe?- softness of whatever it was that swirled softly around him.
"Are we going to get going anytime soon, Wart?" Kay asked with a mocking smile that Arthur could not see.
As he forced his eyes open and looked around at the faces of his companions Arthur almost wished he hadn't. For a moment he'd felt as if he was reaching for something with his hands only to have it vanish into thin air as soon as he got close to it…
But soon enough he hid that thought well on the back of his mind and reminded himself that it was all over now and that as soon as he left that little forest it was unlikely to ever feel that something in the air again…
Kay was waiting for an answer with his back already turned towards his young prince.
"I thought I told you to stop calling me that." Arthur, the Once and Future King, said with a small grin. "Shut up Kay. I'll race you to the stream."
May you sail far to the far fields of fortune
With diamonds and pearls at your head and your feet.
"I see it!" cried out the old druid with great joy, one that did not belong on his extenuated face. "Oh, I see it!"
He was unceremoniously shoved around and when he finally fell- all trembling limbs and old bones and bruised skin- he used his remaining strength to make his way towards Arthur's splendidly booted feet and there he stayed, reaching out with one hand to touch the prince's leather-wrapped ankle, never minding the screams around him.
But even though Camelot's men demanded the druid to get up Arthur was silent and the large though young hand that reached down for the druid's shoulder was not unkind.
The druid's eyes met his so quickly that Arthur almost took a step back, because those eyes were like nothing he had ever seen, so very old that they could not be real. The druid's grip on his ankle had tightened almost painfully but Arthur did not notice it- so entranced was he with the man's smile at the face of certain death.
"We've been waiting for you for a long time," said the old druid and he sounded pleased, almost relieved beyond measure, as if he had expected something else entirely.
Arthur could just stutter, "I don't understand." because he had been sent to kill, to slaughter…
The man smiled with great peace as he touched his lips, barely, to the tip of Arthur's fine boots. "One day you will."
When Arthur finally stepped back- though he did not want to- and one of the oldest knights took over and unsheathed his sword, the man all but glowed with happiness and raised his head in a gesture that Arthur had never seen. A troubled feeling came over him but he could do nothing but hear as the man cried out once more, "Ah, ye know him well fields and oceans of Albion, ye know him well stars of the skies! Here he is, crowned with light and signaled with power! Ye knew him, oh soul! The one that has diamonds and gold at his feet and power as his fleece-!"
He was silenced by the sharpened blade of a sword and the dull sound of his body hitting the soft ground.
And may you need never to banish misfortune
May you find kindness in all that you meet
When Uther ordered for the druids to be brought into the palace Arthur had long since kept track of time. He was feverish and colder than he'd ever been before and his delirious ramblings about someone or something in a tongue that neither Uther nor Gaius could understand had sent the king on edge and he'd raged on, believing his only son was under an enchantment and his kingdom was under attack.
And so the druids were sent for and Gaius stood by prince Arthur's bedside as the young prince thrashed and mumbled in his sleep, clearly losing his battle with whatever it was that was affecting him so badly. The Lady Morgana had asked for sleeping draughts since it all began and the Court Physician strongly suspected that the poor girl already had nightmares in which Arthur succumbed to his disease.
"My son is dying." Uther said bluntly as soon as the elderly healer whom the druid people had sent as an emissary crossed the threshold of the palace, his wrinkled hands in shackles and his feet tied with rope. "You must do something."
He had said nothing but followed Uther as the king stomped through the empty hallways, ignoring those who stood firm with candlelight in the courtyard for it was nighttime and the fear in Uther's heart was in many others. He said nothing when Uther stopped and took a ragged breath, said nothing when the door was opened and he entered into a gloomy space that had been kept extremely warm even though the boy in the bed looked ice cold.
It was when his eyes fell on Arthur, silent and still, that he spoke softly, "Oh, my king."
And even though Uther eyed him warily and Gaius looked towards him with narrowed eyes the druid did not spare a moment in reaching Arthur Pendragon's bedside and sweeping back the future High King's golden fringe with his rough and bounded hands.
"I do not have him with me." He said softly as he bent over, making sure that Arthur's very soul understood. "But I have something that will certainly help."
And with that he reached over and took a piece of soft blue cloth out of his pocket, pressing it to Arthur's cold and shaky fingers tightly and making sure that he held fast to it.
And Arthur did.
"I've had the good fortune of meeting him, mo tiarna. (3)" he whispered in the young prince's ear and Taliesin was sure the Once and Future King's soul could hear him and relinquished his words, for Arthur's face softened and his hand clutched the cloth tighter. "And he gave me this to take care of a wound. But you need it more than I do."
When he placed his hands over Arthur Pendragon's temples and whispered a few words to heal the devastating sickness Arthur had long since stopped thrashing and held in his strong grip one of the first neckerchiefs that a boy that would later become his manservant and best friend owned.
May there always be angels to watch over you
To guide you each step of the way
To guard you and keep you safe from all harm
Loo-li, loo-li, lai-lay
When the battle was most gruesome silence settled in. It was the scream of the High King what triggered it, low and hoarse and so very weak that it would not have been heard were it not for the answering bellow from the other side of the field, and that scream, loud and painful and freezing everything in its wake, was Merlin's.
The warlock soon found that getting to his King was nearly impossible as he began to stumble along, for every time Morgana struck Arthur's chest with her revolting magic his own soul stuttered inside his chest and he inevitably gasped and clutched blindly at his heart, falling to his knees in synchronization with Arthur's convulsions where he knelt on the battlefield. (4)
And so Arthur grunted in pain and Merlin struggled blindly on, briefly wondering why he could feel his Once and Future King's every breath as if it was his own because even though Arthur and him were bonded in greater ways that they could imagine this, this had never happened before…
"When are you going to learn, dear brother?"
Finally, after another flash of repulsing, tainted magic went through him, Arthur screamed and with it Merlin felt his knees give in.
Impossibly hopeless, staring at the grime with his forehead touching the dust, he could do nothing but breathe convulsively and try to get up again because he knew his King was calling him, Arthur needed him…
Merlin felt tears slide down his cheeks when all the could muster was a pathetic crawl towards his injured King before a new flash of green light made him double over, clutching his racing heart.
Arthur was silent and Merlin could barely breathe, staring at those blue eyes from his position on the floor, too weak to even lift his head or move his hand, too weak to reach for his King.
So all he did was breathe Arthur's name as Morgana cackled with her victory- even though Merlin knew that it would not be because Arthur was stronger than this….
"Goodbye, brother dear."
And Arthur, who had steadily looked into Merlin's eyes with his own, closed them when another of Morgana's lighting-like blows struck his heart.
For a moment, Merlin, too, ceased breathing.
And after that small instant of unbroken stillness in which the universe was silent suddenly he became aware of the Round Table knight's presence around him and Guinevere's screams as she rushed from the tents he could see nothing but Arthur's pale face, forever still.
The warlock's heart almost escaped the cage between his ribs when Arthur's chest struggled to rise and he could do nothing else but will his whole being to fight, to reach, to do something…
He was Emrys and so he was obeyed.
Blinding light rushed forth in a chaotic eruption of raw power, leaving the tips of his fingers numb as it zigzagged its way towards the very purpose of its being, hurrying in a mad and frenzied race to reach Arthur when Merlin could not.
It was blessedly comforting to know that his magic would take care of Arthur, like it always did, and so he began smiling even before the King was hit with a stream of eager golden light.
And he was the only one smiling when Arthur's weak body began to glow from the inside out – Guinevere's pleas, Morgana's ear-shattering screams and the knight's efforts to get to their King and his sorcerer were just barely reaching his consciousness…
He titled his head slightly to watch, the way a child would watch a shooting star become brighter and brighter as it goes its way, how Arthur glowed and flared with great white power while his wounds closed and his face softened. The perfect halo of light that surrounded his King was to him akin to the halo of the sun when it rises and as the soulful, pure magic flowed on from his fingers Merlin thought he had never seen anything as beautiful in his lifetime.
"Merlin." Gaius' voice was suddenly at his ear and strong hands were tugging him upwards- those were not Gaius' "Merlin, what did you do?"
As he continued to stare in awe Merlin could only mutter one word, "magic."
May you bring love and may you bring happiness
Be loved in return to the end of your days
Now fall off to sleep, I'm not meaning to keep you
I'll just sit for a while and sing loo-li, lai-lay
"…You know, Gaius just explained everything to me. You are extremely lucky that I happen to be by your side. Who would've thought magic was the only thing that could save you, you prat. Although I am magic and you were born of magic so I guess it's yet another way in which destiny has its laugh, is it not?"
When he came to, it was Merlin low and soft stream of one-sided conversation what he heard first and Arthur couldn't have fought the smile that formed on his lips if he had wanted to. He opened his eyes and saw Merlin's right above his- they came alive as soon as Arthur's focused and he, too, smiled.
They didn't speak for a long moment for Arthur knew he needed no words to tell Merlin 'thank you.' so he settled for reaching upwards and squeezing Merlin's shoulder with heartfelt warmth.
"No need to thank me." Merlin answered him with ease, "I would do anything for you, Arthur."
He looked around the darkened room with longing and once more it was Merlin who answered, "Gwen is sleeping. It's nighttime Arthur."
'Why aren't you, then?'
"I cannot." Merlin told him simply.
The light of a candle flickered by their side and though Arthur could barely see his friend's face what he could see made his eyes narrow with worry. He was silent as he reached and touched Merlin's wrist with his fingers, he knew that all of his great concern was already etched on his listless face.
"Me?" Merlin asked, smiling once more and he let Arthur's fingers wrap around his bony wrist. "I am perfectly fine. A bit tired but you would be too if you had given most of your life force away in a short span of time."
He had the decency to look away when Arthur raised his eyebrows with a half-amused glare.
"Gaius said it's alright. It is you he was worried about." Merlin told him as he placed his other hand above the one Arthur was using to clutch at his wrist. "We all were." he admitted then.
When Arthur spoke his voice was croaky and thin but it did not matter. "I'm alright."
"You are now." Merlin answered just as softly and to Arthur it looked as if he was blinking away memories of the battlefield when he did.
Arthur's heart almost broke for him. "It's alright." he whispered, not caring if his voice was still hoarse, "We're fine, old friend."
Merlin said nothing but he gripped Arthur's hand tighter. 'I know.' it meant.
"Go back to sleep, my King." Merlin's tone was fading and Arthur suddenly realized that he had closed his eyes and was near-sleep without even noticing it.
He struggled to keep his eyes open for a little bit more and blinked tiredly up at his good warlock's face, noticing once more how haggard and unhealthy Merlin looked.
"Not until you tell me what happened." the Once and Future King whispered stubbornly, "I want to know what happened, Merlin."
His friend turned his head a little and let out a breath when he inclined his head, gazing up once again to look into his King's eyes as he started to speak, looking for all the world as if he was about to cry.
"Gaius believes Morgana decided to attack your very being, Arthur. Not your body but your life." He placed his hand over his King's heart and kept it there. "She poisoned you. You were dying right in front of me and I- Arthur, you were born of magic. Somehow she knew that."
Arthur hid a frown when Merlin looked away as he tried to compose himself-perhaps too aware that he had only blabbered on. The High King just looked at the back of his warlock's head and waited patiently until Merlin was prepared to face him again.
"I am magic." Merlin said at last, pulling closer to his King as he said it, because he wanted Arthur to see the truth and light on his face. "But my magic is not the mundane and stolen one that some bandits use to gather money. My magic is yours the same way your first breath was the first spark of my existence. That's why you can see- that's why you can feel my life-force so clearly, that's why it is compelled to aid you. We're part of the same thread." (5)
He looked so very young and eager then that Arthur wanted nothing more than to laugh out loud in wonder at the greatness of their co-dependence and the gratefulness that blossomed in his heart overwhelmed it all. He could only stare at Merlin's equally awed face as his warlock's smile lit up everything around him in a way no candle could. Arthur knew that his best friend knew as well. He needn't words.
All too soon his eyes began closing again and suddenly Merlin's hand was pulling up covers Arthur didn't know he had over him.
"You did well…."Merlin murmured quietly with the smile still present on his voice, "Your victory was great, Arthur. The people of Stirling are now free from Morgana's tyranny. They've seen what you were willing to risk for them and the lords have all offered allegiance to you."
Though his heart was swelling with pride and warmth for his brave knights and his new allies the High King still tugged gently on Merlin's hand, rubbing his thumb back and forth so that his warlock heard him and obeyed him. "Go to sleep, Merlin…"
"I cannot." Merlin repeated and Arthur suddenly understood. He said nothing else.
Merlin remained by his side during the night and, even in dreams, Arthur had never felt safer.
(1) Man, I really hope I'm not violating any author's rights but this was meant to be a nod at Oz's wonderful OC Kay from her wonderful Heart of Gold.
(2) For those of you who might not have gotten it. ( although I'm pretty sure you all did, you guys are all incredible.) this was Balinor, the Last Dragonlord.
(3) I have no doubt Merlin would have stopped and helped a man in need. 'Mo Tiarna' means 'My Lord.' in gaelic.
(4) Now this...this was totally inspired by the Legend of Korra's battle between Korra and Vattu/ her evil uncle. When Raava is torn away from Korra and her reaction as the spirit dies or withers away...I thought it was pretty powerful and that's definitely what I tried to re-create here.
(5) Headcanon time. Basically, Merlin's magic is Arthur's magic or viceversa. Or, to quote a wonderful song by Vienna Teng:
Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze
Strange how we know each other
Strange how I fit into you
There's a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs
Strange how we fit each other
Strange how certain the journey
Time unfolds the petals
For our eyes to see
Strange how this journey's hurting
In ways we accept as part of fate's decree
For we don't realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it's been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side
-Eric's Song by Vienna Tang.
(I know I basically quoted the whole song. I am sorry.)
AN: Yes, well. It's been a year and some since the finale but I will still believe the people I've met in here are some of the greatest writers and all-around wonderful human beings that I've ever had the fortune to know. I want to shout out to April29Roses: though I barely have time to keep up with your updates anymore I am sure that you are doing a fantastic job and I am really proud of you, April. And to people like Cari, Erin and of course Oz *hugs tightly.* not to mention every single human being on this fandom. Keep rockin' guys, keep rockin.
All my love,