Epilogue: The Prince and the Warlock
Arthur stood alone in the abandoned east barracks.
This is where Leon and his men had found him three days ago, back when he'd been recovering from the Questing Beast's bite. This is where he'd woken up, dazed and confused and more than a little surprised to be alive. This is where Leon had told him what had happened, how Camelot had reacted to the near-loss of its prince.
This is where Emrys had last been seen.
Arthur had only vague half-memories of his sickness. He remembered Guinevere's sweet, gentle voice; Morgana's sharper admonitions that he wasn't allowed to die, he couldn't; his father's despair, his voice all choked with tears; Merlin telling Gaius that there had to be a way, if only they could find it. But his consciousness had faded as time had passed, and the only thing he could recall of the last half-day before his awakening was a glimpse of a pale equine head crowned with a gleaming crystal horn.
That memory must have been real, Leon had told him, for Emrys claimed that a unicorn had purged the Questing Beast's curse from his body. Magic had brought him nigh unto death, yes, but magic had saved him as well.
Arthur wasn't quite certain how he felt about that.
When the warlock's sleep spell had worn off, Uther had immediately forbidden any mention of what had happened. It was too late. He and the other sleepers hadn't awakened for hours, and while they were unconscious, word had spread from the knights who'd witnessed Emrys's explanations to the guards to the servants to the streets of the city. Everyone knew, just as they knew that a warlock had fought a wraith in Arthur's stead and that the druids were stepping out of the shadows.
Uther had been torn between relief that his son was awake and alive (and maybe a bit of gratitude, too, though of course he'd never admit it) and teeth-gnashing fury that he was losing his grip. He'd treated Arthur well, frequently expressing joy at the younger Pendragon's "miraculous" recovery, but refusing to acknowledge that magic had been involved. Everyone else, though, knew to walk lightly around the king. Even Merlin was on his best behavior, though he grumbled about it whenever Uther's back was turned.
With a sigh, Arthur sat down on the bed where the spellbinder had put him. "I'm not sure why I'm doing this," he confessed to the empty room. "You didn't show up yesterday or the day before, and how the hell would you even know I'm here? I haven't told anyone that I keep coming back. This is ridiculous." Huffing, he pushed himself to his feet, made his way to the door. This was ridiculous, and he would go back to his room and never return.
"So you don't want to talk, then?"
Very slowly, Arthur turned back around.
Emrys leaned against the wall, his hood down, a gem-tipped staff in his hand. Arthur couldn't decipher the other man's expression, but he thought he caught a glimpse of amusement in those eerie yellow eyes.
"Why are you doing this?" he finally managed. "I'm a Pendragon. Why…?"
"Because I want the killings to stop."
"…You want me to legalize magic."
Arthur shook his head, incredulous. "You do know who I am, correct? Who my father is?"
"Of course I know who you are." A tiny smile curved the spellbinder's lips. "That's why I know you can do this. I know that you always strive to do what's best for your people, what's right, and that if I can show you how wrong the Purge is, you'll stop it."
"And how am I supposed to do that when my father is still king?"
The warlock sighed. "I'm not going to kill him, if that's what you're asking," he answered quietly. "Well, not unless he charges me with a sword and it's me or him, at any rate, but that's self-defense and not murder. You're a warrior, so I know you understand the difference. I'm not a murderer, Arthur Pendragon."
"And how do I know I can trust you?"
"How do I know that I can trust you?" Emrys arched his brow in a manner frighteningly reminiscent of Gaius. "I very much doubt that you've never killed one of my kin."
Arthur thought of a long-gone druid camp and winced.
"Open your eyes," Emrys said softly, gently. "You're starting to realize that this is wrong, and I know that it must be difficult but…." He hesitated for a long moment. "My magic first appeared when I was very young," he finally confessed. "To keep me safe, my mother told me about all the horrible things that happened to spellbinders here in Camelot. Your knights and your family, they were the monsters that haunted my nightmares. But then, when I got older, I started to understand that your kin aren't monsters. You're people, scared, angry, confused people. Well, my kin are people too, Arthur. Just try to remember that, okay?"
He looked so young then, but his eyes were older than the sky. Those wise, ancient eyes bored into Arthur's gaze for a long moment before their owner looked away. He pulled up the hood of his cloak, obscuring half his face in shadow—but his eyes were as bright as ever.
"Thank you," Arthur said, before he could stop himself. "For everything."
Emrys smiled. "Anytime."
Then he was gone, leaving Arthur alone in the abandoned barracks. Or perhaps the prince was not alone, for his mind was full of swirling thoughts, rushing like a river.
He turned to leave, but he only made it to the threshold before he paused, turned back, and raised his hand as if to wave.
"Until we meet again."
Book I of the Albion Cycle is now complete. The first chapter of Book II will be uploaded on May 6, 2016. Hopefully, by giving myself a month and a half to get started, I won't miss so many of my self-imposed deadlines and can publish chapters in a consistent and timely manner.
Book II will be less episodic than Book I, since by then the AU effects will start to accumulate and I won't be retelling (and, of course, modifying) a lot of episodes from the show. There will be worldbuilding, new characters, and at least one overarching villain to make things difficult for our heroes. There will also be a bit of romance-though I've never actually written romance before and will not be focusing on that aspect of the plot. By the end of Book II, well... let's just say that Camelot will look very different from its Season 2 counterpart.
Thank you for reading this enormous, out-of-control monster. You guys rock!