Standards

"You will never forget me, Merlin!"
Merlin stopped and closed his eyes. She was right. He could never forget her.

It was not necessary to turn around to have one last look at her. Merlin could see her, just as she was standing behind him, before his inner eye.

For a few seconds, every moment of the endless life she had lived was visible on her face. And Merlin understood.

He understood that compared to her, Ambrosia had been but a child on her dying day. That those huge, cold, inhuman eyes had seen more suffering than any mortal being could ever imagine. That the harsh voice which he so loathed had bemoaned so many losses that the number of stars up in the sky seemed insignificant in comparison.

And he understood why she had no heart. It had been shattered into pieces, and each death, each loss had taken one of those pieces away. Had she cried over everything she had lost, the world would have drowned in her tears.

But she had never given up. She had been as unbreakable as the storm, and as fierce, while she had tried o protect what was left to her. She had been anything. A goddess, a warrior, a queen. She had been anything but human.

At that moment, Merlin understood the source of their fight.
He had tried to judge something immortal, a part of nature itself, by his own human standards. It was like blaming the storm for uprooting a tree, blaming the waves for sinking a ship, blaming the flames for burning a house to the grounds. In this way he had blamed her that her broken heart, her shattered heart had forgotten how to love and how to moan.

He had taken everything she had offered him; his life, his magic, his knowledge, and in the end he had used her gifts to punish her because his soul, unlike hers, could still feel grief, because to him, the pain of loss was still so new that it seemed to tear him apart.
She had felt this pain so often and so long that she had forgotten how to live without it.

And suddenly Merlin realised that somewhere inside of her, hidden behind her face, behind her mask of long-lost dignity, her soul was still shedding the tears her eyes had forgotten how to cry so long ago.

He had tried to judge a goddess by mortal standards, and even though neither of them knew it or would have admitted it, some small part of her had met them.

"Merlin … I love you … as a son …"

Merlin swallowed, clenched his teeth and forced himself to walk on, his gaze wandering neither left nor right.

He knew that he could not bear to see a Goddess die.