"Fade to Black" by Karen
It was with a feeling of both dread and weary resignation that Merlin welcomed fall of darkness on this night, of all nights. Camelot was no more; it had to be said, to make the end all the more real.
It had been inevitable once certain events had been set into motion. After all, who had been the most responsible for the creation of a dream made reality, than he? His own efforts to keep the dream alive, well, hadn't they all fondly believed that it could last forever?
That was an old man's fondest hope, and, a foolish one, in hindsight. Camelot could not last forever; that was a given, hence here he stood, on the crest of a hill overlooking the bowl of the valley where the castle had been constructed all those many years ago.
There is not much left to see, however, in his mind's eye and without having to bring into play the long sight of his own considerable magic, Merlin imagined that he could still see the shining edifice that once stood on this ground. The King in his splendor, the grass sparkling like a blanket of emeralds strewn over the ground; and the tall spires with the various pennants flying boldly in the fresh summer breeze.
"It was a nice dream, as dreams go," he mused aloud as he took his bemused gaze off the valley and took around at the surrounding landscape. The sky above had gradually gone from a pearlescent lilac to the deep black of night while he had stood contemplating. Perhaps that would explain why his normally fine-tuned seasons utterly failed to detect the presence of another approaching his chosen observation spot.
"You took a slender thread and hung a bridge upon it," the newcomer sniffed,
the voice the low, throaty contralto of a woman. It was a voice that Merlin recognized almost instantly, and despite everything that had come before, he shivered, involuntary.
"Morgan Le Fay," he muttered, gripping the knob of his staff a little more firmly before pivoting around on his heel in order to face her.
"Do you come to gloat?" he asked.
"I had intended to," she replied. "But after seeing, or rather, surveying the battlefield, and my brother's body carted away on his shield," she sighed. "There hardly seems any point left in gloating."
Morgan chanced to look up from contemplating the slender blades of grass that she held. in her fingers to note the stricken look on the magician's face. "Was he that important to you. I never realized."
"I shall miss Arthur, and yes, perhaps he was that important to you," replied Merlin just a bit taken aback that his own feelings for the dead king were that strong.
"Things are not so easily ended," Morgan Le Fay remarked suddenly, in an utterly different tone of voice than the drawn out voice that she had used up until now. "Not between us, and certainly not now."
Merlin started. "What do you mean?"
She shook herself and wrapped her arms closely around her robes, with the night breeze lifting the hems of the green velvet up around her shins.
The night was not particularly chilly, but then Merlin rarely felt the extremes of either heat or cold.
"Morgan," he urged her to go on, which she did after a moment or two of silence.
"I do not know why I said that," she mused, not really meeting his gaze.
"Something in the air, perhaps." She shrugged. "It had to be said, and I was chosen to convey it. It happens, betimes , while I am in trance, or meditation."
"I can well appreciate that, my dear." Merlin nodded. It hardly took the use of magic to know that while Camelot as an actual living, breathing entity, might be dead; the legend itself was very much alive. Perhaps not in the immediate present, but for future generations. That should be enough to comfort, should it not?
"Are we becoming sentimental in the twilight of our years, Merlin?" she asked.
"A bit maudlin, I'll wager, but that hardly matters now, does it?" he replied.
"Things change, that seems to be the way of the world," Morgan whispered as she uncurled from her previous posture and stretched out one hand to tentatively touch Merlin on one bony shoulder. "Do we?"
"Perhaps, perhaps not."
"We who live as long as we have, perhaps the changes in us, are much harder to detect, and flicker by like a moth drawn to the inevitable flame." Morgan allowed herself a small grim smile, not so much to take the sting out of her words, but to reflect she was as equally blind to some things as Merlin had been.
"You are not wrong, not wrong," Merlin sighed, angry with himself for allowing himself to be comforted by that gesture of Morgan's, and perhaps angry that she might be right in more ways than one.
"I will leave you now," she said, this time in a matter-of-fact tone. "Fare well, Merlin," she said as she vanished into the night.
The wizard watched her go, noting that she walked on her own two feet until she was beyond his line of sight, among the a copse of free-standing trees before she employed her magic.
"This chance encounter, old man, what do you make of it?" he chided himself, "Anticipated and yet, rather unlooked for. I detected no hint of malice, no sign that she worked towards my end. I am being unfair. In her own odd way, she actually meant it kindly."
Merlin shifted position, gradually ending up sitting down on the crest of the slope.
His staff made a wet plopping noise in the damp turf. With his free hand he reached up and rubbed his eyes, realizing that as he pulled it away that it came wet with his own tears. "Hope, a slende. fragile thing, but worth it, in the end."