Author's note: Sorry for this taking so long. College has been hectic, I've been suffering writer's block, I got a new laptop, I passed my driving test, and I got the news that my brother's getting married, and he and his fiancee are expecting another little one. My life has seemed very 90mph, but now it's almost Christmas and I'm finally slowing down. Enjoy!
Merlin stared blankly at the fire in Gaius' study. He was not aware of the blanket that had been draped around his shoulders in a vain attempt to warm him up. He was not aware of Gwen holding him by the shoulders, gently, soothingly rubbing the tops of his arms, her expression grave.
Morgana sat at the table, crushing up jasmine with a pestle and mortar, as Gaius had instructed her to. As she worked, if only to keep the room from being deathly silent, she hummed a quiet tune, sad and sorrowful, despite her best efforts to keep it upbeat. She would stop every now and then to wipe away the tears that fell down her face, sniffing as she did so.
Gaius was tending over a glass bottle that was heating slowly, a small fire below it. In the bottle was a clear, buttercup yellow liquid. The liquid made the room smell of rosemary, charcoal and apples.
Suddenly, the door opened, and Arthur walked in. He was carrying firewood under one arm and held a bucket of water under the other. The pageboy, Andrew, followed him in silently, two blankets in his arms.
Gwen relieved the boy of his load and, after a quick acknowledgment to all in the room, Andrew scurried out, closing the door behind him. Gwen then wrapped Merlin in the other two blankets, to which he did not even move in response to either her touch or the extra weight.
"Is this really going to work, Gaius?" Arthur murmured to the physician quietly, as he lowered the water bucket to the floor.
"I don't know," Gaius replied truthfully. "But there is nothing else I can think of doing."
Arthur said nothing, but instead moved to the fire and dropped a couple of pieces of firewood into the hearth. He turned his head to look at Merlin, but saw nothing that reminded him of his friend. There was no warmth, no ridiculous smile that was almost always plastered on the young man's face, no spark in the eyes that made no demands on him… there was nothing.
Unable to look at the blank expression anymore, Arthur moved away. He could not believe how Gwen was able to stand being there, so close to him, knowing that nothing she did made a difference. Of course, he was not so heartless that he was about to tell her.
"Will he ever come round, Gaius?" Morgana asked, fearful of the answer. "He doesn't look like he'll ever stop just staring at the fire."
Arthur comfortingly laid a hand on Morgana's shoulder, massaging it gently in a vain attempt to soothe her tensions. She lifted a hand to cover his own, grateful for the effort.
"Merlin has been able to use magic since before he can remember," Gaius shrugged sadly. "This is something completely new to him, and it came about in such a horrid way."
"What I don't understand is…" Arthur began, suddenly remembering. "How is it that Nimueh managed to run? Why didn't she collapse like Merlin did?"
"There isn't one corner of Camelot in which Nimueh is safe. It was purely her survival instinct that made her run. She has fled to some kind of sanctuary and has probably collapsed to the same state as Merlin," Gaius hypothesised.
Gwen was watching the three of them, listening to what they were saying. Her head snapped towards the door as she heard it surreptitiously open. She unintentionally stiffened as she saw the king enter.
Uther was well aware that he was currently unwelcome in Gaius' study. Four pairs of unfriendly eyes told him as much. But, he had met more eyes than these in his lifetime. Admittedly, those eyes were not usually belonging to three people he trusted highly.
Feeling slightly daunted, but unfazed, he walked into the centre of the room. He looked at each person in turn, his eyes resting on Merlin and Arthur for the longest periods of time. Then from under his cloak, he handed Gaius an old, worn, leather bound book.
"I hope this could come in usefulness," Uther explained, his expression showing genuine guilt and hope.
Gaius looked over the book and froze. He stared up the king before opening the book in his hands. At this point, Arthur recognised the book as well.
"Merlin's spell book," he gasped. "I thought you destroyed it," he looked at his father with suspicious eyes.
"Merlin and I agreed that it would be burnt after he was executed. Since he is still here, the book is also here," Uther replied plainly, he turned to look at Merlin's still figure. "I never thought that there was anyone who was willing do what he did."
"Merlin is one of a kind," Gaius explained, pride and sadness embedded in his tone.
"Yes, he is," Uther agreed, turning back to Gaius. "Which is why I'm hoping you can undo the spell."
A shocked silence entered the room. Everyone was staring at the king with wide eyes. No one could believe what they'd just heard.
"As Gaius said, he is one of a kind. He has risked everything for Camelot, which is something I never expected from a sorcerer," Uther explained.
"Merlin is a warlock," Arthur reminded, his anger barely suppressed.
"Then he is the first warlock that I have ever met," Uther retorted, but his words pacified Arthur, slightly.
"What are you trying to say?" Morgana demanded.
Uther said nothing for a moment. He stared down at Morgana, before turning his sights to Arthur, then to Gaius, to Gwen, and finally resting on Merlin. After staring at the warlock for a moment, he scanned the room.
"Can any of you swear to me that he will only do what is best for Camelot? Can any of you swear that he will only use magic in the aid of Camelot?" Uther asked as he scanned the room, daring someone to answer.
"Yes sire," Gaius confirmed. "Merlin will do nothing to jeopardise Camelot."
"He protects people, not attack them," Morgana added, drawing strength for her argument from what she had seen of his character.
"He's honest, true to his word, to every promise," Gwen included; defending Merlin gave the handmaiden the courage to speak up to the king.
"He is no enemy of Camelot," Arthur finished, staring down his father with his resolve. "He is an ally, and my friend."
Uther stiffened slightly, surprised that everyone had some type of defence for Merlin. More than that, he was shocked to hear Arthur call someone his friend. And, he was very much aware of how well the people in the room knew the warlock. With them all coming up with a defence, he could not find a weak spot to exploit… and found that he didn't want to find one either.
"Then his actions lie on your shoulders," Uther warned them.
With nothing else to say or do, Uther turned round and walked out. He was well aware that he had left four very stunned individuals behind him.
After Uther had left, closing the door behind him, his son turned to the physician.
"What does he mean that he was hoping that you could undo the spell?" Arthur frowned.
"Court physician was not my only profession," Gaius answered.
Arthur's eyes grew wide in surprise, but Gaius ignored him. He laid the book flat on the table. He scrutinised each page he looked at, his body language screaming desperation. He vaguely noticed a youthful hand leaning on the table as its owner leaned over his shoulder, trying to watch.
"What are you doing?" Arthur asked.
"I'm trying to find the spell that Merlin cast. If I can do that, then I can look for an enchantment to counteract it," the physician replied.
"Err, wouldn't Merlin know?" Morgana asked, shifting slightly as she realised how stupid she had sounded.
"Yes, Merlin would know," Gaius responded before Arthur had the chance to comment. "However, I don't think Merlin is quite there anymore."
"What do you mean?" Gwen asked, her voice quavering.
Gaius sighed and straightened up. He looked over the three youths. As he looked at them, he deliberated on how to properly explain the situation.
"Magic is a part of Merlin," Gaius clarified. "It is, or was in his blood, in every fibre of his body, even in his very essence. And the spell stripped that away. Merlin isn't just in shock from losing a gift he possessed… he's in shock from being torn apart, down to his very core."
Arthur suddenly noticed his hand had unconsciously lain itself across his chest. He knew what it meant to be torn apart, but his experience was nothing compared to Merlin's. It had taken a lot of time and effort for him to get some information about what had happened to him. Merlin was fitting the description, and then some.
Then, a memory struck. Morgana had told him that when Merlin had brought his soul, his essence back, he responded to the warlock, but no one else.
He looked to Merlin thoughtfully, wondering.
"Can I have that book Gaius?" Arthur asked, holding out his hand.
Gaius looked at him doubtfully, but handed him the book regardless. Arthur walked towards the pair by the fire, motioned Gwen away and he knelt before Merlin.
"Merlin, look at me," he commanded gently. "Look at me," he repeated, with more force when the warlock didn't move.
With faint twitches of his head, Merlin slowly turned to look at Arthur. He seemed to be struggling to keep his head in that position.
"Show me what spell you used," Arthur instructed. "Look in the book and show me."
He placed the book on Merlin's lap, and waited. He saw Merlin lower his head, but felt dismay as he realised that the warlock wasn't making any move to look through it. He decided to go for plan B.
"Do you remember telling me that it was gone? That it hurt for it to be gone?" Arthur asked, suppressing a faint smile that wanted to wipe itself onto his face as Merlin nodded. "We could get it back, but we need to know what spell you used. Show me the spell and we'll try to get it back," he promised.
Merlin looked at him. There was a mixture of hope and confusion on the warlock's face. He knew that he was hopeful, but couldn't place the reason. But, he decided to focus, and give the prince what he wanted.
Turning back to the book, he slowly reached out and touched it. It sent shivers up his arm as it felt familiar beneath his palm, but couldn't understand why. Ignoring the fact, he opened the book. His eyes rested on each page for a second, before moving to the next, discarding each page when they did not show what he wanted. Then, he found it.
Merlin slowly moved his hand out and laid a finger on the page, pointing to the spell.
Arthur looked down at the spell. It didn't look that special to him, but it did look long. He flashed a glance up at Merlin, who hadn't moved his eyes since he found the spell, before moving his hands to join his friend's on the page. He laid his fingers over the spell and slid the book off the warlock's lap.
Righting the book, Arthur strode over to Gaius and showed him the spell. He was aware of how still the physician went.
"Gaius?" he asked warily.
"No wonder this happened…" Gaius stated sadly.
"What?" Morgana piped from her seat.
"This is an extremely powerful spell. Merlin should never have thought to try and attempt this," Gaius shook his head.
"Why what's wrong?" Gwen asked, fearfully.
"Was the spell too powerful?" Arthur asked.
"In a sense, yes," Gaius nodded reluctantly. "Any magic user is not powerful because they know powerful spells. They are powerful because of the control they have over the spells that they know. Usually a person cannot cast a spell that they do not have enough control for."
"What does that mean, Gaius?" Morgana insisted.
"It means that, in desperation, Merlin used a spell that he was not ready to use," Gaius explained. "Magic is by no means a tame thing. If a sorcerer or warlock casts a spell that they do not have complete control of, the magic may very well turn on them. And, as we can see, it is that what has happened to Merlin."
"You mean…" Arthur turned to look at the still figure of Merlin. "He wasn't powerful enough to control the spell?"
"No, not so sire," Gaius negated. "Magic is purely a skill of the mind. Merlin has not yet learnt the finer points of magic, such as resolve to not be affected by the more powerful spells that he casts."
"But given the position he was in, I doubt he had much of a choice," Morgana noted thoughtfully. "If he hadn't cast the spell, then he would never have left the executioner's block."
Everyone was silent for a time after Morgana had said that.
"Can you counteract it? Arthur asked, returning his attention to the physician.
"Now that I know the spell he used, I believe so. But we will have to return to where the spell was cast; it's too cramped in here," Gaius explained.
Arthur stepped back from Merlin as he now stood in the courtyard. He joined Morgana and Gwen as Gaius had instructed. And now, the trio waited for Gaius to cast the spell that would bring back the young man that they all knew.
Gaius was studiously looking over the book. Finally, he looked up and faced Merlin.
"Alwa ar 'r egwyddorion at adfer beth chymeran." Gaius stated, carefully pronouncing every word.
Then, the air suddenly began to fill with dust. The disturbance swirled around Merlin, who only seemed mildly interested in the event. The fine powder wove in and around itself, dancing conically about Merlin's still figure. As the dust spun about the warlock, it sent his clothes gently flapping, as if swaying in a slight breeze.
Then water came to replace the earth and it too swirled around a disinterested Merlin. But the soil came rushing to Arthur, Morgana and Gwen, before settling around their feet.
The water rushed around Merlin like a ribbon caught in the wind. It melded itself to the contours of the warlock's face, covering his face. There was nothing happening for a moment, and then Merlin started coughing, choking, suffocating. The water then spun around his head, distorting the vision of Merlin's head.
Then the water disbanded from Merlin, replaced by flames. The water condensed and flew silently towards the trio, just as the dust had done. However, the water landed on Morgana's face and ran down her face like a teardrop. Just like the teardrop that had been lifted from Morgana's face when the original spell had been cast.
The flames did not spin and swirl around Merlin like the dust and water had done, but instead surrounded him in a circle, the ground completely engulfed in the fire. The flames licked up the warlock's body, reaching high into the sky. The heat from the pyre was so intense that it took Arthur aback. But, there was one thing that he had noticed, and which brought his heart rate up.
Merlin was standing in the centre of the fire, but unlike the previous two elements, Merlin was moving. He had raised his arms to his face protectively. Also, Merlin's face was contorted in confusion and fear, his eyes squinted in the blazing brightness of the fire. However, Arthur noticed that the warlock did not appear to be in pain.
Then, fire came rushing in their direction, or, more precisely, Gwen's. The fire snaked around her clenched hands, twisting and turning as the handmaiden froze in shock. The fire spat and changed colour, some deepening to a blood red, whilst the rest turning a sickly green. Finally, the shifting flames stopped, as if frozen in time. There, in the place of the flames, was a beautiful rose, one that had only been seen once before. The one Merlin had created for Gwen not more than two days ago.
Arthur stared at the rose in awe for a moment, before returning his gaze to Merlin. At that moment, the pair made eye contact. As Arthur stared into Merlin's eyes, he could see the disorientation in the younger man, and the fearless surety from just looking at the prince: the surety that whatever was happening, he was safe.
Finally, the last element came to envelop Merlin. His clothes began to flap furiously as the wind picked up and whirled about him. He was standing in the eye of a small tornado. Every so often, a stray wind would wrap around him before joining the rest of the fury. It took a moment for onlookers to notice something different about the stray winds.
They were faintly glowing a gentle gold and silver. As each breeze brushed against Merlin, they lost the glow and returned to the torrent. And as each tiny glow brushed onto Merlin's body, they would glow more intensely before winking out. But as each light went out, Merlin began to glow slightly brighter as each second passed. His azure eyes began to shine golden, showing the magic that once again imbued him.
Then the wind dropped, and Merlin followed, falling to his knees.
But Arthur had very little time to react or think, as a burst of air forced its way past his lips and down into his lungs. It gave him the peculiar sense of trying to restore a drowned man's life by forcing air into the man's lungs. Just like a drowned man, Arthur gagged and started coughing furiously, the intensity of his coughing brought tears to the prince's eyes.
Then, a hand gently clasped Arthur's shoulder. That hand was too large to be either Morgana's or Gwen's, and it was too smooth to belong to Gaius. Arthur struggled to fight down the coughing fit, but straightened up to find himself staring into the azure blue eyes of a very concerned friend. Those eyes made no demands of him, merely the warmth of friendship gazed out from those eyes.
"Merlin!" Arthur gasped, his voice cracked from coughing.
The warlock smiled his usual, warm and slightly silly smile. The smile reached all the way to the man's eyes. Gratitude was plainly written over his face.
Arthur stared in wonder at Merlin for a moment, before drawing the man in for an embrace. Arthur felt his heart leap up his throat as he felt Merlin's arms almost trying to crush him as the warlock returned the gesture.
"Welcome back, Merlin," he whispered into his friend's ear.
"Thanks for bringing me back," Merlin whispered back.
As they drew apart, Merlin felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he found the hand belonged to Morgana, her face was blotchy from tears. She was smiling, relief was plain in her eyes. And, guessing what she wanted, Merlin turned to her and they also embraced, both glad of the outcome of the spell. Morgana was shaking slightly as she struggled to keep her composure and not cry or scream in pure joy.
Finally, Merlin managed, with Arthur's help, to dislodge himself from Morgana's grip. A slight movement behind Morgana instantly caught Merlin's attention. He found himself staring at a practically motionless Gwen. Morgana quickly looked behind her to her handmaiden, then beck to Merlin. She smiled slyly and stepped out of the way.
Merlin took two steps to Gwen before stopping. They just stood there, looking at each other. Neither of them moved, and no one said anything. Merlin and Gwen were merely smiling at each other.
Then, Gwen stepped forward, her arms flung out. Merlin opened his arms and caught her. Gwen clung to Merlin like her life depended on it, her face buried into the shirt. Tears were silently falling down her face, staining Merlin's shirt. Merlin held onto Gwen with equal dependency, one arm reaching across her slender shoulders, whilst his other hand tenderly held the back of her head. His face was resting on the top of her head, breathing in the faint flowery fragrance of her hair.
"I thought I'd lost you," Gwen whispered to him finally.
"Sorry," Merlin apologised.
Gwen raised her head to gaze into his azure eyes, and he gazed back at her. She could see him not really looking at her, more like looking into her, like he had done before. With the way his eyes were dancing slightly, she guessed that he was trying to follow the movement of light inside her.
She smiled, glad that the Merlin she knew was back. Then, Merlin's hands lid down from the back of her head and up from her shoulder, cupping the sides of her face.
Arthur rubbed his chin and turned away, giving his friend the respect of not standing and ogling at him. But he couldn't hide the smirk on his face as he realised how to tease Merlin for the next week.
Morgana just stood and smiled. She was pleased that the pair had finally sorted out their relationship.
As Merlin pulled away from Gwen, she opened her eyes to look at him, and her breath caught.
In front of her was a mass of swirling lights of gold and silver. But beneath the lights, she could clearly see the man she loved. She turned her head to stare out into a silver courtyard, where people, made of swirling silver and gold lights, went about their daily lives. She turned back to stare incredulously at Merlin.
"It's beautiful," she gasped. "Everything is so beautiful."
"I know," Merlin replied, smiling at her. "I know."
End Note: I left the kiss out for you to use your imagination.^_^