She was feeling empty. After all her scheming and fighting the battle of Camlann had not turned out as she had hoped. Mordred had fallen slain by Arthur. Many great men had died most of them belonging to the pagan forces. But none of them had stayed loyal and had called for the help of their old gods. She had been present at the battle hoping someone would call upon her to intervene in their fight. Instead not few of them had reverted to crying out to the Christian God when they had lain in their own pool of blood feeling that their time had come. She had been venerated once, now she was a mere shadow of herself lurking in the mist, waiting for someone to remember that she indeed once was a powerful being. But her power mainly derived from the peoples faith. Mordred had been the only one to believe in her. But he also did not call upon her. He had thought himself to be strong enough to win this fight without her help. Only when he had been laying there the in mud and blood of the battle, when he had drawn his last breaths he had called upon her so she could approach him.
Now she was standing in the forsaken main hall of Camelot, the round table right in front of her. She was only but a mere shadow of her former self. All colors seemed to have been drained from her. Grey strands of hair were framing her face, where once the black cascades had fallen over her shoulders. She was feeling more tired than ever, but in her face one could still recognize the ageless beauty of the goddess. Only her eyes betrayed her recent loss. What now? What options where left for her?
She was at a loss. All her efforts had been in vain. Mordred her last hope, her last champion was dead and that just because of Merlin and his resilience towards her. She should have gotten rid of him years ago. Why had she allowed him to be a constant thorn in her side, a constant nagging problem, a constant weakness?
Suddenly, before she could find an answer, the large doors of the gate flew open.
Merlin appeared, closely followed by Frik.
The moment she saw him the anger rose again inside her.
Merlin, once her highest hope for the survival of her people, was now her most acrimonious enemy. Because of him it all had gone wrong.
But he stood in front of her obviously feeling the same rage as she was feeling.
"I knew I would find you here, Mab" he said with a dangerous glare in his eyes.
Of course he would come here. Expecting his move, she had been waiting for him. After all there still was a connection between them. At this thought Mab felt a twinge in her heart. But she ignored it, the memory was too painful and she could not let him see the weakness he was able to instill in her. So instead she answered:
"So you have come to see my final triumph?"
But both knew her question was rather made in gallows humor than meant seriously. She became more and more aware of the fact that their final encounter would be about death or life. Of course Merlin also knew that. After seeing his champion and pupil, his king and foster son Arthur die in his arms he had only one goal left.
Now that everybody he once had loved was gone, the desire for revenge was rooted deeply inside his heart.
"No! I've come to see your final defeat!" he hissed.
"Bah! You always were a dreamer Merlin!" she spat back. "Let me see… you have lost your Arthur, the battle, your one true love…"
"The battle isn't over yet Mab", Merlin declared. Her words stung inside his heart, but he was only determined to pay her back. For now there only was one fight left, and he wouldn't refuse it. She was right; he had lost everyone that mattered to him. Only the wish for vengeance was left inside him. It wouldn't matter if he died now. Nimue was lost to him and the world would still be changing without him.
Still he was defying her with every move, with every word. It made Mab furios. That was exactly the stubbornness that had gotten them were they were now.
"You can't win!"
Her voice was frantic.
At that moment Frik interfered. He had entered the room at Merlins side. The former cowardly servant now also saw his chance for revenge.
"She has weakened herself Merlin!" More whispering to him he said; "She is vulnerable now…!"
Merlin raised his hand and brought his mouth close to Friks ears, so that Mab couldn't hear his answer.
"I know what we have to do – gather the people in the next hall and cl-…"
"WHY are you consulting with that traitor!?", Mab was hissing full of rage, suddenly standing on that round table directly in front of them. She was raising her arms threateningly as if to fire a spell at that the gnome every moment.
She hated that little bastard, he was a treacherous rat. Once he had used to weasel around her trying to appease every of her moods but then he had reverted into being a primitive and scrotum-driven being that forgetting about his own people completely only did have eyes for a mortal woman.
"Madame after all my years as faithful servant… I mean that's rather harsh!" he said with faked compliancy.
"That's not as harsh as I'm going to be!" She approached him.
She would have ripped out his heart in the same moment if he hadn't chosen to back up and retreat.
"Sorry can't stay!"
Frightened by his former mistress Frik decided to leave this fight to Merlin. At least he was still a wizard whereas Frik was denied access to his magical powers by his former Queen. He had his instructions anyways. So within seconds he made his way out of the hall, closed the gates and left Mab and Merlin behind.
Now as they were alone, it seemed that Mab let her mask drop. A deadly silence was lingering in the air. Suddenly the superiority and arrogance were gone from her expression. Instead she looked rather deprived and sad. Her eyes weary and her former haughtiness gave way to certain firmness.
"Mordred is dead." was all left she could say. Slowly she realized the pain concerning him. At least he had been the only one who had stayed faithful at her side. She realized she had liked that boy. Not as much as she had adored Merlin. But look where that had gotten her! Love eventually had turned out to be a weakness, something that had cost her all energy and all in vain.
But for Merlin this statement only made clear, that they both where at equal conditions.
"So we both have nothing to lose."
He gave a glare when he went on; "This battle now is just between you and me, Mab."
He moved closer. Merlin had decided, that now the time for arguments was over. His decision was made, like it had been years ago when he had decided to kill Vortigern or like it had been when he had wanted to beat Mab in revenge for Ambrosia. Now he would avenge them all: his mother, Ambrosia, Nimue and Arthur!
Mab saw the hatred on his face and realized that all words had been said.
With the blink of an eye she parted the wooden table with a sudden outburst of magical energy. The famous Round Table that so long had been the counseling table for the knights was no more. Nothing stood between them now and their fight began.
It was Mab that first used most of her powers to bring up a storm. The strong winds pulled Merlin from his feet and nearly smashed him into the ceiling. Though she was releasing all her anger at him her attack wasn't lethal. And Merlin also wasn't a foolish young apprentice anymore. His powers had grown over all the years. He countered her energy with his own and retreated slowly back to the floor again. When he was back on his feet he saw that Mab was visibly out of breath. She was staggering a little but it only seemed to infuriate her more.
She realized her first attack hadn't been meant to kill Merlin. Again she unconsciously had held herself back, like she always had done, when she better should have gotten rid of him in the past. Her anger resolved her decision. Her next move should be the end of Merlin.
"I show you how weak I am!"
As she raised her hands, the end of her fingers transformed into sharp arrowheads and as quick as a flash the arrows shot towards Merlin.
Right before they could pierce him he raised his right hand to transform it into a wooden round shield.
The ten arrows got stuck in the thick wood one by one. With the next shrug of his hand Merlin cast away the shield bearing Mabs arrows.
For a moment disbelieving astonishment was shown in her face. Hitting the floor the arrows were breaking apart and Mab realized she would have to dig deeper for a sufficient Weapon. Materializing fake weapons wouldn't do it.
But Mab had no time to think about Merlins skills. She needed to win and she needed to do this fast. This strange slight dizziness was returning – a feeling as unknown as it was threatening to her. Her magic was different that his. Limited to illusions and elements she had to use brute force in the end.
She summoned more of her powers. This time a flame grew on her hand until it became a decent ball of fire.
She threw it at him.
But he simply drew aside and it smashed into the wall. Swallowing her irritation she prepared for another assault. The next fireball missed Merlin only by an inch. If she was quick enough he eventually would fail to evade her attacks.
So she threw one fiery sphere after another. But every time Merlin either avoided or parried it. And with each fireball she began feeling even more exhausted.
Mab had to end this. The air hung dry with smoke. She could barely feel the elemental source of her powers anymore.
In a last attempt of effort she raised both of her hands and formed a massive bowl of fire with all the magic she could grasp.
With the rest of her remaining energy she raised her arms and pushed it towards Merlin-
The wizards reaction came as fast as the huge bowl flew.
He was ducking low and the fireball struck through the gate with the power of a meteor. There it crossed the next hall, graced the ceiling and left the castle at the eastern window where it fell into the lake beyond.
The smashed doors were smoking on the rim of the large new opening in their midst. Now Merlin turned around and saw that Frik had already achieved his goal.
The room was filled with the people of Camelot many peasants and several knights among them, many of them old and battle ridden. They all knew the stories. And the gnome had told them more about the evil ancient fairy spirit that would be a threat to their new Christian god and their peaceful kingdom for she had been the one who had brought the downfall of their king. But Merlin now would save them. They only had to believe in him and look at him when he would appear.
And as the battered doors were opened they were watching him in horror appearing out of the smoke, making contact with all of their eyes. Moments ago they had wondered about the battle sounds. Some had wanted to flee in fear; some had wanted to enter the battle. But that strange little man had told them to wait. When the fire had burst through the door everyone instantly knew it was time. And now a strange tension was filling the air instantly taking grip of everyone who had spotted the wizard.
In midst all of their actions they halted and concentrated on the now present wizard who was leaving the throne room coming towards them.
Mab on the other side still wasn't ready to give up. She saw the mortals, but she couldn't care less. Her will to survive was stronger, even if those humans would attack her now, she would fight them, even if Merlin would join them now.
She didn't realize his true purpose turning towards the people. She thought he would animate them to assault her.
"My strength may be failing Merlin, but I can still deal with these poor humans."
Stabbing unknown pain was ripping through her body, when she felt the exhaustion take hold of her. But she pressed a hand to her side and went after him. Let them all come, she thought. She would take them down.
They shall see the true power of the Old ways.
She was bracing herself for another fight.
"What are you planning to do?" she called aloud, trying to keep a firm voice but it was shaking. "Use your puny swords and axes on me?"
Some of the peasants in the first rows were ripped out of their trance in that moment and fear began to engulf them again. They looked at Merlin as if they awaited him to protect them. But he just locked his eyes with their gazes. And suddenly there was no fearful thought left in their heads. One by one, everyone who had looked into his eyes had forgotten absolutely everything concerning this situation. Even their own will had been extinguished.
Mab didn't realize the change Merlins magic had brought. She didn't realize that he had taken over control without even approaching her. Hypnotized by the wizard the people turned around and ignored their surroundings.
They didn't even notice Merlins words, as he turned one last time facing the Fairy Queen.
"No Mab we are just going to forget you."
Again he turned around leaving the hall knowing that when he deleted all the memories of her in the humans' minds, Mab finally would lose enough energy to eventually die.
She would draw no more power out of the people's beliefs and weakened as she was, she simply would cease to exist. Finally he could defeat her. She would not be able to cope with this loss of energy and would finally be unable to keep herself inside her chosen physical form. But without new power she also wouldn't be able to gain a new form or even exist without one. With that in mind Merlin knew he had defeated her, he knew that he hat outwitted her and he knew that he had won.
Merlin hoped he would feel better after all now that his revenge seemed to be fulfilled.
The air was dry, smoke and magic were creating a heavy fog between the fairy Queen and her wizard. And only very slowly it dawned on Mab, what was happening to her.
"Merlin, what are you doing?", she kept asking already sensing the answer.
"You can't fight us nor frighten us – you just aren't important enough anymore." he declared glancing shortly back at her.
Finally it began to dawn on her. He had no intent of attacking her directly after all. Instead he was planning something far more potent.
"We forget you Queen Mab!", his eyes met hers for a last time. "Go join your sister in the lake and be forgotten!"
With that he finally turned around and concentrated hard to uphold the hypnotization spell that would erase all memories of her. But still there was this anger and hatred he felt for her. He wished that it was so easy, that she wouldn't be important anymore. But that could only work for the people of Camelot, not for him.
His emotions were still too strong and it was hard to ignore her cries. But he tried. He tried very hard. He tried so hard that he didn't notice his devastated surroundings, the broken and scorched furniture, nor the smoke in the air. He just saw how swiftly the room emptied and how the people were leaving the scene. With every person gone he felt his tension leaving.
"Look at me!" she yelled.
"Merlin!", he heard her scream frantically.
But the people were moving out of the halls leaving the scene, following the command in their heads given by the wizard whose name they couldn't even remember.
Mab was still screaming his name.
She couldn't believe it. Whatever he was doing it actually was affecting her. She could feel the people forgetting her. She could feel her Fae folk dying with each second someone thought that he would not believe in fairies. She could feel how he tried to ignore her, how he tried to block her out. She did not want to be forgotten. How could he?
"Don't forget me Merlin… ", she called after him, tears running down her face.
"I love you…" it was barely a whisper, but he had heard it.
Slapping himself inwardly he braced himself and went to leave the corridor for good.
Beads of sweat were glistening on his forehead.
When Mab saw that he also was also about to leave the hallway, she couldn't bear it anymore.
He was ignoring her desperate cries but she didn't want to die this way.
Fear was nearly paralyzing her and for some awful long seconds she felt the cold claws of death reaching for her.
She couldn't tell if it was the terror of death or the fear of being left for good by the only person she had ever truly cared about in this world. She only knew she couldn't move nor breathe and cold freezing smoke was enveloping her form.
But then her will to survive returned.
She would do anything. She knew he believed her to be the source of all evil. But she would show him the error of his ways. She would not let him finish her off without a chance of defending herself. If he truly wanted to kill her should do it properly and not by running away. She knew he hated her, but if she could convince him of another chance he might be able to forgive her. It did not matter. He just was not supposed to run from her like that. She was Queen of the Old Ways and even that did not matter. She did not want him gone!
If he could give her only one more chance she would do everything to proof him to be worthy of it. If only for once he would just listen to her.
Gathering together all the little strength left that she could grasp she began to run. She ran right after him. She could not simply let him walk away and she would not let him.
She was moving and smoke was moving with her. Ash was swirling around her and she could nearly feel her body disintegrating. Losing all contact to the physical world it became even harder to move forward.
Still she ran. With every step she became more and more of a cloud that could be blown away by the wind at any moment. The distance seemed endless. And time seemed to halt. A moment became an eon. And when Merlin nearly had reached the end of the hallway she had caught up with him.
When Mab reached him she seized the back of his robes. In the sudden moment of contact with him, she felt solid again. His presence brought her back as she brought herself back into his awareness.
He was stopping abruptly when she was clutching her hands deeply into the cloth of his robes. That was not how he had planed it. He had wanted to destroy her. He did not want to hear her pleas for mercy.
With a brisk movement he turned around to shrug her off and simultaneously he struck out with his right arm his hand clenched into a fist.
The punch hit her right in the face sending her down to the ground. Mabs head seemed to explode when she fell with a pain she had never experienced before. But it was a hot and real pain nothing like the cold creeping feeling she had before.
A second later she could open her eyes again, when she found herself on the floor.
Quite disorientated she was looking up right into his eyes….