Thy Kingdom Come
A/N: So, AP English: we got to watch The Crucible (movie version) just before the test, and this little ditty was inspired by the ending and stewed in my brain during the entire test. So, came home, wrote it all down, and voila!
Then it blew up into this three-parter thingy that was completely beyond my control.
…really! My muses wear thongs to distract me and when sic the plot bunnies on me and have a whip to make sure I write them! *sobs*
Muchos gracias to Arithilim for the beta job!
This time, the man's sorcery was indisputable. He had performed a mass healing and saved an entire court of people from certain, painful death.
And nearly killed himself in the process, overtaxing his magic. Except he'd lived, only to be tied to the stake, right this moment a pyre being built around him.
No one even knew his name.
Merlin swallowed as he turned away from the man, wishing he had been here when it happened – he could've saved this man, back then.
Now it was too late.
Arthur was down here among the commoners to watch – an open act of defiance, refusing to stand by his father for this, choosing instead to be with Morgana, Gwen, and Merlin – especially Merlin – right in front of the man.
Merlin wondered if the healer at the stake found any comfort in this. His face was too blank to tell, and it made Merlin turn even further away.
Arthur laid a subtle, calming hand on Merlin's hip, hidden by their cloaks, and Merlin smiled sadly, knowing that for every sorcerer killed, Arthur only saw Merlin's face on the pyre.
Bloody noble prat.
Merlin knew that it would be a while before Arthur would be able to think of anything else. Merlin usually ended up sleeping with him after these executions, so when the prince woke from his nightmares, the first thing he would see was a living, breathing Merlin, proof that his nightmares were wrong.
However, the widest waves of these executions were not in the nightmares, or the decrease in Arthur's monster hunting expeditions that always seemed to follow sorcerer killings. No, Merlin felt Arthur's fear the most when Arthur lit his own candles and stoked his own fire, not letting Merlin anywhere near the flames despite the fact that Merlin could do those tasks from across the rooms.
That was all Arthur could think about around these executions.
Now, tightening his cloak around himself, Merlin wondered whether the hand on his hip was for his comfort, or for Arthur's.
"This isn't right," Morgana hissed, before giving Merlin and Arthur a sympathetic glance, knowing Merlin was seeing his own probable fate before him.
Merlin smiled sadly, and turned to watch as the last bale of hay was tossed on the fire, as Uther voiced the man's "crime" and sentence.
"Light the pyre!" Uther's voice rang out.
Arthur squeezed Merlin's hips in support and fear as the torches were lowered, and the pyre erupted in flames.
At first, it was not much, then smoke – so much smoke, that Merlin already had both his neckerchiefs wet and waiting for him and Arthur to hold before their faces, so's not to breathe it in. The smoke was being blown everywhere by the same winds whipping their hair and cloaks about them, the flapping cloth a din in the people's silence.
The man on the pyre had nothing, slumping against the stake, leaning his face into his own shoulder to try and keep his breath away from the ashen air.
Merlin didn't know why – it would have been better for the man to die by the smoke than the flames.
Gwen was crying, and Morgana had wrapped her arm around the girl's shoulders, pulling their bodies close for comfort, and Merlin knew Arthur was barely keeping himself from doing the same with Merlin.
Merlin slipped a hand over himself to cover Arthur's.
"Our Father who art in Heaven," the man suddenly yelled out across the otherwise largely silent courtyard, making the people jump, including the royals on either side of Merlin, and the servants, themselves, watching the man face the sky.
Had the man lost his head to the smoke, so soon?
"Hallowed be thy Name," he continued.
And Arthur smiled, at the warlock's last defiance, and at the look of fury on Uther's face. But by his own law, he had no right to deny even a dying prisoner his last prayers. Merlin grinned, he himself, knowing the true comfort in words that sorcerers found, and just what this man found upon his pyre, his deathbed of flames.
"Thy Kingdom come!" the man yelled, and no one missed that this time, his face lowered, and he stared straight at Arthur as he said this.
Arthur nodded in promise.
"Thy will be done," and now, the man's gaze was looking towards the crowd before him, to Arthur, to Merlin, and the younger warlock wondered what he saw in Merlin, for Merlin could see no resentment, but he did find understanding, the anticipation of a dawn the man would not live to see.
"On Earth as it is in heaven," and this prompted the man to gaze back to the sky, this line less of a yell and more of a cry, his voice speaking less in desperation and more in celestial glory, a plea between the heavens and him, him alone.
"Give us this day, our daily bread," and Merlin remembered what every prisoner's last meal was. Merlin smiled at the man, wondering if that was when he thought of saying the Pater Noster the night before. "And forgive us our trespasses."
And then his gaze turned to Uther, above him.
"As we forgive those who trespass us," and Merlin was shocked to realize, feel, that this man meant his words – he forgave Uther, already, for this.
"And lead us not into temptation!" And this was delivered to Merlin, he was staring at Merlin, and now it was Merlin's turn to make his promise, his eyes flashing gold, his magic and intention insuring that the man would see it, and no one else. The man's face finally broke into a smile, as he looked towards Arthur.
"And deliver us from evil."
With that, he turned his face to the heavens, and the smoke was being blown away by a wind Merlin could find no source of, while the flames neared the man, as the man's voice rose.
He would have his last words, and Merlin would give him one last gift, one parting shot, for the man, for Arthur, and for himself.
His eyes flashed gold again.
The flames behind the man rose spectacularly, branching off in opposite directions, just behind the man, making the people gasp in awe as they took an impossible form, as they became wings, a vessel for something beyond this plane of reality, this world, this imagination.
Camelot's own Angel of Avenging Fire.
Except this man would avenge none but Uther's own mercy.
"For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever!"
And the flames turned white, almost blinding but not quite, and rose even more, almost as if ready to take flight, and with Merlin made the wings spread in flight as the man screamed in rapture, "Amen!"
With that, the wings of flame bore down, before vanishing without further lighting the pyre, the yellow flames of death still but a ring around him as he screamed in fury, in passion, in something incomprehensible to those so far removed from death and transcending.
Merlin reached into the man's soul, and breathed, I'm sorry, into his heart, before ending it, pulling and cutting on the chords holding soul to blood, and with a gasp and a cry, the man's body slumped, while under Merlin's watchful gaze, white flames, or maybe mist, something in between, rose from the man, dissipating into the air with the smoke.
The court yard was silent, the people's heads bowed in prayer.