A/N: This is it! Thanks so much for the reviews, and please do so one last time! *glomps* I love you guys! :)
A week later, Merlin was back at work. His injuries were gone; they had been since he'd drunk out of the cup of life. That in itself had been a mystery to him – the magical defense when he was supposed to be dead (although he could remember nothing of that time at all) and the magical rain pouring into the cup of life after Morgause's death. He'd asked Gaius about it but the old man had been stumped, and beyond relieved that his ward was alive. Merlin had never encountered such a warm embrace.
Finally he'd called the dragon, who didn't seem disturbed at all by what had occurred, even when Merlin reminded him that because Kilgharra had only done the job "halfway", that Merlin had almost died.
The dragon's response? "But you didn't, young warlock, and for that, destiny is smiling upon you."
What the hell did that even mean? Merlin didn't even try to guess, instead opting to ask the dragon about what had happened at the Isle.
"Ah, young warlock, how often you forget how powerful you are."
"I know I'm powerful," Merlin had responded, but not arrogantly. He was just being honest. "But I was dead. You know, as in not living."
"And yet you are still here, Merlin."
Merlin frowned. "You know," he said, "you seem to be feeling particularly cryptic today."
The dragon gave a toothy, terrifying grin that Merlin just glared at. It was clear that Kilgharra was enjoying this, but Merlin's patience was coming to an end. He'd been through hell and back and he wanted – needed, even – answers about how he had made it "back," because on the Isle of the Blessed, all had most certainly been lost. Kilgharra was a powerful, ancient, and mystical being. He had provided many answers for the warlock before; Merlin was confident that he had them now and was just being an obnoxious riddle-monger as usual.
Chuckling softly, Kilgharra finally gave in and spoke, his voice ringing with power and confidence that what he said was true. "You survived on the Isle of the Blessed, Merlin, because you are a creature of the Old Religion, and the Isle is the home of the first Magic, the place where the Old Religion was formed at the beginning of time."
Merlin raised his eyebrows, skeptic. "So I'm alive because I have magic?"
"No, young warlock, you are alive because you are Emrys, the prophesied savior of Camelot, the magical ambassador that will be hailed for centuries as the greatest magician that ever lived, because you are an intricate part of the Old Religion. It is a part of you; there is a bond between you that no other mortal shares with their powers. You aren't just magical, Merlin, you are magic itself. And you are too important to the future of magic for the Old Religion to let die."
Merlin, eyes wide, puzzled out what the dragon had revealed. "So after I…" he hesitated, the words sounding strange and disconnected coming out of his mouth, "…died, and Arthur killed Morgause, the Isle took it upon itself to transfer her life to mine?"
Kilgharra dipped his great head. "Yes, Merlin. When your heart stopped beating, the Old Religion was torn at the seams, the ancient magic screaming with agony, because such an intricate part of it was gone. I could feel the despair of the magic inside of me. It was as if magic was mourning for you." Merlin's stomach fluttered and he tried not to show how intimidated he was at learning just how big of an impact he apparently had on the magical community, not to mention, the very fabric of magic itself. The implications were staggering. He had known that he was Emrys and that he was important, but he never would have dreamed that his death would cause this much devastation. Instead of inflating his ego, like this kind of discovery would some people, all Merlin felt was fear and even more pressure on his young shoulders. So many people were counting on him… how was he going to do all he was destined to accomplish?
As if sensing what Merlin was thinking, Kilgharra mused, "Do not think you can handle your responsibilities alone, young warlock. Now that the princeling knows of your magic, you must work together to overcome the odds and create your destiny. You are like—"
"—two sides of the same coin," Merlin interrupted, weary of Kilgharra's simile. "I think you may have mentioned that one before.
Kilgharra gave a sharp-toothed smile. "You are learning, young warlock. Now you and Prince Arthur must act on your knowledge and act as one force to defeat your foes and restore Albion. Her future is in your hands now, as is the destiny of the magical community. Alone, neither one of you will succeed. Together, failure will not be an option."
Merlin smiled slightly, still reeling from all that had occurred and how well Arthur had taken his magical secret. He had yet to have a proper chat with the prince about his powers, though, as he had just returned to work, but he knew the prince wasn't going to let him put it off much longer. "Yes," he said softly. "I think you may be right."
Kilgharra scoffed, shocked at the implication that Merlin might have thought he was wrong. Then the offended light faded from his eyes, replaced with one of curiosity. "And what of the witch, young warlock? Now that Arthur knows of her treachery and that her sister is gone, what are you doing about her? And what is she doing?"
Merlin's grin vanished as he thought about the woman he used to think of as a friend. She had been more than surprised to see Arthur return to Camelot with a weak but healed Merlin in tow. After Arthur had gotten Merlin settled into Gaius's chambers so he could rest up and regain his strength after his ordeal, Morgana had, from what the prince had told Merlin, confronted him, demanding to know where her sister was. Arthur had simply said, Morgause is dead. Morgana had melted into a fit of rage, one that had, unfortunately from her, included a spectacularly novice yet powerful display of magic in which her emotions caused her magic to lash out. Arthur had barely escaped incapacitation, possibly death.
Morgana had sworn she was going to get revenge on Arthur, on Merlin, for taking her sister away. She had boasted that Arthur couldn't tell his father about her because the king cared for her too much and would never believe it. That was when she turned around to find a devastated King Uther, who had apparently been looking for Arthur and had been standing behind her during most of her mystical display. Tears in his eyes and hands shaking, the king had ordered her to be taken to the dungeon before retreating to his chambers, refusing to emerge for several days.
"…and she's still in the dungeons," Merlin finished telling the dragon, "although I don't know what Uther is planning on doing with her. Now that he's had time to digest what he saw and the fact that she hates him and has magic, there are rumors that he thinks she's been possessed. If he decides that is the case, he will stop at nothing to find and destroy what did this so he can get his loving ward back."
"If that happens, you must be extra vigilant, young warlock," Kilgharra warned, golden eyes flashing in something akin to concern. "If Uther redoubles his efforts against magic and Morgana gets it into her head to try and implicate you for her betrayal and powers, the Old Religion may be torn again, and this time, I'm not sure even the Isle of the Blessed could save you from execution."
Merlin swallowed heavily. He'd been so caught up in wondering what Uther was going to do with Morgana that he hadn't even considered how dangerous her continued presence in the palace was for him. Now that he thought about it, if she hadn't tried to frame him or tell the king about his magic, she might have a more sinister plot in mind. Then again, he figured she might still be in shock because of her sister's death and maybe she was beginning to see things clearly now that Morgause was gone. Somehow he doubted that was the case, but he could always hope. In any case, Kilgharra was right and he did need to be wary because if she did decide to act against him, even Arthur would have a hard time bailing him out of trouble.
"I will be careful," he promised, and he meant it.
Kilgharra nodded seriously before tilting his head to one side. "And what of the knights-to-be?" he queried, and Merlin could only assume he meant Lancelot, Percival, and Gwaine.
"Now that everything's settled down, they've left Camelot," he said a bit forlornly. "We wanted them to stay but it's just too dangerous right now, especially with Uther's state of mind after Morgana's betrayal. We're going to have to ride it out and see what happens before they come back for good." He smiled sadly. "But they promised they'll stay near, in case we're ever in need of them again…"
He chuckled. "And I think Gwaine said something about paying a little visit to Rechrad the Renegade Druid, putting the fear of Gwaine into him and getting back the money he got from Morgause for me." His voice shook and he tried to forget the nightmares he'd been having since his ordeal. The dragon had told Arthur shortly after they'd rescued him that Merlin would have a long emotional road to recovery – and although the events at the Isle had sped this healing up considerably, Merlin was still dealing with the paranoia and fears that came with being kidnapped, held hostage, sold, and nearly killed. All in all, though, he felt he was handling the trauma fairly well, especially since he knew Arthur had accepted him for who he was. Finishing his thought about Gwaine, Merlin grinned, "He said something about using the money to buy me some new neckerchiefs because 'lord knows you don't have enough already'."
The dragon chortled briefly before looking at his dragonlord square in the eyes. "You have done well, Merlin, and have overcome great odds and adversities. You have proven a thousand times over who you will be, and I say with the greatest sincerity that I couldn't be more proud."
Merlin's eyes were a bit misty, as the dragon had never spoken to him in such a bluntly kind manner before. "Thank you."
"Do not forget, though, you will not succeed alone. You need—"
"The prat," Merlin cut in, laughing. Then he sobered up, groaning as he remembered what was waiting for him back in Camelot. "Speaking of the duller side of the coin, he's going to be grilling me for the whole story and about my magic as soon as I get back. Do you know how long that'll take?" He sighed. "Maybe I could stay and visit with you for a while longer, Kilgharra?"
Laughing mischievously, the dragon opened his great wings and took to the air. "I believe we've chatted long enough, Merlin. You should return to your destiny before it explodes from curiosity." He flew away, but Merlin knew the great dragon wouldn't be far.
Briefly entertaining the amusing image the dragon had presented, Merlin chuckled contentedly before walking in the direction of Camelot.
Even though he would spend the next two or three hours telling Arthur everything and being asked countless questions and reliving moments he wished to never think on again, it would also be good, because he and Arthur would understand each other more fully. Their friendship would grow. And their destiny would begin to unfold.
The great dragon was right. With Merlin and Arthur, Emrys and the Once and Future King working together, Camelot and Albion had yet to see their true potential.
And maybe, just maybe, things would work out this time, without anyone getting hurt or killed or kidnapped or stabbed. Then again, he mused, somewhat exasperatedly, this was his life he was thinking about…
Somehow, in his life, things never went perfectly or as planned. However, they usually turned out alright in the end, even if it had been a long road to get there. This time had been no exception, but good had come out of it. Arthur knew and accepted him for who he was, even if he had yet to squeeze every last detail of Merlin's life and time in Camelot out of the young warlock. That was a necessary evil, Merlin supposed, because it was a heck of a lot better than being burt at the stake.
And once Arthur knew everything, perhaps life would be even better. They could do what the dragon said and forge their path as the ones prophesied to bring magic back to Camelot.
Destiny had begun.
A/N: Awww, it's OVER! Wow, I can't believe this! Hopefully this satisfied your need for answers, and I know I didn't cover the talk between Arthur and Merlin, but I figured I'd leave it there and open to your interpretation… and also, in case you're wondering, I did leave it open for a sequel, although I haven't decided if there'll be one yet or not… Anyway, THANK YOU all so much for your support! I've enjoyed this experience immensely. There will be more fics in the future, I promise! For now, though, please review one last time to let me know what you thought of the epilogue, the story in general, or my generally silly antics. Whatever floats your boat. :) Thanks again! Love you ALL! See ya on the flip side,