Disclaimer: I own nothing but my knights...
Arthur&Merlin: *share a worried look and turned to the mob*
Merlin: *smiling hesitantly* Please heed no mind at her behavior. She is just mad that the healers told here that her kingdom could be save completely when in reality the curse ran to deep.
Arthur: Only the entertainers (music files) and town's people (pictures) were able to survive the healing process while her entire castle (word files) collapsed in itself.
Arthur: Myself and Merlin mourn right along side your queen and hopefully we can lift her spirits to continue writing once more.
Merlin: In the meantime, please enjoy this final chapter. She had to re-write it all from scratch so we all hope you end up enjoying it anyways.
The morning sun was covered with a layer of heavy clouds which spoke of delicate snow that was soon to fall. The air was slightly frigid due to their proximity to the mountains, but Merlin was quick to adjust, having lived in these conditions throughout his childhood.
Merlin was inside the comfort of his own tent, although the others had already started to collect their camp. Last night, Merlin determined that they were only a few hours away from the still familiar white walls of his kingdom, but Anthea reminded him that traveling so late at night would only be asking for trouble. So it was with a heavy sigh that Merlin listened to his second in command and set up for the night, dreaming of white towers and banners of royal gold, blue and red.
A sigh could be heard inside the tent as Merlin sat down on the ground, contemplating their long travel and what lay ahead. Since his knights weren't following the same hazardous trail of the shadow beast as it roamed through the many kingdoms tracking Merlin, their group managed to cut their travel time to two and a half weeks, for which he was thankful. During that time, the others gladly filled him on every detail he had missed during his time in exile. Those first two weeks he managed to find out how his three newest knights came to be accepted within their ranks (apparently the trio had been traveling from town to town trying to stop his uncle's men from ravaging the villages, which hadn't gone unnoticed by his father), how Eldwin manage to get that scar along his chin (having been captured and tortured for information for three days, but in return giving his captors as good as he could give), how he and Anthea had finally gotten engaged and married (apparently Anthea had grown tired of waiting for him to as her so she asked him instead. In front of their entire battalion he might add, a fact that Merlin didn't think he would ever let him live down), and how his father had faired during the years we were apart.
His eyes fell down and landed upon the silver arm brace which was clasped comfortably upon his wrist. Even after all these years, he still was in awe of its design, the intricate pattern woven around the edges as it broke apart to grasp the gem held at the center. The silver branches were placed in such a way that they almost seemed to caress the precious cerulean gem that his father always told him was the same shade as his mother's eyes. With a gentle smile, Merlin stroked the arm brace in a subconscious manner, remembering how before they set out to Oridian he had taken the item from the chest where his armor once rested. As soon as his gaze fell upon it, he instantly felt enveloped by a sense of comfort and love, but before he could truly revel in the sensation, the flap of his tent opened to reveal Anthea's gaze, apologetic for disturbing her young lord while so deeply in thought.
"My Lord…" she said gently, "We are ready to depart."
Shaking his head slightly, Merlin rose from his spot and gave her an annoyed- yet kind- look at her use of his title. "Of course. Please tell everyone that I will join them in a minute."
Giving him a small nod in acknowledgment, she turned around and left him to his thoughts once more. Dusting himself off, he smiled fondly as he looked at what he was wearing. It was the one of the many outfits that Gwen and Morgana had insisted in him taking with him, travel clothes of a higher quality that he was used to but he couldn't say no to them. He wondered what they were doing right now. Gaius was no doubt already awake and starting his usual rounds. Morgana and Gwen were probably taking a stroll around the marketplace, and Arthur was no doubt training his knight into the ground. He couldn't help but miss them all, but right now he needed to get his head on the task ahead. After he came out and took down his tent, the group finally began their final trek to Oridian.
Back in Oridian, as the council elders stepped outside the throne room, Hunith took the opportunity to step inside. As her gaze fell upon that of her king, she noticed the nervous bounce of his leg and his oblivious look towards his surroundings. It was all she could do to stop herself from laughing at the similarities he and his son shared. It had been almost a month since she had arrived back to Oridian in the company of one of the white knights, and the news of her and Merlin's whereabouts seemed to return to the monarch the years he lost while fighting against his brother. But now that so much time has passed without a word from the other, her king had increasingly become more fidgety and distracted from his duties, his mind clearly on the wellbeing of his son.
Approaching his prone form, she placed a gentle hand on his shoulders, pulling him away from his thoughts. "My Lord, you really should stop worrying so much."
Dark brown eyes met her soft brown ones as he finally seemed to notice who it was before him. Shaking his head slightly, he turned to give her his full attention, "I'm sorry Hunith, did you say something?"
"Sire, Anthea and Eldwin will take good care of your son, and Merlin has grown into a very resourceful man over the years; you need not worry about him so much." But knowing her king would no doubt ignore her words she tried to compromise with him. "Or if you are unwilling to be calm then perhaps you should suspend the council meetings until your worry is satisfied?"
She raised an eyebrow almost in the same manner as her brother, and the king knew there was little he could do to refuse her. Patting her hand that was on his shoulder, he stood from his throne, his whole body seeming to creek in protest. The king hated how the years of war had treated his body, but he would gladly do so again in the service of his people. His outfit was composed of a simple blue tunic and a tan vest with golden buttons and embroidery accents that gave him a look of royalty, but not so overtly that a peasant couldn't feel like he could approach him.
"I'm sorry my dear, you are quite correct. I am in no state of mind to be of any use anyway." As he said this, the king gave her a playful glare. "And what have I told you about titles? You are more to this family than just a nurse maid." And he truly meant it. Knowing that she was taking care of his son all those years gave him a sense of peace, fully aware that the lady before him would sooner die than let any harm come to his son.
Hearing his quip, Hunith couldn't help the obvious blush that covered her face, so she lowered her head, hoping to hide it. "Thank you, Si-" Catching herself before she finished that sentence, she raised her head once more towards her king. "I mean, Balinor..."
The falling of his name from her mouth, however hesitantly, made him break into a victorious grin. "There, now was that so hard?"
Hunith merely rolled her eyes as she gave her king an exasperated but cheerful grin in return.
At this, Balinor quickly took her opening and stepped right beside her, offering his hand. "Now, would you do me the honor of accompanying me on a stroll around the town?"
Shaking her head slightly at his antics, she simply gave him a brief bow and took his hand, albeit hesitantly.
As the two made their way into town, Balinor made sure to check with the townspeople every so often. Repairs were well on their way, and the kingdom had finally returned to its former splendor. Citizens finally began to repopulate their former homes, and children could once more be seen running along the stone paths of the courtyard. The king's heart seemed to swell with love at the sight of his people finally content once more, but it was all bittersweet, for he still didn't have his son by his side.
He was snapped from his musing when he and Hunith noticed a crowd beginning to form by the town square. "I wonder what's going on over there." Hunith mused out loud, imagining that it was probably one of the many street performances she secretly enjoyed.
Hearing the clear curiosity on her voice, Balinor took her hand and began to pull her forwards with him, "Well, we are not going to figure it out by standing here, now are we?"
As the group of knights arrived at the front gates, the guards appointed at the time immediately halted them to verify their persons. Soon, the guards' eyes fell upon the smiling countencance of a young man with raven hair whose his eyes seemed to be soaking in the sight of the lower town. However, when the boys all too familiar eyes shifted to them, they instantly seemed to come to the same conclusion. Realizing that the extra person amongst them must be their lost prince, their eyes widened almost comically, and they immediately bowed before their young lord. The knights were trying not to laugh, but watching their prince blush at the recognition and use of his title, they lost it.
And as such, the group began to make their way towards the castle. Ever so slowly, those townsfolk who remembered their prince's appearance began to realize who the young man amongst the group of knights was and immediately began to spread the word. Soon, almost every villager was trying to see their lost prince.
Oh, but Merlin enjoyed every minute of it. He had missed his people terribly over the years, and seeing them now, happy and well, was more than he could ever ask for. Some of the kids he used to play with when he was a child had already grown up and married, some even having children of their own.
Merlin of course presented himself to all of his people, old and new, and immediately asked for names, birthdates and anything else he could think of. His heart wept from joy at the fact that he was actually talking to his people once more. And to think, he had actually given up hope of ever coming back. Sure, he knew that his father would one day take back his kingdom, but with his and Arthur's destiny, not to mention the fact that he almost gets killed every time he saved the prat's life, he thought he would be killed before that day happened. But he thanked the Gods he was able to be here today.
As of that moment, his group seemed to have completely stopped in the middle of the square. However, there came a moment where the people around them quieted and made way for someone. Soon, a familiar man and woman appeared in front of the group. Everyone fell silent as they watched the reunion. The knights simply bowed briefly before stepping aside, wanting to give the two royals their space.
But Merlin wasn't paying attention to them any longer, his full attention on the older man before him. The years had not been kind to his father, as Merlin could see his slight hunched pose and how he favored his right leg, but he was pleased to see that the youthful yet wise aura in his eyes remained as bright as ever.
His father was slowly approaching him, almost as if he was afraid that Merlin would vanish if he hurried, but instead he began to match his steps until the two where only a few inches apart.
"Merlin…" Balinor managed to utter in disbelief as he stared at the boy before him. Ever so slowly, he raised a hand towards the boys shoulder. No, not a boy. Man. Even with what Hunith had told him about his son and how much he had grown, he could never piece together the image she was speaking of. But now, here he stood. His own flesh and blood. Standing tall and proud, his eyes shining with unwavering love and, to his sorrow, a wisdom one could only gain by facing the hardships of evil in this world. As Balinor stared as his son, Merlin's face broke into a smile, his eyes beginning to tear up at the sight of him.
"It's really you!" Balinor wasted no more time as he quickly swept his boy into his arms, hoping to convey all he was feeling at that moment. Aged hands took hold of Merlin's cheeks as pale blue eyes met with the deep brown of his father. "You're finally home… my son…"
Grasping his hand into his, Merlin tried to appear strong in front of his father, but the tears trickling down his cheeks seemed adamant to prove him wrong. "I've missed you…" Merlin managed to say as he choked back a sob.
His father merely pulled him back into his embrace as the two enjoyed the comfort of the other. "So have I…"
A few minutes passed in silence as the crown stood witness to the happy reunion. Some had tears in their eyes as well. Suddenly, realizing their silent crowd, the king turned to address them, his hand never leaving his son's shoulder, "My son has returned!"
At this announcement, the crowd roared in happiness, too engrossed in their celebration to notice at first that their lord was trying to speak once more. "Tonight, we shall celebrate his return inside the palace! Everyone is welcome!"
With this, the monarch turned to look at his white knights and gave them a bow to let them know how grateful he was. "And of course," he gestured to the knights, "we shall also honor the white knights for their aid in tracking and destroying that wretched beast!" More cheers could be heard as the people rejoiced while the two monarchs approached the group of knights.
"Come! You must all be tired from your long journey; let's continue this inside the castle." Bowing slightly, the group followed happily after the two royals through the castle walls.
As the group arrived in the throne room, Anthea and Eldwin quickly began to report their travels and the success of their mission. They both make sure to make it clear to their king that if not for their young lord's actions, then the beast would no doubt had killed them all. Merlin of course blushed slightly as he tried to diffuse their praise, but they would have none of it. The king merely listened patiently as they spoke, his heart clenching at the news of his brother's soul inhabiting the beast's body, but he quickly pushed his grief aside. Once the group finally finished with their report, they disbanded and left the two royals alone for the first time in six years.
"Now, Merlin, you must tell me everything that you've done all these years!" Balinor exclaimed urgently, wanting nothing more than to know everything his son had done and felt for the years they had been apart.
"I don't even know where to start. There is so much I want to tell you," Merlin replied honestly as he took the seat along the windowsill where his father sat. If he was honest with himself, he didn't have a clue as to where to start. So much had happened to him in these past six years, his increase in power, his newfound destiny with Arthur, not to mention the knowledge that the last dragon in existence laid below Camelot's ground as his bond with the beast laid with his Dragon Lord heritage. But before a clear thought could be perceived in his mind, his eyes closed as he found the perfect way to start his tale.
Merlin opened his eyes as he faced his father with a small smile, "Father, have you ever heard of Emrys?"
As his son opened his eyes, Balinor was stunned to see such depth of wisdom concealed within his young mind, and even more stunned that the name he uttered was one that he heard often spoken with clear reverence by the council elders. Soon, he found himself being overwhelmed by all that Merlin spoke of. Of how his power began increasing the first three years of his exile. About how he came to be in Camelot and became a servant to the prince, not to mention the prophesy that tied them together. All of his adventures with the young prince called Arthur who, despite Merlin's first impressions, was a kind and loyal man willing to sacrifice himself for his people. How he had found his true love but lost her unfairly to the hands of fate. And the odd family that had been created out of his friends there and the fierce loyalty they all had towards one another. Soon, his tale came to a close as many members of the staff began to ask them both what they wished to have at the banquet, and Balinor was grateful for the distraction.
As if he could sense his father's need for time to process all the information, Merlin went to join Hunith and began helping her and the staff to prepare the castle for a celebration. Soon, the day morphed into night as the castle halls burst with life as people from ever station gathered around to celebrate the arrival of their young prince. Halfway through the night, his father managed to find him and, with a deep sigh, gave his son the fiercest hug he could muster. He had hoped that his son was still his young boy, but from what he had heard that afternoon, his son had become a wise man long before coming of age. Balinor gave his bewildered son a big grin before pushing him towards the crowds and directing him to his throne, which stood right besides the king's.
The entire kingdom seemed to fall into a constant state of celebration, and a few days after the banquet, his father announced Merlin's official coronation to become the crown prince of Oridian. The fact that in every official celebration back in Camelot a danger rose just to spite him kept Merlin on edge during the entire ceremony. He hoped that no one thought much of the fact that as soon as his father placed the crown on his head he immediately fell into a crouch and prepare himself for the worst. Nothing. Not even a single, 'I have come for my revenge' speech uttered by a crazed sorcerer could be heard inside the great halls, so all Merlin could do was curse Arthur once more as he now had proof that he was the trouble magnet and not him.
As the celebration dinner came to a close, Merlin found himself drawn to a nearby balcony, his gaze upon the hazy night sky. He wondered what the others were doing back in Camelot. Was Gaius taking care of himself? He knew from experience how the elder man could sometimes become so focused on one task that he completely forgot what the day was, or if he had eaten. He was sure that if that were the case, then Gwen would no doubt step in and help him in any way she could. Sweet Guinevere, the Once and Future Queen of Camelot. Merlin allowed himself to snicker at the title his young friend was oblivious to. With that his thoughts shifted to the beautiful Morgana. He hoped she was keeping the prat in place. He would hate to see all his work wasted. And with that, his thoughts settled on Arthur. He hoped that with time, Arthur would see the necessity of his secrecy and would grow to forgive him. Maybe he should've stayed long enough to see him recovered… Gods know how hardheaded and idiotic his friend could be when he's been too long inside the castle. The prat probably drove Gaius and Morgana mad trying to stand up and start training, but he knew Gwen would set him straight, she always could.
Suddenly, Merlin felt a presence beside him as the familiar figure of his father joined him on the balcony. Balinor merely gave him a nod as the two turned to stare out into the stars. The two had fallen into a comfortable silence when suddenly, Merlin heard his father speak, "You're going back, aren't you?"
Neither royal had lowered his gaze, the two choosing to stare out into the sky rather than seeing the hurt in the other. Balinor had already noticed the look of longing on his son's face as the weeks passed. He often spoke of his friends and the crazy antics they used to get into together with a smile, but he knew that his smile never reached his eyes. Balinor knew that the time would come, and as such he wasn't that surprised when he found his son staring out into the distance in the same direction as the kingdom of Camelot.
"Arthur still needs me. I can't simply abandon him just because I can finally set foot within our kingdom," Merlin stated calmly as he rolled his eyes with a small smirk. "Knowing the prat, I'm sure he is thinking I was just with him out of necessity rather than our friendship…" At this, Merlin finally lowered his head towards his father as the other did the same. Balinor saw the look of pure determination and wisdom in his son eyes as he continued speaking.
"Besides, he is not the only one with work ahead of him in the future. We are, after all, two side of the same coin. Of the same destiny" As Merlin closed his eyes solemnly; Balinor saw the aura of strength that encompassed his son and without hesitating, he embraced him in a hug.
"Oh my boy…" Balinor whispered as he tried to hide his sadness from his voice. "My special little boy. Although, I suppose I can't call you that anymore now can I? You have grown into a man of unshakable integrity and power as well as gained wisdom far beyond that of the years of our eldest council members."
At this, Balinor heard his son scoff in indignation. "You make me sound as if I'm older than them…" Merlin muttered without any hate as he heard his father laughing at his childish statement, the gentle rumble in his chest soothing Merlin's heart.
"Well, you have only yourself to blame for that!" He his father answered as he allowed his son to raise his head from his chest to glare at him slightly, but soon he embraced him once again. "But such a great destiny lies ahead of you and your friend. It would be selfish of me to deny the world that by trying to keep you by my side."
"It wouldn't be forever you know," Merlin muttered in his chest. "Even with my own destiny, I still have a duty to you and my people."
"Then what are you going to do?"
Balinor felt his son shrug in response. "Meh, I'm sure I'll think of something," He answered vaguely. "Either way, Gods know I'm not leaving until I smash some sense into you two."
Balinor pull them apart and gave his son a confused look. "I beg your pardon?"
"Father, I don't think that there is anyone in the kingdom who has yet to see the love you and Hunith have for each other."
Hearing his son say this, Balinor's eyes widened exponentially as he tried to fight the small blush that was rising on his face. "W-what?" he stuttered, and Merlin couldn't help but raise his eyebrow in true Gaius fashion.
"The fact is that you are both to stubborn to actually act on it."
"Now wait a second, Merlin!" Balinor exclaimed, ignoring Merlin's expectant look. "While it is true that I hold some… feelings towards Hunith, that gives you no right to act on your own accord! Beside…" At this, Merlin noted how his father's body began to sag as if grieving. Perhaps I wasn't such a good idea to bring this up. "I would never let myself betray your mother, bless her soul, by letting myself fall in love again…"
With this, the two of them fell into an uncomfortable silence, caught up in their thoughts, but Merlin was never one to be discouraged from anything. "You're wrong you know…" He was leaning against the stone railing, looking below at their kingdom, and his hand unconsciously grasped the arm brace on his right arm. "Mother wouldn't like that you keep mourning her instead of getting past her death. She wouldn't want you to close yourself off from another that can give you what she so very much yearned to do every day."
Merlin turned to look at his father not paying attention to the lone tear that was falling down his cheek. "Her love…"
"And how could you possibly know that?" If that wasn't such a tense situation, or if his father didn't have a desperate look of yearning on his face, Merlin was sure he would've laughed. His father asking him how he could know of the pain it took to get over the one they loved most when only a few weeks ago he himself told him of his Freya. But he wouldn't make this about himself; his father needed to understand what he truly meant.
"Do you remember when I was 8?"
The seemingly random question threw the monarch for a loop. Blinking slowly, he answered him as best as he could. "Of course. You kept asking me to tell you stories of your mother." A smile seemed to grace the pair as they remembered better times.
"At that time I wanted to feel the same connection the other children in the lower town had with their mother. It felt so alien to me that I often walked into the forest and tried to keep my thoughts together." Balinor was aware of his little excursions, and he was the first to admit that it made his heart weep for the things his son had to miss from a young age, but Merlin paid him no mind as he turned back to look at the forest in the distance.
"As it turns out, on one of my excursions, I found somebody leaning against a tree stump. He looked as if he had been traveling nonstop and hadn't eaten in days, so I tried to get him to come inside the city with me." As he said this, he took in the surprised look on his father's face with a small smile as he continued. "To this day, I don't know why he stopped me, but since he wasn't willing to come with me, I went into the city and brought him some of the bread and meat the kitchen had just finished making as well as some water.
"Once he had some of his strength back, he finally looked at me in the eyes he simply smiled. Before I could even ask, he handed me this."
Balinor could only stare at his son's wrist as he brought his arm brace closer to him. "I remember you started to wear that about the time that you stopped your questions." He muttered to himself, and Merlin nodded in reply. "What is it?"
Merlin brought the brace back towards him as he continued his tale. "He said that it was a relic of the Old Religion created to better communicate with the spirits that have already passed to Avalon." He saw how his father's eyes widen at that prospect and they immediately fell upon the arm brace with renewed attention. "He said that the druid elders entrusted him with the task of getting this to the one who would one day become their savior as a way to ease the heartache that no boy his age should feel." Merlin's eyes softened at the words spoken to him so long ago. Even when he didn't understand his destiny, destiny found a way to take care of its child.
"With those words, he simply clasped the bracelet on my wrist and said a spell to activate it. And since my mind was on mother at the time…"
Balinor interpreted his unspoken words and took over. "You spoke to her?" The sheer desperation and anguish in his voice almost brought Merlin to his knees, but he knew he had to remain strong.
Shaking his head slightly, he continued, "There is no such instrument or stone that can let you speak as freely and often with the dead as you like, but this allowed me to feel what she felt." While he said this, he gave his father a carefree smile as he continued. "How my heart swelled with her love for me whenever I managed to accomplish some small feat or how her complete adoration of you often made me choke with tears and happiness every time I saw you…" Merlin began to take off the arm brace and handed the artifact to his father with great care. His father, in return, handled the item as if he was caring a newborn baby, his eyes roaming its form in its entirety. A few minutes passed before his eyes turned from the precious metal to his son, to ask for an explanation.
"This alone cannot hope to make you understand, but while I was in Arthur's service, I managed to discover a spell which I think can help." The fact that his son could reunite him with his deceased wife almost made his heart stop entirely. "You would be able to see mother once again, but you would only get to see her once and only this once. The spell would also render the bracelet completely useless, so if I do this, it would be lost forever. The choice is yours to make…"
Balinor's eyes shifted between his son and the arm brace for a long time as he considered the implications of his son's statement. He could see his wife again, sure, but at the price that he would only see her this once. Would it be a blessing or a punishment? And the bracelet. Did he truly wish to destroy the only sure way to communicate with his late wife? He was sure that if he kept it with him, his heart would never open to another. Did he truly want that? After what seemed like hours though it was really a few moments, Balinor raised his head slowly towards his son's expectant but patient eyes. With a slight nod, he answered him. "Do it."
Nodding in response, Merlin took the arm brace gently and placed it back on his wrist. Soon, his other arm was raised above it as he began to recite Morgause's spell, rewording it to accommodate the situation at hand. As he finished, the gem began to glow, and a cerulean mist escaped it. The mists quickly began to morph and take the shape of a woman; her dress was a simple gown of white and gold, her raven black hair fell down to her waist in elegant curls. Merlin thought offhandedly that his father was right; her eyes were the same shade as the crystal on the arm brace. The two royals could only stare in awe at the image before them as she in returned gave them a gentle smile.
"Marliana…" Balinor whispered as he faced his late wife, not truly believing this was happening. "Is that… is that really you?"
Marliana's form floated forward slightly towards him, and she nodded in response, grasping the side of his face lovingly. "Yes, my beloved, it is I."
Merlin was surprised to find that her voice chimed like church bells. Such a lovely feeling traveled through him as he let his eyes close, delighting in his mother's voice. Once his eyes opened, he saw his mother approaching him with that permanent smile on her face. Slender hands slowly grasped his frame as his mother gave him a tender hug. At first, Merlin was frozen, his hands at his side, not knowing what he was supposed to do. But thankfully, he broke away from his stunned state and returned the embrace. Sooner than he would've liked, his mother moved part away from him until they were both facing each other, her hands grasping his shoulders tenderly. "My son, I can't believe how strong you've become. Remember that all my life and as I exist in Avalon, every day that passes I couldn't be any more proud or love you as much as I do now and forever…"
"Mother…" Merlin heard himself speak rather shakily as his mother raised a hand to his cheek, stroking the tears that had begun flowing since he first saw her. "You have many challenges ahead of you my son, but you must never lose faith in those you trust, nor in yourself. You will help bring this world into a better time, and I am happy to have played as small a part as I did in carrying you within my belly all those months…"
A heart wrenching sob escaped him as his spirit seemed to sigh in relief at her words. Gathering his composure together, he stared at his mother with a new found determination in his eyes. Nodding once, he began to talk. "I will not let you down, Mother."
Hearing this, her smile seemed to grow bigger, and she let him go. Soon, her frame turned to face his father, looking confused. "Balinor, why do you still weep for me, my love?" She asked gently as she grasped the side of his face, which was looking slightly enraged and confused at the same time.
"How could I not? You are my wife ,and the fates decided to rip you away from me before we could even begin to be a true family…"
"I am dead." To hear her state this fact so bluntly brought Balinor to his knees, not wanting to believe that she would not stay with him forever. Merlin wished to stop his father from falling, but his mother shook her head slightly as a request for him not to interfere. Her face never left that of the king's before her as she knelt down beside him, linking his hand with hers. "You must face the fact that I am no longer amongst the living, my love. But because of that fact, you mustn't let your heart suffer just for my sake."
If it was possible, Balinor's eyes seemed to widen even more at her statement. He felt her hand reach up to caress his cheek in a tender gesture. "I have seen how your relationship with Hunith began to change as you both took care of and raised our son together." Seeing his posture stiffen and his body language preparing to refute her statement, she held a finger up to his lips to silence him. "Balinor, there is no shame when your heart begins to beat once more after the death of one so dear. Your heart has been trying to tell you all these years that is was okay to move on, but you still refuse to do so. Why is that?"
At this, a painful sob escaped from his father as he lowered his head to her lap. He couldn't lie to her; he had known that what he was feeling for Hunith was love for a long time, but there was always one thing that stopped him. One thing that he fear in the very core of his soul.
"I don't want to forget you…"
"And why pray tell would you forget me?" At her question, Balinor slowly raised his head to gaze at her, and she smiled encouraging back. "All I ask is that you allow yourself the chance to be happy again, my love. Hunith is and always will be my best friend; I would entrust you to no one other than her, and you both can look back and think of me fondly, knowing that I am happy for you."
A few seconds passed before he could truly understand her words. Immediately and without a care, he embraced his late wife in his arms, wanting to express his affection and love for her. She merely smiled as she held his frame, knowing that now he would be able to get passed his grief and begin to truly live again. A few minutes passed before Merlin saw his parents break away from their embrace. Marliana took a few steps back so that she might gaze upon her two boys, thankful to have this opportunity to talk to them one last time. Soon, she began to feel herself fading, but not before she heard Balinor speak.
"Thank you…" She merely shook her head in disbelieve. As if he had anything to thank her for.
Before she completely faded out, she approached him one last time, taking hold of one of his hands, "Oh, my beautiful idiot…" she said fondly as her frame began to glow ever brighter. "I am just happy that as long as you live you will have someone to keep you from trouble!"
Both royals noticed her began to dissipate into the air, and Merlin tried his best to keep her with them for as long as his magic could hold her. Sensing his efforts, she simply shook her head as she grasped his hand. "I have to go… but remember what I said, both of you!" she chided playfully as her form became more and more faint.
"We will!" Merlin shouted after her quickly fading form. Soon there came the moment where they couldn't see her anymore, but before they could break the silence, they both heard a whisper in the cold wind. "I love you both…"
With those final words, the two royals said their final goodbyes. Merlin couldn't help but feel bittersweet about what happened, but he knew his mother was glad to have had the opportunity to talk with them, even if it was for one brief time. The two simply stood on the balcony as they gathered their thoughts. It could've been minutes or it could've been hours, but the two remained in content silence, both finally feeling the peace of mind for which they had been yearning all this time.
After a time, Merlin heard his father break the silence as he turned towards him, "Thank you for this, son. You have no idea what you've given this old soul."
A smile graced Merlin's face as his father's eyes began to come alive once more. "Believe me, Father, when I say I do."
"Let's go inside, Hunith is no doubt hunting for us both to get us in our chambers." Shaking his head slightly, Balinor took his son's shoulder, and they walked inside the castle side by side.
Merlin couldn't help but throw his father a smart retort. "Then you finally came to your sense concerning her?"
Before Balinor could even come up with something to say, both men heard the familiar sound of Hunith's voice shouting from across the corridor. "There you both are! Do you know what time it is?"
As Merlin tried his best to stop himself from laughing at his second mother's concern and obvious scolding manor, he almost missed the way his father's eyes seemed to shine as his gaze fell on her frame. "We'll see…"
Back in Camelot, the day was slightly humid and cloudy in the afternoon, the townspeople went about their usual routine as their king worked diligently in the meeting hall. Paper upon paper was examined and evaluated as the monarch made the proper corrections. Gesturing for his servant to step forward, he handed him the finished pile, "Make sure the council knows of these changes right away." He ordered offhandedly as his servant bowed briefly in reply and took the parchments from the king.
"Yes, My lord." With that, the servant began stepping out of the room, only to almost collide with a grinning and out of breath Sir Leon.
When the knight entered the room, Uther immediately gave him his full attention. "Sire," Leon acknowledged his king before the other gestured for him to continue. "Yes Sir Leon, what is it?"
"Sire, Prince Merlin has just recently arrived with his escorts." At this, Uther immediately rose to his feet. "He was hoping that you wouldn't be too busy as to meet with him today?"
"Of course not!" Uther bellowed good naturedly as a small smile made itself know across his face. "Send him in! I was hoping to speak to him soon."
At this, the knight gave the king a slight bow before he went to gather the younger prince. It took only a few minutes for Leon to find and bring the young prince with him to the meeting hall. As soon as they arrived, Uther immediately put on his best smile and addressed the prince with much joviality. The young boy had on an outfit similar to what he wore at the celebratory banquet before they went out to hunt. His tunic was a deep shade of red embroidered with strands of gold and white, and his slacks were a deep shade of chestnut brown. His ever-present neckerchief was a rich shade of blue upon his neck with the emblem of Oridian clearly embroidered across it. But what truly was new was the crown upon his head, no doubt made of the same material as the rare metal upon their knight's armor. His blade hung from a secondary belt on his hips as his right hand grasped the helm gently, revealing an exquisite arm brace.
"Prince Merlin! Welcome back to Camelot!" He exclaimed as he shook Merlin's hand and directed him towards the table. "I have to say, I did not expect to hear from you so soon. I hope your father is well?"
Merlin could see behind his cheerful and polite façade, but he knew it to be wise to ignore it for now. He, after all, had a job to do. "He is fine your majesty, thank you for your concern," Merlin answered politely. "But I was the one to insist that I come back as soon as was possible to begin our talk of an alliance. I hope you don't mind my eagerness." Back in Oridian, only a few days more had passed before Merlin felt himself capable of leaving his home to travel back to Camelot. He and his father had talk extensively for him to arrange the alliance between the two kingdoms, but his father was sure that he would do fine on his own.
Uther merely swatted the air as he regarded the young prince with a look of greediness and, somewhat, of relief.
"Not at all. I admire a man who is eager to ensure peace. Let us begin then, shall we?" And as such, they began their discussion. Uther started by requesting some of their crops and medicine as well as the public announcement of their alliance to their neighboring kingdoms. Demand after demand was met with thoughtful but conceding eyes as Merlin saw no problem in providing them with what they needed. Uther was still unaware that Oridian's magical origins provided them with the means to gather more than enough for both kingdoms to thrive. Merlin simply made his father's wishes known to the monarch, and Uther agreed to them. Hours passed; Uther couldn't contain his grin as all of his demands were met. This alliance would benefit his kingdom indeed.
"I believe that is all we need to discuss, unless you wish to request something else?" Uther made sure to keep the younger man thinking that he was open to any of his request, not thinking that there would be anything more. However, Merlin's face shifted in such a way that even Uther noticed the change from the cheerful and oblivious man to that of his more wise and stoic side.
"Actually Sire, I'm glad you brought it up. I was hoping to discuss the matter of your son's safety."
At this, Uther's eyes immediately hardened at the prospect of his son being in any danger. "What do you mean?" He demanded, his tone taking on the familiar hardness that Merlin knew best. He would have to tread carefully now; one slip and his plan would completely fail.
Staring directly at him, Merlin began speaking, "While I was in his service as his manservant, I managed to see how often a magical beast or deadly poison threatened his life and yours without the two of you ever knowing. Gaius and I managed to drive away or eradicate those threats before they did any lasting damage. You could say that he did the research while I did the leg work." He wasn't really lying. Gaius truly was the one to guide him while he ventured out to fulfill the task he had given him. Closing his eyes, he prepared himself to plunge into a raw spot of the other royal. "It was a miracle that my people knew of an anti-venom against the questing beast's bite, or I fear that he would've been lost to us right then…" At this, Merlin saw Uther's eyes begin to lose some of their steel, only to be replaced with surprise, shock, and then gratitude.
"You saved him?" Merlin saw him remember those painful days. How Uther had found Gaius and Merlin standing over his son, the then-servant's own clothing barely hiding the scorch marks of the fireball that had struck his chest. Uther came to the conclusion that the boy had helped to cure his son, but without knowing the true nature of his injuries, he could only assume that the ingredients used to create the cure must have been dangerous to get to, and yet he young boy had still risked his life to save his son. He hoped that Gaius had found the time to heal the boy's wound once his son awakened.
He soon was brought out of his thoughts by the prince's voice answering his previous question. "Yes, Sire. And I was glad to do so." Merlin stated truthfully, and as if for the first time, Uther truly saw the loyalty this boy felt for his son. "But what I'm trying to say, You Majesty, is that I don't feel comfortable leaving your son without having someone by his side who knows of the constant threats he faces."
Merlin could only stare as the king's hand was clasped above his eyes, his posture for a second letting the worried father shine through the hardened façade of the monarch "I could assign him guards to stay by him at all times…" As soon as Uther suggested this he knew it would be useless. "…but Arthur, being who he is, wouldn't stand to be under constant supervision."
Merlin knew he had to speak at the moment where the monarch could see no other option. He let Uther think it over for a few minutes before he addressed him, "Then may I suggest something?"
Uther immediately gave him his undivided attention, knowing he would have the best at heart for his son.
"I, alongside two of my best knights, would gladly take the place as Arthur's protection detail." This seemed to surprise the king as his eyes widened ever so slightly in shock and surprise. "Arthur already feels comfortable around me, and he knows he can count on me to watch his back, not to mention defend his people if the need arise." Anthea and Eldwin had volunteered to come to Camelot with him. He and Balinor had already explained to them his destiny and his ties with Camelot, how the future would be one of peace with Arthur's help and they were more than glad to help their young lord in his destiny.
"But what of your duties to your father back in your kingdom? Surely you don't expect me to believe that he would let you move back in Camelot to protect my son." Uther couldn't fathom the thought of a father reuniting with his son after so many years to only let him go, but his questions were answered when the young prince shook his head in reply.
"Of course not. I still have a duty to my people, and one day I will have to take my father's place at the throne. However I've explained to him my reasoning to my wanting to remain by your son's side." As Merlin said this, his gaze fell upon the nearby window as a flock of birds passed by. His soul was calm and at peace with what needed to be done. He had his father's blessing as well as both his mother's love and support. He was ready to take charge of his part of his destiny and he was happy to help Arthur prepare for his.
"Why then?" Uther asked somewhat desperately, trying to understand. "Why do you insist that it be you who defends my son?"
Merlin simply gazed at him directly, and Uther couldn't help the small gasp of incredulity that escaped his lips at the sight of the boy's eyes. Such wisdom contained in such young eyes. Loyalty that could only be gained by years, if not decades, of service. Power only learned by years of war and loss of loved ones. For such powerful emotions to be coursing through a boy decades younger than himself brought a feeling of humbleness that he had never felt before.
"Because sire," Merlin's voice was soft, but to Uther it might as well have been shouted from the battlefields. "I believe in the kingdom your son will one day create." Seeing the confusion in Uther's face, the younger man explained "I believe your son will one day be able to unite every kingdom under one rule and the land will fall into a new time of peace and prosperity. And I am glad to be of help to him." With this, Merlin gave the monarch a bow in deference, as if what he said had been a bow towards him.
"But please bear in mind that whatever you choose will not affect our allegiance to Camelot, and I apologize if I spoke out of line." Merlin ended his thoughts with a show of submissiveness to ensure that Uther would see his way. It was the only way he could think of to maintain his princely duties as well as fulfill his destiny without much trouble. A moment passed before he felt a pair of hands on his shoulders.
"Prince Merlin," Uther stated gently, staring at the boy for what he felt was the first time, "it is I who should be apologizing." Noting Merlin's confusion, he continued as they both stood.
"You and your father have been more than generous, only asking of us assistance if you ever need it on the battlefield and our friendship, while you are giving me what I treasure most in my life. The safety of my son." He raised a hand for Merlin to shake. Slightly take aback by this, Merlin took his hand hesitantly as the other encased it with both of his. "I am grateful for your offer, and I will gladly accept your services."
A relief smile broke in Merlin face as his plan became a success. "Thank you, Sire. I am glad to be of service." As the two parted and began to walk out of the room, Merlin remembered something, "If it could be possible, Father was wondering if I me and the prince could visit Oridian for a few months during the year." He asked politely as the king watched him with small amusement, amazed how quickly he could change from wise to his somewhat childish persona. "Our kingdom is a ways north, but it is not so far that either one of us would be too isolated to be reached at any point if either one of is needed. My father is curious to meet those who have become part of my family, I'm afraid." At this, Merlin couldn't help the small wince as he remembered when Hunith told him that she had already met his friends. His father had started to sulk and immediately demanded that he bring his friends to the kingdom when he came back.
Uther smiled kindly and nodded, "Of course, it would no doubt strengthen our ties with your kingdom. Then am I to assume you are to stay here first?"
At his question, Merlin bowed briefly and replied. "If your majesty will have me."
Uther merely shook his head in amazement as he patted his shoulder slightly, throwing the younger man slightly off balance. "Nonsense, my boy. You will always be welcome in Camelot!" Seeing the small smile in his face, Uther couldn't help but have a little fun with the youth. "But keep in mind; you are going to be the one to tell Arthur of your little arrangement…" As soon as he said this, Merlin stopped in the middle of the corridor as Uther kept walking forward. And if he heard the boy curse his fate in a language that would even make their most hardened knights blush, well he wouldn't be the one to berate him.
"Do you think he's coming back soon?" Morgana asked in a too cheerful tone as she watched Arthur work on the papers at his desk. "I really wished he could have told us he was going so soon. I'm still curious about what he told us about Oridian, aren't you Arthur?"
"Would you please be quiet already? I have enough work as it is without your constant chatter!"
At his acidic tone, Morgana narrowed her eyes. He had been like this ever since Merlin had gone away. She just knew that something important had happened in the forest, but he stubbornly refused to talk. So, ever since then she had made it her mission to keep him in line as Merlin had done when he was there. And she had to admit, it was a lot of fun. "My, aren't we a bit touchy this morning," she chided playfully as she pointed accusingly at him. "Just because you refuse to mention what happened last month doesn't mean that the rest of us will automatically sulk right along with you."
She only had to wait a few seconds before Arthur completely gave up on the papers and turned to look at her. "I am not sulking!" His shout made Gwen jump from her place beside Morgana with a handful of tunics that she had been mending all morning. Arthur's temper was as bad as ever with every new servant he got so Gwen had offered her services while he calmed his mind. The three of them had become almost inseparable so as to help Gwen with her load of work, although Arthur was adamant to reduce her load of work to only that of which he had no knowledge of.
Morgana's eyes softened slightly as she stared at him, "You know, it's ok to miss him."
At this, Arthur glared at her in reply. "Oh please!" He scoffed as he gestured at his door. "I wouldn't care if right this second that lanky idiot were to open that door with those ridiculous ears of his and -"
"And you would jump from joy at seeing me grace your room with my presence!" The three people inside could feel themselves turning immediately at the all too familiar sound of their friend's voice. Merlin entered the room swiftly as a playful grin remained on his face. He had heard Arthur's screaming responses from the outside, and he just couldn't help but poke fun at him. "I mean really, Arthur, did a sorcerer attacked your room with a mini tornado while I was gone?" He asked offhandedly as he took stock of the disarray of the room.
"Merlin?" He heard Arthur exclaimed in disbelief as he saw the other two approaching eagerly.
"Merlin, you're back!" Gwen exclaimed cheerfully, remembering the prince's dislike of others using his title. She gave him a hug that she felt him return with equal force.
"Will you be staying long?" Morgana asked next as she hugged him gently. Merlin's grin seemed to only get bigger at this.
Merlin decided to take the perfect opportunity to tell them the news. "Yes, actually. I just finished talking with Uther about Oridian's alliance with Camelot, and I managed to convince the king to let me and Arthur travel between both our kingdoms from time to time." Merlin said quickly. "Long story short, I'll just resume what I did for you before this whole mess started!" At their slightly shocked and amused looks, he pointed at Arthur and made his big reveal,
"I'll keep saving your arse, of course!" At his statement the other merely rolled their eyes in amusement, glad to have his antics back. "I've officially become your personal bodyguard! Gods know how much trouble you get into every week!"
At this, something in Arthur finally began to stir. The fact that his servant-turned-prince had come back after so many secrets had been discovered he could deal with. The fact that his best friend had magic he could thankfully deal with after many nights spent chatting with Gaius. But the fact his father had agreed to the ridiculous idea of Merlin becoming his bodyguard he would most definitely not accept! Merlin may become an incredibly powerful and wise warlock of legend, but for now he was still the same bumbling idiot that stumbled into his life all those years ago. His mind made up, Arthur began to make his way to the idiot before him.
"Uhm… W-what are you-" Merlin began to stutter as Arthur approached him menacingly. His hopes of his friends providing cover soon feel apart as Morgana quickly pulled Gwen and herself away from the two boys, as she was well aware of what was about to happen.
As soon as Arthur was within distance, he immediately put the younger prince's head in a headlock as he began to rub his fist on his mop of head. "Protecting me? You're one to talk!" He stated briskly as he continued to hold Merlin, despite his squirming, skinny frame. "Do you have any idea of how many times I saved your arse in battle? If I wasn't right beside you I'm certain that you would trip and fall on your sword!"
"Arthur, you prat!" He heard Merlin shout at him. "Quit it!"
"Make me!" And if the two were aware of the two ladies laughing on the bed, they definitely didn't care to notice; they two much too focused on proving who needed saving more.
Me: Yay! It is complete! I feel so accomplished! :D And SEE! Long little chapter, isn't it. I told you 10 chapters would be enough for this! So haHA!
"w" *strokes fake French mustache in victory*
But before you all kill me, let me just make some things clear.
1) The reason it took for me so long to post this was because my Beta got hit by a car as she was walking across the crosswalk! So you can't get mad! Especially after she won 5TH PLACE AT HARRY POTTER TRIVIA OUT OF 61 TEAMS!
2) This… Was a pain to write… The first draft with the original dialog was lost in the virus. Then I re-wrote it. Then I had to RE-re-write it because it seemed wrong somehow… This wasn't even the original ending for Camelot's sake! I originally had it planned so that Uther did a big celebration in which he tried to convince Merlin to marry Morgana and then he politely decline. Then Uther talk to Arthur and Morgana and told him of what happened getting Morgana all flustered and appalled while Arthur went to search for his friend. Big dramatic talk between the two and then it ended but… *shrugs* Meh. I find it more refreshing this way.
3) Merlin's arm brace… Yes, that really WAS the thing that was inside the chest back in Camelot. And I know those who guessed it was the crown I told that they were right when they really weren't… Well, you can all blame DragonGem777 … She made such a valid point in that a crown wouldn't really make sense if it was taken out of the kingdom. And from there, the ancient artifact was born! I don't know, I kind of like it… (And just to be clear! I came up with that idea BEFORE I saw the last Harry Potter movies! I've never read the bloody books so don't go and start accusing me of copying the resurrection stone idea!)
I just really want to tell you all, THANK you for reading this little experiment of mine. It truly means the world to me when I read all your wonderful reviews! And I sincerely apologize for the incredible delay.
As an afterthought… My birthday was this 26th so if you want to give me a great present, then write me the most awesome and amazing review you can! Hell! If you give me ideas on how to write a sequel for this I would love to write one for you all! My Beta oh so subtly hinted at some stuff I could so so she already got the ball rolling!
NEWS FOR UPCOMING STORIES
Me: *clears throat as I address my kingdom from my throne* My people and ever so threatening knights, it is with great pleasure *mutters* and a bit of foreboding… That I will now decree the next stories I will be posting my cyber kingdom! Take in mind, this time I will be working on more than one story at a time.
First off, as I have taken the task of finishing "USS Chimera or USS Puppy?" I have determined that the story will have about 3 to 4 more chapters so those who are interested in it; please make sure to keep a look out for it.
Next we have a couple of 'Merlin' stories.
"Crystal Trials" Next in my destiny series
"A Warlock's Heart" My BAMF Merlin fic
"Excalibur's Curse" AU from 3x13
"Enchantment's Betrayal" AU from 3x10
"To Live Again" Future fic
Plus a few more from other different fandoms. So yeah, I thinks thats all... I want to thank you all again for sticking by me and giving this story so much love! I love you all!
AND IS ANYONE ELSE HYPERVENTILATING AFTER WATCHING THE COMIC-CON TRAILER OF MERLIN"S FOURTH SEASON? BECAUSE I AM!