Another old one, initially posted on The Chambers of Merlin, a forum you should all check out! I will put a link in my profile if possible. Tidying up my fanficly affairs, so this one's being posted on here, many years after it was initially written XD Sorry! Written in response to the Song Title Challenge on aforementioned forum.
Some miserable, miserable angst for you all! Enjoy!
An eternity Lord Idath had ruled over Anoeth, and a countless million spirits he had seen pass through its gates. Some came weeping for loves left behind, other dragged their feet- metaphorically speaking- not willing to let go of the life that had been taken from them. Yet others came gladly to the gates, staring at them in wonder, happy, peaceful. He had seen them all.
More often than not, Idath saw these figures from afar, watching from his palace, as they drew through his gates, to the cauldron of rebirth. So many thousands crossing every day- or at least what mortals reckoned by a day- far too many for Idath to watch them all. It would drive even a god insane. But there were some, those he had known, or heard of, or even loved, that he came to watch, face to face, when they passed through into his realm. And such visitors were becoming more and more frequent of late.
The first was Ambrosia, the former priestess. Idath had not known her well- she had served the Queen of the Old Ways, not the Lord of Death- but he knew well enough the part she had played in the events that were, even now, shaping the fate of the mortal world. She was one of those who strode to her fate willingly, passing through the gates briskly. As she had been in every aspect of the life she had left behind, Ambrosia was practical, and determined. And this time, she had known that she was finally going to her rest.
The next he watched was Vortigern. The man who didn't believe in anything, who had gone to his death perfectly accepting, but who came to the gates of Anoeth raging and railing against the idea that even in death, his actions and his fate were controlled by outside magical forces. Idath would have thought he would have been used to it by now- the gods knew, Mab had manipulated his life enough. Why should death be so different?
It was several years before the next to draw his attention came along. A woman, touched by fairy magic, but not born into it. A face that flickered between ugly and beautiful, aftereffects, perhaps, of the magic that had been cast upon her physical form. Frik's lover, Morgan le Fey. She wandered in slowly, looking puzzled, glancing back over her shoulder as though there was something she had forgotten to bring. Like all the others, her path carried her forward towards the cauldron, and soon she began to calm. She stopped turning her head. The flickering vision of her face settled, and Idath wondered if she realised that it had settled into the unnaturally beautiful features that Frik had given her. Whether she knew or not, her strides grew lengthier, she held her head up, and at the last, Morgan le Fey walked to the cauldron like the queen that she had always wanted to be in life.
The next deaths came soon, and this time, there were two. Father and son, golden and dark, Christian and Pagan, Mordred and Arthur. As they had been opposites in life, so they were opposites in death. Arthur came cautiously- being the staunch Christian that he was, Idath thought to himself, with no small measure of humour, it must be very disorientating indeed to find himself in the realm of a pagan god upon his death. But if his approach was cautious, it was willing. He didn't resist the pull of the cauldron, nor did he glance back, at the path to the world he had left behind. Mordred's approach was curious even to Idath. The boy didn't struggle, as such. The implications of his rapid growth had never been lost on him, and he had always known that he could never hope for a long life. He had accepted an early death long ago. But if he had accepted it, then it certainly didn't mean he was going to trot happily along, letting bygones be bygones. He glared at Arthur. He snarled at the other spirits that trod the path beside them. He radiated fury towards Idath, and he positively radiated hatred at the cauldron, until it began to sap away his memories, his essence, and with them, his anger.
The next was not a death. Only mortals could die, and Mab was certainly not a mortal. And that was why it hurt Idath so much, the way no death could. The dead passed through his kingdom, they were his subjects. But what of the faded goddess, the last scraps of flickering consciousness floating outside his gates? Idath didn't know whether it was that hurt that pulled him towards those gates, or whether it was guilt- guilt for not fighting against what she had become, guilt for not sparing her one last champion. He hesitated for a moment, before opening the gates, and stepping through. So few times he had left his kingdom, these past few decades, and it was almost always because of Mab. To the eyes of the dead passing through Anoeth- or those who cared to look- there would be nothing there. Even Idath couldn't see anything. But, Gods, he could sense her, sense her weakness, her fear, and uncertainly, he reached out. His first thought was to speed the fading of these last scraps of her essence, so that she wouldn't feel herself slowly slipping into oblivion. It would simply be over. His magic rose within him- and she fought him. So weak, it was so utterly futile. But she fought him nonetheless. The spell died long before it had a chance to leave him. Whether it was for the sake of mercy or not, Idath couldn't bring himself to kill what was left of her.
Centuries passed before the next death that truly caught his attention. An unnaturally long life- one of the last remnants of magic within the world. Ironic, really, when you thought about it. Merlin was not reluctant to approach the cauldron. Nor should he have been, though Idath bitterly, with the long life that had been afforded to him. But there was a certain sadness in his eyes, something that looked remarkably like regret. Idath supposed he could have eased it somewhat, could have told Merlin about the woman that lay in a room of his castle, a faded remnant of her former self, built by all of the magic that the weakened Lord of Anoeth could spare her. The woman who lay unconscious, sleeping forever, dreaming forever. Saved from oblivion, but only barely- for what was eternal sleep, if not a kinder sort of oblivion? He could have, but he didn't. Mab was his now- his decision, his secret, his burden. Merlin was the last mortal who would remember her as she had been. And Idath as he had been, for that matter- as the Lord of Death. Those memories were lost as he himself was taken by the cauldron.
The mortal world had changed. Mortals still feared death- Idath was in no danger of disappearing- but they did not acknowledge him as it's lord. And, as ever they had, mortal beliefs had a nasty habit of affecting the gods. So many titles Idath had held over the years- Lord of Winter, Lord of Death- there was only one that no longer felt like a lie. His own, self styled title- The Gatekeeper.