So...16-year-old girl + overactive imagination + keen storytelling capacity = rewrite of epilogue waaaaaaaaaaay too many times.
Not only that, but I went on vacation, started back to school, and then-horror of horrors!-Alice (aka, my laptop) decided she likes to hear herself play the tune of the start screen over and over into infinity. All in all, it's taken much too long, and I really do apologize.
Also, according to my dictionary, the definition of "epilogue" is as follows: "a short addition to the end of a story detailing the outcome of characters, the summary of the story, etc." With this chapter, I have decided to use my poetic license and rewrite said definition as, "a long, additional chapter that's really not too much different from the rest of them."
Many years later, two men lay side by side at the foot of the largest tree in Camelot.
The first, whose face was weathered and tanned but yet held a distinctive immortal youth, with a single, soft scar running over his cheek from some battle long ago, lay upon his side on the damp ground. Deep blues and regal purples characterized his garments and gave immediate testament to his title, even before one identified the heavy chain hanging around his neck, signifying the many other, heavier burdens he bore. Blonde strands of sun-lightened hair fell over his ears and across his forehead, his handsome, if somewhat aged, face holding no expression but his sapphire eyes wide and misty as he watched the man lying beside him with a gaze so concentrated it was as though he felt his companion was the last thing in the world that mattered.
As he was, at least for these few moments.
The other man was his opposite in appearance. Soft locks the color of rich ink, streaked with a touch of silver which glinted in the sun at midday, tumbled over his neck and barely brushed his narrow shoulders. The ivory skin of his face fairly glowed in sharp contrast with the dark hair along his jaw line and which made his cheekbones all the more prominent beneath his cool, clear, changeable eyes. The mystic ring of turquoise there, which mixed with the tranquil green and ancient gray to form the most intriguing eyes his friend had ever seen, was enhanced by the luxurious indigo cloak draped around his shoulders and covering his head.
The fine cloak had been a gift, given him by the king himself upon the night of his being named an esteemed member of the royal court.
The two of them were so visibly different, one so strong and the other so wise. They were as conflicting in all ways as the light of day and the dark of night—but even as there can be no night without day, nor day without night, but there must be both balancing the world together, so it was with these two friends who had found their places in this life in the refuge of one another's shadow.
Behind the blonde man, two objects glinted in the pale morning sunlight—one a priceless crown, the other a perfect sword. He let them lay unacknowledged in the moist grass, sparing not a thought for them when his friend was with him. He needed neither here.
The sorcerer turned his head ever-so-slowly to face his king, a faint smile touching his bare lips.
The king smiled in return, though he could not keep the sorrow from it as he noted that it did not seem to matter how weak his friend became or how tired he appeared; the watchfulness and calm of his tender eyes never faded or waned.
Even now, at the end, his angel remained his caring strength.
They did not speak, for there was nothing more to say. After nearly a half-century of constant companionship, all had been said and expressed that could ever be...and what could not was there in their eyes as plainly as if it was written upon parchment.
The king reached out with his left hand. The sorcerer only blinked acceptingly as warm fingers brushed a lock of dark hair from his eyes. Then, the king shuffled slightly and pressed his forehead gently against his sorcerer's temple so that a few, loose strands of dark hair caught in the lashes of his right eye, and it was a mutual, unspoken reminder of that fateful night so very, very long ago, when they were not called Great King and High Sorcerer, but only Prince and Servant—two awkward boys with enigmatic destiny and no knowledge of what they would become together. For them, there had been only the present, with no weighty regrets to overcome and extraordinary stories to tell. There had been no scars then, either exterior or interior, but it was that night, in which the prince had learnt so suddenly to love and cherish his servant more than he ever had, which fortified them to endure the battles together. It had been that night of astonishing revelations which made them strong enough together to survive so that they might bear the scars now…the scars, and the joys alike.
No one man could tell in words, should he be the most eloquent of writers with eternity in which to write, all these two men had seen and done. To unlock the secrets and mysteries held in the old eyes and written in white scars would take a magic humankind has not yet seen. One could only observe the tenderness with which the king clutched the fabric on the sorcerer's shoulder, and the tired but determined way the sorcerer petted his master's arm in reply, and try to comprehend it all. The only sure conclusion anyone could draw is this: that there is no force powerful enough to cut the invisible ties which will forever bind them together.
Not even the force of Death has that power, it would seem.
The sorcerer raised his trembling right hand, and the king felt the coldness of metal against his collarbone. The sorcerer smiled again, softly, as his eyes fell to the ring on the middle finger of his hand, where the band of polished silver gleamed even in the dim light. The seal inscribed upon it was unique to the King of Camelot, and its being upon him, the High Sorcerer, bespoke of much—most notably was the declaration it made to all who beheld it that he was a treasured possession of the king himself. He supposed it should make him feel belittled, to be the mightiest sorcerer in history past and future and to be claimed a personal belonging of another, but he had known even the moment when his master had placed the ring upon his hand directly from his own that he was a possession regarded above all others in his friend's eyes.
That had been the day after his magic had been so miraculously revealed, and he had never removed the ring since, for the then-prince had made him swear an oath that he would not. He had never quite explained himself on this matter, for even then his insistence on being obeyed without question was but the bare concern in his resolute blue eyes and his newfound aversion to his father's brutal laws against all magic made clear enough his reasons. All men would surely take heed to expose a sorcerer who wore the insignia of the champion-prince.
There was a whisper in the silence, and then a weak glow of gold before the king's eyes. A slight prick of icy-cold pain struck him, and he looked down to see the seal upon the ring had been inscribed on his flesh just over his heart. It glowed a muted purple for only a second, before the light went out and left the tattoo of it behind.
A return of the courtesy, he realized, a mark of protection for when his old guardian would be gone and unable to keep him.
A drained sigh, and he lifted his eyes to see that the pair before his had closed in pure exhaustion at even this slight exertion.
The king clenched his jaw and willed his emotions to remain at bay. He must give his sorcerer a peaceful departure, if he could do nothing else to repay him for all he had done and endured for him.
The sorcerer opened his lovely eyes again and looked deep into his king's. He smiled at him one final time, an ages-old quirk of his witty mouth, and it was ridiculous for him to think so, but the weary half-grin was so similar to the one he had when he was drunk or dizzy that the king could not contain a chuckle, however the sight broke his grieving heart further.
"Idiot," he murmured, breath ghosting against the too-cool and paling cheek.
"Prat," came the unhesitating reply, and he wanted to weep at the sound of it.
He refrained, instead blinking rapidly and inhaling the strangely bitter-sweet perfume which had always clung to the sorcerer, smelling somehow of vanilla and moonlight and something entirely indefinable, as though his magic was manifest through every sense of man so that no one ever could deny it.
It was that voice, he pondered silently as the sorcerer remained still and breathed slowly in his grasp, which had so long saved him through its candid guidance, and soothing consolation, and impertinent retorts, and those beautiful, beautiful spells of a wondrous magic. It had whispered words which had saved him innumerable times and in more ways than he could ever repay, and now, it was this voice which he realized he would soon miss the most, even more than the eyes.
Theirs was a familiar routine, this bantering game, and one which they had repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times since the day of their meeting, and the king wished with all his being that they might continue it, just once more…but the sorcerer's eyes were drifting shut again, the fond smile diminishing, and he could feel the magic slipping away from them both, draining from that place in his soul where it had resided since the moment he had been so fantastically connected to his friend...his other half.
So it was that, as the sun rose in the eastern sky to usher in the midday, the High Sorcerer of the Court of Camelot had at last fulfilled his destiny and entered another world, knowing beyond doubt that he had done all he was meant to do, and that he was loved and trusted unconditionally by the man who was the center of his whole existence.
The king grieved, but even so, he could not find it within himself to feel without hope, for as the sorcerer had often told him, they would meet again. Somehow, whether in the presence of the gods or in another life entirely different from this one, they would always meet again. He had promised, after all, and not once had the sorcerer ever broken his promises; his word was something upon which the king would always depend, even when the gulf of death separated them and felt as though it stretched on endlessly. If he must, the sorcerer would find a way to build a bridge over the gulf with his own two hands, and he would cross it and return to him, if no other way. The king only smiled and remembered that the mad fool was, indeed, stubborn enough to build a bridge over Death to remain at his side, and so he did not fret for the future, but rejoiced that they had fulfilled their destiny together, and that he was triumphant in his age, and he would soon follow his friend, wherever he might be.
Six months thereafter, the beloved King of Camelot was buried alongside his High Sorcerer beneath the shade of the great oak. He was buried not as King, however, but as Arthur, friend of the servant Merlin.
For this was how he saw himself, through golden eyes.
1: Setting for this chapter was inspired by this picture of traditional Merlin and Arthur: h t t p : / / w w w . t h e p e n d r a g o n . c o . u k / M e r l i n 5 . j p g. Just erase all spaces and search.
2: Merlin's cloak, though part of the traditional legend, was directly inspired by this fanart by pAgebReaTher: h t t p : / / f c 0 2 . d e v i a n t a r t . n e t / f s 7 0 / f / 2 0 1 1 / 1 9 5 / 7 / d / 7 d e 2 9 9 0 c 7 d b f 5 2 e a b d 8 0 e 4 7 9 b e 3 8 f 3 0 5 - d 3 r e v e 0 . j p g. Again, just erase the spaces.
3: I know they had pyres for the dead in Arthurian times, but I have this little notion that sometime, Merlin reads that foreign lands bury their dead, and decides he likes the idea of being "planted" better than being burnt. He convinces Arthur of the same. Ridiculous, yes, but that's my version. I might write a fic on it someday. *hehe*
And trust me, whatever idea you had about how this epilogue would be, I probably did write it at some point, but every time, it never ended up showing what I wanted it to. That is that what happened in the previous chapters stuck with Arthur and Merlin all their lives, and that the feelings which connected them never faded away afterwards, and this was how they ended up becoming because of the strength it gave their bond.
ANYWAYS, let me know what you think! Love you all, as you know, and thank you so much for every awesome review! I'd send every single one of you a box of magical chocolates if I could.