Title: Apple Trees
Summary: Destiny had gifted him with everything. Fate took it away. They say that nothing is ever meant to last.
Disclaimer: All characters are not of my creation; they belong to BBC's Merlin tv show.
Fiction Note: I had written this before season four, and have continued to expand on the idea. A minor quote alludes to a conversation Merlin and Arthur had in season four.
Very far into the past…
When Arthur got his first true battle wound, he was shocked and angry with himself.
He remembered hearing the slight whip in the air as the metal cut through the mail and licked his skin. An angry sting ran up his arm and a warm sensation rushed over the wounded area. Time seemed to slow, and Arthur lost his concentration.
"Time is your enemy," his father would say to him.
Arthur furiously shook away his jumbled thoughts, and focused back upon on his opponent's movements.
In the end, Arthur pulled through and won the tournament, like he always did.
Arthur stood out in the arena, glowing, victorious.
Afterwards, a servant dressed his wound with an acidic cleaning solution. Young Arthur was on the verge of crying when his father walked in.
"Don't cry, Arthur. We don't cry."
The day Uther passed, the hatred and fear that had clung to Camelot died.
All of Camelot mourned their King. Even the warlocks and sorcerers mourned his death.
But Arthur was a righteous and a just King. He had a clear mind, unclouded by hatred and vengeance. Camelot would dawn on his time.
Arthur hung his head.
Although lost, Merlin was there. Merlin was always there.
Arthur married his true love. Camelot flourished under Arthur's rule. With the help of Merlin, Camelot prospered.
Of course, all kingdoms fall as all true kingdoms go. No matter how glorious the beginning, the end is always the same. Turmoil and unrest had arisen in Camelot.
Winds of Uther's hatred still flew; Morgana's army would soon be upon them.
The day of the battle, Merlin presented Arthur with a sword that was true to its blade and as Arthur was to his agility.
Arthur gripped its handle. It was in that gleam of light that he saw the old rune inscription carved into its scabbard.
Merlin smiled and read, "Take me up. Caste me away."
The sincerity of Merlin's voice caught Arthur by surprise.
"And how would someone like you be so knowledgeable of the ancient language?"
I am magic, Arthur. "I read a book." Magic is who I am.
"You're always reading, Merlin."
I could not choose who I am. I cannot change who I am. Just like you cannot choose your own destiny.
"Sometimes I wonder where you get all of that time."
I hope that some day, you will forgive me.
When the battle began, Morgana shot forward. Arthur's sword, strength, and agility - yet great -were no match for Morgana's magic, and powerful had she grown.
Merlin begged Morgana to stop, but she would not head his words. She continued to advance and destroy. She continued to plumage and wreck. She continued to hurt his Arthur.
She gave him no choice.
Days after the battle, Merlin ghosted around the castle.
"Merlin?" Arthur called.
"I saw what you did. You saved me. You saved all of Camelot. I know that you have magic." When you killed my sister, you killed a part of me, Merlin.
"You don't have to live in secrecy anymore. Your people can live now." But I need you to live now.
"Thank you, Sire," Merlin barely whispered. Free.
Camelot's dawn glowed. Shining a true light upon the righteous world, peace prospered.
Guinevere was there to guide him. Merlin helped him run the kingdom. Time was drifting. Years were passing. Camelot was at peace.
Eventually, dark times fell upon Arthur.
"She left me, Merlin." I know.
"Why did she leave me? She was my queen. I could have given her the world." I understand.
"How have I wronged her?" Destiny, Arthur. Our twisted destiny.
Don't cry Arthur. We don't cry.
Alone as he felt, Merlin was there. Merlin was always there.
Together, they fought battles and shared victories. Arthur and Merlin. Prince and Warlock. Man and man. Friend to friend.
Time wore on and the old physician died.
"I am sorry for your loss, Merlin." Now we have both lost someone dear to us.
"I know how close you were to Gaius." Merlin. I am here. I will always be here for you.
"If you need anything, just ask." You don't have to go through this alone.
"I just… I just wanted you to know." It would kill me not to tell you.
"Thank you, Arthur." I know.
The day Arthur met Merlin's love was the day he felt jealous.
"Arthur, this is Freya."
Freya smiled and shook Arthur's hand.
"Aren't – Aren't you cursed?"
"Aren't you dead?"
"I was. You killed me, Arthur Pendragon, but for a good cause."
Merlin squeezed Freya's hand.
"She came back, Arthur. She gave you that sword."
She came back to you, Merlin. Why won't Guinevere come back to me?
Don't cry, Arthur. We don't cry.
The battle was almost over. Camelot was winning. Glory would soon be upon them. Arthur and Merlin would parade through the streets, victorious and glowing.
But fate had to intervene.
It was in that battle, at that very moment Merlin stood there - graying hair, red cloak, magic flowing, spells flashing, eyes changing colors - when Arthur's true world fell apart.
Arthur heard the sound as the dagger artfully pushed through Merlin's flesh; he the felt warmth as it plunged deep into Merlin's heart.
Arthur's arms held Merlin as he fell.
"Ar-rthur. Am I dying?"
Arthur's old head shook.
"You can't. Merlin. Gods. Is there anything I can do?"
Merlin's hazy old eyes drifted, searching for their last image of the present world before drifting into the void. Merlin had known that it was his time to pass. The heavens and the gods had scores ago foretold that day in which the mighty Arthur would fall – with Merlin by his side.
Today was destiny, and Merlin, finally relieved that he had found his true purpose, accepted his fate and took its price gladly. He had saved Arthur, to the very end, as he had promised years ago.
"P-prat. I knew you'd be trouble."
Don't cry, Arthur. We don't-
Arthur held Merlin closer, tears falling as leaves break from their branches.
"Ar-thur. T-take me up-p. C-caste me a-away-y."
Arthur's years were weighing upon him. Camelot was growing much too large for his weary heart. Arthur needed a place to rest.
A week before Arthur's death, Lancelot returned.
"She is gone now, Arthur. And I am an old man."
You took her from me, Lancelot. She cast me aside because of you.
It was then that Arthur realized - Merlin's words, the last words he had spoken to him before his death. The last piece to the broken puzzle.
"Lancelot. Go. Take this sword. Caste it away into a place where none can find it."
Of course, all kingdoms fall as all true kingdoms go. No matter how glorious the beginning, the end is always the same. Turmoil and unrest had now arisen in Camelot.
Mordred's army would soon be upon them.
Fate finally ended its course. Destiny ended its role.
The day Arthur died, a word drifted into him, like the spring air flows through the breeze.
Arthur's vision whirled into a masterpiece of colors. His wrinkled skin rippled, and he found himself standing at the edge of a lake near a large, long boat.
"Prat," he heard, and Arthur turned around.
"Merlin?" he asked, and Merlin smiled. Merlin's young voice and youthful features betrayed his true age.
"You have come, Arthur. After all of these years. You have come. We can go now, all of us. We have been waiting for so, very, very long."
Arthur's fresh mind filled with happiness, exploding over the brim. Behind Merlin were people, all in the prime of their youth, all of which he had known, all of which he still cherished.
Uther, Igraine, Morgana, Morgause, Gaius, Alice, Freya… Guinevere.
They boarded the boat as one towards their place of solace. Arthur beside his Guinevere; Merlin with his Freya; Morgause and her Morgana; Uther and his Igraine; Gaius and his Alice.
"He left me, Arthur. After death, he left me," Guinevere cried into Arthur's shoulder.
Together, they would watch their Camelot fall into the dark hands of Morded.
But they would turn their heads away from that blackened world, and towards their golden world of the apple trees.