Disclaimer: We do not own Merlin - all rights go to BBC and Shine Unlimited. Hale, Cairon, Jade, Ide, Actica and all of its characters belong to us, though.
Walk onto the path ahead
You'll see yourself the things unsaid.
Of the past and future though it's dim
The light ahead it seems so grim.
Walk into the lion's den
The past it will repeat again.
Treading on a road you know
The sweet waters seem to flow
Though a battle's on the brink
Two more lives will interlink
Wait for her, she'll guide you through
Where the silver lights look so few.
Where Sky and Earth seem to meet
You'll see a dancer on the whitest sheet.
When every lie turns into truth
You'll see old eyes full of youth.
Something small full of rage
You release it from its cage.
Traveling on the road beyond
What you knew is now gone.
The hearts you will have to mend
Will then bring your story to an end.
Chapter 1: Remembrance
I looked out the tall glass window in my bedroom, absentmindedly fiddling with my necklace. Tall pine trees cast shadows across the kingdom. I breathed in slowly as I observed the peaceful twilight. I could see the tall, majestic mountains with their snow-capped peaks standing tall and proud in the distance. As I was taking in nature's beauty, something from the corner of the window caught my eye. It was a butterfly. I gasped when I realized that it was glowing a soft light blue. Emotions welled up inside of me as I tried not to think of the thought that had been stored away somewhere far in the back of my mind. This was the first time in years I'd thought about my father. The thought was too unbearable. Before indulging in my self-pity, a small smile crept across my face as I remembered a distant childhood memory.
I remembered seeing butterflies as a young child, and asking my father where they came from. He had asked me why I was so keen to know this. They were the most beautiful things that I had ever come across, was my answer. A butterfly flew over us and my father put out a delicate finger, which was surprising because he was all muscle, and I couldn't believe anyone built like that could be so soft. It landed on his fingers, and its wings continued to flutter slowly.
"They are really faeries," he'd whispered as he stroked my dark curly hair. "This one is here to protect you." I knew it wasn't really a faerie, because he didn't believe in magic, so neither did I, but I remembered there was something different about this butterfly. I could feel it, and I knew that he could feel it as well. He slowly passed the butterfly to me and I squealed in delight. The startled butterfly quickly fluttered off across the field. I remember studying his face. He looked worried and sad. It looked like tears were gathering in the corners of his eyes. He must have felt my eyes on him, because his whole expression changed as he smiled and looked down at me. He took my little hand in his, and we both looked out across the field as we watched that beautiful butterfly fly away.
That was the last time I ever saw one. Then a rush of memories flooded my head as I remembered the night my father was killed.
There had been a bar fight between him and some traveler from the West. It was rumored that he, his nephew, and his brother's wife had just come back from Camelot begging King Uther for money. I couldn't remember why, but I heard something about the boy's father being a knight who died in the battle against magic, a substance that I didn't believe existed. My father had been a little too drunk that night and he started arguing about how King Uther was mad, and how he would be the death of us all. There was more arguing between the men, and then the fight went from being verbal to physical. I was used to these sorts of things, the fights. I knew how to dodge blows, and even throw some blows myself. I was better at swordplay than most of the village boys, even the ones that were years older than I. After much chaos, it should have slowly died down from there, but then the unimaginable happened. The pub started to burn. Later, I would find out that one of the idiots in the pub had accidentally knocked his drink into the fire.
Smoke filled my nostrils as I frantically looked around for my father. The smoke burnt my eyes, and it was getting harder to breathe. I had never felt so terrified in my life. I glanced at my hands: they were raw from burning, and my olive skin was black with soot. As I thought I was surely going to die, a strong arm grabbed me around the waist and heaved me over their shoulders. I didn't know who it was. I really didn't care. I felt weak, and a huge wave of sleepiness crept throughout my body. Time flew by; before I knew it, we were already up the hill that overlooked the whole valley. Suddenly a wave of strength overtook me as I looked and saw who was carrying me. It was the boy whose uncle had started the whole fight with my father. I kicked him in the groin, and he obviously didn't see that coming because he dropped me. I hit the ground hard, but I was used to falling hard. I jumped up and I saw that he was still distracted by the pain in his stomach. He looked to be about the age of eighteen. I took that chance to run. I hadn't seen my father, and as I watched the flames grow higher, an overbearing feeling of dread crept through my heart down to the very depths of my soul. I ran until my legs were numb and I couldn't run anymore. There was no way anyone could have survived that fire. So how did I? Why did that boy save me? I looked back and I saw -
"Why are you just standing there like a statue? Can't you hear me yelling at you?"
That shrill voice brought me back to reality. Everything I just saw, it felt like I was reliving it. Like it was actually happening all over again. I looked outside and saw that the butterfly was gone. I whipped around and was about to roll my eyes when I saw Helwys' expression. First her face was twisted in a disdainful look, and then her expression softened. I was wondering why she was looking at me like that; most of her glances consisted of glares and anger. Then I realized that tears were continuously flowing down my cheeks and I was shaking. I hastily regained my composure and wiped my tears away. I tried to smile, and when she saw I was in a better mood her eyes turned harsh again. I thought nothing of it, and I was kind of relieved she was back to her normal self. I couldn't think of one day when she didn't hate me. I don't know what I did to make the king's servant hate me so. She was a petite woman of about forty; her small, thin nose was the cause for her high, shrill voice. Her small beady brown eyes were always intense, and her face looked as if it was stuck in a permanent scowl. She had age lines on both sides of her mouth, and deep wrinkles in her forehead. Despite all of this, she carried herself well, putting about a foot more to her actual height. I wouldn't be the first to say she intimidated me.
"Of course I can Helwys, I was just…thinking."
"Thinking? You should leave the thinking to the men. Now come. The king has asked for an audience with you." Audience? Why would the king want an audience with me? Well, it's not like I have a choice. The king hadn't talked to me since the day he took me in after my father died. I felt honored, but at the same time a little bit scared. After all these years, the king wants to talk to me now? It must be important. As I headed for the door, pounding feet echoed through the hallway outside my room. Before I knew it, Prince Rowan and Prince Henry stormed through the door, sending Helwys across the room. Rowan had a sword in hand, and Henry had two. It didn't take me any time at all to realize what was going on. Henry passed me a sword, and I caught it with ease. We all circled around each other. Rowan and Henry's faces smiled darkly at me. I returned the smiles and expertly twirled the sword in my hand. Henry and Rowan both looked at each other and grinned. They looked back at me and lashed out. The sword almost scraped against my arm, but I instinctively put out my sword in defense. I didn't expect the blow to be as strong as it was, and I stumbled back onto my bed. They advanced towards me, and I felt almost trapped, but then I remembered a trick I had been practicing. It was simple, and I hoped it would work now.
I sat there helplessly as the two princes held their swords up high, about to pierce my heart. At the very last second I jumped onto the bed, my legs "accidentally" kicking the swords out of their hands. My necklace thudded against my chest as I landed on my feet. They stared in shock, as I was now the only one with a sword. I laughed mockingly and cast my sword aside. They looked at each other again, which kind of confused me. In a flash, I had been knocked off my feet, and hit hard on the bed. We were all wrestling now. Henry grabbed my head and put it in a headlock as he rustled up my hair. Rowan was about to give me a nice blow to the stomach when we heard Helwys (who we had completely forgotten about) mumbling, "Y-you-your majesty. I-I can assure you it was out of my power to do anything. I was just about to ask her to come..."
All three of our heads spun around to see the king's arms crossed, glaring at us all. Helewys was shaking and stuttering about something I couldn't understand. We all let go of each other slowly, and walked up to him. I couldn't bear to make eye contact with him. I heard him sigh in frustration. My hair was a mess and my clothes were all crumpled. This was not the way I wanted to see the king after all these years.
"Get out of my sight. Go now." I looked up when I thought he was talking to me. I saw that he was talking to his sons, and relaxed a little. But I didn't take my eyes off of him. I had seen the king before, but not up close like this. He had icy blue eyes and jet-black hair. He didn't look like he could be over forty, but I knew he was. As I looked closely, I started to see why he looked so very similar to someone I'd seen before. His son Rowan was the spitting image of his father, except he had dark brown eyes. His skin was tanned from days of combat training outside, and his dark chocolate hair almost went down to his shoulders. Henry, on the other hand, looked nothing like his father. His hair was a golden brown color and he was heavily built with jovial, sparkling blue eyes. He was paler than his twin brother (yes, they're twins, I was shocked myself). The king was equally handsome, or possibly even more so than his sons. He was clean-shaven and his hair was cropped short. He wore the crown on his head as well as a ring with the seal of the royal family. King Hadrian of Actica was one of the noblest men in the kingdom. He had maintained peace for over forty years, and tried to avoid wars and feuds with other kingdoms, especially Camelot. King Uther of Camelot had banned magic in his kingdom and killed all those with magic powers that crossed his path. Actica wasn't against magic, but the king didn't encourage the use of magic either. Actica became a safe haven for those who were too scared to live in Camelot and freely use magic.
Once Rowan and Henry left the room, the king had Helwys shut the door behind her, leaving just him and I alone in the room. My heart nearly jolted out of my chest as his eyes looked into mine. I was surprised to see that his eyes looked very old and tired. They were soft as he scanned my face and I scanned his. I was wondering why he hadn't started yelling at me, when he spoke. I loved to hear the king talk. He had a powerful melodic voice that made you want to hold on to every word he said.
"Hale -", It was exciting to hear him say my name. "My goodness, it's been such a long time." It sounded as if he was trying to hold back tears. Interesting. He didn't look like the type to cry. He gently put his gloved hands on my shoulders and smiled. He leaned back and studied me, like distant relatives did when they saw young children grown up. He stopped smiling, but you could still feel the joy radiating from his skin. "There are many things we need to discuss, some things I've been meaning to tell you." He didn't say anything, and I waited patiently for him to continue. He paced around my room. Then he turned to stop in front of the big glass window overlooking the forest.
"Years ago, a baby girl was born in a small room in the castle. The girl looked nothing like her mother or father for she didn't belong to either one of them. They could feel the strength and power emanating from the child even as she exited her mother's womb. She was born to be a ruler. However, it was too much effort for the mother in the end; she died in labor. She left behind a broken-hearted and lonely father, who knew nothing about raising a child, let alone a girl. She was hidden for years because her father was only trying to protect her and the people around her. That girl is grown up now, and she's in more danger than she realizes, but she mustn't fret, because she is safe for now." He turned around and looked at me. "What I am about to tell you will shock you. Your whole world will be viewed differently." I didn't react; I just waited for him to tell me. I wasn't too eager to hear this because my life was perfect enough. I didn't know how what he was about to say would be life changing. "You," he hesitated for a while. "You're my daughter." My mind blanked. Daughter? That's impossible.
"You're lying." I was saying this more to myself than to him. I repeated this in my head over and over again, trying to convince myself that this was just a trick, just a joke. That whole story was about me? He gave me to the man I thought was my father, and hid me from my real one?
"The first thing my daughter says to me is that I am a liar." He stepped away from me and sighed. "I know this must be hard for you. All these years you've been living a lie. Here, take this." He pulled out something from under his black leather coat. It was a round indigo amulet with an elaborate golden design on it that shimmered in the candlelight. He was about to put it around my neck, but then suddenly stopped. He put it onto my bed and came back. "Let's replace this old thing." He was about to unhook the necklace I was wearing, but I grabbed his arm. He looked at me in shock. Nice way for me to ruin a perfectly sweet family reunion.
"You can't take this!" I exclaimed. He glared at me in shock and annoyance.
"You would rather have that old thing than this priceless amulet? Do you know how much this cost me? I searched for years to find you the perfect gift, and this is how you thank me?" He was fuming mad. I could have been frank with him, and told him that this necklace meant more to me than all of the riches in the world, but he wouldn't have understood anyways. Plus, I didn't want to make the situation worse than it already was.
"I am grateful... father." Oh, that word! It was foreign to my tongue. "But you can't replace this. This is the only thing I have left of my past," I lied, but I didn't want to get into a conversation about the real reason why I held onto this, the reason that kept me hopeful about the future. He took my necklace, which had a small, round crystal-like stone at the base. It was wrapped around a thin wooden thread. On the thread were two small green and black crystals. Inside was a golden shimmering leaf.
"Well, at your ceremony you are going to wear this amulet I gave you. It's a symbol of your royalty," the king - my father - informed me.
"Wait! What ceremony? It can't be my coronation...!" I was starting to become alarmed.
He laughed. "No, of course it isn't your coronation. Did I say ceremony? It's more of a celebration, welcoming you as my daughter. As princess of Actica." He beamed, and I smiled back. Secretly, I wasn't too thrilled. Suddenly I felt very tired, and turned down the king's offer of dinner. After the king - my father left, I changed into my green blouse and black pants and blew out the candles in my room. I dropped onto my bed and closed my eyes, reliving the events of the day in my head. Something was strange, though, about what the king had said. How could I be his daughter? I kept asking myself. Some things just didn't seem to fit. If I was his daughter, then why was I led to believe that I was a blacksmith's daughter for my whole life? Was the death of my peasant mother also a lie, or was the Queen my real mother? I reminded myself to ask him that later.
I lay on the bed for what seemed like hours. What scared me most about the story was that he said the baby, me, was the one that killed my mother. It was my fault. I put my hand to the necklace the king disliked so much, hoping for a sense of calm. Instead, I yelped as I threw my hand away from it. It was very hot to the touch. My eyes flew open as I tried to take it off from around my neck. My bed faced the huge window, and when I saw that little blue butterfly there, the burning sensation went away. That was strange, but I was too tired by then to care. Within seconds I was fast asleep.
Smoke filled my lungs and nostrils as I frantically looked around for my father. The smoke burnt my eyes, and it was getting harder to breathe. I had never felt so terrified in my life. As I thought I was surely going to die, a strong arm grabbed me around the waist and heaved me over their shoulders. I didn't know who it was, and I really didn't care. I felt weak, and a huge wave of sleepiness crept throughout my body. Time flew by; before I knew it, we were already up the hill that overlooked the whole valley. Suddenly, a wave of strength overtook me as I looked and saw who was carrying me. It was the boy whose uncle had started the whole fight with my father. I kicked him in the groin, and he obviously didn't see that coming because he dropped me. I hit the ground hard, but I was used to falling hard. I jumped up and saw that he was still distracted by the pain in his stomach. I took that chance to run. I hadn't seen my father, and as I watched the flames grow higher, an overbearing feeling of dread crept through my heart down to the very depths of my soul. I ran until my legs were numb and I couldn't run anymore. There was no way anyone could have survived that fire. So how did I? Why did that boy save me? I looked back and I saw the boy coming towards me. He lifted me up with strong arms. I didn't even resist this time. I felt like I was going to explode. My heart seemed to cease working. I felt very lost. I knew my father had died; I could feel it. Oh, why did this stupid boy have to save me? I had no one in this world now that both my mother and father were dead. We got back to the top of the hill and he put me down. I felt so empty. He sat down and collapsed next to me. I looked at him to see what he really looked like. I couldn't quite tell because it was so dark, but the flames from burning pub let me see that his face was black with soot. I saw tears rolling down his cheeks, tracing paths through the soot. I realized that I was crying too. We looked at each other for a long time. After I got my strength back, I asked him why he was crying.
"Do you see anybody with me?" I realized his mother and uncle were both absent.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered. He just nodded. His face was grim as he looked down the hill where the enormous flames engulfed both of our families. I could see the fire dancing in his eyes. Then he grimaced as he tried to get up. I looked to see that his shirt was bleeding and scorched. I told him that I could help him. We walked down the hill to where my small house was. My father was the blacksmith, but he also cared for the king's knights when they were injured. I knew how to treat this. When we got to my house, I told him he could take my bed. I ran to check all of the cabinets to see what I could find. Yes! I found what I was looking for. It was Wych Elm. I crushed some of the dried herb into a pot of boiling water. I infused it for a few minutes before straining the tea. I sat next to him and gave him the cup. He gulped it down in seconds. I wondered how he could do that because I never could stand the taste of it. He gave me the cup, and I thought I saw a hint of a smile. I took the cup to the kitchen, and when I came back to ask him if he wanted some water to wash off with, he was already asleep. I pulled the sheets over him and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. There was a bright light, so bright that it almost blinded me. It faded with my vision and I was soon asleep.
The strong sunlight woke me up suddenly and I saw Helwys looking at me, hands on her hips. "Come on now, you've gotten your beauty sleep." I rubbed my eyes. I was still dazed from my very vivid dream. I followed her as she walked to my dresser and searched through dresses for me to wear. But there weren't any. All I had were tunics and tights. I couldn't bear the thought of wearing a dress! Dresses weren't meant to move in, or do anything useful in for that matter. I was moving constantly; therefore I couldn't wear a dress. Helewys slammed the doors shut and stormed out of my room. I was very confused and just scratched my head. I got out of bed, closed the windows and went back to sleep.