The Precious of Gaia
Part Three: Igneous Immortal
Magic is Arthur's only hope. All he lacks is a warlock.
Disclaimer: I taught Merlin his ABC's before England was a country. Really.
Warnings: Gore, character deaths, AU galore.
Aithusa is not a spell at all: it's a pale and serpentine dragon that stretches wings as long as ships on either side of his lion like limbs. It's amber eyes and ivory teeth snapping in the light of the fire from his breath. And Aithusa does not crash through a window or crawl from the fiery bowels of the earth's furnace, but flashes into being like a lightning strike that can freeze in time. The room that was a tomb with a mourner erupts into a midnight court with a demon and a man joining for the sake of sedimentary stone.
"Aithusa," says Arthur again, in that same rasping voice that is not his and is not Merlin's, but something far more ancient and blood-tied. The dragon rears back and his sleek head dips down, his magic eyes level with the fire cast in Arthur's, answering in a voice of the same blood, of the same era;
The room echoes. Arthur feels a call unlike any other enter his veins. Something deeper than a battle cry or anthem or love song. This voice that speaks Arthur's name is Arthur. Yet, it is Aithusa. Yet... it's also...
Arthur looks to Merlin's statue, chills running up his back as Merlin's golden eyes are forced to return his gaze. He can see Merlin, but he can also see himself, wide-eyed and reaching. It's as if Arthur is in two places at once; as if Arthur is two people at once.
"Arthur," says a warm voice from within Arthur that is not Arthur, but Merlin. Arthur's heart shudders in the hold of that phantom presence that fills him still, flashes filling his head of things he's never seen, people he's never met, and things he has never done. "All you have to do is take my hand."
And after weeks of reaching, Merlin's stone-cold hand is surrounded by a hand of flesh, blood, and bone: by Arthur.
And Aithusa opens his razor mouth and bellows out with fire that fills the room like sunlight: hot, metallic, and igneous.
It doesn't startle Arthur to be swept up in flame. Merlin had expected it, and so Arthur did as well. They are seeping into one another, becoming less and less their own person. Arthur knows what Merlin knows. Merlin knows what Arthur knows. And deeper still, buried in lava that was once the roof and the walls of the great hall, sinking into Gaia as Aithusa liquidizes the ground beneath them with his dragon fire, Arthur feels a great love and pride for himself that he knows as once has come from Merlin, and that he knows Merlin must feel in return.
and arthur is merlin and merlin is arthur and they two are some being like
Gold and Fire
mixing together and becoming one Person
one Coin, purified as children
precious of gaia
Merlin can see the future, and Arthur sees it through Merlin's eyes—The clash of armies like opposing ocean waves, crashing, crumbling, thundering into one another in a force unlike any Albion has ever seen. There are wheeling creatures that leave thick track in the mud, trenches filled to the brim with crying men, strange and short spears that fire pops of lightning into the soft flesh of their enemies. Children, no better than students or stable hands. None of them are kings. None of them are trained. Not like Arthur is trained.
But the miserable, dying children have lightning boats soaring overhead, and four-wheeled creatures that breathe smoke and spit fire, and each and every one of these children is screaming for an end.
Is this what we're creating? Arthur wonders, for these are the grandchildren of Albion.
No, answers Merlin, This is what we're protecting. Without us, Arthur, even a future such as this will be without hope.
What are we creating?
Arthur sees the past, and Merlin sees it through Arthur's eyes—The wash of wind on the stone walls of Camelot, the haunting and lonely cry of one person, just one person. Their voice is dear and sharply shoots through Merlin's heart, pulling on him from where he'd been standing in the stables. He spins towards the palace; Arthur's cry still ringing through him.
Merlin magicks into being within the throne room, eyes on fire, body cold as Morgana's reaching hand finds him.
He freezes, tries to move, finds he cannot.
Arthur is not in the room. But Arthur's voice comes out of Morgana's mouth as she smirks at Merlin, and suddenly he is burning, crumbling, sedimentary.
Where were you? Merlin asks Arthur, because he had been worried that Arthur was already taken, already dead. Morgana might have won.
Safe, Arthur answers. I was safe, thanks to you. A wave of magic filled the city and I was caught up in it.
I had to protect you.
Arthur's eyes open to Leon and Gwen and Gaius, each extremely wary, concern and fear and uncertainty channeling through them.
Merlin and Arthur are gripping each other around the forearm—Merlin's hand is flesh where he connects with Arthur's warm arm, and Arthur's is granite where it fuses into Merlin's sandstone elbow. Gold eyes reflect Arthur's golden eyes. The feldspar lips are no longer frowning, but smiling. Arthur can see clean halite behind them.
"Arthur," Gwen says. Her soft hands are trying to turn his chin towards her. Merlin's hand tightens on his arm.
"It's Merlin," Arthur tells her.
"I know," she says, her hands skip over the union of stone and flesh, barely skimming the surface. "I know, Arthur. Please- Does it hurt, Arthur?"
Gaius is staring at the blood-filled fingers holding fast to Arthur, expression unreadable.
Arthur blinks, something foreign coursing through him. "No. It doesn't hurt. Not at all. It's—" And he can think of nothing else to describe it other than, "its Merlin, Guinevere."
A dragon's cry comes from somewhere high above the castle, and a dragon's shadow flits by the stained glass. On its tail, several hundred figures, like hags on brooms, shoot after it.
Merlin pulls on Arthur's arm.
"What is it?" Arthur asks, his vision is growing hot and golden and everything all around him, from beetle, to black dog, to beauty is unraveled in his minds' eye.
It's going to be all right, Arthur…
And then Arthur's vision explodes in hot light, and Gwen shrieks and Leon yells out Arthur's name, but Arthur can feel a shift in his arm, where Merlin is holding onto him, and when the light fades, Arthur is holding a long and crystalline sword. It catches the light and magnifies it with a variety of colors. Each side of the diamond-like blade is etched with ancient runes.
Merlin is gone.
And Arthur's hand feels… off.
"Oh, Arthur," Gwen breathes. She takes a step forwards and stops, hands to her mouth.
The wide palm and thick fingers of Arthur's hand are gone, replaced with a hand that's as pale as marble, and with fingers that taper. He grips the granite of the hilt and takes an experimental swing, listening to the song and laughter of the blade as it frays the air on its edge. His eyes reflect on the blade, and they are blue.
He flips the sword over, and finds a pair of blazing golden eyes and a feldspar smile.
"Merlin," Arthur says. An annoyed tone carries it.
Arthur, says Merlin's reflection in the sword. How do you like Excalibur?
Arthur would rather have his friend than a sword, and he'd rather have his own hand than Merlin's, but when fighting a war against an evil witch like Morgana, Arthur will take what he can get.
Just believe, Merlin's reflection says. And just because the sword is being studied by Gaius downstairs doesn't mean Arthur and Merlin's connection is broken. Just like when Merlin was a statue and Arthur felt those eyes watching him, surrounding him, now it feels like Arthur is the eyes. He's part of Merlin and Merlin is part of him and neither space nor time can damage that.
Arthur feels unbelievably calm about it.
Thank you for freeing me, Merlin says. You have no idea how boring it can be as a statue.
"I visited you," Arthur replies. "And anyway, think of it as a vacation."
I suppose as your weapon, I won't get much of those anymore, Merlin muses. Just don't let me rust.
But Merlin isn't made out of metal, just diamond and granite and some other material that Gaius insisted he needed to identify before letting Arthur use it.
You need to beware, Merlin says suddenly. Tonight, it may be those that love you that cause you the most grief.
"Too late," Arthur snaps.
They wait in silence and Gwaine runs to tell Arthur that Morgana is on the march.
And she has a dragon.
That, says Merlin, is not a dragon.
Arthur would like to agree, but the creature standing up ahead and roaring most impressively does look a lot like a dragon. It has these thick black scales the size of shields, a long arching neck, and teeth like spears shooting from every direction out of its mouth. It even breathes fire, sort of.
"What is it then?"
The Leviathan, Merlin says. Excalibur chuckles and hums against the fabric of space. Arthur holds it steady. A sea-monster. It boils the seas. It's scales are impenetrable. No iron can cut it. No hook can draw it out. You won't forget a battle like that.
"Brilliant," says Arthur.
Morgana reaches up to scratch the Leviathan beneath the chin. It snaps at her hand, coy and smug. Arthur thinks they make a perfect pair.
"Arthur Pendragon," Morgana calls, "So-called King of Camelot, I bid you, for the last time to surrender. Lay down your swords, and your lives will be spared. Resist me, and they will be forfeit."
The Leviathan roars. Or, it opens its cave-like mouth and lets an earthquake roll out of it.
"It doesn't look that bad," Arthur comments. "Maybe it won't be as fierce out of water."
Don't chance it.
"Morgana," Arthur calls, raising his voice above the dying echo of the Leviathan's roar, "Witch and Traitor to Camelot; I hope you're ready for the end."
And he brings up Excalibur, Merlin's hand holding tight to granite, and the blade of diamond splits the air.
The tear in space brings them above the Leviathan's head. Arthur falls with a shout and swings Excalibur with all of his might. It rings off of the Leviathan's scales, but leaves the beast unharmed.
"It didn't work!" Arthur shouts through the whistling wind, plummeting to earth.
Move! Merlin says, and his hand moves Excalibur to swing again below Arthur's wheeling feet.
Space opens beneath them and they slip through the hole, reappearing in the center of the battlefield.
"What now?" Arthur asks, craning his head back to keep the Leviathan in his sight.
Like I said- it's scales are impenetrable. It may not be a dragon, but leviathans have certain strengths.
Arthur pauses long enough to hold up Excalibur so he can see Merlin's face.
"This sword can cut the fabric of space- why not some scales?"
Why not beyond scales?
Arthur has to jump back as the Leviathan takes a step forwards, nearly flattening him. Camelot's army is thick in its own fight, firing arrows wildly at the bird-like women diving at them on broomsticks from the sky.
"Merlin, any ideas?"
Of all the times for you to not think with your stomach.
Arthur looks up and sees the wobbly underbelly of the Leviathan, and suddenly has an idea.
"Hold your breath," he tells Merlin.
He cuts space and jumps into bile.
He's inside of the Leviathan, swimming in its juices. Throwing out a hand, in pain from the burning acid of its stomach, he finds the soft tissue of the stomach lining, and begins to cut in earnest.
A beating tattoo reverberates through the world of slimes and blood and sick that covers Arthur and Merlin, growing steadily louder the farther Arthur hacks and slashes through the Leviathan's body. The heart is what Arthur is driving for. His hand reaches out and grips the throbbing wall of muscle, fingers burying in the soft tissue. He pulls Excalibur back, and cuts through it with one clean sweep.
Arthur and Merlin and the Leviathan heart bleed out onto the field. Arthur is on his back, dripping and dizzy from the rush of fresh air filling his lungs. The heart is the size of a cart, and it steams, fresh red blood still spilling out of the severed aorta. It pumps, miraculously, one final time, and stills.
In the midst of the battle of Camelot, a monster the size of the city takes one faltering step, groans, and collapses on the men screaming below.
"No!" Morgana screams, slashing at Arthur with her arms. Black lashes of cold, wet air cut at him, and one strikes him across the eye as he stumbles backwards, half blinding him.
That Witch! Merlin says, outraged. Merlin's hand twists up and slashes Excalibur right back at her, and she trips, nearly falling into a rip that Merlin has created.
"Merlin," she sneers, waiting as Arthur scrambles to stand. "I should have known he'd weasel his way out of that spell. He'd go mad if he couldn't waste away in a Pendragon's shadow."
"Enough, Morgana," Arthur says, leveling Excalibur. "Please don't make me kill you, sister."
Her lip curls. "I'd like to see you—"
-An arrowhead appears in the center of her chest.
Stunned, Morgana and Arthur stare at it for a moment. Then, around Morgana's wild hair, Gwen's lovely face appears. Her cheeks are covered in dirt and blood. Her nostrils flare and her mouth is a slit as she whispers something into Morgana's ear, and then she shoves the Witch's dying body to the wayside.
It is when Morgana falls away that Arthur realizes Gwen is wounded.
And by the time he realizes this, Guinevere follows her old mistress to the surface of Gaia, and her life leaves her.
Arthur is High King of Albion for many, many years.
At his side is Merlin, his most trusted companion and best ally in battle, for there are hundreds of battles and very few companions.
They live for a century. And then for two.
As Time ravages Gaia, Arthur turns to Merlin one day and says;
"The future has come."
It was the future, once. But the past is done, and the present is fading.
Arthur stares out over his lands, over the white cliffs and the gentle green of the hills. All friends are Beyond, save for Merlin. Merlin is the only one who can take Arthur to the Beyond.
Merlin sees the future, and Arthur sees the past.
There is still plenty of both for the Precious of Gaia.
It's said that in times of trouble, King Arthur will return to save mankind.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns! Thanks for reading "The Precious of Gaia."