Siblings of Prophecy Season IV
The Darkest Hour Part One
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin
In a land of Myth and a time of magic,
The destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of two young people,
Merlin and Mira-Liana
It had been over a year since the end of Agravain's reign of terror. With Uther still badly shaken from Agravain's betrayal, he was deemed unfit to rule and for the time being, Arthur and Mira-Liana had been reigning in his stead.
Though the people had accepted the Knights of the Round Table and the temporary rule of Arthur and Mira-Liana, and although things had been somewhat peaceful, there was still a bit of unrest as everything had been too quiet.
Cenred had been strangely silent, Agravain had yet to be found and nor was there any sign of Morgause, but there was still a watch out for them.
Despite the fact that Camelot was in the midst of preparation for a celebration—decorations were hung, the cook and her kitchen boys were working on a succulent feast, and Arthur was working on a speech he was to give. It certainly brought about smiles on everyone's faces and lifted their spirits to the point where Merlin caught Gwaine and Percival sneaking some of the cook's roasted chicken out of the kitchen through a grate in the ceiling with a bit of rope and a hook and Merlin, though he wouldn't admit it, helped them take it—the quietness was about to end.
At that moment, the Knights of the Round Table were following a man dressed completely in black with a black hood, dragging a handcart across one of the more distant parts of the kingdom.
"Halt!" cried Leon, to the man. "Stay where you are." He and the other Knights got off their horses and walked over to the hooded man, who had halted in his tracks. "Where're you headed?"
"To the seas of Meridor," said the hooded man, keeping his back to the knights.
"What's in the cart?" demanded Leon. "Who are you?"
"Forgotten me already, have you, Sir Leon?" said the hooded man. He turned to face them and pulled back his hood, revealing the face of Agravain.
"Agravain," gasped Leon.
Quickly, the Knights drew their blades, only be rendered unconscious when Agravain blasted them with his magic.
Quite satisfied, Agravain turned back to the cart and pulled back the blanket, revealing Morgause. Once she had been beautiful, powerful and feisty. Now, she had lost much of her looks and power, and was a weak as a kitten. And she grew weaker by the day.
"Are you all right, Mother?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you, my son," said Morgause, as she gently squeezed his hand. "But we must hurry. Night is nearly upon us and we still have far to go."
Agravain nodded and after ensuring his mother was comfortable, resumed their journey.
When they arrived at their destination, Agravain carefully took his ill mother into his arms and carried her. "We're almost there, Mother. We're almost at the Isle of the Blessed."
"Excellent, son," said Morgause, smiling as she rested her head against his shoulders.
Agravaine conjured a boat and then magically made it take them to the Isle, where their plans would take wing.
Meanwhile, Arthur had just received a letter from someone he hadn't heard from in several months and he had mixed feelings regarding the letter. He called a private family meeting shortly after receiving the letter.
"Arthur, you look like you've swallowed a lemon whole. What's bothering you?" asked Merlin.
Arthur sighed. "I just received word from my uncle Gaheris. He's coming to stay in Camelot for a while and will be here for the feast tonight. He says he hopes to be of assistance during 'these trying times.'"
"Gaheris? Are you quite certain?" said Gaius, looking concerned. (A/N: Sorry if this displeases or confuses anyone, but I had to come up with another character for the role of Arthur's uncle because I wrote out Agravain as Morgause's son before I found out Agravain was Arthur's uncle on the show. And his time of arrival's been changed.)
Arthur nodded as he grimaced.
Though Gaheris was a respected member of the court, a friend of Uther's and Arthur had looked up to him as a child, Gaheris was not that well-liked as he was something a strict, stuck-up old goat and had little love for commoners.
"What's so troubling about your uncle?" asked Mira-Liana.
"My uncle, Gaheris Du Boir, though a good man, can be quite strict when it comes to proper decorum," said Arthur.
At the mention of his surname, Merlin and Mira-Liana's eyes widened. The last time they'd encountered a member of the Du Boir family, Tristan had been a wrath conjured by magic to take vengeance upon Uther for the death of Arthur's mother.
"He's not like Tristan, is he?" asked Merlin.
Arthur shrugged. "I honestly don't know. I've only had infrequent contact with him over the past few years and I haven't seen him since I was fifteen."
"So, he will most likely disapprove of Merlin and I once he finds out we're not of noble blood," guessed Mira-Liana, sighing.
"You've been ruling in Uther's stead for a year now. Why would he come now of all times?" asked Merlin, frowning.
"He promised my mother he'd be there for me. Perhaps he feels a sense of duty or something," said Arthur.
"Perhaps," said Mira-Liana, but she was skeptical as it seemed a tad suspicious. "How much does he know about us?"
"Not much from me, that much I know. The last I heard from him was before my coming-of-age and since he tends to travel a lot, I had no way to reach him when it came time to announce our wedding," said Arthur. "However, I'll tell you one thing, he may be family, but until he proves to be worthy, I'm not telling him of our secrets."
There was little more they could do and they couldn't come up with a legitimate excuse to refuse Gaheris's arrival, so they would just have to endure it and if it came to it, find a good enough reason to remove him from Camelot.
Gaheris arrived shortly afterward. He was middle-aged, dark-haired and quite well-off judging from his appearance. He embraced Arthur upon arrival.
"Arthur, it is splendid to see you," said Gaheris, smiling. "You've grown into a fine man, I daresay."
"Thank you, Uncle," said Arthur, returning the embrace. "It's wonderful to see you too. May I introduce my wife, Mira-Liana and my Chief Advisor?"
Gaheris kissed Mira-Liana's hand and shook Merlin's hand. "I am honored to meet you both. Word's recently reached me of your astounding actions here in Camelot. Tell me, from which kingdom and noble family do you hail from? Perhaps I've heard of them."
"We're from Elador. It's on the outskirts of Cenred's kingdom," said Mira-Liana.
Gaheris's smile faded. "Oh, I see." There was hint of sneer in his voice and disapproval in his eyes.
"Before you say a word, my father gave his full permission and blessing to my decisions long before Agravain's betrayal. Ana and Merlin have proven to be nothing but a blessing for this kingdom since they became part of the family. You'll show them the respect they deserve," said Arthur, firmly, as Gaheris opened his mouth to speak. "Now, if you'll just follow us, I've had your room prepared and I trust you'll want to rest before the feast tonight. You've had a long journey, no doubt."
"Oh, yes, of course," said Gaheris.
I don't like him, said Merlin.
Neither do I, said Mira-Liana, in agreement.
Meanwhile, Uther was in his chambers, sitting quietly alone in the dark. He was a pitiful sight as he was far from the mighty man he'd once been, both in spirit and appearance. He was broken and showed no sign of recovery.
Morgana entered his chambers and looked sympathetically upon him. Despite refusing to recognize him as her father, Morgana felt some compassion and pity towards her guardian and had been caring for him for the past twelve months, with great love and gentleness.
"Uther, you've not eaten and it's dark as a cave in here." She lit some candles, brightening up the room, before placing her hand on his cheek, which made him look at her and smile the tiniest bit. "We're all worried about you. Arthur, especially. You should come to the feast tonight."
Uther just shook his head, which made Morgana sigh.
"As you wish, my lord," she said. She covered him with a warm blanket before picking up his tray of uneaten food and leaving the chambers. She met with Gaius, who looked as concerned as she was.
"Has there been any change?" asked Gaius.
Morgana shook her head. "None." She sighed again. "Sometimes I wonder if I am to blame for this. Perhaps, I shouldn't have told him how I felt about him as my birth father."
"You are not to blame," he assured her. "If anything, you're helping him and giving him peace."
"That may be, but it's been a year since Agravain betrayed him," said Morgana.
"Agravain was one of his closest friends and almost like family to him. A man's heart is easily broken and difficult to mend," said Gaius. "Will he be joining us for the feast tonight?"
"No, I already asked and he just shook his head," said Morgana. "If I weren't obligated to attend tonight, I'd stay with him tonight."
Gaius squeezed her shoulder. "Arthur will understand. I'll speak with him. He'll understand. You're very good to Uther, Morgana."
"I do it for everyone," said Morgana. "And while I still find it difficult to fully forgive him, part of me still remembers the kindness he showed me all those years. He didn't have to take me in after my parents died, but he still did and despite it all, I still care about him."
Later that day, the Knights of the Round Table returned to Camelot to report of their findings in the council chambers.
"Sir Leon, we're glad to see you've returned safely," said Mira-Liana, when they arrived.
"As are we, milady," said Leon. "I only wish the news we bring was good."
"And what news have you brought us?" asked Arthur.
"The reports we received were true. We caught up with Agravain on the plains of Denara," said Leon.
"Was he alone?" asked Merlin.
"No, there was someone else with him. We believe it to be Morgause, but we can't be sure. We didn't get a chance to see who was in the cart," said Elyan.
"To the seas of Meridor," said Leon.
Merlin and Mira-Liana tensed. They knew exactly where Agravain was going. They knew all too well.
"He's going to the Isle of the Blessed," said Mira-Liana, quietly.
A chill settled on everyone's spines. For those who knew, the Isle of the Blessed was anything but. It was on that Isle that the Cup of Life had once resided, where the antidote for the Questing Beast's bite had come from and where Nimueh had been killed.
"Shall I have some patrols sent out?" asked Gaheris. He had been briefed on recent events by one of the guards.
"Yes, that would be helpful. They'll be sent out at first light," said Arthur.
"As you wish, my lord," said Gaheris.
"Sire, milady, you should know that Agravain's powers have grown," said Leon. "He killed two of our men in the confrontation."
Arthur looked saddened as he bowed his head for a brief moment in grief. "We'll have a funeral for them in the morning and have compensations sent to their families. Keep us informed of any developments."
"Yes, sire," said Leon.
And with that, the Knights left them alone in the council chambers.
"This doesn't make any sense. We have no word from those two or Cenred for a year, and now suddenly they're headed for the Isle. Why now?" asked Arthur.
"He couldn't stay hidden forever," said Gaheris. "Today, tomorrow, what does it matter?"
"It's his destination that worries us," said Mira-Liana, trying to ignore the knot in her stomach. "The Isle of the Blessed is dangerous. Little good comes from that forsaken place."
"Whatever is it they're planning, it's nothing good," said Merlin. "We'd best keep our guard up."
"While I agree with keeping our guard up, you mustn't live in fear," said Gaheris. "Camelot's strong. If Agravain were to attack, we'd be prepared for him."
That may be, but Merlin, do me a favor and ask Kilgarrah to keep watch, said Mira-Liana. I'll have Mordred contact the druids and ask them to notify us of anything they might find.
Sure. Sounds like a plan, said Merlin.
"Thank you for your advice, Uncle. Your help's appreciated," said Arthur.
Gaheris nodded. "Think nothing of it. You're family and I made a promise to your mother to be there for you. It's the least I can do. I'm just sorry that part of our family has betrayed us like this."
"They are not family," said Mira-Liana, sharply.
Gaheris frowned in confusion. "But surely—"
"Uncle, there's a lot you don't know about us," interrupted Arthur. "Things have changed since you were last here. I've learned that family is not just blood. It's love, friendship, and loyalty. Neither Morgause nor Agravaine showed any of that to us. They are not family and I'll not hear of them addressed as such again. Is that understood?"
Gaheris nodded. "Yes, of course."
They left the hall, but the worrying feelings wouldn't leave.
Arthur, Gaheris worries me. Should we keep a watch on him? asked Mira-Liana.
If it'll ease your mind, I'll arrange it, said Arthur, as he held her hand.
Don't worry, Mir, everything will be all right, said Merlin.
The feast that night was a wonderful affair of fine food, music, and laughter. It lifted up everyone's sprits and was greatly enjoyed by everyone. But no one knew of what was happening elsewherere at that very moment.
All fell silent when it came time for Arthur's speech. He stood and held up his silver goblet. "Samhain, it's the time of the year when we feel closest to the spirits of our ancestors. It's a time to remember those we have lost. We celebrate their passing."
Agravain and Morgause made their way to the Isle of the Blessed and upon their arrival on the shores of the Isle, Agravain carried Morgause out of the boat and up to an altar, deep within the Isle.
"Samhain is almost upon us," said Morgause. "We must hurry."
Agravain swallowed painfully as his fear startled to overwhelm him. "Mother, I can't do this."
Morgause stroked his cheek. "Son, remember what I told you. This is the only way. What you are about to do, will affect everyone, even you. But most importantly, it will bring our enemies to their knees. You must be strong and remember." After he placed her on the altar, she handed him a dagger. "Do not be scared."
"Mother, it doesn't have to be this way. If we were to seek out the Cup of Life—"
"The Cup of Life is lost to us, hidden by magic more powerful than us," interrupted Morgause. "And I'll not take the chance that your life would be the one taken in payment for the saving of mine."
Tears came to his eyes. "But Mother—!"
"Agravain, listen to me!" she interrupted. Then her tone became soft. "I do not have long for this world. Everyone has their time and mine has come. But know this: you are the greatest blessing of my life. I love you and I have always been proud of you."
"And I you, Mother," said Agravain, as a tear slid down his cheek.
"Grant me this one final request, my son," she begged.
Taking a deep breath, Agravain nodded and began chanting before plunging the dagger into Morgause's heart, and in doing so, tore the veil between the two worlds and unleashed the Dorocha. The Gatekeeper warned him that two individuals called "Emrys and Emrysa," would be his destiny and his doom.
Arthur raised his goblet high. "To my father, King Uther Pendragon!"
Everyone rose up and held up their goblets. "To the King!" they said.
Suddenly, Mira-Liana and Merlin grew weak and dizzy as time seemed to come to a slow.
Merlin, what's happening? asked Mira-Liana.
I don't know. I—oh, my word! gasped Merlin.
To their shock and horror, they saw an old woman dressed in a hooded black dress carrying a staff in the center of the room.
"Emrys, Emrysa…" she whispered. "Emrys, Emrysa…"
Then, just as quickly, time resumed its normal pace and then the twins collapsed.
"Merlin, Ana!" cried Arthur, as he and Lancelot ran over to them.
They were pale as milk, cold to the touch, shaking and unresponsive to Arthur's frantic attempts to wake them.
"What's wrong with them?" asked Arthur, worriedly.
"I don't know, but we'd better get them to Gaius's chambers immediately," said Lancelot.
Arthur carried Mira-Liana while Lancelot carried Merlin to Gaius's chambers.
Merlin and Mira-Liana were laid upon the beds in Gaius's chambers. Mordred, the adopted son of Frik and Morgana, and Gaius's apprentice, looked just as worried as the other men were. Gwen, who'd followed them, looked worried as well.
"What happened to them?" asked Mordred.
"We don't know," said Gwen, biting her lip.
"I've never felt anyone so cold before," said Arthur, as he rubbed Mira-Liana's hand. "Are they going be all right?"
"I need hawthorn to improve the blood flow and lots of blankets to keep them warm," said Gaius.
"I'll get the blankets," said Lancelot.
"I'll get the hawthorn," said Mordred.
"I'll watch them," said Arthur, trying not to show how scared he felt.
Hours later, Merlin and Mira-Liana finally awoke, much everyone's relief. By that point, everyone had come to check on their favorite blue-eyed twins.
They were immediately met by frantic hugs and concerned looks. They found themselves sitting on the bed, with a blanket or two wrapped around their shivering forms as they held each other's hands.
"Are you two all right? What happened?" asked Morgana.
"We don't know," confessed Merlin. "One minute, everything was fine and the next, time slowed down and we felt horrible, like we were sick."
"Then we saw this old woman standing in the center of the room, speaking to us," said Mira-Liana, as she squeezed Merlin's hand. "When she spoke, it sounded as though she came from the depths of the earth. Her eyes were the saddest we've ever seen."
"Who is she?" asked Merlin.
Frik looked concerned. "I believe you saw Cailleach," he said. "Legend says she's the Gatekeeper to the Spirit World. If she appeared at the stroke of midnight on Samhain, the very moment when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, then this is not a coincidence."
"Meaning Agravain and Morgause have wrought something terrible on the Isle," said Mira-Liana. "But why were Merlin and I the only ones who could see her?"
"You possess great power, greater than many practitioners and you're the only son and daughter of Balinor," said Gaius. "For some gifted, such visions are not uncommon."
"But it wasn't a vision," said Merlin. "She knew who we were. She called us Emrys and Emrysa."
This added to their worries. If Agravain and Morgause had indeed torn the veil between the two worlds, then heaven help them all.
The next morning, trouble quickly arose as Arthur and Mira-Liana were summoned the council chambers on a matter of urgency. A young girl's village was attacked and she was the only survivor. What exactly had attacked her village remained unknown for the moment. The poor girl was crying her eyes out and looked devastated, despite being comforted by Gaius.
Knowing the pain of losing someone he cared about and being a father, Arthur approached the girl with great kindness and compassion.
"What's your name?" he asked, gently.
"Drea, sire," she said.
"Drea, I'm Arthur and this is my wife, Mira-Liana," he said, softly as he gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze. "Don't be frightened. Tell us what happened."
Drea looked like she would start crying again. "My mother…my father…my little sister, they're all gone. They…" she burst into tears again.
Mira-Liana approached her. "Here, dry your eyes," she said, handing her a handkerchief, which Drea used as Mira-Liana rubbed circles on her back. "It's all right. Just take a deep breath and slowly tell us what happened."
"Thank-you, Your Majesty," said Drea, as she wiped her eyes. She took a deep breath. "It was no one, just shapes. They had no faces. It was strange. They were there, but they weren't there. They moved so quickly. It was as if they weren't real, but they must've been. I could hear the people screaming and there was only silence. They were all gone before I could help them." Fresh tears came to her eyes.
"Shh, it's all right, it's not your fault," murmured Arthur. "You're not to blame."
"Gaius, do what you can for Drea. See to it that she's given a bed for the night. See if you can find her some new accommodations and work. If there's a problem, come to me," said Mira-Liana.
"Yes, of course," said Gaius, as he led Drea out of the council chambers.
"Where is this village?" asked Arthur, when Drea had gone.
"Howden, to the east of the White Mountain. About half a day's ride," said Merlin.
"All right. Prepare the men. We'll leave at once. Are you and Ana fit to ride?" asked Arthur.
"Yes, but even if we weren't, we'd still come with you," said Mira-Liana.
This brought a smile to Arthur's face.
Arthur, Merlin, Mira-Liana and the Knights of Camelot rode off as soon they had the chance.
When they arrived at Howden, several hours later, there was a great deal of fog and it all seemed quiet, too quiet. Everyone was edgy, especially Merlin and Mira-Liana.
The village, despite the attack, was still standing. There were signs that something had indeed occurred there—upturned wagons, carts and baskets of food, a few animals let out of their pens, and there was no sign of another living soul in that village. It was only a few moments after they split up to spread out the search, when Elyan called out, "Here!"
They ran inside one of the houses and found Elyan kneeling by a middle-aged man and woman who appeared to have been frozen and frightened to death.
"Good heavens," said Mira-Liana. She covered them with a blanket she found in the house to pay respects.
"What killed them?" asked Arthur. "Magic?"
Merlin shook his head. "No. It feels like it did before at the feast."
"So, we're literally chasing shadows," said Gwaine.
Arthur looked concerned. "Keep moving and I want someone to stay with Merlin and Ana at all times."
Everyone agreed, and after lighting some torches, they went off.
They hadn't gone far when something caught Merlin and Mira-Liana's attention. A shared glance between them made them decide to slip away for a moment and enter one of the houses. It was empty, except for a bit of furniture and hay. They were both terrified, but try to quell each other's fears by holding each other's hand. Aside from one incident with a chicken, it was quiet.
Suddenly, a noise startled.
Merlin, did you hear that? asked Mira-Liana.
Yeah, I think we'd better investigate, said Merlin.
Quickly, they ran out into the darkness. When they found nothing, they created a magical light in their free hands, only to find it worrying when the spell did not last.
Something's wrong. That's one of the easiest spells we know. It should've lasted longer than a few seconds, said Mira-Liana.
It might have something to do with what's happened, said Merlin. His ears perked up when the screaming was heard again. There it is again.
But where's it coming from? asked Mira-Liana. It seemed like the screaming was coming from all around them.
But before they could react, the screaming intensified and then suddenly, a white spectral form appeared and came after them. Their spell proved to be useless, but the specter vanished when Lancelot appeared and swung his torch at the figure, just as Arthur and the other men arrived.
"What happened?" asked Lancelot.
"We were attacked. Some kind of ghost came after us. It fled when it saw the light of Lancelot's torch," said Merlin.
"Get the horses," ordered Arthur, to Leon. "We need to leave immediately."
"Arthur, it's not something we can chase or kill," said Mira-Liana. "Our magic didn't work. Whatever this thing is, it is no friend of ours."
Camelot was in chaos when they arrived.
The spirits were attacking. Dozens had already been killed, there was terror and the screaming had yet to cease. Though there were some magically protected shelters, there was not enough for everyone and the attack quickly weighed heavily on their hearts.
Merlin and Mira-Liana found Gaius and Mordred in one of the lower chambers, tending to one of the dead.
"Gaius," said Merlin.
Gaius and Mordred looked up from their work and looked relieved to see them. "Merlin, Mira! You saw them?"
"Would you help us for a few moments?" asked Mordred.
"Yes, of course," said Mira-Liana.
They set to work, talking as they did so.
"Our magic is useless against them," said Merlin. "We tried, but nothing we did worked. We've never felt so powerless in our lives."
"Something deep inside, and when it came for us, we felt this emptiness. We couldn't breathe," said Mira-Liana, as tears pooled in her eyes. "We're scared."
Mordred and Gaius hugged them tight for comfort.
"It's all right, you two," said Gaius. "It's not your fault."
"You're not alone in this. You two have always looked after us and this kingdom. Let us look after you now," said Mordred. "We're family and family stays together. It'll be all right."
This brought a small smile to their faces.
It was a huge comfort knowing they had their loved ones behind them. What would they do without their family?
When morning came, the news was not good.
Over fifty people had been killed, their weapons were useless against the spectral beings, and the light of fire only repelled them. Arthur ordered extra patrols, a curfew and for any fuel source to be preserved and used after nightfall to repel the beings.
Gaius was able to identify them as the Dorocha, spirits of the dead. The High Priests and Priestesses of the Old Religion would unleash them with a blood sacrifice on Samhain's Eve.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Agravain was behind the attack now. Worse still, there was no known way to defeat them as no mortal had ever survived their touch and the twins' magic was useless against them.
When nightfall came, Merlin and Mira-Liana were lighting candles with Arthur and Gwen and they were still edgy. Never before had their powers be so useless. Never before had they ever lost the security and protection that came with their powers. Though they still had each other, it still felt like something was missing.
"Are you two ever going to tell us what's wrong or are we going to have to guess?" asked Arthur, breaking the silence. "I know something's bothering you whenever you're this quiet."
Knowing the issue wouldn't be dropped, they complied.
"It's just that…well, all our lives, we've never been so powerless. Even when the situation seemed dismal, we had each other and our magic to help us out," said Merlin.
"Magic's been a part of us for so long, to have it be so useless to us, is unlike anything we've ever felt before," said Mira-Liana. "How're we supposed to protect our family and Camelot without it?"
Arthur and Gwen looked sympathetic as they hugged Merlin and Mira-Liana.
"I understand how you feel, really, I do. You feel lost, as though everything's been shaken. But remember what you told me when Agravain first attacked: worry is not a wise counsel. We're going to get through this. Your magic's been an asset to you, yes, but your magic's only what you make it to be. You're fantastic people with or without your powers," said Arthur.
"You've always protected us, but now it's our turn to protect you," said Gwen.
"Mordred and Gaius said something like that last night," said Merlin, smiling.
"Then you should listen to them and us. We may not be powerful as you, but we can be wise on occasion," said Arthur, making them all laugh. "Don't worry so much. We'll get through this. Just have faith."
This made Merlin and Mira-Liana feel considerably less worried.
"We needed that, thank-you," said Mira-Liana.
Their moment of panic was over. It was time for them to be strong, for the sake of their people and their family.
When morning came, though many lives had been saved—Percival and Elyan managed to save several children and their family—many lives had also been lost and the situation was looking more dismal by the moment. Countless refugees were coming from across the kingdom to Camelot.
Arthur was watching from the window when Mira-Liana came up to him. He wrapped his arm around her waist and held her close as they drew comfort in from one another.
"All those people down there have come to Camelot for protection," said Arthur.
"Then we'll give it to them," said Mira-Liana.
"We cannot house them all," objected Gaheris.
"We have to at least try," said Mira-Liana.
"How?" demanded Gaheris. "With all due respect, we cannot live like this forever. You must find a way to vanquish these creatures."
"And we have," said Merlin, entering the room with a book under his arm. "I've been doing some research and I believe I've found something."
"Is it good news or bad?" asked Arthur.
"Depends on how you look at it," said Merlin. He flipped through the book until he came across the right page. "The Dorocha can't be vanquished by any mortal blades, and if the veil has indeed been torn as Frik and Gaius feared, then there's only one possible thing to do. We have to return to the Isle of the Blessed and repair it."
Mira-Liana sighed. "Let me guess, it was a blood sacrifice that torn the veil and a blood sacrifice will be needed to repair the veil."
Unease settled on them all.
For everyone except for Gaheris, the Isle of the Blessed held little good memories and still haunted their dreams, even to that night. To return there would bring about further pain. And what would they do about the sacrifice needed to seal the veil? Having nearly lost them before, Arthur would never allow Merlin and Mira-Liana to make such a sacrifice, and nor would they allow Arthur.
I don't like this anymore than you two do, but we have to go, said Mira-Liana.
She's right, we have to. It's our duty to our people and to our family, said Merlin.
"We'll ride out before nightfall," said Arthur.
"Arthur, you can be serious!" said Gaheris. "Who would you sacrifice?"
"That is none of your concern, Uncle," said Arthur. "Please, leave us."
"As you wish, Your Highness," said Gaheris.
Gaheris snuck off deep into the woods where he eventually came upon a small hovel, easily missed unless one knew where to look. When he entered the hovel, he was met by a small dagger pressing into his back.
"Lord Agravain?" said Gaheris, turning his head.
Agravain smirked as he removed the blade. "Lord Gaheris," he said. "I trust you bring me good news."
"Indeed I do," said Gaheris, grinning. "The kingdom is at its knees."
"How terrible," said Agravain, mockingly.
Gaheris chuckled. "Indeed."
"And the poor people?"
"More fall every night," said Gaheris.
"Such a shame," said Agravain.
"You should know that Arthur, his wife and brother-in-law intend to vanquish the Dorocha," said Gaheris.
Agravain shook his head as he scoffed. "Impossible."
"They make ready to ride out to the Isle of the Blessed as we speak. If the Dorocha don't kill them on the way, I believe those three intend to sacrifice themselves to repair the veil. I've seen the depth of their love and loyalty to one another," said Gaheris.
A slightly frightened look crossed Agravain features as he turned away.
"My lord, what is it?" asked Gaheris.
"Something the Gatekeeper said to me," said Agravain. "She spoke of two individuals, Emrys and Emrysa. She said they would walk in my shadow, they were my destiny and my doom."
Gaheris looked slightly unconcerned, but one could see the true fear in his eyes. "Surely, they're merely myths."
"I highly doubt that," said Agravain, sharply. "I may not know what the Gatekeeper meant when she said they were my doom, but I do know this: prophecies and legends in magic always come to pass, especially when you least it expect it."
"Agravain, please, we should be celebrating," said Gaheris. "Those three will be dead within the week and once we take care of Arthur's brats, you'll be able to claim Camelot's throne and when the time finally comes, your father's as well."
Agravain smiled a little. "Perhaps you're right. But, see what you can find out about Emrys and Emrysa in any way you can. I want to know everything about them."
"Yes, of course."
Arthur sat alone in his father's chambers, speaking to him.
Though his father had often been a tyrant, he had held the kingdom together and he was still Arthur's father no matter what. A son's love for his father knew no end, and the reverse was also true. Arthur needed to be with him one last time, in case the worse happened on the journey.
Mira-Liana was silently watching from the doorway. They had already said their good-byes to Amora and Merrick, and their children were left in Frik and Morgana's charge for the time being. Things were place should the worse happen.
"There are many things I have to thank you for," said Arthur, his voice cracking. "You've been there for me, you allowed me to marry an angel, and you taught me so much. Most of all, you have taught me what it is to be a Prince of Camelot. I hope this time you'll be proud of me."
When Uther did not respond, tears pooled in Arthur's eyes before he tilted up Uther's head and kissed it.
Just as he started to leave, Uther grabbed Arthur's hand and looked at him with tears in his eyes. "Don't leave me," he begged.
A tear slid down Arthur's cheek. "I have to, Father."
Arthur squeezed Uther's hand. "I love you, Father," he whispered.
With a heavy heart, Arthur left Uther alone and embraced Mira-Liana.
"I'm never going to see him or our children again, am I?" he whispered.
"Hush," said Mira-Liana, as she stroked his hair. "Everything will be all right. Morgana will take care of him and one way or another, we'll all come home safely. We won't leave our children as orphans. We can defeat the Dorocha. We've been through worse than this and we've survived."
Although she and Merlin were prepared to die, they had agreed that it would be a last resort.
"You really think so?" asked Arthur.
"I know it," said Mira-Liana. She was no longer as frightened as before and had returned to her usual status. "We can do this. We'll protect each other."
Arthur smiled before they shared a passionate kiss. "Where would I be without you?" he murmured, when they broke apart.
"Lost in a labyrinth or somewhere worse," she joked, making them both smile and laugh a little.
"That's better," said Arthur.
"Your smile. Sadness doesn't suit you."
This made her smile wider before they shared a passionate kiss.
"I love you," said Mira-Liana.
"And I love you," said Arthur.
Meanwhile, Gwen was sharing a tearful parting with Merlin. She was crying and had no desire for Merlin to go as she feared for his life.
"You don't have to go," she said.
"Yes, I do," said Merlin. He didn't want to leave her or their children either, but what choice did he have? He handed her the red scarf from before, the one she'd held onto during the perilous times when they'd been separated. "Every time I've gone off like this, I've given you this scarf. And every time, I've come back to you." He cupped her face. "I love you so much, Gwen."
"I love you too, Merlin," said Gwen. "But please, Merlin, take care. You are precious, not just the kingdom. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."
"Nor I you," he confessed. He held her close she buried her face in his shoulder. "I'll come home, I promise you. Just smile for me."
Gwen shook her head. "I can't."
Merlin lifted up his chin and their eyes met. "Do you remember the first time we kissed?"
That did the trick and brought a genuine smile to Gwen's face, which made Merlin smile.
"That's the memory I want to take with me," he said, before soundly kissing her.
After they broke apart, they held each other close for a few more moments, before Merlin turned to their children.
"Thomas, Dawn, I love you both very much. Be good and take care of each other while I'm gone, okay?" he said.
His children nodded.
Merlin smiled before kissing their heads and departing from the house.
Everyone's hearts were heavy as they left the gates of Camelot. Before leaving, however, there had been a private family meeting and it was agreed that in the absence of Arthur and Mira-Liana, Morgana and Frik were to rule in their stead. They'd left them their Royal Seals and left instructions that if the worse happened, to them or Uther, Morgana and Frik would rule Camelot until Merrick became of age to take on the throne. Arthur's uncle would be allowed position in the Royal Court, but he would not inherit the throne.
And just before their departure, Gwen spoke with Lancelot.
"Lancelot," said Gwen, as he prepared to get on his horse. "A moment, please."
"Anything, Gwen," said Lancelot.
"Do me a favor," said Gwen. "Look after Merlin and Mira-Liana and bring them home. If I know them at all, they'll try and sacrifice themselves."
Lancelot nodded. "I will protect them with my life." The twins had been his first real friends in so long. They had given him hope and things he had only dreamed of. How could he do anything but protect them?
Gwen heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank you."
She knew Elyan would be kept safe by the others and he had already promised her he'd stay safe, but she needed a little more assurance for the others.
A few moments later, Camelot's Knights of the Round Table, Chief Advisor, and acting King and Queen rode out to do what had to be done.
Eventually, they came to Howden where they made camp for the night. There was a bone-striking chill no matter where one was. They quickly regrouped when the screams forced them back after they collected the firewood they needed to keep themselves safe.
No one was able to sleep that night. They all stayed awake, trying to keep their small pyre burning until the morning. Before dawn, however, the fire started to burn low, causing the need for more firewood to arise.
"Mir and I will go get some more," said Merlin, when Gwaine asked who should get more wood.
"Not without a knight with you, you're not," said Arthur, sternly. "Lancelot, go with them. If you're not back within ten minutes, we'll come after you."
"Yes, Arthur," said Lancelot.
Lancelot and the twins went off to get the wood.
As they collected the wood, Lancelot spoke with them.
"Do you two intend to sacrifice yourselves?" he asked.
"As a last resort," admitted Mira-Liana. "We're hoping we can find another way. Knowing Arthur, he's probably thinking the same thing we are. This wouldn't be the first time we've nearly died for Camelot."
"But regardless, it's our duty to Camelot and to our family," said Merlin. "If we must die for Albion and for our loved ones, so be it."
Lancelot sighed. "You're brave, honorable and worthy of admiration; and you are many things, but you are not warriors. And it's not worth your lives. I will not lose my best friends."
They didn't reply, not quite knowing what to say.
"They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn," said Mira-Liana, trying to lighten the mood.
"Then it won't be long now," said Lancelot, smiling.
Suddenly, a Dorocha came at them and they barely escaped with their lives. They were forced to hide, and then just as Arthur and the other Knights came looking for them, the spirit returned.
It dove right at Arthur, and before he could react, the twins came in between him and the spirit, and they were flung into the wall.
"MERLIN, ANA, NO!" yelled Arthur.
But it was too late; the spirit disappeared when Arthur swung its torch at it and then they all went running to Merlin and Mira-Liana's unmoving bodies. Though their hands were tightly intertwined, they were frozen like the other Dorocha victims.
To Be Continued…