A/N: Thanks, everyone, for all you've said to help me out with this story and keep me inspired to write it. I know a lot of you will find this epilogue disappointing. Still, I think it reflects what this story came to center around, the problems that time travel creates with destiny (such a huge theme in Merlin). I started this story as an excuse to create weird character interactions from different times, but it evolved into something a bit more since then, and I hope I've summed that up in this chapter without growing to preachy.
Enjoy, thank you, and goodbye.
I'm not entirely sure if Earnan would appreciate me writing in his brother's journal, but who knows? Perhaps he will somehow stumble upon this book again in his travels, and he'll get a chance to say so himself. I'll set aside reservations on the sanity of talking to someone who lived centuries ago and say: Earnan, if by any chance you do come across this (your brother's) journal again with my scrawl all over the back pages, I apologize for it.
To anyone else who finds and reads this, you ought to know: Destiny is a funny thing. And it's taken me one hell of an adventure to figure that out. Perhaps by reading on, you'll get an idea of what I mean by that.
It started twice. Fifteen years apart, to show a few of Destiny's fools what it was really on about all along. Time travel does that to a person. Meeting yourself from years ago is an uncomfortable, but humbling experience. Finding your way back to your own time is even more of an adventure. But I won't go into details here. Arthur is already badgering me to help him write a book (read as: write an entire book by myself) about our adventure before we both go old and grey and forget it all, so I won't waste that ink here. Still, the book Arthur's thinking of will be a chronicle, a story. I needed a place to put down my own thoughts. Perhaps here will do.
I'm rubbish at philosophizing, and worse yet at writing it down. But I need to put it to paper, before I forget it again.
Emrys. Dragonlord. Warlock. Greatest Sorcerer to ever live. People like throwing my titles around like they're something important, and I think (with some shame) that I'd begun to believe them. They're always said in mention with 'Destiny', and for years I thought I knew what that was. My adventures through time and the past have brought me to some humbling, perhaps unexpected conclusions. Destiny isn't quite what we've made it out to be.
The smallest moments give us the loudest echoes of destiny - in the unexplainable things that happen only in the most mundane of circumstances, the ones we never forget. In the truths that we can't express but never, ever doubt. In the parts of our souls that have been marked by an unknown maker. People like to think that destiny is a loud, bombastic quest, with epic tales and heroes, but it's really not. Destiny does not shout. It whispers, in those private moments of our lives that we think no one else would understand.
We recognize faces we've never seen.
The blond sauntered up to him, a smirk just leaving his face in a contemptuous chuckle. "Do I know you?"
He tried to bolster up a smile. "I'm Merlin."
"So I don't know you."
We remember things that have never happened.
Gaius told him that the French had a term for it: déjà vu.
As he watched Geoffrey lower the crown onto Arthur's head, Merlin felt as though it was a repeat. This had happened before. Gwaine was the first to clap - that had happened before, too. Gwen was almost to tears. He remembered that. And somehow, it felt just right to say along with the crowd,
"Long live the king!" After all, that's how he remembered it happening the first time. But this was the first time. …Wasn't it?
We mourn friends who've never left.
He could never explain it, how sometimes, he would look at him, see him out of the corner of his eye, and inexplicably, his heart would sink and leap at the same time, and a deep pang of something would pull at melancholy. He'd stare, and feel the sudden compulsion to memorize everything about him. He wouldn't be there forever, something, someone told him.
"You alright, Merlin?" He'd ask.
"Yeah, fine," He'd answer, though he wasn't quite sure himself. Lancelot would smile and walk away.
We know things we've never been taught.
Later, when Gaius had asked him, he couldn't explain how he'd actually managed to do it. He'd put it off, say that it was a spell he'd seen in his book. Just a spell. Any old spell. But later, he'd look, and there would be no such spell in all the pages of his magic book. For all intents and purposes, Merlin must have made it up. But he didn't. He knew it. He just didn't know how he knew.
And we believe in things we know to be impossible.
Camelot was burning. Morgana had returned. Guinevere was on the cusp of exile, the knights were scattered, and Arthur had reached a new all-time low opinion of magic, of himself, of destiny. Merlin felt nothing but guilt and pain and weariness. And yet, deep in some unexplainable part of him, he found just enough something to say,
"You will be the greatest king in Camelot's history. I know you will."
I wonder now if those small moments aren't part of something larger than they seem.
Destiny is a lofty word used by lofty people to describe something much simpler than they are comfortable with, something they don't quite understand. Because destiny never works the way any of us expect it to. It chooses the least likely to work in the most profound ways. It puts importance on the small moments of life, uses the weak to upstage the great. It forces us to face the hardest questions, the most painful choices, and the reality of our own mistakes. And somehow, through it all, because of it all, it's worth it in the end.
All the talk of destiny I've ever heard has never once mentioned what it is all for. It simply is. But I believe there must be a goal, an end. 'Destiny' is 'Meaning', and 'Meaning' is 'Story'. Every story has an end, and the biggest, the best, are always good. Destiny is the biggest story, and its end will be the best of them all. Perhaps, in one of its strange, quiet moments, Destiny will gather its agents together when it comes time for the conclusion, so we can hear the story's end and appreciate the greatness that we never quite understood.
But I'm speaking in riddles far above what Destiny means now, what it will always mean until we get to hear the full story.
If Destiny with a capital 'D' is the greatest story, then the destinies it spawns are great stories each to their own right; Destiny's children, as it were. They are our stories. Simple stories. Sad stories. Complicated stories. They are our lives. And perhaps by themselves they may seem great, or perhaps a bit boring. But somehow, I think Destiny (with a big 'D') takes them and makes them into something beautiful.
A long time ago, a cranky old Dragon told me that nothing can sway the path of destiny. And perhaps that is true. But if my adventures through time have taught me anything, it is that while we might not be able to change destiny, we can change lives, and sometimes, I think the two are far more similar than we like to believe.
A touch, a smile, a word, a deed. They are sparks of the small moments, the ones that ring truest with destiny itself. I'm not sure if the Dragon was right in saying that we can't change destiny, but I've learned firsthand that we make it happen in the lives we lead – even if we have to go back in time to make our destiny complete.
Destiny is Meaning is Story is Life.
We're all alive, so perhaps we ought to start living.
So now you've read to the end, my philosophizing has gone on long enough. Perhaps you agree with me, perhaps you don't. All the same, you don't want to listen to a crippled old sorcerer talk about destiny like the dragon friend he swore he'd never turn into. (Sorry, Kilgarrah) With all this talk about destiny and stories, you probably want to know how my story, my adventure ended. I suppose I'll tell you.
Once we got back to our own time, I still had this journal in my possession. I wondered if I should destroy it. After all, time travel is a dangerous thing, and knowing how to use it is perhaps even more dangerous. After far too long spent mulling it over, I decided that
I couldn't. It is not my place, it will never be my place to destroy the knowledge of something completely.
That being said, if you are reading this, holding this book in your hand, feeling the weight of the dangerous knowledge within, I must give you this bit of advice:
Be careful. Because if you've found this book amidst a small moment, it might just be destiny. And if that's the case, you're in for an adventure far bigger than I could possibly tell you.
On that note, I wish you luck. And if in your travels you ever come by a strange looking man with badly-cut hair, a light in his eye, and a funny smile on his face, tell Earnan that the man named after a bird says 'hi'.
Written April the twenty-second,
in the year five-hundred and fourty of the Common Era
He stared down at the pages with an odd feeling stirring in his chest. He looked back down towards the author's final words, and smiled. He plucked the quill from its inkwell on the desk and scrawled beneath Emrys' signature:
Hello to you, too.
Talking to centuries-old time travelers is perfectly within the realm of sanity, because if they really are time travelers, they'll never actually be centuries old. You've used these last pages well.
He paused to review the fresh ink before adding,
And I don't have badly-cut hair.
He chuckled quietly, closed his brother's now-ancient journal, and set it back on Emrys' desk, where it could wait for a new adventurer to stumble upon its secrets.