Okay, I believe an explanation is in order... I must say I was feeling rather depressed and very very annoyed with mostly life in general as I write this on my iPad at 11pm. Eh, I've got a good 'hour before I'm gonna force myself to go to sleep. (Mom and I watched the Dancing With the Stars results! Jaleel's gone! ;A;) So yeah... again, I'm kind of depressed right now. And my recently discovered conscience is bugging me about a mistake I made today at school. (idk if you're reading this, if you are I'm sorry. And it will NEVER happen again. General life problems frustrated me and I did something I wished I hadn't.)

If you really want to get into the mood, go listen to 'Shattered' by Trading Yesterday.

So now that all that 'fun stuff' is out of the way... read and enjoy~! And if this makes you cry, I'm actually touched that it moved you that much. And sorry for forcing you into sharing my depression.

They All Burned

"Bring the sorceror."

The words most of the crowd hate to hear. Sure, they support the king and his purge of magic, but they do so because they fear that if they don't worse will happen - either the king, or the witches will get them. So they keep their mouths shut as innocents are dragged to the stake and forced to pay for another man's mistakes. Uther's mistakes.

For it was a much more common-known fact than you might think, the true reason this bloodshed was started in the first place. Uther made a mistake, and blamed entire races for it. They all burned. Those who didn't lived in fear, keeping quiet and staying out of the king's radar.

The rest burned.

It ate them alive, tore them apart slowly while their fearful kin watched. It forced screams from them, curses and pleadings, goodbyes and regrets.

It all burned with them.

They all burned.

But today... today was special. Terrifyingly so. Because the victim today was someone no-one ever thought would actually die. It just didn't happen.

And as they readied the wood for a inferno, above them the king watched with features of ice. Unforgiving. Clear. Cold. But like ice, it was such a fragile mask, only barely held together by the memory of flashing gold eyes, a dying father, an endless abyss of terror and betrayal. How could you? I thought you were my friend.

For once, there were none of the usual jeering insults, the sneering remarks, the disgusted looks on the faces of the crowd. They watched in complete silence as a pair of guards reluctantly dragged their prisoner out into plain view. For even the guards knew this victim, and wished they did not have to follow the orders of their King. But they did. And so they stayed quiet.

The first thing that caught the casual onlooker's eye was the boots. Scruffy, beat up, with small buckles and a fringe of white. Next the brown trousers stuck haphazarldy into the shoes. The simple belt. Blue threadbare shirt. Worn leather jacket. Pale skin. Untidy mop of raven hair. And then the two splashes of color that stood out from the others - one flaming red, one deep icy blue. Fire and Ice. For the fire was in the simple form of a scrap of cloth, wound into a bandana type shape and tied carelessly around the victim's neck, and the ice in his gleaming cerulean eyes that knew wisdom of an age far beyond their owner's.

But since this is a story of burning, the Fire is more prominent. The scrap of red cloth had a name, so affectionately dubbed by the wearer, a simple name but a name nontheless - Neckerchief.

Both will burn.

And in this story of burning, what should have happened is that the King should have read a list of charges against the victim, made a show of tying him to the stake and lighting the wood below. No, this King was different. Changed because of the victim. This King stepped forward, his name a majestic name, a kingly name, but a name nontheless - Arthur.

"Why?" he asks the victim, utter and complete hatred emanating from his very being. "Why did you lie? Why did you betray me? I thought you were my friend."

And in this story of burning, the crowd expected the victim to plead for mercy, rant in anger, show some emotion. But this victim did not. His was a name of simple elegance, a likeness of a common bird so easily imagined in flight, but a name nontheless - Merlin.

"Because I did not want you to have to choose between me and your duty," he answers softly. "All I have ever done is protect you. I told you once I would follow you into the mouth of hell, and now I have, even after you left me behind and escaped yourself. I have no regrets. I know you will still become what has been forseen."

"I thought I knew you," Arthur continues coldly. "But you have proven yourself my enemy."

A long, slow shake of the head is all Merlin gives for a moment. "I have never been your enemy. Would your enemy do this?" His eyes lit with molten gold and the wood beneath him lit itself. The crowd began their cycle of grieving as one.

The knight snarling threats against his king, restrained by two others, shouting his friend's name hoarsely. A commoner's name marking a true knight's heart, but a name nontheless - Gwaine.

The old physician, small tears dripping down his face, mourning his ward already. A name professing knowledge, but a name nontheless - Gaius.

The sobbing mother, who cannot believe she is watching her only son burn. A name full of weary kindness, but a name nontheless - Hunith.

The Queen herself, tearfully begging her husband to stop this madness. A name full of compassion and friendship, but a name nontheless - Guinevere.

The King listens and pays attention to none of them. Again he questions his victim, trying desperately to keep his mask of ice from melting in the searing heat that is slowly surrounding the man he thought he could trust above all others. "Why sacrifice yourself? Why not escape? Why be so powerful and remain my servant? Why become the greatest friend I ever had?"

A single tear glistens on the warlock's lashes. "Because you are my King. If you tell me to follow, I will follow. If you tell me to fight, I will fight. If you tell me to burn... I burn."

And for the first time it is as if a new light has spread across the King's world. What am I doing? Still he does not move, frozen by the mask of ice that he tried so hard to keep, that ended up spreading too close to his heart. "And if I tell you to die?" Now Arthur's voice almost - just barely - breaks, yet still he does not waver.

Merlin doesn't even hesitate. "I die."

"Don't you see what you're doing?" Guinevere shrieks. "You can't do this! He's not our enemy!"

"Let him go!" Gwaine bellows. "I thought you were different, I thought you were just! Now you will never be!"

"Merlin!" Hunith cries. "Please, my son! Save him! Stop this hatred!"

Still Arthur blocked them out, just barely. "If you were truly my friend," he growls, "you would have trusted me long ago. Maybe things would be different."

Again Merlin shakes his head. "I am your friend."

"But you betrayed me!" he yells.

"If I had ever betrayed you..." The tear slowly slips down his cheek... "... you wouldn't be alive. I was always loyal to you. Please... try to remember that... and know that I am truly... sorry..." Another flash of gold and the flames swirl brighter and hotter than ever before.

And Arthur's mask finally melts.

With a gasp, he lurches forward, as if to grasp the shoulder of his truest friend one last time. All his hand encounters is air. "No... oh, forgive me, Merlin..." the King whispers brokenly, as the crowd disperses with many a new hatred for their King. Not knowing the dying flames of a servant's friendship have forever reversed the unfeeling pretense he tried so hard to maintain.

But it is too late for Merlin.

For Emrys.

For Neckerchief.

For Fire.

For hope.

Arthur continues to accept magic and unite the kingdoms into Albion, but is forever haunted by the image of his best friend being consumed by the sparks. He remembers it and carries the burden to deathbed. Despite how happily it ended, a shadow had been permenantly cast by the Servant, the Friend, Emrys, Merlin. It was too late.

In the end...

... they all burned that day.

But Arthur most of all.

Tears can burn...

... as can hopes...

... dreams...

... friendship...

... and magic.

What doesn't burn melts...

... like the King's mask of ice...

... and the hope in that air.

See, no matter how happy the ending...

... something...

... in every story...

... ends up...

... burning.

What did I tell you. Depressing. Well, now that that's out of my system (mostly) I'm gonna get some sleep.

Never burn your tears, because hope will burn with them.