Title: The Light and the Fall of Albion
Labels/Tags: canon era, magic, mpreg
Warnings: mpreg, implied future death of main characters
Disclaimer: The characters of Merlin and Arthur don't belong to me.
Summary: Albion needs an heir, but Arthur won't give up on Merlin
Many, many thanks to detochkina and im_not_a_lizard (Rhythm Junkie) for pre-reading, beta'ing and all the comments.
As usual – any mistakes left are my own :)
The Light and the Fall of Albion
"Albion needs an heir," Merlin tells Arthur. They're lying on Arthur's bed – warm and comfortable, sheets and limbs tangled together in a familiar embrace. "You're thirty. People are starting to talk."
"No," Arthur says. "Only you."
And that's the end of the discussion. For now.
By the time Arthur's thirty-five people start getting anxious. After a long struggle the kingdom was finally brought into unity and now needs continuity, or all the work might be lost. Arthur needs to breed a son. This is the order of the world, and people can't or won't think of any other. Emissaries from kingdoms near and far come in almost every day to Camelot, and Arthur's constant stubborn turndowns are starting to irritate other rulers. Are their daughters not good enough for the King of Albion? The kings and dukes start to whisper during their meetings.
"You need a queen," Merlin tells Arthur. "Albion needs a queen. And a child. It won't change anything between us."
Arthur knows better and only presses his lips together, tightening his grip on Merlin's hips. Merlin sighs and buries his face in Arthur's neck, breathing in, engulfed in his King's love – bigger than the kingdom itself.
But Albion needs an heir, and Merlin knows it. Arthur knows it too, no matter how hard he denies it.
It's Morgana who hints that perhaps Albion can have its heir without a queen. Arthur's eyes lit up, even if he doesn't believe it's possible. Merlin knows it is possible, but he also knows the repercussions of this – the sacrifice that needs to be made, the unnatural element of it all, the likely doom that will follow.
Merlin's buried in volumes and volumes of books about dark magic – about making the impossible possible, about homunculuses, Old Religion, fertility rituals, and creating new life where it can't be created – at least not without magic. No matter where and what he finds, he knows one thing: life demands life.
"There has to be a sacrifice, Arthur," he warns.
Of all the people in the world Arthur should know – it's the reason Igraine was lost. Arthur nods in understanding, but in his stubbornness he believes the Mother Earth will be merciful this time and will spare them. After all, he's given her so many lives during the battles, tournaments and all the trials he's taken part in. All those souls should be more than enough in return for this little one. It just can't go wrong. And even if – then Arthur will do what he must, he is prepared to die. For Merlin. For the future of Albion.
Merlin thinks different, but he won't argue with his King – not when Arthur is so full of hope.
It has to be the night. The air is hot and filled with singing and sparks from the fires set up on the meadows and wood clearings. They fly high to the sky like tiny lanterns with souls attached to them. The smell of burning herbs is omnipresent, distant voices and drumming are coming from the Druids' shelters in the forests.
This is also the shortest night during the year and they have to hurry.
Merlin's body is painted with oil and ash, runes covering his bare chest, stomach and thighs. He hands Arthur a cup to drink from. "This will keep you through the night," he says. He takes Arthur's hand in his and brings the knife to the flesh.
"After this there's no way back," he warns one last time, searching in Arthur's eyes for the hesitation and not finding any. Arthur just nods, once again agreeing to the sacrifice, because he doesn't believe one will be needed.
Merlin cuts through the skin, draws blood – the burgundy drops fall on the ground just like they are supposed to, and Merlin dips his fingers in the cut, gathers the blood and smears it across the marks on his own body. His eyes are gold and his voice doesn't feel to him like his own.
"You've got to fill me up." He pulls at Arthur's hands as he urges him to the ground alongside himself. Merlin lies on his back, his fingers digging small holes in the Earth, maintaining the connection. Arthur hovers over Merlin, perching himself on his arms and feeding Merlin's mouth with his cock. He pushes in and pulls out until he spends, and Merlin swallows it all deep inside him.
There's not much recovery time for Arthur, but the potion keeps him hard and ready for more. Merlin incants more spells and pushes Arthur down his body where scented oils drip from him. He holds Arthur's still erect manhood at his entrance and allows Arthur to thrust all the way inside.
Arthur's hands and heated body smear the magical marks on Merlin's skin, but that's all right, the Earth will take it all – their seed, blood, sweat, and the tears that fall from Merlin's eyes as he says his prayers and farewells to the world and his own body.
When Arthur spills inside, Merlin's eyes are still gold, and the wind brings the smell of the burnt offerings from the forests.
They are both spent and breathless, but the Mother Earth demands more – she'll need her share of the seed. So Merlin makes Arthur kneel on the ground and kneels himself, too, in front of his king and in the presence of Gods, bringing their cocks together in his hand. Arthur's sensitive and aching, but still hard, leaking and needy, while Merlin brings them off on the ground. Arthur's cum is is mixed with Merlin's, and Merlin's painted thighs are wet with the trickling seed from earlier.
The dry, thirsty soil drinks it all eagerly. Merlin knows then that the sacrifice has been accepted – his fate is sealed. He closes his eyes and sighs, bracing himself for what's to come.
As his belly grows bigger and becomes more and more round, Merlin hides. People would never understand – it's against nature for the male and female roles to switch and intertwine, for a man to carry and grow life within. Arthur would never be forgiven for the abomination he's created with his wizard.
So Merlin hides – first under loose robes, thinking he looks ridiculous in them and that he could as well grow a beard and wear a pointy hat, because he have had a sillier outfit.
After some time even the robes don't cover his pregnant body, so Merlin imprisons himself in his chambers, spending the days sitting by the window, looking out at the world he believes he'll soon be leaving, and the nights wrapped in Arthur's embrace. Arthur's hands are on his belly, soothing the movements inside his body which disturb him. Merlin can't get used to having life inside of him. He is worried if the child is going to be human – if the Earth hasn't played a trick on them and impregnated Merlin with one of her twisted creatures.
Arthur kisses Merlin and tells him he's beautiful like this. Merlin prays for the child to be human and healthy, and for Arthur to love it no matter what comes.
"Do you think the baby will have magic like you? And your dark blue eyes, Merlin?" Arthur asks. Merlin doesn't answer because he's not sure he'll be able to see the child. He prefers focusing on Arthur's heartbeat underneath his fingertips while he spreads his hands on Arthur's chest and smiles.
Merlin counts the days meticulously, and he has prepared all with Gaius for when the time comes, but the baby has its own mind.
Merlin wakes up in the middle of a night, way before his due time, his insides twisting with sharp pain, feeling like his body is going to burst. There isn't any natural way for the waters to break.
"Get Gaius," he gasps, clutching Arthur's arm. He thought he was prepared for what's to come, but he's still afraid.
I am not ready, he wants to scream. Not ready for the pain and not ready to leave Arthur – not just yet.
Arthur feels helpless as he stands by the wall, his hands clenched into tight fists down his body, chest heaving, eyes open wide, not moving at all, not even breathing deep. He's never seen so much blood outside of a battlefield and his mind goes foggy.
Before him, Merlin writhes in pain because he's refused the mixture Gaius wanted to give him to keep him sedated. He claims he needs to be conscious to finish this, that without it all will be lost. And conscious Merlin means Merlin screaming, and Arthur is sure he'll never forget the sound of it. It also means Merlin's hands going down his body, trying in vain to help Gaius in whatever he's doing, and Merlin's magic flowing freely all over the place, released and in its primal state, knocking off pots and vases from the tables and shelves, starting up fires on the candles, swirling around Arthur like a hot embrace.
"Remember you've got to take it all out. After this is over and the baby is out, bury the remains of the womb deep in the ground. Seal it with a spell. Nothing can be left inside," Merlin pants, trying to breathe, and Gaius says his exasperated, "Yes, Merlin, I know."
And then suddenly Arthur's holding the tiniest and most beautiful baby boy in the world he's ever seen, telling Merlin that, "He's perfect," while Gaius is trying to sew Merlin up before he bleeds to death.
The days that follow are all blurred in Arthur's memory. They are filled with the baby's crying and his soft breathing when he sleeps next to Merlin, and Merlin's little gasps of pain and – also – Merlin's soft smile as he tries to hold Mordred.
"Now, it'll all be good," Merlin says, but the truth is that nothing is going well, not with Merlin in fever – his lips white and palms wet.
It's Gwen who takes care of Merlin and also of the child when Arthur's can't be around because of his kingdom duties, and somehow the lady who comes from the village to feed Mordred gets the wrong assumption that Gwen is the boy's mother. Word goes around quickly and no one is in a hurry to correct it. It's easier that way – illegitimate child with the king's sister's maid is still a naturally born one, and people will talk about a court scandal, but not about monsters and curses coming upon them.
But all of it doesn't matter to Arthur because Merlin is getting weaker with each day.
"I'll not let you die," Arthur whispers to barely breathing Merlin, lying still in the white sheets. Merlin smiles and tries to tell Arthur that it has to be this way, but Arthur doesn't give up. History can't repeat itself – Arthur doesn't agree for Merlin to be lost like his mother has been. There has to be a way.
"Please wait for me. Promise me that, okay?"
And Merlin promises.
Arthur rides day and night, through the thick forests and green meadows, until he reaches sacred caves where he seeks out the Druids and begs, on his knees, for the Higher Priest to come back with him to Camelot and heal Merlin. He doesn't explain what's the cause of Merlin's state, just that Emrys is dying.
On the way back he can't hurry enough – clenching his fists on the horse's hair and twisting it around his fingers while he repeats in his mind, "You promised, Merlin. You promised."
The Druid stares in horror – both at the child and at barely alive Merlin.
"What have you done?" he scolds.
He picks Mordred up to look closely at him, and prods him with magic until Merlin huffs something weakly and Arthur pries the child from the Druid's arms.
"Do something," he tells the Druid. "I will not lose him."
The Druid mutters about the world's order and the fall of Albion, but he performs the ritual, nonetheless. The Mother Earth must be satisfied once more because she spares Merlin's life, but she is a jealous goddess, so she takes Merlin's magic instead.
When Merlin wakes up, it is to Arthur's bright smile and their son's blue eyes and emptiness to where his magic has once been.
But Merlin doesn't despair. The child is magical and it's enough.
People talk and Mordred must be acknowledged as rightful heir, so Arthur eventually marries Gwen. It seems like the best solution – all of them taking part in this charade. People are happy because Arthur has taken one of their own as his queen.
During the ceremony Merlin stands behind the young couple, holding Mordred – the Light of Albion – in his arms.
Later, the people will say that Guinevere hasn't been worthy of Arthur's love, that she's cheated on him with a knight called Lancelot and thus has broken the king's heart, bringing the doom on Camelot and whole Albion. But the truth is that Arthur couldn't deny Gwen her happiness, not with Merlin's warm body curled next to him every night.
Later, the legends will claim it was Mordred who's killed Merlin even though he's just closed his father's eyes when it was time and Merlin couldn't bear living another day after the death of his King.
Later, it will be written that Morgana has been an evil witch who allied with Mordred even though she only stood by his side, till the end of the era, never ceasing to love and protect the son of her brother and her closest friend.
But people don't know any better. They don't want to listen about the sacrifice of one man for another out of love, which is not a "brothers in arms" kind. They want their stories filled with fair maidens and knights in shining armor, unforgivable betrayals, powerful wizards in the times of falling kingdoms, and death.