I've got noting to say. Except that I don't know what the heck this is. Honestly, it was born after one of my friends argued that all rulers have hunger for lands and riches. As I thought about our favorite prat it came to my mind what he said to Queen Annis. "It is not victory I seek, it is peace." So I said to myself. Huh, then how is Arthur suppose to unite Albion under a single banner? There must be a reason.
Forgive me for any historical innacuracies. :)
WARNINGS: Major angst and spoilers from the actual legend.
Enjoy the product of my overtired brain while it tries to deal with writer's block and stress, drugged with caffeine ( starbuck's mocha! YUMMY!) and WAY too much chocolate. :)
He made me, he who lies asleep
Hidden in some forgotten spot
Where winds sweep and rains weep
And foot of wayfarer cometh not
He made me, Merlin, ages ago
He shaped me in an idle hour
He made a heart of fire to glow.
Alfred Lord Tennyson.
He wonders how much time has passed.
Not that it matters anyway.
His eyes blink and the darkness around him brightens for a while, but it closes in again, devouring him whole, taking out every single purpose for his existence, except his hands scraping unforgivably the ice cold stone, getting shallow cuts from the sharp crystals.
"Come on…." he mutters, and his voice expands in the silence. "Do it for him."
And his nails break as he buries his hands into the stone once again with renewed vigor.
It had been weeks.
Weeks and King Arthur is desperate. So desperate, in fact, that he's dispatched almost all of his knights around the neighbor kingdoms and villages, with orders of searching until they've find him.
At the end, though, it's not enough because no sign of the man he's looking for is found. He vanished into thin air, the Emrys. He disappeared from the face of the earth, as the shadow of his body comes undone with the first rays of sunlight.
But Arthur is desperate.
And his desperation brings out the worst. The hot-headedness, the short-temper, the irresoluteness. He worries through days and nights, screams at his council how his main goal is finding his right hand and High Advisor and he could not care less about the need to raise taxes on his people. He leaves that to Guinevere and Leon as he storm out of the room, whistling and asking a stable boy to saddle a horse.
"Arthur, you cannot do this!" Sir Elyan argues. "You are our King!"
But Arthur, his heart still and cold as any stone, does not listen to the words that so well advise him, even if his ears do catch a soft whisper of a voice he's been yearning for, carried by the winter winds. Listen to him, you dollop head.
He decides to ignore them both. To ignore Gaius' concerns for his well being, to ignore the fact that Gwaine's been gone for almost two weeks in search for Merlin and has not returned, to ignore the way his heart tightens in his chest as he thinks what on the world could hold captive the most powerful man to ever walk on earth.
And on a soft morning, where the first lights are titling and the moon is already hiding, King Arthur leaves his Kingdom to look for his other half himself, leaving a trail of dust behind him as he spurns his horse and dives deep into the unknown.
"How's the prisoner?"
He raises his head at the voice, soft but yet cold and two icy eyes look at him across the bars. He growls and the wind arises, enveloping around him.
But he's far too weak, malnourished. He stumbles upon his feet as he stands and pulls the chains, as far as they can go. His wrists protest feebly from the strain and the injuries, but he just does not care.
"I have a name you know." He growls, brilliant blue eyes narrowing at the sight of his captor.
The woman smiles at him as she looks down from above, from the marvelous free world. "Of course you do, Emrys. Children of the light-."
"Not so peachy right now, in fact." He cuts her words with a sharp tongue. "I would like to be out of this hole, thanks."
Her lips curl even wider and those startling white teeth contrast with her tan skin. Then, those eyes flash gold.
The pain, -never lessening it's intensity even if he's felt it before-, is horrifying, paralyzing, like a thread of gunpowder lightning and spreading through his spine with white, searing agony. He's blind for moments without end until her soft voice cuts through like a knife.
"I think that's quite enough for today." She extends a hand towards him, and her magic- cold and unfriendly- grabs hold of his pale chin, titling his head until his burning eyes meet hers.
"We need of your assistance Emrys."her voice is deathly and yet gentle. "It's too bad you did not want to come willingly."
"It is wrong…" he argues desperately, biting his lip when the manacles torn more skin open. "It is wrong…"
She leans over until there's a shadow across her eyes and when she speaks; her voice carries a hidden threat.
"Either way, Emrys. You'll do it."
He turns his face away, breaking free from the cold, unforgiving magic, and his dazzling cerulean eyes are full of raw hate when he looks at her again.
"I'd rather die." He spits out.
She is not impressed but looks slightly bored. "That's quite alright. You can do what you please when we're done."
And as she leaves he falls back down and his knees slam in the cold stone, unable to hold the weight anymore. His gaze flickers upwards to the little window that consists in his only contact with the world….
Until someone slams a dark object over it.
And he's left in the darkness to ponder his luck as one name comes forth from his throat and the plea is quiet, but yet it reverberates through the hole he's in.
"Please, Arthur. Be safe..."
"Tell me what you can possibly want with Merlin." He'd asked. Trying to not let his disgust show at the way Antonius Cassius, sent by the Roman Emperor before the man itself came, looked at his Court Sorcerer, eyes greedy and wide. Trying to stop the tightening of his hand around his goblet and the other one in Excalibur.
"Your sorcerer is very powerful." the tan man said with his delicate accent. He stole a glance at Merlin and his friend looked steadily back. "I wonder…if we could learn from him."
Merlin refused to cross the realm with him.
And Cassius left in the morning with the promised treaty wrapped tightly in his lean hands.
"We're going out today!" she says, and her voice does not hide the glee she feels as he leaves his enchanted prison, the oubliette that she'd surrounded with the magic of a thousand of ages. "I am sure you'll change your opinion once you've seen our city, Emrys."
He huffs and rolls his eyes although he's too weak to do anything else. The manacles stay in his wrists but the chains come down and she offers a hand for him to take.
"Behave, please." She asks with the innocence of a child as she slides her tan hand in his and he holds it unwillingly. "This may be your only chance for survival."
Arthur's horse is half dead by the time the King stops his frenzied riding. He spends that night in a tavern, and the bartender had never been more surprised than when he saw the King of Albion, soaked to the bones from the rain, gesticulating about a skinny bloke with dark hair who may or may not have passed him by.
He doesn't know what to say but he offers King Arthur a room free of charge as he whispers with his wife. "Ellie, do you reckon who on earth he's talking about?"
"His eyes are so sad." Ellie says, leaning over to observe better the sulking King that's stirring his porridge without enthusiasm. "I think it must be his Court Sorcerer, do you remember him? That sweet boy who came here years ago with that knight who drank half of our best mead?"
And the bartender let out an "Ah!" of understanding as he watches the sullen King stare into space.
"What do you think they'll do to me, Arthur?"
"Nothing, Merlin. Not while I'm here."
"It is beautiful, isn't it?" she asks as she lids him through the brilliant city, through the perfectly made arcs, the golden columns that glitter in the setting sun, the idols they worship in their temples. He takes it all in, placing it all in a corner of his mind where he can remember it as clearly as the face of his other half, and he closes his eyes then to shield them from the sun. The time spent under earth made his pupils burn at the sheer brilliance this city presented.
They stop and the woman talks in her maternal dialect with a tall guard standing at the golden arch that precedes the doors. He feels cool marble floor under his feet as she guides him through and then asks sweetly, in perfect English, for him to open his eyes.
There's a man sitting on a lavish throne, staring at him with careful dark eyes.
"Hail, My Lord!" she says gently, dropping to his feet. "I bring you Emrys in hopes that your noble gaze finds happiness at his sight."
Merlin does not bow.
He just stares into the man's eyes as the Emperor raises his eyebrows and throws a crumbled treaty at the Emrys' feet. Arthur's signature is ripped in half.
"Prophecy for me." Lucius says, and Merlin does not answer, for he fears his answer will not be the one Lucius wishes.
"I'll give you…all the riches you desire" the Roman Emperor says in careful English, forgetting for a moment how gently that same offer had been refused by Merlin back in Camelot. "I'll make you my right hand."
"My only….desire is to know why you destroyed the treaty." Merlin says. At his side, the woman steals a glance towards him. "I thought we had an agreement, Lucius."
He does not call him 'Lord' or 'Cesar.' For him, Lucius is an equal. And even less.
"That we had." Lucius agrees, bobbing his head up and down. "But my magicians have come to me with distressful news, news I could not let slide, you see. It looks like if your King is prophesied to be my doom."
He says it flippantly but Merlin detects a drop of fear in those dark, steely eyes.
"If your council has spoken, what do you want me for?" he asks, stopping a snarky retort from coming out.
"You are the most powerful man, aren't you?" Lucius says. "And you've served him for years. Years without end. You know him. You can help me figure out his tactics and retain my Kingdom. You can help me defeat King Arthur."
"I'm happy to be your servant. Till the day I die."
"Excuse me, excuse me!"
The man, in charge of the travelers needs, glances around and almost drops his hat as he sees his High King advance towards him in a horse, jumping into the warm sand and dropping a hand on his shoulder. He asks if he'd seen the Romans leave a few weeks ago.
The man relates how the beautiful Italian girl asked for a cage in perfect English.
"One fortified with Lord Emrys' spells, to retain magic" he explains. "She said she had a special delivery for their Emperor."
His King's knuckles turn white as the moon over his shoulder and the next thing he notices is how his horse whines and trots through the waves in a frantic race against time.
Merlin cannot help it. A hysteric laugh escapes his lips before he manages to control it and then he looks right into those eyes that become colder by the minute.
"Over my dead body." The Emrys says. He smiles, without a hint of remorse at the Emperor.
Lucius shakes his dark curls.
"I feared you'd say that."
The High King's fists are not merciful for Cassius, and as King Arthur lifts his skinny form over his head and prepares to deal another blow he begins to see how wrong it'd been to take him for an idle man.
"I swear this will not go unpunished." King Arthur seethes as he throws him across the room. "Your so called paradise will not prevail. Not after what you've done."
"Your sorcerer was nothing but a pawn in the game, King Arthur." Cassius speaks from split lips and broken teeth. "I fear there's nothing you can do but wait for Emperor Lucius to deliver him. Maybe less than whole."
He receives a fist straight in his chest and then another one in his mouth.
"If any harm comes to him." King Arthur growls with glimmering eyes. "I will break the treaty and burn your entire Kingdom down."
"I am no seer."
"You are the most powerful man in history, Emrys. A legend."
He shakes his weary head. "Still, those powers were not bestowed to me. You've wasted your time, Lucius. There is nothing I can do or nothing I will do, to help you."
But he'd spoken too soon, for Lucius eyes are bright with enthusiasm when he signals one of his men to bring him….
A three sided mirror.
"Carved from the crystals of Neahtid." Lucius informs him sweetly.
He recoils as he gasps but there is nothing he could do except stare right at the middle of that trap and see….and see….
His eyes widen, those blue irises constricted so much that there is hardly anything left of the pupils.
Contrary to his wish. He sees.
"This is wrong…."he pleads. "Is so wrong."
Nyneve looks at him with no mercy. "Either way, Emrys. You'll do it."
"There is only power. And those who are strong enough to take it."
King Arthur is merciless, he is ruthless. He slays and kills. He cries out and does not care for the pleading screams.
He makes them jump out of their skin when he enters, wet and covered with sand he never bothered to take off.
"The Romans took Merlin." King Arthur says curtly. "We ride to face them at dawn."
He opens his mouth, and in his pride for his King, he does not measure his words. "Rome shall, for Arthur, fall to fire. And the walls and stones of this city will quake and fall." (1)
Lucius stares at him with unreadable eyes. "I know that." The Emperor says. "I just wish to know…how can I stop him."
"I am sorry, My Lord." Merlin says with a half complacent smile and paleness of his skin reflect the golden hues of the room. "I am afraid I cannot help you with that."
The Roman Emperor directs a glance towards the beautiful woman by his side and she meets his gaze. She smiles.
"Nyneve." Lucius says sweetly. "fac quod faciendum est."
Do what must be done.
His heart pumps harder than he thinks possible as he surveys the scenery, the Kingdom this men have built. Rome's extension over Britain is outstanding, to Arthur's eyes. Their elegant constructions, their tall, well-built citizens, and their carved art in every street. But his jaw tightens as he munches over Cassius word's and he pulls the beaten man forwards, barking orders so that he can get them passage through the wooden doors and into the impressive palace of the Emperor.
The nervous man does his work and stutters in latin as the guards let the golden King of Albion pass. Arthur takes Cassius by the collar as they walk towards the throne room, making it very clear. "If something happens to him I will tear this down, brick by brick."
Cassius swallows as he guides the King, almost divine at his eyes, towards the location of his emperor.
Lucius was not surprised to see him, or at least, it looked like that to Arthur. The man was sitting lazily on his throne, staring at him with those unnerving obscure eyes of him. Without a word, Arthur shoves Cassius forwards. The lean man stutters.
"You've violated the treaty." Arthur says, doing himself violence not to throttle the man. "And I reclaim my Court Sorcerer back, as well as a just retribution."
Nyneve, her long black hair falling like cascades down her back, smiles at him as her hands tighten around the chains that lead them through the forest.
Merlin stops dead when he recognizes the place.
But she, with that unnerving, child-like smile upon her face, continues and the manacles bite into the Emrys' wrists as he, with a sigh, follows.
Lucius shakes his dark curls.
"I'm afraid that is not possible, King Arthur. You see, we had an interesting chat in here, me and Emrys. Care to know what he said?"
Arthur's silence gives way for the Emperor to continue.
"He told me you'd burn Rome to the ground. He told me you'd be my doom." a wolfish grin extends through the man's rough features and his dark eyes lit up. "As you can see, no treaty will make this right between us. We are destined to devour each other, King Arthur. Only one shall prevail, as Romulus and Remus fought over the land of my ancestors so shall I fight with you over this one."
Arthur perks up at the mention of Merlin. And then, he just shakes his head and smiles.
"Merlin never lies, instead, he's always spoken the truth." (2) King Arthur announces the Emperor. "And so, I shall battle you Lucius. And it shall be as he's told you."
As he falls to his knees in front of the Crystal Cave, Nyneve scrutinizes his face with her dark eyes, one olive hand extended towards the manacles as she mutters to herself.
"You know, Emrys..." she says conversationally. "Our philosophers say that the mind is a fragile object. It can break into a million pieces when forced to re-live painful experiences."
She smiles at him, that dazzling white smile, but The Emrys does not answer. His eyes ignite her face, though, and she blushes softly before continuing.
"I know what's in there." she whispers, as if she was telling him a dark secret, one that had been hidden from the rest of humanity. "Our seers saw it. That is your worst fear. What could have been if you'd done differently."
She throws him, weakened and starved, unceremoniously into the dark, damp rock. He screams as he falls, barely able to catch himself with his clumsy hands as he closes his eyes tightly, willing himself not to see.
But then she's there, those long nails digging on his skin, and his eyes are pried open by magic colder than any other, and she smiles at him from a hazy point in his vision before the crystals shine as they demand his attention.
"Tell me, what you see Emrys." Nyneve says, sitting and waiting with a frown of interest on her beautiful face.
He sees a falcon flying through the winter sky. He sees Arthur holding up his firstborn, a baby with golden locks and brown eyes. He sees Gwen smile down at him from the throne, he sees Gaius helping Alice escape. He sees himself.
But then...Morgana flashes through the crystals, sitting by Arthur's side as he rules without fear. The destiny he'd destroyed on the very day he'd decided to give up on her.
Ygraine laughs as she runs. He refuses to let Mordred die and then Arthur...Oh, God...Arthur...
He can't see her anymore. But Nyneve's lips curl into a smile when the screaming starts.
He sees himself telling Arthur the truth as a boy of barely nineteen, he sees Arthur yell, demand an explanation. But then...his prince calms down and places a hand on his shoulder and he promises to keep the magic secret.
"What do you think they'll do to me, Arthur?" he asks timidly, blinking up at the youthful face of his prince.
"Nothing Merlin." Arthur's voice is reassuring. "Not while I'm here."
He sees Arthur and himself, two sides of the same coin ripped apart by destiny. He sees the cliff they stand upon break apart until they are facing each other. Facing each other and dying from a bleeding soul.
"I once called you my brother!" Arthur's broken voice calls from one side. "What have I done for you to hate me so?"
"I never wished for this!" he answers with the same pitiful intonation, with tears that now spill down his sunken cheeks. "I wish destiny had chosen another one to be your foe."
"Don't do anything stupid, Merlin."
He smiles at his young King and raises an eyebrow. "Me?"
But he does. He lets Agravaine live. And the next time he sees Arthur, it is not Arthur but his body, lying with the sword of the traitor protruding from his chain mailed back."
"Why did you follow me, you prat?" he asks, heartbroken, as he drops to his knees besides the young King.
And it is Gwen, sweet rejected Gwen, whom between sobs answers. "Don't you see Merlin? You are the only friend he had. He couldn't bear to lose you."
Arthur faces many threats, from friend and foe alike. Without you, Arthur will never succeed. Without you, there will be no Albion.
"What do you see, Emrys?" Nyneve asks curiously and his blue eyes turn towards her and seem to burn holes in her soul as he replies, in a heartbeat. "Rome burning to the ground."
He knows he's taken it too far but he just doesn't care. Mordred's promise replays in his mind as she snarls at him and another wave of pain hits him.
"If your King decides to burn my city, then I'll just burn his heart out." (3)
Once more she screams at him that foreign word. "Crucio!" before commanding uneven rocks to fall down upon the entrance, and Merlin has time enough to see her grim face before light is forever out and he's trapped in his dark prison.
And he's left in the blackness of his mistakes, replaying from all sides.
As it turns out, Arthur was right.
That is to say, his faith in Merlin was not unrewarded.
Camelot's armies advanced towards the Roman fields, destroying, upturning, unyielding. King Arthur's anger came out of every pore on his body as he went for the kill. Within a few hours the glorious city was taken.
Emperor Lucius falls to his knees as Arthur advances, merciless, towards him.
"I'll spare your worthless life if you tell me where he is." The Golden King all but growls.
He looks up to the face of Arthur Pendragon, to those compassionate blue eyes, that to him look so inexperienced. Lucius is certain he will not deliver a killing blow. He does not have the guts.
"I am sorry." the Emperor says coldly, looking up at him with something similar to amusement in those dark eyes. "But he is very likely mad at this moment. Where he is, power is a curse."
Anger like no other flashes in Arthur's face and the Emperor is dead before he hits the ground.
There's no sign from Merlin anywhere.
And King Arthur's desperate.
He rides on his own, towards the unknown, to find him. He searches through forests and streams, asks whoever he can find, takes no rest as he gallops deeper and deeper, into the heart of his Kingdom.
Still his friend is nowhere.
It's as if he's been suck by the earth itself.
They find Nyneve the day after Rome's been conquered. The beautiful sorceress if brought up at Arthur's throne, and the woman stucks her chin out in defiance when Gwaine places a sword to her throat.
The King of Camelot does not take his eyes away from hers, cold and emotionless. "Where is he?"
She does not answer until the blade draws blood. Then, she whispers.
"The only place that can contain a man like him. His own mind. His own mistakes."
He wonders how much time has passed.
The crystals keep changing around him, laughter and tears rigning in his ears as he digs his nails in the uneven rocks.
But there is no change and his magic...is useless.
Once again, Merlin is faced with what could have been.
In one crystal he denies Arthur what he needs the most.
"If anyone wants to kill him I'd give them a hand."
Unknowingly, by staying away from the prat...he does.
The High King of Albion does not stop to consider Nyneve's words for more than a few seconds before he's already out of the throne room and barking orders at his knights. In a few moments he is riding towards the forest in a heap of blinding red.
He gazes upon a handsome Lion, coming at him from the smooth surface of a crystal. It runs through the wilderness, never minding the rain above him.
He lies in the cold stone, eyes darting between the images that invade his brain and his vision, taking in rasping breaths as every ounce of strength is taken from him. What he'd given for a drop of water...
It is then when he sees Morgana, choking on poison.
This time, it is her who says softly. "We can find another way."
And it is him, his voice choked by tears as hunger makes his fever rise, who answers to the empty space.
"There is no other way."
"It is here..."
"He's in here! Don't you dare question me Elyan! We've got no time for this!"
"Arthur, this is solid rock. There is no possible way..."
But his King already unseathed Excalibur and in a feverished haze he delts a blow.
The blessed sword dents the stone.
He struggles to remember why that word sound so familiar. It's been long since he gave up on keeping his eyes open and he concluded it's better to close them, although the whispers still brush their ears with voices from the past, present and future.
He stays, very quiet, trying to remember why the words that reach his ears sound so familiar.
"Merlin? Merlin, you bumbling idiot! Merlin for the love of all that's good, are you in there?"
He wants to scream, to open his mouth and tell the voice, so deeply rooted in his soul that it aches when it stops, that yes, he is in here.
He's in here.
"You'll be there should I need you?"
For the first time he wonders if it's the other way around. After all he's seen...
And it is then when that little word leaves his mouth.
They looked over the city as the carriage stopped and a beautiful woman with long braided black hair hopped down, followed by their Emperor.
Merlin looked at Arthur, and even if there's mockery on his tone his eyes could not hide just the tiniest amount of uncertainty.
"What do you think they'll do to me, Arthur?"
He laughed then. He patted his friend's back as he ruffled the unruly black hair.
"Nothing, Merlin." he smiled as he contained himself from calling his friend a scared little girl infront of other Council members. "Not while I'm here."
Light pours in.
Light pours in and a golden halo falls to his knees by his side and hurls him upright, and the figure is talking nonsense. He's talking nonsense, something about idiotic fools and stupid risky situations and - Merlin! Merlin! Merlin, My God! Did they starve you? You idiot, stop looking at the bloody rocks, look at me!"
Warmth is positioned at each side of his head and it is titled until he is no longer facing the crystals but two wide sky-blue eyes.
"Merlin, is alright." Arthur's voice is strangely soft. "You are safe now."
He would think those words reassuring if he could only remember what safe feels like.
The manacles fall down from his wrists as Arthur's sword sliced through them as if they were water.
And then, he cries.
"No...Oh, God. what have they...what have they done to me, Arthur?"
Arthur's voice is broken when he speaks next, forcing his arms around his friend. And he sobs. He sobs into the armoured shoulder.
"Nothing, Merlin..." Arthur's lips say against his ear. "Not while I'm here."
But he shakes his head against the shinning armor.
Because this time he's not the liar.
This time, it is Arthur.
(1) Then was it in sooth found, what Merlin whilom said, that Rome should for Arthur fall on fire, and the walls of stone quake and fall.-The Brut.
(2) Sire, you are King of France and I tell you that you will be King of
Rome if you have the heart to conquer it; for Merlin never lies, instead
he has always spoken the truth. Now cross the sea and call upon your
knights and join in battle with the Romans; and I tell you that you will
be victorious for you will have the best knights in the world." And
then all twelve counselors cried: "Lord Arthur, ride in strength and
conquer Rome and all the land of Lombardy and we will aid you with all
(3) Stolen shamelessly from Jim Moriarity. Sherlock, BBC. Season 1, Episode 3.
The lack of a happy ending makes me feel guilty. :(
*Auf Wiedersehen!. I'll come back soon!. Hopefully sooner than later.*