An Unexpected Vision
This is a sequel to my fic 'An Unexpected Job' which you should ideally read that first. Just go to my profile page to find it ;)
Chapter 1: An Unresolved Affair
(Picks up at the end of Series 4)
The year following Merlin's return to his Camelot was the most challenging of his life to date. His older self may well have hinted at the difficulties he would face but that had not been enough to fully prepare him for all the trials he had to endure.
On top of the despair, the grief and the very real fear that Arthur may never come to accept magic, he also had to help reunite his two closest friends after the shade version of Lancelot had attempted to separate the lovers forever.
Well, at least Merlin now understood what that part of his Crystal Cave vision had been all about, although it hardly made him feel any better, especially as, yet again, he had to suffer the grief of a close friend dying right in front of his eyes.
As for the vision of Morgana from his world, Merlin thought his heart would break all over again when the sorceress glared at him with such hatred as he was tied up in her hovel. The same green eyes that had gazed lovingly at him in the other universe and the same soft lips, now curled up in a snarl, that he had kissed so passionately over there.
He thought it might be easier to think of this Morgana as his Morgana's twin - a completely different person - and then realised that, somewhere along the line, he'd switched the possessive pronoun around in his head and now viewed that alternative version as the real one. The sorceress that had recently tied him up and tortured him was so far removed from the one he'd known both here and in the other Camelot, that it should be easy to imagine her as a completely different woman - but he couldn't. It was still Morgana, he could feel it; as if his magic was sensing her as the same person, even if his eyes and heart were saying that she wasn't.
So, the Morgana he'd left behind was never far from his thoughts even though he hadn't yet found the time to contemplate researching the spell the older Merlin had mentioned. However, as Arthur and Gwen struggled with their own relationship, and the warlock poured as much energy into re-uniting the couple as he could, he inevitably found himself dwelling on the idea more and more.
He still didn't fully understand why Gwen had given into Lancelot's advances so close to her marriage and, apparently, neither did she. That meant that Merlin couldn't rule out some dark magical enchantment of Morgana's, even if there was no way he could now prove it.
"Next year will change you," the old man had said and Merlin shuddered as he remembered how he'd killed Agravaine and how close he'd been to doing the same to Morgana. In the latter's case, however, he had hesitated and merely collapsed the ceiling in front of her, giving her some chance to escape. Another mistake, perhaps? With the obvious injury she'd suffered, there was no way to know for sure and the warlock had been annoyed by his own fear as the rubble was searched, knowing he would be devastated if they found her body underneath, despite all the bad things she had done.
Gwen said the wound on Morgana's side had looked bad and thought it may well have been enough to kill her, whereas Arthur was far more sceptical. Merlin didn't need to guess, he knew she was still alive, although that knowledge bothered him far more than the earlier fear that he may have killed her … again.
Was it true? Had Uther been right all along? Perhaps magic really was a corrupting force and he'd only been delaying the inevitable - somehow managing to hold the darkness at bay up until this point in time. His killing of Agravaine had been premeditated - if only by a few heartbeats, he had enthusiastically sought out the necromancy knowledge to uncover Lancelot's true form, and had had no qualms about working the dark enchantment which would temporarily rob Morgana of her powers.
How strange that it was that last act more than any others that convinced Merlin that he had crossed a line this year - one that he was quite certain he would never be able to step back over. The thought of taking away someone's magic was abhorrent to him now he looked back on it but, at the time, he had felt a certain satisfaction at being able to render the sorceress so helpless. What else would he do in order to save Arthur and Camelot? To what further depths would he sink?
He was quite certain that he didn't want to know.
Well, part of his plan had worked. Arthur and Gwen were married and this time it had gone without a hitch. No Morgana, no sorcerer, no sudden war. Just his two best friends standing in a packed Great Hall, promising to devote their lives to each other. At long last Merlin could smile. However, seeing his friends together and so in love often hurt too. Memories of Freya and 'his' Morgana intruded even more than ever and he began to think more about what his older self had said about being able to follow the exploits of his friends in that other Camelot.
"The spell is in one of the new books you brought back. All you need for it to work is something that comes from that world; the book itself, the bag you brought them back in, even your new neckerchief."
Merlin sighed at the memory. It was time.
"Where are you going, Merlin?" Arthur asked, as his manservant practically dropped the king's lunch onto the table and rushed through his other duties far too quickly to be efficient.
"I have some errands I need to run for Gaius," he replied. "He's still not fully recovered and he really does need my help."
Arthur gave him a very suspicious look. "Are you sure you're not just using that as an excuse to go to the tavern?"
"No! Look, Arthur, I told you … I don't go … I mean, it's not really ..." He sighed. "I give you my solemn word that I'm not going to the tavern."
"Well then, you may be excused for now – but I still need you here this evening."
"Yes, Sire," he replied, wondering if he'd ever manage to convince Arthur that he did not spend all his spare time drinking.
He had been exaggerating about the time off though. The tasks Gaius had set him weren't really that urgent and only took Merlin a very short time to complete. He spent the rest of the afternoon reading one of his new books and looked for all references to visions of the past and future, only to find constant mentions of the special crystals hewn from the Crystal Cave. Well, he'd known about those for years but, after his two early unpleasant experiences in this world and the four visions he'd been subjected to in the other, Merlin had made a point of ignoring this branch of magic in his studies, despite the recent temptations.
"If the sorcerer concerned has enough power and skill," the book declared "Then these crystals can be directed to show events that are unfolding in other places at the same time. It is also possible to watch events from the past, although this requires a level of talent not possessed by the average enchanter. There is much talk of certain special crystals being able to give visions of the future, but such accounts are so old as to be considered by some as legend. Even if such a crystal did exist, it is unlikely there would be a sorcerer strong enough to be able to use or control it."
Merlin pulled a face on reading this. He hadn't even consciously tried to direct the Crystal of Neahtid three years ago, but had still been bombarded with the powerful future visions anyway. There was no mention of other universes in this particular volume either, but then Gaius had dismissed such things as impossible so it was likely that this author had also considered it so. However, not only had Merlin visited one of these universes and knew of its existence as fact, but his older self had said he could view that world, 'In the near future'. If he had enough skill back then to see the future without even trying, perhaps his magic had now grown strong enough to be able to take such visions a step further.
Merlin gave an involuntary shudder at the thought, but surely his powers had now developed to a point where he could control the crystals and not the other way around? He recalled the last conversation with the younger Merlin in the alternative universe – when the magic had suddenly returned and the poor boy had been hit by it all at once for the first time in his life. There they had talked about 'putting it back in the corner of the room', and 'letting it know who was in charge'. At the time, Merlin had found that had worked a bit for the visions he'd been suffering from too, and so it only stood to reason that he could now use that idea in order to shield himself from the worst of the effects. All he had to do was go down to the vaults, retrieve the Crystal of Neahtid and ...
Merlin froze, suddenly uncertain about the course of action he was about to take. If he did this he would be heading down a path of no return; making his own connection to that other universe by watching what was happening there now, before possibly returning for a visit in person as promised and then, eventually, learning how to travel back in time to send a younger version of himself to start the process all over again.
He groaned as he briefly contemplated ignoring the overriding call in his head, and contemplated the paradox of what might happen if he didn't set these events into motion.
In the end, he realised that the old Merlin had been correct. Despite the pain he felt at the time, he did look back on those times with affection and now, if asked and given the choice, he would gladly do it all again – anything to see Freya and Morgana once more. He was slightly surprised to find himself halfway towards the treasury, the decision apparently already made.
Up until now, he hadn't even thought about how he might get into such a secure place. After his first attempt at turning into Dragoon had gone badly wrong, Merlin had become so nervous about his magic that he'd try absolutely anything else before resorting to sorcery, but that had also changed during the last half year. This time there was no need for silly tricks or embarrassing displays to retrieve the keys off of Arthur, Merlin simply approached the locked door of the vault, held a hand in front the lock and clicked it open with a flash of his eyes and no spoken spell at all. He then breezed in and found the crystal, pulling a face as he pocked it, before breezing back out and locking the door with a wave of a hand over his shoulder - not even bothering to look.
Merlin was sitting at the desk in his small room with the book propped up against an old pot and the crystal lying on top of the neckerchief he'd brought back with him from the other world. Making sure he was touching both items, he started to chant the words of the spell, forcing the crystal to do his bidding; not to show him the future in this world as it was trying to, but the past in the Camelot that this scarf had come from.
Five years and three seasons in the past to be precise, so that he could see what had happened there immediately after he'd left.
Within moments there was a flash of light deep within the crystal and Merlin felt a strong burst of emotion as an image of the Palace started to appeared around him. This was not the same type of vision that had hammered into his head when seeing the future, this time it seemed as if were actually there, watching the scene unfold in front of his eyes. He was even able to move the vision around in his head simply by thinking about which corridors he wanted to travel down.
"Show me Morgana," he commanded, grinning broadly as the felt his view shift, sweeping up the stairs towards the royal apartments where he encountered a familiar slim, dark haired figure standing in the corridor, arguing with an equally familiar blond haired one.
Next Time: Chapter 2. An Unexpected Time. Merlin is delighted that his research has allowed him to view the alternative Camelot. Unfortunately, it didn't work quite as he had intended.
A/N. Well, here it is. I hope you think it worth the wait. ;) As usual keep an eye on my PP for up to date publishing information.