It's been a while! I just couldn't live with the BBC version of how the story ended, sorry BBC. It's always a bittersweet moment when a TV series ends completely, because there's no more canon, but there's also the freedom to develop the storylines and characters without fear of contradiction from official sources.
Parts of 5:13 were wonderful, all I could have asked for. The end... not so much. And there were a few gaps on the way that I wondered about, as well. So here's my take on the story.
I don't own the characters, of course - some surely belong only to the legend itself, while others belong to the BBC. I'm writing this purely for my own entertainment, plus the enjoyment of anyone who chooses to accompany me on the journey.
Chapter 1: Revelations - Arthur
The first thing I became aware of was the agonising pain in my left side, just below the bottom rib. For the first few moments after I awoke I could think of nothing else, but I eventually caught my breath and forced my mind past the pain to find out what lay beyond.
I was lying semi-reclined on what felt like grass, in full armour. So not rescued and safe in a medical tent then. Still on the battlefield? And yet battlefields never bear grass for very long, and I could not hear the moans of the dying that would usually haunt such a venue. All I could hear was the birdsong that usually heralded the dawn, wind gently rustling leaves above my head and the crackling of fire.
My eyes shot open, and I looked around wildly, seeking the source of this new danger. Fire on the battlefield was a common ploy, and my memory obligingly threw up images of a fire breathing dragon, of all things, raining fire down on my men as they fought. We were lost, surely, but then that strange figure calling down white lightning, screaming at the dragon, which seemed to hear and respond.
My mind was still trying to come up with an identity for that mysterious yet welcome figure who had rescued us, as I found the source of the crackling and the warmth that I could feel. A campfire burned near my feet, with Merlin carefully feeding it more wood.
In one sense this felt completely normal, recalling fond memories of time spent travelling with my men, while part of me reacted with an overwhelming feeling of betrayal. As I struggled to remember why, the rest of the previous events came flooding back. The battle at Camlann. Merlin's lame excuse for leaving me to face the enemy without the man I had come to think of as brave and loyal. The man whose presence I had come to expect up until then just as I expected to see my own shadow.
Merlin dropped the wood, sending up a shower of sparks, and hurried to my side, just as though things were normal, as if there had been no battle while he was off - gathering important herbs? Was that the excuse he had used? So how did he come to be here by my side, with no-one else in sight?
"How are you feeling?"
Still the same Merlin apparently, anxious for my well-being.
I had been trying to pull myself up to a sitting position, but Merlin gently pushed me back down onto the grass and rearranged the rolled up blanket that lay under my head.
The brief glimpse I'd had of our surroundings showed we were in the remains of a burnt out building, in a clearing surrounded by trees. I tried to think of the area around Camlann, to work out where we might be and how we had got there.
"Where have you been?"
"It doesn't matter now." Merlin knelt beside me, easing me down. As he did so, his fingers brushed my wound and I winced.
"You're not bleeding."
I chose to ignore the concern in his voice, and tried not to think about the burning sensation of Mordred's sword, or the strange weakness it left behind. "That's alright, I thought I was dying," I snapped back. Then I gave in to Merlin's gentle hands and relaxed back down with a groan that escaped despite my best efforts.
I thought at first Merlin was apologising for hurting me, but his next words made no sense.
"I thought I'd defied the prophecy. I thought I was in time."
I stared at him, confused. What prophecy? Prophecy was outlawed! What could Merlin possibly know of any prophecy? "What are you talking about?"
His next words made even less sense, if that was possible. "I defeated the Saxons. The dragon. And yet I knew it was Mordred I must stop."
I could only come up with one explanation: greater men than he had been known to crack under the strain of war, after all. I patted his shoulder comfortingly. "The person who defeated them was the sorcerer," I pointed out, thinking again of that strangely familiar figure with white hair and a red cloak.
The dreams - or hallucinations - that had Merlin in their grasp must have been overpowering, because he seemed to well up with tears, as he insisted, "It was me."
My mind raced, seeking to understand. "This is stupid! What - why would you say that?"
"I'm..." His tears were starting to fall freely now, and he struggled to control his voice. "I'm a sorcerer. " He cleared his throat. "I have magic. And I use it for you, Arthur. Only for you."
I felt my heart jump as I heard his words, then looked at his familiar face, the tousled dark hair, the clear blue eyes, the smudge of soot on his cheek from the fire, and decided it must be some sort of misguided attempt to cheer me up. Either that or the man I had come to love and trust had gone crazy. "Merlin, you are not a sorcerer. I would know."
Merlin seemed to draw comfort from my reassurance, or so I thought, but then he turned from me towards the fire. "Look!" One hand still remaining firmly on my shoulder, he held the other towards the flames, muttered some strange words that I recognised as some sort of magic incantation, and the fire shifted, sending up a shower of sparks. As I watched, those sparks rearranged themselves, remarkably, impossibly, into the shape of a dragon, flapping its wings briefly before fading into the darkening sky.
Shaken, I looked at Merlin, to find him staring intensely at me with a look I did not understand - defiance? Pride? not fear, surely? With his words ringing in my ears, he suddenly looked completely different, no longer the servant and friend I had known and trusted for years, but what? Who?
This was too much to cope with right now. Suddenly feeling for the first time in my life overwhelmed, exhausted and terrified, I summoned up what little strength I had left and turned my face away to hide my alarm. "Leave me."
That hurt in his voice pulled at me... But it must be my imagination. If what he said - what he had shown me - was true, that meant that everything up until now, his life, my life, everything I had been fighting for with him at my side... None of this made any sense. The pain in my side was overwhelmed by a sudden surge in my head and heart. "Just... You heard. Just..."
I turned my face away from the man who was now a stranger to me, and closed my eyes, feigning a sleep that all too quickly became real.
Very close to the TV episode so far, setting the scene and easing me back into writing. Next chapter up soon, I hope. Comments/reviews always welcome!