Chapter 33 – Epilogue

Merlin sat and looked at the small white stone. Engraved on it still was her name.

"Niamh"

But this time he did not sit there alone. Arthur sat beside him, both of them paying their respects together.

They had neither of them spoken out loud of their need to visit her grave again. Yet when they had left Camelot the day before (supposedly on a hunting trip) they had both known where they were really going. There was no need for discussion; it was something they had to do.

Berwin had come with them as far as the village. He had been studying hard with Gaius and was now a talented and knowledgeable physician and had felt it was time to return to help his village. The three had parted a few hours ago, amidst much shaking of hands and heartfelt thanks; and not a little sadness. Merlin and the Prince were now alone.

They had been sitting quietly for about an hour now, both lost in their memories of the past and both thinking of the future. But then Arthur broke the silence.

"Merlin, there are very many things I do not understand about what happened between us, between you and Arawan. Things I saw and I heard; things that happened with no reason. I have waited for you to explain these to me but you have not spoken. So I am asking you. How did you defeat Arawan after you had been attacked by the Hell Hounds? Who was the Warlock Arawan threatened? Why were you the centre of the first attack? How did we both survive?"

Merlin stared at the small mound of Earth and gave no indication that he had even heard Arthur's questions.

But he had and he was finally facing a choice he had been expecting for weeks.

His outward appearance seemed calm and collected but inside his mind was whirling and his heart was frozen. He knew what he wanted to say. He longed to be able to tell Arthur all his secrets, to unburden himself and seek forgiveness and understanding from his one true friend. In some ways it seemed to be the only choice, the obvious end to the events of the past year but something held him back. Some inner sense that now was not the time. Uther still reigned, Morgana was still missing and unmasked and he was sure Arthur was not yet ready to hear the truth.

And Merlin had to admit he was not ready either. Not yet ready to take the risk, to chance it all. To test if their friendship was strong enough to withstand Uthers anti-magic indoctrination and Arthur's sense of loyalty to his Father.

No, it was not the time and though it made his heart break to continue to lie to Arthur, Merlin knew he had no choice.

"I don't know Arthur" he replied, a false good humour in his voice "I guess it was just a mixture of luck; good and bad. Afterall, he was quite mad you know."

Looking up from the grave the two young men locked eyes and did not speak. Arthur stared at Merlin and then, without a word, he quietly accepted this patently false answer with a small nod. But both of them knew it would not end there. Both knew there was more that needed to be said, more that had to be revealed. But they somehow understood that these things could not be spoken of here. Together they mutely accepted that this was not the time for the truth.

And they silently prayed that when the time did come, that they could both live with what the other had to say.

But until that time the two friends would continue to live and to mature, ready one day to face their joint destiny. And so together they rose and walked away from the little grave and out of the shadow of death into the golden sunlight.

XXX

The End

Thank you very much for reading this story, I really hope you enjoyed it and were not too disapointed that there was no "reveal" at the end. Right up until I wrote the epilogue I was toying with the idea but it just didn't feel right. For me it's just too early in their relationship and things are not right in Camelot so I didn't do it.

If you can, please leave a final review to let me know how you felt about the story and the end. I have enjoyed writing this very much but I have to say writing a sequel was much harder than I thought it was going to be! How people write those 4, 5 or 6 story universes I'll never know...

Thanks so much again. Take care.

Zendog.