Sacrifice

The Knight swallowed loudly and spoke softly, "There is no plan."

Gaius said he couldn't help him and told him to have faith, Arthur said he wouldn't let him die, Gwen said Arthur had a plan and so did the Knights. But it wasn't true. Without a plan or anybody to save him the world became cold. His mouth felt dry, his face was drained of all colour and his heart ached as it began beating faster and faster. A shiver ran down his spine as he realised that Elena was already there and tomorrow would be the day of his execution.

"I'm going to die." Merlin realised.

Gwaine found that he was wrong. Seeing Merlin hope while there was none to be had was cruel but it would have spared him the sight of this.

"What should I do?" The Knight asked him.

Merlin gawked at him. What the hell was he on about? Surely he wasn't actually asking Merlin to order him to do something.

"You always get Arthur out of trouble. Can you escape if I help you?" Gwaine clarified.

The manservant found it touching that Gwaine would risk getting Camelot's wrath upon him for his life. There weren't any ideas save for boyish dreams of fighting their way out. Despite being on death row Merlin didn't want to endanger his friend. It was wrong that he had to ask. It should have been Arthur asking him that question but Merlin had given him a plan before and he turned it down. It was a bitter pill to swallow but there was no escape. This would be the end.

"No." Merlin told his friend who then looked down in grief.

There was one last thing Merlin could and wanted to do. It could ease his friend's pain if that was possible or double his guilt. Risk and reward seemed petty things to worry about when people look at you when you're already dead.

"But there's something you can do when I'm gone." Merlin continued.

Gwaine raised his head and looked at his friend. The rogue had always been more loyal to him than any man before him. He would fullfill his dying wish, he deserved it for all the adventures they had and the pain they shared.

"Anything." The Knight replied.
"Tell Arthur I have magic." Merlin confessed.
"I don't understand."
"All my life I've sought to give it purpose and I found it in Camelot. Arthur will bring magic back to Albion, he is destined to, but it seems it won't happen in my lifetime."
"You have magic?" repeated Gwaine.
"Born with it." continued the warlock, "My mother isn't a sorceress but she taught me to use it for good."
"So the whole clumsy manservant was an act?" asked Gwaine who gave him an incredulous look.
"No. I really am that clumsy." Merlin laughed before his face turned rather grim.
Gwaine saw the pain in his eyes. It was pain representing years of sacrifice from the shadows with little to no recognition at all. It took a very special person to bear such a burden.
"You could escape in the blink of an eye, couldn't you?" Asked Gwaine.
"I don't want to harden his heart against magic. He's my friend. He'll see reason when you tell him the truth in case Gaius doesn't."
He had always been a mystery to Gwaine and although part of it was revealed at last, there was an even greater part still shrouded in darkness. For someone to hide a deadly truth for so long from all the ones he loved, and wanted to keep safe, had to make him a very special but also a very lonely person. It didn't surprise Gwaine that Gaius knew. The old physician was a sorcerer in the days before the Great Purge and it made sense he would ask for his aid in times of great need.
"I imagined he'd do this if he found out about my magic, not for some stupid game of politics." Said Merlin.
Gwaine smiled sadly. This conversation reminded him of the one they had when he told him about Arthur.
"When we first met I hated nobility. You showed me I was wrong but now he's proving me right."
Merlin didn't say anything to prove otherwise but simply nodded. They both knew what Gwaine was going to do after the beheading. He was going to resign from the Knights and leave Camelot to return his vagabond way of life. The warlock didn't ask his friend to keep Arthur safe nor did he tell him about the traitor in their midst, Agravaine. As time ticked away towards his death, Merlin found himself caring less and less about what would happen when he was gone.

That night he began looking back on what was and could have been. Think about it. It was difficult to forget and now he found himself wanting to say yes. He would give a lot to see her smile one last time. Not a smirk but a real smile out of joy and happiness rather than contempt. The red dress she wore during the feast with Mary Collins was a bittersweet memory. Those red, tempting lips and curly black hair had captivated him the moment he laid eyes on her. It was like a fairy tale that whoever would taste those lips would be forever enchanted to love her. Like every fairy tale, this treasure had a guardian. In her case it really was her guardian, Uther Pendragon. She hated him so much and that hatred tainted her. Tainted. It wasn't until Merlin gave the final push that the taint turned to poison.

Dawn. An execution was to be had in the red of the morning sun.

It wasn't Gwaine or Arthur that came to collect him but Agravaine, alone. Merlin felt nauseous knowing that the end was nigh. The traitor must have been glad he would soon be rid of him since he was strangely polite. Maybe Morgana told him that he had been a worthy opponent and deserved at least some kindness before his death.

Right before they would leave the dungeons, Merlin turned towards Agravaine.
"There's something I'd like to know, milord."
"What's that?" The man asked curiously.
"Did you and Morgana help him?"
Agravaine thought visibly and Merlin added, "A dying man's last request? No one will believe me anyway."
He almost chuckled but turned serious and replied.
"No, we didn't."

It was truth. If Agravaine had lied then he would have lied about being in league with her. Somewhere Merlin felt disappointed. He had seen everyone before his execution save for her. He missed her now that everything would end. Gods, who would tell his mother?

Reaching the courtyard he felt like puking. He wasn't ready yet. There was so much shouting but he couldn't hear what was said. Agravaine brought him onto the wooden podium and Merlin trembled with fear as he saw the chopping block. Tears ran down his face as he saw his friends among the crowd. Gwen stood by the gate that led to the lower town, Gwaine sat on the wall with Percival, Arthur stood on the balcony with Elena and Gaius stood in a corridor, nearly obscured from sight. There was sadness on all their faces, even Elena's but that was for obvious reasons. He could see Arthur's pain but somewhere it didn't seem enough. He had lied to him and although he could be forgiven, this was the worst possible way to find out.

Merlin knew he had a right to be angry only he wasn't. This would be for the greater good if such a thing existed. It would be an act of faith in Arthur, Gwen and the future of Camelot. All he could ask for was not to be forgotten when the history books would be written. Some said that sacrifice was a virtue. He hoped that it would be true and he may be forgiven his other sins in return. Who would be waiting for him on the other side? William, Freya, Lancelot and his father. He looked forward to seeing them again but it felt like it wasn't his time yet. He wasn't finished in the world of the living. There were people he would be leaving behind. He would never see Arthur and Gwen marry and have children or see Sir Leon admit his feelings to that barmaid. He would never see the legendary day that Gwaine would settle down with a woman or maybe even a man. Never would he witness Percival give a monologue.

Arthur made a speech but all Merlin did was look at the dark clouds at the horizon. He heard words and phrases but sadly enough it was just the sentencing, nothing personal. He put his head on the block and his mind was empty. There were no words for it. It shouldn't have come as a surprise that he would die for his King- friend. Merlin had always thought that he'd get himself in a position like this because of magic rather than politics. He'd let it happen however unjust it would be. He would sacrifice himself out of love for King and country. He had served his King well and led a short but full and extraordinary life of adventure.

And sacrifice. Sacrifice for the destiny he would never see.

then world changed

by the deeds of one man

he did not become a part of history

he would fall into oblivion and be forgotten

but his importance was great

for he uttered three words that changed the warlock's world

"Kill the traitor!"

The words ricocheted in the warlock's mind.

He would go into the annals of history as a traitor. Friendship, destiny and faith kept him on the righteous path but now they faded away.

Friendship was a lie. He ordered his execution, he lied to him about having an escape plan and not a word was spoken in his defence.

Destiny was gone. Who would look after the King when he was gone? There was no one to pick up where he left off. Kilgharrah's promise of a golden age was worthless.

Faith was underserved. Arthur, Gwen, the Knights and even Gaius kept telling him there was a plan. He trusted and had faith in them. Only Gwaine had the heart to speak the truth.

Hollow, that's how he felt. Betrayed by everyone and everything after all the sacrifice. Where once was love, there was nothing left.

The wooden podium magically gave way beneath the executioner and seemed to trap him. The crowd was silent as Merlin stood up straight and looked at Arthur on the balcony.
"I trusted you." He pushed the thought, a sad whisper, into Arthur's mind.
The King visibly recoiled out of fear. Did Merlin just use magic? It was impossible, it was his imagination.
"Arthur?" A worried Queen Elena asked besides him.
"Farewell." Merlin whispered in Arthur's mind and even waved at him as he said it.
He closed his eyes and chanted.
"Bedyrene mec. Astyre mec thanonweard."
The winds took him from the stage and no one understood what had happened.

AN:

Then the world changed. I loved that part, the heavy implication of Merlin's death.
Please note that a sad Merlin does not make a threat to Camelot. He was to be executed for something other than magic. It doesn't completely destroy his hope in Arthur but it does take away the friendship they shared.

Arthur's perspective on the execution will be discussed later on but for the sake of drama I kept to Merlin's POV.

It may seem obvious where the story is going (joining Morgana) but it isn't, not for a long while. I've actually thought this one through.
Should you still be concerned, leave a review or send me a PM.