This was written for the HoC Halloween Challenge, Prompt #3.
"Shadow of the Goddess" Het Merlin/Other (Canon)
Title: Shadow of the Goddess
Category: Het (Canon, after 5x13, disregarding final scene of old Merlin)
Characters/Pairings: Merlin/other (you'll find out at the end)
Rating/Warnings: M (sexual content)
Summary: It's the first Samhain after Camlann, Merlin is lost in the woods and within himself. A young woman heeds the call of the Goddess to help bring him peace on the holiest of nights.
Index of Holidays:
Samhain: Chapter 1, The first Halloween after Camlann. Plagued by spirits, the Goddess sends someone to pull Merlin out of the darkness.
Yule: Chapter 2-9, Over a year later, Merlin is faced with a choice: to stand by Queen Guinevere, or follow a new path away from Camelot
Imbolc: Chapter 10, Another year and on what is supposed to be a joyous occasion, signs in the ashes of St. Brigid's Day warn of things to come.
Ostara: Chapter 11-15, The fate of the last dragon hangs in the balance. Merlin discovers more about his mother's past than he ever could have imagined.
Paschal Moon: Chapter 16, An interlude piece offering a new path for Merlin and his family.
Beltane: Chapter 17-22, Sefa struggles to accept Merlin's new role, and knights from the past struggle with new life.
Son of the Phoenix, (coming soon) A companion story to Shadow of the Goddess being written for the Heart of Camelot Chronicles Challenge.
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin
Beta'ed by Nance, Cover by Caldera32. Thank you both, immensely!
Written while I was listening to 'Samhain Eve' by Damh the Bard. I highly suggest checking it out on youtube to help add to the feel of this first part of the story.
The wind whispered a dark song through the trees, haunting and chilling. He stood immobile as the moonlight danced across the rippling water. He felt the spirits so close, he could almost touch them.
Voices, like a forgotten melody of the dead, sang a macabre tune in his mind that clashed with the wind. His vision came and went, swirling together the kings of the future, with the monarchs of long past. The tales they told him. The secrets they shared. They engulfed him...overwhelmed him. He screamed out in pain, uncaring if anyone could hear the call of his madness.
"You poisoned me..."
"You lied to me."
"You would condemn our kind to death."
"How you've managed to deceive him...I am impressed, Merlin. Perhaps we're more alike than you think."
"Merlin, there is nothing you can do..."
The most haunting of all, was his own voice..."I've failed."
She set out the plate of food for her father's ghost. A single candle burned on the table. Wax dripped onto the wood and seeped through the cracks.
"He needs to be shown..." A voice whispered through her mind.
"Shown what?...And to whom?" She asked the voice.
"He knew not...what we were fighting for. He did not understand...You can show him the beauty of our people...Teach him, what it means...I was wrong in my choices, but you can help to heal his mind now..."
The candle flickered. In a puff of wind, it extinguished. At the same time, she heard a scream assault her mind.
Only the moonlight, streaming through a small window, offered any illumination the makeshift hut. Shivering, she tried to light the candle, only to have it snuffed out again...and again. A feral howl, barely recognizable as human, rattled her bones.
Tying her long brown hair back from her face, she donned her cloak. Almost as an afterthought, she lifted up the mask that hung near the mantle. It was her mother's headdress from her time as a High Priestess.
On a night such as this, when the world mourned the sacrifice of the Horned God, before his rebirth at midwinter, only children and those who dealt directly with the Veil, would wear the masks to protect themselves from the spirits. She was not a child, but neither did she have the training of either of her parents to protect herself.
Never having known her mother, the mask was the only item she owned in memory of the one who had borne her. She smiled as she affixed it over her face. She felt the soul of her mother accepting her daughter's choice. With a new sense of courage, she made her way out into the forest. She could feel her ancestors mingling with the spirits of the woods around her. Everything outside her small hut seemed more alive, than she had ever known. It was in that moment...she accepted her purpose.
Through the shadows of the trees, a brief light glimmered, then disappeared. Heedless of any danger, she ran after it.
Surrendering her senses to the Earth, she allowed her feet to move of their own accord; in balance with the world around her. Every stone, every branch, every late autumn leaf that littered the ground...she knew them all. The calls became more frantic and chilling. She didn't have much time before the source would become truly inhuman.
How she understood this, she would never know, but she accepted it and ran on. Branches of trees bent and swayed out of her path, allowing her passage to go unhindered. It was as if the very essence of Gaia wanted her to succeed, and this was her only opportunity to reach him. Once the Veil closed on this night, he would be lost forever to the darkness and insanity of Anwnn.
The light she followed, danced at the edge of her vision. After some time, it disappeared altogether, and she knew she was running out of time.
A whimpering sound turned her to the left. In a niche of a hill, huddled like a frightened rabbit amidst a storm of magic, he curled tighter into a fetal position. His hands were pressed against his head. She saw the self-inflicted claw marks across his eyes.
Steeling her resolve, she cautiously made her way towards him. She did not say a word, nor was he startled when her hand touched his bare arm. His clothing hung in tatters, from a frame starved for more than just human contact. A flicker of remorse washed over her, but she shoved it away. Even if she had known his state, he would not have been reachable before this night.
Moving closer, she gathered him to her breast and soothed him with nonsensical sounds; rocking him gently, until the red tears from his eyes slowed. Silently she called upon her ancestors to give her strength. He was almost gone, and she needed to find a way to bring him back.
Upon hearing her plea, the Goddess entered her. She was not one of the Triple Goddesses, revered by many in the dark times. This Goddess was beyond that; the embodiment of Gaia Herself, older and more forgiving. Her arms, as the arms of the Goddess, wrapped tighter around him, and helped him to stand. He turned his face down to her and the haunted countenance behind his eyes eased.
She kissed his brow. She kissed his eyes. Moving lower, she kissed his chest over his heart, before coming back up and capturing his lips.
He inhaled sharply. "Allow the spirit of the God to guide you." She whispered against his lips.
He felt a peace come over him, for the first time in months...since the king had died. The voices screeching through his mind, grew quiet when her lips caressed his forehead. No longer did the demons dance before his eyes. Lips, plump and soft, she kissed each eye closed. When he opened them, his vision was clear, and his wounds began to heal. An exhaled breath when she touched his heart, eased the ache. By the time his lips pressed to hers, he was ready to give in.
Barely aware of his actions, he mimicked the pattern of her Blessed kisses. With each touch, he gave himself permission to lay the spirits to rest, until he felt hollow. It was not an emptiness he ever thought he would relish, but it brought him peace, and relief. He allowed himself to be embraced by this Goddess of the forest.
Fully and completely, the storm around them...and inside him...calmed as their passion increased. He knew what to do without ever having done it before. On the forest floor, under the light of the Samhain moon, he took her...and the Goddess let him...led him, engulfed him, and swallowed his seed within her womb.
She cried out his name, the name of the God within him, as the final throes of their ecstasy flared and then laid quiet...his head rested upon her breast. "Come with me." She whispered, as the Goddess left her.
He nodded mutely and rose to follow, pulling up his trousers in an automatic motion. She straightened her dress and wrapped her cloak around his threadbare, clothed form. The moon lit a path through the forest to the top of a hill, where the trees began to clear.
Across a meadow, bonfires burned. Men and women danced to the rhythm of the Earth's heartbeat, and to drums of their own making. Children ran around, masked and cloaked, to hide them from the spirits who celebrated with the druids, on this holiest of nights.
"Samhain is a time to celebrate those who have passed, not to mourn them. Walk between the worlds with us. Pass between the fires that represent the Veil, Emrys. Allow their flames to cleanse you..." A voice spoke to them both.
Merlin stepped slowly, reluctant at first, but he gained more confidence with each footfall. She held onto his arm as they approached the druid celebration.
"Your time has come to learn from us...if you are willing, Emrys." He turned to Iseldir and bowed his head.
He turned to Iseldir and bowed his head. "I am..."
He felt suddenly alone, as the Goddess incarnate released his arm and stepped away. He reached deep within himself for strength, and looked between the two largest bonfires. On the other side, ghosts smiled at him, beckoning to him.
"Pass through the Gates of the Underworld, and be cleansed. You will learn from our ways, while you await your rebirth."
Merlin nodded and put one foot in front of the other, each felt stronger...more in control. He knew the passage between the fires was symbolic, but he allowed their magic to seep inside him.
Everyone around...spirit and living...paused to watch.
Merlin couldn't describe the sensation that overcame him...except to call it freedom. He felt stronger and more alive than he had in years.
He laughed and clapped his hands over his mouth. He saw and felt the world around him...so alive in the final holiday of the year, and the first of the New Year...as the wheel of seasons turned. The sensation was stronger than anything he had known before. He loved it, cherished it and reveled in it.
He turned around and around, searching for the masked Goddess who had brought him out of the visions and into this place of peace, but she was gone. "Iseldir, who was she?"
"A girl, who needed healing, as much as you did, Emrys."
"But what was her name? I felt like...like, I knew her."
The druid chieftain smiled knowingly. "Perhaps she will be waiting for you, when you emerge from this dark time. She is the last daughter of the Great Rites between the Druids and the High Priestesses. Tonight, however, she was the avatar of the Earth Goddess who brought you to us. That is all you need to know for now."
Merlin sighed and searched the field with his eyes. Whoever she had been, she was gone, or at least without the mask, he didn't recognize her.
Someone passed him a horn filled with spiced mead. "Drink with us, Emrys, celebrate the lives of those that passed. Do not mourn them on this night. Instead, allow them to see the love you carry for them, so they may take it into the next life."
She reached her small hut. Even without the candle, it no longer seemed as dark. She hung the mask back in its place, next to the hearth fire. Looking at the table, she saw that the food was missing. She smiled.
As the witching hour passed and the spirits began to depart, one last message came through, loud and clear, from her father. "I'm proud of you, Sefa."
Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful and safe Samhain! Leave a review if you would be so kind! Blessed Be!