AN: So this story has been stuck in my head almost since I began writing Merlin fanfiction almost four months ago. I'm glad to finally have it written and it turned out much better than I could have hoped. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, though warning it does not have a real happy ending.
The pounding of hooves on the ground thundered through Percival's chest, driving out the the thoughts in his brain, drowning the feelings of despair in his chest. Only one thing mattered now, he had to find Arthur. He drove all other thoughts and feelings from his mind, much as he had the day his family was slaughtered.
He needed to focus now, so he let the hoofbeats set the pace of his heart. Morgana knew where Arthur was, and although she had a significant head start, Percival was going to do everything in his power to get there first.
Percival pulled the horse to a stop and looked at the ground, attempting to see if he was going in the right direction, but he could not make out the hoofprints of Morgana's horse from where he sat.
He hopped down from the horse, suppressing a groan. His arms were sore from where he had pulled them free from the ropes that bound him, but after all that had been sacrificed he would not let a little soreness stop him. He crouched down and inspected the soft dirt.
Morgana had definitely come in this direction. He stood up quickly and moved back to his horse but was forced to stop for a second when his armor got tangled up in a thorn bush. His large but deft fingers quickly untangled the bush.
"Why does it always take you twice as long to change out of your armor?"
The familiar voice did not seem as out of place as it should, considering it came from a dead man. Percival turned towards the voice but there was no one there. He was hallucinating, Gwaine was dead.
Without a second thought he turned and jumped back onto his horse. This time the sound of the hooves wasn't quite enough to drive away the memories.
"Throw me, Percy!"
"Your father's dead."
"It was his strength that brought them down."
"You're enemies are my enemies."
"I've been locked up with Gwaine for a week."
"I was having a dream of eating cheese that tasted of apple pie."
"If I ever find Morgana, I'll kill her."
A branch reached out and slapped Percival across the face, scratching his cheek and jerking him from his thoughts. He blinked his eyes and shook his head. Checking once again to make sure he was headed in the right direction.
His thoughts raced a little less this time as he walked through his memories. Time and time again he had been forced to push his sorrows aside in order to do his duty or to do what was right. When his father had died he had to be strong for his mother and brothers, when they were slaughtered he had to follow Lancelot to help save the kingdom, when Lancelot and Elyan had died there was always his duty to fall back on. Now that Gwaine was gone he had something else to focus on, Arthur.
And so he forced his thoughts forward and urged his horse to move just a little faster. As he came over the hill he saw the waters and clicked his tongue to get the horse moving down the hill. It seemed like ages before he reached the shoreline, he looked up and down but didn't see anything at first.
Then in the distance, out on the lake, he saw a pillar of smoke. He ran in the direction, at the very least he might be able to find someone who had seen Arthur and Merlin. If nothing else it was a sign of human life.
As he jogged up the beach he watched the pillar of smoke as it got closer, so he almost completely missed the form of a man sitting on the beach. The water lapped around his knees, a red neckerchief blew in the wind, but the familiar mop of raven black hair was what finally convinced Percival that it was Merlin.
He jogged until he was only a few paces away and then approached him slowly. Merlin didn't look up from where he sat cross legged. He stared out into the water at the pillar of smoke and Percival felt dread fill his chest until he couldn't breathe as he stared in the same direction. He blinked his eyes and looked back towards Merlin.
"Merlin?" He asked, and there were so many questions in that name.
Merlin did not look surprised when he spoke. He did not show any reaction at all. "He's gone." His voice cracked but from disuse instead of emotion. Percival was not sure what scared him more, the fact that the 'he' was most likely Arthur, or the lack of emotion in Merlin's voice.
"Arthur?" Percival asked though he was sure he already knew the answer.
Merlin nodded, still not looking at Percival.
Percival felt his knees tremble. "No." he said feeling sick to his stomach, he turned around angrily kicking the sand into the air and letting out a deep and mighty roar of pain and rage. In the past he would not have shown such an unrestrained rage, but he had lost so much, and Arthur's death was the final straw.
He breathed in and out, attempting to control his emotions.
"I failed him." Merlin's voice sounded small but still lacked emotion. Percival froze, holding his breath.
I failed. Gwaine's last words echoed over and over again in Percival's head, it was like reliving a nightmare to hear them come out of Merlin's mouth.
"No, you haven't." He said, echoing what he had told Gwaine, though he doubted Gwaine had believed them, or that Merlin would believe them now.
Merlin shook his head, confirming Percival's theory. "It was my duty to protect him. My destiny."
Percival kneeled by Merlin, not minding in the slightest that the water was soaking through his pants and boots as it lapped over his legs causing shivers to race up his spine. "Merlin you were... are..." Percival struggled for words, "You were his servant, no one expected anything more than what you already gave. In fact you gave far more than anyone ever thought possible."
Merlin turned his eyes to Percival's and the look he gave him filled Percival with a horror that he could not explain. He felt as though his world had just been ripped out from under him, as though his beliefs had been turned upside down. As though Merlin held the deepest and darkest secret that Percival wasn't sure he wanted to know, before he could stop him though Merlin opened his mouth and spoke the words Percival feared.
"I'm a sorcerer, Percival."
Percival could not move or breath once again. Just sat there, staring at Merlin. Merlin stared back for awhile but finally turned his gaze out into the ocean, and Percival felt oddly relieved at not having to look into those cold blue eyes. "It was my destiny to protect Arthur. It had been written about for an age. I failed Arthur, I failed my destiny." He turned his eyes back to Percival and the knight saw that they were just as haunted as his own.
Percival sat down on the beach heavily. "Merlin..." He started.
Merlin had magic. He was a sorcerer, he had been all these years, Percival understood now. All the things that had happened, all the times they had gotten lucky, it hadn't just been luck, it had been Merlin.
Lancelot had known. The thought surprised him but Percival realized it must be true, when Lancelot had gotten the message Percival had been surprised that he was so willing to run off to help a simple servant he had only met once or twice, but Merlin had been so much more than that even before they knew of his magic. Even so, Percival could always tell there was something special between Lancelot and Merlin, often the two would be found whispering in a corner or exchanging looks that the others didn't understand. He hadn't thought much of it at the time but now...
Gwaine hadn't known, but he and Merlin were close nonetheless. Gwaine had never talked about his past much but Percival was able to gleam that the reason Gwaine was in Camelot was because of Merlin.
Arthur had trusted Merlin more than anyone else, and yet Merlin had been lying all this time, but Percival could not believe that Merlin had ever meant any of them harm, everything Merlin did was for other people, everything he sacrificed for the good of others. He was a servant not only by profession and not only to Arthur, but to mankind and it was his very existence.
Yet he had commanded such authority, the knights never questioned orders coming from him and often came to him for advice. It was strange for a servant to command such respect but it made sense now, with magic as a hidden weapon, it all made sense.
Percival shook his head, there was still one thing left to be done. Camelot still had to be told of her king's death. Percival reached out and took Merlin gently by the arm. "It doesn't matter. We must return to Camelot."
Merlin shrugged his arm from Percival's grip. "No, I won't leave him." Merlin stated.
Percival glanced at the water. "He's gone, Merlin. Not even your magic can raise the dead." He didn't actually know if this was true and his voice held a hint of optimism in it.
Merlin sighed sadly. "No it can't." He admitted, dashing Percival's hopes.
Percival waited a moment then tried again. "Come on, we must tell the Queen, she will need a friend to help her through this."
Merlin just shook his head. "I'm not leaving him."
Percival breathed out angrily. "Merlin there is nothing more you can do, now let's go!" He tugged at Merlin's arm until the man was standing on his feet. Merlin shouted angrily and Percival felt himself thrown back into the soft sand. Merlin's legs collapsed like jelly into the water leaving them sitting and breathing heavily, several lengths apart.
Percival stared at Merlin, eyes wide. Merlin stared back and then looked away. "I promised him..." he muttered.
Percival just gulped staring at Merlin with a newfound awe and perhaps even fear. "I promised him that I would protect him or die at his side!" Merlin stated meeting Percival's gaze with a determination so intense that he dared not to challenge it.
Merlin had attacked him with magic and it had been terrifying. It wasn't the first time someone had used magic against him but definitely the first time someone he trusted had done it, but the fear melted away as he stared at the broken man in front of him and the words Merlin said finally registered.
"You're not..." he trailed off, he couldn't even say the words.
Merlin shook his head and Percival breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm not going to kill myself, but neither will I leave him."
Percival was beginning to realize it was fruitless to argue. It was a strange thing, having the tables turned. He was used to being the strongest one, to being able to force people to do whatever he wanted them to do, now he didn't have that power, Merlin did, but even knowing the power he commanded only one thought was prevalent in his mind. Protect Merlin.
Percival had long suspected that Lancelot had taken Merlin's place as the sacrifice, Merlin would have tried to take Arthur's place but Lancelot would have beaten him to it. Lancelot had not died simply for Arthur, but for Merlin as well.
Gwaine would want him to be protected as well. He had always been more vigilant when it came to the protection of the servant, and all it took was a word from Merlin before they were running off on some adventure.
And then Arthur... Percival looked out to the water, where the pillar of smoke carried the remnants of their once great leader into the air. Percival knew that Arthur would want Merlin to be protected as well. Despite Merlin lying to him for all those years, Percival knew that Merlin and Arthur were like brothers.
Beyond all of this, Merlin was Percival's friend too, and he was loathe to losing another one. Percival had always had to move on with his life and with duty. He was not going to move on from Merlin. He would not abandon him, he could not abandon him.
But Camelot had to be informed of its king's death.
Percival headed to the wooded area surrounding the lake picking up wood as he went. When he returned, building a fire by the lake. He took Merlin gently by the arm, and Merlin seeing the fire let the larger man move him closer to it. He was shivering, his clothes were wet but he just stared into the flames, with no attempt at communication.
He pulled what little provisions he had out of his pack and placed them before Merlin, forcing a dried piece of meat into Merlin's hand. Merlin continued to stare into the flames. Percival looked at the sky, he still had much of the day left.
"Merlin..." Percival spoke slowly. "I will ride to Camelot and inform them of Arthur's ... passing." he winced even saying the word. "I will return for you." he said. He hated leaving the man but he obviously couldn't force him to come with him.
Merlin didn't say anything as Percival got up and walked away, it took awhile to get back to his horse and nearly the rest of the day to return to Camelot. When he got there he burst into the formal throne room, drawing the attention of all the nobles.
Guinevere was holding some sort of hearing or audience, but Percival knew this could not wait. He knew when his eyes met Gwen's that she knew of the news he bore, she dropped her head to stare at the ring in her hands. He walked down the aisle coming to stand in front of her.
He glanced towards Leon whose eyes were questioning and, with a simple shake of his head, he saw Leon's head drop. He knew his message had been conveyed. They stood in the deathly silent hall for some time before Guinevere's eyes met Leon's and she nodded.
"The king is dead..." The way Leon spoke the words it sounded like they were being sucked out of him, along with any air that he had left in his lungs, when he spoke again though, his voice was strong. "Long live the queen!"
The hall broke into the chant and Percival joined in. He knew he would have to debrief them fully, the sun was setting, he would not be able to return to Merlin until tomorrow anyway.
He told them everything he knew and rode out at first light. Protect Merlin. The words felt like a request, a demand, a command from the dead to protect someone they had all cared about, but Percival knew that he was riding for himself as much as them. He needed to do this, needed to find and help Merlin. He had lost too many friends and Camelot still needed Merlin.
But when he arrived at the lake it was empty, no pillar of smoke, no Merlin and no prints in the sand as far as the eye could see. Percival would search for days, weeks, months and eventually all the way to a year. He would scour the area, the surrounding towns and beyond without a single trace, and then he finally gave up and returned to the home that was no longer a home.
Queen Guinevere and Sir Leon welcomed him back with open arms, he took up his duty again, but in a way he couldn't help feeling that he had failed the last appeal of his king and friends.
Percival lived a good long life and when he was quite old and lying on his death bed, he finally saw him again. Merlin approached, looking no different than Percival remembered, "Take me to Avalon." Percival whispered, no surprise at Merlin's appearance showed on his aged features. He didn't remember the journey, or who was there, or anything else other than Merlin. They sat staring out at the water, Percival could still remember where the pillar of smoke had risen from. He remembered everything about that day.
"I failed." Percival told Merlin, not looking at him but continuing to stare out at the water.
"No, you haven't." Merlin told him, but just like Gwaine and Merlin, so many years ago, Percival did not believe those words.
Merlin laid him to rest with his comrades and king. He did not join them but stayed by the lake of Avalon for the rest of his days, waiting for the day when he would see them again.
AN: I love writing stories that don't interfere with the actual storyline of the TV show itself. For the longest time I couldn't figure out how to write Percival since very little of his personality is shown in the show. Slowly as I read and wrote fanfiction though I created my own version of Percival which I imagine is very similar to the show itself.
Oh and if you guys were wondering what the quotes in the beginning of the fic are from here they are:
"Why does it always take you twice as long to change out of your armor?" Is from Season 5 Episode 3: "The Death Song of Uther Pendragon"
"Throw me, Percy!" and "Your father's dead." Are quotes I made up referring to Percival's past. The first I think would be a child, probably a younger brother or sister asking Percival to throw them in the air, the second would be something someone said when his father died (obviously).
"It was his strength that brought them down." and "You're enemies are my enemies." Are both from Season 3 Episode 13:"The Coming of Arthur Part 2"
"I've been locked up with Gwaine for a week." Is from Season 4 Episode 13: "The Sword in the Stone Part 2"
"I was having a dream of eating cheese that tasted of apple pie." Is from Season 5 Episode 6: "The Dark Tower"
"For the love of Camelot!" Generic yell that is said in several different episodes though might be referring to the last battle at Camlann (though I know that Arthur gave a slightly longer speech at that battle)
Reading through the quotes makes me emotional cause its a reminder of all the times, good and bad, that are gone forever. I felt very emotional when writing this chapter and hope that emotion transferred over to you readers.
I really hope you guys enjoyed this, as always, leave a review!