He walked on numbly, comatose to the chaos around him. Moans and groans split the quiet, smoke, created by the burning plains, filled the air, making eyes water and lungs ache. Another battle, another victory over another of Camelot’s endless supply of enemies.
He’d lost track long ago how many battles had been fought. How many he had killed with his magic in the name of his golden prince, now king for some fifteen years. And it all hung heavily, hidden away in his mind and heart. Shadowed by the glamor of a smile.
He continued to walk on, uncaring of his route or destination, what he stepped in. The ground had been soaked in blood already, as had his hands. What was another little bit to add to the weight.
He remembered the night Uther had died only vaguely. It had been sudden, out of nowhere. At the time, Arthur hadn’t had time to mourn, an enemy right at their door step. One minute he was a prince, the next, a king leading his army.
It wasn’t long after that that Arthur had started to make changes. One of the first things he’d done was marry Gwen. Beautiful, kind hearted Gwen who could never hurt someone purposefully.
That had hurt the most, though no one knew of it. Of the secret even greater than his magic. No one had known of his feelings towards his prat of a prince, and it had stayed that way. They remained locked up to this day, forever beating against their cage, wanting to be free, but he had locked them in too well. They would never surface.
Next Arthur had gathered his knights, one after another. He remembered Gawaine arriving. That had been a happy occasion, one of the few moments he could remember. Then Lancelot had come, and the first knot in the down fall of Camelot had been stitched.
None had known what would happen, none except Merlin. He had seen the way the two acted around each other, but like many other things, he kept it to himself, too arrogant to think it could stop him in his path to create his destiny.
When Arthur had found out about the affair, he’d fallen apart. Merlin had spent precious few seconds, persuading Arthur not to kill either of them that he would regret it in the long run. They were banished and never seen again, at least by Arthur. Merlin had kept an eye on them, just in case.
Now, too many battles later, he was weary. His body and mind just wanting to sleep for an eternity. Still he had pushed on until now, ignoring the lengthening chains that bound him tighter and tighter in their blood red and magic gold links.
‘Merlin…’ His head only jerked an inch, too tired to even lift his head. ‘Come to me, Emrys.’ His body turned on its own accord, following the soft voice.
‘That’s right, this way…’
He stared up listlessly at the colossal black hole in front of him. The voice whispered from inside that cave, beckoning him onwards and inwards, always following the magic that drew him.
Darkness did not bother him. He had long since magicked his vision to see, no matter what the light source. He went deeper, the air cooling and growing damp. The floor was even and smooth.
The tunnel opened up into a large cavern, an underground lake taking up most of the space. Some sort of crystal lined the lake’s bottom, giving the water a glowing blue cast. To his right, a low stone bridge crossed over to the island in the lake’s center. The magic’s source.
He crossed easily, steps shuffling onwards. He wasn’t surprised at who was standing before him. Hair long and as black as night, bright blue eyes, blood red lips, she was the embodiment of beauty.
“Morgana.” Even his voice was weary, just the barest whisper of word on his breath.
“Why do you do this to yourself, Merlin?” She asked softly, eye saddened by the sight before her. “Why do you let him use you like this?”
“It’s my destiny.” He said simply.
“Yes, and look what your destiny has given you: heartache, loneliness. All for one man who will never love you back.” He didn’t even question how she knew what no one else did. “It’s a heavy burden isn’t it? Your destiny.”
She took a step forward, hand outstretched. “How long has it been since you felt the touch of someone who cared? Or let yourself feel the touch? Weeks, months, years?” He couldn’t move, couldn’t avoid the hand that got nearer.
“How tired you must be, so many years, so many battles, so many lives. All clamoring for space on your already overburdened back. All for nothing.”
“That’s not true.”
“You don’t need the Sight to see that Camelot has come to the end of its golden age. Already she withers from the inside, her heart a cankerous sore that leaches the life from all who live there, spreading out.”
“Don’t you wish you could just leave it all behind? Not have to carry such a heavy load?” A small gasp escaped him as her hand; cool to the touch, grazed across his cheek. It had been so long. He couldn’t help as his body betrayed him, leaning into the touch.
“Let the pain and suffering, the loneliness and heartache, the burden of destiny and fate, just fade away into peaceful sleep, let darkness enfold you in warm, caring wings, to hold you forever.”
He was crying now, years of heartache and loneliness flooding out in a flow of tears and a near silent sob. “It hurts.” He whispered.
“I know it does.” She pulled him forward, letting him nestle into her arms, letting him cry for his lost cause. “But it doesn’t have to. I can make it go away. Make it to where you never have to feel any of it ever again.” She looked down at the broken man in her arms. “Do you want that? To finally be free?”
“Yes.” He sobbed into her shoulder.
“Shh. All will be good.” She gently lowered him to the ground, still cradling him. They sat there for what felt like millenniums, Morgana stroking his hair as he cried himself into the sweet oblivion of sleep.
Finally, she looked down. Years had been taken off his face, years of burden washed clean. He looked as he had when she had first met him, all those years ago. Her eyes flashed gold, and slowly, he floated up.
She gently lay him down on the stone dais, arranging his long limbs into a comfortable position. Another flash and clear crystal walls rose up, enclosing him in, forever trapped. “Sleep well, Merlin.” She whispered before stepping back and leaving. As she crossed the bridge, it disappeared, cutting the slumbering warlock off from the world.
“Is it done?” Morgana looked up to see her sister Morgause, and Mordred, standing at the front of the cave.
She nodded. “It is done. Merlin will no longer be able to stop us. Arthur must pay for his doings, especially those to Merlin.” She said vehemently.
Morgause just arched a brow at her statement. “You didn’t see him, sister. He was just a broken man, left over from Arthur playing with him. He used to be so bright.” The other two said nothing, remembering the smiling, bumbling idiot who had defended Arthur the most. They just nodded and left. Leaving the slumbering warlock to his sleep.