His heart stops when the muffled 'thump' reaches his ears. Something inside of him snaps and his hand rockets to his sword, drawing it halfway out of his sheath before realizing that there was nothing to stick it into; nothing to rip apart into tiny pieces.
He half-runs, half-stumbles over to the crumpled body, the breath ripping out of the form in pained half-gasps. The sight was a dagger in his ribs… the pain of it was almost too much to bear.
"…M…Merlin?" he whispers, almost tenderly, "Merlin?" The boy shakes his friend, desperately, ignoring the sounds of the battlefield fading off into the distance. He didn't have the ears for anyone else right now, nor the heart. His heart was for the broken form in front of him; his broken and shattered heart.
The boy, almost too softly to be noticeable, smoothes the raven hair off of his servant-no, his friend's- pale and sweat-covered face. The eyes of the fallen soldier were glued shut and the cheeks were white, offsetting the sharp cheekbones and making the boy look much skinner than he already was.
An almost-silent whimper emits itself from the boy on the ground, which prompts the second to throw away any sort of protocol for necessary comfort. Slowly, gently, the boy scoops up the youth and pulls his frail form into his arms, wrapping his arms around the other man. Blonde hair mixes with raven as the first boy leans his head on the other, allowing the first salty tear to drip into the ebony locks.
For as the boy moved the other, the ragged slice on his side was thrown into stark relief. It was obvious to the battle-hardy King that there was no time to save the fragile yet incredibly loyal manservant. There were only minutes left…minutes to tell the thousands of things not yet said.
Racking sobs soon shook the blonde, tearing out of his body, each one more painful and burning than the last. Tears soaked the face of the now-unconscious youth, dribbling down onto the snow-colored face.
"Merlin…I…I can't lose you, Merlin," the blonde choked out, regretting each and every minute he had hesitated scooping the raven into a bone-crushing embrace various times over the years they had known each other.
The raven was silent. He would be silent forever.
His heart rent in two, Arthur let out a soul-piercing cry of agony, clutching the boy impossibly close to his chest as if to eliminate any space between them.
"He's…he's gone, sire…," a voice echoes from behind him, and moves to remove Merlin from his embrace.
Arthur holds on. He has failed to protect his unforgivably loyal manservant in life, god be damned he'd fail in death.
He swipes a tender kiss across the departed's brow, and the tears still fall.