He wanders through the forest, it is dark and peaceful and quiet. It has been here for centuries. It is older than him, and that is really saying something. He can breathe here, his mind is clearer away from all the things that complicate modern life. Here he is not a warlock who is over a thousand years old – he stopped counting when he got to one thousand – he is just Merlin. Just Merlin, and it’s comforting to know that. That he still knows who he is. A poor peasant boy from Ealdor, who spent his childhood years running around in woods just like these, not all that far from here.
He wanders along the meandering paths with feelings of deja-vu. He has walked these paths many times over the years. And probably just as many times when he was young. For Camelot was close by. He still knows that there is sage to be found here. In a few sunny crevices near the cliff side. Hyssop grows here too. Useful for colds in the chest and in salves for bruises, he reminds himself. Camomile sometimes grows in the shade; waiting to be found. Comfrey grows aplenty on the slopes of grassy knoles.
He has to remind himself of these things, all the things Gaius taught him; it helps keep his memories firmly in place, even if most of Gaius’ life’s work is moot or disproved now.
He sits down by a tree and leans his head against it. A jolt of magic rushes through him as he sees an image of men on horseback with flowing red capes rushing through the forest. A bright, shining blond-haired head at the helm, followed by a young man dressed in brown, a flash of red at his neck.
His pulse quickens and he catches his breath at the sight of long ago. He pats the tree, the forest has always been kind to him, sheltering him and caring for him and reminding him with their memories; for they have mastered the art of living long lives and they see and remember all.
He thanks the tree by pushing a pulse of magic down into its roots, he wills his magic to protect the tree. To keep it safe from harm and destruction in an increasingly destructive and greedy world. Camelot might be long gone. But he still guards this place and holds it sacred, the forest has been here long before Camelot and if he has his way, it will be here long after it’s gone from people’s minds.
He laughs to himself when the tree reminds him with a vision of the camera crew that came here almost 10 years ago, filming a TV show about him. If only they knew how close they were to the true Camelot. That the actual Merlin and King Arthur had rode past this tree just as they had.
But they won’t. For the trees keep their secrets, as he keeps theirs.