There was nothing.
There were no birds singing, no wind rustling the trees-- no sound of life....other than his own ragged breathing.
Albion was mourning the death of her king. Merlin was mourning so much more.
He was mourning his king.
Once and Future, they had said. Destined to bring about a Golden Age. Two sides of the same coin. They were supposed to bring magic back to its rightful place in Camelot. Together, they were supposed to unite the lands.
He had failed.
He was kneeling on the ground, legs too weak to support him after watching Arthur’s body disappear into the mists.
Arthur was dead. His destiny lay in ruins. Albion was not united. Magic had not been returned to the land.
Undoubtedly, once she learned the true events of that day, Guinevere would put things in motion to repeal the ban. But Gwen was not Arthur, lovely a queen as she might be. And the prophecy he’d based his life around had not come to pass.
Everything he did, he did for Arthur. He did for his hopes of a better future.
He’d put too much stock in prophecies. Believed those wiser than him. But they were wrong, weren’t they?
They were wrong!
Arthur was dead. Despite him dedicating his entire life...every fibre of his being...to prevent this very outcome. And Albion was still but yet a dream. So they were wrong.
‘And if they were wrong about that, what else had they been wrong about?’ he thought, as his hands clenched tightly.
So much of his life he’d spent trying to do the right thing, follow his moral compass...but as he started caring more and more about Arthur, he realised that it became more about keeping him alive. He started putting more stock in prophecy than in what was the reality of the moment. That’s where he went wrong. Maybe if he had told Morgana about her magic and his own...maybe if she hadn’t felt so lost and confused and scared...it would have been different. If Merlin had made the choice to trust her instead of listening to those who were older and ‘wiser’ maybe she wouldn’t have gone to Morgause.
Because as he sat there, staring at the lake of Avalon where his king’s body now resided, he realised that older they may have been, but Gaius and Kilgharrah were speaking from a place of fear...of learned cautiousness. They had been burned and betrayed by many. They learned to be afraid; to hide. Experience had made them wary. And that wariness had been imparted as fact to an impressionable young warlock who then had to grapple with his own moral compass vs that of those who he respected. And as experience made him jaded, he himself forgot about that compass in favour of wariness; of mistrust. Ultimately it had been his downfall. He realised it now.
He had betrayed Morgana. Then he betrayed Mordred. His mistrust of the young knight had caused him to also betray magic, ensuring that Mordred lived to carry out the prophecised deed.
So in hindsight, Merlin had inadvertently lead to all the prophecies being fulfilled but the one he meant to fulfill.
No. That one was clearly a failure. He laughed, a sound bordering on hysterical. Kilgharrah said Arthur would rise again when Albion needed him most. All part of the once and future bit.
‘What Albion?’ he thought, as tears poured steadily, hitting the earth where he was crouched, right on the spot where his King once lay.
There was no Albion. Because Merlin had allowed it’s King to be killed before any kingdoms could be united under the Pendragon Banner.
He was supposed to convince Arthur that magic could be a force for good. To see the true beauty and wonder of it. Instead, what Arthur got was an impromptu revelation as he was dying. He got to feel profound betrayal, grief, and anger, as he lay bleeding to death.
Sure, he seemed to have forgiven Merlin at the end....but he was dying! He was a dying man, and he knew it. Arthur never had time to truly process any of the information Merlin had finally told him. Before he died, he was able to finally see Merlin’s magic. But knowing that Merlin had magic wasn’t the same thing as knowing Merlin. He would never know Merlin now.
Two sides of the same coin. What was a coin with one side? Such a thing did not exist. So how was it that Arthur was gone but he was still there?
He sucked in a shuddering breath.
Coins. A coin really did describe their relationship, now that he thought about it. For a coin could never truly see the other side of it. A coin’s sides would never meet, destined to face away from each other for all of time. Would never see the other side for what it was. Much the same like him and Arthur.
He would never see Arthur become the king he was meant to be. And Arthur would never see him for who he was. They would remain with their fates intertwined...carved into the annals of time, back to back as always and without ever being able to see eye to eye. To see each other.
One was dead, lost to them all. The other, cursed to live for all his years and then some.
Their coin was tarnished.