Preface : Sealed Magic
Mordred had once said that Arthur was nothing without Emrys, and Emrys was nothing without magic. And for a time, he was right. Though they had succeeded in the death of the King, they did not succeed in destroying the hopes of the people. No matter the terrible life Mordred put them through, the people of Camelot still held onto the hope that one day their King would return and reclaim his place on the throne. It was proving to be a false hope, as more and more people gave into the darkness cast over their kingdom. Though the Knights of the Round Table held steady in their battle. Ever faithful in their King.
On the day of the great battle Mordred and Morgana cast a spell over the Kingdom just as Arthur was mortally wounded. The spell, one born of dark magic, trapped Camelot in a bubble of suspended time. Never aging, never truly dying, simply living each year moment by moment. Praying for salvation. The fact that they dared to play in magic they could not even begin to fully understand still shook Merlin to his core. Having to live darkened lifetimes without the other half of his being. For now, all Merlin could do is wait. Wait as the days turned into months, months turned into years, and years turned into centuries, for the return of the King.
The spell that had been cast sealed his magic, and sealed everyone forever in the Camelot of Mordred’s choosing. So while the world grew old around them, they were forever locked in a bubble of time, in the time of magic and knights, of true good and complete evil. Without Arthur and Merlin together, the dark warlock ruled supreme, damning the people of Camelot to servitude until the day that Arthur returned. If Arthur ever returned.
All they could do now is wait…..
Chapter One : A New World
“Merlin, you do not know if this spell will actually work. You have no magic.” Elyan kept his voice low despite knowing that they couldn’t be heard. He and the other Knights all gathered around their magic-less Warlock; all kept at bay by a wall of fire.
“It is the only chance we have left!” Voice shaking with the force of his words Merlin stared at them all over the flame. “Arthur has not been born into our life cycle. There has not been sight of him since the spell was cast, and he was wounded! Obviously he has to be outside the barrier. Arthur was supposed to come back to us when Camelot was in need, Camelot has been in need for nearly a thousand years. For all we know our idiot King has forgotten us, or needs us.” Holding a tattered scroll in his shaking hand the warlock shook his head, trying to focus on the task at hand. As the flames drew closer to his body his hand lifted as if to command the elements. With Arthur’s crown rested on his head, ancient words tumbled from his mouth, holding the world at his command. Drawing his hand in he sliced his palm with a dagger in an attempt to add blood magic to the spell.
“Merlin, you have to stop this. You are going to get yourself killed then what will we do?” Gwaine attempted to step forward but was quickly yanked back by Percy as the fire licked at his skin. Sharing a look the two knew that their time to act was drawing close.
“This spell will either kill me or take me to Arthur. Let us hope for Arthur. Heed my words, my magic will return once Arthur and I are united, it has to. Then I will bring him back to us all. What I need from you is to stay low and gather support. I have to tell him he has lost his Queen and his Kingdom, I do not want to tell him he has lost the hope of his people.” Looking over at all of them the warlock gave a kind smile before turning his attention to the scroll. Spells did not need a screaming voice to work, but a strong whispered voice that spoke with purpose. As the last words of the spell left him, the scroll fell into the fire, causing it to turn blue as blood and magic mingled.
Words echoing through the night fire began to lick along the brunettes skin, consuming his entire being before the fire suddenly vanished with Merlin inside. The spell was one designed to bring the caster to the object or person of their desire. One could only hope that Merlin desired Arthur most.
What many did not know, is that magic coursed through the inner coils of the earth. It heard all, saw much, and never gave exactly what you were asking for. Instead, magic gave those who were worthy exactly what they needed even if they themselves did not realize it. Which all should have been relatively easy for Merlin to remember, given the fact that he was Emrys. Or if he had even spared a second to think about the fact that Mordred’s hatred had not only managed to twist magic around him, but it had allowed the younger warlock mastery over the High Priestess herself.
“Ugk.” The pitiful noise that left him was something he could only hope was in his head and not said aloud, for it was an embarrassing noise. Stretching out his tired limbs, as if to reassure himself that he had them all, Merlin went still upon feeling the soft surface beneath him. It had been quite some time since he and the knights had even had cots to sleep on, so where exactly was he?
“Up and at ‘em, lazy daisy!”
Eyes springing open as bright sunlight filtered into the room Merlin stared up at the blond who had all but sang his old morning mantra to him. “Aa-Arthur?” The warlock croaked, his trembling hand lifting to push through his dark curls. When he came in contact with clean, dry, hair his brow drew together in worry. “Arthur, what is going on?”
“What’s going on? Merlin. Are you serious? We have brunch plans with your mom and Will!” All beaming smiles and soft gazes Arthur made his way over to the bed where Merlin had been asleep. “Are you feeling alright you dolt? I told you not to stay up so late working.” Reaching out a frown touched his features when the other shrank back from his touch. “Love, are you really alright? You’re starting to worry me.” Laying a hand on his forehead to check for a fever Arthur’s thumb stroked gently over the other’s sharp cheekbone.
“I can call them both and cancel if you don’t feel well. Last thing we need is you getting a cold like last time.” When Arthur reached over to the nightstand beside his head for a thin black box Merlin began to realize he was in a cold state of panic.
“I have no idea what you are saying to me.” The warlock admitted softly, his voice laced with traces of panic. “Where am I?” Casting a look around he had to assume he was in a bedroom, yet nothing was the same as he remembered the King’s chambers being. Unlike the bedroom he had known for so long at his King’s side, this was vastly different. Gone was the heavy wood pieces and large canopy bed. Instead they were in a sleek looking room, with a simple yet soft bed, and minimalistic touches.
“Alright, now you are really starting to worry me. Merlin, you’re in our bed, in our flat, in London.” Hoping to prompt the other into his right mind Arthur placed both hands against the other’s pale cheeks, blue clashing against blue as he searched his gaze. “Do I need to call a doctor for you?”
“What are you talking about? Arthur… Is it really you?” Trembling under his touch Merlin desperately tried to look past his own confusion to see the man before him. The spell had worked, this was Arthur, alive and real and … staring at him with absolute confusion. Yet that realization did nothing to stop the tears that started to gather in his thick lashes. Surging forward he wrapped his arms around Arthur’s neck, trembling in the man’s hold as he cried into his shoulder. “Oh Arthur! You idiot! I’ve waited so long to see you again.”
“Merlin, love…” Sighing softly the blond wrapped his arms around the lanky man in his arms, cradling him close as the other cried. “Did you have that nightmare again? I told you, it’s all just a dream. I never died, you’re fine.” Stroking back his dark hair Arthur cradled the man against him, pressing a tender kiss to his head.
“What? No!” Pulling back sharply his cheeks were flushed with much more than tears as he scrambled to get out of the bed. “Arthur, you died. Camelot has been in turmoil for nearly a thousand years. And I had to use a spell to find you. I don’t even know where we are!” Stomping his bare foot on the carpeted ground Merlin couldn’t help but allow his gaze to finally drift around him. “The spell was supposed to take me to where you were the most. How long have I been here?”
“Merlin… Listen… That is all just… a fantasy. Camelot isn’t real. This is London, you and I have been friends since we met in primary school. Remember? You used to come to all of my footie games even though you didn’t know what any of it meant?” Arthur prompted, his hands held out as if he were talking to a startled animal.
“Footie? What in the name of the gods are you talking about?” The warlock demanded, his brow drawn together, which only made Arthur sigh.
“You really are hopeless, aren’t you? Merlin, we went to school together. We’ve been living together since we moved to London… Dating since well… It seems like forever but it’s been official for nearly two years. Did you take your medicine last night before we went to bed?” Reaching out to touch his arm Arthur had to rear back when Merlin slapped at him.
“Stop it! I don’t know what London is! Or what… any of you said is!” Ducking past the other Merlin ran, panic raw in his chest. This is what the Knights had attempted to warn him of. With the fact that his magic had been bound for so long it could have done anything when mixing blood magic and bound magic. Barring himself in the nearest room he found Merlin let out a gasp upon seeing what appeared to be a washroom.
Much like the bedchamber he had been in before everything was sleek, clean lines and warm colors. It didn’t make sense as to how this could be in their world. But… he wasn’t home in Camelot. And Arthur still knew him? Was this some sort of trick?
Moving to look at himself in the mirror Merlin frowned at the reflection that was his yet… not. It wasn’t himself at all. This was not the man with too shaggy hair that was held with a leather band and a sword on his hip. This was someone… young once again. His ears appeared to be pierced, with thin black hoops in them, and his hair was soft and lush. Something it hadn’t been in quite some time.
“Where am I?” He whispered to himself as he reached out to touch the mirror. It was only then that he realized something important was missing. “The crown. Where is his crown? And his ring!” Slamming a hand on the glass he turned suddenly, only to find Arthur standing there with a thin golden key in hand and an odd bottle in the other.
“Merlin… You are starting to worry me. You need to take your medicine. Will you?” Arthur asked softly as he approached the other.
“Medicine? What do you mean?” Turning to face his king Merlin felt his head tilt, and that drew his attention to his ears. “What are these?”
“Your earrings? You got them when we were… Sixteen? It was when I got my first tattoo. Remember? We got in so much trouble. My mother was livid. Your mother refused to let you remove them, said people had to live with their mistakes.” With a teasing grin he filled up a cup by the sink with water, setting it down before pouring two pills into his palm. “These will help you Merls. Sometimes your dreams get mixed with reality. And these help.”
“But Arthur, Camelot is my reality.” The warlock insisted, only to be met with a silent plea for the medicine to be taken. “Alright Arthur. Alright. But will you listen to me after? And answer all of my questions?”
“Anything you want.” Arthur promised, heaving a sigh of relief when the brunet took the pills. “I rescheduled to dinner with your family. Your mom said that was fine, she wanted to make Will take her shopping anyway.”
Staring up at the other for a long moment Merlin felt the ancient hurt move through him, but said nothing to the fact that they were dead. It was not something he wanted to argue with the man about. Nodding carefully he allowed Arthur to take his hand, leading him into what appeared to be a sitting room. “We seem to be up high. Is this simply one room in your castle?”
“Ah, no darling. This is our flat. Remember? We moved here a little over a year ago. The second bedroom got turned into my office and your art studio?” Sitting Merlin down on a plush leather sofa he forced a cup of tea into his hands. “Drink some tea.”
Taking the cup from his hands rather dumbly the warlock’s fingers curled around the delicate material curiously. It was odd that Arthur would hand him something so delicate for what appeared to be every day use. Yet seeing the odd painting along the cup his brow furrowed. Nothing about this made sense. “I was wearing a crown when I came here. What happened to that?” He found himself asking first, his gaze moving over the blond.
“Merlin, I know we like to have fun in bed, but you weren’t wearing a crown.” Arthur attempted to tease, though he couldn’t help but notice that the hand he set on Merlin’s knee made the man uncomfortable. So carefully, he removed his hand and clasped them together. “Let’s try this then. Merlin, love, when you were younger you had an accident that affects your memory. If you take your medicine it helps, but nothing will really heal this. You and I have had this talk several hundred times in our life together.”
“I do? We have? Why would you stick around then?”
“Because I love you, you idiot.” Snorting at the audacity his love had Arthur held out his hand, palm up, simply waiting.
Staring at the hand for a long moment Merlin made the decision to take it. After all, he had come here on a mission. The spell was designed to take him to the place where Arthur spent most of his time. Which meant that this could easily be Arthur’s home, and he could easily have taken the place of whoever it was that was actually in Arthur’s life. His magic was bound to be a bit unpredictable, and if he had any hope of getting out of this, he needed to play along.
“I love you too you know.” Even as he said it, he could feel the heat spreading across his cheeks, a clear indication of a blush. It was the first time he had ever admitted it aloud.
“I know. Which is why we are going to get through this together. Now, would you want to watch the video we made forever ago to help you when you have a bad episode?” Arthur asked, giving his hand a squeeze before finally bending down to drop a kiss to it.
“A video?” Head tilting as the word stumbled over his tongue Merlin followed Arthur’s insistent tugging and moved to sit at his side. “Alright, show me.”
Pulling his phone out of his pocket Arthur didn’t miss the odd way his love stared at him as he unlocked the screen and searched through his archive to find the video. It had been Merlin’s idea, an odd hope to help him remember certain things. They had taken it after Merlin’s last bad episode right when they moved into the flat they had now.
Something had been off with his lover then, at first they had both thought it was nerves. But then… the night terrors started. Full force night terrors that found Merlin waking up in other rooms, drenched in sweat as if he had run a marathon. It took some sessions with a doctor, but they had managed to find the right balance of medications and memory exercises to stabilize Merlin’s mind. He could only hope the video worked after so long. Especially given how bad of an episode Merlin seemed to be having.
“This is marvelous.” Merlin murmured, only to be shushed by Arthur as he turned the phone at an angle to better show him the video.
“Do you think he survived it?” Carefully helping the ancient man hobble along the burnt path Gwaine winced when his hair was tugged as Gaius slipped. Righting the elder he handed the man the large walking stick he had been carrying for him.
“If anyone would survive such an idiotic thing, it would be Merlin. Did any of the spell survive?” When the knight shook his head Gaius let out an annoyed grunt, before he began picking over the ritual site. Times had grown desperate in Camelot after nearly one thousand years of being trapped in an endless loop. Neither dying nor living. Simply existing. Feeling the pain of it all, yet missing all of the joy. But for Merlin to pull such a dangerous stunt… He would strangle the boy if he somehow made it back. “Do you remember what he said? Anything?”
“We do not know how he managed it, but he created a circle of fire that we could not jump over. Not even Percival could see him over the flames. We were shouting at him, begging him not to do this. I know he cut his palm.” Pulling the wrapped dagger from his belt Gwaine carefully unwrapped it, showing Gaius the item that had aided Merlin in his spell. “And he wore the crown of the King upon his head.”
“Did he have the ring as well?”
“No, Guinevere still holds it. He had the crown, Arthur’s dagger and an old scroll. He told us that the spell was meant to take him to wherever Arthur was. Or kill him trying. And he told us that once they united it would unlock his magic.” When Gaius trembled from standing too long Gwaine reached out to support him. “I should get you back.”
“At this point Gwaine, we can only pray that Merlin returns to us. He is the most powerful warlock known to man, yet with the binding spell that none of us have been able to break… It could surely mean that his magic is fully tied to serving Arthur. Which is why the spell worked.” Voice wavering the elder trembled, allowing the younger man to support his weight.
“Well, that means Mordred knew a bit more than we ever gave him credit for. Now, let’s get out of the open before we are caught.” With gentle prodding the knight led their old healer away from the chaos that was Merlin’s spell, the burnt earth crunching under their boots as they worked their way back towards camp.
All they could do now was hope for the best and attempt to keep from getting captured.