Camelot is burning. Thick black smoke winds around the turrets, up and up until it covers the sky.
“It could have been yours,” Nimueh says. “But you were afraid. And now look: by refusing to make a choice you have lost everything. Camelot is gone.”
No, he hasn’t. No, it isn’t.
Merlin ignores the sorceress, lips forming a silent litany of words that keep her bound.
“What do you think you’re achieving?” Nimueh laughs, wild and deprecating. “It’s too late. There’s nothing left but ruins.”
She is wrong. Over her shoulder Merlin sees the steady stream of evacuees, pouring out of the gates. At the back of his mind, the light grows stronger the closer they come. Every spark is a life.
Camelot is not the castle. It is not the stone walls, the houses, the cobbled streets. It is not lifeless things. The city burns, but Camelot survives – in every man and woman and child, safe because Merlin had made a choice, the right one. He had gone to Arthur and told him everything, had bought them just enough time to get everyone out.
Nimueh screams, face twisted with rage. She can see them now; too many people to be just a straggled group of survivors, far too many to be just luck.
Merlin blocks her out, tightening the spell. Power rolls off him in waves, visible for all to see. That too is fine now. He scans the crowd, eyes and mind working in unison, trying to find that one golden spark among hundreds.
There, of course, the last one out. Arthur rides through the gates, covered in soot but shining bright and warm like the sun inside Merlin’s head, inside his heart.
Merlin breathes a sigh of relief; Arthur is alive. And with him, so is Camelot.