“Gaius what is that thing?” Arthur asked, pointing to the amulet.
Gaius continued to study the damaged instrument. “I do not know, sire I apologize. I honestly thought the magical connection was broken.” Arthur shook his head at it, his face contorted in contempt towards the item.
“Do you recognize this amulet, Arthur?” Gaius asked, his tone soothing, much as Arthur remembered it as a child, when he would fall and hurt himself and Gaius would patch and cheer him up.
Arthur shook his head but not in answer to Gaius’ question; more like he was trying to rid himself of some awful memory.
“Garlock would use that to get into my head. He could use it to make me believe things, see things that weren’t real. He would get his voice inside my head and taunt me.” Arthur brought his hand to his head shakily. “He used it on Merlin too.”
Gaius nodded. Arthur could tell he was thinking.
“It would appear so.” Gaius stated.
Arthur stared at the amulet. “When I touched it, I heard Garlock’s voice.” His own voice trembled, but he pressed on chasing away the fear. “I thought he was talking to me, but the voice that answered… it was Merlin.”
Gaius looked surprised by this and thought it through carefully before answering.
“It is possible that you picked up a fragment of what transpired here right before Garlock’s death and the entrance of the knights.”
Arthur frowned. “Why only me?” he asked. “You touched it as well.”
“The amulet has already been used on you, therefore your connection to it is already established.” Gaius explained.
Arthur thought about this and then steeled himself. “If I touch it again, perhaps I can get better insight into what he did to Merlin.”
Leon stepped in. “Sire, no! It’s too dangerous! Who knows what that thing could do…”
“If it helps Merlin, I have to try!” Arthur argued. “I cannot let him destroy himself out of some misplaced sense of self-sacrifice.”
Leon took a step forwards. “Arthur this is madness!” he stated. “This thing is magic. For all we know, it was left behind as a trap! I cannot allow you to risk your life for that of a…” Leon’s voice trailed off and he looked rather guilty. Arthur’s face was stony and cold.
“For the sake of what, Leon?” he asked, daring the man to finish his sentence. Leon’s face was red as a beet, partially from embarrassment, but mostly from restraint.
Arthur waited a moment and, when it appeared that Leon was not going to respond, spoke in a low tone. “Merlin is more than a servant. He is my friend, and I will not be able to forgive myself if I do not try everything possible.” Leon wisely kept his mouth shut, though Arthur could tell he was still angry.
Gaius wanted to protest as well, but his concern for the man that was like a son to him and the logic of what Arthur said was enough to keep him silent.
Slowly Arthur reached his hand out towards the amulet. It shook harder than ever before, but his resolve did not waver. He closed his eyes as he reached for it. He could hardly believe he was touching such a dangerous magical object, all for Merlin. If Merlin did not end up killing himself, Arthur would.
As his hand touched the cool but warped metal he gasped slightly. He felt like he was being drawn away. Arthur heard voices and began to eavesdrop.
Kill him! Kill Arthur! Kill him now! The demands were more than words. Arthur could feel the intention behind them, could feel one source of will trying to bend that of another, but he himself was simply an overlooked bystander.
NO! The voice of Merlin shouted out again. No I won’t! I’ll sooner kill myself than let you use me to kill him.
Your will is fading, you will only last so long, and then I will break you, and you will kill the man you strive to protect. Garlock’s voice laughed long and maniacally, and Arthur felt himself wanting to strangle it. I can feel your will breaking, bending to my own. I only need to find the key, Merlin. You cannot hide it from me forever!
Not yet! I still have time! My actions are still my own! The voice of Merlin cried out again.
So you will try to kill yourself again? You’ve already tried several times and failed! Arthur gasped slightly. Now that he was aware of what was happening, he could feel what was going on around him in the physical as well as the magical world he entered. He held up a hand in the direction he thought Leon was to stop the knight from breaking the fragile connection. This new information had surprised him. Had Merlin tried to kill himself while he was captured as well?
If I want to die, there’s no one that can really stop me. Merlin’s voice sounded broken.
Oh, but your friends have tried, have they not? Arthur stopped breathing as a realization hit him. He was not listening to a fragment of an old conversation, but to something that was happening right at this moment.
Even they cannot stop me. Merlin stated sadly. My body is wasting away. I only have to last long enough for the starvation or dehydration to kill me. Arthur’s not even here at the moment; he’s safe, far away. I cannot hurt him.
He will return before long. The sorcerer said, very confident in himself.
I will be dead before he gets here. I can feel it. He won’t return before tomorrow. Tonight is my last night on this earth. I will die, and you will die along with me. The words caused Arthur to freeze completely, and he felt a panic well up inside him despite the fact that the words caused similar panic in Garlock.
Merlin, NO! Arthur was surprised to hear his own mind shout.
Arthur? Merlin’s weak voice called desperately, but before Arthur could answer he felt Garlock’s presence closing off Merlin’s mind to him. The magic of the amulet was weak and fading. It was only because Arthur’s emotions had been so strong that he had gotten through in the first place, and he felt the connection snap, wondering how he knew all this.
He jerked his hand away gasping as he looked from Gaius to Leon. “We need to get back to Camelot…” Arthur stated. “Now!”