Chapter 32 Of Tears and Sorrow
Merlin slept; but in no way was it peaceful. His magic began to push against him once more. If someone asked him what it felt like, he would have said it was like a cup holding too much water. Merlin's cup was filling fast. He wouldn't be able to keep the magic for much longer. Merlin opened his eyes. The first thing he noticed was he wasn't in a forest anymore. On the contrary, he seemed to be in a soft, comfortable bed. Merlin was confused. He didn't recognize it as Camelot either. Turning his head to the left, Merlin was surprised to see Arthur. He leaned his left arm above his head against the smooth stone wall, while his other hand on his hip. Arthur's back was to him so he couldn't see his face. Although Merlin could guess Arthur was worried.
"You look like you're about to fall over."
Arthur quickly spun around. Eyes showed surprised before relief overcame him. His shoulders sagged, dropping the tension he was holding there. Arthur went over to Merlin, pulling the chair closer to the bedside. "Merlin! Thank the gods! I thought…" He paused for a moment. "I thought you were dying Merlin."
Merlin noticed his voice was pained. Not wanting to break the hope Arthur had, Merlin asked a question instead, "Where are we?"
"We're with the elves. Thondiair's city; it's beautiful Merlin, absolutely beautiful. You need to see it."
Merlin smiled sadly, "I wish I could." Merlin could see the confusion written across Arthur face.
"Why did you say that Merlin?"
Merlin sucked in a deep breath. He didn't want to tell him. He wanted more time to be who he really was around Arthur, but he knew he couldn't delay any longer. "I'm dying Arthur."
Arthur ran to the room Merlin was in. Unsure if Thondiair was following him. When he got there, Leon, Gwaine, Percival, and Iseldir were already there. Asiniell stood in front of the door closed behind her. A grave expression written across her face. "We have done everything we could," she began when Arthur stood breathlessly with his knights. "The curse placed upon Merlin is a dire one, even under normal circumstances."
"What normal circumstances?" Gwaine asked.
Asiniell sighed. "This particular curse, will eat away at the magic contained in the body. The magic will then recede from the host when the magic is consumed. With sorcerers, their magic will abandon them; but if used on a creature of magic, they lose it completely." She paused to let the information sink in. "In Merlin's case, it seems as if the curse has been; tampered with. To intensify."
"Intensified?' This time it was Arthur.
Asiniell nodded. "Whomever used this on Merlin knew who they were dealing with. If the curse was used plainly, then perhaps Merlin would have been able to beat it. However, that is not what is happening. The magic is being attacked very harshly; and it is draining him. I am surprised he has lasted this long."
Arthur and the others stood silently. Shocked at her words. Arthur's fears were being realized, he was going to lose Merlin. "May I see him?"
Asiniell nodded, "he does not have much time left. Use it wisely." With those last words, Asiniell passed them. Disappearing around a corner. Arthur went in first, quickly followed by Gwaine; dreading what he was going to see. Iseldir stayed behind, allowing them space to be with their friend. Merlin had not moved from the position Arthur placed him on the bed. Merlin was pale, deathly pale, his breathing slow and shallow. Merlin was too still. At first glance, it looked like Merlin wasn't breathing at all. Until his chest rose very slightly, then went back down again. Merlin's brothers gathered around the bed. Arthur looked down at the face in the bed. Tears pricking his eyes, but they didn't fall. Arthur could feel the heaviness in the room. "Please leave us" Arthur said in a hoarse voice. They all looked up at him, "You can't be serious!" Gwaine almost yelled. More calmly then he was feeling, Arthur spoke again. "I need a moment alone with him. Please Gwaine, it won't be long, I promise." Leon nodded in respect, he was the first to leave the bed. Percival followed a little hesitantly. Gwaine was the last to leave. When the door was closed, Arthur brought over a chair from a corner of the room, on the side of the bed. Still unwilling to let his tears leave his eyes. Placing a hand on Merlin's head, Arthur began to stroke the familiar raven hair. Hoping the gesture would be comforting, letting him know he wasn't alone.
"I've never told you this before Merlin;" Arthur began quietly. "Even before I knew how much you've done for me, even before I knew you had magic and only used it for good. I thought of you as my younger brother. You were the only one Merlin, who was brave enough to treat me as an equal. The way you would call me names like, prat or clotpolle. I valued your opinion higher than anyone else's. I've never had a truer friend than you Merlin. You never asked for anything in return for your friendship, you just gave it. That's what made you different. What made you Merlin."
After making his speech, Arthur couldn't look at the still body on the bed. Turning his face away, Arthur braced himself against the wall. Holding his left arm above his head, hiding his face behind it. About to let the tears fall, Arthur heard a voice he thought he was never going to hear again.
"You look like you're about to fall over."
Arthur spun around so fast. "Merlin! Thank the gods!" rushing over to the bed, Arthur knelt down to so he was eye level. "I thought. I thought you were dying." Merlin was awake, perhaps Asiniell was wrong. If Merlin was awake, that meant he could get better. Arthur knew Merlin was strong, this time would be no different. "Where are we?" Merlin's question brought him out of his thoughts.
"We're with the elves Merlin. Thondiair's city. It's beautiful Merlin, absolutely beautiful. You need to see it." At that moment, Merlin's eyes grew sad. "I wish I could."
"Why did you say that Merlin?" he asked confused, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"I'm dying Arthur."
Those words, those two words Arthur hoped he'd never have to hear from Merlin's lips. "No" he said plainly. "No, you're not Merlin, you're awake. That means you can get better." Arthur knew Merlin could see the denial written all over his face.
"I am fighting a losing battle Arthur. My magic is dying, and I cannot live without it."
Merlin calmly watched Arthur from his place on the bed. Arthur paced about the room, hands on his hips. Even now, Merlin could feel his magic still pushing against him. Arthur suddenly stopped his distressed pacing. Returning back to the bed, Arthur sat back down on the chair. "I can't…" he choked out, "I can't lose you too Merlin."
Bringing up his hand, Merlin placed it on his brother's arm. "You will have Gwenevere, and the Knights by your side. You're not alone Arthur. If it's one thing I want you to remember, you are not alone." Arthur let a tear escape, sliding down the side of his cheek.
"What will I be without you?"
Merlin smiled softly. "You will be, the best king Camelot has ever known."
Arthur made a noise between a sob and a dark laugh. "You always say that."
"And I've always believed it." They watched each other silently. "It wasn't supposed to be like this Arthur." Merlin paused somberly before speaking again. "I do not say this out of anger, or a sense of unfairness. I say it, because I was supposed to be by your side. To guide you through the age of Albion. It saddens me greatly; that I will not be there for you. Arthur Pendragon."
A few more tears leaked out of Arthur's eyes. "I do not know, what I have done to deserve someone like you Merlin."
"It is not what you have, or have not done. It is not about whether you are worthy or not Arthur. We only have what is, and what is not." Merlin said copying words of the dragon. Arthur could feel a sense of wisdom come through the voice of his adviser.
After a few minutes of silence, Arthur stood up. Walking over to the door, he pulled it open. Merlin didn't hear what was said, but a few seconds later, Gwaine, Leon, and Percival came into the room.
"Hay mate," Gwaine was the first to speak. His voice thick.
The room was silent. No one sure of what to say.
"Listen to me; all of you" Merlin began. All eyes turned to him. "My whole life, I hadn't felt like I belonged anywhere. I've had to hide my true identity out of fear and hatred. Until I came to Camelot, everything changed. I had met all of you. I had learnt the meaning of destiny, of loyalty, and also the meaning of brotherhood. I want to tell you, that I die a happy man. I am with my brothers, and that is enough for me."
At the end of Merlin's speech, there was not an eye in the room that stayed dry.
It was Leon that answered him. "We thank you Merlin, our brother. The one who changed many lives. You have a heart full of compassion, and love. Never once consumed by greed as other men have been turned. I have not met another man like you Merlin, and I am very glad I did."
"As am I" Percival said.
"As am I" Gwaine seconded.
"As am I" Arthur last.
Merlin felt nothing but pride for the men who stood before him. "Thank you."
"It is time." Closing his eyes, Merlin spoke to his magic. "You are free." Opening them again, Merlin watched as the golden magic lifted from his body. He could feel it flowing through his arms, to the tips of his fingers. The once warm and comforting magic that had been with him his whole life, was leaving. A lone tear escaped, running down the left side of his face. Merlin saw the golden tendrils swirling above him; dancing gracefully. As the last of it vanished in the air, Merlin looked into the eyes of his brother's once more. Glad that he had been in their lives. That was the last thought before Merlin's eyes slowly... drifted... shut.