Arthur wasted no time in rushing down to his friend, who was laying on the ground, unconscious. Freya was sitting beside him, frantic, trying to get him to wake up. Arthur’s feet pounded against the cobblestones, and when he finally arrived next to the two, Freya looked up at him and said worriedly, “He- he said it’s happening again, and something to do with Morgana, and he couldn’t breath, and -" Arthur stopped her.
“We need to get him to Gaius right away. He’s been cursed, and it will slow and stop his heart, lungs, and brain. It’s happened before.” He added that on the end for Freya’s benefit, although she did know what had happened. With that, he picked up Merlin carefully and got to Gaius’ as fast as he could without hurting Merlin in any way.
As he went, he felt a terrible weight bearing down on his heart. It was happening again. Merlin might die.
And when he arrived, Gaius could hardly say a thing. He only sat down, and sent him off to go and tell everyone else. Arthur couldn’t bear to look at their faces. They all said the same thing: sadness and worry.
He didn’t want to have to go through losing Merlin again. Despite what fronts he might put up, Merlin was like a brother to him, and he never wanted to lose him. And he had already done that once, months and months ago, and he didn’t want to go through that again. He didn’t want Merlin to go through that again.
A crowd of bowed heads followed him back to Gaius’ room.
When he opened the door, Freya was beside Merlin with her hand in his. A helpless was expression written across her face and glistening in the corner of her eyes. She looked up at the group of people who came in, and burst into tears.
“What - happened last time?” She choked out between her tears. Though she knew part of the story, she had never asked what had happened before. It had never seemed like an easy topic to be broached, or maybe it had never been the right time. She wasn’t quite sure.
Percival, for once, was the one to answer, after respectfully waiting for either Arthur or Gwen to answer. Their silence was quite clear: I cannot bring myself to explain.
“We - we believe that Morgana cursed Merlin, last time. He almost died, so we tried things, anything to save him, but nothing worked... he asked to be brought into the forest, to some sort of, er, place...” His eyes glazed over momentarily, and then he continued. Freya looked down - so this was to the extent that Merlin had caused everyone to forget. “He got healed, or something. I don’t quite remember.” A troubled looked flitted over the faces of those in the large group of people who found that they, too, did not know how Merlin had lived.
Freya felt a bit nervous - now, of all times, was the worst time for them to start to doubt the purity of their memory. With the smallest shake to her voice, she tried to changed the subject. It was pointless to ask the symptoms if the curse, as Arthur had told her earlier, and it was quite obvious how long Merlin would last... not the night, for sure. She racked her brain for anything, anything at all, and finally found one minor possibility of a topic change. “Do you think we could wake him up, possibly? Merlin would most likely know what to do.”
Arthur frowned and turned from his place on the bench where he had sat down. “Why would Merlin know what to do, more than anyone else?” She cursed herself inwardly - they didn’t know Merlin was an expert with magic, or an expert at anything at all, in fact. She was quite useless at this lying business, really - how did Merlin deal?
Well, based on the fact that Merlin had really only wiped their memories, maybe he wasn’t that good at lying after all. But, he had kept his secret for so long - if he could lie, then she could too. Or at least come up with some reasonable explanation.
“Well - you said Merlin asked to be brought to the forest, and then he got healed, didn’t he? He’s been unconscious for a while now, so obviously he could wake up and talk to us. And, then he knew what to do, so why wouldn’t he now?” Freya was fairly proud of herself for coming up with such a good answer.
Leon, who was fairly uncomfortable with this whole situation, decided to support Freya. After all, Merlin was in danger, and they were in the best position to help. “Yes - that makes sense. Gaius, is there any way, at all, that we could wake him up?”
Gaius sighed, and looked away before answering. “Yes, but it could have disastrous consequences. We could technically wake up Merlin, using a potion, but after about two or three hours his body will not be able to function any longer. He will shut down into a coma, and from there it is very possible that he could die immediately. It is basically putting him in a state in between life and death, a very precarious position - but we have to assume that by then he will have found a cure, and will be cured before any of that happens. It is risky, yes - but if we let him go on the way he is, he will not last the night. I am almost sure of it.” Gaius’ voice wavered slightly at the end.
Gwaine stood up, dusting off his pants and looking around. “Well, it’s obvious what we have to do, then, isn’t it?” Everyone looked at him surprisedly. After fixing them all with an incredulous glance, he continued. “We have to wake him up.” Freya wished suddenly that she hadn’t brought this up.
Elyan was the first to argue. “But he could slip into a coma and die, Gwaine. It’s not worth the risk.”
Gwaine’s face was mutinous. “So what, then?! We let him die? At least when we wake him up, he has a chance!”
Everyone sat, processing this, before Gwen stood up. “I agree.” Everyone’s stares were blank with shock. Then, it was Arthur’s turn to stand.
“Me, too.” He closed his eyes and gulped, and then turned to face Leon, Percival, and Elyan standing too. They all nodded to their King.
Arthur looked to Freya, who was still at Merlin’s side, holding his hand with tears pouring down her face. She nodded, and took a gasping breath, before adding, “I agree.”
And Gaius got to work, calling around as people fetched ingredients and water, steam coming up from his potion. Freya sat by Merlin’s side, her grip on his hand unwavering. She whispered a few words to him, so quietly she could barely hear herself say them. “I need you to stay.” She took a breath. “I know it’s for selfish reasons, but I want you to stay because you are the reason I’m so happy, you keep me in control, you helped me and cared about me when nobody else did. I love you, I love you so very much and I couldn’t handle losing you.” She shook her head and wiped away her tears. “This wasn’t how I imagined I’d first say I love you, but there was never a better time.”
Gaius called over from the other side of the room, and she turned to face him. “The potion is ready.” She nodded her head slightly, and stood up and moved a bit away, to where the others stood. Arthur and Gwen held hands tightly as Gaius administered the potion, and then took a step back.
A small cough. Then two. Then, coughing weakly, Merlin sat up and looked around.
“Wha- what happened?”
Everyone looked around, and then Gwaine said: “You... you collapsed, mate. Same thing as last time.”
Merlin looked down, and muttered: “Knew Morgana had learned a couple of things from that damn Caillech.” Arthur sent him a strange look, but forgot all about it when Merlin put a hand on his head and laid back down, trying to take a deep breath but not quite getting there.
After a moment, Merlin put a hand over his eyes and breathlessly said, “Why did you wake me up?” Gwaine blinked, and answered.
“It’s ‘cause last time you knew what to do, mate. Thought you might know this time too.”
Merlin sighed. “Er, what I did last time, is, uh, no longer an option.” He took a slow breath out. “I - I have no idea what to do.” Freya’s shoulders fell, as did Arthur’s.
Arthur looked down, the dread and shame in his chest growing. Had they just forced Merlin to be awake as he died? To suffer as he faded from the world?
They might as well let him say goodbye. “Merlin?” Merlin poked his head up. “Is there anybody you want to say goodbye to - in person?” Merlin thought for a moment.
“I can’t say goodbye to my mother,” He said, weighing his options, “Because she’s too far away. You are all here, so...” He paused for a moment, thinking. “Maybe there is somebody that I would like to say goodbye to. Could you, er, help me find a big clearing?” Merlin figured that he might as well say goodbye to Kilgharrah with the others there - it wasn’t as if he would live through this, anyway.
He ignored the exhausted look he received from Gaius. Leon looked as he would comply, no questions asked, though everyone else seemed thoroughly confused. They snapped out of it when Merlin stood up, and swayed on the spot. Gwen jumped up and steadied him, and then sat him back down again.
Arthur shook his head. If Merlin was dying, there wasn’t any point in denying his wishes. Last time, they had done as he asked, and he had somehow gotten healed, and that was enough. “Alright,” he declared. “Let’s go find a bid clearing.” And all the knights got up, smiled a bit, and started to move out.
Merlin felt like his lungs were dying.
Well, that was actually perfectly accurate. Maybe he should find himself a better description.
He felt like his lungs were on fire. Yes, that was right. Fire. Because they hurt.
He was well aware that his brain wouldn’t function as well. But it still felt kind of weird.
He shook off the cloudiness that had shrouded his brain, and attempted to think more clearly. He needed to call Kilgharrah, but how would he? The amount of oxygen it required was really quite obnoxious. Like, seriously. He had a hard time with it even in perfect health.
Trying to keep his brain from going down another path, he focused on the task at hand. Walking. Right. That thing he was supposed to be doing right now.
He took an unsteady step, and when it didn’t kill him immediately, he took another one. Arthur was by his side, following him but also making sure he didn’t fall. It had been going like this for a while now, really - Merlin had just been a bit out of it.
He thought that perhaps he had been walking for quite a while, and that the test step he had just taken was completely unnecessary. Oh, well. At least he knew for sure that he wouldn’t die from walking.
He continued on a winding path between the trees, with the rest of the group following behind. He didn’t completely know where he was going, but that was alright. The Dark Woods had a thing for large clearings.
It wasn’t too long until he found one, and once he did, he sat down and rested his head against a tree, totally out of breath. That had taken way too much out of him. He focused only on his breathing - in and out, in and out, in and out, was somebody asking him something? in and out, in and out, in and out, yes, somebody was asking him something, and he should probably respond, in and out.
He looked at the person who was asking him something - was it Arthur? Gwaine? Leon? Yeah, it was Leon. He focused in on Leon’s concerned features, and then breathlessly said, “What?”
Leon repeated what he had just asked. “Why are we here?”
Merlin thought for a second. “Uhm.... er, oh yeah! I remember now! Er... to call a dragon.” Leon moved back.
“Yeah, my friend Kilgharrah. He sometimes tells me what to do, could be useful, never know, he might even be able to heal me or somethin’...” He trailed off.
Leon smiled a bit, but still looked confused. “I thought dragons were extinct.”
Merlin seemed slightly worried. “No, no... did I never tell you - about that? I’m a dragonlord... can call dragons and stuff... yeah, there are two now!”
Leon was alarmed, but let Merlin be. Merlin was thankful for that - he needed to save as much air as he could.
Everyone seemed a bit confused as to why they were there, and though Leon had been sent over to get more answers, he came back with more questions and a very hasty statement: “He didn’t, er, really say why we were here.” Arthur looked over to where Merlin sat, and raised an eyebrow.
“Well? What did he say then?” Arthur inquired, and to that Leon looked very uncomfortable.
“Erm, he, uh... he said that one of his friends is, er, going to meet him here."
“How does his friend know to meet him?”
“Uh... he didn’t say.”
Arthur looked incredulous. “I’m going to go speak to him, then.” And he started to walk over. Leon looked very alarmed, though he tried to hide it.
“Sire, I don’t think that would be a good idea. He, uh... well, we don’t want to make him run out of breath from talking so much, do we?” Arthur looked suspicious, but he complied.
Merlin had been taking in deep breaths for a while, only exhaling slighty. He used a tiny, tiny spell to help him - and it hurt, really, really bad to use his magic. Like, really bad. His head wound pound and his heart burned, along with his lungs, and he really wished he didn’t use his magic, but it did help him store air.
Slowly, he staggered to his feet. Leaning against a tree, he gathered up his strength and called to Kilgharrah. His voice sounded low and raspy, and the energy it costed him was more than he thought he had left in his stores. “O drakon, e male so ftengometta tesd'hup'anankes!”
Arthur’s head turned, and his eyes widened. What the hell was Merlin doing? He was screaming, in some deep, powerful, completely different language! What the hell?!
As Merlin reached the end of his sentence, he let out a mighty roar that Arthur had only heard in those days many years ago. A roar that had come from the Great Dragon, who had destroyed most of his kingdom.
Arthur’s eyes flashed with rage, and he ran over to where Merlin was falling to the ground, his chest heaving as he gasped for air. He helped Merlin get up to his knees, and let him lean against his shoulder before quickly interrogating him. “Merlin,” He growled, “What the fucking hell was that?!”
Merlin looked up at his eyes and he raspily answered. “I’m a Dragonlord,” He breathed, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips, “Did I never tell you?”
Arthur looked at him, eyes filled with rage, before a loud sound filled his ears. The sound of a dragon’s wings beating. He looked to the sky, where a shadow was falling over the trees near the edge of the clearing, and the Great fucking Dragon was about to land. He turned back to Merlin and yelled, “You invited him here?! You idiot! What were you thinking?! And - A Dragonlord? What the hell, Merlin?!”
The others were merely screaming. All the Knights drew their swords, and Gwen and Freya backed up.
The Dragon only seemed amused, before he spoke in a great, booming voice. He spoke English! The Dragon spoke fucking English! “Merlin,” The dragon chuckled. “What predicament have you gotten yourself into now?”
Merlin looked up at him, and breathed, “Well, the curse... that I got last time I talked to you - yeah, I got healed, and... now I have the curse again, and the place... I got healed last time isn’t, er, well, available.”
The Dragon eyed Freya, who backed away more and maintained a fierce gaze. “So, the girl has come back, has she?”
The Knights and Gwen were, needless to say, very confused at that. Freya just seemed scared.
Merlin nodded. “Is - is there anything you can... do, or tell me? Because we... both know what - happens if I really die.” Even Freya was confused at that. Leon seemed a bit more uncomfortable.
Kilgharrah seemed thoughtful. “Well, I suppose there isn’t much you can do with your ma-” Merlin waved frantically, trying to get him to stop - “gic, so perhaps I could do something.”
Arthur’s eyes widened, as did Gwen’s, Gwaine’s, Elyan’s, and Percival’s. Arthur pushed Merlin off his shoulder, though it was slightly more gentle than he might have done otherwise, and stood up, his eyes filled with betrayal and anger. “You have magic?” His words were whispered, full of hurt and sadness.
Merlin nodded, and put a hand to his head before laying himself down on the grass and taking ragged breaths in and out, in and out. “Kilgharrah,” He breathed, “Please - hurry up... I haven’t got much time... if you can - do something, anything...”
Kilgharrah looked much less calm, now. “You cannot die now, young warlock.” He stated. “Your destiny has not yet been completed.” Arthur closed his eyes, a bitter look coming over his features - Merlin was always talking about destiny, and the King he would become, but all this time he had magic. All this time he had been betraying him.
Merlin breathed out. “Kilgharrah, please...”
Kilgharrah closed his eyes and blew out. Arthur flinched, expecting flames to come, but all that came out was a shimmery mist that flew around Merlin, blurring the air around and almost shielding him from sight, but when the dragon stopped, Merlin was still in the same condition.
The dragon truly sounded nervous, now. “Even my magic cannot break the curse! I require the life force that I do not require without a sacrifice. You must not die, Emrys - the world will rip itself apart!”
But Merlin’s eyelids were drooping, and everyone else was in various states of anger or worry. Freya clutched at her chest, feeling something within her starting to fade. Her magic was leaving her, just as Merlin was leaving the world, and it hurt more than anything. Her eyes filled with tears, and she staggered over to where Merlin lay dying.
His eyelids were almost closed, and she held his hand. “Merlin,” She gasped, “You cannot leave me, just as you cannot leave this world. I am not able to handle you leaving, and the world cannot live in your absence. Please, please don’t leave me.”
She laid her head on his barely-moving chest and sighed. She wanted him to live.
But apparently the gods despised her, for moments later his eyes closed. And from then on, Merlin’s livelihood was compromised.
Just a couple of meters over, complete chaos was going on.
Arthur had trudged over to everyone else in the group, and as it started to cloud over and rain heavily, he faced everyone else. They looked at him curiously, and he answered them bitterly. “Merlin is a Dragonlord. And he has magic.” Everyone recoiled in shock, except for Leon who looked very, very uncomfortable.
Gwaine seemed insulted. “How could he not tell me? I thought we were better friends than that...” Percival laid a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
Gwen was in shock. “But... but... how could he?”
Elyan wasn’t talking at all.
Leon seemed much, much more uncomfortable now. “Um, I knew.”
Percival seemed confused at this. “How did you know?”
Leon scratched the back of his neck. “I, er, found out by accident.”
Arthur was livid. “You’re telling me that my Head Knight knew that my own manservant had magic, and he didn’t think to tell me?” His face was slowly going red, but it was hard to see in the rain that was come down in buckets.
Leon offered up an explanation. “He had good reason, sire.”
Arthur pouted. “I don’t care if he had good reason, magic is treason in this kingdo-” Kilgharrah interrupted him.
“Stop! The world is ripping itself apart at the seams and your friend is dying, and all you can do is pointlessly bicker? I expected more from you, my King!” Arthur seemed a bit troubled to have a dragon call him ‘My King’, but didn’t respond.
“You do not understand or appreciate all that Merlin has done. I know what good he has done for Camelot, and for all of you - you must stop this silly banter and help.” And with that, he sent down the shimmering mist and Arthur knew no more.
When his eyes opened, he was seeing a Merlin about seven years younger than he actually was. With a snarl, he approached him and went to ask what was going on, but the younger Merlin didn’t seem to notice.
And so he watched as Merlin saved Gaius’ life, and then all of the court, and then his own life.
And then he watched Merlin save his life again, and again, and again, and again, and then he watched Merlin save all of Camelot, multiple times.
He watched as Merlin lost almost everyone around him, watched them die and watched Merlin sob and then hide his pain.
Merlin was the most heroic and good person he had ever known.
There was no chance that there was any part of Merlin that was even slightly bad.
His heart filled with affection as he started to come to, the flashes of images and stories and feelings still imprinted in his mind. He wasn’t aware for a second, and then he was.
The sky was thundering and there were flashes of lightning everywhere. The grass was shaky, as if the earth itself was losing its balance. The edges of his vision was tinged with blackness.
Kilgharrah was screaming.
The sound was low and guttural, denying, and Arthur assumed he was screaming “NOOO!”
Freya’s inconsistent shrieks could be heard underneath, and she sounded more like she was in pain than in mourning.
Mourning. The word was a blow to Arthur’s heart, as he remembered.
Merlin was dying.
He felt as if he had been struck over the head. He shakily got to his feet, and tried not to fall over as the world shook beneath him. Through the pouring rain, he could see the blurry form of Merlin’s body laying on the ground. Behind him, he could hear Guinevere sobbing, and turned to see her.
Her hands were raking through her hair, and she looked like she didn’t know what to do. Then, through the wind and the rain, she staggered over to where Merlin was, and then dropped to his side and sobbed.
Arthur put one foot forward, and then another, and another, and soon he was running over what had been the ground but was now mud. He fell to his knees near Merlin’s head, and then wrapped his arms around Merlin’s neck and held him from behind. He was aware of the other knights coming around and sitting, silent tears falling down their faces.
Merlin had been so brave. So, so brave.
Lightning flashed in the background, illuminating the scene around them. Arthur lifted his head, and the lightning flashed again. In the background, he saw a woman clothed in all black watching them.
A dark expression coming over his face, he stood up, drew his sword, and ran over to where Morgana stood. She had an expression of utmost pain and sorrow drawn over her features and a hand fisted on her chest, knuckles white. She hardly seemed to notice him.
Arthur gave her a venomous glance before growling, “Why are you here?”
Words almost seemed to escape her, but she reeled them in slowly and finally answered quietly. “I am a High Priestess of the Old Religion. Emrys is dying. I need to help.”
Arthur looked at her, disbelieving, and said, “What?”
Her eyes were focused on Merlin’s body a couple meters away. “Emrys is dying. I must heal him, or magic and all the world will die.” Arthur’s face was blank with shock.
She then brought her eyes down to the ground and whispered, “I want you to kill me, Arthur.” Arthur’s eyes widened, and he lowered his sword slowly.
“I must trade my life for Emrys’. It is my duty and an honour to protect him, I see this now. I will make up for all of my misdeeds, and in my last moments I shall save the world and the one I am bound to serve.” Arthur didn’t speak.
Finally, her eyes focused on him. They were soft and as they were before she had been destroyed. She breathed out quietly, and took a step closer. She bit her lip, and then murmured, “I can sense that Merlin is teetering on the edge of life and death - I need to save him before he dies and the world is ended.” After a pause in which he did not move at all, she continued. “It’s what I want, Arthur. Please.”
Arthur looked down, and then nodded. He brought up Excalibur, and then thrusted it into her stomach.
She gasped, eyes wide but conveying a gratitude and love that had been so empty from her for the past years. Arthur’s eyes filled with tears, and he put a hand at her back as she slowly sank to the ground.
Her knees bent, and she was almost on the ground. Arthur knew that this was Morgana’s final moment - he just didn’t want to believe, that after all this time, she was back and leaving him.
She gave him a small smile, and then raised her hand. It glowed with energy, and she rested the palm on the ground. Golden swirls danced on the ground, flowing and dancing and going to where Merlin lay, surrounded with people who were watching as Morgana lay dying.
She let out a small breath, so quiet it was like a sigh. Her eyes flashed gold, just once, and then they faded to her light green again, but this time there was something missing behind the pair.
Morgana Pendragon was dead.
Arthur looked down at the peaceful body of his half-sister, and then his eyes followed the golden trail her magic was leaving behind on the ground. It reached Merlin, flying up from the ground and bouncing and sparking around his body, leaving little trails of golden dust floating through the air as it traced a path all over his body. Then, the dust fell from where it floated onto him. He glowed a brilliant gold, and then went back to normal.
Arthur ran to where the others sat. Everyone was drawn back, watching the wonderful spectacle, waiting with the tear tracks down their faces illuminated by the wonderful magic that was fixing their friend. And then, a single, loud, strong breath filled the suddenly still air, and Merlin sat up.
He opened his eyes, where the ghost of a golden flash was still lingering in his eyes. He exhaled for a moment, and the smallest tinge of a smile graced his features.
Arthur jumped, putting his arms around Merlin’s neck and holding him close. “Thank you,” he choked out. “Thank you for all you have done.” Merlin closed his eyes and hugged him back, glad to be alive and to be able to feel these things
Arthur pulled back, and watched as Freya embraced Merlin too, and whispered words in his ear. He smiled, and then whispered something back. Soon, everyone in the group was hugging Merlin, and helping him up.
Arthur looked back to where Morgana lay, and then walked over. Her eyes were still open. He frowned - she should be able to be at peace, to look as if she were only asleep. He kneeled down and softly put two fingers on her eyelids and closed them.
Looking down at her, she looked more beautiful than she ever had, with a smile on her lips and a serene look on her face.
Arthur heard footsteps behind him, and turned to see Merlin with a sorrowful look in his eyes. Arthur stood up and moved next to Merlin before speaking. “You know, it wasn’t your fault she was like that.”
Merlin seemed surprised. “What?”
“It wasn’t your fault that Morgana turned out the way she did; it was Morgause’s. You tried to help her, again and again, but she would never listen. Never liked to accept help much, Morgana.” He chuckled, and then continued. “I know you think she was like that because you poisoned her, but truly you were just trying to save Camelot, and she was already lost. You shouldn’t blame yourself, Merlin.”
Merlin looked down and bit his lip. “I know, but - it just hurts to think that things ended like this for her. I feel terrible for it.”
Arthur looked at Merlin a moment before saying, “She died a hero. She did - she sacrificed herself for you, and doing so she saved both magic and the world. Morgana, in the end, was a hero.” Merlin smiled, and then it faded off his face after a moment.
“We should give her a hero’s funeral, then.”
And that was how the group found themselves trooping through the woods, Arthur holding Morgana, until they finally found the right place.
Where their story had begun and ended.
Merlin summoned the boat from the sides of the lake, and when it centered, he whispered, “Blóstmá.” Many flowers appeared in the boat, and Arthur waded in and set Morgana in the middle. Then, Merlin continued with another spell. “Astyre. Wæcce on sæbát bælfýr mæst.” The boat set fire, and Arthur watched for a moment as it floated away before turning and walking back to where his closest friends stood in a line, watching their worst enemy being given a hero’s funeral, as she deserved.
In many years, their lives would blossom. Merlin and Arthur’s destiny would come to pass, as Arthur legalized magic as soon as he got home, and subdued Alined and his political issues. Merlin was made Court Sorcerer immediately.
Gwen and Arthur would have two children, who they loved and cherished and grew up to be great rulers like their parents had been. Merlin and Freya had one child, who Freya and Gwen spoiled like mad. It had turned out that as Merlin and magic were dying, and her magic was being taken from her, her curse had been broken and lifted. She coud live on with happiness and with no fear of hurting anyone. Leon would finally settle down with Mithian, which made all of the Knights incredible happy.
Gwaine and Percival both shared the job as Head Knight. Elyan became one of Arthur’s closest advisors, as well as a knight. Morgana’s name, though before loathed, was one spoken with affection and respect.
Camelot would be peaceful and happy.
But that was years in the future, all things that were yet to happen. For now, the group stood on the shores of Lake Avalon.
And then, they turned to face Camelot, and together, they took their first step into the future.
A/N: Legit crying right now. This has taken me six months to make, and I really couldn’t be more happy. Thank you, to everyone!
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