He felt Percival’s warm hands on his face, hearing his friend’s uneven breathing. Darkness started to filter through his closing eyes, and Gwaine knew that his strength was no longer enough to utter a single word. Choking him were Percival’s shaking breaths, and for a few seconds he pictured his friend struggling not to break down. Suddenly Percival let out a scream haunted with nothing but grief, and then Gwaine’s other senses blacked out too, leaving his whole body blind.
The shroud of numbness covering him melted to allow a soft, cold hand on his face.
It felt like hours had passed since Percival had been there.
A young voice whispered in his ears, and the way the words flowed from her mouth was somehow familiar to him. He tried to inch his mouth open and speak. No words came out.
''Use your strength, your greatest power, and I can help you,'' the feminine voice continued, her voice as smooth as silk. She sounded so oddly familiar, but the whir of images and feelings hustling through his head stopped him from aligning the lines of clarity.
Suddenly he felt a massive weight on his chest, making it even more difficult to breathe.
A searing pain swam throughout his whole body. The mere fact that it would be over kept him from falling back.
His dazed chest was crushed under immense weights of chaos, and he tried to push back to regain his breath. As he fought blindly, his thoughts slowly came back to him.
Strength, his greatest power? The gray memory of the guardian of the bridge in the Fisher King’s kingdom drifted past; he had said that Arthur was courage and that he needed strength and magic.
Gwaine was strength, but he couldn't remember who magic was.
Camelot. Percival. The frozen image of his friend’s tear-filled clear blue eyes stunned him completely. Though the pain was almost unbearable, that thought helped Gwaine forcefully push upwards. He didn’t know at all what was going on, but he had been given a chance.
It was like he was in combat with an enemy that he couldn't see or hear, but could feel.
After what felt like enduring hours of pain, the force pushing him down loosened and the massive weight on his chest lifted.
After that Gwaine could only feel free, released and relieved and then everything went even darker than before.
Gwaine opened his eyes to wooden ceiling. He was in a bed in the corner of a dimly lit room that he didn't recognize. He attempted to scan the room quickly.
There was a chair next to the bed, a simple wooden screen against a wall, a table with flowers in one corner of the room, and a candle on the floor in the other. But what struck him the most were the paintings of flowers and landscapes that stood on the floor, leaned against the wall. They looked like a very talented artist had devoted lots of their time to make them.
Before Gwaine could pinpoint the focuses of the paintings, a young woman appeared in the doorway. Her hair was light, her skin was pale and she had bright blue eyes.
His stomach dropped. He felt sick. Those eyes had meant everything to him a few weeks ago. He blinked several times before slowly pointing a trembling finger out in front of him. He swallowed.
“You’re….you are dead.” Gwaine was surprised at how weak his voice had become.
Eira had been executed in Camelot.
Gwaine remembered the times he had been with her. She had only used him to get information that she could feed to Morgana.
The traitor standing in front of him with empty hope had broken Gwaine's heart, only pretending to love him. That was all she was. He chanted it in his head, begging that the words would stick to the inside of the deepest corner of his mind and cloud the feeling her presence gave him.
Traitor, traitor, traitor, traitor.
''Please don't react too quickly,'' she said.
''You pretended to love me and broke my heart,'' Gwaine replied with an ironic smile, regaining his voice.
''Gwaine please listen to me. Saying that I’m sorry isn’t enough, I know, so let me explain. Morgana realized that I had feelings for you soon after I met her a second time, and then she used a Fomorroh snake to control me,'' Eira explained sadly. Her eyes were almost filled with tears all of a sudden.
''How do I know that I can trust you?'' Gwaine asked, as this was the only question in his mind, he was completely in shock. He couldn’t bear to ask if she had even ever loved him.
''You can't. But let me talk. Morgana promised me to bring my family back if I got some information from Camelot. I was so foolish to be tricked, but I had not quite gotten over that my family was dead, and I wanted them back. It all happened so quickly.''
Gwaine couldn’t tell her he was sorry about her family. Her story didn't sound very believable, but why else would she come back to rescue him? He still couldn't even believe that she was real. He forced himself not to raise his hand and touch her to see if she would still be there. His gaze laced with explosives faltered for a second.
Her eyes lit up when she saw that there was a chance that he could forgive her for everything she had done.
''After the first real time that we spent together and you gave me some information that I reported to Morgana, she saw that I wasn’t entirely uninterested in you. The snakes paralyze your feelings with ice. I couldn’t feel anything. I don’t remember exactly any of what I did. The snakes only vanished when I was executed.'' Eira explained.
''But how did you survive? Everyone watched as...you were executed,'' he found himself asking, and suddenly he was back to standing by his window in Camelot, trying to force himself to look away from the image of her still, lifeless body, hanged.
''Please do not tell anyone. You cannot or I really will be executed. There are a few people that were given a gift. A gift of healing people in the precious minutes after death, if it is deemed fit and allowed by forces no one can control. My gift is rare and almost unheard of. There’s a reason for that; the magical world doesn’t like to reveal its secrets unnecessarily. Even the greatest sorcerers barely know of its existence. Do you remember when you were working in a cave as Morgana's prisoner, and a creature called the Diamair approached you and healed you?'' Eira asked, and looked Gwaine in the eyes.
''Yes,'' Gwaine replied stiffly. He clearly remembered the friendly creature that had saved his life.
''She was the last of her kind, and before she died, she visited a few very special people that meant a lot to her. One of those people was my mother. The Diamair was giving out gifts to these people, some little bits of her powers. When she saw that my mother was expecting me, she decided to grant me some of her powers. When I was born, I was told that I had the ability to heal fatal wounds. I never used it. When I was executed, my inner spirit left my body, and somehow summoned it, unharmed, after. If that happened, it meant there was a reason for the continuation of my existence.'' Eira explained. ''I have magic Gwaine.''
She continued when he didn't respond. ''I ran away from Camelot and came here.’’
She looked up at the humble walls.
“This is my friend’s house in an outlying village; she’s traveling south and let me know a few months ago that it stood empty.’’
Gwaine’s gaze moved towards the tightly sealed curtains, blocking any view of the outside world. Eira observed his confusion.
“I’m still scared that someone will recognize me and that guards will be here to take me away in an instant. My magic wouldn't be strong enough to get me out of it,” she continued.
Gwaine didn't know whether to believe her or not. It sounded absurd, but he had nothing against magic; it had saved his life twice after all.
He suddenly felt a familiar warmth for the girl in front of him surface and tried to push it back down. He couldn't let himself trust her so quickly again.