Title: The Gold-Hearted Prince and the Silvermage
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Once upon a time, there was a kingdom; in that kingdom lived a prince with a heart of gold.
Warnings: Major Character Death, weird fairy-tale style
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #301: Heartbreak
There once was a kingdom, and in it, a king and a queen. Though the king was known for his harsh rule, they loved each other deeply and wanted for nothing, save for that which the king needed most: a son. When after years of trying they failed to produce an heir, the king could wait no longer. With magical aid, he and his wife were able to conceive at last; but bearing the prince cost the queen her life.
The first indication the king had that there was something wrong with his son came on his very first breath. He neither sobbed nor screamed, as healthy babies did; he only watched the world with bright blue eyes and a placid expression. Already devastated by the loss of his wife, the king laid his hand on the boy’s chest with desperate hope. It moved up and down, fast but steady as fresh new lungs were wont to breathe.
Beneath his trembling fingers, though, where a small pulse should have beat against his skin, was only stillness. The babe lived: he breathed and moved and blinked. But he had no heart inside him.
News of the boy’s affliction spread, and the kingdom mourned for its dead queen and afflicted prince. Still, he was a prince, heir to a king many called heartless despise the pulse beating through his veins. His father had no other children and no desire to remarry after the death of his beloved wife. Matters of the heart could only weaken a man, he knew; his empty-hearted son would be a more capable king, when the time came, for not being subject to them.
The prince grew up strong and brave, as princes ought to do. He was also kind and loyal, caring for his people more than they had expected given his cursed birth. His good deeds gave rise to a new story: the prince wasn’t heartless at all, but rather had to have a heart of solid gold. And so the kingdom loved its prince, and the prince loved his kingdom, and all was as it should be.
In that same kingdom lived another boy; and though he was no prince, he was equally special. For he was a silvermage, possessing the rarest of magical gifts: an affinity for precious metals. No silvermage had been born in the kingdom for generations, and the timing of it, just when the story of the prince’s gold heart gained favor, was widely regarded as destiny.
And so, when the silvermage was old enough to have finished his magical training, the king sent for him, to have him live in the palace and attend the prince.
The boys grew close, always bickering but never seen apart, always causing mischief as boys so often do; by the time they were men, their closeness had grown as well. The gold-hearted prince and the silvermage had fallen in love and were to be married.
The people of the kingdom again rejoiced, happy for their prince’s happiness and taking his love for the silvermage as another sign that they’d been right about his heart all along. Surely a prince with no heart could not so love or be loved, but a heart of gold and metal magic—a more suitable match could not have been foretold.
Unfortunately for the happy couple, not everyone responded to the news with well-wishes. The king of a neighboring country watched with bitter jealousy as the prince’s kingdom thrived and the prince’s people loved him, while his own people suffered and seethed under his tyranny. So he devised a cruel and wicked scheme and sent assassins to infiltrate the celebrations for the prince’s wedding.
With the prince dead and this terrible king in possession of his magical golden heart, he planned to claim both the other kingdom and the silvermage as his own, and his power would be unmatched.
Because the prince was a seasoned warrior, the assassins devised a method to ambush him unprepared and unarmed: they first abducted and murdered the royal tailor and his assistant, then disguised themselves to take their places when the prince came for the final fitting of his wedding clothes.
The prince was helpless against their unexpected onslaught, and his cries for help were soon silenced as the assassins cut him down and cut into his chest. Beneath his bloodied ribs they found his fabled golden heart, and with it they absconded back to their king.
When the silvermage came looking for his intended, that was how he found the prince: his heart ripped from his chest and his blood a shining pool around his body. He felt his own heart shatter in his chest, sobs tearing out of him and splashing tears onto the prince’s still face.
But he was no less a stubborn fighter than his beloved, and so the silvermage poured all the magic he could draw upon into his prince. He’d never healed a scrape in his life, had neither the training nor natural skill for it; all he had was the will, but that he had in spades. The traces of gold left in the prince’s spilled blood answered his call, rising into the air in a swirl of glitter.
On its own, it was not enough. The silvermage summoned all the gold and silver he could reach for, jewelry and trinkets from all over the palace that flew to him and melted into his work, but try as he might, he could not make the metal heart that he’d shaped beat.
In a final act of desperation, the silvermage pulled the very heart from his own chest, sustained only by his magic and the burning need to restore his prince to life. Though his heart was broken and torn by his lover’s death, it pumped still. The silvermage’s molten gold flowed into the cracks and sealed the repaired heart inside the prince, closing bones and skin above it.
The prince’s eyes opened as the silvermage’s closed.