Title: Death of Golden Light
Characters: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: The king wants to see it again, one last time.
Warnings: Title says it all: major character death, battlefield carnage lightly described
Word Count: 990
Author's Notes: Future fic, no spoilers
Death of Golden Light
Gold. That’s what shone in Merlin’s eyes the first time he saw it. So piercing like the sun’s fiery rays. So illuminating like the flame of a torch. So encompassing like the warmth of a glowing hearth.
The first time.
Arthur felt his breath gurgle, looked down with the blur of his eyes, as they faded from life, and saw the crimson stream staining into his chainmail. He heard the frantic murmurs, the moans of the mortally wounded and those who would live with scars, the stench of the battlefield. He saw the servant. The warlock. Glowing eyes of gold. How many times since that first had Merlin done it? Saved a life. Ended the misery.
But it wasn’t going to work now. The blade was deeply entrenched within his gut and the pain at first had been so awesome that he screamed in agony. Now, it was like it had become a part of his flesh. Now the blood was like a flowing river around him. Now, Arthur looked up and shook his head at Merlin’s glowing gold eyes. “Don’t waste it.”
His servant rambled, pressed on about how he’d get him out of there, back to Camelot and everything would be okay, that it was all-
Arthur knew the truth. The river was still flowing so powerfully, so peacefully. He was soaked into its blood. And the blade was still an extension of himself. A sobering situation, yet he couldn’t help mock. “You will have to clean this up Merlin. I want my armor gleaming tomorrow.”
Now he felt it, as some of the gold faded, wetness, landing upon his cheeks, playing with the grimes of dirt entrenched there. Raindrops of tears. “Don’t be such a girl Merlin.” He couldn’t help joke, breath hitching. Nature was starting to surround him now that the battle was quiet. Now that the blades were no longer shrieking against each other. Now that men were decaying into the soil. Now that his death was eminent.
The gold was there again, his servant rubbing at his eyes so hard that he scraped his cheeks, causing bits of crimson to stain them. The gold was reigning over him like it was its own sovereign. It was straining to reach, to find his soul, his battered body, his cut veins. But it was too late. The blade was of magic, used of magic, potent enough to do its aim. And so Arthur raised a weak hand, pressed his fingers into his servant and friend’s sleeve and whispered. “No.”
He heard the first sobs then, saw that he couldn’t contain it. Merlin. Emrys. The most powerful warlock of all crying like a silly girl. Sputtering out his pain. Arthur smiled a fraction, squeezing the sleeve just a little, feeling the river growing, becoming solidly more one with the blade.
The first time he saw it.
It was the most mundane thing. Merlin had been starting a fire during one of their woodland treks. Thinking he was asleep, he lit it with his eyes, from blue to golden sunlight. Blue to melts of golden rock. Blue to gold lightning.
Arthur was so astonished. Sat still for the longest time. Then he whipped out his sword, easily tackling Merlin to the ground, thrusting the blade against his throat.
The gold faded. And Arthur realized something. The warmth in those eyes didn’t actually frighten him. They electrified him. Amazed him. They stayed like that for long moments. Arthur’s blade thrust against Merlin’s throat. Merlin looking him straight in the eye, calm even as life was threatened.
Making Arthur shriek away. Breathe it out insanely. Do it. Make your eyes glow again. All before the talks. The arguments. The explanations. The reveal of secrets. The yelling and the blaming. All before Arthur couldn’t help thinking of them in amazement again.
And it made no sense. For every time before it frightened him. Each pair of eyes that had glowed golden were like the eyes of hell. But not Merlin’s.
His were like eyes of golden wonder instead.
Ah, the first time.
The last time.
Those teardrops still falling upon his cheeks. He squeezed the worn sleeve. “Stop your muttering. Listen.”
He could barely hear his own voice, realized the servant could barely too, for Merlin moved in so close that his lips could touch his ear if he wanted. He whispered into it. “Take care of her for me. Guinevere. Promise Merlin.”
The servant was shaking, but promised, lips sputtering.
“And let him kill no more.”
There were times Merlin’s bumbling innocence turned to a wrath of sobriety so strong that it sent chills down Arthur’s spine. Chills for any foes he might have. As happened now.
“I give you my word my King, I WON’T.”
And when those chills came, Arthur knew, this was Emrys. The sorcerer who all his enemies feared. “Don’t forget-
His voice hitched again. Shakes and shivers all the way through his vital connection to life. Arthur felt himself losing control, pressing so deep into Merlin’s sleeve. And then he felt his head delicately being moved, cushioned against his servant’s knee.
“Don’t forget I want my armor shining so hard it blinds tomorrow.”
Merlin. Silly tears again. “I’ll get it even better than that. Cabbage head.”
Arthur started to laugh, feeling it get lost in his gurgles of weakness, Merlin’s bony arms surrounding him. His tears still raining. Arthur found one last shock of strength, lifted his shaking fingers, planting them around Merlin’s frayed red scarf and dusty leathered shoulder. “Shut up Merlin. Just show it to me one last time.”
He looked up. Fixedly. Waited.
Until it was there.
Golden heat and warmth.
It blended into the river of crimson, took hold of the entrenched blade.
And Arthur sighed.
Sighed away from the earth.
Sighed into the death of golden light.