Title: Merlin's Burden
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Original Characters
Summary: It happens every year
Warnings: Mentions Character deaths
Word Count: 951
Prompt: 342. Cold
Author's Notes: Onezie…maybe
The cold wind whipped past him as Arthur rode hard for Camelot. A million thoughts flooded his mind. None of them we giving him peace at the moment.
Around the bend in the rode camelot came into view. He slowed his horse to a trot. He didn't want her to get the wrong idea when he got there.
As soon as he passed through the gates something felt wrong. Arthur looked around and he saw noone. The town around the citadel was empty. From the looks of the buildings it had been abandoned .long ago.
Arthur turned to face an old man. “What happened here?” Arthur squinted. “You’re Dragoon. What have you done?”
“I've done nothing. Time has moved on. You have been with the Sisters on the Isle of the Blessed for forty years.”
“Forty? …. But …. Where is the Queen?” Arthur felt a pain in his heart. “Where is Guinevere?”
“Gone. They are all gone.” Dragoon sighed. “You have returned to the world too soon. I don't understand why.”
Arthur ran his hand through his still golden hair. “Gone. Camelot. Guinevere. The Knights. Merlin. All gone.”
“No. I am still here.” Dragoon put his hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “Look at me Arthur.”
Arthur looked at the old sorcerer. Arthur's eyes widened when he realized who it was in front of him. “Merlin! But how?”
“I used to use an aging spell to disguise myself.” Merlin grinned. “I was sure you would puzzle it out one day.”
“Why are you still here?” Arthur looked around again.
“I saw you in the crystal. I had to see if it was true.” Merlin patted Arthur on his shoulder. “Come. We will eat and rest. Tomorrow, we will travel to Tintagel to talk to the High King.” Merlin motioned for Arthur to follow.
“The High King?” Arthur scowled.
“Yes.” Merlin nodded. “High King of all of Albion. Amhar Pendragon, son of Arthur and Guinevere. I serve him now.”
“You're too old to be a manservant.” Arthur follow Merlin, leading his horse.
“I am his physician and advisor. You were the only one I ever washed socks for.” Merlin chuckled. “You always had very clean socks.”
Arthur chuckled. “Its cold. It was winter when we went to Camlann.”
“It's a week until Yule. Its the anniversary of the day you died. There's snow coming just as it fell that day.”
Merlin walked them past the stables. A young boy came out to take Arthurs horse. “This is my apprentice, Michael. He’ll care for your horse.”
Arthur handed over the reins. “He's a bit young.”
“He's the same age that I was when I came to Camelot.” Merlin smiled. “I had no idea what I was getting into. You were trouble.”
“I was not!”
“You still are.” Merlin chuckled.
Merlin led them to Gwen's cottage and they went inside.
“Why don't you stay in your old room in the castle?” Arthur asked. “Why stay here in Guinevere's old home.”
“I have many happy memories here. Gwen and I were great friends.” Merlin eased down in a chair at the table. “Until you died. I left camelot for a while and when I came back she was raising your son.”
“A son?” Arthur took a moment to let that sink in. “How did this happen? Why is Camelot deserted?” Arthur sat down across from Merlin.
“Saxons.” Merlin sighed. “I got Gwen and Amhar to safety but the city still fell. The kingdom fell. I took them to Queen Annis.” Merlin rubbed his hands together. “It was cold then too.” Merlin looked at the wood laid in the hearth and it burst into flames. “There. We’ll be warm soon.”
“I don't remember winter being so cold.” Arthur shivered.
“You were always moving. The cold could never settle in your bones.” Merlin smiled. “It's settled in mine.”
Arthur looked at him. “How did she die?”
“A fever took her. It was ten years ago. She lived to see your grandchildren.”
“Grandchildren? How many?” Arthur grinned.
“Six! Five beautiful girls and one strong boy. You will see them soon enough.” Merlin looked to the door as the boy came inside. “Get us some of that soup and bread. Quickly now.”
Michael took three bowls from a shelf and filled them. He sat them on the table then brought over a fresh loaf of bread and sat down.
There was silence as they ate. Soon they were all sleeping peacefully near the hearth.
Merlin sat up with a jolt and looked around. He sighed. He was in his bed at Tintagel. The fire burned low in the hearth.
There was a knock on the door just before it swung open and a middle aged man walked in.
“Sire.” Merlin eased himself out of bed and bowed. “What do you need?”
“You missed council.” Anhar looked at his face. “Merlin, was it the dream again?”
“Yes. It was the dream again. Every year as the weather grows cold, I get a visit from your father. He looks the same and I am older.”
“I wish I had known him.” Amhar rubbed his arms. “I'll have a servant come rebuild your fire. You are too important to me, Merlin. I will not see you lack comfort.”
Merlin nodded. He could tell Amhar that all he really wanted was to see Arthur and Gwen again. The guilt of Arthur's death ate at him constantly. It was made even more difficult when Gwen had died. Serving their son was his penance and comfort now that they were both gone.
“Are you alright, Merlin?” Amhar asked.
“Yes Sire. It's just the cold.” Merlin smiled as he lied. He hadn't been alright since Camlann.