Title: Divine Essence
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: When Arthur is captured by sorcerers and made to swallow pulped mistletoe, he knew he would die from it. But did it have to hurt so much?
Word Count: 1020
Camelot_drabble Prompt: 344 – Mistletoe
Author's Notes: From Wiki - The Celts, particularly, saw mistletoe as the semen of Taranis, god of thunder. It is also poisonous.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
“Drink from the cup, oh king. Drink the divine essence of the gods.”
As the High Priest thrust the bowl toward him, Arthur struggled to pull away, turning his face from the inevitable. He might have been the greatest warrior Camelot had ever known, but even Arthur could not escape the cage of ropes and wood that kept him captive. And if he had managed to escape, he was surrounded by determined sorcerers, aching for revenge on the Pendragon line.
But still he tried. Pushing his head back as far as he could, ropes dragging against his throat, the coils of hemp starting to cut off his air, he shut his mouth and shook his head. Struggling to get away, impossible as it was.
As he stared down at Arthur, the sorcerer’s eyes were fire and ice, full of magic and determined. He shoved the wooden bowl toward Arthur, his deep voice almost hypnotic.
“Drink, Pendragon. And become immortal.”
Arthur knew what kind of immortality the slushy pulp of white berries would deliver. He struggled again, the wooden cage against his back, the ropes around him tightening further, keeping him captive. But the sorcerers were relentless, their chanting of gods and men and thunder pounding against him.
Magic, too, was weaving into him, so much so that he could feel it under his skin, loosening his will to fight back.
Slumping forward, trying as he might to resist, Arthur’s mouth opened, ready for the poison that would first send visions, then tear him apart, and cast him, helpless, into agonized death. A sacrifice of a king to the gods.
The High Priest smiled, lifting the bowl, careful to set it against Arthur’s lower lip, and as he chanted, began to slide the mass of pulped mistletoe into Arthur’s mouth.
The magic rose, the spells and songs wove their own symbols into the air, fire, white and red dragons fighting, eyes staring into him, and Arthur couldn’t resist it. He swallowed the first of the berried pulp. Cried out as it slid down his throat, knowing that it only brought death.
As the visions took him, he was glad that Merlin wasn’t there to see.
The stench of death, of bowels and iron blood spilling across the landscape, women wailing out their grief, the crows feasting on corpse eyes and guts shredded, and Arthur was stumbling through the battlefield, looking for Merlin. Stepping on skin and broken bones, sliding through shit and coagulating blood, still he kept looking.
When he found him, when he found Merlin, the man he loved more than anyone else, his eyes were already gone, the throat torn out, disemboweled, bones white against shroud-pale flesh. A thing, no longer a man, no longer Merlin but meat dissolving into the earth.
Dragons screeched in the sky, red and white and green-gold in the roiling thunderclouds. Above Arthur, they were already tearing each other to pieces, parts of wing and tails and torn bowels raining down. Arthur ducked as a claw with arm still attached barely missed him.
There were men riding them, too, screaming at each other, sending lightning bolts and fire into the sky. And the earth cried out at the desecration.
Or was it the earth? If Arthur didn’t know better, he’d say it was Merlin’s voice calling to him, calling for Arthur to live.
As if he’d want to live when Merlin was dead.
Chanting and cold and sorrow. His heart was dead, his life was done, no more laughter or exchanging insults or smiles.
The earth was shivering under his back as he lay there into the blood-soaked ground or was it him shivering with grief? Rough and one stone poking at his back which was annoying considering he was dead. And Merlin was dead and crying over him. Begging him to come back. Which didn’t make sense because they were both dead and this wasn’t anything but hell.
There was more chanting, and wet cheeks and a mouth soft against his. Berating him, too, to wake up, that he was sorry, that he’d arrived too late, that he couldn’t live if Arthur died.
His heart hurt because it was beating and it shouldn’t be if Merlin were dead and Arthur was dead and yet, there was another kiss, deeper this time and insults and clotpoles and guilt.
It hurt to breathe, too, and Arthur felt like he’d been beaten to a pulp, and put back together wrong.
But he couldn’t not open his eyes when Merlin begged him to.
And because he did, there was Merlin, and Arthur hoped it wasn’t another vision because he’d had quite enough of them. But Merlin’s hand was gentle on Arthur’s cheek, and there another soft kiss, salty tears mixed with a bright smile.
Gaining strength with every breath, Arthur whispered, his throat rough from screaming, “What took you so long?”
Merlin’s smile turned brilliant. “Seems like a clotpole got lost in the woods and we had to track him down. Sad really as said clotpole brags so much about he’s the best tracker in the whole of Camelot. And some madmen thought that same clotpole would make an excellent sacrifice to Taranis, the god of thunder. I managed to persuade them otherwise.”
“I am the best tracker, you idiot.” Breathing felt better and better, although Arthur was still annoyed about the rock in his spine. And the idea that Merlin was able to defeat a pack of sorcerers seemed impossible at best. Still weak, Arthur reached up and touched Merlin’s cheek. It was warm and soft and there was just a bit of stubble. It was a good look on him, although Arthur would never say so. As he brushed one thumb across Merlin’s mouth, Arthur said, “Are you real?”
Merlin’s eyes grew impossibly black, his voice hitching as he said, “I am now.” And kissed Arthur again.
And while there would be explanations and hunts for rogue sorcerers and Gaius tutting at him, Arthur knew that it would all right after all. Because Merlin was alive and warm and in Arthur’s arms.
Also, I finished Shivers in the Wind. The second part is up on AO3. It is now complete.