Title: The Climbing Wave
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Mordred.
Summary: Sometimes winning doesn't feel like it.
Warnings: Someone probably doesn't survive.
Word Count: 564
Prompt: #21 Promise
The Climbing Wave
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
-Tennyson, "The Lotos-Eaters"
A broad stroke of Arthur's sword sends a plume of gore hurtling through the air.
"Camelot does not fall today. Trust me."
"Were you born a blind fool, Merlin? Or did you have to study at it?"
His knights flow behind him like a red tide, their devotion bearing him forward to the suicidal plunge.
"These men would follow you into a dragon's mouth."
"And die for their stupidity. Courage can't make men fly."
They are near the edge; he can feel it as a buzzing in the air, the beckoning of nothing.
"Where can you flee where your own shadow won't follow? We must face this. And we will win."
"I will fall with a blade in my hand. That much I concede."
He screams against the dark and somehow his boots find firm footing. Against all reason, his sword arm keeps the same methodical rhythm. He thinks that maybe the fates missed his death somehow, but everything just continues, until he finds himself stumbling into the fortress of his enemy.
"Just promise me you won't hesitate."
"Okay, I promise. I promise that if rain starts falling up and the sun is setting in the east and somehow I manage to get close enough to strike the most powerful sorcerer that has ever lived, I won't hold back."
It's much clearer now, looking into startling blue eyes that he almost doesn't recognize. They're a lot like Merlin's, full of the same cerulean fire, but they burn cold as hell itself.
"I mean it. Just because he was worth saving once doesn't mean his life should be spared at the cost of the kingdom's."
"What exactly aren't you telling me?"
He protected this boy once. Took pity on his tears, his terror. Defied his father in the name of mercy. Knights fall around him until he stands alone, but the shadows can't seem to touch him. They dance at the edges of his vision, and Mordred frowns.
"Just...strike, when the time comes."
"I'll tell you whom I'm going to strike..."
The sword is light as air, but it slices through flesh like the wrath of the sun, a blinding edge that carries all of Albion's hopes and strength. It bites through the throne beneath, shattering granite and bringing the entire ensorcelled castle tumbling down.
Is this the wages of compassion? To destroy what was once so precious? Again, the king of Camelot falls, and this time he lets go of his sword.
"I've put a lot of work into you. Don't screw it up."
"You wouldn't know work if it bit you in your skinny arse."
It's morning when he wakes, the first morning he has seen in over a year. It's so bright, he can barely stand it and so wonderful that he thinks he must be dead. A blurry shape leans over him and he throws up a hand to shade his eyes. The ears come into focus first, followed by the blazing, ridiculous grin. That's when he knows it's over.
"I hope you're not thinking of tramping through my chambers like that. You're covered in blood, Merlin."
"You're not. Slept through the battle, did you? Where's your sword?"
"It was time to cast it away."