Title: Like a Fine Wine (14)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Mordred, Alice
Summary: “I’m sorry,” Merlin whispered, his fingers tangling briefly with Arthur’s own. “I wish we’d had more time.”
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Warnings: Canon-typical violence, character death.
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 384 Get Out
Author's Notes: One more chapter to go! \o/
It wasn’t a real dragon—Arthur realised that as soon as the initial shock wore off. There was something odd about its shape, and its wings when it unfurled them passed straight through the walls of the house without seeming to notice them. The jet of fire that shot out of its mouth was real enough, however, and Mordred let go of Arthur with a yell as a pillar of flame seared past them, setting one of Alice’s plant stands on fire. Arthur scrambled to his feet, heading straight for the kitchen counter, and Merlin’s hand shot out a moment later to yank him safely out of harm’s way.
“Are you all right?” Merlin demanded, dragging Arthur down behind the bench. He was pale as ash, and his hands fluttered to Arthur’s chest, then throat, then hair as he checked him over for injuries. “Are you hurt? Did he—”
“I’m fine.” Arthur caught Merlin’s hands and lowered them gently to his lap, but he didn’t let go as he glanced over at Alice. “What the hell kind of protection spell was that?”
“Kilgharrah,” Alice said simply, pointing. The ornate clock which had so startled him when they first arrived was lying on the kitchen floor, its wooden face cracked and broken. “I unbound him. He ought to keep Mordred busy for a while.”
“In the meantime, we need to get out of here,” Merlin said. “We should be able to make it to the back door, if we’re quick.”
He looked over at Arthur as though expecting him to object, but Arthur only nodded. If nothing else, the flat was too small and crowded for this kind of battle, and they would have a much better chance of survival once they were outside in the open air.
“Wait until they’re both distracted,” he said, “then we'll head for the street and regroup.”
A few feet away, Mordred and Kilgharrah faced one another in the middle of Alice’s hallway, the ghostly reptile filling the already cluttered space. Gone was Mordred’s casual self-assurance, the arrogant smile; his left sleeve had been torn away entirely, and strands of his hair were singed and smoking. Even so, he didn’t seem afraid so much as irritated, launching spell after spell at the dragon only to find that they had no effect whatsoever. Kilgharrah, meanwhile, had set the other side of the hallway on fire, and the smell of smoke was acrid in Arthur’s nostrils.
“Now!” Merlin exclaimed, as Mordred advanced further down the hall. He wasn’t looking at them, his golden eyes fixed on the dragon, and the path to the rear exit was clear. “Alice, you first!”
Alice half stood, half crouched, and sprinted towards the door at the end of the hall, unhooking the chain before flipping the latch and bolting out into the night. She left the door ajar, and Arthur let go of Merlin’s hands to push him after her.
“Go,” he said. “I’ll be right behind you.”
Merlin went, but Arthur only watched him for a few steps before he started moving, too, but in the opposite direction. Excalibur lay beneath the kitchen table, glowing like a beacon in the light from the flames, and it was the only thing that could kill Mordred—for one lifetime, anyway. He couldn’t just leave it behind.
His hand had closed over the hilt, and he was turning back towards the door when he heard Merlin’s warning cry, overlapping with Mordred’s voice as he shouted,
Something heavy collided with Arthur’s back, and for a moment he thought the spell had connected. Then he realised that it was Merlin, tackling him bodily to the ground, the curse missing them by inches and instead hitting the clock that had housed Kilgharrah’s spirit.
There was a sharp crack. The wooden clock groaned and sparked, bulging alarmingly at the seams for a moment before bowing inward. Then, the Great Dragon let out an almighty roar, filling the hallway with one last torrent of fire before it vanished, and the clock-face exploded outward in a shower of splinters and molten glass.
Arthur and Merlin picked themselves up gingerly. Merlin’s face was streaked with soot, fresh cuts oozing blood along his cheek and jawline, and he looked as unsteady on his feet as Arthur felt. Nevertheless, he stepped in front of Arthur without hesitation, shielding him with his body as Mordred appeared in front of them.
“Sorry about that,” Mordred said, as though being attacked by a dragon were a minor inconvenience. “Where were we?”
There was nowhere to run. Mordred stood between them and the door, now hanging crooked on its hinges, and Arthur didn’t even have his sword, having lost it for a second time in the confusion.
How many times it had come down to this: Arthur and Merlin face to face with Mordred, the only thing standing between them and the fulfilment of their destiny? Arthur stepped forward, pressing his shoulder against Merlin’s, and took a deep breath. He already knew how this would play out—of the two sorcerers, Merlin was the more powerful, but he was hampered by the need to protect Arthur over and above himself, and though Arthur could hold his own on the battlefield he had next to no chance when pitted against Mordred’s magic. Eventually, one of them would make a mistake, and then both of them would pay the price.
“I’m sorry,” Merlin whispered, his fingers tangling briefly with Arthur’s own. “I wish we’d had more time.”
Mordred lifted his hand, and Arthur braced himself for the fight. “Aswilt—” Mordred began, eyes flashing, but before he could complete the spell he was cut off by a wet squelch, as of a sharp object slicing through flesh. He looked down in surprise, a trickle of dark blood spilling from the corner of his mouth, and then before Arthur and Merlin’s astonished eyes he crumpled to the floor, the familiar hilt of the sword Excalibur protruding from his back.