Title: I dreamt of tomorrow
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Guinevere.
Summary: Arthur means to conquer all of Albion, and Merlin means to protect his King as usual, no matter the cost.
Word Count: 974
Prompt: #22 "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."
Author's Notes: I've subverted the prompt a bit. It's less about the courage needed to pursue your dreams and more about the courage needed to pursue your dreams when you know what consequences achieving them will have. If that made any sense.
On another note, this is my fifth angst-tastic entry in a row. Bingo!
Arthur and Guinevere ruled peacefully for three years. The young King had quickly proven himself to his neighbours, making peace with them all, by the sword or by the mind and heart. The time of songs and prophecies was truly upon Camelot, but the greater part of Albion lay in darkness still, ruled by tyrants that starved and harassed their subjects. The day came when Arthur could no longer ignore what was happening beyond his borders. He summoned his war council, and sent messengers to all his allies, urging them to stand with him for the freedom and prosperity of their beloved island.
Preparing for war was a taxing process, especially when it had to be done quietly. Merlin took his rest whenever and wherever he could. He felt like he always either running or sleeping, and the two states bled into each other to the point where he dreamt of running and was often surprised to wake and find that he had been asleep.
But eventually, only a few days remained until their departure. In council that day, Merlin sat down with his back against Arthur’s chair, and hidden there, with the soft voices of the councilmen lulling him, his head soon fell upon his breast, and he dreamt.
But he woke again with a start only moments later, his body aching. Before his inner eye remained, clear and vivid, the dream.
A vast battlefield. The Pendragon banner curling in the breeze. Kings kneeling before Arthur, while knights of Camelot and Caerleon and Mercia embraced each other and cried out in joy.
A crossbow bolt coming from nowhere and making straight for Arthur’s heart.
Merlin’s own hand outstretched, freezing the missile mid-flight, inches from its target.
Arthur’s eyes wide and blue as the sky. Arthur’s trust and love lying shattered in the grass along with the scarlet dead.
Unseen behind the King’s chair, Merlin curled up on himself and fought an overwhelming wave of grief. Arthur would know of Merlin’s betrayal, and Arthur would never forgive him.
On the night before their departure, Merlin lingered in the royal bedchamber. There were no more chores to do, yet he remained idling in the middle of the room, waiting for the right moment to open conversation. Guinevere beat him to it, though, coming away from the desk where she had been reading.
“I’m sure you can go, Merlin,” she said with a smile. “You’ve been run off your feet for so long, you should get a good night’s sleep while you can. I’ll tuck His Majesty in for you.”
He tried to return her smile, but fell short, and found his eyes returning to the floor instead.
“What’s wrong?” She placed gentle, but irresistible hands on his cheeks and made him look at her. In her simple white dress and with her hair hanging loose about her shoulders, she looked more beautiful than Merlin had ever seen her.
He wondered if he would ever see her again.
He shook his head, taking a quick, fortifying breath. “Nothing. I was just wondering something, that’s all.”
Arthur emerged from behind the changing screen then, in his soft sleeping pants. “What is it?” he asked, placing his hands of Guinevere’s shoulders.
Merlin faltered for a moment, twisting his aching fingers into each other. “I was wondering if I could stay tonight.”
They looked at him curiously.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. “I’m not sure how to interpret that, Merlin.”
Merlin actually laughed, though he felt no joy. “I didn’t mean that. I was hoping I could sleep there.” He pointed to the thick sheepskin rug before the hearth. “I think it’s softer than my mattress actually.”
Luckily for Merlin, the King and Queen were used to his occasional eccentricity.
Arthur shrugged. “Why not? As long as you don’t snore.”
“He can’t be louder than you,” Guinevere said mildly, and gave Merlin a quick kiss on the cheek. “Goodnight then.”
Arthur lingered for a moment to share a mock-suffering look with Merlin, before following his wife to their bed.
Merlin put out the candles, found a blanket for himself, took off his boots and lay down on the rug. It was too warm for a fire, but light came in through the tall window. He lay for a while looking out at the night sky, wondering if it would always look the same no matter where he went. Once things grew quiet in the royal bed, Merlin crept to the window and sat on the sill, looking out at Camelot’s white spires and mighty walls.
He tried to memorise the view, to remember each day passed in this place, in sunshine and in rain.
An Albion united under Arthur would surely be a paradise. It had been the prophetic and hopeful dream of hunted and starving men for hundreds of years, and now at last it was here, the day ready to be seized. Merlin had given blood and tears for it already, had lost his father, his love, and his best friend to it; what was one more sacrifice?
Merlin’s fingers stung with sorrow-pain so sharp he almost whimpered, but he mustn’t wake the King and Queen.
He did not intend to fight what he knew now to be the last chapter of his destiny, but it would require all his strength to wave goodbye to Gaius and to Gwen as the army rode out tomorrow. To trade stories and jokes with Gwaine while they rode, clean the blood from Arthur’s armour after each battle, and finally, some sunny day a month or two from now, to see the Pendragon banner curl in the breeze, and the kings kneeling, and meet Arthur’s shocked and betrayed eyes across the bloody field.
There on the window sill, Merlin eventually fell asleep. He dreamt of days gone by.