Title: A Reckoning
Character/s: Merlin, Druids
Summary: The Druids have unexpected words of welcome for their Emrys
Word Count: 500
Prompt: 417 Target
Author's Notes: Post-canon AU
"Emrys! What are you doing here?" the Druid woman asked in surprise, looking up from her cooking fire.
Merlin stepped closer and respectfully placed a hand over his heart. "I would ask for refuge with your group, lady, for a while. The death of King Arthur haunts me. I am weary and in need of the healing your magic may provide."
He was answered by a disbelieving laughter from under the eves of the ancient trees. "You are weary? You, who were supposed to bring magic back, to unite the ancient and the new, to be our spiritual guide, our leader? You, who never fulfilled any of those prophesies, and never did a thing for us?"
A young girl stepped forward into the firelight, bristling with indignation. "It must have been so tiresome for you to do nothing while King Uther and his son persecuted us and killed our kin! It must have been hard on our poor prophesied one to humbly bow and scrape and do our oppressors' laundry! We entrusted you with the Cup of Life, and where is it now? How many of our kind died, merely to protect your secret? I'm sure you are worn out!"
Merlin was taken aback by her venom. He was reminded of Kara, Mordred's ill-fated sweetheart. She had been fuelled by the same kind of rage. He bent his head. "I am sorry for your hardships. I wish I could have done more."
More and more Druids were moving quietly into the circle of fireligth— men, women, and children. They regarded him with sombre, closed-off expressions.
The woman by the fire stood up. Merlin saw that she was wearing a heavy gold torque. There were bright blue triskelions tattooed on her hands.
"My daughter speaks harshly, but truthfully, Emrys. We kept our faith with you and the prophesies, but we were disappointed at every turn. You chose your precious king, his ignorance, and his fear of magic over us. Every Druid had a target on their back, and you stood by to see the arrows fly."
"Please believe that I never intended..."
The woman raised a hand to silence him. She glanced at her companions, who had been nodding at her words. "Good Queen Guinevere has decreed that we are finally free to practice our spells and live according to the magic cycles of the land. We have returned to the ancient ways. The healing of our hearts and minds will take time. We have lost much and many along the way, as you well know."
Merlin looked from one person to the next among the quiet group. His heart was heavy in his chest.
One by one, the Druids turned their backs on him.
"We do not wish you harm, but there is no place for you here," their leader said. Turning her gaze to the meal she was cooking, relegating Merlin to the past, she shrugged and gestured towards the dark forest behind him. "Goodbye, Emrys."