Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Kilgharrah
Summary: Merlin believed the dragon when he spoke of destiny. That might have been a mistake.
Warnings: Post-Camlann, Major Character Death
Word Count: 996
Prompt: #32 Laugh
Author's Notes: I was thinking about Merlin as an anti-hero and why he'd listen to Kilgharrah so much.
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; They and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No credits have changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
At first, Merlin didn't feel anything; in some distant realization, he knew there was blood soaking into his skin, an unrelenting wind shivering across his face; there were the sounds of ravens and dying men all around him and a taste of death in the air. But he felt nothing. He was empty, numb to everything around him.
Sitting there, head bowed, looking down into the empty blue eyes of his dead king, Merlin didn't know what to do next. Already, Arthur's body was stiffening, had long since turned cold. Mordred's lethal thrust had been more than effective.
He supposed that he should try and rally the knights, see if he could pull off some miracle to turn the rout into victory and leave a legacy that Arthur would have been proud of.
But he couldn't seem to think. Instead he sat there, letting his fingers slowly drift through soft golden hair.
It had all been for nothing. He'd tried to turn Arthur's fate into some glorious endgame that would have brought on a new shining age but with every twist and turn, with every decision, Merlin had only led them deeper into the abyss.
At least Morgana had not survived and Mordred, Mordred had staggered away, mortally wounded by Arthur's own hand.
And now he could only sit and try not to think about the grief hiding somewhere under his heart.
It was growing dark when the dragon arrived.
Leon, ever resourceful, had managed to keep some semblance of order and it wasn't defeat but Camelot would never regain what it once was. For that, they would have needed Arthur and Arthur was gone.
His body had long since been taken away - although not without a fight. Merlin hadn't wanted to let go because letting go would only mean that it was truly over, that Arthur was dead and never coming back. And he couldn't… he couldn't… well, in the end, the other knights had pried his fingers away and he was alone.
At least Kilgharrah, his kin, would understand how empty he was now. His destiny had come and gone and it had been his own fault.
But instead of soft words and sympathy, the dragon was chuckling, his mouth gaping wide with satisfaction. Laughing at Merlin's destruction.
"So it worked after all." He sounded almost triumphant.
"What? What worked?" Merlin couldn't seem to wrap his head around what the dragon was saying. All nonsense words that echoed in his mind, mere noise to fill the empty spaces inside. "Arthur is dead and it's all my fault. If I'd only chosen differently, Mordred wouldn't have turned and Arthur…." He buried his face in his hands. "What have I done?"
"Such a naïve child you are. So easily persuaded." Another laugh. "It was almost too easy."
It didn't make sense. He was too full of pain to hear properly. It almost sounded as if Kilgharrah had… lied to him. "What?"
"The Pendragons are no more." The huge eyes gleamed in the growing darkness, bright with satisfaction. "And I have you to thank."
And in that numbness, there was a shiver of understanding, growing along with fury. "What?"
"Must I spell it out? For a human, you are incredibly blind to possibilities, to the costs and balances of revenge long planned." The dragon's words seemed to reverberate in Merlin's mind. He shook himself, trying to clear away the fog, let himself see clearly. It couldn't be possible that he'd been tricked like that. Surely, Kilgharrah would not want to incur a dragonlord's wrath.
"But you said I had a great destiny, that Arthur was the Once and Future King and that I…."
Laughter, long and loud. "Destiny is just a word, Merlin. Useful for pushing humans along in certain directions. You have magic enough and eventually you will become Emrys but now, now you are just a foolish child weeping for a broken toy."
"And Arthur? You said, the Druids said that Arthur was…."
"Yes, the Once and Future King. I know. Do you not think I could have those prophesies twisted? I can see the future, more clearly than you, boy. And the Druids follow my lead. They, too, wanted the Pendragon line gone."
Merlin was growing more furious by the moment. "But you told me to kill Mordred, to kill Morgana! In order to save Arthur."
"And you listened so well. It was your actions that drove them to Camelot's enemies, to Pendragon's enemies. Setting about the destruction of the very one you wanted to save at all costs. Such delicious irony."
"So if I hadn't listened to you? Arthur would still be alive?" It had been his fault after all. In his heart, he'd hoped it otherwise.
With a smug, self-satisfied smile, Kilgharrah said, "Of course. But I couldn't let that happen. The Pendragons had to die, all of them. No matter what the cost."
"I will kill you for this." Merlin's head was still full of noise but a white heat, too, a growing rage that threatened to split the world apart. "I will kill you!"
"Perhaps. But my death will not bring Pendragon back. And if it costs me my life, it was worth it." With another sharp laugh, he dove into the air, flying away, leagues away in a blink of an eye.
Merlin just stood there. Broken.
All this time, he'd been played. He'd ignored his instincts, thinking Kilgharrah would know the future. And he had - twisting the pathways to suit his own ends. Morgana and Mordred turned, Arthur was… dead and all because the naïve boy from Ealdor had wanted so desperately to fit in, to have a destiny he could believe in.
He knew he'd had to destroy Kilgharrah; for this betrayal, there was only death.
But, someday, when his heart began to beat again, he'd find a new path to forge. And remake Arthur's legacy into the shining hope it should have been.