Bonds That Always Shall Be
Merlin sat, cross legged, staring out onto the Lake of Avalon. Although it had been hours, his eyes never moved from the place where he’d last seen Arthur’s funereal boat. His face was a mess of half-dried tears; hair sticking up at all angles from hands tugging at it, throat raw from sobs.
But now Merlin felt as if there were no more tears left, no more cries to be uttered. He just felt numb, incomplete…as if half of him were missing.
Which of course, it was. Even with all his magic, he was nothing without Arthur. Useless. For what use was a coin with one side worn away?
Miserable and drained, Merlin curled up in a ball on the shore, and let the soothing sounds of the lake in early evening lull him into an exhausted sleep.
Vaguely, Merlin thought he heard his name being called. But that was impossible, for he was alone; achingly, bone-chillingly alone for the rest of his existence.
“Merlin,” said the voice again, softly, tenderly, and he felt the lightest of touches upon his brow.
Startled, he opened his eyes and stared at the nearly-full moon above his head, and when he felt soft fingers carding through his hair, Merlin turned his head to find…
He bolted upright, not meaning to break the connection between them, but did so nonetheless. She was resplendent in the dress she was buried in; her hair was lush and full, waving in the soft breeze. Her eyes were sad yet her lips were smiling. “Merlin,” she replied, “It is so good to see you.”
“Freya?” Merlin questioned again, not quite believing she was there, that she is real after all of these years. “How…? What are you doing here?”
She looked down for a moment and Merlin’s gaze followed hers. She was barefoot and standing at the very shoreline, but still in the water. She gestured to the sand in front of her. “Please, sit with me. I wish to speak with you.”
She sat, resting on the surface of the water as easily as if it were the sand under Merlin. Rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands, Merlin followed suit and sat at the water’s edge, easily within touching distance. Freya reached out and clasped Merlin’s hands in hers.
“You have been so, so brave, Merlin,” she began, “Fought valiantly for so long.”
At her soothing words and touch, tears that he thought he’d run out of pricked his eyes. “It was for nothing; all for nothing. I couldn’t save him.”
“Nonsense,” Freya scolded, her hands slipping from Merlin’s lap to encompass both his cheeks. Her thumbs wiped away the moisture. “You did save Arthur…as surely as you saved me, Merlin. He would not have been the man he was without you.”
“But our destiny…” he choked, “we failed. I failed.”
Freya shook her head once. “No, you didn’t, though not all of it has yet come to pass. As a result of your ridding the world of Morgana, peace will reign in Albion again. It will be united under Guinevere’s rule. She knows of your role in the battle; she will, in time, lift the ban on magic…and it will be because of you.”
Merlin just shook his head, his lips pursed. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be! He’s not supposed to be gone!
Delicately, Freya threaded her fingers through the hair at Merlin’s temple. “I understand this pain you’re feeling…but you don’t need to feel it.”
Merlin tilted his head up, somehow hopeful at her words. “Why not?”
She tilted her head to the side as she appraised him. “Did you learn nothing from your father in the Crystal Cave, Merlin? Arthur is not gone; he is simply not among the living.”
Before Merlin could fully process what this meant, Freya continued, “I have brought you something.”
She reached around her neck and extracted a long, intricate silver chain. On it is a beautifully worked medallion with a pattern he had never seen before. Grasping one of Merlin’s hands, Freya pooled the chain into the palm of his hand. “It is a present for you, and only you.”
“What…is it?” Merlin asked. It was magical; that he knew. He could feel the foreign power buzzing in his palm. He placed the chain around his neck and felt the power of the medallion hum through his body, sinking into his bones.
“It is a key; a key that will allow you safe passage to and from Avalon.”
“I don’t understand. Why did you not give me this before, when you gave me Excalibur?” Merlin asked softly, touching Freya’s cheek. “I’ve missed you.”
“Because, you did not yet know you were immortal, Emrys. If you had attempted to use it before you knew, before you believed… it would have killed you.”
Merlin had to smile at this. “Because I thought I could die?”
“Exactly. Eventually, you would have realized the truth…but who knows how long that would have taken? Best not to risk it when you had important work to do.”
Freya pushed herself to a stand. She slid back a step and then gently tugged Merlin’s arm towards her. He stumbled onto the water’s surface…but did not sink.
“Come,” she said with a smile, and put out her hand for Merlin to grasp.
Merlin slid his hand into Freya’s and interlocked their fingers. “But won’t I be missed?”
Freya shook her head, amused. “Merlin, you know as well as I that you can control time to your heart’s content. No time need be lost if you don’t wish it.”
“Where are we going?”
“To Avalon.” Freya grinned cheekily at Merlin…and winked. “I thought you might want to be there when Arthur wakes up.”
Merlin froze, stunned for one long moment before a burst of joyous laughter fell from his lips, echoing in the night.
“And he thought he was rid of me,” Merlin joked, his heart full and whole once more. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”