Title: The Flash of Thought (Invention's Mother is Necessity)
Summary: When the burden of his memories becomes too great, Merlin finds a way to cope.
Word Count: 1k
Prompt:#39 - Silver
Author's Notes: OK, for the Harry Potter fans out there, you will recognize what' Merlin's invented here. I followed the visuals as depicted in the films, not the books.
(I do apologize if this isn't entirely coherent, once again I find myself under the influence of my dubious friend Percocet ;-)
Also, I MUST give credit to rocknvaughn for putting the Pensieve idea in my head. Thanks bb!
It became too much after a few hundred years. There were too many thoughts, too many ideas and far, far too many memories for Merlin to cope with. Immortality didn’t seem to grant him infinite space in his mind, just endless input.
For a while, he retreats to the ancient forests in an attempt to minimize the clutter in his brain. It doesn’t work. Instead, he builds up an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna of northern Mercia. Living in a cave for a few decades also leaves him with a new understanding of his father’s gruffness. He finds that human relations are a set of skills one can lose over time. When he finally emerges from his time in the woods, Merlin discovers he’s lost the knack for people.
It takes another few decades of increasingly crowded memories for him to regain that knack, but he gets it back eventually. Never again does he shun the company of man for so long.
Merlin finds that if he allows his skin to wrinkle and his hair to go white, people are more patient with the time it now takes him to organize his thoughts. His mind is packed so tight with information, images and emotions that he can’t even answer the simplest of questions in a timely manner. The mantle of age gifts him with the grace of other people’s tolerance.
Eventually there are just too many memories in his head and not enough space. It becomes difficult to think at all, let alone speak. The pressure becomes painful. There are moments he is sure his skull will crack under the strain.
One morning, crouched over the stone basin he uses to wash, the pain swells and Merlin snaps. He begins to paw at his head. Raking fingers over his throbbing face and aching eyes, he prods and presses against the thin skin, seeking any kind of relief but finding none. The pain is sharpest in his temples and he gouges the tips of his fingers into the hollows there.
His eyes flash once and his fingers come away from his head covered in threads of some silvery substance. There’s a slight but noticeable easing of the strain behind his eyes. Not sure what he’s done at first, he shakes his hands and watches as the strange, gossamer filaments float away, gleaming like mercury in the morning sun. He’s never seen anything like it. Tossing the water from the stone bowl, he stands and tries to scoop the shimmery stuff out of the air. He manages to corral it for a moment but then it simply floats up and out of the bowl.
A muttered word and a flash of golden eyes make the bowl…sticky. The silver threads seem to swell until they aren’t threads at all. They swirl in the bowl like vapor, but when he prods the stuff with a curious finger he can feel it. However, there’s only a flash of sensory information before a sudden hook in his consciousness flings him forward into the bowl, down into the substance he’s trapped there.
Abruptly, he finds himself back in his prince’s room. Arthur’s young, so very, very young. Oblivious to Merlin’s turmoil, the Prince is prattling on about that morning’s council meeting and his father’s latest lecture on a prince’s duty to king and country above all else. It’s a rather mundane moment, truth be told, one of a hundred other moments Merlin’s experienced as manservant to the Crown Prince of Camelot. But to see that moment like this, so sharp and bright…Merlin hasn’t been able to remember Arthur with such clarity in hundreds of years.
Merlin hums with happiness, searching out forgotten but still familiar features of the room. There are the red drapes on the bed, and over there, the fur-covered chair at the table that Arthur used like a miniature throne. Merlin could see the small heraldic shields over the fireplace that he’d always despised because they showed every speck of dust. He’d spent countless hours dusting and polishing those stupid little shields.
He tries to talk to Arthur but he gets no response. He runs a hand over the bedcurtains but makes no impression on the fabric. Whatever’s happening, Merlin doesn’t seem to be a part of it. A dream? No…a memory? For all its banality, he recognizes the moment. He’d been with Arthur for little over a year at this point. It was the first council meeting after Cornelius Sigan had attacked Camelot. The lecture from Uther regarded Arthur’s orders for his men to abandon him and save themselves.
So…a memory, definitely a memory. A clear, shining moment of Merlin’s past experienced as if it was happening in the here and now…
Then the moment ends and Merlin finds himself back in his room, still crouched over the stone bowl. Astonished, he stares at the silver swirling in the bowl and laughs aloud. He digs his fingers into his temples again and his magic flares as he draws out even more memories. So many moments, there are so many experiences stuffed in his head needing to come out. The bowl is filled to the brim with half a dozen lifetimes by the time Merlin finishes.
Shaking his head, it feels lighter than Merlin can ever remember. In an instant, he sheds the wrinkles and the brittle white hair. His mind is renewed, it’s only right that his body is as well. Grinning down at the bowl of memories, Merlin pokes his finger in, stabs a random memory and finds himself once again in Camelot.
When he returns, he carefully shuts the bowl away in a cupboard. It would be all too tempting to get lost in that bowl. He could easily get lost in the happy moments contained in there. However, that’s not his purpose. He is meant to wait, but more importantly to watch for Arthur’s return and he can’t do that trapped in the happy haze of a distant past. Clear headed once again, he looks to the future, and for the first time since Arthur died, he welcomes it.