Title: Under Avalon
Summary: In silence, Arthur waits.
Word Count: 920
Prompt: #44 Silence
Author's Notes: Post S5.
At first the silence is infinite. Time does not exist for him, nor space. He can neither see nor hear. There is no past and no future, only the eternal embrace of the darkness with which he is one, a babe in the womb once again.
Out of the shadows comes an image: a nimbus of black hair, pale hands clasping his face and arms holding him close. He feels safe, warmed by the glowing embers of love. Then the darkness returns and he forgets.
He begins to sense his environment. He is somewhere; he exists in space and time. Still surrounded by darkness, he perceives the weight of the earth around him. Dense and lumpy with life, clay and sand, mud and soil, it claims him as its own. He has returned from whence he came, as all living things must.
The years turn and he sleeps.
In time his mind expands. He becomes a tree with roots grown deep and strong, branches that reach high toward the sky. Wind and rain caress his leaves, which sprout in spring and die in autumn. He is one with the turning wheel of the seasons.
He dreams. The black-haired man haunts him in half-formed images that dance through his mind like a rider’s cape atop a galloping horse. He’s out there; his presence calls to him with words unsaid, a story unfinished.
The man is the only one left of the many who once knew him, he now realises. He tries to remember what he looks like, but there’s nothing but bright eyes and a smile, the scent of herbs and earth, hands at work on a wooden table laden with small bowls. The memory keeps him company in the silence.
The man will come when it is time for him to return to the world.
More years go by and the world changes. From his resting place, it becomes more and more noisy. The old ways are disrupted, as men and women grow apart from the land, unmoored from the rhythms of the earth and sky. They’re dissatisfied and frenetic, with machines to do their work and artificial lights to chase away the night.
The massing tide of activity makes him restless. The silence is lost, turned under the earth, thrown away to the stars. People no longer know who they are.
Yet still no one comes.
The metal things humans have created become bigger and more ravenous. His people spread out in search of the means to feed them. In the competition between nations, the seeds of pure evil are born. Soon men can kill each other without looking in each other’s eyes, without feeling the blade slice through skin and bone and heart. Death loses its meaning.
He grieves for the sadness that cloaks the earth. He sees smoke and fire, hears screams on an unimaginable scale as the horrors mount. He yearns to be freed from what’s become a prison. Do not his people need him?
Yet still the dark-haired man does not appear.
The terrors recede and it’s quieter. Life is easier in his land, but there is a sadness and emptiness. People grow increasingly detached from the earth and each other as machines become even more powerful and ubiquitous. The balance of control between man and machine grows fragile and unstable; a constant rain of electronic data saturates the earth. His mind clouds and he retreats into a dreamy state of horses and forests, red capes and golden goblets always with the dark-haired man at his side.
Then one day, agony and pain shriek across the globe. It lasts for far too long and then, finally, the silence returns. His soul shrivels with fear as his ears strain to hear something, anything in the darkness. But he hears nothing at all and dread consumes him. Is it not now the time for him to return?
The sound of scraping and metal hits his ears like a fist after so much silence. Stones drag against each other, and finally, the crisp scent of fresh air bursts into his resting place. Arthur’s every sense alights with the awareness that he’s alive. He feels his heart beating like someone banging on a door and his skin prickles with the rush of cold air as if he were a newborn. The sensations are overwhelming.
Arthur looks towards the door. The dark-haired man is finally here. His clothes are strange and his hair is different than before but it’s the same colour as in Arthur’s dreams.
“Arthur,” the man says. The name sounds strange when he hears it aloud.
“Merlin.” The man’s name comes to him suddenly, a treasure plucked out of the mud. “I’m awake.” Moving his mouth feels odd.
“You are.” Merlin’s smile gleams like the sun, warming Arthur just as it did in his dreams. “It’s time. Are you ready?” Suddenly Merlin’s wrapping Arthur in his arms and once again Arthur feels safe and loved just as he did long ago. He’s hit with a sudden realisation of how cold he’s been when Merlin’s mouth covers his in a deep kiss that suffuses his entire being with a golden glow. “You better be because you’re our only hope,” Merlin says when they break apart.
Arthur’s never been more ready. He grins at Merlin. “What took you so long? You’ve been all this time in the tavern, haven’t you?”
Merlin rolls his eyes and swats him on the arm. “Clotpole.”
It’s time to finish the story.