Title: Too Late
Summary: He should have been faster.
Warnings: Characte death
Word Count: 996
Author's Notes: I really hate this one.
He knew at the time it had taken him too long to get out of the cells. They had underestimated his strength, he should have escaped hours ago, not waiting for the dawn to come. It would offer no hope of salvation when the sun graced the horizon, yet he had held on. All because he had been asked to, made to swear not to do anything rash.
He shouldn’t have stuck with that promise. He should have fled immediately, then they would be gone and out of here. None of this would matter anymore if he had been brave enough to break his promise. But he hadn’t. Whether it was respect or fear that had stayed his hand, he wasn’t sure.
Now he could only curse himself and run.
His feet were slapping the cold stones, his toes curling at the temperature. He didn’t let it slow him down though. He couldn’t. Too much time had been wasted already.
His breath was coming in short bursts as he tore through the castle. Everything that tried to bar his way didn’t stay standing for long. They had kept him secured for too long, kept him locked away and helpless.
But no longer.
This was the day he showed the world and the kingdom who he really was.
For too long he had scraped and bowed, done everything he was told with the hope that keeping his head down would be enough. But they had been found out anyway. All the secret meetings, the plans for the future, destroyed with the sharp intake of breath from a guard realising what he was seeing.
He hadn’t been quick enough to stop him and now the one he loved was paying the price. It should have been him out there, it had been his idea all along. He had convinced him of the practices, that it would be safe out in the forest, no one would know…
He had been so stupid.
Throwing his hand out in front of him, Merlin tore the doors off the hinges as he hurtled out into the courtyard. The crowds were still gathered, thick and several deep, but there was a hush. No one was speaking, no one was gloating over another evil sorcerer being caught. A glanced risked upwards revealed the balcony was empty. Uther wasn’t there.
He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t watch. No, maybe he was early still…
But the smell of scorched flesh told him otherwise.
When the pyre came into view, the hoarse scream tore from his throat. He was vaguely aware of falling to his knees, but he couldn’t be sure.
He was too late.
All because Arthur –like him – had been born with magic, Uther couldn’t take it.
His son had come into only a fledgling power, something to left to him because of his conception. The guards had seen them practising, seen Merlin trying to teach him how to control it. But the guard hadn’t actually seen Merlin using magic. And Arthur had reacted fast, swearing that his servant was only doing what his master had told him too, that he was an innocent in this.
So Merlin had been locked in the cells. And Arthur – in his beautifully stubborn refusal to back down to the king – had been led to the pyre.
Merlin had been convinced Uther would see sense. Arthur was his rightful heir, he wouldn’t commit his own son to the flames. But whatever Arthur had said during that deadly conversation while Merlin had wrestled with his chains had been enough to turn Uther against him forever.
His mad dash through the castle had revealed preparations for Morgana being crowned heir to the throne.
All while a fire continued to burn, sparks shooting in the air as it burnt away the future for the kingdom.
Merlin was aware of hands touching him gently where he knelt, but his magic had cloaked him and he felt it as if it was happening to someone else. This couldn’t be happening. He was the one who should have burnt for having magic. Not Arthur. Not his prince.
“Merlin?” The voice was trembling, hands shaking as someone knelt next to him, fingers touching his face. It was Gwen. At least, it was what was left of Gwen after witnessing what she had just done. But Merlin knew she couldn’t have not gone. Uther had ordered it. He had requested everyone to be there, to show no one was above the law.
That was why there had been silence. This had been no victory against evil. This had just been showing Uther for who he really was, at the loss of Merlin’s golden prince. The people would not follow Uther now. That was a cold comfort for the man kneeling on the cobbles, the ash swirling around him.
“He whispered your name,” Gwen continued. But the pain was too great. Her words were a twisting blade in his heart and the noise that escaped Merlin didn’t sound like a human, but more some wounded animal. He was on his feet before Gwen could stand, pelting for the gates. No one stood in his way, even the guards just watched him flee.
He was sure a voice told Gwen to let him go, to leave him be. He agreed. He didn’t want company. He didn’t want other people now the one he wanted was gone. They had planned their future, where they would go once Arthur knew the kingdom would survive without him there. Merlin had just wanted to run, but Arthur had said they had to plan first, that more people were involved than just them…
There was no them anymore. No one was involved with anything as it no longer existed.
And it was all his fault.
If only he hadn’t left it so late to get out of the cells.
But – like everyday of his time as Arthur’s servant – he had been too late.