Title: Naiad's Spring
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur discovers that the legend of the naiad and the sacred spring isn't exactly a legend.
Word Count: 1180 (sorry!)
Prompt: 162- Spring
Author's Notes:Canon AU. Merlin is a naiad, a water nymph said to inhabit a river, spring, or waterfall. They have healing powers although in some legends, it is said that they pull men into the water who are never seen again.
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; It and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No money has changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was said that the clear spring, hidden amongst the trees and stone-faced hills, was to be avoided at all costs, that it was haunted, sacred. That naiads lived in the water and pulled handsome young men to their doom if they were not careful.
But Arthur was a Pendragon and didn't believe in such foolishness. It was merely a source of water and welcome after a hot day's hunting.
Pursuing a buck, fat and feast-perfect, his men had plunged deeper into the forest. Even now, he could hear their enthusiastic cries of almost-success echoing in the woods.
It didn't help that he'd been left behind because of his own horse stumbling into a stray branch, gouging Arthur's skin in the process. It was a flesh-wound and nothing that he couldn't handle. He'd waved his men on, told them he'd be right behind them once he was done cleaning it, and not to worry so much. It was only with heavy insistence that they obeyed him.
As the forest quieted, he could hear the spring bubbling away in the distance, and counted himself lucky.
Hunting was exciting, but the court had been too frustrating of late, and he needed some time alone. This gave him the perfect opportunity.
Following the sound, he came across the perfect hollow, granite gleaming with wet, the glint of quartz and gold under the spring's surface and his own face grinning back at him as he looked into the depths.
Of course, the water was bone-numbing cold. The dregs of snow high on the hills of Camelot were slowly melting, releasing icy water into the sacred spring; Arthur could feel its power even as he dipped his hand in.
It felt like iced silk, and for a moment, he knelt there by the water's edge, gliding fingertips through the chill. It felt so good against his hot skin. As welcome as a lover's touch.
Then he shook himself free of such foolishness. The few lovers he'd had were never that cold.
Settling down by the edge, he dipped the cloth in and then cleaning his wound, realizing that it was just a scratch, looking bloodier than any real worry. The water numbed it a bit, too, with its icy touch.
But when he was satisfied, thinking that he might stay a while longer, to drink in the peace of the place, he looked up to find wild white limbs and eyes the colour of the morning-sky gazing back at him from across the spring.
The man was naked, dressed only in a wide smile and curiosity. A shock of black hair hid what looked to be large ears, odd enough to make him not quite beautiful but there was something about him that called to Arthur.
That also made him very wary.
Standing up, one hand hard on the hilt of his sword, Arthur called out, "Who are you? What are you doing here?"
That only made the man's face lighten into delight. He gave a short sketched bow, then dove into the icy water and out of sight.
Arthur was astonished. The water was cold enough to numb even the strongest of his men; the person could hardly survive such temperatures for more than a few moments and there was no sign of him.
But as Arthur leaned over the water, trying to see where he might have gone, almost resigned to trying to rescue the fool despite the cold, the man broke the surface, mere inches from the Arthur's feet.
Then he stood up. Water sparkled as it gathered on the man's skin, long lines of silver streaming down his body, but it was his eyes that enthralled Arthur. They were gold itself.
"I have been waiting for you."
Deep, magical, the man's voice was already beloved and Arthur didn't even know his name.
Arthur hadn’t believed in the legends. There were stories, mere trappings of the Old Religion or the ghostly whispers of legends and myth to be told around the fireside. He'd believed his father when Uther scoffed at such foolishness.
Now, there was proof before him that the legends were true. Naiad, it had to be a naiad and dangerous.
But Arthur couldn't draw back, couldn't move away even as the being stepped closer and touched his face.
A jolt as his heart leapt, he leaned into the caress. His skin burned, cold and hot, as fingertips traced his cheeks, the bridge of his nose, a pale thumb enticing his mouth, then cold/warm/willing lips on his, a thousand longings manifest in a single kiss.
It took all his strength not to give in to it, not to disappear into the man. But somehow he found something within him. Stumbling back, his throat working as if he'd been drowning and only now could draw breath, he said, "Who are you? What are you?"
"Emrys, my Arthur, king." The naiad smiled wider, seemingly happy to see Arthur with strength enough to resist. "My name is Emrys and you are my destiny. As I am yours."
Another step away from the seductive call of Emrys' voice, Arthur could finally think again, to go beyond the want in his body as he said, "I make my own destiny."
"None of us can choose our destiny. As you will learn in time."
He reached out again, but Arthur jerked away, his hand scrambling to find his sword. Good steel would settle this and he drew it out, levelled it at Emrys' heart. "Naiad, sorcerer, Emrys, I don't care what you call yourself but you will not enchant me. I am Arthur Pendragon, Prince of Camelot, and stronger than any magic."
Emrys looked down at the blade and then back up into Arthur's eyes. "You are strong indeed, Pendragon prince, strong enough to resist me. Perhaps strong enough to be worthy of coins and bonds and destiny." He grinned again, then stepped back, into the water. "But that time is not yet."
Emrys sank down into the spring, disappearing as if he had never been. As Arthur craned forward, looking for him, he could hear the barest whispers of longing and love and destiny and of things yet to be, and then there was nothing but wind in the trees and a stream bubbling in the distance.
Nothing but the sounds of a forest he'd known all his life.
For a moment, Arthur stood there. The last few moments were a blank. He'd remembered cleaning his wound and staring into the water but then nothing after that.
It didn't make sense. He shouldn't be feeling as if he were missing a limb or a piece of his heart, missing something so important that he didn't think he could go on without it. But then his men came back, and returning to his duties, he tried to put it all aside. It was a momentary weakness after all, a bit of too much sun and foolishness.
Sometimes, though, late at night, he'd look out toward the hills where a sacred spring still gleamed and dream of wild, wet kisses and destiny.