Title: With Golden and Silver Light
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: Plagued by nightmares Morgana suggests Arthur to seek the professional advice of a Dreamer, giving him the card of Master Emrys. A man of great talent, who could be the answer to Arthur's terror filled nights.
Word Count: 1, 527 (sorry for breaking the world limit!)
Prompt: #224: Anything You Want
Author's Notes: This fic is a hybrid of subgenres, predominantly of Steampunk. Title was taken from the poem Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven by William Butler Yeats.
Arthur eyes with distrust the small rectangle between his fingers, trying to deduce the reason Morgana has seen it fit to give him such a thing, at this hour in the night, like she couldn't wait. Morgana's standing, her shadow looming over him, ignoring his invitation to join him for a cup of tea. Her arms are crossed over her chest, a nervous air about her as her eyes roam every corner of his room.
This, whatever she thinks it is, is serious for her.
"Would you at least consider it, dear brother?"
He quirks his left eyebrow, the way Morgana says dear brother sounds a lot like idiot, to his ears. He’s at a loss. "Am I supposed to do something with this? Honestly, I thought we were done with the subject. You shouldn’t worry.”
"Perhaps you are, but not me, and don't expect me to be anytime soon. I do worry.” She walks in circles in front of him, making him dizzy. “Everyone's whispering behind your back and you—"
"They are?" He's surprised, he wasn't aware of any gossip going around in the court. Sounds believable though. "And what do they say?"
Morgana heaves a sigh, drops as elegantly as she can on the armchair across from him, picking absentmindedly at the black lace of her dress, its expensive royal blue fabric makes it clear she's nobility to anyone who can see. Despite of his earlier objections, she's here to convince him to do something he's ambivalent about. Knowing her, she made a list of pros and cons in her head, and charged into his room, determined to get him on board with her plan.
"Just that you're losing your mind," she says looking straight at him, she never backs down. "And that Camelot could be in far better hands than yours."
"I'm sure uncle Agravaine is happy about this development," Arthur notes sourly. His uncle's scheming to take the throne for himself are not a secret.
"As most of your detractors."
Arthur reads the card again, it’s crumpled from folding and unfolding it out of a nervous habit.
Professional Dreamer. Dream Catcher. Enchanter.
New Albion, Morpheus Road 1347
His thumb presses against the dream rune on the centre of the card.
"You want me to venture into New Albion? Our family hasn't been quite forgiven for centuries of subjugation,” he says. “I’m sure magic users wouldn’t appreciate my presence.” Morgana should know better, and he should put his foot down. Say no, make it loud and clear so there's no doubt of where he stands.
"I am well aware, but that was year and years ago, some have learned to forgive."
"But have they forgotten? There is a difference.”
Morgana purses her lips, looking just about ready to smack him on the head, in the same way she did when they were kids and he stole her herbology books and dumped them in the pond. "You truly are an obnoxious person, if we weren't blood related then I probably would've planned to overthrow you ages ago. As it is, I'm fond of you and I worry. Those nightmares you're having are anything but healthy."
Morgana puts her palm up, effectively shushing him before words of protestation can make it out of his mouth. "I know how cryptic dreams can be, they're either chaos or harmony, but the ones you're suffering from go beyond what's considered normal. You are walking around like the living dead."
His brows knit together, lying to Morgana never works out in his favour, she has a knack for seeing straight through him, he can’t allege perfect health in her face. "They'll pass, Morgana," he says, with as much conviction as he can muster despite not feeling confident.
"No, you won't get rid of them so easily. And you know it. We both do. Look at you, the dark circles around your eyes, their redness. You look awful, on the verge of collapsing from exhaustion.” Morgan’s by the edge of her seat, her gaze dark when it settles on him. “You're not sleeping and if you're avoiding going to bed because your dreams are far worse than anything you could face awake, then I think it speaks volumes of what you're going through. Just try, Arthur."
She had spoken nothing, but the truth. He's constantly on edge, afraid of his own shadow. He dreams of dark places and disjointed voices, cavernous and cold. On some nights he sees Camelot burning, and he's unable to save it from its terrible fate. Others, he ends up drowning, body swallowed by freezing water. Dragged to the bottom by invisible hands until light fades away.
"This is oneiromancy, Morg. We're talking about magic here. Even if magic is free in this day and age, I'm not sure I can trust its effectiveness."
"Try. That's all I ask. Besides, this Emrys is a dream virtuoso from what I hear. He's quite peculiar."
Arthur gives the card one last peek before he tosses the scrunched up piece on the floor.
New Albion is located on the outskirts of Camelot. It's a haven for people with magical abilities, white walls and tall buildings towering towards the sky, like skinny arms trying to reach for the stars. He walks as fast as his legs will allow him, face down hidden from view. He's left the safety of his private compartment in the train and he's well aware of where he is. He tries to blend in, dodging passengers stepping off and into the station. He thanks the steam still rising from both sides of the train, partly obscuring him. The last thing he needs is unwanted attention.
He takes the card out from the pocket of his long coat, even though he's got Master Emry's address memorized. He adjusts his round black sunglasses on top of his nose, the metal around them has begun to warm up. Here goes nothing.
He knocks on the door, wood so old that rattles as much as loose change in one's pocket. The brass plate on it proclaims you have reached La maison des rêves, and if this is the house of dreams, then Arthur isn't sure he wants to find out what's inside, it's too shabby to be spectacular. He pockets his sunglasses. Below the name, Arthur notices there are smaller letters tgat jump an rearrange themselves into a new sign, urging him to 'knock once if he needs help' and 'knock twice is he's passing by'. It doesn't make much sense. He lifts his fist, knocking once. He already came all the way here, might as well give this man an opportunity. The door opens instantly.
He's greeted by a tall, lanky man, a shock of dark hair framing his face. Eyes hidden behind a set of goggles. He's wearing a brown vest over a red shirt, black pants and high boots. Arthur notices he's been staring when the silence between them has stretched for longer than it is polite.
"Uh," Arthur says, not sure of how this consultation thing is supposed to go. Where it begins.
The man—way younger than Arthur was expecting—extends his hand, a wild smile on his face. "Emrys. How may I help you?"
Arthur takes his hand and shakes it, coughing to cover the fact he's out of his depth. Put him in charge of the Round Table Men and he's a fierce leader, ask him to fly an airship and he excels. Magic is not his forte.
"I'm here because I need help."
"I gathered that from your knock. What seems to be the problem?"
"Um, it's sort of private."
"Would you like to come in?"
He steps inside and is momentarily blinded by a flash of color, when his eyes have adjusted to their new environment, and his ears can distinguish a low humming coming from somewhere in the back of the room, he realizes how wrong he was. This place is sort of awe-inspiring. With its flashes of colours here and there, like there's a rainbow trapped in one of the many bottles on the shelves lining the walls, among big books on mythical creatures, dream interpretation and old magic. There are brass and copper cogs on tables and some have fallen on the floor. A golden clockwork occupies the only place on a wall not already covered by books, scribbles or sketches of creatures Arthur doesn't think he could name, and plants and herbs hang from the ceiling.
"So, my lord," Emrys says. Arthur turns around, mouth open in shock, almost asks how he knows who he is. Then again he's with magic folk, and Arthur is not nearly as inconspicuous as he'd like to believe.
"Master Emrys," he says instead, preparing himself for a lengthy explanation.
"Call me, Merlin. We can leave titles and ranks behind, right? We're in a safe place," Merlin tells him, motioning around with one hand and removing his goggles with the other, revealing kind blue eyes.
Arthur nods, wringing his hands. He shouldn't be so nervous. "I'm having these horrible nightmares, and I can't sleep because all I see is the end...of everything."
Merlin stares at him, his features an unreadable mask. "Maybe it'll be better if we sit down."
The clockwork marks six in the evening when Arthur finishes telling Merlin of the death and the decay, the fear refusing to let go of him. Of the void he's trapped in. Merlin refills his cup of tea, a mix of passionflower and linden, that effectively sooths Arthur.
"From what I've heard, I conclude it's dream manipulation. You're a man with great power and I suspect there are people around you who'd like to take you out of the way," Merlin states pensively. Arthur snorts, no truer words have been spoken today. "By instilling panic and dread in you, and showing you bleak images of the future, they're manipulating you. Someone with enough knowledge of dream magic can make you do their bidding or end you. Fear is a powerful tool of control. It's lucky you came here before things went further. You cold be sleepwalking and— You're not? Are you?"
"No. What's the plan then?"
"I could walk in your dreams, expel the evil from the root, if we share dreams I could catch the poison tearing through the fabric of your subconscious. Flooding your dreams with darkness."
Arthur hesitates, taps a finger against his knee. Merlin's eyes are sincere and somehow, Arthur finds he's giving the tiniest of nods. He's saying yes.
"Are you sure? This contract is binding."
"Excellent." Merlin jumps from his armchair, goes to a nearby table to rummage through the mess there. Arthur watches him taking vials, mixing them in a pewter cauldron. He pours the pale-pink concoction into an empty vial, shakes it till the contents turn a glowing shade. He drinks the potion in one go.
Merlin walks over to him saying, "Close your eyes." It's not a demand, but a request, and Arthur acquiesces. He's come for help, after all. He feels warm, chapped lips pressing against his, his eyes fly open and yes, Merlin is kissing him. Merlin's hands bracket his face, guiding him, Arthur tilts his head, open his mouth, Merlin's tongue sneaks inside. He tastes sweet, like sugar plums. It's a languid, unhurried kiss and Arthur melts into it. When they part, their breaths mix together, a lilac vapor rises from the small gap between their lips. Arthur watches as it goes up to the roof, and images began to appear, float around, skulls and faceless strangers. Arthur's nightmares materialized in the dense mist. The smoke twists into a spiral, and becomes green butterflies. Arthur is amazed.
"Your dreams are now mine to carry too. I can walk with you. Trust me, we'll fight together," Merlin whispers, still so close, Arthur he can smell him, feel his warmth engulfing him, a strange sort of happiness settling in him. His presence is like a drizzle in the middle of summer. Welcomed and relieving.
Arthur wants to trust him