Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
Today marks week 30 of the 52 week writing challenge!
The prompt for Sunday 30th July is ‘Legends’:
I’ve gone back to my days researching Arthurian Legend in the university library for this prompt. I wasn’t supposed to be studying it, but I’m easily distracted! Based around the Battle of Camlann and the aftermath.
A shiver travelled through the young man as he stalked across the damp grass towards the king’s tent. People parted for the tightly bundled figure. Some of them even bowed. Merlin ignored them. Cloak pulled tight around himself, and hood covering his raven hair, he pushed back the flap and stepped inside.
‘We have to fall back. There’s too many of them!’ he told the king. Wild eyes roamed over the living, breathing figure, clad in chain mail, with only a strand of golden hair peeking out from his helmet.
‘We’ll be fine, Merlin,’ Arthur replied. He placed a steady hand on the young man’s shoulder. ‘Retreating isn’t an option.’
Merlin trembled as Arthur pushed down his hood. ‘Do you want to die? Is that it?’
‘I have you. I’m not concerned.’
‘What if I’m not enough this time?’ Merlin bit is bottom lip and frowned over his shoulder, where, across the battlefield, their opponents lurked in the shadows. ‘Arthur, Mordred has ten sorcerers. Ten!’
‘And you are the strongest magician I have ever seen,’ Arthur said with a fond smile. ‘When this is over, you and I will unite the lands, just as you saw in your vision.’
‘Maybe…’ Merlin replied. He looked away.
Arthur ducked and caught his worried gaze. ‘Is there something else?’
‘I had a dream. So many people died, Arthur. You…’
‘People die in battle, Merlin. It’s a part of life,’ Arthur interrupted gently. ‘You and I? We’ll live forever. If not in person, than in legend.’
Arthur pulled his sword from its sheath and moved out of the tent. Merlin grabbed his staff and hastened to follow him. They watched in silence as knights scrambled to their positions. Warriors lined up beside them.
Merlin’s fingers were white around his staff as turned to look up at Arthur. ‘I can’t stop you, can I?’
‘You know very well you could,’ Arthur replied. He gave Merlin’s staff a pointed look.
‘I’d never use my magic against you,’ Merlin said with conviction. ‘Never.’
‘I know.’ Arthur glanced out over the battlefield. Shook his head. ‘It was just a dream, Merlin. Do not share this with the others. We need to maintain morale.’
‘Right,’ Merlin muttered. He looked down the hill towards the lake. It would soon run red with blood. He had seen it. Merlin turned his gaze north, where Camelot lay in the distance, and heaved a sigh. Home. He glanced at Arthur as his king gave the signal to charge. Hopefully they would make it back in one piece.
They descended the hill into chaos. Merlin remained by Arthur’s side until their enemy decided to play dirty.
‘Go!’ Arthur yelled above the clang of swords and screams of enemy and friend alike.
‘What about you?!’
‘The village needs you more right now. I’ll be fine!’
Merlin nodded and rushed towards the burning village. He chanced a glance back at his king. His everything. He paused for a moment as Arthur swung his sword with expert hands to take out two enemies. Arthur would be fine. He had to be. It was just a dream.
It was the last time Merlin saw Arthur during the battle.
‘You’d attack innocent women and children?’ Merlin asked the gathered sorcerers, outwardly calm, but the tight lines around his eyes and hard glare betrayed his temperament. He was seething. He directed a gust of wind towards the other sorcerers.
‘They were given the chance to leave!’ a female sorcerer replied, as she dodged and threw a fireball Merlin’s way.
Merlin bit his lip and brought up a shield with a casual wave of his staff. Looked away. Women lay in the streets. The cries of children pierced the air. ‘You’re monsters.’
‘The only monster is your king!’ another sorcerer yelled.
Merlin scowled. ‘Arthur is no monster!’
The sorcerers were incapacitated with three swift lightning bolts after that, but when Merlin turned to grin, triumphant, towards were Arthur had been, Arthur was not there.
Merlin found him by the lake, propped up against a tree and staring blankly towards the island.
‘The people call it Avallo,’ Arthur murmured as Merlin approached.
Merlin took in the slouched form of his king. Harsh breaths racked Arthur’s body, and when he coughed, Merlin saw red.
‘You’re hurt!’ Merlin exclaimed. He dropped to his knees beside Arthur and pushed aside his chain mail. Looked to the side and clasped his staff. Muttered a few words. The staff glowed an eerie blue, but blood continued to pour from Arthur’s wound.
‘It won’t work, Merlin,’ a voice taunted from behind him.
‘Mordred.’ Merlin scowled and shot to his feet, staff held horizontally in front of him.
‘I’m going to die anyway,’ Mordred said. He began to giggle hysterically. ‘But so is your king. I consider that a win!’
Merlin looked towards Arthur and gulped around the lump in his throat.
‘What did you do to him?’ Merlin asked, voice soft as he moved back to Arthur’s side. Arthur’s eyes had slipped closed. Merlin slipped his fingers between Arthur’s and squeezed his hand. Begged Arthur, ‘Stay with me, please.’
‘Poison,’ Mordred replied. He cackled, and he too began to cough up blood. ‘Fast… Fast acting. No magical cure. Not even the Lady of the Lake could save him now!’
‘But…’ Merlin started to say, but Mordred’s eyes slipped shut. His chest stopped moving. ‘No!’ Merlin yelled. ‘There must be a non-magical cure!’
‘Keep it down,’ Arthur murmured, hand clutched to his head. His other hand fumbled at the chain around his neck. Freed the golden pendant and held it in his hand.
‘Sorry,’ Merlin replied. He shot to his feet and began to pace. ‘There must be something I can do.’
Arthur shuddered and closed his eyes. ‘Please, Merlin. I don’t have much time. Just… Stay with me?’
‘Always,’ Merlin replied. He wiped away a tear and sank down beside Arthur against the tree.
Arthur pushed his necklace, a golden dragon, into Merlin’s hand. ‘Yours.’
Merlin nodded and held Arthur close. ‘Always.’
The tears that followed Arthur’s final breath could have filled the lake in front of him, and Merlin did not have the heart to leave, to return to Camelot, even when the victory fanfares sounded. Camelot was nothing without its king.
‘Do not be afraid, young warlock,’ a voice said, and from the lake, a lady of whites and golds drifted towards Merlin.
Merlin’s head shot up. ‘Niniane! There must be something you can do!’
Niniane shook her head. ‘It’s time for a new prophecy. Return Excalibur to the lake, and then we can talk.’
Merlin shuddered and glanced beside him. ‘What about Arthur?’
‘We will lay him to rest in Avalon,’ Niniane replied with a fond smile. ‘There, his spirit will await its true destiny.’
Arthur began to glow, and Niniane’s magic lifted him from the ground. Merlin leapt to his feet and grabbed Excalibur. He followed the Lady of the Lake towards the shore, but his hands shook, and he shook his head. The Lady looked back with a kind smile, and she levitated them all across the water, towards the centre of the island.
‘True destiny… What does that mean?’ Merlin asked once they had settled Arthur into a simple grave.
‘The Once and Future King will never die,’ Niniane replied. She took the sword from Merlin’s hands and began to float away towards the lake. ‘Wait for him. He will return when Albion needs him most.’
Merlin looked at his empty hands, and a tear trickled down his cheek. ‘How long?’
Niniane did not reply. In a rush of water, the lady became one with the lake.
‘It doesn’t matter,’ Merlin said, and with a sad smile he turned back to the grave of his king, his everything. A hand reached out to run along the stone coffin. ‘I’ll wait lifetimes for you to come back to me.’
And he did. Merlin watched as Camelot fell, and the kingdoms were united without them. As the years passed, plague ravished the country, and those with magic were hunted. It still wasn’t enough to bring Arthur back.
Merlin never aged, never changed, even after the magic died out. He and Arthur became legends, but not for uniting the lands as Merlin had predicted. Merlin had been wrong before, but nothing stung as much as being wrong about the one thing that mattered most.
Legend has it, he still waits, resolve never wavering. One day, the Once and Future King will return. Maybe then, time would move forward for the Warlock left behind.
Thanks for reading! When Dragonspire is done, my next work in progress will be shrouded in Arthurian legend. I can’t wait to start it, so I will probably make it my NaNoWriMo project!
Next Sunday’s prompt:
The prompt for 6th August is ‘Family.’
If you try next weeks prompt yourself, let me know how it goes. Post your attempt on your blog on the 6th August, and leave a link in the comments below this post so that I can read it 🙂
If you can attempt the prompt in less than 140 characters, you can also #sunscribbles on Twitter. I am super interested to see what you all come up with 🙂