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and with my opened mouth i join the singing light

Chapter Text

The door to the cottage remained obstinately closed.

 

Arthur avoided Gwaine’s questioning look, instead staring straight ahead. Arthur knocked again.


Whump, whump, whump. The door rattled in its ramshackle frame.

 

“…Sorcerer?” Arthur called, realizing that he’d forgotten the warlock’s name.

“Nice one.” Gwaine commented snidely. Arthur elbowed him sharply in the side, taking only small satisfaction in his pained gasp. Arthur wracked his brain, but came up empty. The sorcerer had only mentioned his name once, and promptly knocked Arthur out. 


“It sounds like Dragon, I think.” Arthur hissed. “Dragon?” He called, unsurprised when no answer came.

“A sorcerer named ‘Dragon’?” Gwaine asked, disbelievingly. Arthur shrugged. An owl hooted somewhere far above them.

 

Arthur knocked again, impatiently. 

 

The door made a loud crack! and swung open with a long, drawn-out creak. Arthur winced, bracing himself for an angry warlock or a magical attack that…did not come. Arthur looked over to Gwaine, who had his hand on his sword, peering into the darkness beyond.

 

Gwaine and he made brief eye contact and Arthur nodded once. Gwaine took this as the sign that it was and drew his sword. They advanced into the cottage.

 

Dust and cobwebs seemed to cover every flat surface. The small table that Arthur had bumped into all those years ago was lined with a thick, dark layer of dust, like it had not been touched or sat at in ages. The bedroll in the corner of the room was rumpled and dirty. The rows of once tied-up drying plants now lay as skeleton-like husks—scraggly corpses lining the walls. Cobwebs were layered so thickly on the sparse, dirty windows that Arthur couldn’t see their horses tied up outside.

 

The watery light of the moon barely reached inside of the dark room, and Arthur found himself squinting into the dark. Water hit stone somewhere, and the steady drip, drip, drip calmed Arthur somewhat. 

 

Gwaine carefully crossed the room to the dark fire pit in the other section of the cottage, his footsteps crunching on fallen pottery. The noise was deafening in the quiet cottage, and Arthur’s eyes snapped down to look at it.

 

It was too dark to see, but Arthur could make out curved clay partially kicked under the table.

An unsettling feeling washed over Arthur, stopping his breath in his throat as he realized what it was. The same pot that Arthur had broken when he had first come here laid in ruins on the floor, cracked and grimy.

 

The sorcerer had not cleaned up the broken clay. 


“The fire’s cold. He’s not been here for a while.” Gwaine said, breaking the stillness of the room. If the steadiness of a solider had not been beaten into Arthur as soon as he could walk, Gwaine’s voice would have sent Arthur through the roof.


Arthur nodded in response, bending down to pick up a shard with shaky fingers. Why would he not pick this up? Arthur remembered him clearly, eyes wild as he berated Arthur for breaking it. Could he not fix it with magic? Could he not clean the ramshackle cottage with magic? 

 

When Uther had died, Arthur had not bothered to send knights to the cottage. The sorcerer had claimed to know Arthur’s next moves, and he would have to be truly foolish to return to his home. The sorcerer, as little as Arthur had known him, proved to be two steps ahead of him at every turn. Arthur had known the cottage would be empty, and by the time he had been able to process that his father was truly gone, he didn’t see the point in sending his knights away when they were needed in Camelot. After Gaius had proclaimed the sorcerer’s innocence and Morgana’s intervention, Arthur let the matter unofficially settle.

 

But had the sorcerer truly not returned since? Had Arthur banished an innocent old man from his home?

 

“This doesn’t make sense.” Gwaine said, slamming Arthur out of his head and into the present. He was now bent over an oven, one hand in the ashes.

 

Arthur straightened. Gwaine turned, holding out his hand and crossing the small cottage in two strides.


“Why does a warlock need to make charcoal?” Gwaine asked, holding his hand up to catch the meager light. Old, brittle charcoal sifted through his gloved fingers and fell to the floor in a shower of ash. Gwaine nodded behind him.

 

“He’s got barrels of the stuff. And a charcoal furnace.”

 

Arthur’s mind was spinning.

 

Nothing was adding up.

 

He examined the room one more time.


“I…don’t think he’s been here for years, Gwaine.” His voice was smaller than he wanted it to be as his eyes traced the cobwebs on the windows. “I—I don’t even think this is his house.”

 

“Fuck,” Gwaine whispered, spinning on his heel and slamming his fist against the wooden post of the back door.

 

Arthur wanted to bury his head in his hands and die here—just fall to his knees in the dust and shake until his bones rotted and his lungs clogged up with cobwebs.

 

The back door of the cottage slammed closed as Gwaine made an inhuman noise in the back of his throat, stomping into the night.

 

He…failed.

 

He failed.


Arthur fell to his knees, palms slapping against the stone flooring and dust flying like a ripple away from him. Arthur couldn’t get enough air in his lungs, and heaved desperately.

 

Magic would never fail to doom Arthur.

 

Over and over again it took and took and took.

 

It took his mother, it took Morgana, it took his father, it took Merlin, and it took Merlin’s only chance to live.

 

Or…

 

Maybe Arthur had done that.

 

Arthur had chased away the one sorcerer in the entire world that could possibly help him.

 

Arthur killed his mother, failed to support Morgana, sped up his father’s death and forced him to die in agony, let Merlin take the knife, and now had successfully destroyed any chance that Merlin would get to live.

 

Arthur had done it all.

 

He would never fail to doom himself.

 

Any good he was given he would dash upon the stone like a child playing with dolls. He was never able to keep anything because he didn’t deserve it.

 

Merlin was dying because Arthur was killing him.

 

Arthur’s hands balled into fists, and Arthur slammed his hand into the stone of the floor. Once. Twice.


He bit back the scream building its way up his throat. 


Stop.

 

Stop!

 

“Arthur.”

Gwaine’s voice broke the tension in Arthur’s body like a twig. Arthur, exhausted, raised his eyes to meet Gwaine’s, but the look on his face stopped him cold. Gwaine was sticking his head through the back door of the cottage, one hand waving Arthur closer.

 

Arthur stumbled to his feet, meeting Gwaine at the door. 

 

The cold air felt like sweet relief as Arthur’s lungs burned.

 

Gwaine held his hand out to stop Arthur before he passed him and held a finger to his lips. The strain on his face was gone, replaced by apprehension and interest.

 

Arthur listened. 

 

“I…don’t hear anything.” Arthur said, straining his ears.

 

“I know. There’s not even a breeze.” Gwaine responded, nodding towards brush of the forest ahead. “Then why is the forest moving?”

 

The brush was indeed moving, swaying and rustling as if by a strong wind. The movement seemed to limp slowly up the gargantuan trees until the leaves whispered high above. The branches high above groan with their movement, dark shapes skittering against the canopy of the sky. Arthur felt his stomach twist painfully, trepidation igniting adrenaline until Arthur felt jittery down to his toes. Arthur adjusted his sword in his sweaty palm.

 

Magic.

 

Arthur cast a look back at the abandoned cottage. Dragoon was gone, but sorcery this close to his home? It couldn’t be a coincidence. Arthur needed a healer—would get on his knees and beg if he had to.

 

He and Gwaine shared a look, then plunged into the darkness ahead.

 

~

 

The woods were silent—eerily, entirely silent in a way that Arthur had never experienced.

 

Ever since he was a boy, he had been hunting and moving through the forests all around Camelot. He had travelled through these very woods more times than he could count. The brush was always rustling with quarry and high above, birds would call and flap about.

 

But now, the only sounds were Arthur’s and Gwaine’s footsteps on the forest floor. Even the groaning and creaking of trees had silenced as soon as they had stepped into the tree line. 


A large crack had Arthur spinning around, heart thundering and sword raised, but was only greeted by the sight of Gwaine holding up his hands abashedly. He had stepped on a fallen branch as big around as Arthur’s forearm, cleaving it in two.

 

“Sorry, mate,” Gwaine whispered, shrugging as he plodded forward. Arthur made sure to thwack him hard across the back of the head as he passed.

 

Time plodded on. 

 

Arthur was not sure what they were looking for, but something propelled him further. After another half-hour, Gwaine froze behind him.

“What?” Arthur asked, unnerved by the look on his face.

 

Gwaine cursed. He was paler than Arthur had ever seen him.

 

“What?” Arthur asked again, moving back to see what was wrong.

 

“We…we were here.” Gwaine’s voice was raspy.

 

“Who?”


But Gwaine was already gone, taking off at full speed. Arthur cursed and chased after him. The night air was brisk, but Arthur felt hot and uncomfortable like it were dozens of degrees warmer. Gwaine stopped suddenly, and Arthur slammed into his back.

 

Arthur turned to curse him, but Gwaine was already off again, this time in a different direction.


The next time he stopped, Arthur grabbed him by the collar.


“What are you playing at—“


Gwaine’s eyes were wild as he stared down Arthur in the dark.

 

“In the woods,” he panted, “when we heard you screaming. We were here.”

 

Arthur’s blood ran cold.


“We kept moving, it must be nearby.” He turned and continued on, and this time, Arthur’s heart hammered for an entirely different reason. They moved in silence, covering distance, then doubling back and sending off again.

 

Arthur blinked.

 

It was lighter than it used to be. Thinking it could be just a trick of his mind, Arthur slowed and rubbed a hand across his eyes. But no, the forest was illuminated by a faint glow. Gwaine slowed, too. Arthur turned his head this way and that, trying to find the source of the light.

 

They moved towards it. Light brightened the forest bit by bit until Arthur could see, through the trees, a pale orb--no bigger than a bucket--suspended high above the ground. Arthur knew this light. He’d seen one before, a long time ago. It had saved his life. Arthur’s heart hammered in his ears.


A friendly mage! Could it be the sorcerer?

 

Arthur pressed forward, excited by the possibility of aid. Ten meters from the clearing, Gwaine grabbed Arthur’s arm in an iron hold.


“Arthur, wait.” 

 

Arthur spun on him.



“What? It’s magic. We can get help!”



Gwaine shushed him, and Arthur was struck by the strangeness of the situation. Usually Gwaine was running in unprepared, and Arthur had to be the voice of reason. Gwaine quirked a brow at him, as if he understood.

 

“We can’t assume that all sorcerers are good, mate.” Gwaine said, “Especially there.” He nodded his head at the clearing.


Arthur looked again, and felt every nerve stand on end.


The light Arthur had seen before had none of the warmth that the one in his memory did. It was a cold light, dim and grey and foreboding. A single figure stood in the clearing, bent over a bush. They were picking flowers and placing them in a basket at their feet. But Arthur knew this clearing. It was the clearing where Merlin had fallen. Arthur’s breath caught in his throat.

 

“Why is she back?” Gwaine wondered, and Arthur looked at him in confusion. “The sorceress. That’s her.” 

 

“How do you know?” Arthur asked.

 

“I know my women, mate.” Gwaine said, trying to lighten the mood, but the jibe fell flat in the silence.



Arthur looked closer, and indeed, this was the woman that dragged Merlin off through the forest. She was the reason for all of this. She was the reason that Merlin was lying on a cot back in Camelot, corpse-like and in pain. She was the reason that Arthur couldn’t breathe, the reason that everyone was mourning, the reason for everything. Arthur reached for his sword, but he couldn’t feel his fingers. So much rage boiled inside of him that he feared he would explode.

 

“Arthur, we can work with this,” Gwaine said. Arthur’s mind spun, and he tried to focus on what was needed. Merlin didn’t need his anger, Merlin needed his help.

 

“We can…” Arthur fumbled for a second before finding his footing. “We can trade amnesty for information.”

 

Gwaine nodded encouragingly, but looked confused.

 

“We won’t arrest them for trying to assassinate the king if they tell us how to save Merlin’s life.” Arthur was building up steam now, building resolve. Gwaine nodded again, slapping Arthur on the bicep.


“There you go, blondie. Knew you had it in ya.” 

 

Arthur was up and moving, and heard Gwaine sputter and try to follow. When Arthur entered the clearing, the woman didn’t stop her movements. The sorceress was petite and barely reached Arthur’s shoulder. Her hair reached her waist in neat plaits, as pale and slick as animal fat. The bush she was plucking from was large, as long as a man and half as tall as one. It was bursting with bright purple blooms. Arthur had never seen anything close to them before. Even the leaves of the bush didn’t look like the surrounding foliage.

 

“Witch.” Arthur called, drawing his sword from his scabbard. He heard Gwaine tromp into the clearing behind him. The sorceress leisurely turned, eyeing them with a lazy smile on her face. She didn’t look alarmed or threatened, which made Arthur’s hair stand on end. He didn’t like being faced with opponents who didn’t recognize him as one in turn.


“Oh, good evening, boys.” She said, and her voice was a purr. The sound grated against Arthur’s eardrums, and he clenched his teeth. “I heard what happened.”

 

“I’m so sorry to hear about your manservant.” She said, eyebrow raising. Arthur wanted to wrap his hands around her tiny neck. He thought about doing it for a second. It would be so easy.


But Gwaine shifted at Arthur’s shoulder, and he snapped back to the present.

 

“I hear it’s so hard to replace help these days.” She continued, and feigned a sympathetic frown. The orb above their heads continued to emit the cold, grey light, and the shadows it casted across her face made her look inhuman. “After all, he was so irreplaceable.”


Arthur stiffened. There was no way that this witch knew anything about Merlin, but her casual smirk, as if she knew something, set all of Arthur’s nerves on end.


“We need your help.” He ground out. Each word felt like hell. Arthur tried to remember Merlin’s face back in Camelot—sallow, deathly, terrifying—and the image came all too quickly to sober him.

 

The witch looked all too delighted.


“Oh, boys, not with that attitude,” She purred.  She cast a look between them, and her smile widened. “Kneel.” 

 

Gwaine reacted immediately, hoisting his sword higher.


“Not on your fucking life,” he growled, moving as if to step forward. Arthur stopped him with an iron grip on his forearm and sheathed his own sword.

 

Arthur looked at her.

 

Arthur kneeled.

 

The mud squelched around Arthur’s knee as he lowered himself. They formed a gross mimicry of a knighting—supplicant, ruler, witness. The witch crowed hideously, cackling like a frog was trying to crawl out of her throat. Gwaine’s hands pulled at Arthur, trying to move him, but Arthur’s will was stone. 

 

“I need to know how to save Merlin’s life.” Arthur said. The act of Gwaine kneeling next to him was heard and not seen, for Arthur stared up at her with as much dignity as he could muster. He might have been a supplicant, but he would be damned if she thought him any less than the King.

 

Her face froze mid-laugh. Confusion clouded her features, but she managed one more haughty chuckle before she let her amusement drop.

 

“Your Emrys is dead. We made sure of that, Pendragon.”


“Emrys?” Gwaine asked. She rolled her eyes, flapping her hand dismissively.


“Yes, yes. I think you all call him Merlin.”


Gwaine and Arthur shared a look. Alright, that’s not a good sign. The look they share debated whether she was mentally sound enough to continue speaking. A conclusion was reached. Arthur plowed on.

 

“Merlin is alive,” Arthur said, and tried not to think about the ‘barely’ that was implied by his tone. “If you tell us how to save his life, your clan of sorcerers will not be harmed.”

 

The witch looked startled, shaken. Her wide eyes flicked from Gwaine to Arthur and back. Arthur was used to people being shaken by his threats, but this seemed different.


“He’s…He’s alive?” She said, but her words got stuck in her throat. When neither man replied, she looked down at her basket, full of purple buds. “No, no. That’s not possible. The blade was enchanted with a curse of the Old Religion. No mortal—“


She stopped. She didn’t move. Arthur didn’t know if she was breathing.

 

“How can the curse be broken?” Arthur asked in an attempt to snap her back into focus. Her head tilted towards him, but her eyes never left the flowers.


“It…It can’t.” She said, and she sounded on the brink of tears. “The curse was designed to kill any living thing.  Emrys…had betrayed us for the crown. There was no other choice. He was supposed to help us, shelter us! A weapon that powerful should not have been commanded by the enemy. There was no other choice!” 

 

She sounded mad, and Arthur wanted to scream. The old sorcerer had been half-mad himself, but this sorceress was spouting pure nonsense.


“So the curse can’t be broken?” Gwaine tried again.


“His mortal body should have perished. The magic—“ She jerked down and scooped the basket up in her arms, almost emptying it in her rapidity. “The magic won’t let him die.” 

 

Arthur and Gwaine rose, swords unsheathing. She looked half wild, animalistic as she looked at her flowers. Her hair had come out of her careful plaits, and an unseen energy crackled in the air. The orb above them got brighter.


“The flowers—I thought…I don’t understand.” She wailed. “Emrys is a traitor! The magic should have killed him for his betrayal!”


Arthur was about to lose it. Gwaine was apparently two steps ahead of him.


“Stop!” He yelled, but it seemed to have no affect on her, and she continued to prattle anxiously.


Then, just as quickly as she started, she stilled.


“The magic.” She whispered. “I am such a fool.”


The sorceress fell to her knees, and began to carefully collect each flower that she had dropped one by one. Her hands were as gentle and slow as if she was picking up glass.


“King Arthur,” she said quietly, not straying from her task. Arthur almost didn’t hear it.


“Yes?”

 

“You are the Once and Future King. You and Your Merlin are two sides of the same coin.” The smile on her face was troubled. “I tried to cleave that coin, but magic has ruled in favor of destiny. He shall live.” 

 

The breath caught in Arthur’s throat. He didn’t know what she was talking about, but the words bounced around in Arthur’s mind until they stuck. He’d heard them somewhere before. They’d been whispered to him, given to him, sometime before. They were the truth. But in the moment it was all lost to the three words that made Arthur begin to shake.

 

He shall live.

 

Arthur’s knees felt weak, and the relief that overwhelmed him was too strong to be called relief. Arthur had known relief—when he crossed the threshold of Camelot after a battle, when a treaty was signed, when his knights turned to him and an unspoken gift of trust was passed into his arms.


This wasn’t relief.


It was encompassing. Overwhelming. 

 

“H-How do I help him?” He croaked, and Gwaine moved a little closer to him, shoulder to shoulder. Arthur hadn’t realized he’d been swaying.


“You are the only one who can,” She said, and held up a single purple bloom. “King’s Mantle.” It seemed almost grey in the light. “It is the flower that bloomed from Emrys’s sacrifice—his lifeblood.” She gestured at the shrubbery around her. 

 

Quick, sharp images of Merlin—bleeding, delirious, in pain—blinded Arthur’s mind. He didn’t want to think about how he had held Merlin in this clearing, how Merlin had bled out in this clearing. Arthur felt the familiar burn of hostility rise in his chest as he stared at the woman who had caused so much grief. She sat almost exactly where Merlin had lain, and the low, thick, green foliage was bursting—unnaturally so—with purple blooms.

 

“Take it.” She said, and gestured for Arthur to grab the Mantle from her hand. Arthur did. He made sure that he didn’t step near the bush. The flower was cool to the touch, and Arthur, startled, almost dropped it.

 

“Make a paste with it over his wound,” she said, “and tell him to wake up.” 

 

Arthur blinked.

 

“What?”


“Tell him to wake up.” She said again.


Arthur felt the edges of despair creep in.


“That won’t work.” His voice was a rasp. He didn’t say, I’ve done that. He didn’t say I’ve sat by his bed every day and begged him to live. But Arthur thought she heard him anyway when she nodded, and plucked a flower out of her basket. She held it up to the light.


“You are returning his offering.”

 

Arthur looked behind him at Gwaine. Gwaine looked like he believed it, and he nodded reassuringly at Arthur. That would have to do. 

 

“We will keep our word, sorceress. You and your people are safe.” Arthur turned, legs quaking, but something was tugging at his mind. He paused.

 

“There were three of us in the clearing. How did you know that you would hit Merlin?”

 

She looked at him, and the grey light of the clearing made her eyes glow a sickly amber.

 

“Simple. We aimed for you.”

 

~

 

The ride back to Camelot was no less frantic the second time.

 

Arthur was cradling the flower in his hand like a baby bird, like glass, like a child. He and Gwaine didn’t slow for more than the second it had taken to cross streams and leap fences. Arthur purposefully did not think of anything at all.

 

Their horses were steaming with sweat in the cold air as Gwaine and Arthur slid from them at the castle gates. It was early morning. The sky was lightening with the promise of dawn, but neither of them noticed as they pelted up the stairs.

 

They took them three at a time, four at a time. The stone edge of one clipped Arthur in the shin as he tried to take five at a time, but he hit the stairs—turning his body so his side hit instead of his hands—and Gwaine’s hands were scrabbling at him to get him up again.

 

When they finally burst into Gaius’s chambers, Arthur’s throat was so dry he felt like the heart that was beating there would choke him. Gaius jerked awake from his bed, eyes wide. Arthur could not yet speak, but held the flower out, panting around a smile so wide he thought his face would break.

 

“Paste. Wound. Words.” Gwaine gasped, and collapsed to the floor, heaving. Gaius did not let hope cloud his efficiency as he took the flower from Arthur and set to work. He was a blur of movement as he bustled from table to table, gathering ingredients and the proper tools.

 

By the time Gaius was finished, a palette of paste in his hand, Arthur felt like he could breathe again.

 

And only then did he allow himself to look at Merlin.

 

Merlin.

 

If he could be any more emaciated, he would have had no flesh left at all. His once hollowed eyes were so purpled and bruised that they looked like empty eye sockets. There should have been nothing keeping him alive. But yet, hollow breaths rattled so quietly that Arthur couldn't hear them at all. His skin was no longer pale but a sickly yellow that turned to grey on the shell that was his body. Arthur felt a sob bubbling up in his throat but he bit down on it just in time.

 

Whatever force that had animated Arthur for the past night vanished immediately, and he collapsed onto the stool by Merlin’s bedside, lifeless. Gwaine moved to stand beside Arthur as Gaius unwound Merlin’s bandages to apply the paste. Arthur looked away.

 

“Sire.” Gaius said in acknowledgement, and backed away once he had finished. Arthur grabbed Merlin’s pallid hand in his own. He looked up at Gwaine.


“I want Leon to be regent.” He said, and was surprised by how strong his voice was. Gwaine started.

“What?” 


“If this kills me, I want Leon to be regent. His bloodline can assume the throne.” Arthur repeated. Gwaine shook his head.


“No, absolutely not, Arthur. The sorceress didn’t say this would kill you.” 

 

“Sire—“ Gaius interjected, alarmed. Arthur silenced them.


“It’s always been a life for a life. A trade.” He said. “Always.”


He looked up into the grey eyes of the man who had raised him, then to the startled eyes of the man who had become a brother. Then he looked at Merlin, who couldn't open his.

 

“I’ve made my decision.” Arthur stated again. 

 

He shifted his hand so that he could intertwine his fingers with Merlin’s limp ones. He brushed Merlin’s bangs back from his forehead, and pressed his own forehead to Merlin’s ashen one.

“Merlin.” He said. “Wake up.”

 

For a beat, nothing happened.


Merlin’s chest continued to rise and fall, barely. But nothing happened. Arthur waited.

 

Arthur waited.

 

Arthur waited.

 

Merlin did not stir.

 

Arthur let a sob beat its way from his throat. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping that he could prevent his tears from falling on the side of Merlin’s face. He could hear Gaius slump against the table, defeated. 

 

Gwaine said something, hushed.

 

Arthur turned his head to him, but couldn’t open his eyes yet. He couldn’t look at Merlin yet, knowing that he failed. That the witch had betrayed them after all. That Arthur had killed someone he loved, once more.

 

Gwaine said it again, but it was barely louder than the first time. Arthur blinked his eyes open, but his vision was so blurry that it took a second for Gwaine to swim into focus.

 

Gwaine’s mouth was closed. But he said something again. 

 

Arthur’s eyes snapped to Merlin. 

 

Merlin had barely stirred at all, but his lips were parted. 

 

He…he had spoken.

 

Arthur was so startled by the ferocity of his joy that the stool had almost toppled with him on it.

 

“Yes!” He cried, “that’s it, Merlin! You daft idiot! Wake up!”

 

Merlin’s brow furrowed.

 

Arthur laughed disbelievingly, and looked up at Gaius. Gaius didn’t seem as happy as he should have been.

 

“Gaius!” Arthur prompted, tightening his grip on Merlin’s hand. Gaius didn’t look back at him.


“Merlin, can you hear me?” Gaius asked, placing a hand on Merlin’s arm. Merlin muttered something, but it was still unintelligible. His head jerked to the side, like a muscle twitch. His mouth opened, but formed words that had no sound. His brow furrowed further, and his head snapped to the other side.

 

Arthur’s joy was fading.


“Merlin?” 

 

Merlin made a low, pained groan, and his limbs began to move, as if caught in a nightmare.


“Merlin?” Gwaine placed a hand on Merlin’s uninjured shoulder, but Merlin soon jerked out of that hold. His groan was getting louder, and Arthur realized that it was not a groan at all, but words.

 

Arthur didn’t recognize any of them.


It was not any language Arthur had heard before.


“Gaius?” Arthur asked, panicked, as Merlin thrashed himself out of Arthur’s hold, head jerking back and forth as if being struck.

 

Gaius looked as frightened as Arthur felt as he tried to hold Merlin still.


“Merlin, you’re okay.” Gaius said, trying to be louder than Merlin’s words. “You’re safe.”


But Merlin seemed to hear none of it as he continued to flail.

 

Arthur tried to focus on Merlin’s words, but they seemed a nonsensical stream of sounds. Merlin’s cry rose to a shout. Arthur tried to prevent his head from hitting the cot frame, but Merlin was moving so quickly that Arthur couldn't prevent a couple of hits landing.

 

In a long stream of words, Arthur heard one that stopped his blood cold in his veins.


“-Emrys-”


Emrys. The sorceress had called Merlin Emrys.

 

Gwaine and he shared a wild look before Merlin fell completely still.

 

It happened so suddenly that Arthur was terrified for a split second that Merlin was dead.


Merlin’s eyes shot open, and chaos exploded around them.

 

Every single item that had been scattered on the tables around the room was thrown off, as if in a tempest. Glass bottles shattered as they hit the wall, beakers full of liquid cracked and spilled over the stones, and paper was thrown wildly. The bookcase was thrown over the banister, and books were ripped of their pages as they fell. Gaius, Gwaine, and Arthur were frozen in shocked, horrified silence as book pages rained down on them.

 

Merlin sat up.

 

His eyes were golden.