December 21, 2005
Arthur was sure that someone was following him. Looking back, he saw the culprit wearing a black hooded cloak that reminded Arthur of the ghost of Christmas future from ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Yet he distinctly felt that this ghost would sooner kill him than simply show him the future – like his place in the cemetery. No thank you on that count.
“Creepy strangers should be banned this time of year,” Arthur muttered to himself.
He breezed past the Christmas-themed shop windows as he was in a hurry to get the cloaked person off his back.
Although Arthur did stop at a display with the sword Excalibur stuck in a stone.
“Wait a minute. Isn’t it supposed to be back in the lake?” Arthur wondered suddenly, not quite knowing where that thought came from.
All twenty-five years of his life, he’d never had a thought like that. Like Arthurian legend was a real story. But why now did he feel that this legend wasn’t fictional after all?
“Arthur, come here,” a familiar voice spoke to him.
It was a voice he’d wanted to hear for so long now. But he couldn’t remember whose voice it was. Only that it was familiar somehow – like from a buried memory.
“Who’s there?” Arthur asked. He couldn’t see the person.
Then he felt a change in air pressure. Arthur quickly turned his head around and to his shock; everyone had frozen in place as if by magic.
A glowing bullet came shooting straight at him. Arthur knew he should get out of the way, duck, do something; but all these strange things happening at once…he needed to process it all.
The bullet froze right before it was due to hit him in the chest.
The invisible person grabbed him and pulled him down. As his rescuer beckoned him into a hidden alleyway, Arthur was finally able to see the person. He was a man his age with dark hair, blue eyes and big ears. He knew this man. He did. His name was…what was it again?
The dark-haired man exited the alleyway, appearing to check that the cloaked stranger had gone. Arthur heard him speak a few words in a tongue he couldn’t understand. Arthur heard the usual hustle and bustle of people up and down the street again. Then, seeming satisfied, the man returned to him. Arthur guessed that the mystery assailant had blended into the stream of shoppers along the way or had accepted defeat for now.
“You have to trust me. All right?” The man asked him.
“Merlin?” Arthur addressed tentatively.
The dark-haired man nodded and smiled. “Yes, that’s my name.”
“I’m Arthur. Was it you who stopped the bullet?”
“It was,” he admitted.
“Thanks for that,” Arthur said, feeling a bit awkward about it. He wasn’t sure what to make of this familiar yet not man who had saved his life. “I’m not sure who’s trying to kill me. And I don’t know why you seem familiar and how I guessed your name correctly. Have we met before?” He asked him curiously.
Merlin looked thoughtfully at him. “Maybe this will help.”
Then Merlin kissed him. Arthur was about to pull away and say something like, “What the hell??”
But then all memories of his long ago past life returned back to him in a rush. Arthur stepped back a bit, overwhelmed by the strong sensation.
Merlin placed a steady hand on his shoulder so Arthur would keep his balance.
“Merlin!” He said, his voice now full of recognition and years of memories. “Is Morgana trying to kill me then?”
Merlin grinned. “Glad that the kiss worked,” he said. “And unfortunately yes…reincarnation has made her…more unhinged than she previously was. We must be careful.”
“Brilliant. Just what I wanted for Christmas. Morgana hoping to kill me again,” Arthur said darkly. “Have you been reincarnated too? Or did you live up to the Emrys name? Are you really immortal?”
“I’ve been reborn like you, so no, not immortal,” Merlin informed him. “We can talk more at my place if you want to.”
Arthur nodded. “Sure. It’s starting to get chilly here.”
~ * ~
Merlin lived in the countryside. Yet Arthur hadn’t expected his residence to be so big.
“Merlin, why is your place a mansion?”
Arthur looked up at Merlin’s impressive estate. The five-storied home was made of solid grey stone with deep green vines surrounding it, glints of gold coming from the unquenchable vines. Arthur liked it more than his childhood home – though he had grown up on a big estate, it never truly felt like home compared to now – standing beside Merlin, together again, looking at the home Merlin and his magic had crafted.
Merlin shrugged. “I was bored. Decided to use some magic to try my hand at building.”
Arthur stared at him. “I now wonder what happens when you’re not bored.”
Merlin playfully shoved him. “You’ll find out soon enough.” He winked at Arthur.
“All right, you win,” Arthur conceded as he followed Merlin through the grand foyer and into the blue, white and gold themed kitchen.
“Sit down then,” Merlin offered. “I’ll make some hot cocoa.”
Arthur looked pointedly at the hedgehog eating a beetle on the kitchen table.
“That’s Sirius, my faithful companion,” Merlin said. “Don’t worry. He won’t bite.”
“Funny,” Arthur said wryly. He sat down, and nevertheless, he was careful about making contact with the hedgehog. Sirius paid him no mind when he patted him on the back, Merlin’s pet being preoccupied with his meal. He was a cute hedgehog all things aside. “So it’s just you and the hedgehog in this big place?”
“Full house, let me tell you,” Merlin joked.
“Of course,” Arthur said.
Merlin grinned at him.
After Merlin set down the mugs of cocoa and some chocolate biscuits and cakes too, Arthur spoke.
Arthur said, “So…I’m not sure where to begin. How was it after I had died? What did you and Rilian do?” He asked.
Merlin sighed. He stirred his cocoa. “Well of course it wasn’t easy for me to return to Camelot. It was terrible…having to live without you and then Mordred dying. I hadn’t expected Mordred to die at the battle,” he said unhappily. “Knowing I still had Rilian forced me to brave the aftermath of Camlann. But though we came back to Camelot, I could not stay long. I had to leave, travel…go anywhere that wasn’t a place holding so many memories of you and Mordred. Gwen understood, thankfully. Rilian insisted on coming with me…”
“Someone needed to keep an eye on you.”
“Well I was hoping you’d haunt me, but clearly that didn’t work out,” Merlin shot back at him.
“Sorry about that,” Arthur said gently yet he reached out to grasp Merlin’s hand.
Though he believed Merlin wasn’t being serious about the haunting, he still detected a hint of misery. As if Merlin had tried in his past life to magically summon Arthur back to him, but had been frustratingly unsuccessful. Arthur couldn’t help but feel for Merlin because he would’ve been at a loss too if he’d had to live through Merlin’s death. He couldn’t bear to think about what he would have done.
Yet still, he was glad Merlin hadn’t succeeded in returning him from death because Arthur feared the repercussions would have been terrible.
Merlin smiled at him in gratitude, quietly reassuring Arthur that he was okay.
“I tried to persuade Rilian on staying in Camelot. That he should help Gwen, use what I taught him. That he should find a girl to love, start a family. Rilian was twenty years old, Arthur. It was time that he let me be and begin the next phase of his life.”
“But what will never change is that you’re his father. Of course he saw how much you were hurting. I expect it was hard on Rilian too after Camlann.”
Merlin nodded. “My son knew so well how close we were, Arthur. He understood it wouldn’t be easy for me to cope. He wanted to come with me because he’d only be worrying about me if I traveled on my own. He told me that I’d looked after him for ten long years, and it was time to return the favour. That he would be there for me. So I just agreed to Rilian coming along. I rationalized it to myself that it would be a good thing. Rilian could learn something valuable by seeing other places, meeting people in distant lands.”
“You’re never too old to learn.”
“Yes. I admit I enjoyed the idea of teaching him further, that though he was grown, there was always something new to learn. For him, and me too.”
“So how long did the two of you travel?”
Merlin shrugged. “For a few years. The whole experience – seeing lands with customs so different than my own – was unforgettable, to put it lightly. I ended up being grateful to do this with Rilian, to share the adventure with someone. We returned to Camelot, and Rilian did find a sweetheart. Her name was Ophelia, and she reminded me of Gwaine a bit. She was good for Rilian – balanced out his more reserved nature.”
“A girl like Gwaine? I don’t know, Merlin. Sounds like trouble.”
“Oh you were just jealous that Gwaine was more entertaining than you.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“Whatever allows you to sleep at night,” Merlin quipped with a grin.
“One can’t deny the fact that he liked you more than me, but that’s beside the point,” Arthur said. “So Rilian married her then, I would assume, and you got a daughter-in-law.”
Merlin smiled. “Yes. They had grandchildren, and I tried to be a good grandfather.”
“Oh I saw Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, so…”
“I didn’t grow a ridiculously long beard,” Merlin cut him off as Arthur looked ready to let out a laugh. “And that’s an inaccurate depiction.”
“Well of course. It’s an animated film. If you must know, my favorite part was the last bit of the squirrel scene…”
“Mine too,” Merlin said quietly with a small smile. “Anyway…so Rilian did help out Gwen at Camelot. He took the position of Court Sorcerer and I advised him when he needed me. But one day, when Rilian’s children were grown, I told him that I had to leave.”
“It was an odd thing… I just personally didn’t want the last my son saw of me was when I was on my deathbed. I knew I would be happiest leaving, comforted by the thought that Rilian last saw me alive and well. I guess I felt a proper retirement meant leaving my old life behind completely.”
“It can’t have been easy. What did Rilian think of it?”
“He was upset to see me go, but he accepted my choice. He told me he was grateful that I stayed long enough to be a grandfather to his children.”
“Or he just accepted your stubbornness and decided to make the best of it,” Arthur countered.
“I had spent days thinking about it, Arthur. But I knew it was the right thing deep down. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to tell Rilian yet I had to follow my heart. Of course it was hard to leave and I missed Rilian, but I appreciated the years I had with him. I couldn’t have asked for a better son. I could never thank you enough, Arthur, for convincing me to find a child.”
“No need to thank me. I just thought it made the most sense for you to have a magical child to mentor. I was pleased to see it work out so well. So that your life’s work wasn’t solely looking after me.”
“Those ten years with you and Rilian and Mordred…they were brilliant, weren’t they?” Merlin thought out loud. He sighed, looking wistfully.
“No doubt there,” Arthur said with a nod.
“After I left,” Merlin continued, “I returned to the cottage I had stayed in with Mordred years past. It was the cottage you came to when you asked us to return to Camelot.”
“Right. I remember that. Especially the holly all about the cottage.”
Merlin smiled. “Yes. The spooky thing, I suppose, is Mordred’s spirit came to visit me there every so often. I didn’t even summon him magically…it was just lucky that somehow he could come to me. But he couldn’t speak.”
“Hmm, not being able to speak certainly makes it spookier.”
“Still, I was glad to see him. I had long ago resigned myself to the fact that I’d never see you again at least in that life. It was a nice surprise that at least I could see Mordred again.”
“You did all the talking then?”
Merlin nodded. “I told him about my life since he’d died. I told him about Rilian and his family, about being a grandfather, about how much I still missed you, and how I wished he – that is Mordred – hadn’t died at Camlann. That suffering the loss of two of my closest friends in one battle was a terrible thing to deal with.”
“It’s fortunate you had Rilian’s support then. And you have me again. Thank goodness for reincarnation.”
“Grief is never easy to overcome,” Merlin said, sighing. “Eventually, one day, I left my cottage and traveled to the Crystal Cave. I had decided long in advance that if I would die of old age, I would rest inside the cave. The Crystal Cave is the birthplace of magic after all – I believed that was my true home in the end. I couldn’t think of a better place.” He smiled, remembering. “And Mordred was there too. I felt him hold my hand before I fell asleep one final time. Though I thought I’d be alone when my end came, I was grateful that Mordred was there with me nevertheless.”
Merlin looked down, appearing very somber. Arthur didn’t miss the quick swipe at his eyes like he was wiping away tears.
“I’m glad Mordred’s spirit was able to be with you. I guess fate refused to allow you to die alone.”
“Stubborn fate,” Merlin muttered.
Arthur lifted his chin to see wetness on Merlin’s face. “I’d say wise,” he said.
He leaned forward to kiss Merlin softly on the lips.
~ * ~
I chose to name Merlin’s apprentice/son, Rilian, in honour of a character from the book series, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair. Rilian is King Caspian’s only son in that book.
I know what Mordred's deepest secret is, and there are small hints to it. I was going to address it in the modern day part, but I decided to focus on Arthur and Merlin spending time together instead. I don't know if anyone can guess the secret... not sure if it's too obvious or not.
My reasoning for Merlin being reincarnated instead of being immortal is due to his altering of the prophecy. Since Merlin made an honest effort with Mordred and he revealed his magic to Arthur earlier, this led to Arthur not being killed by Mordred. As a result, it changed Merlin's fate and Merlin/Emrys wasn't immortal anymore...he was left to be reborn along with Arthur. And also Arthur was reincarnated versus resurrected (I guess that's the best word to describe it) because of the prophecy being changed.
The mention of holly and it being protection against bad spirits is from The Dark Is Rising book series. Although in that series, holly is put up as protection against the forces of the Dark, but it's similar. Just a little thing I couldn't help but stick in there.
Back to Part One here