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21 March 2010 @ 03:38 pm
Apocabigbang: Fic: Postremus Regum Britanniae; Merlin; R; Prologue  
Title: Postremus Regum Britanniae or The End of the World and What Came Next
Fandom: Merlin
Rating: R (for violence and images that may disturb younger readers)
Pairing(s): Merlin/Arthur
Warnings: Character death , violence, swearing, Pop culture references abound, Spoilers for Season 2 of Merlin,
Word Count: ~59,500
Disclaimer: I own nothing mentioned within this work of fiction and I'm getting no money from it. All characters, musical references, etc. belong to their respective owners.
Author's Note: Written for apocabigbang. So many, many thanks, go to lemniciate for the beta for taking the time to try and whip this into shape and whack me round the knuckles for my obsession with the ellipsis (it's an addiction, I swear). Also thanks to her for help making this actually make sense and even advice about Tube stations.

Summary: As Newton's Third Law of Motion states: 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'. For years the world of 'reality' has pushed away the ideas and creatures of magic, forcing them back. Now magic has returned bringing with it chaos and nightmares and the only person who can reunite the worlds of reality and the supernatural is the Once and Future King. However, Destiny has lost its way and a small group of complete strangers (or so they think), guided by a mad woman, are left to search for the only weapon that might save them. But without their memories to help them they're off the beaten track. Here there be dragons.



Postremus Regum Britanniae
Or
The End of the World and What Came Next



Prologue

There was a woman he walked past every day on his way to work. She was filthy, tattered clothes and grime all over her. She looked like she should be trying to sell him the Big Issue or begging for some money to buy bread for her children.

Most of the time Arthur ignored her. He bought his coffee from the Starbucks next to where she stood at exactly twenty-two minutes past eight every day and then walked past her at exactly the same speed, always trying determinedly not to look at her.

He couldn’t help it though, it was her eyes. They were clear and green and they looked at him like they saw right through to the back of his head.

“She’s just a crazy bag lady,” he muttered to himself, and his steps sped up a little.

He had his journey timed perfectly; he always arrived at exactly twenty nine minutes past eight. Today he arrived at twenty eight minutes past eight. He bumped into Gordon from accounting in the lift and had to listen to him ramble about the budget deficits and smile before he began humming under his breath.

After a few more moments Gordon glared at him, and when they reached the accounts floor, he stormed off. It took Arthur until he’d travelled up the next five floors to his own office before he realised that he’d been humming Gordon is a Moron.

He never quite managed to get back on kilter for the whole day.

*

The next morning Arthur bought his coffee and passed by the woman again, he looked at his feet on the pavement, unconsciously falling into the ‘don’t step on the cracks’ game he used to play when he was tiny. It helped him concentrate, helped him focus.

He’d almost past her, almost past everything, when his arm was grasped by a grubby, but long fingered, hand and he was jerked backwards.

One of his feet stepped on a crack, and his concentration dissolved.

“Arthur.” His name jerked his attention round to the person speaking. It was her. She was staring at him intently, her eyes pleading with him not to ignore her. “It’s coming… you’ve got to stop it.”

There was nothing else he could do, so Arthur just jerked his arms out of her grasp and hurried away again, resisting the urge to look back.

The one thing that stuck in his memory though, underneath it all, was that – though her hand was filthy – her nails were clean and well kept. The incongruity came back to haunt him for the rest of the day.

Like she was just dressing up as a homeless woman for something; like she was trying to trick him.

She was crazy, he told himself again. But he found himself scribbling down her words in the margins of his paper during a meeting, and underneath them was a half-hearted sketch of a sword.

As he looked down at them, he realised that she had known his name. He froze, staring at the words and the drawing. Something was wrong with his life.

*

That night he dreamt. He saw her eyes, clear and green and looking at him with disdain.

“It’s coming,” she said again, pointing into the distance, but all he could see when he turned was black. “You’re the only one who can stop it.”

“Are you mad?” he asked, completely seriously. She huffed in infuriation.

She looked younger in his dream. Her hair had no grey in it, just dark brown, so dark it was almost black, and her face wais clean and unlined. Perhaps the age was just a disguise too.

“Heaven help us,” she said, before turning away and walking in the opposite direction. “We’re all doomed.”

She tossed something back over her shoulder and, this being the world of dreams, Arthur caught it immediately. There were words on it that he should know, but when he woke up he couldn’t remember them. They crumbled into nothing and he had a hazy impression that one of them began with an M and another one a K.

It was Saturday, so he didn’t go into work. He watched the football and tried to forget the strange feeling that there was someone else in his skin with him.

He curled his toes up and pulled his arms in tight. Outside the sun was shining, but he couldn’t feel its heat at all.

*

On the other side of town, a young man named Merlin had no idea what he was actually supposed to be doing. He had been working at the company for five months, two weeks, three days and one and a half hours. It was probably a bit late by now to ask people what his job actually entailed.

He spent most of his days writing emails and moving numbers around databases – he didn’t know the people he was contacting and he didn’t know what the figures were about, but he did it all anyway. It was mindless, drone work, but that was how he liked it. If he had to put too much effort in then he might have to stop daydreaming.

Which, let’s face it, was what he did most of the time.

In the cubicle behind him, Will had called a sex chat line. It was the third one this morning. Merlin had no idea what he was doing, but hearing his part of the conversation drift over his shoulder made things seem a little less desperate. Will was the only person in the entire company he knew by their first name, and the only person who had any idea who Merlin was, and that was only because they had known each other for years: it was Will who had got him the job in the first place.

“Yeah, you like that, right?” Will asked, and Merlin knew he was about to do something outrageous. “What am I wearing?” he asked, as though the thought had never occurred to him before. “I’m wearing my spider-man costume. Lycra? No… I don’t think you quite get it.... It’s my spiderman outfit. Four extra legs and huge pincers.”

Merlin winced as he heard the girl exclaim down the phone line at Will, he could just about hear the swear words she was using.

“Yeah,” Will went on. He noticed Merlin watching him and shot him a grin. “That’s right, spiders get me hot… Really hot.”

Pervert!’ the girl on the end of the line said.

“Yeah, talk dirty to me, baby,” Will replied. There was an audible click of the phone on the other end being slammed down and Will stared at the receiver with a chuckle. “You know, the card said they catered to all fetishes.”

“You don’t want to believe the advertising,” Merlin commented.

“Too true, after all, we know what goes on behind the scenes.”

“This is an advertising company?” Merlin asked eagerly and Will laughed at him, shaking his head.

“Nope… not going to get it out of me that easily.”

“You know, one day I’m going to find out what I actually do,” Merlin said with determination. Will nodded indulgently before glaring at his screen. Merlin sighed, giving up for the time being. “Want to get some lunch.”

“Sure… Then, when we get back I’ll give Mistress Nicky a chance.” Will leered over at Merlin. “I wonder how far she’ll take it.”

“You,” Merlin said with feeling as he levered himself out of his chair, “are a sick, sick man.”

“I try,” Will acknowledged modestly.

*

The woman was not there on Monday, but Arthur’s head was full of words and images that swirled around, asking questions with no answers.

Sometimes he heard words whispered around the office. It was like the voices of ghosts in films. The ones that lured people away from the group so they could strip the skin from their bones.

He excused himself from a meeting, when the voices got too loud, and went to the bathroom. They still called after him – Arthur, sire. He sloshed cold water over his face and looked up.

The face looking back at him in the mirror was not his own.

That was - it was his, but not quite. The eyes were right and the jaw-line, and even the cheekbones, but there was something off. His hair caught the light and, for a moment, he imagined that he saw a crown there, but when he blinked, it was gone - just his hair in electric light.

His hands were shaking, he realised, so he balled them into fists. His breath was shallow and panicked. He was acting for all the world like he just saw a ghost.

But there was no such thing as ghosts, and even if there were, he wouldn’t be scared of them.

Arthur tried to ignore the little voice in the back of his head that told him that ghost can have a lot of meanings.

His eyes looked haunted – but that was probably just the rings underneath them… he hoped so anyway.

Arthur – they were still calling him – Arthur. The bloody things were persistent, he’d give them that. If they were real, he’d be impressed. But it only made sense that his auditory hallucinations would be stubborn. They were part of him, after all.

Arthur…ARTHUR

“Arthur!” When the hand touched him on the shoulder, he almost jumped out of his skin. He’d never been this twitchy, ever. It was just Lance, his friend, looking concerned. “Jesus, you look like shit.”

“I think I’m having a nervous breakdown,” Arthur confessed, he didn’t look in the mirror again, turning directly to see Lance himself.

“What? With your pathetic workload?” his friend said with a half laugh, though the forced amusement didn’t rid the concern from his eyes. “No chance, mate.”

“Right… of course,” Arthur said, pulling himself together and straightening up. He forced himself to relax and smile. “Must just be the morning after, right?”

“Arthur – you didn’t go out last night.”

“Yeah, but sometimes staying in can be fun too…” Lance capitulated, but Arthur could tell the subject wasn’t dropped. The man could be relentlessly chivalrous – it was one of his worst (and best) personality traits.

*

There was a place, it could be twenty metres from where Arthur was, it could be twenty light years. It was both, simultaneously. It was also three thousand years in the past and tomorrow at the same time. No one ever said that it was an ordinary place.

This was where the voices came from. This was where they hid. Beyond the barriers of what people these days called ‘the real world’ and well into the realm of fantasy.

There were no gates or entrances to this place, but people entered and left all the same. It was where the unicorns went, and the dragons. It was where destiny played and magic rested.

This was the resting place of Excalibur. Where it was thrown by Bedevere as his King lay dying. This was where the Lady of the Lake lives.

This was Avalon.

*

Will and Merlin stood at the counter ordering an obscene amount of food. Merlin might not know what he did for a living, but he did know that it paid well.

He felt the prickle on his neck of eyes watching him and he turned to see a young woman in the far corner. Her eyes were green and her dark hair was twisted up elegantly. She wore the sort of suit that had to be tailor-made and Merlin felt a little bit guilty to even be looking at her. She was so far out of his league that he should be in some other café, eating stale bread and butter.

He looked away, but she was still watching him, and when he glanced back, she smiled.

“Wow,” Will said as he followed Merlin’s gaze. “I’ll say this for you – you might be a bit bent, but you don’t half have good taste.”

“I’m not ‘a bit bent’” Merlin said, “I just-”

“I know, I know…” Will said tiredly, “you just appreciate beauty in all its forms. You sound like a right pretentious twat, you know that. Might as well just go the whole hog and shag the Niagara Falls.”

“Shut up.” Merlin told him, but the words were half hearted. He was still watching the woman in the corner. There was something about her: it was like she was waiting for something.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, go on already,” Will said, giving him a not-too-gentle shove in her direction. “I promise not to be offended that you leave me for the hottest girl in the place.”

“Right…” Merlin said, nodding, and he walked off, not even glancing back. He hadn’t paid for his sandwich yet and he heard Will’s groan as he realised that he’d be picking up the bill.

“Hello Merlin,” she said as he reached her table, smiling brightly at him. It was as though he was an old friend, not a complete stranger. “It’s good to see you again.”

“Uhm…” he said, looking around. If it weren’t for the fact that Merlin was not exactly a common name (except perhaps for dogs) then he would have thought she had mistaken him for someone else.

“You look well.” She sipped her coffee elegantly, with the simplicity of movement that speaks of someone completely self-assured. Suddenly Merlin wasn’t so sure that he hadn’t met her before. She seemed so positive, he felt himself caving under the pressure of her personality.

“I am thank you. Sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.” It was entirely possible that he had met her at some party or maybe in the office and had just forgotten her. Though how he could forget someone like that? She laughed and the sound had a sort of echoing hollowness to it, and his spine tingled in a familiar sort of way.

“You’ve forgotten more than that,” she said, setting down her glass coffee mug and gesturing to the seat opposite her. “I’m Morgana; we knew each other a long time ago.”

“Oh… did we go to school together?”

“Something like that.” She smiled to herself, secretively, as though what he had said was amusing. “We certainly learnt things together.”

“So, fancy seeing you here,” Merlin said lightly. He couldn’t remember a Morgana in his primary or secondary classes, but he couldn’t remember everyone. “Small world.”

“A lot smaller than it used to be, certainly,” Morgana admitted, “but this isn’t really a coincidence, Merlin. I was waiting for you.”

If she weren’t unbelievably hot then he’d be unnerved by that. Actually, who was he kidding? He was unnerved by that. She was still smiling, but now it was not comforting any more.

“Right, well, my lunch break…”

“Doesn’t finish for half an hour,” Morgana said picking up her coffee again and Merlin suddenly remembered that he had a sandwich in front of him and he was starving. “And you’re always late back anyway.”

“How do you…?” Merlin asked.

“You don’t want to know,” she said so definitely that he stopped that line of questioning right there. “Look… I don’t have that long. I have to go back soon… but I need you to find Arthur, all right? They’re coming and he’s the only one who can stop them.”

“Who? What?” Merlin asks, “Morgana, was it?” She nodded. “You’re going to have to be less cryptic than that, I’m afraid.” She watched him carefully.

“You won’t understand.”

“I can be very understanding.”

“Fine… a long time ago – a very long time ago – magic was as much a part of this world as everything else. All the magical lands you hear about were real places… but over the years humans grew old, and jaded. They explored the world and they found that those places didn’t exist. They found that some things weren’t possible, so those impossible things all got pushed out. Perception is such a large part of reality, you understand.”

“Ri-ight.”

“They went somewhere else, where they could be real themselves only for every thing that happens, something happens to balance it out.”

“Newton’s laws?” Merlin suggested. “For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction?”

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” she repeated thoughtfully before nodding. “That holds true just as much with magic as with everything else. You push something away – it pushes back. At the moment, it’s all held but… things are going to break soon and, when that happens, it’ll be like an explosion.”

“O-kay.”

“I said you wouldn’t understand.”

“I understand,” Merlin said, immediately, “I mean, I don’t believe you, but I understand.”

“I spent one whole lifetime trying to get you to believe me, and by the time you did it was no use anyway, and now I’m back at the beginning again. At least you’re talking to me, which is more than I can say for Arthur.” She waved a hand impatiently, “It doesn’t matter anyway. All you need to do is find Arthur. Apart – you’re vulnerable, they’ll come for both of you, but together you should be all right. Find Arthur and tell him that I’ve kept it safe.” She drained her coffee cup and stood up, leaning down to peck him on the cheek. “Don’t try and over think it, Merlin. Just find Arthur.” She looked down at him fondly. “It really is good to see you again, you know. And Will.” She shot a look over to where his friend was studiously not watching them. “I’ve got to go.”

*

Excalibur lay beneath the waves, where it had lain for centuries. It didn’t rust; it didn’t tarnish and still glimmered as brightly as it had always done. Dragon’s breath forged it and only dragon’s breath would unmake it.

A sword without someone to wield it was still a sword.

The water had not been disturbed for well over a decade. But it was disturbed now.

Hands scrabbled in the silt at the bottom of the lake, dredging up plants and small animals. They came closer and closer.

Excalibur did not move. It had no reason to. It was just an object. It could not know what was coming.

Fingers brushed the hilt, just stroking over it. They returned, more certainly, grasping it, slowly and pulling upwards.

When Excalibur emerged from the water, it shone brilliantly in the sun.

The hands carried it away, out of the light and into the darkness, leaving behind nothing to suggest that it was ever there.

*

In his office Arthur gasped. It felt as though someone had wrapped a hand around his heart and squeezed. He spluttered, almost choking on thin air before the sensation went, leaving him feeling curiously disabled, as though someone had chopped off his arm. He actually had to physically check that they were both still working. Lance, walking past his door, came to his side in an instant.

“Arthur?”

“I’m fine,” he said, still staring at his hands in disbelief. “It was just… indigestion, probably.”

“Like it was a hangover earlier, huh?” Lance asked, disbelief etching his tone.

“Right… I’m fine, Lance. Stop clucking over me like a mother hen. I’m the healthiest person you know.”

“Right,” Lance said, but he didn’t sound convinced.

*

Morgana had just rounded the corner from the café when she felt it stabbing into her heart and she fell to her knees right there in the street. People around her ignored her carefully and hurried by. One older lady asked if she was okay, but Morgana waved her off. There was no way she could explain just how not okay she was at the moment.

She needed to go back, to tell Merlin. But there wasn’t enough time. Her grasp on this world was fading already. She was being pulled back. She didn’t belong here.

She pulled herself to her feet and managed to make it around the next corner into the alley before she faded from sight.

*

Merlin’s vision blurred. He remembered throwing something, something heavy, and he remembered a splash. No – he imagined throwing something and a splash. Imagined. This wasn’t real.

A roar echoed in his head and words came rushing to him like they had always been there, lurking at the back of his mind.

“It must be wielded by no one but Arthur,” he said and when he opened his eyes Will was watching him with undisguised concern. It was rare to see.

“Arthur?” the other man asked, one eyebrow rising.

Merlin still felt dizzy, the world was spinning around him, like something had upset its balance and it couldn’t quite manage to stay on an even keel.

“You know, I know you’re called Merlin, but cryptic comments about someone called Arthur are just weird, dude,” Will told him. Merlin managed to steady himself enough to reply to that.

“You can’t pull off ‘dude’,” he said firmly.

“Really? I thought it would work.”

“You’re not American enough,” Merlin said solemnly.

“Damn… but ‘mate’ just sounds old.”

“Arthur…” Merlin said, thinking it through again. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“You hadn’t thought of what?”

“Merlin and Arthur,” he admitted. “King Arthur, of course, that makes more sense.”

When he said the name, an image seemed to flash behind his eyelids, but it flitted past before he could capture it, just leaving an impression of a half-smile and the glint of sun on metal.

“What?”

“She said – Morgana, the woman here before – she said that I needed to find Arthur… she’s an Arthuriana buff. That makes so much more sense.”

“And you didn’t make the connection before?” Will asked, his voice flat with disbelief.

“No.”

“Well, no one could ever accuse you of being quick on the uptake.” Merlin glared back at him and finished off his sandwich. There was nothing much he can say to that.

*

“I don’t think you need a drink, Arthur,” Lance told him when Arthur suggested going to the pub down the road. “I think you need a rest.”

“You have never been more wrong,” Arthur corrected him. “I need a drink… I need a lot of drinks.”

“It’s a Monday night… we’ve got to be at work tomorrow,” Lance pointed out, but Arthur could see that he was buckling.

“I think I’m going insane, Lance. I need to drown my sorrows.”

“And what if you drown the tiny bit of your brain that actually works properly?”

“Then at least I won’t know that I’m going insane.”

“Fine – one drink, but then you’re going home,” Lance said. Arthur nodded, although they both knew that neither of them would keep to that limit.

*

“Shit…” Will said with feeling, shivering and staring at Merlin with a haunted expression.

“What’s wrong?” Merlin asked as they pushed through the doors and into the bar, going to stand near the till to wait being served. “Was Mistress Nicky not up your alley?”

“Turns out that – you know that beer stain on the card?”

“The one you hoped was a beer stain?”

“That’s the one. It covered up some rather important information.”

“Such as.”

“It was actually Master Nicky?” Merlin blinked once before bursting into a helpless fit of laughter.

“You phoned a gay BDSM hotline?” he asked, when the first waves of hilarity had passed him by. Will nodded reluctantly. “And you spoke to a male dominatrix… what is the word for that, anyway? Dominator?” Will glared at him. “Did you get your money’s worth?”

“God no… I tried to hang up, but he kept… talking.”

“It was a phone, Will. I’m fairly certain that him talking doesn’t make it impossible to hang up.”

“I froze, okay?” Will admitted shifting a little where he stood. “I couldn’t remember how to move. He just kept… talking.”

“He didn’t convince you to bat for the other team, did he?” Merlin inquired, “because, you know I’m always willing to help you if you’re curious.”

“I’m not curious,” Will snapped, blushing furiously. “And we are never going to talk about this again.”

“Of course we’re not, Apart from when I bring it up when I next see your mother.”

“You dare, Merlin, and I will flay you alive.”

“What will you give me not to?”

There was a sudden hush in the bar, or maybe there wasn’t. Perhaps it was all in Merlin’s mind, but suddenly the background noise all but disappeared and the noise of the door opening became almost unbearably loud in the quiet.

Two men walked in, not looking his way and talking to each other. They were clearly old friends. Their voices sounded like they were discussing old jokes. One was blond, with fair skin, and the other was dark. Both had the sort of physique that made Merlin glad he didn’t discriminate in his ogling.

“Arthur,” his lips said, the word barely more than a breath on the heavy, stagnant air of the bar. He didn’t know why he said it, but when he did the blond turned to him and their eyes caught for a split second. There was a moment of almost recognition there, followed by a flash of panic, and he turned immediately back to his partner.

“Shit,” Merlin said, turning back to Will. “I’m going mad.”

“Going?”

“Shut up.”

“No, seriously, what brings on this sudden revelation?”

“The fact that I’m friends with you?” Merlin said acidly.

“Then you’ve been mad since you were three.”

“Dick.”

“Fag,” Will shot back.

“You know, having just rung up a gay S&M line, you might want to take it easy with the gay jokes.”

“Point taken,” Will said with a wince taking a sip of his beer. “So, why do you think you’re going insane?”

“I can’t forget what that woman said earlier. And I think I just called that guy over there Arthur.” He tilted his head in the direction of the blond. Will laughed.

“You’re having Arthurian themed fantasies about complete strangers. Do you like dressing up in a pointy hat as well?”

“Shut up.”

“You really need to come up with a better response than that. It’s getting old,” Will told him.

*

“You said a drink,” Lance said, cutting into Arthur’s thoughts, “not a one night stand with a stranger.”

“What?” Arthur asked guiltily

“You keep looking at that guy by the bar,” Lance smiled a little. “You know you’ve never been good at subtle.”

“I don’t fancy him,” Arthur said firmly, swallowing a large gulp of his drink.

“Really? Then perhaps you should go and get the next round to prove that?”

“You said only one drink…”

“Ah, so you do fancy him,” Lance said, nodding. He hid his smirk behind the rim of his glass as he drained it.

“No, you were right – tomorrow we’ve got to be at work early,” Arthur said, choosing to go for the conscientious tack.

“So this has nothing to do with the redhead by the bar?”

“He’s not a redhead, he’s got brown…” Arthur trailed off as he saw Lance’s face creasing into a huge smile. “It doesn’t even matter. We’re going.”

“What about your nervous breakdown?”

“No doubt I’ll still be having it tomorrow. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure,” Arthur was sure. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened when he had locked eyes with the guy at the bar, but it had been as though his whole world had been twisted at ninety degrees to itself. It was something he did not want to experience again,

They got up and walked out and Arthur refused to look back. He was just some guy in a bar, like the woman on the way to work was just some crazy homeless person. He was paranoid, stressed from working too hard.

*

Merlin felt the room chill as the blond – Arthur – left, and he shivered slightly. He determinedly tried to stuff the memory of the man’s presence back down inside himself and listen to Will’s speech about his mother coming back into town with his stepfather, making sure to nod at all the right places.

When Merlin finally couldn’t take any more he convinced Will that home might be the best idea. They walked away from the bar together and headed towards Will’s flat. It was only round the corner, and Merlin couldn’t be arsed to go all the way back to his own home. It was at least another fifteen minutes walk away – far too far for his currently unsteady legs.

They had rounded the corner when the light hit them.

The streets had been dark, apart from the headlights of passing cars and the streetlights up above. They had both been dyed yellow by the electric light, but suddenly the entire street was flooded with blue-white. It flickered like flames, but seemed to suck the heat away from them. Merlin shivered uncontrollably, his teeth chattering together. There was a ringing in his ears and he could swear that he could see hands reaching towards him, fingers coming closer and closer until they touched his cheek. He felt ice form where they trailed, the sweat of his terror freezing to his face.

Merlin, a voice said, amused by something. It made him want to throw up, or run away. We want our world back, and you will get it for us.

“Sod off!” he muttered, only half aware that Will, next to him was frozen in place.

We want our world back. Your worthless King will die.

“Leave me alone,” he said again, his voice not sounding half as authoritative as he wanted it to.

You are alone and you are powerless. It is our time now. Yours has come to an end.

He pulled away from the fingers, drawing his arms into himself for warmth. It started from within him, a tingling warm sensation that wormed its way into his core. Then it spread. Outwards from that centre, right down to his toes and up to his head. He could feel his eyes opening again and the light seemed dimmer somehow. His eyes were warm, and some instinct inside him just made him push with all his strength at the light. At first it was difficult, but then he seemed to build up momentum and it got easier and easier until he felt like he was exploding from him, with barely any effort at all.

Everything went black and when he could see again he was on his knees in the middle of the pavement with Will crouched over him.

“Merlin?” Will asked, looking more concerned than Merlin could remember him being since his father had gone into hospital that final time. “What happened?”

“I… I don’t know,” he thought about it, about the light and the way it had touched him. He thought about its words. “Did you see that?”

“See what?” Will asked, looking even more worried. “Merlin, you just collapsed.”

“Right…” Merlin said. It was all in his head. Maybe someone had slipped something into his drink to make him see the pretty, pretty colours. “Did you spike my drink?”

“Not today, I leave the spiking until you’re having a really bad day.” Will was still watching him curiously. “Let’s get you to my sofa, shall we. He heaved Merlin’s slighter frame to its feet and the two of them walked away, like drunken participants in a three-legged race.

*

Arthur got home without incident.

*

The lake was empty; Morgana stood at its shore and reached out through it, feeling every particle of the water, creature and plant within it. There was no sword, no magic beyond that inherent in the world.

Their one hope and she’d lost it.

She thought of that final promise she had made to Arthur through Bedevere. ‘I will keep it safe,’ she had said, ‘I will keep it for you.’ She curled her legs beneath her and sat on the edge of the lake, trailing her fingers in the water.

“Bugger,” she said with feeling.

*

Tuesday rolled around and Merlin felt as though the events of the night before were nothing more than a bizarre nightmare. Will woke him up by throwing juggling balls at him – the same juggling balls Merlin had bought him for his last birthday, there was gratitude for you. He got dressed in spare set of clothes he always left at Will’s, usually for that precise purpose.

There was just enough coffee for the two of them, and just enough time to gulp it down, scalding the sides of Merlin’s throat as the mug drained.

“You were having some happy dreams last night,” Will said to him with a wicked smile as they walked out the door. Merlin shot him a confused look. He couldn’t remember a thing. “Lot’s of moans and ‘please’, I almost had to get my earplugs in.”

The worst thing Merlin knew about his face was the way it blushed. The brilliant pink rolled over it, making its way to the tips of his ears.

“Oh, please,” Will said breathily, grinning as he locked the door behind them. “Please Arthur. Yes… like that… I’m your-”

Will!” Merlin said, shoving his friend not-so-kindly into the wall.

“I guess whatever that woman said yesterday dragged up some deep seated Arthurian fantasies. Was he wearing his crown?” Will asked. “Did he make you kneel in front of him?”

“You’re making it up,” Merlin insisted, speeding up down the steps.

“I’m not. You should have heard yourself. I’ll probably be getting complaints from the neighbours.”

“Shut up!”

“That’s what I said last night,” Will retorted, but he left the subject be – for then.

*

The woman was back, not standing as she usually did, but ramrod upright, watching the people who passed by intently, nervously.

Arthur tried to sidestep her, but she walked out in front of him. He looked up into her face and saw fear.

“They got it. I’m so sorry, Arthur,” she said, her eyes flickered over his shoulder. “I was talking to Merlin and they took it while I was gone.”

“Excuse me,” he said, trying to ignore her, but she took a hold of his arm and he noticed that her hands were no longer dirty. In fact, she looked as though she had given up the pretence.

“You have to listen to me. You met Merlin, right? Last night?”

“Merlin?” he asked. “Look, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you keep doing this, I’m going to have to call the police.”

“But you were meant to meet Merlin last night. You were supposed to remember.” She was shaking visibly. “I can’t believe you two can screw up something as simple as saying hello to each other! It’s almost at breaking point. I can’t hold it back any more, not when they have Excalibur.”

“Excalibur,” Arthur breathed. For a split second he could have sworn he smelt earth and grass and felt the sun on his face, and there was something in his hand. It was warm and it felt right, like he was always meant to hold it, like it belonged to him. But the traffic was noisy in his ear and the smell of exhaust fumes brought him back. “Leave. Me. Alone.” He grasped her hand and pulled it off him and walked past. He looked back once and she had gone, vanished into the crowd.

Or into thin air.

He shook the thought away and ignored the way the word Excalibur echoed in his mind. It was just a sword in a fairy tale… nothing more than that. She was clearly insane.

His fingers itched to hold something, his hand felt empty, but he ignored it and walked onwards.





*

Chapter 1: The Earth was Ripped Asunder
 
 
 
Cheyfeelsthemagic on March 22nd, 2010 02:10 am (UTC)
holy mackerel. this is good.
i wish i could comment more, but i have to go to bed, its getting kinda late for me.
i will return tomorrow and read the rest of this.

but. really. this premise is so amazing! i can just tell you're going to draw everything out and leave me hanging until the end...

oh wow, i cant wait to read this!
(Deleted comment)
Good grief, it's a running gag: gwenlady_ganesh on March 22nd, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY
brunettepetbrunettepet on May 20th, 2010 06:25 pm (UTC)
This is fascinating. I'm enjoying the worlds bleeding into one another and the valiant efforts both men are taking to just shake off the auditory and physical "hallucinations."

Your attention to detail is painting a vivid, entertaining universe. I love that Will is addicted to sex lines. He's hilarious. Merlin having no idea what his job is is hysterical, too.
THEpowerOFmethepowerofme on August 20th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
wow Wow WOW! I can't believe it, it's only the prologue and I'm hooked! This is immense! O.o I can't wait to read more!
Stella: arthur + swordstella_owned on October 6th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Hi there,

I´ve read the whole story, my internet is just so shitty that I don´t want to click through every chapter again to leave a comment. (saved it to my pc for later perusage)

This fic is brilliant! YOU are brilliant!

This is one of the most epic fics I´ve ever read and another reason why I love this fandom so much. It inspires people to so much more.

I´ve read this and had goosebumps. Never wanted it to end. I even wanted it to be true (and isn´t that perverse?! o_O)

Amazing job, you´ve done there. I cannot find the words, actually.
lawgoddess: Arthur in lovelawgoddess on December 20th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Wow, terrific start! Fine writing.