gigantomachy: (merlin)
gigantomachy ([personal profile] gigantomachy) wrote on March 4th, 2010 at 01:36 am
[Merlin] Everlasting
Notes: I can't seem to get anything finished these days. Ideas become bunnies become a few frantic hours between work and sleep spent pounding at the keyboard and hoping that I can finish before the next one hits. Maybe it will work this time.

I haven't written second-person in almost a decade. I missed it. (And I imagine that can be taken a few ways.)

Written with heavy influence from the soundtrack The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and The Golden Archipelago by Shearwater, which is a whole album about islands and destruction and doom and beauty and that's all I really need to get the thoughts working, ha. Also, Devil's Spoke by Laura Marling, which is my new eternal Arthur/Merlin theme, oh my god. (Thank you for introducing me, [livejournal.com profile] vazavati.)


Summary: Merlin remembers, where all others have forgotten. And he waits. Arthur/Merlin, with guest appearances from several others.
Warnings: Vague spoilers for 2.12 (like, really vague; you just aren't going to get two paragraphs if you haven't seen it), liberal blending with traditional lore, angst and woe and a small bit of non-graphic slash.




everlasting
(your skinny arms hold a lantern up)


It is not the knight that you love, no, not the golden creature carved of legend and antiquity, one hand on the hilt of Excalibur, the other spread wide to encompass a land that shivers and sighs his name like a prayer. Not the knight, though he is wondrous to behold and even you cannot deny that --

--but there was a time before his armor was burnished gold by the memory of a nation (and then a world, no matter how he's changed with each telling), a time when you saw the boy beneath; golden, certainly, but misshapen with an indulgent youth, pomposity and the piteous cries of a frightened servant, a hand so terrified he looked to you as a savior. The world may overlook these things, cast them aside until only the name and the glory remains, but you cannot.

For this was the moment you faced destiny with open eyes, this was the moment your world changed for ever, you and he nothing more than two proud boys toe to toe one brilliant spring morning, there on a grassy field that set the tableau for all stories to come.

And this is why you cannot forget. It is not the knight that you love but the boy beneath the layers of armor and padding, laughing eyes hiding the fears that lurked there, just beneath the surface. (He once asked, studying you and your bloodstained hands as you knelt over the carcass of an autumn stag, if you'd forgiven him that first meeting. You told him no without hesitation, and when he made to ask you told him only that there was nothing to forgive. It was easier, then, to remain outside the tidal flood of sentiment that whispered legend, even as you shaped those currents to suit your needs. For you, it was always him, only him, prat and king and beloved as one.)

You remember him best as the boy (that happened to be a prince) who rode your dreams, who became the man (that happened to be a king) who rode your soul, the mark of his life an indelible crest upon your heart.

Eternal.


.


You remember the day she left, the way his shoulders slumped for a month. He wore his grief like a token, pinned there on his sleeve for those with eyes to see it, so certain in his naivete that he could have done something to prevent this.

You remember being caught on your way to the forest to burn that cursed skin. He did not ask questions as you lit the blaze, only held you awkwardly as you sobbed into his shoulder, lips moving soundlessly against your temple, the remembered weight of a tiny bottle like searing heat in your tightly-clenched fist.


.


You'd thought, when there was time and the luxury for it, that your magic wasn't made for this. Your magic could bring a barren field to fertility, could call blossoms from an apple tree in the depths of winter. Your magic could shape a wall from the earth itself to protect a village in peril, could heat a bath to the perfect temperature without fail -- barring distraction, of course.

You'd thought, but you'd long before given up lying to yourself.

Your magic could release a volley of arrows so thick it blotted out the sunlight, could freeze a man's heart solid within his chest. Your magic could turn a knight to dust with a gesture, could create a fog so thick and so deep that an enemy could wander within it forever and never find his way free.

Your magic could not offer succor to the hurting. Your magic could not mend a body ruined, no matter how desperately you searched for the proper spell, no matter how deeply your love ran. Your magic could not turn betrayal into fealty.

The truth of this is a knife in your side. It haunts you, for you have hated suffering as fiercely as you have loved him.

(You never could call daylight from darkness, no matter what the stories may say.)


.


this is why i turned away
to slowly break under the lashes
this is how i learned a lie
that power breeds regeneration.
(1)


.


Even after he knew, even after the crown and the burden were firmly his -- there were times you were afraid, weren't there? That it was a dream soon to end, that one day he would come to his senses and remember his father's words and light the last great fire himself.

You remember the nightmares, in bits and pieces, even now -- how you'd doubt and then hate yourself for doubting. How he'd realize how many had died when you could have moved earlier, all just to keep your secret safe a while longer. (How he'd recall that his men had died screaming, in fear and pain, in fire and ice, in darkness and light.)

You hated how little it took to call those old fears forward, how in your pride you thought that if you were not immune, he certainly wouldn't be able to resist such thoughts.

As you watched him sleeping the night after her first visit, you'd never been so relieved to be wrong. You'd thought, then, that you could never love him more.


.


But it was never so simple; by then (by now) you should have realized that. Your love for him is a thing that cripples you, even as it is your strength.

For him, you cast aside legions like chaff.

For him, you would destroy the world.

It never seemed enough.

(It never will.)


.


This, you thought, was what was right, even when you both knew with certainty that it was not.

He bowed over you like the limbs of some golden willow, limned in flickering candlelight, your name on his lips as his hand sought yours, holding tight. It felt right like that, sweat and saliva and breath mingling, your tender bodies pressed and held close until you were both breathless, both trembling, curled into each other beneath spun wool and wolf's fur.

You left each time with fresh bruises, but you knew they had never been the result of anger. It was only that the measure of his affection was too vast, the strength of his care almost too much to be contained within his fragile flesh. (Perhaps what you meant was his love, but you dared not think it, not in regards to you. He had love enough to wrap around his kingdom like a cloak, as if that alone could keep it safe for ever. He did not lie on his side in the hours before dawn and whisper his fears and hopes to Camelot, as he had when you were there. It seemed right, then, that whatever he felt for you, it was different.)

You understood what it was like to feel that way, like your love was a thing that could burst your seams and split the world asunder, could drown the land beneath the depths of it at the slightest urging.

The difference is that, you thought, yours could.

(You love him so much that you cannot comprehend a world without him. The thought alone was enough then to close your throat and set you to trembling with the gravity of it.)

How young you were.

Oh, how you learned.


.


Despite what the court may have sighed behind their upturned hands, you and he were never truly perpetual lovers. There were times in your shared youth, yes, castle rooms in winter, hunting tents in summer, wherever you could steal the moments in between.

But always, always under the proper circumstances.

There were days, weeks, sometimes months that would pass between those moments, time stretching on to years when the newly-crowned king asked the hand of a common maid -- a disgraced smith's daughter, no less -- in marriage.

He was many things, yes, but never unfaithful. (This, you think, is the most insulting of all the things the storytellers have changed; they'd wanted scandal, and saw fit to bend his life to inhabit that mold. Of all things, this was the one place he would never yield.) It was just one more drop in the well, just one more of the countless reasons you'd found to love him.

And as you were his, as he held you (as he held those he trusted most) to his own high standards -- you, of course, could do no less, though your love still coursed through you like a river, unceasing, scalding you to the bone.


.


Tell me you didn't know, he said, and his voice was a brittle, lifeless thing.

You only shook your head mutely, though your arms ached to reach out and draw him close, to stroke his hair and whisper promises that all would be well.

Alas, that too would be a lie.

You had not truly known, but it did not take a sorcerer to predict the affair. You had not forgotten the way she'd looked to him, long before she'd been a queen and he her champion. And how could you have told him, you wanted to ask as you wrapped your arms around yourself, how could you have made him see that she had never stopped loving him? That even now you believed she had love enough to encompass them both?

Love, you knew, had ever made him blind; sometimes to the things that mattered most.

How could you have told him, you wanted to ask, but you knew the answer. The truth was --

The truth was that you feared he would resent you for pushing that veil aside. For being the one to cast such unbecoming light on the woman he loved, whom he wanted to believe in so badly, still.

You thought, as you studied the curve of his bowed neck, that you felt the earth shift. You thought you understood how this was the beginning of the end of you all, how the dragon had been right all along.

You loved the traitors both, but your love for him was greater. You would have destroyed them without regret, but you knew that it would only wound him further.

You understood the boy-turned-man who would one day be his downfall, too. It was never his hate that drove him to his pronouncement, but rather a broken sort of love. After all, he had been his savior, too, and the boy had never forgotten that.

When he finally broke, you relented, pulling his head to your chest, letting his sobs rock your own frail body until you thought you would shake apart beneath the weight of his grief. And when it was over, you undressed him for the first time in years, as if you were still just a servant and he just a prince. You led him to his bed and into it (you did not follow), and brushed aside a lock of golden hair as you whispered sleep in the language of magic.

It was only in your own chambers that you let loose the cry you'd been holding since he first opened his mouth.

Love, you thought, would lead you all to ruin.

How very apt of you.


.


Look, isn't she lovely? He leaned over in his chair to whisper those words in your ear, his breath slightly sour after several cups of wine. He had sounded so pleased with himself, his head held high while the court dissolved into yet more worthless (but sometimes true) gossip around his table.

You tipped your head in a slow nod, and the lady met your gaze, her eyes as black and as deep as sin.

You saw the end.

In your heart, you knew you were undone.


.


It had been a beautiful morning, the slope vibrant with greenery, the lake just beyond a glittering jewel at the foot of the mountains. The chill you felt had only grown worse since the dawn, until your limbs felt like lead, heavy and unresponsive.

You screamed until your throat was raw and torn as she sealed you away from your magic, wove it into a figure of her own design. You begged her, you cursed her; you swore on your mother's eternal soul that he still needed you, because trouble loomed dark on the horizon and all that you were had been molded to keep him safe.

The end was coming, you cried, and you could not leave him alone. He still needed you.

(Perhaps as much as you still needed him.)

Her dark eyes were gentle, even as the stone rippled and hummed and closed in around you.

He'll need you again, she said.


.


It is her nature, cruelty and love intertwined like serpents, that brings her here.

His body is broken, his pulse a sluggish tide within his veins. You can feel it, weak as it is, like a funeral drum that beats deep within the earth, almost (but never quite) matching your own.

She cradles him like a babe, her too-green eyes glittering with unshed tears. His blood stains her robes, her hands; she presses one against your prison and it is a bitter benediction.

I would have saved him, you cry, and she shakes her head.

You could not.

You are all puppets, crude figures of water and earth that dance beneath the careful fingers of Destiny. It pulls and pushes; you follow, and are soon swept away.

It does not make it hurt any less.

I wanted to be there. You are already in mourning. His face is lined with age and duty, caked with dirt and blood; were it clean you might think him only sleeping. You ache to see how, just like then, it seems that all his troubles have been eased away.

He makes a quiet sound of pain; your love and your grief crowd you far more effectively than this stone ever will. She's watching your prison as if she can see you there beneath the stone. (When she closes her eyes the tears finally come.) For once, she looks every bit her age -- it's not much more than your own, you think, but she is a creature that will fade and die, where you ...

You're not sure, anymore. It means nothing to you, not when he is here spilling blood at your feet, the white of his ribs visible beneath ruined mail.

He will return for you, she says, not unkindly.

Oh, it does not make it hurt any less.

You must go. You think nothing in your life has been half so difficult as telling her to leave this place. The time you've had, it's not enough; it's never been enough and you know it never will be, not even if you had ten thousand eternities laid end to end in which to shape your fragile lives.

Where they go, you cannot follow.

What is left for you is a yawning emptiness so absolute your mind recoils.

He will return, she says again, and this time it is his hand she lays against the stone, impossibly large beneath her own.

You feel him then, his weakness and his spirit, and you pray it is enough to see you through.

I'm sorry, she says, aloud and quietly fractured, gathering him against herself as if he weighs less than air.

You know. She has played her part, as he has played his, as you have played your own and you know.

The boat awaits her, and she vanishes into the mist, moving slowly towards an island that does not truly exist in the heart of your little lake.

He will return, but you will not see her again. You know this for truth, like you know the sun will rise tomorrow, like you know the glory of his kingdom will crumble to ruin in his absence.

His blood is all that you have to touch him now, and soon you know the rain will come to wash it away.

You will wait.


.


in the cold light of a weakening star
unchain me
through the last shower of fire wheels in the air
i am life breathed in the radiant lie
(2)


.


The years pass by, but not swiftly.

The forests rise and disappear, victims to catastrophe, to woodsmen and plague. The lake withers to a pond, which fades until there is nothing but a bed of smooth stones, strewn among the grasses. Even the creatures have moved on: where once great herds of deer foraged, an asphalt road splits the valley in two.

The air has changed. It has a different texture now, something sulfurous and gritty; it leaves stains upon your stone like verdigris.

You feel the gravity of time, seasons fading one into the other, centuries an impossible weight upon your frozen shoulders. The land itself is changing, and you are the eye of a great, ancient storm, unmoved as the world revolves around you. Empires, cities, people rise and fall as inexorable as the tide, and all these things mean nothing to you.

Your world is dilated, reduced to the pregnant moment of stillness between one breath and the next. Your world lies sleeping on the lost isle; you wonder if he dreams, and if he dreams of you.

You are forgotten, but you remember.

You are eternal.

You are legend.

Around your stone, the apple trees are ever in blossom, a promise unfulfilled.


.


One morning he will rise. (And it will burn you, that for all these centuries of calling his name, it is the land that draws him forth, blinking like a newborn into the dawn.)

He will come to you, lay hands upon the stone that is your prison (it will part for him like water) and he will draw you into his arms. He will breathe life into your withered body. Joy and love will unravel within you, his name a prayer on your lips until your voice is heard once more.

You will kiss him -- just in case he has forgotten -- and you will know then that he has not.

You will call him king. Prat. Beloved.

And he will take your hand in his own, and together you will descend that broken hill, laughing unto the end of the world.


.


over the fields and the arcs of the radial lines
that bind the waking world to the hidden life
of the empire
that moves without sound
through the air, through the ground
and that streams through each break
carved in the line
and dreams of us.
3


-fin
04.03.10


(1) Lyrics from Runners of the Sun, by Shearwater
(2) Lyrics from God Made Me, by Shearwater
(3) Lyrics from Hidden Lakes, by (you guessed it) Shearwater


I'm honestly not quite sure what to think of this yet. There are parts I really like, and parts I want to shake until they're all better and not, y'know, absolutely lame. Mostly, I think I'm just glad to finish something; lately, I've been feeling like the biggest flake in the world for ages and this is kind of like heaving a huge, much-needed sigh. :|

If you made it through, thank you so much for reading! Hell, if you just skimmed, we're cool; I know it's been done before.

Comments are loved (especially since this is a really new fandom, aaaah), and concrit is appreciated!
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