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Merlin smiles the day that the classfication of kingdom returns. The land that was once Albion has become almost just that once more, save that there are more kingdoms now. Merlin knows this will not last; he knows that it is only a matter of time before an invasion takes place and two kingdoms become one.
He is right.
He usually is.
He does not know the names of these kingdoms, of which there are twelve. Merlin does not live in any of them. He lives outside of it all, silently observing from Avalon, though it has long since dropped that title. He has, using magic, created a small home for himself. He has lived here for years now, never interfering with the mortals across the water.
He has never strayed far from this place because he knows that mixed within the waters surrounding the island are the dusty remnants of Arthur. He feels tied to this place, though being here haunts him. He can still see the boat which had held the great king sailing across these very waters.
He cannot leave, not even if he wants to.
Sometimes, when it is late and cold, the sorceror feels lonely and he calls, using the old words, for the great dragon, who he knows will never come. Still, he calls, he screams, and he cries.
He hates his life of solitude and he hates that he cannot die. He dreams of the release that cannot yet come to him.
So he waits.
Then, on one of his rare strolls through the forest (now grown back, for it had been suburbian land) across the way, there is something.
Something deliciously different and for the first time in centuries, Merlin is thrilled.
It has returned (had it ever gone?), the buzz, the almost electric feeling in the air, and he knows that there is a fellow sorceror nearby.
"Who's there?" Merlin called, barely able to keep the excitement out of his voice, but the whispering winds were all that answered him.
He looked around, setting down his bag of herbs and berries.
"Hello?" He called again. He knew that there was someone. Using his magic, he looked through the surrounding area and pinpointed their location. He couldn't see the face of the cloaked figure who lay on the ground, but he knew that they must be very small. A child, perhaps?
He gathered his bag–which had grown rather heavy–in his arms and started towards the mystery sorceror.
As he approached, the youth–for it was, indeed, a youth–stiffened and curled up even more so on itself.
"It's alright, I won't harm you." Merlin reassured.
After a moment of hesitation, the youth slowly stood and the hood fell away. Merlin blinked several times. It could not be; surely, he must have been dreaming...
The child looked uncannily like a mixture of Gwen and Arthur.
She could only have been a descendant; but then... Gwen hadn't been pregnant, had she? Even if she had been, this child resembled too much a direct descendant to be only distantly related.
Yet stranger things had happened.
"What are you doing here?" Merlin asked.
"I was sleeping." The young girl snapped. And that will be from Arthur, Merlin couldn't help but think.
"But why here?" He pushed on.
"Where else am I supposed to sleep?"
"In a bed, in your house."
"I have neither."
Merlin paused. He hadn't been expecting that and he definitely was not expecting the words that tumbled from his mouth next:
"Stay with me then."
The young girl looked at him as though questioning his sanity. Merlin couldn't blame her.
"Stay with me."
Again, she only stared in response to this proposition. Merlin, himself, wasn't entirely sure why he had offered– except that he was; the child so greatly resembled his dear friends and she had magic! Merlin could feel it in the air like static. He found himself wondering if she, herself, knew of it. She had to. Surely, she could feel it pulsating, surely she could sense its overwhelming presence. Merlin could, though he had become so used to it that, until this encounter, it had been numb, barely present at all.
"... Why? You don't even know me."
"No, but I could never live with myself if I allowed a young child–"
"I'm not a child!"
"–to sleep in the woods."
"How do I know you're not crazy?" She asked and, Merlin thought, it was a valid question. He contemplated it for a moment before responding,
"Because you can feel it, can't you? The buzz... and can't you hear that hum?"
She seemed to go into shock at these words. Her voice dropped to a whisper as she asked,
"You can feel it too? No one else I've ever met has been able to. I've always thought I was crazy– and so did they."
"Do you know what it is?"
Her eyes lit up as she considered this.
"And you have it too?" She asked. Merlin nodded and, to demonstrate, held out his hand. Upon whispering a few words from the old religion, a small flame appeared there. She grabbed his hand compulsively, staring at the flame. "Teach me." She said, looking at him with those large blue eyes that so resembled Arthur's.
"Come with me."
The girl nodded her assent.
Back in his small hovel, Merlin was just finishing setting up a bed for the girl, whose name, he had learned, was Nyneve. She watched him curiously. Never before had she met another like herself, who could feel the pulsations of magic in the air and who could hear the harmonious hum that was magic itself. She had always seen such beauty and such sorrow in it– the latter because she had never had anyone with whom share could share the experience.
That had changed now.
The bed arranged, Merlin murmured a few words and cast a fire into the small hearth. Nyneve watched in awe.
"Have you had it since you were born?" She asked.
"Yes, a very long time ago." He replied. She looked at him, evidently confused. He certainly didn't look old. She was silent for a moment.
"How old are you?"
"I've lost count."
She was silent again.
"I'm 16." She told him for no reason other than to put an end to the silence. Merlin looked faintly surprised. She looked so much younger than 16 years old. Perhaps that was simply the way it was now. Merlin did not know.
"You should rest." He suggested, "I know it isn't much, but it's got to be better than the forest floor."
"Thank you and I will, but..."
"You haven't said your name."
Merlin paused for a moment.
"Emrys." He told her, making a slight bowing motion.
"Good night, Emrys."
"Good night, Nyneve."