Okay - take two. Not going to lie this chapter has been hard to write.

A lot has happen since I last updated. A new job and on line training have taken a lot of my time. Between lockdowns seeing family I couldn't beforehand, spending time with my boyfriend who I couldn't see during the first lockdown. I am going to try update sooner – but with more on-line training coming up I will update when I can.

Chapter Ten

Merlin looked at the dead version of himself the rusty sword in his hand. He was now fully free to use magic, to be himself. Merlin wanted to do this by himself. Merlin will face the knights later – no doubt they will be annoyed with him, but Merlin didn't care.

Merlin didn't start fighting right away because the dead him wasn't fighting. In fact it just standing there – that was unsettling – very unsettling. Merlin didn't want to attack first. He wanted answers.

"What do you want?" asked Merlin – he dead him didn't speck, not that Merlin was surprised - he wasn't sure if it could speck. "Are you here to kill us? Why did you disappear before?" Merlin had hundreds of questions maybe even thousands and yet he had no answers. "Why now?" asked Merlin "You could of come at any moment of time – why now….why right here?"

Merlin closed his eyes for a moment – he was literally talking to himself. But the dead version him…that had to part him still – somehow. None of this make sense to Merlin.

Merlin looked at the gold. He had no desire to take any of it – maybe that's why the dead him come here. Knowing he could get Merlin alone. knowing the knights weren't going to be with him - if that was the case whatever the thing was that looked like could think for it self. "You want me here," said Merlin slowly "It must be important why?"

Again no answers. "Just tell me what you want." Said Merlin growing impatient. He gripped the rusty sword in his hand more tightly than before.

…..

The knights stood looking at the rocks unsure what to do. "These caves…these tests, they must be more than just random things…. they are testing who we are….. I think they are looking at our very souls….what kind of people we are." Said Percival thoughtfully

"How does that help us?" asked Gwaine "Or Merlin?"

"Well, what if the caves know Merlin has secrets…" said Percival

"You mean about who his father was?" asked Leon

"Maybe," said Percival

Gwaine looked at Percival for a moment. "If you are right – Merlin has nothing to worry about – he's Merlin… we know him… he's just…. Good… too good….he's…" Gwaine paused to find the right word, but couldn't think of one. "He's… Merlin for crying out loud…"

"But dose Merlin believe that?" asked Percival

Leon started to try the rocks. He didn't care about all that now. He wanted to get to Merlin and drag him back. Then he was getting everyone out of there caves. He was fed up with these games or tests. He looked at Gwaine and Percival "Aren't you going to help?" he asked.

Gwaine shrugged a little. "Something tells me, Merlin will find his own way out." He said "I like it even less than you do. But we can't go in there – the gold…." Leon stopped trying to move the rocks. He had forgotten about the gold.

"Arthur is going to kill us," said Leon kicking a rock that he had just moved.

"Most likely." Said Gwaine. "I think we need to keep moving…."

Percival blinked in surprised. "What about Merlin?" he asked. He was sure Gwaine would of been the one who would try to break down the wall between them and Merlin.

"The cave changes all the time." Pointed out Gwaine "Even if we move the rocks, there a change that the gold room would be gone….like I said…. Merlin will likely find his own way…"

Leon knew Gwaine was making some sense. They had to keep moving and hope that Merlin knew what he was doing. Leon didn't want to explain to Arthur if they got this far in the caves for Merlin to get lost in these caves.

…..

Merlin was still looking at the dead version of himself. Then he noticed that the gold around them was changing slowly. Merlin watched in fascination as the gold turn into crystals. "This isn't like the crystal caves." Said Merlin to himself – he was glade about that. Merlin didn't want to see the future again – nothing good come from seeing the future.

"This is the heart of the cave," come a voice. A voice Merlin knew.

Merlin turned and saw Lancelot standing there. Merlin didn't move for a moment. "How are you here?" he asked.

"The lines between the living and dead run thin here," explained Lancelot with a smile smiled.

Merlin looked at Lancelot for a long moment, "Are you really Lancelot?" he asked "Or are you some kind of illusion - like the gold?" Merlin didn't take his eyes off of Lancelot - if it was really Lancelot - Merlin didn't trust what he was seeing. It seemed too good to be true.

"I am not your friend," spoke the Lancelot look alike "But I wanted to take a form you might listen too. Tell me, how did you know?"

Merlin scowled a little, "I know Lancelot," he said plainly "So, was it you who talked to my friends?"

The Lancelot looked a like smiled in a un-Lancelot way. "I tell you no lies." he said "The living and the dead worlds are near in these caves. Your knight friends come to the weakest point - the water's edge... the real Lancelot talked to them. As well as a few others. they didn't tell you about them?" Merlin didn't reposed - unsure how to react. "Maybe you should asked them later? or maybe you will have a change to see for yourself."

"What are you?" asked Merlin getting to the point. He had no patient for games anymore.

"There are many names I been given," said the Lancelot lookalike "But I guess I am an ancient spirt that lives in these caves. Have done - since before the time of man,"

Merlin looked back at the dead version of himself who was standing there. "Do you know why he is here and the other are gone?" asked the spirt.

Merlin frowned to himself. "I have my theories," He said "He is still here because I can't die…."

"Everyone can die – Emrys." Said Lancelot "You have come close before. – But with your magic that flows though your blood…..I guess the rules are a little different for you...maybe it just harder for you to die."

"I am fed up with being different." Said Merlin – he looked back at the spirt reminding himself it wasn't Lancelot.. "What I am meant to do? I don't know what I meant to do to get out of here….Are you going to tell me?"

The sprit smiled a little - almost in a playful way. "Everything happens for a reason, Emrys. You are were you meant to be."

"In damn cursed cave or…." Merlin looked around "The heart of the cave?" he mumble to himself. Something feel off about it. He walked around and carefully touch the crystal. "The cave – it's dying." Merlin turn to spirt "It's dying…."

The Spirt looked around "It's been slowly dying for years. People have forgotten the old ways...The more the people forget - the more the cave dies."

Merlin couldn't feel sorry for the cave. After all that had happen since he and the knights went inside. "If it is cursed - then it is better off dead." said Merlin "How many people have gone inside and never come out? I should let this cave die." Merlin try to feel the cave - try to get a better understanding of it. It was easier to do in the heart of it. "The cave - all these tests...no one was meant to pass it... the cave wants people to die...it wants people to die because it need life. This cave is truly cursed."

"The cave used to be a peaceful place - but that was a long time ago," said the Spirt "A very long time ago. A time where magic was free...You should of seen it Emrys. Magic breathed in everything - caves, water, the grass, stroms...it was everywhere. Then one day everything changed."

Merlin wished he could of seen the old days - where he would of been free to be who he was. "What happen?" he asked

"Humans started to fear the power of magic," said the Spirt "Fear it so much they wanted to pretended it was like a disease...Something unwanted. A group of druids wanted revenge - placed a cursed in this very cave. Since then... nothing has been the same. This cave become darkness and death - when it used to connect people to the light...The cave needs you Emrys."

"It just a cave," said Merlin

"It is more than a cave," said the spirt. "Everything is connect to the very earth. This cave will become like a poison that will spread and may consume the Land of Albion and everything in it." The Spirt looked at Merlin "If Albion dies then your destiny and Arthur's will never happen."

Merlin closed his eyes. He was fed up with destiny. "You are telling me - I was meant to be here... do I have a say about anything? Do my actions really matter anymore." It was beginning to feel like he had no power of his own future.

"The future isn't a straight road, Emrys, it can take many routs that can go many places." said the Spirt "But one way or another you would find you way here. But you're choice right and now can taken you down many more roads."

"I am going to have words with Killgharrah when I get out of here…" Merlin carried on walking around, thinking hard. He didn't know how he could help the cave and live the cursed. It was in nothing he ever read and never come up in any hypothetical talks he had with Gaius. He looked at his head self. "He is key to helping the cave isn't he." Merlin said to the sprit "He is me - but not me..." Merlin trailed off. "The cave needs something to give it alive... the key is him...that vision of me."

The sprit smiled knowingly "How is he going to do that if he is dead?"

Merlin paused to do some hard thinking. "He is not truly dead." Said Merlin at once "How can he be... but he not truly alive... he like a echo of sorts." The sprit had said that the cave was in the middle of two worlds - the living and the dead and in a way the dead version of himself was in the middle of two world too. It made the dead Merlin also perfect to keep the cave alive. But Merlin was unsure how to do that. Merlin turn to the spirt, "You must know what I am meant to do."

"The cursed was placed using dark magic - only light magic can reverse it."

"That is not helpful," said Merlin at once. "What magic am I meant to use...how am I meant to get him," He pointed to the dead self "To help?"

"He is a part of the cave." said the Sprit "He was made here and he will remain here, - he like most of natural will know what to do.

This wasn't the answer Merlin was looking for. "He wanted direct instructions to know what to do -without making this situation any worst. Merlin touch one of the crystals again trying to get some answers from the cave itself. If the spirt was telling him the truth then the cave itself would want to be free. The answer hit Merlin suddenly. Merlin had no idea if it was himself or the cave than gave him the answer - it seem so simple.

"Of course – he needs a little of my magic to make that happen….but if he is me – that should be easy…." Merlin walked up and hold out hands and the dead version of himself who hold up his own hand. The palms touched and they were connected by a gold light that glowed then slowly faded away. The dead Merlin stood there not moving but everything seem somehow lighter than before. The crystals seemed brighter.

Merlin turned to spirt, whatever he had done - seemed to of worked. "How do I get out of here?" he asked. "I have to find the others… then we have to leave these caves…I cannot stay here much longer - I have a mission to complete, people who need help out there - in the real world.''

"I shall not forget this Emrys," said the spirt.

"I will not forget either," said Merlin

The sprit looked at Merlin "Before you go off - there is something else."

Merlin groaned "What now?"

"You can make your knight friends forget what has happen here and what they have learn." said the Sport "Or they can remember. That choice is up to you. Choice wisely. Emrys,"

Merlin didn't know what to think. For a moment he thought about letting the knight forget - then Merlin knew in his heart he couldn't do that. They have been though a lot together. They have all grown as people. And selfishly Merlin wanted Percival and Gwaine to remember he had magic. So he didn't have to hide anymore, pretend. It was lonely sometimes - very lonely. He knew the more people that knew - the more change there was for his secret to get out. But he wanted to taken that risk. "They can remember." said Merlin

"Are you sure?"

Merlin nodded his head.

"So, let it be then." said the Spirt "I think there is someone you will want to talk too."

"Who?" asked Merlin at once. But the spirt walked away and Merlin followed. Merlin was too curious to question the sport future – and if the cave slowly healing itself there might not be much time. He knew he would find the others sooner or later. No doubt he would have to tell the others something and he had a feeling that Gwaine and Percival will asked more questions than normal – even Leon would want to know more – but he would worry about that later.