Chapter One

A New Age

Weary blue eyes opened a second before the cheerful morning song of a robin started, the bird seeming to think it was her destiny to call the wrinkled old man from his bed. The elder groaned as he turned to his side and pulled his pillow over his head to try and block out the noise; he had no plans to awaken in the morning! He had lived his youth waking up early every single day, was it so hard to ask to sleep in now that he was old?

The robin kept singing though, her insistent whistles cutting through his cushion and straight to his mind to clear any and all hope of continuing his sleep. So with a sigh, he dropped his pillow back on his bed and sat up, slowly moving out of bed to the dissatisfaction of his joints. He stood there for a moment, giving time for his body to catch up with his mind. No matter how long it was, he was never quite used to being so old...

A particularly loud whistle caught his attention again as he made his way to the window, pulling back the curtain to see the offensive bird sitting on a nearby branch and singing away. With a crinkled nose and a slight pout, the man's eyes flashed gold just as the branch shook and scared the bird away. He gave a slight nod before turning back to his room and stared at the simple yet cluttered design.

As the years of his youth passed, the man had discovered he had a distinct hatred to waking up early because of the fact that he had nothing to do. While there was small clusters of books scattered around, his shelves were already full and needed no cleaning; he had read all of his books multiple times, despite the vast amount, and he did not care to read them again so soon; there were no family or friends he could visit since he had been alone for... longer than he would care to think about, having given up hope to be reunited with the one person he wanted to see; and given his many years of solitude, he didn't really enjoy the company of the modern day person anymore, so leaving his house was out of the question. What was an elder to do?

He wasn't sure how much time had passed by him as he stood by his window, but when he did finally move, the sun was in a different part of the sky.

The man moved slowly, finally deciding on the activity of cleaning his laundry. It had been two days since the last wash, surely it wouldn't hurt to do them again. Shuffling around his room, he collected all the scraps of clothes he could find as he set about his chore. Perhaps he could take out his lighter clothes now that the weather wasn't so harshly cold...

His face peeked inside his wardrobe, scanning each piece of clothing before blue eyes flashed gold and all the heavy coats of his went flying out, each folding into a neat stack on his bed. He gave a slight nod of approval at the stack as he started to close the door, when a shuffling in the back caught his attention. Looking back, the man saw one of his heavier coats in the far back of the wardrobe stuck on something and unable to remove itself. With a heavy sigh - because of course he would have to work in some way - he reached inside and grabbed the sleeve.

As he tugged the coat out, however, whatever it had been caught on in the back was dragged forward to dump out of the wardrobe. His eyes widened slightly as he saw the heavy wooden mass; the box falling towards the ground faster than he could stop it, taking a quick step back to avoid his foot from being crushed underneath. Upon hitting the ground, the box lid cracked off and spilled its contents to the floor.

He inhaled sharply as he took another step back, memories he didn't want surfacing in his mind. It had taken him years to bury these memories under mountains of pain and loneliness, only for it to flood back within a few seconds...

He considered leaving it on the ground, to just ignore it until he felt well enough to pick it up again and lock it away. But even as his mind told him to move, the old man found that he couldn't. His eyes were stuck on his forgotten treasures that had been collected throughout his life.

Taking a step forward, he knelt down and righted the box, waving a hand over it as it started to repair itself. Once the damage was undone, the man looked at the innards that were spilled out and took a deep breath before starting to pick them up.

First was a worn red cloth, the last of its rare kind. He turned it over, his wrinkled hand brushing over an embroidered name on the back, the ghost of a smile hinted on his face.


He hadn't been called that in quite a long time... But he could still hear his name being said as clearly as if it were yesterday. Each voice that called his name in his head was one that he cherished dearly; feminine voices talking to him with a fondness of a mother and sister, or an elderly voice with the kindness of a father, the gruff yet playful laugh of a friend, and the annoyed but humorous shout of a brother.

In fact, Merlin couldn't remember the last time someone had actually said his name. Three hundred or more years, surely... by his last pupil, his last apprentice in the medical field. The time in between the Golden Age of Camelot and the first World War was a blur for him, a time that he mourned the Pendragon dynasty and eagerly awaited his King's return with renewed hope.

He stared at his name stitched into his old neckerchief, crafted by his mother before he left Ealdor that first time. He allowed his eyes to water slightly before carefully folding it back up and placing it inside the box again before moving onto the next piece.

A large and sharp tooth that once belonged to Kilgharrah, having found it in the cave that the dragon used to stay in. Merlin brushed his fingers over it, a smile making its way more onto his face at the memories he shared with the cryptic old beast. They didn't always see eye-to-eye, but Kilgharrah had been a close friend in the end.

His breath caught as he saw a cracked magnifying glass, his eyes quickly flashing gold to repair the glass as he held it gently. It was the only thing of Gaius' that had survived through the years, and he would much like to keep it whole for as long as he could. He couldn't imagine himself without some small piece of his surrogate father, no matter how insignificant.

Next was a silver bracelet wrapped with emeralds all over, a gift from Gwen on her deathbed. She had been one of the few of his friends that had died naturally of old age, and Merlin didn't know if that made it better or worse. As such, she was the one he knew the longest, the one who fought to legalize magic in Camelot and promoted him to Court Sorcerer. She had become the closest to him after Arthur's passing and her death hurt him deeply. But then she hadn't suffered in her last days, though weak and unable to leave her bed, she passed in her sleep. He supposed he could be grateful to that small comfort...

Merlin's hand drifted over to a silver medallion on the floor but quickly moved to a ring instead, the impression of a dragon on the top of it. It was the royal seal of the Pendragons, given to him by King Cederic Pendragon - Arthur's fourth generation grandson - on his deathbed in the midst of a losing battle. Cederic was a boy that became King far too soon, not listening to a word his advisers or Merlin would give him. He had started a war and marched into it completely unprepared and against the will of all his people. He had seemed to realize his mistake far too late, calling Merlin to him in the medical tent and giving him the seal in hopes that Merlin would fix his mistake. Merlin was never close with the boy, but as he sat next to the young King until his body grew cold, the warlock cried. With just a bit more time, Cederic would have been something great.

He hesitated as he moved on to the last item, that silver medallion... Picking it up, he ran a finger over the bird on the front, the sigil of Ygraine de Bois. The tears that had been slowly building in his eyes finally escaped, a single drop quickly followed by another. It had been given to him by Arthur himself, during a rare time that the two of them let their guards down and were simply two friends instead of King and servant. Arthur had been so sure he was going to die that night, letting out a much gentler side that was normally locked away... The look in his eyes as Merlin commented on how different things could have been was almost like an understanding before he pulled out the sigil and insisted that Merlin take it.

That gesture... the fact that Arthur had given him something so dear and royal, Merlin could hardly believe it. Things had been different from that, because while Merlin was still a servant, that sigil meant that he was now part of Arthur's family. It meant that if Arthur didn't return from his mission, Merlin would have been given a good life. That act meant more to Merlin than anything else his King could have done.

Placing the medallion into the box with a shaking but gentle hand, Merlin closed the lid and locked it. The tears were falling freely down his face as he put his little treasure chest back into the deepest part of his closet before he stood and went about collecting his laundry.

Merlin did his best to forget about that box once again.

And thus was how Merlin spent his days; attempting to forget his past (and failing miserably) while doing the bare minimum to survive in his older form. The gift of immortality that so many sought after was truly a curse in disguise. Merlin was alone, no one able to share his life or understand his pain. He had long since given up hope for the return of his king, Kilgharrah's words proved that it was impossible now... Albion was no longer in need, and never would be again; having been replaced by Great Britain and hundreds of members of parliament, no one needed a king of old to save them.

All Merlin could do was wait for a new age, a new destiny, to come so that he may pass on and finally be at peace.

Laying down in his small bed one night, Merlin gave out a slight sigh. His bones ached all over from holding his spell for too long... He wanted nothing more than to return to his normal age, having a body of eternal youth was definitely preferable than this. But he had tried that before and too many people had given him attention - no one ever noticed an old man.

He turned over to his side, closing his eyes and preparing for sleep to overtake him. He was right about to drift away, the blessed tendrils of unconsciousness starting to snake around his mind, when a strong magical pulse went out across the land.

Merlin's eyes snapped open as he sat up in bed faster than his old body would have liked, glancing around his room to make sure he didn't just imagine it. He was nearly convinced that he had when it happened again, slightly stronger than before.

He wasn't sure if it was simply because he just hadn't felt another's magic in so long or that maybe he had grown weaker in his age, but the strength of power from those pulses was extremely concerning.

Quickly getting dressed, Merlin rushed out of his house and in the direction it came from. The pulsing was happening like clockwork now, each one stronger than the last. Merlin was almost surprised that the ordinary people in the area couldn't feel it...

He hobbled through the streets in the cover of the night, almost tempted to transform back into his normal form. It would definitely help him get to the point of origin quicker and allow him to sneak around easier, not to mention it had been quite some time since his bones didn't hurt... He quickly shoved the thought away though, continuing his trek in the same form. He didn't want to risk anyone seeing him change and forcing him to leave the area again.

He definitely ignored the voice in the back of his head that shouted 'self punishment' at him. That voice was crazy and didn't understand Merlin at all.

By the time Merlin had neared the area that the pulses were coming from, his thought from earlier proved true. The power was strong enough that the ordinary people could feel it, judging from the way that some of them were standing outside looking towards the sky while the more timid ones peeked out from behind the curtains of their homes. Whatever sorcerer was behind this was dangerously powerful...

A flash of a memory from long ago swept through his mind, the wrinkled and weary face of the Fisher King waiting for a new era before he could die, being kept alive only by his magic through so many years. Could this new sorcerer be more powerful than Merlin? Could this mean that Merlin's end was finally coming? Could there be a new Emrys destined to protect the next Once and Future King?

His steps grew slightly faster at the thought, leaving the path of the road and weaving through the woods to the direction that the magic came from.

It was difficult, Merlin stumbled from raised roots and vines, the uneven ground trying its best to trip him or twist his ankle... But Merlin pushed forward with a twisted hope for his death. If crossing something as trivial as the woods was the only thing keeping him from his eternal sleep, then he would suffer whatever was laid in his path.

After a few minutes of walking, a dull purple glow started filtering through the trees and alerting Merlin to his final destination - though it was obvious enough by the slight wind this sorcerer's spell was giving off and the nearly palpable magic. With a deep breath, Merlin stepped through the trees.

The clearing was large with a powdery dirt ground, mountains of dirt on the far side - obviously from the giant crater in the middle created by the heavy equipment littering the edges of the trees.

Hovering above the crater at perfect eye level was a large ball of purple magic, the cause of the powerful pulses he was feeling. Being so close to it, seeing the raw energy with his own eyes, Merlin was nearly floored. He was able to create balls of light, fire, or electricity; but never pure magical energy. The thought never occurred to him to try... and now that it had, he wasn't so sure he would be able to do so - not in the state he was in anyway.

"Ah, finally," A voice called, drawing Merlin's attention reluctantly away from the power ball and to an excavator nearby. A well dressed man stepped out from behind the machine, his blonde hair fixed perfectly in the same way a crooked politician would. The million-dollar grin he had only solidified his growing distrust of the man. "I was beginning to wonder when you'd show up, Emrys. Those old bones of yours giving you trouble? Why not show your true form?"

"Who are you?"

The man draped his arm across his stomach and bowed deeply, not a stupidly perfect hair falling out of place. "I am Cheyrth, a warrior of magical freedom. It is an honor to meet the great Emrys, though I had wished to see you as your true self." His head lifted with a devilish smirk, "What do you say, Emrys?"

Merlin couldn't help his eyeroll, his mind debating if he should just turn and leave now...


Letting out a sigh, Merlin shook his head. "I've seen your kind before, you think you're helping the world but you only hurt it. You care only about the magic holders, not the ordinary people... Because of that, you will fail."

"Oh?" Cheyrth let out a small chuckle as he took a step closer to Merlin, "I'm going to fail, am I? Careful what you say, it almost sounds as if you're against me, Emrys."

"I am neither for you, nor against you." Merlin took a step back with narrowed eyes, "I am simply an old man waiting to die. Now put out your magic, it's disturbing the townsfolk."

"You mean my beacon?" He looked to the ball with a smirk, "But it hasn't called all the people I want yet."

Merlin should just leave now... If this wasn't a new age then he wanted nothing to do with it. There had been many like Cheyrth in the past, all failing by their own hand at some point; he would be no different from them. If he could just leave now then everything would-

Two powerful pulses shot out from the ball, sending Merlin's white hair flying around his face and tickling his nose. He stood there for a second, glaring at the ground before grabbing at his hair and pushing it back. "Put out your beacon or I'll do it for you."

A laugh was his only response, Merlin frowning as he lifted a hand toward the light. He could feel his own magic building in him, spreading through his body and preparing to do what he wanted. Just before his eyes were able to flash gold, however, a shuffling in the woods near their clearing was heard.

Merlin glanced over, allowing himself the small distraction if only to confirm that it wasn't one of his neighbors and he wouldn't have to move again. He enjoyed the solitude he had in his small house, he didn't want to go through the trouble of moving just because a teen had wandered too far into the woods.

When two figures emerged from the tree line, Merlin felt his body freeze over. His hand lowered without even realizing it, every fiber of his being focusing solely on the pair - a boy and girl standing side by side.

The boy's blue eyes were wide as he stared at the magic ball in the center of the clearing, his hand outstretched slightly to the side in an attempt to protect the girl next to him. The girl, before seeing the full scene in front of them, swatted his hand out of the way and sidestepped him, probably making some comment about how she could take care of herself before she too stopped to stare at the ball of magic.

"What the hell is going on...?" The boy asked, his muscles visibly tensing beneath his red jersey and preparing for the 'fight or flight' to decide what to do.

"Ah!" Cheyrth grinned, his arms opening wide in welcome, "Just the two people I was waiting for! So nice to finally meet you-"

"Arthur..." Merlin muttered, though it was loud enough for the boy to hear, his blue eyes locking on Merlin's.

He couldn't tell if it was just him, but time seemed to slow in that moment, fading away until it was just the two of them. He watched as Arthur's gaze softened somewhat, his eyebrows furrowing in confusion as he searched for the answer to something in Merlin's eyes.

Merlin himself felt like a gaping hole in his chest was closing at the sight of his once dearest friend, the pain fresh and fading at the same time. But there was no denying that this was Arthur, as much as his mind kept telling him. He was back... Arthur was finally back...

"The Once and Future King," Cheyrth called, breaking the silence that had fallen over the clearing. "I have to say, I heard so much about you, it's almost as if I already know you."

Merlin felt something he hadn't felt in a long time... Stupid. Why did he always feel this way when Arthur was involved? Because of course this sorcerer wouldn't want just the attention of Merlin, because Merlin was only half of the equation - half of the coin. History had proven that fact many times already; if someone powerful wanted something, they went after both Merlin and Arthur (whether they knew it or not). He could only hope that he wouldn't be dragged into another war again...

"Who are you?" A feminine voice demanded, Merlin's head jerking to the side to see the flawlessly beautiful face of Morgana. She held her jacket closed in front of her - in an attempt to keep warm or hide the pink pajamas underneath, he couldn't tell - her midnight hair in a loose braid over her shoulder that had little curls popping out in a way that still seemed elegant somehow. She looked just as she did when he had first known her... Happy, innocent, and strong.

"I am Cheyrth, a warrior of magical freedom-" Merlin rolled his eyes, "-I have waited many years for the perfect opportunity to strike against the world for its sins. And with your arrival, I shall finally have my justice."

"Leave them out of this," Merlin scowled, his voice growing louder and bolder than it had been since the second World War. "They are innocent now, they've done nothing wrong! It wouldn't be right to involve them in whatever fight you are trying to start."

"Ah, but Emrys, they," Cheyrth threw a hand out towards the siblings standing warily on the edge, "are the key players in my plot. Without King Arthur and Lady Morgana, nothing would be possible. Or maybe I should rephrase that... Without their deaths, nothing would be possible."

Merlin took a deep breath, stepping forward and squaring his shoulders back as much as they could. "I won't let you touch them."

The new tone of his voice, strong and low, seemed to cause Cheyrth to hesitate, eyeing Merlin only slightly before deciding against rationality. He waved his hand and the magical beacon stopped pulsing, folding in on itself and turning into something else. Something that had to do with a large ball of fire.

Why was fire always the magic of choice with these people?

"Run!" Merlin shouted at the siblings, his hand flying out to contain the flames near the ball. He watched from the corner of his eye as Arthur turned to leave, the two making eye contact one last time before he left.

Morgana, who's hand Arthur was holding and trying to bring her along with him, broke free of her brother and ran toward Merlin, standing behind him.

"Morgana...!" Arthur called, quickly rushing after her. "What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?"

"He told us to run!"

"Run away!" Merlin huffed, "I meant run away!"

"Not until you answer a few questions."

Merlin's nose scrunched up as he shot a quick glance back at them, seeing the recognition and resolve in both of their eyes - even with Arthur's slight caution. If they were anything like their past lives, they wouldn't leave without getting what they wanted.

He let out a sigh as he turned back to the fireball, stretching his other hand out and clapping them both together. The light was quickly extinguished - which Merlin instantly regretted; now he couldn't see where Cheyrth was.

"Go," Merlin muttered, scanning the area as best he could as he turned around and ushered them back to the cover of the trees. "Straight through here is a road, we'll be safe once we get back among the people."

"Then you'll answer our questions?" Morgana pinned him with a look, her green eyes intense even in the dark.

"As best as I can."

With a nod in approval, they all turned forward and started hurrying out of the forest and back into civilization. The whole trek was filled with passing glances at Merlin and attempted whispers about him; fifteen-hundred-something years doing absolutely nothing for their subtlety. From what he could hear and piece together, Morgana had been having strange dreams that involved a boy with the same eyes as Merlin's old form, Arthur felt as if he knew Merlin, and both of them wanted to trust him despite being strangers. If they were going to be like this with everyone from the past, then Merlin definitely had his work cut out for him...

Watching their young faces and barely contained happy expressions, Merlin had to ask himself if he would truly allow them to join this fight... They were innocent, not knowing the hardships of war, the struggle of right and wrong, or the pains of death. They were happy and living great lives, would he allow them to help save the natural world and ruin everything they currently have...?

As they made it to the road and headed for his house, Merlin felt a chill run down his spine. His eyes narrowed as his feet paused in their walk, turning back to look down the forest path they had just came from. Standing just inside the shadows of the trees was a dark figure - not Cheyrth; Merlin couldn't see their eyes, but he felt the person watching them. He felt the evil filling the air around the figure, the ill intent aimed at the siblings that were cluelessly walking down the street ahead of him.

Merlin made up his mind right there.

He wouldn't let Arthur and Morgana be tainted by war for a second time.

The figure disappeared, melting in with the shadows around it and leaving Merlin to catch up with the two companions.

"Can't you go any faster, old man?" Arthur asked, his voice lined with impatience as he waited at the top of the hill for Merlin.

A small smile started to play on Merlin's face, though he swallowed it down and slowed his pace purposely, "When you are as old as I, let's see how fast you can walk."

"What if that... that..." Arthur waved his arm behind the elder, gesturing towards the forest, "that person follows us?"

"If you are in such a hurry, why don't you carry me?"

"Excuse me?" Arthur raised an eyebrow, his arms crossing over his chest. "You want me to carry you?"

Merlin's nose scrunched up as he held a hand on his back dramatically, leaning over slightly more than normal for this form. "If you want me to go faster, then you'll have to do something about it yourself, sonny boy."

Arthur blinked in confusion, glancing to Morgana who hid a laugh behind her hand, though her eyes sparkled with humor at the situation. "Go on, Arthur, carry the man."

Eyes narrowing at both their expecting gazes, the boy grumbled as he stomped - actually stomped - to Merlin and lowered himself slightly. The warlock stared at the open and broad back, something catching in his throat at the long forgotten sight. How long had it been since Arthur had carried Dragoon the Great through the castle? How long had it been since Merlin had seen Arthur's back that didn't involve running from something?

"Wait any longer and I'll be as old as you," Arthur snarked, glancing over his shoulder to see what the old man was doing. Though he was taken aback to see slightly misty eyes. "Uh... Are you alright?"

The wetness in Merlin's eyes quickly vanished, years of hiding emotions going to work to stop the tears from gathering any more. "I'm old and being bullied by an arrogant cabbage head, of course I'm not alright."

"What did-"

Before Arthur could finish or move, Merlin climbed onto his back, "Now who's being slow? Let's go!"

Arthur blinked in confusion, instinctively wrapping his arms around the elder's legs to hold him in place, looking to Morgana for some kind of clarification on what had just happened; the girl could offer him nothing, now too busy laughing lightly at the pair.

With a sigh and resignation to his new role as transportation, Arthur began walking down the road again. More than once he had to shoot Morgana a glare when her laughter would become too loud, but she would only bat her hand at him and continue.

When they arrived at Merlin's home, the siblings shared a look with each other when they thought he couldn't see them. He was surprised that it was only now that the two realized the kind of danger they could be in by randomly following a stranger home. If it had been anyone else... if they had reached Cheyrth before him...

He shook his head slightly, chasing the thought away. He got to them before anyone else, history would not repeat itself with the Pendragon siblings' early deaths once again. Merlin would see to that.

Ushering them into his small living room to sit on one of the previously useless sofas, Merlin stood before them. In the proper light of his house he examined them both for any differences or slight indications that they were anyone else...

But he found nothing. For all intents and purposes, they were the same two siblings Merlin knew from his early years in Camelot.

"Impossible..." He muttered under his breath, staring into their eyes. "Not even a freckle of a difference..."

"Are you okay, old man?" Arthur's brow hitched upward, a frown starting to form on his lips. "You've been staring for quite a while..."

"It's your own fault! Turning up in the woods looking the same as when I first met you - both of you!" Merlin cast a look up at his ceiling, he could hear Kilgharrah laughing at him. "Not to mention I can't believe how stupid you both are!"


"You follow the directions of a stranger you don't even know the name of minutes after another stranger threatened your lives! What if I had also been planning to kill you?"

Arthur let out a chuckle as he crossed his arms, leaning back on the sofa slightly. "You? Try to kill us? Please, I think we could handle an old man."

"Do not underestimate me just because I am old, Arthur Pendragon. There is a reason that Cheyrth did not follow the two of you once you were with me."

The young man stiffened at the use of his name, looking to his sister who seemed all the more intrigued. "What's your name then? You won't be a stranger anymore and will have no reason to be upset."

Merlin took a moment to stare at her, taking in the mirth and wonder in her innocent eyes. Her skin was flawless and hair neatly kept, her beauty as breathtaking as her first life in Camelot. It sent a pang of guilt through him, knowing that he was the reason she had turned so cold in the end... But here she was now, a second chance at life. So young and reckless, not knowing the hardships of war...

Pulling himself from his thoughts, he turned away from the pair. "I have been called by many names... But you can call me Merlin."

Arthur let out a snort, his head falling back. "Merlin? Seriously? Like that old wizard from King Arthur's legend?"

"Yes, exactly, Arthur Pendragon..."

Arthur quickly went quiet, his eyes wide as he looked to Morgana and back. "Wait... Am I...? Am I that Arthur...?"

"Oh, don't be silly," Morgana chuckled, though there was a hesitance to her. "The Arthurian legend is just that, a legend. Right, Mr. Merlin?"

Merlin held their gaze before letting out a sigh. "If you want answers, I can't deny you them. But I must go to change first, I prefer to be comfortable when dealing with the likes of this."

The siblings didn't try to stop him, instead turning to whisper to each other as he walked away from them.

Going to his bedroom, he hesitated only for a second before going to his wall and removing a loose brick. Inside the new hole in his wall, he pulled out a small bottle of liquid. If he was to protect the Pendragon siblings from a war they didn't deserve, then he needed to be in prime condition. He would not be able to fight as a doddery old man...

He knew this... He knew that it would be easier. So why was he hesitating? Merlin stared at the potion in his hand, he could hear his heart pounding in his ears. All he had to do was uncork the bottle and down the contents. Within minutes he would feel better again, the aches and pains of old age would disappear.

In the back of his mind he could faintly hear Gaius' voice instructing him that it would be okay.

With that memory firmly grasped at the front of his mind, Merlin quickly took the potion before he could think twice. Unlike the first times he had used the potion, he could feel the magic working its way through his body and reversing the effects of old age. He felt as his back straightened, his muscles slowly gaining strength he hadn't had in years, the wrinkles in his hands smoothing out. But even in his new youth, Merlin still felt an exhaustion that was embedded deep in his bones that was not caused by age.

Since purchasing this small house many years ago, Merlin had made sure to not keep a single mirror in his possession. Mainly because he grew to hate the sight of his face - old and young. Secondly because he was not fond of the creatures that were attracted to the reflective glass. Though at this time... he wished he could see what he looked like before going out to see Arthur and Morgana.

Smoothing out his old coat, he went back out to his living room. Though he found himself pausing at the entrance at the badly whispering voices coming from the room.

"How do you know he's not some crazy stalker? That could explain why he knows our names," Arthur whispered harshly, no doubt in the middle of a losing argument with his sister.

"I feel like it's more than that... Arthur, you won't understand, but I just know that we can trust him. Don't you feel anything when you look into his eyes? The way he looks at us... It's almost as if it hurts him."

"You can't judge someone based on their eyes, Morgana...!"

"I wouldn't be so sure," Merlin interjected, stepping out from the hall. "They say that the eyes are the window into the soul."

It was silent for a time as the siblings stared at him, eyes wide. But then Arthur sprung to his feet, an arm outstretched in front of Morgana protectively.

"Who the hell are you?"

A smile tugged at Merlin's lips as he went to sit in his chair. "It's me... Merlin. I told you I was going to change, didn't I?"

Arthur's eyes widened impossibly more as he struggled to speak, his mouth opening and closely as he tried his best to form words. Even Morgana, who was still shocked, covered her mouth in an attempt to hide a giggle.

"Nice joke, old man," Arthur chuckled shakily as he leaned to peer down the hall. "Cool grandson you have here, but you can come back out now...!"

"There's no joke, Arthur."

"Old people don't just suddenly turn young again!"

"They do when you use magic." Merlin's eyes narrowed slightly as he took in Arthur's disbelieving expression. "What do you think that was you saw in the forest earlier?"

"I-I don't know! Some weird government experiment?"

Even Morgana hid her face at her brother's answer, sharing a look with Merlin. Merlin, in turn, chuckled as he pointed to the fireplace. "Watch."

Holding Arthur's gaze for a moment, turned to the fireplace and spread out his fingers. "Forbearnan."

The three watched as the wood in the fireplace burst into flames, the siblings both gasping at the sight. Arthur sucked in a breath and Merlin just knew he was about to argue. "Upastige draca."

When the flames took the form of a dragon, Merlin looked back at them. Arthur's mouth was hanging open, his eyes wide as he pointed at the fire soundlessly. He looked between Merlin and the dragon for some time until finally Arthur was able to grasp the English language with the help of his arm shaking accusingly in Merlin's direction. "Okay fine! Magic is a thing! But in my defense, normally when people say they're going to change, they mean that they change clothes; not... bodies!"

Merlin stifled a laugh as he went to sit in his chair, "Would you prefer me as an old man?"

"No! Just... a little warning next time. And maybe a heads up that you aren't really old and making me carry you back to your shack that is at the top of a hill wasn't really necessary."

"You needed the exercise."

Morgana's laughter filled the room, the sound as refreshing as the ringing of clear bells that pulled at Merlin's heart. How long had it been since he had heard her laugh like that? How long had it been since he heard anyone laugh like that? He still couldn't get over how innocent these two were, how childlike... His heart clenched in his chest at the thought.


Looking to the two of them again, Merlin realized he must have gotten lost in his head. Morgana looked concerned for him, leaning forward in her seat.

"Tell me, Merlin... There's more to you than what appears, isn't there?" She asked, a smile daring to start on her face. "Somehow you know us, right? Arthur and I?"

"Morgana, don't be ridiculous-"

"No," Merlin cut Arthur off with a small shack of his head. "She's right, I do know the two of you very well... Or rather, I once did. Some time has passed since then."

Arthur's expression was guarded when they met eyes, obviously not trusting Merlin as much as his sister. But Merlin knew that there was a bit of trust there, however small, otherwise the boy would have never come back home with him no matter how Morgana persisted.

"So then the Arthurian legends are true and you're really the Merlin?" Morgana's eyes twinkled with the idea. Merlin let out a small chuckle, given the fact that she had thought it was ridiculous a short time ago.

"Yes. They're true." He smiled fondly towards the floor, then paused and tilted his head slightly. "Well... mostly. They've changed somewhat over time."

Morgana murmured her awe, though Arthur still held his own doubts that he didn't mind voicing.

"It took me by surprise at first too, but come on... Really? This has to be some elaborate prank. Sure you have... magic, but there's no way that we're the ones from those stories. How do we know you haven't just been watching us like some creep for the last few weeks? It's really not hard to do a google search on us either."

Merlin held his gaze, considering his words carefully. If history was repeating, then the Pendragon siblings were most likely born into power once more, if he were to convince them of his story, then he would need something that wouldn't be found on the internet.

Taking a deep breath, Merlin dug through the memories that he had buried. He spent so long running from them, it was almost causing him physical pain to remember. But he did with a smile, "You want the world to see you as a strong person, and while that is true, you are so much more than just strong... You are kind, just, understanding, noble... You can be arrogant, but that never stops you from listening to others when they give you advice. You listened to me even when we didn't like each other much in the beginning, at the risk of humiliation. You went against your father's wishes on my behalf more than once as well, when I was nothing more than your servant. But because I was your servant, I was by your side constantly. There was no where that you went I would not follow. Because of that, I understand that you have a weight on your shoulders, a pressure to live up to your father's standards while also being your own person. I can tell you now that you will do a wonderful job of it... You're young, but you will grow into such an amazing leader that the people will adore."

Silence drew over them once more, Arthur staring with slightly widened eyes before looking away. His mouth opened as if he wanted to speak, but then he closed it tightly before he gave himself a chance. Merlin kept quiet though, allowing him time to process what he said and let it be dealt with accordingly.

However, when a look of resolve settled into his eyes and he looked like he was about to speak, a smirk pulled at Merlin's lips. "You also like to hum when you're in a good mood, oftentimes after a good hunting trip or after visiting with your love. And there is a birthmark under your right foot that is shaped somewhat like a chicken leg that you absolutely hate."

The younger man's face flushed red as his mouth snapped shut once more. Morgana let out a laugh as she leaned back into the sofa, one hand going to cover her mouth as the other patted Arthur's shoulder. "You cannot deny that now, Arthur! Not even your most devoted fans know those things about you!"

"Sh-Shut up..." Face still red, Arthur slapped his sister's hand away. "I believe you, okay? You didn't have to go that far..."

"Now where would the fun be in that, sire?"

The words slipped out of him before he could stop them, this friendly teasing of Arthur and reminiscing of Camelot bringing out his old speech habits towards his past master. But this modern Arthur didn't seem to mind or didn't hear that part in favor of throwing a pillow towards his head. Merlin easily leaned to the side to avoid it.

"For all the target practice I'm sure you still do, your aim and skill are very low."

"It's not-!" Arthur bristled as he crossed his arms, "My aim is perfect! I just didn't want to feel guilty about hurting an 'old man'!"

"Ah," Merlin smiled as he dipped his head, "I see. And those pillow aren't very good for throwing, despite their name."

"Yeah, tell me something I don't already know."

The smirk returned once more, "That's a dangerous statement, for there are many things you do not know, and there are even more things that should be kept secret."

Arthur held his eyes, his face the perfect example of a deadpan expression. He glanced to Morgana before looking back. "You're annoyingly cryptic, old man."

"I try," He shrugged, a false innocence filling Merlin's own expression to which Arthur just rolled his eyes.

For a while, the three of them sat in a comfortable silence to bask in the light atmosphere that had been created. Merlin wasn't sure if he was just imagining it or if he was the only one feeling it, but there was a sense of completion inside of him as he sat with them. Like the part of himself that died when Arthur did had come back to life with him as well. And having Morgana back too- A part of him wondered briefly if everyone from Camelot had been reborn as well? Is Gwen out there too somewhere? Or Gwaine? Dare he even hope for Lancelot and Gaius?

If they were all reborn, would they all still be who they were back then? Arthur and Morgana's situation hadn't changed much; but Lancelot had been an orphan, and orphans in this age were not treated kindly. And what of Gwaine? His father had died in a war and left them penniless, which eventually lead him to the life of a drunkard. In this age, there were so many worse things he could turn to than just alcohol... If they did ever round up all their old friends, would it really be for the best?

No, he couldn't think like that. Those types of negative thoughts are what destroyed everything before. He would just have to hope for the best and help however he could.

Except for the fact that Merlin wouldn't allow for them to get dragged into this war again... He wouldn't let them get tainted. He would fight destiny if he needed, but there was no way that he would let these children fight in a magical war. Why destiny thought young adults - children! - were fit to fight in a war was beyond him.

"So..." Morgana spoke up, breaking the silence, "What happens now? I'm assuming that something is going to happen soon, that's why that man had called us all. So what does that mean?"

Merlin drew in a deep breath, his eyes wandering the empty space between them. "That means..." He looked to Arthur, his back straightening slightly as he sat up straight. "You are Arthur Pendragon, the Once and Future King that is destined to unite the kingdoms and bring peace to Albion. You are the reincarnated King Arthur that I have waited fifteen hundred years for.

"And his sister," Merlin looked to Morgana, "the Lady Morgana, the pride of Camelot and one of our most powerful allies in the early days. Your intelligence and ingenuity made you a very powerful sorceress, you gave me quite the challenge a few times." He chuckled in a way that he hoped would be light, and judging by the way her eyes widened with excitement, he did a good job of it.

"I have magic?"

"Quite possibly, yes. The you that I knew did, but things could be different in this age." He watched as she deflated, a pang of guilt hitting him. "Do you still have vivid nightmares?"

Both of the siblings tensed, answering Merlin's question without the need for words. "I see... You are far too young and innocent to be plagued with the burden of a Seer. I can... stop them for you, if you'd like?"

"You could do that?" The hope filled her eyes, though Arthur's guard clearly rose as he sat up straighter.

"How exactly do you plan to stop nightmares?"

"There are a number of ways. The easiest one is..." He dug through the pockets in his sweater, patting them all until he felt a hard circle. He pulled it out and held it up for the siblings to see. "A hag stone."

It was a small, grey stone with two small holes through the center. There was nothing out of the ordinary or special about the little stone other than the holes and how smooth it seemed. Though Merlin, and he suspected Morgana as well, could feel the faint power radiating from it.

"It's normally used as a protection talisman, but it works for nightmares as well. Place it under your pillow when you go to sleep, or keep it in a pocket, and its power will cover you."

"How is a little rock supposed to protect someone?" Arthur asked, an eyebrow raised as he stared at the stone with an unimpressed look.

"Always such a skeptic..." Merlin smiled as he offered his hand out, Morgana taking the stone as if it were something sacred. "Though perhaps I should give one to you as well, Lord knows how much trouble you'd get in with the new age coming."

A roll of his eyes as he leaned back in his chair, Arthur shook his head. "I'm good... What do you mean by 'new age'? Does it have something to do with that man in the woods?"

Merlin let out a sigh, Morgana's eyes drawing to him as well. "Yes. With your rebirth, that means Albion's time of greatest need is coming. The man in the woods, Cheyrth, wishes to start a magical war. I hadn't taken him seriously at first, there were so many others that failed before even announcing the reality of magic, but if you're here then that means it will be bad..."

"A war...?" Arthur's muscles tensed, his hands - though mostly hidden beneath crossed arms - clenched tightly. "You're going to start a war?"

"Not me!" Merlin frowned at him, "Don't you ever listen, you prat? Cheyrth is trying to start one, I'm going to stop him. This world is not equipped to handle the knowledge of magic... Not when it's been hidden for so long, and the people in power are as greedy as goblins who won't hesitate to use its power for their evil gain."

Morgana's head shot upwards, leaning forward as she looked at him. "And with us here, that means we're supposed to help you!"

"No," Merlin shook his head, causing both of the siblings to frown at him. "I will not allow the two of you to be corrupted by a war. Not again... This is your second chance to live your lives, the way that you want to. Wars are messy, especially magical ones. I've fought with my destiny in the past, I won't let it hinder your happiness and lives once more."

The two shared a look, one that Merlin knew all too well from his time in the castle. They knew that his logic was faulty and dangerous, hazardous to a normal person. And of course Arthur wasn't afraid to voice his opinion of such logic.

"You're going to fight a war... by yourself?" Both his eyebrows raised slightly, his eyes narrowed.

"I've done it before."

"But you have us now...!"

"I won't let destiny corrupt you again."

"Why don't you let us decide what we want to do with our lives?"

"No!" Merlin's voice cracked as he glared at Arthur, the sound of glass shattering punctuating his answer. The two reeled back, their eyes wide and slightly scared as they stared at him. It took Merlin a moment to even out his breathing before he realized there were tears in his eyes. It had been so long since he lost control and let his emotions guide his magic... It seemed his window paid the price for his emotions.

He let out a sigh as he slumped back into his chair, his eyes slipping closed as he held the palms of his hands to his eyes. "I can't... I can't lose you again. You don't understand. I lost you both before and was cursed to live all this time, regretting every choice I ever made that caused your lives to end like that. So if I keep you out of this war, if you continue to live happy and healthy lives, then maybe it can be different this time. Maybe I can change destiny..."

It was quiet for some time afterwards, silent tears escaping Merlin's eyes. He tried to get them to stop, tried to control the emotions he once thought he was a master at, but he failed. No matter what he told himself in his mind, no matter how awkward the air felt around him, he could still feel the warm droplets of water roll down his cheek.

He felt more than heard as Morgana shifted, walking to his seat and kneeling in front of him. She placed a gentle hand on his knee and another on his cheek, "You won't lose us, Merlin. Not this time. I promise."

Her warm hands were what he needed, whether that was a good or bad thing, he couldn't tell. His chest tightened as if he wanted to sob into her welcoming shoulders, but his mind cleared enough for him to recompose himself. Logic won out though, Merlin drawing in a shaky breath as he wiped his eyes harder than was necessary.

"It's late..." He said at last, removing his hands and looking at them both. He gave a soft smile to Morgana as he placed a hand on her head. "I should take you two home before anyone notices you're gone. The last thing I need is media coverage over the two of you that will let anyone else apart of this war know exactly who you are and where to find you. It's astonishing that you even still have the same names, I'd like to keep that information private for a little while longer."

The three of them stood up, Arthur giving a solid nod. "Right... Father would definitely call the police if both of us were missing in the middle of the night."

Merlin couldn't help but remember all the times in the past when Uther had used palace guards and the dungeon as punishment for Arthur after going off on his own. He wondered briefly what their father would do as punishment in this time, but pushed the thought away. Whatever it was, he didn't want to know.

Nodding his head towards the door, he ushered the two young adults out of the small house. He watched as Morgana pulled her light jacket tighter around herself, glancing to see that Arthur had his arms crossed securely over his chest as well.

He gave a small smile as he cupped his hands, breathing out a single word with a flash of golden eyes as a fire ignited in his palms. He rubbed his hands together before reaching out to them, "Give me your hands."

Arthur hesitated slightly, but Morgana came forward after just a look of the warmth his hands held. Merlin's smile became slightly broader at the trust she already held in him. She let out a sigh of relief as he held her hands between his and rubbed the heat into it. "You really must teach me how to do this, Merlin. It would be a life saver."

"Unfortunately I'm not much of a teacher," He released her hands and turned to Arthur, not giving him a chance to decline before grabbing his hands and transferring the heat to him as well.

"You can try."

"Morgana," He looked to her with a smile that was far too wise to match with his portrayed age. "Enjoy your normalcy, just because you can doesn't necessarily mean you should."

"Scared I'll actually get better than you this time?" She smirked at him, a taunting challenge in her eyes. Merlin said nothing as he released Arthur, just a small chuckle and shake of his head as he motioned forward.

Their walk to the siblings' home was long and spent in comfortable conversation. Morgana mainly spent it trying to convince Merlin to teach her magic and Arthur throwing in a jab occasionally (that Merlin returned tenfold). It reminded Merlin so much of their early times together, the nostalgia almost enough to make him cave to Morgana's wishes.

But he reminded himself why he had to stay strong, that thought letting him resist her charms the hour long walk back to their property line. He really should have asked how far they lived before deciding to walk... It had been a long while since he traveled such a distance on foot.

"We'll come visit you tomorrow sometime, Merlin." Morgana smiled, "Maybe you can tell us some stories about the past."

"No..." Merlin looked between the two of them, "I told you that I wouldn't let you become a part of this war. If you visit me and we spend time together, eventually someone is going to see that and figure out who you are. This should be the last time that we see each other..."

"Now hold on," Arthur frowned, "You just cried like a girl about how you didn't want to lose us again, and now you're going to force us away from you? Where's the logic in that? Isn't it like losing us all over again?"

"Especially after we just found each other again!"

Merlin shook his head, "That's different..."

"How?" Arthur squared his shoulders, facing Merlin head on in a position that Merlin was all too familiar with when Arthur made up his mind about something he believed was noble. "How is finding us then forcing us away any different than finding us and losing us? And on that note, how long was it again that you were waiting for our return? You've been alone for over a thousand years, you think we're just going to let you continue to be alone?"

"Why do you care? I'm an old man that you just met, you don't even know anything about me other than the little of what I told you. How do you truly know I'm not evil?"

"Because like it or not, Morgana's right. There's something about you that makes me want to trust you, that makes me want to get to know you more... And I'll be damned if I let you keep yourself holed up in that shack without proper company any longer than necessary! Besides, evil people don't try to protect a couple of university students like you are."

"You'll be killed if you do." Merlin let out a sigh as he turned away, purposefully ignoring Arthur's last point.

Morgana stepped forward, placing her hand on Merlin's shoulder. "Something tells me that you won't let that happen."

The warlock didn't even try to defend himself from that, keeping silent for some time before heaving another sigh. "Just go inside so I can get home..."

The siblings took that as a win, the two grinning to each other as they started to walk back towards their house.

"See you tomorrow, Merlin." Morgana waved before turning to follow her brother.

Merlin watched them sneak to their house and climb in through a window with a fond smile, leaving once they were both in and the window closed behind them. For what felt like the hundredth time that night, nostalgia almost overwhelmed him. It always had been impossible to argue with those two, especially when they believed it was right and teamed up.

That would make resisting them so much harder come morning...

A/N: Wow, I've been sitting on this chapter for so long! I'm almost nervous to post it to the public now! I'm going to try my best to keep this story as true to the series as possible, meaning there will only be 13 chapters. This is much different than the normal one shots that I usually write, it's been years since I kept up with a chapter story… But I have yet to start a chapter story that I didn't complete, so here's to keeping that streak!

Along with each chapter, I will have an illustration posted on my Instagram account, karmi_draws, so please go check that out when you can!