"Be careful with Merlin," Morganna warned. "One day, his inability to deny you anything will be the death of him."
Arthur just laughed.*****
Merlin disappeared the day that Arthur married Gwen and made her his Queen. He returned a month later, but was changed in ways that Arthur couldn't quite explain.
"He said he wasn't in love with you," Arthur said to Gwen, scowling.
Gwen gave him an exasperated look. "He wasn't and he isn't," she stated.
"Then why did he leave?" Arthur demanded.
This time, Gwen's look was pitying.*****
"Gwen won't be harmed?" Arthur asked, thinking of his own mother.
"No harm will come to the Queen," Merlin promised, his gaze straightforward and sincere.
Arthur nodded. "Do it. Camelot needs an heir."
Merlin bowed, and left the room.*****
Gwen frowned as she noticed how pale Merlin had become. "Are you feeling all right?" she asked.
Merlin's eyes flicked down to her slightly rounded stomach and then back up to her face. He smiled, but it was only a shadow of his old, full out grin. "I am well, my lady," he answered. "Perhaps a bit tired. If you will excuse me?"
Gwen nodded and watched as he departed the hall. She missed the old Merlin--the one who laughed and called her Gwen, but she didn't think she would see him again.*****
The birth was surpisingly quick, and the midwife exclaimed that she'd never seen a babe slide out with such ease before. Gwen simply smiled in relief. Merlin had assured her that everything would be fine, but she couldn't help but think of Igraine... and Uther.
The babe was surprisingly pale, with thin wisps of blonde hair sticking up in small tufts. "You have a son, my lady," the midwife pronounced, handing the new mother her infant.
When he opened his eyes, Gwen's eyes widened as, just for a moment, she caught a hint of gold swirling in the deep blue depths. Something Morgana had once told her suddenly echoed in her mind. 'In magic, there must always be a balance. If there is life, then there must also be death. That is the natural law.'
"Gwen?" Arthur's voice jerked her out of the memory and she looked up to see him smiling down at her. "He's beautiful."
"Where's Merlin?" she asked, fear making her voice break on the name.
Arthur frowned. "I don't know. Are you all right?" he asked, concerned.
"Yes, but Merlin..." Gwen trailed off, unwilling to share her fear. If she was right, it was too late, and if she was wrong, there was no need to worry Arthur. "I just thought he would be here," she finally said.
"You're right. I haven't seen him all day... or perhaps all week." Arthur thought back. He'd seen less and less of Merlin over the past months, but he'd been so busy and excited over Gwen's parturiency, that he hadn't really considered it. "I'll send someone to fetch him," he said.*****
Arthur stared blankly at the modest gravestone. It didn't seem possible that Merlin could be gone. How could he have forgotten that magic always had a price? Morgana's voice echoed in his memory: "Be careful with Merlin. One day, his inability to deny you anything will be the death of him."