The Fire on the Horizon by libgysig
Summary: A series of AU drabbles, set after season four. Arthur comes to understand his father. Character death.
Categories: FPF Het Characters: Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Merlin
Genre: Angst, AU, Drabble, Drama
Pairing: Arthur/Gwen
Warnings: main character death
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 16 Completed: Yes Word count: 1684 Read: 55714 Published: Jan 13, 2012 Updated: Jan 14, 2012

1. The Winter Child by libgysig

2. The Perfect Choice - Part One by libgysig

3. Inevitable Fear by libgysig

4. The Fork in the Road by libgysig

5. The Long Wait by libgysig

6. The Perfect Choice Part Two by libgysig

7. The Worst of All His Tasks by libgysig

8. Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part One by libgysig

9. Remember Me By This - Part One by libgysig

10. Remember Me By This - Part Two by libgysig

11. Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part Two by libgysig

12. The Darkest Hour... by libgysig

13. ...Is Just Before the Dawn by libgysig

14. This, The Hardest Fight by libgysig

15. Epilogue: Always by libgysig

16. Author's Notes by libgysig

The Winter Child by libgysig
The Winter Child

She caught him at the door to the busy council chambers and pulled him to a near alcove.

"It can wait," she whispered, pressing a finger to his protesting lips. "Arthur, I'm with child!"

He looked at her, dumbstruck. They had not been married four months.

"Are you sure?" he asked, taking her two hands.

"Of course!" she exclaimed.

Her face was the brightest he had ever known it, her delight seemed near contagious.

He laughed then, loudly and happily, clasping her close to him.

"A winter child," she said, before he kissed her fiercely on her river wide smile.
The Perfect Choice - Part One by libgysig
The Perfect Choice - Part One

"What about me? "Merlin asked. "I could be the baby's guardian."

He quickly ducked behind the shield, grinning as he awaited Arthur's response.

"You can't be a guardian, Merlin. You're a servant and a useless one at that. Lower your shield!" Arthur shouted.

He flexed his shoulders as Merlin rearranged his defence.

"Besides," Arthur continued. "You're going to be the baby's servant. My gift to you."

Merlin pulled his shield down, not sure if this was one of Arthur's jokes.

"Shoulder height," said Arthur, sounding irritated.

Merlin didn't move.

"I'm joking, Merlin. Why would I trust my child with you?"
Inevitable Fear by libgysig
Inevitable Fear

Late in the darkness of a blustery night, ensconced in the privacy of their chambers, Arthur curled around Gwen as she lay on her side, the only position of relative comfort, given her size.

"I'm scared, Arthur," she whispered.

He pulled the covers to her shoulder, put his arm about her.

"I'm scared of everything to come, of everything that could happen...of the birth, of the baby...am I ready for this?"

He took a deep breath. These were the dark thoughts that had circled in his mind too, underneath the outward joy of impending fatherhood.

He swallowed.

"So am I."
The Fork in the Road by libgysig
The Fork in the Road

Arthur had ridden as far as the Forest of Ascetir with Merlin on the road to Ealdor.

"Thank you," Merlin said, as they stopped in a clearing."I hope you can manage without me for a few days." He grinned at the King.

"I hope your mother gets better soon," Arthur said solemnly. Merlin had received a letter from home begging his return.

There was a moment of silence between them. Each man knew that, in a few days, everything would change.

"You'll be fine," said Merlin finally, placing his hand on Arthur's shoulder.

"I hope so, Merlin." Arthur replied.
The Long Wait by libgysig
The Long Wait

Arthur stayed as close to the birthing chamber as the midwives would allow.

This meant on the floor outside, where he could hear the voices of the women attending, interspersed with Gwen's cries and whimpers.

It was the second night of labour and, feeling utterly helpless, Arthur was finding it difficult to endure.

Each time the door opened, he would look up expectantly, only for a girl to swish past him as if he weren't there.

Finally, the noise grew to a crescendo.

Arthur held his breath, listening intently, his heart hammering hard in his chest.

Then -

- a child wailed!
The Perfect Choice Part Two by libgysig
The Perfect Choice - Part Two

His name was Thomas and with his head of dark hair, he was more Gwen's child than of the House of Pendragon.

The unexpected rush of joy and love that Arthur had felt for this little thing had forced his recent fears back into the shadows.

Gwen dozed, waking occasionally to watch her proud husband cradle their son.

Arthur beamed at his wife when he caught her eye, moving to the bed to kiss her tenderly.

"Thank you," he said.

Gwen smiled gently, touching the infant prince's head.

Why had I worried? Arthur thought. Everything is going to be fine.
The Worst of All His Tasks by libgysig
The Worst of All His Tasks

By the light of a pale, cold dawn and as Arthur slept in the chair beside her bed, Gwen slipped softly from the world.

After Thomas's birth, she had sickened quickly but it had still taken a full week for the childbed fever to claim her.

As day crept over the horizon, Gaius pressed two fingers into the side of her throat.

He felt for several moments and when he finally accepted that her thready pulse had vanished completely, the tears sprang into his eyes.

He hated what he must now do: rouse the King to a life rendered unbearable.
Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part One by libgysig
Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part One

On his return, it was not until Merlin saw the stricken faces of Camelot's people that he knew tragedy had befallen the city.

Gwaine directed him to the empty Great Hall where, upon the plinth that Uther had lain mere months before, was Gwen.

Weeping quietly, Arthur had lain his head upon her belly. Their new son was nowhere to be seen.

Merlin bolted for the doors.

He sought out Gaius but before Merlin could ask the question, the physician stopped him in his tracks.

"Arthur would never have permitted the use of magic to save her. You know that."
Remember Me By This - Part One by libgysig
Remember Me By This - Part One

Someone had washed her, dressed her in royal attire and surrounded her with flowers, but Arthur wanted to cast it all aside and shake her violently until she awoke.

They had borne her to the shores of Avalon and now prepared to cast her pyre out onto the silver lake.

Arthur waded thigh deep into the water and took Gwen's hand for the final time. He pressed it to his lips, but she was ice cold and tasted like fresh air.

He set it back down and through her fingers set two stems of purple flowers, picked from the roadside.
Remember Me By This - Part Two by libgysig
Remember Me By This - Part Two

Merlin wept as the King placed the wildflowers into Gwen's hand.

A moment later, four knights pushed the pyre out onto the lake. The current caught the barge, taking it away from the shoreline.

A shout went up and three flaming arrows rose into the sky, then fell to set the pyre alight.

Arthur did not move as he watched the fire on the horizon.

Merlin stepped into the water alongside him.

"I can't live without her, Merlin."

On the bank of the lake, the infant prince wails in the nurse's arms.

"I know." Merlin said softly. "But...you must."
Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part Two by libgysig
Of All Things, He Should Know This - Part Two

The first year passed in a haze of treaties and tournaments.

Arthur only remembered the pain.

He felt as though his innards had been carved out, sent to burn alongside Gwen and then had the remaining cavity filled with never-ending grief.

He felt as though he had crossed worlds and now lived in a shadow world to everyone else.

The worst of all was that he could not bear to hold his son.

Somehow, loving Thomas was a betrayal of his wife, yet he knew only too well that it was an unforgivable thing to do to an innocent child.
The Darkest Hour... by libgysig
The Darkest Hour...

On Thomas's third birthday, Arthur bedded a woman for the first time in years.

His overwhelming guilt and his embarrassment at his quick, lacklustre performance coalesced into a rage that his young son bore the brunt of the following evening.

Each night, the nursemaid would bring the toddler prince to bid goodnight.

That night was no different, yet the ale that Arthur had consumed to dull his shame found his darkest thoughts and voiced them all.

"Why her? Why not you?"

The maid took Thomas and ran, while Arthur destroyed his chambers.

"I wish that she had lived, not you!"
...Is Just Before the Dawn by libgysig
...Is Just Before the Dawn

Naturally, it is Merlin who angrily tells the King that Thomas is not to blame for Gwen's death.

Arthur had his servant confined to a cell for those words.

It is only after a day spent deliberating with himself that Arthur acknowledged Merlin was right and released him, apologising profusely.

They spent that evening around the fire in the Great Hall, the night disappearing through small measures of wine.

"You can choose, you know. You are not your father," Merlin reminds him.

"I know. And she would be so angry. But...somehow I understand him now, better than I ever have."
This, The Hardest Fight by libgysig
This, The Hardest Fight

And so, though he loved his father, there were many ways in which Arthur did not want to be like him. Thus, the King resolved to quell his grief and become the father his son deserved.

Together, they rode, hunted and laughed.

But, despite his intentions, it felt such a struggle.

His grief had been an old friend, a shadow that had accompanied him everywhere. To try and lift the veil of sadness felt near impossible.

On his son's tenth birthday, Arthur realised something...that the years he had grieved for Gwen now outnumbered the years that he had loved her.
Epilogue: Always by libgysig
Epilogue: Always

Arthur grinned as he watched his twenty-one year old son marry a blacksmith's daughter.

He is part Pendragon after all.

Later, Arthur sat with Merlin during the festivities and told him how he had taken Thomas aside that morning and apologised for not being a good father.

Yet his love-struck son, ever his mother's child, had absolved him...understood him.

How far they both had come.

Merlin caught sight of the old trinket around Arthur's neck and gestured to it.

Arthur produced Gwen's wedding band around a length of cord.

"After all this time?" Merlin asked, smiling sadly.

"Always," said Arthur.
Author's Notes by libgysig
Reader, (I married him...)

I hope that you have 'enjoyed' this self-indulgent set of rather depressing drabbles and will forgive me any major errors, plot holes or out-of-character lapses I have made.

I did steal the final lines from my epilogue from the marvellous Harry Potter! And yes, I borrowed my cremation scene from what I remember of early 1990s film "First Knight". Subsequent research has also indicated that a burial may have been more likely and in keeping with Dark Ages/Medieval beliefs. Whoops!

Here all credit belongs to the BBC and the Merlin team.

Any praise and/or criticism would be gratefully accepted.

L x
This story archived at http://merlinfic.dtwins.co.uk/viewstory.php?sid=528