Length: 2,000 words
Spoilers: General Series 1
Synopsis: So similar, yet so drastically different.
Author’s Notes: for the merlin_flashfic Mirrorverse challenge.
Disclaimer: I do not own this interpretation of the myths and am making no profit from this.
Merlin stared at the ornate piece of glass before him and had to admit it was possible his curiosity had finally gotten the better of him. The frame that held it was delicately carved out of the finest wood, symbols inscribed in scrollwork that would rival what hung in the king’s own chambers. It had been hidden away, covered with cloth, various bits of old and disliked furniture stacked in front of and around it, locked away in a corner of the castle no one really used.
Really, he should have known there was something about it that was not to be favoured.
Instead, he had snuck in, dug around, removed the cloth, and polished the surface. Now, he stood before it, more than a little perplexed. It was himself reflecting back at him, he was fairly certain, but he was also fairly certain he had shaved just the day before and his reflection had the oddest little beard and moustache combination he had seen and was stroking it in consternation, even though Merlin’s own hands were still fisted in the cloth he had used to clean the glass.
“Well, this is different,” he mused.
“Indeed it is,” an incredibly familiar voice replied. It took him a moment to realize that it was him, the other him, that had spoken.
“You are not here, which means you are there, which means there is a place other than here,” Merlin said, more to himself than to his other self, but he figured that if it were really him he would both understand and likely be thinking the same thing.
“You have no idea what you’re looking at,” the other him, who he was going to call Him from now on, supposed.
Merlin frowned. He did not like the superior tone He was taking with himself. “I am looking at a mirror and you are reflected back to me as I am likely to you,” he replied. “Considering you look and dress differently than I do, and appear to be in far nicer chambers than what amounts to a forgotten storage closet, I am going to guess you are in a reality different from my own. Considering I am looking at all of this through a mirror, I am going to call it a Mirror Reality as that should help me find it in Gaius’ books.”
The other Him made a face at the mention of his mentor’s name, but shrugged off everything else. “Good, you are not as daft as you look, clothing aside. You may wish to look for a reference of a Mirror Universe as that is what we call it here.”
“Why would you call your own reality ‘Mirror’?” Merlin asked before he could stop himself. The other Him opened his mouth but Merlin waved him off. “Forget I said that. You call me the Mirror and you the regular and can we move on to why you look like you have it far better off than I?”
Merlin watched as He stroked His beard again, and decided it was an annoying habit and one he would try to avoid on the off chance he ever decided to grow one. When He spoke, He said, “Well, I suppose your attempt at an overthrow was not as successful as mine.”
“Or, you know, at all,” Merlin told him. “Also, what overthrow? How in the world would I overthrow anything here?”
That got Him to blink. “I’m sorry, I just assumed. You are dressed as a servant, so I made the postulation that the overthrow of the Pendragons did not go quite as well there.”
Merlin made a face that was not reflected back at him. “Why would we overthrow the Pendragons?”
That got Him to blink again. “You are saying that, in your reality or universe or whatever you wish to call it, Uther Pendragon is not a power hungry conniving king who made witch and wizard alike suffer for decades?”
Merlin shook his head. “No, he is all that, but there is nothing we can do about it,” he explained. With a shrug he added, “Not yet, anyway.”
“Why in the God and Goddesses’ names not?” came the roar from the other side of the glass. Merlin watched as He began to pace, flowing black robes swirling behind Him. “Uther imprisoned our kind. Any and all who were graced with even a touch of magic were rounded up and locked away. His henchman, Gaius, was powerful enough to force them to his will and make them all do the king’s bidding or die horribly should they refuse. For years they were forced to kill and destroy in his name, until Camelot was the most powerful and feared of all the kingdoms. I was lucky enough to be raised apart and hidden away until such a time I could defeat that spell and free the prisoners. We overtook the king and all of his ilk and they serve us now. So tell me, why in this world or any other would you make your own kind suffer while you serve as a servant to that kind of evil?”
“There are no prisoners,” Merlin said quietly. He heard the tremors in his own voice, but ignored them. He looked up into familiar blue eyes and watched as recognition dawned. “Uther gathered our kind, but to kill, not to imprison. Anyone who dares to practice magic, or dares to support those that do, is to be hunted down and killed publically as a lesson to us all. There are simply not enough of us left in Camelot to do anything about it.”
The brashness and boldness were gone from His eyes, replaced only with sorrow. A hand, slim and bony and decorated with heavy rings, pressed against the glass as He promised, “I can try to find a way. Let me see if I can break through to your side, bring my kind with me. We can bring your Pendragons to heel as we have done our own, make them suffer as they have our own kind.”
Merlin shook his head. “And what of Arthur and his great destiny? I have to believe that he has his purpose, that he will lead us out of this darkness and into a new era of peace and light.”
“Arthur? Uther’s only son? Why would you place your trust in that?” He pulled His hands back and crossed His arms before Him. “Are you going to tell me he’s some great man there? That he stands up to his father and is noble just and true?”
“Actually, he’s kind of a prat,” Merlin admitted as he scratched his ear.
“Then why would you want to save him?”
“Because I have to believe that he will someday be a great king,” Merlin replied. “The Great Dragon told me that our destinies are entwined, that we are two sides of the same coin, and that I will help guide him to be a far better man than his father, that he shall rule more than Camelot and the land will know peace once more.”
“The dragon?” the other Him questioned doubtingly. “There have been no dragons since Uther went on his rampage years ago. All that is left of those mighty beasts are the cloaks Gaius and the Pendragons wore to warn others what could happen to them should they disobey.” He hung His head for a moment, but when He looked up, there was an odd look to His eyes. “Does that dragon really believe that? Can you be certain? If magic is so hidden, so hunted in your realm, how do you know he is not an illusion of what you want to see?”
“Because he’s an annoyingly cryptic pain in the arse,” Merlin replied. He sighed and wiped his hands on his already filthy trousers, cloth long forgotten where it gathered at his feet. “He says there’s a future better than this, and I have to believe in that.”
“Then you are delusional,” He scoffed. “The only thing Arthur Pendragon has ever been good at is being a lapdog, first for his father and now for me. Isn’t that right, Arthur?” He stepped back away from the mirror and yanked on something. That something was a mop of blond hair attached to another familiar face. Arthur dutifully knelt beside him, wrists and throat bound in manacles and chains that glowed golden with magic. He was stripped bare of everything save the simplest of trousers and looked like he could use a good meal or three to give him back his bulk. He also wore the odd beard that Merlin was beginning to believe must simply be the fashion over there.
“Merlin is correct, as always,” Other Arthur dutifully intoned.
Merlin shivered. There was no way any of the image before him sat right, in this reality or any other. “You have him in chains? The once and future king?”
Merlin watched as He sneered, a look he promised himself he would never have. “King? You said it yourself. Two sides of the same coin. I read that book as well. The difference is, I am the one that rules and he is the one that serves. It is as it should be, as I can make it in your world as well.” The mirror began to glow, the symbols in the wood shining bright. “If you are too weak to take what is yours, I will simply have to do it for you, and rule both of these realities, golden future or no.”
If He expected Merlin to be afraid, it simply was not happening. “See, there’s this thing,” Merlin began, hand waving in the air. He swore he could feel the energy, feel the magic building in room, crackling between his fingers and between the two universes. “I am a bit protective of Arthur, saved his life a few times and all that, and I get a bit tetchy about people going after him.” He knew his eyes were as golden as the light that poured from his fingertips as he added, “No matter whom that person is.”
The other Him took a physical step back, his own golden eyes wide with shock and surprise. He had weakened the connection with His own magic, and Merlin exploited that to his own means. Merlin pushed his magic through, felt the darkness clawing at him, begging him to join it. A flick of his wrist, and Arthur was freed, not just from his physical bonds but the magical ones as well.
Merlin watched as he blinked to awareness, blue eyes clear and knowing once more. “Merlin,” he bade, voice shaking yet strong. “There is no need for this. I promised you, and intend to keep that promise. The kingdom is ours; my father will never harm another again.”
The other Merlin’s magic faltered, He looked unsure of Himself as He turned to face a new threat. His hand rose, but the golden glow deflected off Arthur as if it had never been there. He whirled on Merlin and raged, “What did you do?”
When Merlin answered, he heard Arthur’s voice join him in chorus as both simply said, “What needed to be done.”
Before He could respond, and before Merlin lost control of the sheer amount of force he was currently controlling, Merlin made one final push. He watched as shards of glass flew free, the image shattering before him, the last whole thing he saw Arthur holding out a hand to his one time friend.
He let the flow stutter to a stop, gasped for breath and tried not collapse to his knees. He found an arm wrapped around his waist, holding him upright, lowering him gently to the floor.
“Thank you,” his Arthur whispered, a breath against his ear.
Merlin gazed into the mirror and saw only the two of them, cradled together on the floor of a dusty storeroom, and smiled.
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