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It had been his only option. Trapped at a cliff's edge, Morgana and her men steadily approaching, there was nothing else he could do. Powerful magic and an advantage on the field were too much even for the knights of Camelot. They pushed on anyway, desperately trying to keep Morgana's forces at bay. But Merlin knew that, if he didn't do something, they would either be brought to their knees or driven over the cliff to their deaths.

He had no other choice.

Just as the men began to outflank them, closing them in on all sides, Merlin paused, taking a long, suspiring breath, standing amidst the battle at the cliff's edge. He closed his eyes and prepared himself for what could very easily be his end. When he opened them again, Arthur's eyes were on him, worriedly and confusedly staring back at him, obviously wondering why his faithful friend had stopped himself in the midst of an onslaught.

Merlin looked woefully back at his king, knowing that he was about to put his fate in his hands. He tried to show in his face how sorry he was, how utterly he wished he had always had this man to confide in, how desperately he admired Arthur for all of the small steps he'd made in disproving his father's beliefs. Even the tiniest of admittances made Merlin's heart flutter; the way Arthur had occasionally trusted a sorcerer in a time of need or the little known comments he made when questioning Uther's upbringing. However, all of that seemed so pointless now. Merlin knew, despite talk and demeanor, that Arthur cared for him and that, a revelation like this just might harden his heart, just as it did with Morgana.

He tore his eyes away and spotted Morgana ahead of her men, raging havoc upon the knights. Then, he said a few simple words and his eyes burned gold like the sun. "Ábrecan agéfon."

Morgana's eyes went wide as the ground shook under Merlin's gaze before the very earth began climbing up her ankle and taking hold of her. Roots and leaves and rocks snaked up her limbs and coiled about her body, pulling her down by Merlin's will. Screaming accusation and hatred towards Emrys, she did sink into the earth until it swallowed her whole.

And Arthur looked on. He looked on in utter shock as a tree sprouted from her resting place, bark black and leaves grey. He looked on as Merlin lowered his gaze, hands shaking by his side. He looked on with wide, heartbroken eyes as the boy turned to him, sorrow and defeat in his stare, expression void of treacherous hate or accusation. He looked on as his soul, despite all the evidence before him, burned with the knowledge that another had left him, another had become corrupted, another had betrayed him, the most important one of all.

They stayed, eyes locked for an unmeasurable amount of time. The knights about them cheered with confused glee as they overtook the army, completely unaware to what had truly conspired. Most of Morgana's army had fled whilst Camelot's knights brought down the foolish remainders.

As the war was won, Arthur's heart fell apart. It twisted and churned within him, memories of past betrayals flooding back to him. Merlin could see the battle within his king and wished he could aid him as he always had. But he could not. It would be biased of him to argue his own innocence, especially when he himself did not believe himself to be entirely so. He could not assure Arthur of what the future would bring or that his choice was good. He could only stare back at him, speaking apologies with his eyes and acceptance with his stance.

They were trapped, looking back at one another, frozen in time amongst the fray that continued around them. But they were not immune to it. They never were.

Merlin, falling apart inside as he was, had little warning other than the white of Arthur's eyes. Watching them go wide, he turned to see the rugged form of Agravaine bowel into him, forcing him back as he ran pass.

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