Merlin love & fic rec
It's still the fandom I spend the most time in. Recently, I've been reading as many paperlegends fics as I can (there are 100+ this year! :O) and I absolutely have to share a link to the beautiful post-finale one I finished reading yesterday. I highly recommend it:
Swimming with the Sidhe by gwyllion (Merlin/Arthur, Mature, 54k)
No one likes a story that ends with a hero’s death and broken promises. As Merlin watches the wooden boat drift away with Arthur, he regrets that he ever believed a word that Kilgharrah told him about the bright future Arthur would bring to Albion. Fortunately, he is greeted by a new mythical advisor, the Calming Manatee of the Calming Manatee meme. Only this docile sea creature can help Merlin through this difficult stage in his life so he learns to love himself and gets his happy ending with Arthur.
This fic starts shortly after the events at Avalon. I was taken in by the way the author wrote Merlin's grief--the shock, the thought processes he cycles through. By the summary, I had almost expected crackfic because Calming Manatee? Really? But the author weaved the manatee into the context of Merlin-verse effortlessly. I did go back and forth between crying and giggling, but it didn't take me out of the story. It also jerked me between hope and despair, because I couldn't always tell whether Merlin really stood a chance in his quest, or whether he was being irrationally hopeful.
Ultimately, the story grew to something epic, a journey of personal transformation that satisfies me on so many levels.
Some elements of this fic reminded me a lot of mijan's classic H/D fic, Eclipse, though it has been 7+ years since I read that.
ETA: I should have mentioned that patria_mori's art is a beautiful accompaniment to the story.