Title: Allegiance to Camelot
Word Count: 4172
Disclaimer: The show Merlin is property of the BBC. The show Legend of the Seeker is property of Terry Goodkind and ABC Studios. No money being made.
Summary: Merlin is not Merlin. This is not Merlin’s world.
Author’s Notes: Written for merlinxarthur's fanfic challenge #2. This fic uses a few ideas from Legend of the Seeker. If you’ve seen the show, then you know what boxes I’m referring to (the boxes of Orden). Everything will be explained in the fic so you don’t need to have seen Legend of the Seeker to understand what’s going on.
For these picture prompts:
~ * ~
The arched hallway was dimly lit and the blazing torches only gave off dark shadows in the hall. This corridor connected the dungeons to the door leading up to the main part of the castle.
No one could hear the prisoners scream or cry in this hallway, largely deemed to be haunted and ghosts whispered pretty tales of bloodshed and gruesome deaths.
But the people of Camelot knew that only those who challenged the King would suffer this haunted hall.
Hushed talk refuted that statement, that oh no, it was not King Arthur of Camelot who was to be feared.
It was the King’s Consort. Not many spoke his name as such informality was unbefitting of royalty.
But when they did, they called the dark-haired, blue-eyed man: Merlin. And his story was a strange one indeed.
It was almost as if the fey man came from nowhere, from another world…perhaps?
~ * ~
“No, no! Let me go! This is going too far!” The boy struggled vainly against the two guards restraining him.
He was being guided down the notorious hallway of misery and one moment in the corridor was one moment too long. But the boy knew what awaited him was far worse than being in this hallway.
“Shut him up,” The guard said gruffly.
“I don’t deserve this!” The boy shouted indignantly.
The other guard hit him hard on the back of the head. “You’re the devil child, are you not? Mordred? To think you’ll have a sympathetic ear!” The stocky man guffawed.
They sedated him then before he could kick them where it hurt.
~ * ~
“What do we have here?” the King’s Consort inquired in mild interest.
He looked honestly puzzled as he peered at the adolescent boy presented before him in the throne room. A guard was on either side of the prisoner, and the boy called Mordred was scowling.
No one noticed the quick look of uncertainty that the dark-haired man directed the blond man seated on the throne to his left. He appeared to be silently requesting reassurance for something as he was still new to his main duty as the King of Camelot’s Consort. The King gave him a slight nod, a soft smile on his lips as he set his Consort’s mind at ease.
“I’d rather die than be subjected to this. I refuse to be treated in such a way!” Mordred exclaimed, though he had grown wise not to fight the guards and escape.
The King’s Consort, called Merlin in whispers, was a powerful sorcerer after all. The boy had lived a rough enough life to know when the situation was hopeless. Mordred had doubts that his own magic could be a match against the Consort’s. And along with the Consort’s particular power, the game was lost before it had even begun.
King Arthur spoke then after a long sigh. “You are not thinking this all the way through, Mordred,” he remarked calmly. “Don’t you see that you’ll have an easier life after this? You won’t spend any more time in the dungeons and you’ll have a place in Court. I will not let a good resource go to waste, especially one who possesses magic, and who has information we could use,” He said smoothly, sounding sure of his reasoning.
His blue eyes pierced the boy’s, the King’s gaze sure and firm.
“I hate all of you. I hate Camelot. Ever since he came here,” Mordred accused, pointing viciously at the Consort who tried, but failed, to be unaffected by the attention upon him. The dark-haired man’s pale hands were shaking and he held them tightly together to stop it from showing. The King gave his Consort a reassuring look. After the dark-haired sorcerer took a few deep breaths and exhaled, his hands stilled and he looked more relaxed.
Mordred continued on, pointedly ignoring the Consort’s anxiety attack. “—ever since he came here, everyone has forgotten about what is wrong and what is right! And in this case, death is one hundred times more preferable than being a puppet!”
“You are a traitor, Mordred. An enemy to Camelot,” The King said fiercely. “I could have you executed, but that will do nothing for me, or for my kingdom. As an ally, you are worth far more to me than as a maggot-ridden corpse. All that I ask of you is--”
And then the King’s Consort finished what the King had been planning to say, “—your complete obedience,” he said softly.
The dark-haired man’s eyes flashed a bright white, the power of the spell directed fully at Mordred.
The boy had no time to even think of making a run for it.
Mordred knelt before the two thrones.
“Do you swear allegiance to King Arthur and to Camelot?” The Consort asked him efficiently.
“Yes, my lord, of course,” Mordred said easily now, the words coming out in earnest. “Anything that would serve to please you.”
The dark-haired man nodded, accepting the answer. “If you do well in your service to Camelot, then you may call me by my familiar name. By Merlin.”
“Thank you. I will do my best, my lord,” Mordred said resolutely.
“See, now was that so difficult?” The King voiced idly.
Mordred only gave King Arthur a questioning look, but then the King’s Consort addressed the boy and Mordred returned his attention to the dark-haired man.
Everything was moving along as it should be, and for that the King was grateful. Still, as was expected, his Consort, Merlin had continued trouble adjusting to his new position. Arthur knew that Merlin would be spending hours that evening looking into the scrying bowl wistfully. It pained the King to see him so upset, but only time could heal Merlin’s sadness.
Arthur hoped that, in time, he would be enough for Merlin.
~ * ~
“He must put the boxes of Orden together soon, Your Majesty. The borders surrounding Camelot – the situation is becoming increasingly dire. We need to act swiftly, sire,” Myrddin, one of Arthur’s most trusted advisors, informed him urgently.
Arthur nodded. “Yes, yes, I know that. But he has just arrived in this world. He needs time to adjust.”
The King snuck a peek into the lavishly prepared chambers they had provided for the otherworlder. The room arrangements were the least Arthur could do. And soon, it would be official, and the dark-haired man now resting fitfully in bed would be his Consort. He would rule Camelot with Arthur.
“Yes, of course, but it has to be done in a few days, a week at the most,” his advisor pressed him. “If you ease his mind, explain everything to him, then it should be fine. He is the manservant to you, the other you of that other world, is he not?”
“I’m still a prince in his world. Things are calmer in that world than it is here,” Arthur noted. Any world was better than this wretched world he called home.
“And from what I’ve found, he is committed to protecting you, well, the Prince Arthur of his world. If he should listen to anyone, it would be to you, I am sure,” Myrddin said confidently.
“That’s what I was thinking. I just hope I do this right,” Arthur said with a sigh.
He leaned against the wall outside of the chambers. He rubbed his forehead, trying to ease out the creases in his forehead.
Arthur’s reign had only begun a year ago, and already he was feeling the strain of running a kingdom in a dark world. It was like Camelot was resting on a high cliff, and any moment now his enemies would push his kingdom off the edge, ending in a nasty fall.
He couldn’t reason with his foes as they were far from reasonable people. They were knee-deep in sin and corruption and nothing would change their damning ways. Arthur would like to think that his kingdom, Camelot, was the only decent, good kingdom left in this godforsaken world, but he was beginning to feel the pressure to use tactics he found unsavory.
But…control, he would get control…and security for Camelot and her people. Any threat to Camelot would be taken care of.
It was an underhanded tactic, yes, but Arthur was glad that he had found the boxes of Orden.
Of course, he was not worried for himself. He was the only Pristinely Ungifted person in this world, and so the magic of the boxes would not affect him. In fact, no magic could hurt him, which had certainly raised the ire of his enemies when they tried to attack him using magic. While Arthur couldn’t use magic himself, he didn’t find that much of a loss when he did not have to fear the particularly dark magic used against him. It never worked.
Some of his enemies were a bit slow, and they didn’t realize that they were fighting a losing battle when they wielded magic against the King of Camelot. It had stopped being amusing a while ago and now was simply annoying.
Due to his lack of magic, Arthur had devoted his time to fighting with a sword and he was quite confident in his sword fighting abilities.
Now if he could reassure the man set to wield the power of the boxes, then everything would be fine.
“The power won’t overwhelm him, correct? It’ll be tempered?” He asked for confirmation from his advisor.
“Yes, my lord. We tested him and we found Confessor blood within him. The Confessor magic lays dormant in him, so he is most likely unaware that he has it. I would say that at best, his Confessor magic may only make others feel drawn or attracted to him, without quite knowing why. But I don’t believe the world he hails from has knowledge of Confessors. Or they may go by a different name. Still, the Confessor magic inside of him should suffice when he wields the power of the boxes. He will not go power-mad, and will only use the power against those you deem as a threat. Of course, it will behoove you to support him through this process, to be a friend to him. You are the only one who he can not harm. You must be his confidante.”
Arthur hoped that he was ready for the task. The main problem had nothing to do with the boxes though.
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the only way that they could do it. Arthur could not bear the thought of taking away Merlin from the other world, and leaving the other Arthur without the sorcerer who was needed to watch over him.
Arthur had never known the Merlyn, spelled with a y he’d been told, of his world. When his world’s Merlyn had been still a baby, the last group of Confessors had taken the young Merlyn into their charge and they all had left to go to another world. To what world, no one knew and it was only a guess now if Merlyn was alive and well in another world or if he had died.
And with that knowledge, Arthur could not possibly deprive his other world’s self of Merlin’s presence. Not like he had been denied the chance to ever see his world’s Merlyn. He would have been twenty-eight years old now if what others had told him about Merlyn’s birth year had been true.
Arthur was twenty-five years old, and this Merlin from the other world was five years younger than him based on what Merlin had told them. He had answered a few basic questions for them yesterday, but the younger man was still skittish and nervous. The court physician had given him a calming potion to relax the man.
So they had enlisted one of Camelot’s sorcerers whose specialty was making copies of humans.
It had been an easy slip in, slip out operation. The sorcerer only had to go into the other world’s Merlin bedroom at night while he was asleep. He performed the spell with a few key ingredients – a lock of Merlin’s hair, some of his blood – and before the sun rose, the process was complete.
A copy of Merlin had been produced and he had been magically transported to Arthur’s world. The copy was an exact duplicate, down to the latent Confessor magic within him, which was key. Arthur was adamant that the person chosen would not go power-mad, that he would have a buffer, in a way, inside of him to temper the natural inclination to be tyrannical, overwhelmed with the power now possessed.
King Arthur wanted someone to bring control to his kingdom, safety, but not for the person to become power-hungry because of it. That was a price that Arthur was not willing to pay.
But now, Arthur knew that Merlin would have a hard time dealing with the truth of being a copy, that the world he had grown up in and lived in was not his home anymore.
~ * ~
The next day, Arthur entered Merlin’s chambers with one of the boxes of Orden held in his hands.
Merlin was already awake and he had found the carved wooden box that Arthur had placed in the room the previous night.
The wooden box had a metal keyhole at the center of it, but the box would only open with the proper magical incantation.
The younger man looked to be investigating the box, figuring out how to open it.
“You need to know the right spell to open that box,” Arthur spoke up.
Merlin looked up at him sharply. His eyes were red and raw from crying the previous night.
Arthur knew he had to get through to him quickly. He couldn’t let Merlin fall into a deep melancholy. He couldn’t let his plans fall through in such a way. He had to make Merlin feel better; make him feel comfortable around Arthur. So at least the dark-haired man would know he had one person who he could confide in.
Arthur went to sit in a chair by the bed and he set the box of Orden down upon the bedside table.
“What is in here?” Merlin asked, curiosity lighting up his blue eyes. His thin, pale fingers swept over the carvings on top of the rounded box.
Arthur thought that Merlin should eat more as he looked at his lithe body. A good wind could blow him away.
The King shook himself then and answered Merlin’s question, “The other two boxes of Orden. This is the third box of Orden,” he pointed out, drawing Merlin’s gaze to the box he placed on the table.
Merlin nodded slowly. “And you said yesterday that I have to put the boxes together for the sake of Camelot?”
“Yes, you’re right,” Arthur told him.
Merlin took the wooden box and held it out to Arthur. “I don’t want to do this. I want to go home.”
Arthur had been expecting this to happen, but it didn’t make it any easier. He relinquished the box from Merlin and set it on the floor.
“Merlin, remember what I told you? This is your home now.”
“I am not a copy!” He yelled, his eyes flashing gold in frustration. “I’m me! I don’t belong here. I do not want to have people enslaved to do my will. I have enough power with my magic as it is, so I don’t need this…these boxes of Orden. I want to go home,” He demanded.
“Merlin, I’m sorry. I know this is hard to hear, but it’s the truth. I need your help, I desperately need your help. I may not be the Arthur you know, but trust me, I am a good person. I’m only trying to do what’s right for my kingdom. And I don’t want to force you into anything you don’t wish to do, but I’m worried for Camelot here. I fear it will fall if we don’t take this action. Please, Merlin,” Arthur pleaded with him.
“I’m not a copy. I’m not a copy. You’re lying,” Merlin only said, shaking his head.
Arthur sighed. He moved forward and grasped Merlin’s shoulder. Merlin flinched, but otherwise didn’t try to fend him off.
“You will only need to wield the power of the boxes against those who are a threat to the kingdom, to me. And I will always be there for you. You can never hurt me.”
“Because you’re Pristinely Ungifted,” Merlin breathed out with a huff. Arthur had explained the nature of his condition the other day. “But I don’t even know you. You look like the Arthur I know, but you’re King here…and I don’t know you. I—I don’t feel right here. I want to go home,” he said, his blue eyes welling up with tears.
Arthur moved to sit on the bed. “Merlin, what’s wrong? Why are you so upset?” He wondered, deeply concerned.
“I feel like something is missing,” He said quietly, trying to puzzle it out. “A big part of me is missing. I want it back. It hurts so much. I can’t bear it. Please, Arthur, take me home. I want to go home,” Merlin told him once again, his tone desperate.
Arthur took the younger man in his arms, embracing him. Merlin wept into his shoulder and Arthur’s heart ached for him.
~ * ~
It was an unfortunate side effect of making a copy of a human entity. The sorcerer told them that Merlin still felt tied to his original self. That he felt incomplete without the person who he was a copy of. That was why Merlin was adamant to return to his world – because his original self was there.
But it wasn’t practical to make regular visits to Merlin’s homeworld so that he could feel better upon contact with his original self.
They needed to ‘wean’ him off the strong attachment to his original.
Arthur did take Merlin back to his world, once, to prove to him that his original was still alive and well and that he was truly a copy – however devastating the truth was, it was the truth nevertheless.
One of Camelot’s sorcerers, known for traveling between different worlds, opened the portal for them.
Merlin discovered that yes, there was still a Merlin in his world and he was casually walking down a castle corridor as if nothing was wrong or different…
It was just a normal day…
And Merlin could not deny that he was a copy now.
Merlin didn’t take the confirmation before his very eyes well. He broke down in front of Arthur once they were inside a private, empty chamber. Both, well Arthur really as Merlin was so emotionally overwhelmed that discretion wasn’t his top priority then, were careful that no one noticed their presence.
“It can’t be true. That’s me…I’m Merlin…am I? Who am I?” He said in a rush, his thoughts jumbled. “Who am I?”
“You’re Merlin. Just because you are a copy does not diminish who you are. You are a good man, I know you are. And I love you,” Arthur told him emphatically. He kissed Merlin’s lips lightly, just a brush against them, feather soft.
Merlin sucked in a breath at the kiss. Arthur saw that the younger man was affected by the kiss by the rise of red color upon his cheeks. “But you don’t know me…I don’t know you. I don’t know what to do anymore,” Merlin said hopelessly.
He covered his face in his hands. Arthur wasn’t positive, but he thought he heard Merlin swear under his breath.
After a long moment, Merlin looked up at Arthur and declared, “I want to touch him. I need to – I need to – I don’t know. I would feel better with physical contact.”
“He can’t be aware of you. We can only do it while he is asleep, you understand. And we can’t wake him up.”
Merlin nodded. “As long as I get to feel him, feel me again… I think it would help me a lot.”
“We can’t return here regularly, you know that,” Arthur reminded him gently, “You have to move forward, Merlin.”
“I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want to be made,” he complained.
Arthur placed his hand over Merlin’s cheek. Merlin looked directly at him. “I’m sorry this is so painful for you. All I want is for you to feel comfortable here…with me,” he added the last two words uncertainly.
“Arthur…” Merlin said quietly.
“I want us to be friends, maybe…maybe something more, I don’t know. I want you to rule Camelot by my side. I just want you to be happy,” he said, his voice softening at the end. He hoped that Merlin sensed the honesty in his words.
Unexpectedly, Merlin initiated the kiss this time, his lips tentative against Arthur’s. Feeling bold, Arthur deepened the kiss and Merlin allowed him to.
A few minutes later, Merlin pulled away and looked down. “You’ve been too kind to me, and all I’ve been is a burden to you.”
“No, Merlin. Don’t ever think that,” Arthur enthused. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Because of what I could do,” Merlin said pessimistically.
“I wouldn’t lie to you, and yes, that was why I needed you at first, but I also want to get to know you better. I don’t want us to be strangers.”
Merlin sighed, looking up at the ceiling. He let out a long sigh and then chuckled a little bit. It was the first time that Arthur had heard him laugh.
“The Arthur I knew was more of a prat than you are,” Merlin commented with a small smile at the other man.
Arthur returned the smile. “Well, I don’t quite know how to take that, but I appreciate the sentiment…I guess.”
“I mean it in a good way. I like you,” Merlin said, a blush creeping onto his cheeks.
And Arthur felt then that they were finally making progress.
~ * ~
Later, in the evening, Merlin snuck into his former bedchambers in his homeworld. Arthur waited outside of the court physician’s chambers, but when an hour had passed, he decided to check on the younger man.
He found Merlin simply sitting by his original self, who was fast asleep in his small bed, and Merlin was stroking his original’s hand. That was all.
But he had a happy look on his face.
When Merlin saw Arthur in the room, he grinned at him. “Just a little while longer?” He whispered to him.
Arthur gave in easily, and nodded. If it made Merlin happy, then he couldn’t deny him. If this would be the last time he would ever see his original self, then better to make it count, right?
Merlin thanked Arthur for doing this for him, and when Arthur departed from the room, he had a warm feeling in his chest.
They left Merlin’s world a few hours later, before the sun rose.
~ * ~
Upon returning to Arthur’s world, Arthur was surprised when Merlin announced that he was ready to put the boxes together, to wield the power of the boxes of Orden.
It was days sooner than Arthur had anticipated, but he was privately relieved that there wouldn’t be a long wait. He had felt torn between his wishes for Merlin’s successful adjustment to the new situation and his desire for Camelot’s security.
Even though Arthur had reassured him that he was the only person Merlin could never harm, the King did not miss the look of great relief on his Consort’s face upon testing out his new power.
When Merlin had directed his power upon Arthur, the King did not do a single thing that Merlin told him to do. He was completely unaffected. And that, more than anything, drew Merlin closer to Arthur. With the knowledge that he never had to worry about accidentally turning his power on Arthur, he felt safer with him and Merlin trusted him more than he ever did before.
And with the power tempered due to his dormant Confessor magic, Merlin understood that he did not have to fear losing himself to the power of Orden. He hadn’t wanted the power in the first place…but the added security helped to ease his mind.
Soon after, Arthur talked with one of his sorcerers, and he found a solution to lessen Merlin’s constant melancholy over being parted from his original self.
Arthur gave Merlin a scrying bowl, which was able to look into his homeworld, to see what his original self was doing on a daily basis.
It wasn’t as good as physical contact, but it satisfied Merlin and he accepted the thoughtful gift graciously.
And as the sorcerer explained to Merlin how to use the scrying bowl, Merlin smiled at Arthur, his blue eyes bright.
And his tears were happy.
They would make it through this, Arthur had faith that they would.
~ * ~
~ The boxes of Orden (only two are shown here (empty spot at the top right for the third as you can see)), but with the three of them put together, the one who puts them together has the power to bend anyone they want to their will. That is, except for someone who is Pristinely Ungifted (like Arthur here).