Once Upon a Time, there was a Prince named Arthur...
And he was going to die.
The Prince had this sudden and alarming realization as the dragon was bearing down on him, about to release another torrent of fiery breath. In a brief moment of reflection, he thought it ironic he would meet his end at the claws of a dragon when he had killed the last dragon only months before. Apparently ‘the last’ was a very liberal take on things, and fate would not be so kind twice.
3 Days Ago…
“Who are you, and what matter do you have for the King?” Arthur asked, using his most regal and authoritative voice.
The woman standing in front of himself and Uther had requested a personal audience with the king on an urgent matter. After presenting her papers of nobility she had been granted the request.
“My name is Maleficent and I have come to report a magical crime of the most abhorrent nature, Your Majesty.” She gracefully curtsied all the way to the floor, making her black and purple gown billow out around her.
Arthur cringed internally at the mention of magic. No matter what was said, Uther would stop at nothing to right the crime. While he understood the dangers of magic and the need for the laws, he still wondered at Uther’s blind hatred for it.
Uther leaned forward in his throne, interest obviously piqued. “Tell us so we can rid the world of the sorcerer who caused it.”
Maleficent stayed in her reverent position, but raised her chin to meet Uther’s gaze. “In a kingdom far to the north of here, there is a castle trapped under a witch’s spell. The court and all the servants are in a deep sleep and will not waken. It’s rumored that the Princess is the key to the spell. The castle itself has been swallowed in thorn bushes, and a hideous beast guards the entrance.”
“Do you know who worked this dark magic?”
“I’m afraid not, Your Highness. All I know is what I’ve told you, and that I’ve only learnt from traveling merchants and seeing the mountain of thorns myself. You are a brave warrior in the face of evil, your magnanimous; if anyone could free the kingdom from the clutches of magic, it would be you.”
Uther sat back in his chair, hand absentmindedly stroking his chin. Arthur turned to him and spoke in hushed tones. “If it pleases you, I will go on a quest to discover the cause and eradicate the curse, father.”
He nodded and spoke once more. “You are right, we must stay strong in the fight against magic. My son will journey to the castle and find a way to lift the curse. Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention.”
As she rose from her kneeled position, Maleficent smiled widely at the both of them.
“It was my pleasure, Your Majesty.” She turned her attention to Arthur and her eyes narrowed. “May fortune follow you on your quest, young prince.”
He nodded towards her in acknowledgment. “Thank you, Maleficent. I’m sure your journey was long and you need rest. Please feel welcome and at home while you are in Camelot. Guinevere will show you to your room.”
She curtsied low once more before turning and walking out of the great hall.
“May I take my leave? I would like to depart as soon as possible,” Arthur asked his father.
“Yes, of course,” he answered with a wave of his hand.
Arthur swiftly left with Merlin following behind. As soon as they were out of the hall Merlin turned to him.
“I don’t trust her.”
He rolled his eyes and smiled as he looked over at his manservant. “You never think we can trust people. She’s trying to help us break a curse, I hardly see how that’s dangerous.”
“It could be a trap.”
“I doubt that.”
Merlin huffed beside him, but remained quiet the rest of the way to his chambers. When they arrived, both silently made the preparations needed for a long journey.
“Are you sure this is a good idea, Arthur?”
He turned to reprimand Merlin again, but stopped short when he saw the true concern shining in his eyes. His trite retort died on his lips when he realized Merlin was just being typical Merlin and worrying about him. While he would never admit it out loud, seeing that look of concern in his eyes made Arthur’s stomach flop and blood rush in a most unbecoming manner.
“It will be fine, stop being a girl about it.”
A pretty red tinge colored Merlin’s cheeks, making it difficult to remember why it was such a bad idea to grab his manservant and kiss him senseless. He cleared his throat in an attempt to calm his body down.
“We’ll leave tomorrow morning at dawn. You can have the rest of the night off from your usual duties in order to finish making preparations.”
“Yes, Sire,” he said, eyes betraying his disappointment at missing out on their nightly routine.
“Please do check with me before you retire for the evening, I’d like to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything.”
Merlin smiled widely before nodding and running out the door. Arthur frowned and shook his head. It was easy denying his misplaced attraction for the man when Merlin genuinely disliked him, but those days had long since passed and now they were fast friends. Not only that, but with each passing day he was beginning to more heavily suspect that his feelings were not unrequited.
While his duty to Camelot could not be denied, he could no less control the wild and raw desire that churned deep in his gut. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop the dreams that had him waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat and filling him with a need so powerful he had to satisfy it before rest was possible.
He sighed and ran his hand over his face in frustration. Unless he planned on keeping Merlin as his consort for the rest of his life, he really needed to get over this ridiculous crush.
The rest of the night was spent finishing work and writing out instructions for the knights’ training in his absence. Just as he started readying for bed, Merlin barged in with a muttered hello.
“Would you like some help since I’m here?” he asked as he stumbled his way across the room.
Arthur fixed him with an amused grin before replying. “I’m capable of dressing myself, you know.”
Merlin stopped as if in shock and his eyebrows rose. “Really? I never would have guessed you were capable of doing anything for yourself.”
Arthur glared at him and threw a boot in his direction, taking care not to actually hit him.
“Tell me what you did with your afternoon.”
He listened to Merlin prattle on about his preparations while he finished removing his clothing and stepping into his night clothes. When he faced Merlin again, his eyes were wide, with flushed cheeks and labored breathing. Arthur blushed a little himself when he realized his changing was most likely the reason for his aroused state. Feeling his dick begin to harden, he stopped his train of thought and forced his mind to think of Gaius. Old Gaius all naked--and ew, that certainly did the trick.
Merlin dutifully helped him into bed and pulled the covers up tight under his chin.
“Goodnight, Merlin.” They smiled at each other, and then Merlin left him to his dreams.
The following morning came all too quickly.
“Up and at ‘em, Sire.”
It was far too early, and he felt exhausted from a night of fitful rest caused by some rather vivid wet dreams involving the owner of the very voice that was trying to rouse him.
Merlin started tugging at his covers, making him consider reaching for his sword and cutting off the offending hand. More than anything else, he hated having his comforter stolen from him in the morning. Unfortunately, it seemed to be Merlin’s favorite way of waking him up. Eventually the fight in him died, and Arthur begrudgingly let him take the blanket and pull him out of bed.
“Why do I always say we’re to leave at dawn? Midday would be so much more agreeable.”
Merlin just chuckled and went about setting out his breakfast and laying out his clothes for the day. It was always a mystery to him just how chipper Merlin could be in the early hours of the morning. Between working for him and also being Gaius’ apprentice, he knew Merlin didn’t get much sleep. It was for this same reason that he tried to share at least one meal a day with him, ensuring he was eating properly and not forgetting. He was already far too skinny as it was.
Merlin’s voice interrupted his train of thought. “Everything is packed and the horses are ready whenever you are.”
“Good. I don’t want to waste any time. Sit down and have breakfast before we leave.”
Merlin looked at him from under his lashes and gave him a goofy grin. It was only a simple meal, but even the smallest of gestures would make Merlin light up, and warm Arthur’s chest in turn.
After they finished eating, Merlin helped Arthur dress and they rode out of Camelot. They traveled at a grueling pace for two days, only stopping when the darkness became so thick you could barely see your own hand in front of your face.
At mid-morning of the third day, they crested a hill and found themselves at the top of a large valley. In the center of the shrouds of trees, the very top of a castle could be seen. Starting from the top of the highest tower, bushes of thorns twisted around the buildings, cascading out and around the grounds and far out into the forest.
“Well that looks like fun, doesn’t it?” Merlin sarcastically voiced from his side.
“Scared, are we?”
Merlin eyed him mischievously from the corner of his eye before harshly urginghis steed and taking off down the slope. An echoed, “Of course not!” rang out between the trees. Not to be outdone, Arthur took off after him, wanting to reach the castle before nightfall.
They reached the outskirts of the wall of thorns just as the sun reached its midpoint, hanging brightly in the middle of the sky. Feeling famished and tired from their race to the bottom, they dismounted and took a break for lunch before continuing on.
“What do you think we’ll find inside?” Merlin asked, sitting down next to him and offering a bowl of stew, which he gratefully accepted.
“Not sure,” he answered between mouthfuls. He’d never admit it, but Merlin’s fireside cooking had improved by leaps and bounds, and was actually quite delicious.
“I still don’t trust Maleficent.” Merlin’s gaze was far off, deep in thought, and his face was drawn.
He sighed and stopped shoving stew in his mouth long enough to clap Merlin on the shoulder.
“Even if you’re right, there’s no turning back now. Don’t worry Merlin, I’ll protect you.”
Merlin threw his head back and laughed. Arthur took the rare moment to admire the man’s long sleek neck, all creamy, smooth skin. The corners of his eyes crinkled as he laughed; an endearing quality Arthur had begun to appreciate months ago.
“Contrary to what you think, I’m not a damsel in distress, you know. Not a girl at all, in fact.”
“Oh trust me, I know.”
Something in Arthur’s voice must have betrayed his lust, as the smile disappeared from Merlin’s face and he stared at him with open hunger. Neither looked away until Arthur cleared his throat and stood up.
“It’s going to take us a while to chop through those thorn bushes. We should get started.”
“Of course, Sire.”
He turned away from Merlin and rubbed his thumbs over his brow in an attempt to relieve some of his manservant-based tension.
After the camp was picked up, he tied the horses to a nearby tree and started hacking through the brush with his sword. Merlin walked close behind him, following the path he cleared. For hours they moved forward, only stopping briefly to take a drink.
Just as the sun was beginning to set, Arthur could tell the dead plants were starting to give, until he finally cut through the last of them and stumbled out into a courtyard. His breath got stuck in his throat as he took in the forms of hundreds of people in a deep sleep all around them.
Men, women and children were all frozen right in the middle of what they had been doing last.
Merlin’s voice drifted up from behind him. “This is bad.”
Arthur scoffed and looked back over his shoulder. “You think?”
As quiet as possible they made their way through the eerie scene, doing their best to stay far away from any of the sleeping courtiers. Just as they were about to reach the steps of the castle, a deep purple mist swirled in front of them.
Arthur shoved Merlin behind him and raised his sword in defense.
The smoke gathered momentum and spun around in a whirlwind until finally taking the figure of Maleficent. She let out an evil cackle and raised her staff to the sky, ominous lightning crackling behind her.
“I told you,” Merlin mumbled behind him.
“Such a brave little princeling, come to rescue the fair princess. I guess I left out the part where only true love can wake her, and that is not your destiny.”
“Why have you brought us here then?” He scanned their surroundings and started to think of a plan to get him and Merlin out of there alive; their chances were slim to none against a sorceress, but they’d escaped worse situations before.
“Isn’t it obvious, son of Uther Pendragon? I’m from a time, long ago, when magic was revered and respected. Even if it hasn’t affected me, the injustice your father has committed towards magic cannot go unpunished.” She lifted her staff and pointed it in his direction, and a bright green light came hurling towards them.
Moving quickly, he pushed Merlin to the right and forced himself out to the left. The green energy moved past them, but he could still feel the magic rippling on his skin.
“Merlin, run.” He motioned his head back where they came, trying to communicate he would hold her off as long as possible.
He didn’t have time to remind him who the prince was, as Maleficent was launching another orb of energy toward them. Trying to get closer to her, he dodged her attacks as swiftly as possible until he felt his feet sink into the ground and his legs freeze completely, his limbs no longer under his control.
“Enough! Today is your last, and the end of the Pendragon reign.” She lifted her staff once more and Arthur tried to face his death as gallantly as possible; squaring his shoulders, raising his chin in defiance, and staring the witch straight in her cold emotionless eyes.
Just as the light was about to hit him, it stopped. Arthur looked over his shoulder to see Merlin walking towards them, hand stretched out before him and eyes blazing gold.
Merlin had magic.
It felt like someone had punched him in the gut at the same time as having a bucket of cold water poured over his head. How had he not seen this before? Having Merlin around had been like his lucky charm-- he just hadn’t realized it was quite so literal.
“Don’t make me kill you.”
Arthur had never heard his voice sound so deep and authoritative; it sent a thrill through him, making him shiver with desire.
Maleficent glared at him and withdrew the green energy as set her staff upright by her side.
“And who might you be?”
“My name is Merlin, but I’m better known as Emrys to some.”
Her eyebrow rose a fraction, but she was otherwise nonplussed. “Am I supposed to be impressed? Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
Merlin stopped for a second and looked her up and down, sizing up his opponent. “It will.”
“Silly boy, I’ve been here much longer than you can possibly conceive. You may be of the Old Religion, but there’s only one who can defeat me, and he is not here. Go ahead and try.” She stepped back and opened her arms wide in invitation.
Merlin started walking forward again, continuously shouting out various spells and waving his hands around. Arthur watched transfixed at the blaze of golden light swimming in Merlin’s eyes. It wasn’t until Merlin stopped again and frowned in concentration did Arthur realize something was horribly wrong.
Maleficent cackled and spun her staff around in a circle until a green and purple mist surrounded her. Her body contorted and grew larger and larger, rising above them.
A giant wing sprouted from behind the smoke, the skin translucent and patterned with veins.
Another wing sprouted from the mist, followed by a tail that thumped across the steps, making them crumble under its weight.
The man finally turned to him, his eyes wide with shock; apparently he hadn’t learned that trick yet.
“If we have any hope of getting out of here alive, you need to unbind me.”
Merlin nodded and waved his hand, reciting something in a language foreign to his ears. Immediately, he felt the magical binds around him loosen and then fall away completely. Just as he was free to move his limbs, a giant dragon head rose from the fog and let out a growl that resonated through the entire castle and carried all the way to the surrounding forest. The beast raised its head and then lowered it, letting out a torrent of fiery breath. He just managed to roll out of the way before he was roasted alive.
Even with a sorcerer by his side, there was no way they could get out of his. For the second time that day, Arthur thought he was going to die as the sorceress-turned-dragon bore down on him, ready to release another fiery breath.
But for the second time that day, his manservant saved his life.
“Maleficient! Lass das, und gehorch meinem Befehl!” Merlin’s voice came from deep inside him, more like a roar than actual words.
The dragon cowered and pulled back in on itself.
“What did you do?” Arthur asked, slowly moving to Merlin’s side. He shrugged and looked over at him.
“She took the form of a dragon, which I happen to be able to control. Erm... I might also be a dragonlord as well as a warlock...?”
Arthur just glared at him, unsure of how Merlin could be so powerful, yet look so daft and innocent when he peered at him from under his eyelashes the way he was. Feeling like this day couldn’t get anymore absurd, Arthur grabbed him by his belt and brought him in for a kiss.
Merlin grunted in surprise, before catching his bearings and opening his mouth to meet Arthur’s tongue with his own. He tasted sweet and like power, making Arthur’s skin crawl and heat with desire. His hands roamed over Merlin’s body, greedy for a taste of more.
When they separated in gasps of breath, Merlin smiled and chuckled into his shoulder.
“I have to admit, that’s a much better reaction than I was hoping for.”
“You’re still in trouble.” Arthur moved back in for another kiss, but Merlin put a gentle hand on his chest.
“We need to get going. I’m not sure how long my magic will hold her, but for whatever reason I can’t kill her.”
He nodded reluctantly, but still dove to give him a quick peck on the lips. “Let’s go find this princess then.”
Grabbing Merlin’s hand, they ran into the castle and up several flights of stairs. At last they reached the highest room, in the tallest tower, only to find it sealed shut by a door ornately engraved with an inscription.
“Only true love can find the way. The sisters three will help you see.” Slowly, Arthur ran his hand over the words, jumping backwards when they began to glow. Three faeries slowly emerged from the carvings, yawning and blinking their eyes rapidly. Two of them were different shades of blue, one bright and the other dark, and the third was a light purple.
“Prince Phillip!” they all shouted together.
“At last you’ve come!” One of them screeched as they flew around his head.
Another shouted, “we knew you would find a way to overcome the enchantment!”
“Actually, it’s Prince Arthur.”
They all stopped buzzing his head and lined up in front of him, crossing their tiny arms. “I knew he looked too different.” One of them yelled at the others. “What are you doing here? And how did you defeat Maleficent?”
Merlin and Arthur looked at each other, before turning back to the little creatures.
“About that; Merlin here has her contained, but she’s not exactly dead. She lured us here to try and kill me.”
The faeries started buzzing him again, pulling on his hair and pinching his face.
“You’ve really gone and bollocksed everything up, haven’t you? Only Prince Phillip, her true love and betrothed, can wake the princess!”
“Stop that, will you!” He swatted around his head, trying to get them to stop pulling at him. When they finally retreated, he fixed them with a stern glare. “Now, if you’ll tell us where this Prince Phillip is, we’ll help you find him.”
“Maleficent put him in a deep sleep, much like the princess, but no one was sure how to wake him. The same curse couldn’t be put on both sides of true love, so we know it’s not a kiss. She hid the Prince away on the forbidden mountain... Our brother stole the key to his prison, but we still don’t know how to break the spell.”
“We should go to your brother.”
The faeries giggled simultaneously and waved their wands. “As you wish.”
A mixture of blue and purple smoke pooled at their feet, slowly winding its way around their limbs until it finally crawled up and over their faces. He immediately noticed a change in the air, more alive and filled with the scents of food being cooked. Boisterous singing could be heard from a nearby tavern. When the smoke finally cleared, they were no longer in the cursed castle, but a town of some sorts.
“Where are we?” Merlin asked.
“The village of Rihm, just a few days walk east of the castle,” said the purple fairy.
“Our brother will be here shortly. We’ve already summoned him.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth when another light blue, but apparently male, fairy flew around them and gathered his sisters into a hug.
“Flora! Fauna! Merryweather! How I’ve missed you.”
“And we’ve missed you too, dear Zane. Thank you for guarding the key while we kept watch over our lady.”
They chattered incessantly until Arthur was huffing in impatience; he was quickly learning that faeries were an absolute nuisance.
“Excuse me, but if you don’t mind, we really should be on our way.”
“Oh yes, of course. I’ve hidden the key inside The Dragon’s Tongue. You can follow me.”
Looking at Merlin, Arthur pointed to a nearby rock. “You’ll only get into trouble, so stay here and wait for me.”
Merlin looked crestfallen and didn’t even try to hide it. “Are you sure, Sire? I could help--”
“Magic or not, you are horrible at sneaking around. Stay put and I’ll be back in a moment.”
Not giving Merlin a chance to answer, he turned on his heel and strode forward.
“Prince Arthur, it’s this way,” the fairy giggled at him before pinching his cheek.
He rolled his eyes in exasperation and firmly gripped the hilt of his sword as they walked in the correct direction. Their brother lit the end of his wand with a bright light, making it easier to see in the shadows of the alleyways. He took long, determined steps, uncaring if his face betrayed his irritation. Relying on these faeries to get them anywhere seemed like a terrible idea.
Eventually they led him down an alley, past the stables, and towards the light of the noisy tavern. A cat hissed at him from behind a barrel of fish that had him wanting to cover his nose or be sick from the stench. Adding to his ire, he almost stepped in a pile of horse droppings trying to avoid the angry cat.
The blue one he thought was Flora pulled the window open and stuck her head inside. “Rowdy bunch in there tonight!” She said, looking over her shoulder at the rest of them.
“So where is this key?”
“Under the third floorboard, second row from the left wall in the first room on the right on the second floor.”
Arthur grit his teeth and clenched his free hand in a fist, but didn’t say anything as he strode under the swinging sign and entered the noisy bar. The patrons were loud, already filled with a generous amount of alcohol, and singing along with the musician playing in the corner. Barmaids filled drinks before they were empty, purposely bending low to show off what they had to offer..
Hoping to avoid talking with anyone, he quietly made his way past the crowd and took the stairs to the second level that acted as an inn, or extra rooms if any of the barmaids decided to get frisky.
“First room on the right,” he recited, twisting the handle and pushing the door open.
The scene that greeted him was not what he expected. One of the wenches was on her hands and knees on the bed, a man brusquely plowing into her from behind. Distinct sounds of skin slapping against skin rose to his ears, and he froze in the doorway, unsure what to do.
“Have to pay to watch.”
The woman’s voice startled Arthur and he quickly placed a couple coins on the dresser, trying to ignore the grunts and moans coming from the bed. Averting his eyes, he ran to the third floorboard in the second row and used his dagger to pry it up. At first it wouldn’t budge and his panic grew and grew in time with the frenzied thrusts in the bed beside him.
Just as the couple came to completion, the board sprang free and he grabbed the key before quickly darting from the room. He tried to shake the awkwardness and grime from the tavern as he swiftly moved out the door.
“Got it,” he said breathlessly, raising the key into the air as the faeries cheered.
Making haste, they ran through the alleys; Arthur much more comfortable with his surroundings this time around. He stumbled to a halt when he saw Merlin waiting impatiently, tapping his foot and making little creatures out of fire dance on his hand. He was already riled up from the events at The Dragon’s Tongue and then seeing that yellow glint in Merlin’s eyes made him feel wound tight.
He kept silent, hidden along the wall in layers of shadows. Mesmerized, he watched as the flame creature shifted from a horse, to a unicorn and then a dragon. The soft light from the tiny fire lit up Merlin’s features, making him look vulnerable and more open than Arthur had ever seen him.
There was something about the power and knowledge that he was one of the presumably very few that really knew Merlin, all of him. It made a fire of his own explode in the pit of his stomach and race out through his veins until there was no part of him left that wasn’t burning.
Unable to resist touching any longer, Arthur rushed over and tackled him to the ground, eliciting a surprised ‘oomf’ from Merlin. With complete abandon, Arthur rutted against his leg, nipping at his neck and palming at the skin underneath his tunic. It only took a moment for him to feel Merlin harden underneath, and thread his long fingers through his hair.
“Arthur,” Merlin whispered in a contented sigh by his ear, like this had been all he’d ever wanted.
“You’re beautiful,” Arthur whispered back, moving his hands to firmly grip Merlin’s hips and grinding down, making them both moan in delight. He dipped back down and sucked Merlin’s bottom lip between his teeth.
Loud giggling interrupted their passionate moment. Arthur growled into Merlin’s mouth, ready to take some fairy heads off. They separated long enough to see all the faeries staring at them with wide grins on their faces.
“I can’t wait to tell our lady it took so long to waken her because you two couldn’t stop eating each other’s faces.”
Arthur was about to protest, but Merlin kissed his neck and spoke before he got the chance. “I love that you find my magic so irresistible, but we probably should finish the quest.” A quiet glance passed between them, promises to finish what he had started.
He stood up and brushed himself off, pulling leaves from his now dusty hair.
“Don’t flatter yourself, Merlin,” he said in an attempt to return the moment to normalcy.
“Don’t be such a prat, my lord.”
Arthur cuffed the back of his head. “You can’t talk to me like that, idiot.” Merlin just smirked at him and tilted his head up in defiance.
“Let’s be off then,” voiced the purple fairy, flicking her wand and making them disappear in a puff of purple smoke.
The transition was less gradual this time, making Arthur’s stomach nauseous with the abruptness of the change. One minute he was in the middle of Rihm and the next they were standing on the edge of a snowy mountain.
“Well that was fun,” Merlin said sarcastically; wrapping his arms around his chilled body.
Treading through the snow as fast as possible, they climbed the harsh slope of the mountain to a large carved door in the side of a cliff. It took Arthur several tries to turn the key; his fingers were nearly frozen solid. When the lock finally clicked open, he pushed the door forward and they all tumbled inside the cave. Quickly shutting the door behind him, he rubbed his hands together to try and stave off the cold.
“Blæcern sé faru.”
A bright blue orb lit up the entire cave, illuminating all the cracks and crevices and Prince Phillip, laid out on a stone table. Arthur, however, could only focus on the orb hovering just under the ceiling. It was the same thing that had saved him from Nimueh, all those years ago.
He glanced sideways at Merlin and narrowed his eyes. “Just how powerful are you?”
Merlin gave him a sheepish smile before shrugging his shoulders. “Depends on who you ask.”
He let the subject drop, adding it to the list of things to ask Merlin when they finally had the opportunity to be alone.
They approached Prince Phillip, and Arthur couldn’t help but shiver at how utterly dead he looked. Merlin touched his hand to the Prince’s chest and closed his eyes. Eyebrows knitting in confusion, he tilted his head to the side.
“What is it?” Arthur asked.
Merlin ignored him and turned towards the faeries. “He’s not under a sleeping spell. I think Maleficent froze him in time.”
“Can you fix it?” Merryweather asked as she flitted around the Prince’s face.
“I think I can. If I stop time and then gradually bring him back in with us, it should reverse the spell.”
“Please try,” Fauna begged of him.
Arthur gawked at Merlin, once again feeling like he was only just meeting his manservant. It irritated him to no end that he had easily been able to keep so many secrets from Arthur.
“You can stop time, just like that.” He sighed and shook his head in frustration. “I guess that answers my question of how powerful you are.”
Merlin placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and gave him a soft smile. “I’m still Merlin. Just with a little bit extra.”
“You’re an idiot,” he said with a roll of his eyes.
One minute he was standing with Merlin’s hand on his shoulder and then the next he was by himself, with Merlin across the room helping a very alive and very awake Prince Phillip sit up. Arthur scrunched his face.
“I don’t particularly like that trick of yours.”
Merlin ignored him and checked Prince Phillip over for any signs of injury or weakness.
“Prince Phillip!” Flora, Fauna, Merryweather and their brother buzzed around his head, shouting exclamations of joy at his return.
“Hello, my dear friends. How are all of you? Has the princess been rescued yet?”
“Only you can save her highness!”
“She still sleeps in the kingdom.”
“These idiots tried to break the curse, but that’s your destiny.”
“Yes, well, they did help release me from the spell. Thank you for freeing me.” Phillip motioned to Merlin and Arthur, seeking their names.
Arthur extended his hand, and Phillip took it in a firm grip. “I’m Prince Arthur of Camelot. This is my--” He looked at Merlin and wondered exactly what he was supposed to call him. He was far from being just a manservant or friend anymore. “--my future Court Sorcerer and consort.”
Merlin sputtered next to him and Arthur nearly laughed at the size his eyes had grown to.
“Wonderful to meet the both of you.” Phillip turned to Merlin and shook his hand as well. “Now I do believe I have a princess to save.”
Phillip picked up his sword and nodded to the faeries. Knowing what was coming this time, Arthur shut his eyes just before the familiar pop, and they were transported miles in mere seconds. When he opened his eyes again they were outside the castle, rather than in the princess’ chambers.
He noticed in confusion that the path he had cut through the thorn bushes was no longer there. Prince Phillip withdrew his sword and started ferociously cutting through the brush, guided by the light from the fairy wands.
Arthur made to follow after them, but Merryweather flew in front of his face. “I know you feel the need to complete your quest, but it was never truly yours to begin with. Defeating Maleficent and waking Aurora is Prince Phillip’s destiny. Thank you for helping us save him.” With a flick of her wrist, Merlin and him found themselves standing in the middle of Camelot’s dark and abandoned courtyard.
“I hate it when they do that,” Arthur grumbled under his breath. Turning towards Merlin, he pointed to the stables. “Go make sure they returned the horses, and then meet me in my chambers.”
As Merlin bounded off towards the stables, he made his way inside the castle. The hallways were dark at night, but he could’ve navigated them with a blindfold if he had to. Once in his chambers he took a moment to sit and process the events of the day.
The quest itself had been much more than he’d expected, and he’d learned things about Merlin he’d never thought possible. He couldn’t explain what made him so comfortable with the idea that his manservant had magic, but it felt right. Beyond that, it made it possible for him to always keep Merlin close to him.
His only concern was keeping it secret long enough to grant Merlin the position he deserved. It was dangerous letting him stay in Camelot, but Arthur knew he was too selfish to send him away.
Merlin entered a few minutes later, silently helping him remove his clothes and change into his night pants and shirt.
“Do you think Prince Phillip will be alright?”
“I’m sure he’ll be fine. The faeries seemed confident in his abilities.”
Merlin hummed in agreement.
“Arthur, about what you said with me being Court Sorcerer one day. Did you mean it?”
Unable to stand the look of doubt and fear clouding Merlin’s eyes, he reached forward and pulled him into a tight embrace.
“You have a lot of explaining to do, and I never want you to lie to me again, but I never want you to think I’m going to banish you or turn you over. One day you’ll be at my side where you belong. You can trust me.”
Merlin sagged in his arms and nuzzled into his neck. “Thank you.”
Pulled close to the warmth of his body, Arthur felt the exhaustion from the long journey wash over him. “Sleep with me tonight?”
“Of course,” Merlin replied after pulling back and letting out a long yawn.
They climbed into Arthur’s big bed and burrowed underneath the covers together, tangling in a big mess of limbs. Merlin’s breath on his neck tickled his skin and comforted him at the same time.
Pulling his arms around the man’s slender form, he squeezed tightly. “Goodnight, Merlin.”
“Night, Arthur.” He wiggled against him before finally getting comfortable.
That night was the best sleep he’d ever had.
The following morning Arthur briefed his father on what had transpired during the quest (minus Merlin having magic, being a dragonlord, and being in love with him- he didn’t think that would go over too well), and while he wasn’t overly pleased Arthur was refused the right to the princess, he was glad they had returned safely.
His relationship with Merlin settled into an easy routine, as if it had always been so intimate between them. Stolen glances and accidental touches morphed into promises for more and reminders of nights past. He cherished every moment he was allowed to explore Merlin’s milky skin, and yearned for the day when they no longer had to be such a closely guarded secret.
Two weeks after their quest, a squire announced the arrival of King Stefan, his daughter Princess Aurora, and her betrothed, Prince Phillip.
Merlin smiled over at Arthur, obviously pleased that Prince Phillip had succeeded in defeating Maleficent and saving the Princess.
The court bowed to the visiting royalty as they walked through the great hall towards Uther’s throne.
“Your Majesty.” Stefan nodded his head while Aurora curtsied and Phillip bowed low.
Uther rose from his throne and descended the steps to greet them. Extending his hand, he clasped Stefan’s arm in a firm grip. “King Stefan, welcome to Camelot. I am delighted to see Prince Phillip was able to break your curse.”
“Yes, we have been slumbering for far too long. Prince Phillip told us how it would not have been possible had you not sent your son on the quest. Thank you for helping us.”
“One must do all they can in the fight against magic.”
Stefan gently nodded his head, but didn’t say anything more on the matter. “I also came to extend an invitation to my daughter’s marriage to Prince Phillip.”
“Arthur and I would be honoured to attend. Now King Stefan, I know you have long been out of politics, but perhaps you wouldn’t mind letting me share the state of our nation and discuss a peace treaty between our kingdoms.”
“That would be most agreeable.”
The kings walked out of the hall into the adjoining council chambers, leaving Aurora and Phillip to socialize with the rest of the court. Phillip regaled them with his story of defeating Maleficent multiple times, always with a smile. Eventually they made their way to Arthur, and Phillip clapped him fondly on the shoulder.
“Thank you again, my friend; our story would not have had a happy ending without your help.”
“Yes, thank you, Prince Arthur. Phillip has not stopped talking about how you freed him.” Aurora’s voice was sweet and beautiful like chimes.
“I was happy to help your highness.” Arthur smiled genuinely and gave her a slight bow.
Both Phillip and Aurora nodded to Merlin standing beside him in a silent acknowledgment of thanks.
A feast was held that night in their honor, and they departed the next morning.
Two months later, Uther, Arthur, a few of the nobles and Merlin, acting as Arthur’s manservant, made the two day journey to the neighboring kingdom for the royal wedding. He and Merlin were given a single room together with a servant’s antechamber. It was a special gift being able to spend the nights together without raising any suspicion.
After a week of feasting and preparing, Aurora and Phillip were finally married on the seventh day. The wedding was a lavish affair, with large garlands adorning every hall. The newlywed prince and princess sang together for the attendees, mentioning how song had been what made them fall in love in the first place.
When the dancing began, Arthur stood on the side and watched, happiness filling his heart for the couple that had quickly become steadfast friends of Camelot. Merlin moved forward to stand by his side, brushing shoulders with him and letting their fingers touch for a moment.
“He’s rather charming, you know, may best you if you don’t watch out,” Merlin noted as he watched Phillip and Aurora glide across the floor together.
“There’s only one person I care to find me charming, and I’m quite sure they do.”
Merlin snorted and smirked at him. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that, my lord. Unless of course that person finds being a royal prat endearing.”
“Well, I happen to find insolent, idiotic manservants endearing, so you never know.”
The grin that covered Merlin’s face from ear to ear warmed his chest and made his heart clench in happiness. Leaning over, as if to request something, Arthur pressed his lips to Merlin’s ear and whispered, “love you.”
Merlin put his hand on his shoulder and nipped at his ear before whispering back, “love you too.”
And They All Lived Happily Ever After....