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Blessing of the Wolf

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Blessings granted by the Gods should never be denied by a King.

In the early days of Albion, the gods and goddesses watched over their beloved people, protecting them and granting blessings of skills, strengths, and powers that would aid them to survive and prosper. Embracing the gifts granted by the gods, the people not only survived but advanced well beyond the expectations of their deities. Through ceremonies and rites, the people honored and thanked the gods for their protection and the gifts they granted. For centuries, the gods were pleased and the people happy.

With time comes forgetfulness and ceremonies conducted as labors of love and devotion soon become tradition, and then as it often happens, traditions are discarded, lost and eventually forgotten. Sad though it may be, the Gods accept this change as a natural process and hold no anger towards their beloved people. It is not to say that anger does not exist in the realm of the gods, but it is not something that often spills over into the mortal realms. For well over twenty years, the Gods watched and waited patiently to see how the acts against their gifts played out. When they came to a decision, the gods were not pleased.

A strange blood red dawn is the only sign that the gods anger has come to Camelot. Today, the King will not deny the Gods.

~*~*~

Holding court is draining even on the best of days. Disputes can be ridiculously petty, and requests are often unrealistic. Even so, King Uther listens quietly to each and every word brought to him before passing judgment or taking action. Those who stand in attendance of the King during this duty are forced to pay attention in the event that they are called upon to offer information or advice. For things not related to magic, Uther is a wise and compassionate King who truly cares for his people.

The people had been on edge for most of the day as a result of the strange blood red sky at dawn, but their complaints and disputes were much the same as any other day up until the last petitioner. Her entrance alone marked her as different.

A woman concealed in the folds of a flowing cloak and hood steps forward with a remarkable grace as the guards at the throne room’s entrance bid her to enter. She pauses with her forward motion a few feet from the throne. From beneath the folds of the cloak, a delicate hand appears and lifts upwards to push back the hood of her cloak. As her face and head are revealed, a collective gasp is drawn from all in witness. Her eyes shine like a delicate spring leaf, her face a creamy white like the foam upon the sea, and her hair, a rich earthy tone. She is a beautiful woman with features of perfection and awe to any who might look upon her.

Uther, however, seems immune, and narrows his eyes with suspicion.

“King Uther, I bid you to demonstrate your wisdom this day.” The woman says in a voice as delicate and beautiful as the loving touch of a warm spring breeze. “This spring brings forth the Blessing of the Wolf, long lost over the past twenty years. Already the marks of the Alpha have gone out calling to the Tournament of leadership.”

“How dare you!” Uther growls as he slams his fist atop the arm of his throne. “Guards! Arrest her!”

The corners of the woman’s mouth rises in amusement as everyone, save herself and Uther, freezes. “You are ever defiant Uther, so much like a spoiled child testing the limits of his world.” She says softly. “You are ruled by anger so much so that it taints decisions that should come as natural as breathing.” Tilting her head slightly the curling of her lips fades into a frown. “We are very disappointed in you Uther.”

“Is this sorcery?” Uther says with a hint of confusion as he stands to view his frozen court. Turning to look upon the woman, he frowns. “Who are you? What have you done?”

Laughter dances in the air. “You have, through your actions, destroyed much of what the gods have blessed and granted to the people of this world. Hatred breeds fear, and fear responds with hatred. It is an ugly cycle that can only bring destruction.”

“How dare you speak to me as such! I am the King!” Uther snarls as he narrows his eyes at the woman. “I’ll see you executed for the crime of sorcery!”

The woman purses her lips as she considers Uther’s outburst. In that moment her hair and cloak lift as if possessed by a gentle breeze. “The disappointment continues.” She says as if coming to a decision. “At the very least, show some intelligence we granted you. You should be trembling in the presence of a Goddess, especially when that Goddess has championed to give you a final chance to right that which has offended us.” Moving forward the woman lifts a finger and gently taps Uther’s forehead as he takes a step back. “Know the truth Uther. We do not wish to meddle in the world of mortals but you’ve gone too far. Too much has been forgotten and lost. My whispers now echo upon the breeze that will touch all of Camelot by nightfall. A blessing I granted and cherish for the procreative energy returns to the hearts and mind of your people. Embrace and encourage this blessing as if your life depended upon its fulfillment Uther.” She whispers.

Opening and closing his mouth, at first intending to argue, Uther’s brow furrows as he finds himself accepting the words spoken. For a brief moment, fear flickers in his eyes.

“From this night forward, under the stars at the dawn of the newly born spring, the blessings of the wolf shall return to the people of Camelot. First in unity, charged with leadership and protection, the alpha’s now marked shall emerge and gather around you. You know yourself to be an Alpha, and now you shall know others.“ The woman says as her voice booms through the halls and her figure becomes semi-transparent. “Let those blessed as Alphas compete and find their place in the hierarchy. Actions and skill now matter as it was always meant to be. They are leaders among the people and it is your duty to see it so.”

Floating upwards, the woman continues, “As the Alpha’s gather, so too do the Omega’s. Driven by the blessed need for union and procreation, they will by scent and sense find their partner in the natural order. It is their purpose to bring peace and order in the chaos that often comes with the mantle of aggression and leadership worn by the Alpha.” An expression of affection crosses over the woman’s divine face. It lasts only a moment before she gives Uther a hard stare. “The Gods cherish the Omega’s so they are to be protected and nurtured.”

In the blink of an eye, the face of the woman reappears a few inches in front of Uther. “Be warned Uther Pendragon, should you bring any harm to them or prevent them from finding their natural match, you will find the Gods will act swiftly to remove you and all you’ve tainted in this world.”

Fading from sight, the Goddess leaves a chill in the air. Given no other option, the King now bows to the will of the Gods.

The court comes to a strange close with none seeming to be able to recall who the last to plead their case before the King announces the upcoming Tournament to celebrate the ancient Blessing of the Wolf.

~*~*~

It takes only a few days for Camelot to become fully involved in the preparations for the Tournament. No one seems to question the blessing or the suddenness for preparing a celebration.

Glancing up from his breakfast, Gaius opens his mouth as if to say something. Before a sound is made, he’s looks back down intently at his food.

“What?” Merlin asks, “You look like you want to say something.” He offers the Physician a broad grin. “If you need me to do something, you can go ahead and tell me. I won’t complain.” His grin fades a little bit, “Well, that’s not true, I might complain, but you’ve never had any trouble ignoring it before.”

“I’ve been thinking that it’s been a long while since you’ve seen your mother, Merlin,” Gaius says without looking up from his bowl of porridge. “With the upcoming tournament, I’m sure that the Prince wouldn’t have an issue giving you the time off.”

Furrowing his brow, Merlin pauses the downward scoop of his spoon into his porridge. “You can’t be serious. Arthur is participating and just like all tournaments, he’ll work me from dawn until late into the night tending to his armor and weapons. Even with the extra work, it doesn’t even take into consideration the time needed to take care of his personal needs. He won’t be giving me an hour off let alone time to visit my mum.”

Furrowing his brow and peering up from his breakfast bowl, the Court Physician eyes his ward carefully. “This tournament is slightly primitive in comparison to the ones you’ve witnessed in Camelot thus far, so you’ll not have the same duties.” Gaius says firmly, “Take advantage and go off to see your mother, I’m sure she’d be thrilled.”

“Well,” Merlin says after swallowing a mouthful of porridge. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to ask. Worst he could say is no.”

The older man looks almost visibly relieved with the warlock’s decision. “Good,” he says as he returns his attention to his meal. “Now finish up so you can get to your work before you’re late.”

After offering Gaius an affectionate grin, Merlin quickly shoves in several bites of his morning meal. “I’ll be back later to help if I can. It shouldn’t take too long to get Arthur’s breakfast and tidy up his chambers.” And with that, the energetic young man is out the door.

A short time later, laden down with the Prince’s breakfast tray, Merlin enters the darkened chambers of the Crown Prince of Camelot. Shaking his head at the near cave-like qualities of the rooms, the warlock makes his way to the table in the main room where he carefully places the tray.

Quietly approaching the prince’s bed, Merlin cranes his neck as a strange almost growling sound fills the air. Nearly tripping over his feet, he comes to a halt. “Arthur?” he whispers as his heart begins to pound deep within his chest. The odd sound ceases with the manservant’s whisper and after a few moments of silence, a more familiar broken snore filters out from the curtained bed.

Patting his chest as if to calm his heart Merlin takes a few more steps to reach the bed. Carefully pulling aside the curtains and tucking them against the posts of the bed, the warlock glances towards the sleeping figure. A smirk appears on the manservant’s lips before turning to head to the curtains covering the window.

“Rise and shine!” Merlin calls out with no small amount of humor in his tone as he pushes aside the curtains to let the bright morning sun into the room. Opening his mouth to call out a second time, the sound of growling sends him turning in fear. “What….” He sputters out as he catches the sour expression of the Prince staring at the now open window. “Arthur, are you growling?” he asks gobsmacked.

“Shut up Merlin!” Arthur snarls out harshly as he turns away from the window as he pushes himself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed opposite the window.

Snorting softly, Merlin moves to the wardrobe and begins pulling out the Prince’s clothing. “Someone’s woken up grumpy today,” he says as he tosses the clothing over the dressing screen. “Your breakfast is at the table, unless you’d like to dress first.”

Grunting rudely, Arthur heads towards the table. “Food first.” The Prince says flatly as he reaches for a sweet roll as he drops heavily into his chair. “And I warn you. I’m not in the mood to deal with your nonsense.”

Pausing and turning to look at the Prince with a raised brow, Merlin frowns. “Are you not feeling well or is this some sort of Alpha thing that’s coming out? Should I go and fetch Gaius?” He asks as he crosses the room to stand by the table. Reaching out for the water jug on the tray, he pours a mug for the Prince.

“It’s a response to an incompetent servant, but there is a chance that it’s my Alpha senses and characteristics becoming more sensitive.” Arthur mutters as he reaches for the mug of water. “And Gaius is not to be disturbed. He’s working on a project for my father.”

“Oh?” Merlin says curiously as he moves the tray and begins to arrange the various plates of food before the Prince. “He didn’t mention anything to me.”

“He wouldn’t,” Arthur says as he reaches for a sausage. “He’s sworn to silence on the matter. Even I’m not privy to the full details.”

“Surely he could have told me. I’ve helped him so much on these sort of projects in the past.” Merlin says with a deepening frown. “I am his assistant after all.”

“You’re an idiot.” Arthur mutters ill-temperedly between bites of sausage. “What part of he’s sworn to silence did you not understand?”

“Fine, fine, forget I said anything at all.” Merlin says as he ignores the Prince’s less than stellar demeanor, “Speaking of Gaius,” he says as he refills Arthur’s mug of water, “He suggested that I ask you for time off to go visit my mother during the upcoming Tournament.”

“Did he now?” Arthur says with narrowed eyes. “And I suppose he failed to mention that all citizens of the realm must make themselves available for the Tourney.”

A look of shock sweeps over the Warlock’s expression, “Whatever would you require of we peasants during a tournament. Surely you’re not going to use us as targets, are you?” He asks before he pauses to search Arthur’s face for some hint as to what the Prince means.

Taking the last sausage from his breakfast plate, Arthur leans back in his chair to enjoy the last link of meat. “I’ll have you know that everyone is more than thrilled to participate if they’re lucky enough to take part in this Tournament. It’s been a long while since this has been held, so surely you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to watch.”

“Oh how could I forget about the fun of watching muscular types bash each other’s heads into the dirt? A little blood, sweat, perhaps a little spit, and other interesting excrements added to massive amounts of violence. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m unable to hold back my excitement.” Merlin mutters with a roll of his eyes and a shrug of his shoulders. “Perhaps he suggested that I go visit my mother because he knows how much I’ll probably enjoy the upcoming events.”

“Perhaps,” Arthur agreed as he turns his attention to the thick slices of ham layered on the meat plate. “But you serve me now and that makes you subject to the same rules that apply to all citizens of Camelot. As such, you’ll stay in Camelot for the Tournament. I’m sure to have plenty of errands to keep you busy.”

~*~*~

In hindsight it probably wasn’t a good idea to point out that the Prince had control issues. It was also very likely unwise to point out that the Prince behaving rather heartless in depriving his loyal manservant an opportunity to visit Ealdor just so the royal prat would have someone to do laundry during the Tourney.

Overall, two hours in the stocks isn’t the worst that Merlin has had to face. It did, however; smell much worse than an afternoon mucking the stalls for the Prince’s horses. “Is there a rule about what can be thrown at someone in the stocks?” Merlin asks as he enters the Court Physician’s chambers. “Because someone threw a rotten egg, and I’m almost positive that eggs in any form are against the rules.”

“Good heavens.” Gaius says as he waves his hand in front of his nose. “That has to be more than a single rotten egg. You positively reek.”

Snorting softly the younger man offers a condemning glare as he passes the older man. “It’s partially your fault that I ended up in the stocks, Gaius so I have absolutely no sympathy for your offended sense of smell.” Merlin complains as he moves to get the bucket of water from beside the fireplace. “Arthur never would have sent me to the stocks had I not asked for time off to go visit mum.”

Both of Gaius’s eyebrows rose notably at what Merlin had said. “Prince Arthur put you in the stocks for asking for time off?” He asked incredulously.

Putting the bucket on the table used for their meals, Merlin frowns. “Not exactly.” He says while doing his very best to avoid looking directly into his mentor’s eyes. “I suspect that some mention of his being heartlessness and having control issues had more to do with my ending up in the stocks than the request to go.” Pausing to pluck a few more bits of rotten fruit from his hair, the Warlock adds, “The main cause I think was the grouchy mood that Arthur woke up with.”

“There’s more than one person in poor humor of late. It’ll only get worse as the kingdoms Alpha’s emerge within the population.” Gaius says as he brings a pitcher of water and a bowl to the table. “Here, let me help you rinse your hair.”

“Every single Tournament I’ve seen in Camelot has always put Arthur and the Knights into a good mood.” Merlin says as he leans his head over the bowl. “Everyone usually gets excited at the prospect of spilling blood or causing bruises with one deadly implement of death or another. But for this Tourney, there’s either indifference or grumpiness. It’s all very odd.”

“Odd doesn’t come close to describing this Tournament.” Gaius says as he pours a steady stream of water over his ward’s head, carefully dislodging the debris in Merlin’s hair. “At least it happens infrequently. Even I’ve only seen it held once before when I was about your age.”

“It was that long ago? If it happens so infrequently, then why does everyone seem to know something about it?” Merlin asks in surprise. “What exactly is this Tournament all about? I know the basics like everyone else, but I’ve nothing to relate it to.” Merlin continues as he sweeps his fingers through his wet hair, helping to dislodge the bits of spoiled produce and slimy egg. “Arthur says that all citizens of Camelot are required to be available. What does that mean? He never really explained.”

Frowning intently, the older man carefully inspects his ward’s dark locks. “Your hair looks clean enough,” Gaius says as he puts the pitcher down onto the table. “Once you’ve cleaned your face, neck and hands, you can dunk your head into the bucket for a final rinse.”

Nodding at the Court Physician’s instructions, Merlin looks up into his mentor’s face. “Does the project Uther has you working on have anything to do with the Tournament?”

Furrowing his brow and narrowing his eyes, Gaius grabs Merlin’s upper arm. “What do you know of the King’s tasking?” He asks forcefully. “Where did you hear of it?”

“Nothing! I know nothing at all, other than what Arthur’s told me.” Merlin says defensively. “He said you were not to be disturbed and that you were under the Kings orders not to say anything. And I’m not asking what it’s about, just if it has something to do with the Tournament.”

Sighing heavily, the older man makes his way around the table to drop down onto the stool opposite the younger man. Crossing his arms atop the table, Gaius looks at the table top as it suddenly had become the most interesting thing in the world. “The Tournament dates back hundreds of years to a time when the old religion held a higher place in the lives of the people.” Lifting a finger, he flicks at a piece of food that had fallen from his young wards shoulder. “Uther calls it a curse and for the last twenty years it’s been outlawed.” He says continuing his answer. “Supposedly it was intended as a blessing from the gods. As it is, for every one person that might think it a curse, there is another who still thinks of it as a blessing.”

Settling down on his own stool to listen, Merlin asks, “So it has a basis in Magic and the old ways? If this is so, then what’s happened to change Uther’s mind on the matter. Why all of a sudden is he allowing such a Tournament to be held? He hates magic and anything related to it.”

“He says that he has no real choice.” Gaius says, glancing up into Merlin’s face. “While the memory is foggy for most who had been present last week when the King held court, Uther seems convinced the gods themselves forced his hand to accept the blessing and all that it entails.” He says as he returns his gaze to the table top. “I have to admit, I can see a number of good things coming from this Tournament, but I’m still cautious about who might be exposed in the presence of a King long known to take a heavy hand when dealing with anything related to magic.”

Merlin tilts his head slightly in confusion. “Do you think he’s setting a trap?”

“I’m not really sure,” Gaius says, looking up with a concerned stare. “If it is, then he’s taking extraordinary measures to be sure that anyone who reveals themselves to be an Omega is both protected and well cared for.” Sighing softly the shadow of a smile appears upon the Court Physician’s face. “I’ve no doubt that Prince Arthur will establish himself as the primary Alpha, but it is yet unseen who might suitably match his strong personality. It should get interesting my boy.”

“I suppose it depends on what you call interesting,” Merlin says, taking a moment to dunk a cloth into the bucket. As he wipes his face he adds, “So if Uther is being honest with sponsoring this Tournament, how is all this supposed to go? Do the Alpha’s all bash each other about to earn the hand of some fair Omega maiden?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” Gaius says. He presses his lips together tightly as he seems to consider his next words carefully. When he does speak he watches his wards face for comprehension. “This blessing affects both the social order and the physical state of the Alphas and Omegas. In this, the blessing draws a similarity to wolves but it is more adapted to the needs of humanity while at the same time adding superior physical attributes. It also aligns magic with the non-magical so that each enhances the other to the point of greatness. ”

“I haven’t noticed any physical differences in the people of Camelot.” Merlin says with a slight frown of consideration. “And as your assistant, I think I’ve seen a good bit more of a person’s physical sided than the average might see.”

“The notable differences are in the genitals, Merlin.” Gaius says with a slight lift of his brow. “And I should hope you’ve not done any investigations in that regard.”

“Oh, um, no.” The younger man says as his checks flush a bright pink.

“The castes which experienced the greatest change were the male Alpha’s and the male Omega's. Like wolves, both males and female Alpha's gained a strong sense of leadership and dominance that sets them apart from all others in the kingdom. The Alpha’s have a superior intelligence and a physical appearance that sets them well above others." Gaius explains growing red faced as he continues to explain. “Physically, the Alpha males developed a knot, much like a wolf. Like the wolf, this knot ties the Alpha to their mate during copulation.” Pausing a moment, the Court Physician eyes Merlin with an odd expression, almost as if he is considering something beyond his spoken words. "For the male Omega's they acquired a physical capability to carry a child much like a woman.”

“How would that even be possible?” Merlin asks with an expression of deep consideration. “Males have no internal structures that would accommodate a pregnancy.”

“Without going into too much detail, the Omega male’s anal canal contains a secondary passageway just beyond the sphincter. This secondary passage is sealed by a muscular flap that acts much like the epiglottis which prevents food from entering the lungs when swallowing.” Gaius says with surprising details and enthusiasm for the scientific details of a magical blessing. “As the Omega male begins their cycle, their digestive system effectively shuts down and once the lower bowls are clear this flap opens allowing penetration into this secondary passage. This secondary passage leads to the internal reproductive organs that are similar in nature to a woman’s internal structure.” Clearly considering the matter from a professional standpoint, the Court Physician frowns slightly. “While I have no first-hand information on the matter, the theory is that penetration outside the Omega males cycle takes place in the anal canal with the sperm being deposited uselessly in the rectum.”

Merlin stares at Gaius with large round eyes and a shocked expression. “Gaius, you’ve given me entirely too much information on something that I’d be much happier not even knowing. “

“You did seem interested enough to make a statement regarding the impossibility of a male pregnancy.” Gaius says defensively lifting a brow as he peers at Merlin critically. “I was only providing facts to correct your assumption.”

Quickly clearing his throat as if swallowing any further thought on the matter of male on male reproduction, Merlin continues along his original concern. “To be honest, considering the end purpose, this blessing doesn’t have a whole lot to build a Tournament around. While the Alpha’s could perhaps establish some sort of placement, I can’t believe that the King would permit the winners to pick a partner and have at it. I know there are a number of magical things related to an exhibition of virility, and the Gods do seem to encourage that sort of thing, but it’s just unthinkable to allow something as personal and intimate as a reward for winning a Tournament.” He sputters out uncomfortably.

“You’re right. Uther would not allow physical liberties as a reward for winning. While it does ultimately end in a union, it is much more than that for all parties involved.” The Court Physician says with a frown. Leaning forward slightly, he glances up to peer firmly into Merlin's eyes. "The King himself is an Alpha, as is his son. It's a trait in the Royal line that has existed since the first day of the blessing. Like it or not, it is a part of who he is and he cannot deny this blessing without disregarding who and what he is. It is his responsibility to see that the hierarchy of the Alpha’s is sorted out to adequately fulfill the needs of the kingdom. And, in turn, as the most dominate Alpha, he is also charged with seeing to the protection of the Omega’s until they can be adequately bonded to an Alpha." Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, the Court Physician peers at his ward carefully. “It’s a delicate matter. An Alpha who isn’t controlled, and an Omega that isn’t bonded to an Alpha are both a danger to themselves and to their community. “

“It sounds ridiculously complicated.” Merlin comments with a huff of breath. “But I suppose it’ll make more sense once I see some of the events.”

Gaius nods his head. “I’m sure it will.” He says firmly. “I myself look forward to the events and the outcome. This is the one event that can and does raise a peasant to the level of a noble should their actions prove their worth in the games. Uther has already said that he’d keep to the tradition as he agrees that as leaders among men, all Alphas belong in the noble class.”

“So this is why all citizens of Camelot must be available for this Tournament.” Merlin says with an expression filled with shock. “Never in my life would I have guessed that Uther would support making a peasant a noble. He’s always been so keen on the superiority of the noble class."

“It’s rare, but it has historically happened.” Gaius says quickly. “The matter will be settled in a few days, and by then we should start identifying the Omegas.”

Merlin rolls his eyes. “Among wolves, the Omega’s are the lowest of the low, the ones kicked about as an outlet for those above it in the hierarchy.” Merlin says narrowing his eyes with distaste at the thought of what this might mean for a person. “Even with an Omega male gaining the capacity to bear children, I certainly can’t see anyone being pleased to be categorized as an Omega.”

“Had the Gods wove the Omega caste in the same manner of wolves, I’d agree with you,” Gaius says with a slight smile. “But in humans it’s a rare thing for an Omega to be born, and rarer still for a male Omega. The number of Alphas normally is double the number of available Omegas . That will make the competition between the Alphas even more fierce.”

“Clearly, I’m not understanding something,” Merlin says as he plants and elbow atop the table. Resting his chin in his upturned hand he eyes the Court Physician expectantly. “Exactly what did this blessing do for the Omega’s?”

“Omega’s have a knack for calming and focusing the extremes of strength and temper that sometime manifest themselves in an Alpha. They are the rare person who can turn it around the more negative aspects of an Alpha in such a manner that soothes and often times bring great pleasure to an Alpha.” Gaius says looking away towards the end of his explanation as if leaving something unspoken.

Shrugging his shoulders and rising up from his stool, Merlin turns towards his room while pulling off his soiled shirt. “Well, it all sounds a bit dodgy to me, but I suppose it might be rather fun to watch especially since I won’t have to clean and tend to Arthur’s armor and weapons.” He says as he disappears behind his door only to return a moment later with a clean tunic in hand. “So,” he says as he pulls on his tunic, “I assume we’ll end up patching up the damage the Alpha’s do to themselves in the upcoming barbaric tests of leadership.”

“I’ll be doing that and seeing to the needs of the Omega’s.” Gaius says with a soft chuckle. “There will be much to do, but I promise, in the end it’s all rather exciting to watch.”

“I’ll take your word for it, Gaius. It’s done nothing for me so far other than to give me an uneasy feeling in the pit of my belly.” Merlin says with a frown and a tilt of his head. "As it is, I sincerely doubt that I'll ever understand the oddities that keep showing up in the workings of the Kingdom.”

“You’re not alone in your confusion,” Gaius says as he rises to his feet. “But if memory serves me, the confusion will soon give way to something positive. Myself, I believe that Uther taking this step towards tolerating something remotely related to magic perhaps it will eventually bring an end to the dark times that have us hiding in fear.”

“Well,” Merlin says with a shrug of his shoulders. “This wouldn’t be the first odd thing in Camelot that came from Magic. I highly doubt it’ll be the last and I refuse to get my hopes up about Uther showing any good will towards the magically endowed.”

“There’s a good chance that you’re right, my boy, but I’m going to hold out that it’s a start.” Gaius says with a nod. “Now off with you, I’m sure the Prince will be looking for his lunch.”

“Oh joy of joys!” Merlin complains as he heads for the door. “After a morning of being pelted with rotten food it’ll be a miracle if I don’t get sick in Arthur’s lunch.”

~*~*~

Chapter Text

Lunch for the Prince had not gone well, and it seemed that Dinner is to follow suite.

“Should you win the Tournament, as I expect you will,” Uther says to Arthur as he reaches for his goblet of wine. “I do not want you to choose Morgana as your match.”

“How dare you!” Morgana snaps as she brings her fork down heavily on the table. “The choice belongs to the victor, whoever he or she might be.”

“Morgana is right father.” Arthur adds with a frown.

Turning to Morgana with narrowed eyes, Uther shakes his head, “Always quick to challenge me, my dear, often times before you know everything you need to stand on firm ground.”

“Interfering at all is enough to make what you’ve said wrong.” Morgana defends as she peers back at Uther in challenge.

Laughter escapes the King’s lips as he sits back. “Even without the dreadful magic that surrounds the Blessing of the Wolf, you would both demonstrate leadership above all others.” Glancing from Morgana to Arthur, Uther smiles as he continues to speak, “I would see you both choose someone who soothes your faults and enhances your strengths.”

“Should an appropriate match draw our attention, I can’t argue that it would be in our best interest to do as you’ve suggested.” Arthur admits after a moment of consideration. Glancing to his foster sister, his frown fades now that his father’s intent is revealed.

“Why does there have to be a choice at all.” Morgana complains as she violently stabs at the food on her plate. “It’s not much better than arranged marriages intended to feed the egos of men.” She adds as she glares at the Crown Prince.

“It’s worse than an arranged marriage. With this there is no option for the dominate Alphas to not make a choice.” Arthur says as he pokes at his own food. “Even with the instincts and power of pheromones that drives us to pursue a mate, I think I’d rather fall on my sword than to be tied to a woman such as you Morgana.”

”You make me ill just to think….” Morgana snaps with narrowed eyes.

“Enough,” Uther says in a heated tone. “I’ve already made it clear that I am not particularly fond of this entire situation, but it’s unavoidable.” Lowering his gaze to his dinner plate, the King shifts uncomfortably.

“Yet you’re not only allowing it, you seem to be supporting the events and probable results.” Arthur comments with a hint of curiosity.

“And it’s unlikely that you or Camelot will have any political gain from whatever match Arthur might sniff out.” Morgana smirks. “I wonder, if our dear little Omegas smell good, what will they look like? Or worse, what if they have magic?”

“Why do you both insist upon making this more difficult than it already is?” Uther snarls out as his fist lands heavily on the table. Pushing away from the table, the King rises to his feet. Glaring first at Morgana and then to Arthur, Uther shoves his chair back and leaves.

“We’re missing something.” Arthur finally says after staring at the point that Uther had stepped out of view.

“And whatever that something is, it has got to be incredibly compelling in order to force your father’s hand on a Blessing that has been outlawed since the purge.” Morgana comments in agreement as she turns her own gaze towards Arthur. “I’ll be honest, the entire situation with this blessing turned my stomach on more than one level, but I’m starting to enjoy it now that I see that it really bothers Uther.”

~*~*~

Two days pass, bringing with it increased efforts at the Tournament grounds. Several dozen men labor tirelessly to raise viewing stands and tents while a dozen more work to prepare the competition fields. Excitement is high as a steady flow of people pour into both the citadel and the lower city. In addition to the excitement held by the observers, there is a subtle hint of tension building within the ranks of identified contenders. Attention now turns towards the predicted emergency of the Omegas.

“I’ve had it. It isn’t safe to walk the streets anymore.” Merlin growls out as he bursts through the door into Gaius’s chambers. “There are no sane people left in Camelot.” Stopping a few steps into the chamber, the young warlock looks to Gaius as if expecting an explanation.

“Tomorrow does begin the Tournament.” Gaius says evenly as he bends forward to blow out the fire under a small pot.

“That’s no excuse for rudeness let alone the odd sniffing, snarling, and snapping.” Merlin complains. “One of the knight’s cornered poor Gwen in the courtyard and the next thing you know he and Lancelot are in the middle of a fist fight. Of all people, Lancelot! I didn’t even know that he was back in Camelot, and yet there he is attacking a noble. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it, though honestly it could have been just his strong sense of chivalry that spurred him on to defending the honor of a woman. Then, when the guards broke them up, and while I had no problem with them not arresting Lance it was very odd that they did nothing more than send him on his merry way. In the end, the guards went and arrested Gwen when she did absolutely nothing! They dragged her off like a common criminal.” Reaching up he runs a hand through his hair. “I tried to talk to Arthur about it, but he tossed me out of his chambers and told me to run away before he lost control.”

”Control?” Gaius asks with a lifted brow.

”He backed me into the door, sniffing and snorting.” Merlin says shaking his head with a hint of confusion furrowing his brow. “It was all very un-prince-like if you ask me. More than one person’s been out of control today. Why should he be any different?”

“Oh dear,” Gaius says with a frown. “I would say that such things potentially could become worse as the day wears on.” Stepping away from his worktable, leaving whatever he’d been mixing in the small pot, the Court Physician pauses at the door. “I need you to stay here Merlin. No matter what, you can’t leave, not even to take care of any duties you have for Prince Arthur. I’ll send word to the Prince that someone else will be taking over your duties once I’ve spoken with the King.” With that the Court Physician is gone, muttering under his breath about a night of madness.

Merlin stares at the closed door for several long moments before he shrugs his shoulders and heads to a pitcher of water. After downing a cup of cool water, not more than two minutes from Gaius’s departure, the door to the Physician’s chambers slams opens with a startling bang. What comes next is a blur of activity as a half dozen guards pour into the Physician’s quarters. “There’s one in there.” Someone says from some unseen point in the hall outside.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Merlin calls out in objection while backing up a few steps in the face of the oncoming rush of guards. “Be careful! Some of those potions take days to make!” He snaps out impatiently when one of the guards bumps into a table containing a number of glass tubes as he heads up the stairs into Merlin’s room.

”This bloke is the only one in here.” The clumsy guard calls out as he retreats from Merlin’s small room.

“Well, well, well. It seems we’ve discovered something unexpected,” the elderly Lord Cleriff says with a pleased chuckle as he steps into the doorway to watch. “Be careful when you take him. He’s a rarity that’ll spark a great deal of interest in games.”

Pulling his arm away from the clutches of a guard, Merlin offers a narrowed glare. “What are you talking about? Am I under arrest?” The young Warlock asks as he backs further away from the guards. “I’ve done nothing.” He adds, his voice growing louder in a panic.

“We’re under the king’s orders to gather up your kind. You’re all to be locked up in the dungeon before the sun sets today.” Lord Cleriff says as he inhales deeply as if to savor the scents within the Physician's chambers.

“I’ve done nothing!” Merlin shouts while fearfully looking at the guards closing around him. Panic fully takes hold with the assumption that he is being arrested for his magic. The young Warlock shoves the nearest guard who in turn falls back into three others, knocking them all to the floor. With the opening created Merlin leaps over the jumble of arms and legs on the floor and races towards the door.

“Hold on there!” The elderly Lord calls out as he moves to stand in the way of Merlin’s escape. However imposing Cleriff might appear the Lord’s resolve doesn’t match the desperation of a young man who fears that his greatest secret has been discovered. “I order you to stop!” Cleriff demands while lifting a hand to emphasize his order.

”Talk to the Prince! I’m sure he’ll be able to sort this out before anyone gets arrested,” Merlin mutters as he plunges headlong towards the blocked exit. Stumbling from the impact, the Warlock manages to keep moving towards his freedom as the Lord sputters and spits an objection while he falls back to land on his backside.

“Stop him! Don’t let him get away!” Cleriff shouts as he scrambles to get back on his feet.

Shouts echo through the castle from the Court Physician’s quarters, down a set of narrow stairs, and into the courtyard as Merlin weaves and dodges guards, knights, and helpful citizens who move to stop his escape. Halfway across the courtyard a merchant tosses a bag of potatoes at the same instant the dark haired young man turns to see how much distance he’d managed to gain. Potatoes scatter into Merlin’s path as the young man turns around. When the arms, legs, and potatoes stop flying, Merlin is out cold in the center of the courtyard.

“Incompetent fools!” Lord Cleriff yells as he hurries towards Merlin and the potatoes pile. “Gather him up and get him settled in the dungeon before the King has your head for hurting him.” He huffs in frustration as he waves two of the guards forward to gather the knocked out young man. “The rest of you follow me, we still have the lower town to search for Omegas. The King ordered a complete search and we have an hour left before I have to provide the Court Physician with my findings so let’s hurry this up.”

~*~*~

The trip into the dungeon is a blur for the dark haired warlock as he struggles to regain his senses while being dragged from the courtyard. “Here’s another one.” The Guard dragging Merlin on the right says as they reach the dungeon entrance.

“Oi, it’s the Prince’s Manservant.” One of the Dungeon Guards replies as he steps forward to inspect the new arrival. “And we’ve only one cell set up for the Omegas and it already has two ladies in it. We weren’t expecting any blokes.”

“Don’t think it matters much as long as him and his kind are in isolation.” Merlin’s left escort says with a shrug of one shoulder. “We just need to make sure to keep them safely away from the Alpha’s.”

A short time later, Merlin is dragged into a large cell that already has two female occupants who are cowering towards the darkest corner of the cell. “We have another friend for you ladies!” The dungeon guard calls out as Merlin is gently placed on one of several cots placed around the strangely clean cell.

“Merlin!” Gwen calls out as she rushes forward from the shadows of the cell. “Merlin! Are you alright?” She says as she drops to her knees beside his cot. Reaching out she lightly shakes her friends shoulder. “Merlin?” she asks again softly.

“Shuuuuush stop yelling,” Merlin groans in a low slurred voice as he slowly draws a hand towards his head. “My head feels like a horse stepped on it.”

“Idiots!” An angry voice calls out from a point not visible from the cells. “The King gives the simplest of instructions and within an hour’s time you manage to foul things up.” The outburst is followed by hushed voices that seem to be pleading explanations or perhaps offering objections.

“That’s the Court Physician, isn’t it?” The blonde scullery maid named Jessica says as she approaches the cell door.

“I think so,” Gwen says as she gently brushes Merlin’s bruised cheek. “I’m sure he’s here to see to Merlin, and maybe he can tell us what’s going on and why we’ve been locked up in the dungeon.”

Peering towards the source of the disturbance, Jessica leans against the cold iron bars anxiously searching for some sign of who might be responsible for excitement. When the white haired Physician suddenly appears, flanked by a pair of guards, the scullery maid backs up into the furthest corner. “It is the Physician.” She confirms softly as she moves past Gwen and the slowly rousing Merlin.

“I’m so glad to see a friendly face,” Gwen says peering over her shoulder towards the older man as both he and the women inside the cell eye the guard impatiently waiting for the door to be opened. “Merlin’s waking, but he’s complaining about his head hurting.” She adds as she turns back to glance at her friend.

“He shouldn’t be too bad off,” Gaius says as he slips through the now open door. As he nears his ward’s cot, Gwen rises to her feet and backs up a few steps to give the Physician better access. “From what I was told, he took a tumble in the courtyard when a sack of potatoes was tossed in his path.”

“Ow,” Merlin complains as Gaius pokes a few darkening bruises on the younger man’s cheek.

“Do you hurt anywhere other than your head?” Gaius asks as he inspects Merlin’s arms for both discoloration and mobility.

“Potatoes came out of nowhere.” Merlin complains as he slightly opens his eyes to focus on Gaius’s face. “Why was I arrested?”

“You weren’t arrested my boy, now tell me, do you hurt anywhere other than your head?” Gaius says insistently as he checks Merlin’s ribs.

“If they put him in with us, then we haven’t been arrested either.” Jessica says with a deepening frown. “Then why are we in the dungeon?”

“You’ve all been scented out as an Omega.” Gaius says as he carefully palpates Merlin’s legs and arms. “Locking you in here is for your protection, which explains the cots and cleanliness of the cell.” Pausing his words as he inspects the younger man’s ears for signs of anything odd, he pursues his lips tightly. “Merlin, it would me more helpful if you would tell me if something hurts besides your head.”

“Hurts all over, especially where I fell on the potatoes.” Merlin grumbles as he attempts to wiggle away from Gaius’s poking and prodding. “Beyond my head pounding, I’m fine.”

“You’ve got a good number of bruises, so you won’t be much to look at for a few days.” Gaius says as he helps Merlin into a sitting position. Looking to Gwen he tilts his head. “I’d ask that you keep an eye on him and to have the guards come get me if there is anything abnormal.”

“So we’ll have to stay here?” Gwen says as she crosses her arms across her chest. “And what…”

“What did you mean by us being Omega?” Jessica asks, interrupting Gwen’s question.

“That’s what I wanted to know as well.” Gwen adds once the scullery maid. “No one said anything when I was brought down here after Lancelot stepped in to stop Sir John from making inappropriate advances.”

“I was in the middle of scrubbing pots when Lord Cleriff showed up.” Jessica says as she tucks her hands into the pockets of her apron. “He walked right up to me, sniffed my hair and then had two guards drag me down here.”

“He was in the courtyard when Sir John cornered me.” Gwen says with a furrowed brow at the mention of Lord Cleriff.

“Lord Cleriff has been charged with gathering and seeing to the protection of the Omegas.” Rising to his feet, Gaius sighs heavily. “Are you both familiar with the blessing of the wolf that’s been the talk of the citadel over the past week?” he asks looking first at Gwen and then to Jessica. When both women nod, the Physician continues to speak.

“For the past week everyone’s been watching as Alphas have been arriving for the Tournament and as expected once they’ve been identified the Omega’s would begin to emerge. So far that would be you three.” He says as he glances at both young ladies and then to Merlin. “Over the next few days, any Omega’s within the kingdom should be drawn to the concentration of Alpha’s at the castle. And unfortunately, since an Omega with the slightest hint of pheromones is at risk to be claimed by any Alpha that happens upon them, the King has sent out a number of patrols to help any unprotected Omegas reach the safety of the castle. By the end of the week every last Omega should be identified and your cycle will begin in earnest. At the height of your cycle you’ll develop certain urges that require the attentions of an Alpha.”

“Oi, I’ve had my cycle since I reached my 14th summer. I’ve never needed any special attention when I got my cycle before.” Jessica says with no small level of objection. Looking to Gwen she asks, “You got yours the same didn’t ya? It’s a nuisance but it don’t have no urges except for wanting to eat the occasional sweet. ”

“Um,” Gwen replies with a brightly flushed face, choked with embarrassment as she looks first at Merlin and then Gaius.

Clearing his throat uncomfortably, Gaius looks at each of them in turn before saying, “I believe that I need to explain a bit more about what you should expect.”

“Kill me now.” Merlin mutters under his breath as he lowers his head to his knees.

~*~*~

As the last flicker of daylight fades from the western horizon, the Court Physician enters the Kings Chambers. Taking a few steps into the room, he pauses and waits for Uther to look up from his paperwork to acknowledge him.

“What news, Gaius?” Uther asks as he leans back in his chair, taking a sip of wine while watching the Court Physician carefully.

“Twenty men and three women of noble birth under the age of thirty have been identified as Alphas,” Gaius reports in an even voice as he clasps his hands behind his back. “Four peasants, three men, one woman, have also been identified.”

“And what news is there of the Omega’s?” Uther asks impatiently.

“Five have been identified, two women of noble birth and two peasant women. There is also one man, my ward Merlin.” Gaius says, frowning slightly as he shifts from one foot to the other. “As you know, there was a mishap when your representative made to escort Merlin to the holding cell. The lad was banged up a bit, but he’ll be fine in a few days.”

“I thought that I had heard incorrectly when I heard the rumors.” The King says with a furrowed brow and a frown. “A male Omega is a thing of legend. Are you sure that the scent of one of the other Omegas hasn’t rubbed off on him?”

“I’m quite positive that Merlin is an Omega, Sire, even I can catch a hint of his scent. And in keeping with common traits of an Omega, he has always been rather devoted and supportive of the Prince.” Gaius says as he shifts from one foot to the other. “He’s rather distressed with the turn of events, but for the moment he’s doing as he’s told.”

“Make sure he continues to be obedient. That boy has always managed to find himself in trouble for one idiot stunt or another.” Uther snaps out as he leans forward to place his wine goblet on the table. “At least this possibly explains why Arthur has in the past made a complete fool of himself to protect his manservant.”

“It is a strong possibility.” Gaius agrees. “Merlin has always brought out a protective streak among those around him.”

Reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose, the King suddenly looks as if he’s in pain. “Somehow, I sense that the gods are going to curse me with an unwanted outcome knowing full well that I can do nothing to stop it. Arthur will likely choose a union with his manservant should he win the tournament events.” Uther groans unhappily. Dropping his hand lifelessly atop the arm of his chair, he looks to the Court Physician. “At least tell me that the legends are true in regards to a male omegas ability to breed as a woman.”

“While there is a chance that Prince Arthur will favor one of the other Omega’s, as he is fond of Morgana’s maid Gwen, there is documented historical proof that a male Omega can in fact conceive and carry a child.” Gaius says hoping to offer some comfort to the King. “But, as it is with the women, I cannot be completely sure for at least a month after the Tournament and follow on private celebrations.”

Nodding his head to acknowledge the information, Uther leans forward to retrieve his goblet of wine from the table. “Twenty-four to nine, four of which are Alpha females. This makes the competition intense. The number of Alphas seems stable, but the Omega’s and female Alpha’s are much less than it was Twenty five years ago. Surely it’s possible that we have some Omega’s that have not been identified yet? ”

“It is very likely that we will see no further Omegas, Sire. As I’m sure you remember the Omega’s often times had ties to those with magic so it is reasonable that any who might have associations with magic are no longer alive.” Gaius says, offering a blank expression and a neutral tone.

The King shifts uncomfortably in his chair, eyeing the Court Physician as if he had something to say on the matter. “That is not what I asked, Physician. I wanted to know if there was a possibility that there are further Omegas that have yet to be identified.” Uther finally says with more anger than is warranted.

“There is always a possibility Sire.” Gaius answers with a curious expression. “Only two hours ago, the patrols you sent out escorted the two noble ladies into the citadel. There could be more.” Gaius says while carefully eying the Kings reaction for any hint of what might be remaining unsaid. “The possibility decreases as the days pass. All Omega’s are at a similar point in their cycle, and their scent is drawing the attention of the less controlled Alphas. If there are any Omega’s outside the realm of your protection it is unlikely that they will have withstood any advances.”

"Very well then, have the five we do have prepared, double their guard, and move them to the competition field." Uther says with a wave of his hand. "I entrust their care to you Gaius, and I leave Lord Cleriff available to you to manage for their protection."

Holding his hand over his chest in a respectfully, Gaius bows. "Yes, my liege."

"I will be down to the field after dinner," Uther says, returning his attention to the food spread out on the table. "Until then, you are dismissed."

Upon leaving the King's chambers, Gaius considers what has been done so far as he heads towards the chambers set aside for the Omegas. The tailor and his staff should be done with their measuring and fittings. And all five Omega’s should be in their respective baths or perhaps dressing at this point. Added to everything that needed to happen to prepare them, the five would have to be carefully watched over the next four days for both actions that might be attempted against them and actions that they themselves might attempt. Pausing his progress for a moment the Court Physician reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Drawing in a breath he attempts to ease the stress brought on by his additional duties.

"You have three days before the matter regresses into pure instinct." Geoffrey says as he appears from behind the Court Physician as he resumes walking towards the rooms set aside for the Omegas. The elderly scribe quickly falls into step beside Gaius. “The last day of the Tournament and the day after during honors presentation will be shear madness." He says without hint as to his opinion on the matter.

"I was just considering that." Gaius says as he turns towards his friend. "There is so much that needs addressed this evening alone, just to be ready for the Tournament."

"We both have much to do." Geoffrey replies with a tight frown. "The King has asked that I see to our Peasant Alphas. Between us, he asks for painful months of work to be completed overnight. It’s highly inconvenient that he didn’t give us some advanced notice of his intent to welcome this event."

"You know the matter is a biological one and cannot be predicted with any certainty so there is no advanced notice he could have given. And as far as preparing your charges, it shouldn’t be as difficult as you say. From what we’ve seen before and from what has been written, these lower classed Alphas will already have a sense of leadership and nobility.” Gaius says with a lifted brow of challenge. “All that should be lacking is the formal training and practice, which makes you the most ideal tutor." Gaius adds with a half-smile. “Are your duties done for the moment?”

"I'm free until the commencement feast." Geoffrey says flatly as if dreading the upcoming meal. "Have you seen to food for your charges?"

"Not as yet." Gaius admits. "But there is to be food available to them in central area of their accommodations on the competition field."

"It's been three hundred years since there was last a male Omega." Geoffrey says without hiding his interest. "When I went to research the matter after Merlin was identified among the Omega's I found that you had already reviewed what tombs we had available."

"I had a suspicion when the King directed me to being preparation for the Omegas care." Gaius says without looking at his friend. "My Ward showed a number of traits which hinted a possibility that he might be an Omega."

Pulling a small tomb from the folds of his robe, Geoffrey offers it to the Physician. "This may well be the last copy of this text." He says as he keeps his gaze towards the hall in front of them. "And should it disappear whilst in your care, then the information it holds will be completely unknown. But the threat of its loss is unimportant whereas providing you with the knowledge is critical."

Taking the book, Gaius quickly slips it into the folds of his own robe. "Thank you, my friend. And as always, should you require any assistance in the future, I am in your debt."

Nodding his head, the corner of Geoffrey's mouth rises in satisfaction. "I wish you well in your efforts, old friend." He says firmly, "Now I need to see to the seating of my own charges for the feast. Hopefully, I'll be able to arrange for a place for them that will keep them from making total fools of themselves."

Shortly after Geoffrey departs, Gaius steps into the hall outside the guest chambers set aside to prepare his charges. Guards line the hall and Lord Cleriff is pacing between the two chamber doors with a nervous energy of an Alpha past his prime. "I assume that our charges are safely inside their rooms?" Gaius asks, drawing the Lord's attention.

Turning, Lord Cleriff pauses his pacing to offer the Court Physician a nod. "The ladies are attended by several chamber maids and a number of seamstresses." He says looking at the door closer to Gaius. “It sounds like chickens clucking happily amongst the ladies.” When he turns to the second door Cleriff frowns. "Your apprentice on the other hand is being difficult. He's refused the chambermaids that were to attend his bath. Under heavily vocal protest, he finally allowed the tailor into the room."

"Is he bathing?" Gaius asks as he breezes by the ladies chamber.

"I believe so, but can't say for sure." Cleriff says with a deepening frown. "For an Omega, he's a stubborn individual and I can't seem to bully him into doing anything that needs to be accomplished. He did finally agree to bathe if I left the room."

"I daresay that the Prince would be quick to agree with your assessment of his manservant’s stubbornness. He is without question a unique young man." Gaius says with a chuckle. "I would say that the next few days will bring about the most agreeability we'll ever see in him."

Lord Cleriff smiles absently at the Physician’s mention of agreeability. "Their scents alone bring back memories of my own time in the Tournament."

Raising a brow in consideration of the Lord’s statement, Gaius clasps his hands together in front of his stomach. "I’m sure it was indeed memorable, but for the moment I’ve only time to consider my duties." Offering Cleriff one final glance, the Court Physician disappears into the guest chambers set aside for the lone male Omega.

Inside the room, the tailor was working diligently with Merlin’s clothing. “The first outfit will be ready by the time he’s finished with his bath.” The tailor says without looking up. “I’ll have three more outfits completed by tomorrow. The fit might not be to my normal standards but he refused to allow me to do a proper measurement.”

“I’m sure they will be fine.” Gaius says to the tailor as he moves through the room towards the bath. “Merlin?” he says softly as he catches sight of the younger man in the tub. Merlin’s hands are over his face and he’s bent forward with his forehead resting on his knees. “Are you alright?”

“I can’t do this Gaius, I can’t be this wolf like person driven by the need to be tumbled and …..” Merlin whispers softly, falling silent as if unable to finish his thought. With shoulders quivering with emotion for several long moments before he adds, “I have no control over who and what I am. Even when you forget about the lack of control, I can’t even begin to understand what I am.” Pausing a moment he sobs, “I’m a freak and I don’t want this. I already have enough to make my life nearly impossible.”

“Merlin, you are most certainly not a freak.” Gaius says in a low voice filled with concern. “It seems overwhelming right now but you have to understand, some of what you’re feeling is due to the progression of your cycle. “ Reaching out, the Court Physician places a comforting hand on his ward’s dark curls. “Now wash up, my boy, it’ll help you feel better.”

“How can I go back to working for Arthur after this?” Merlin mutters as he drops his hands from his face revealing his red eyes and tear stained face. “How will I look anyone in the eyes?” Panic and fear multiplies in his expression as his eyes grow wider. “What if I actually become pregnant?” Blinking a few times, the little color he had completely drains. “I’m going to be sick.” He announces as he turns away to dry heave over the opposite side of the tub.

“You’re over thinking this. Everything that’s happening is a natural process.” Gaius says firmly as he moves his hand to rest on Merlin’s shoulder. “And you don’t seem to fully understand your situation.”

“Your first outfit is ready,” The tailor says, interrupting any further discussion. Tossing a pair of trousers, a tunic and a shift, a set of smalls and a pair of socks over the back of a chair near the tub, the hyperactive man smiles then drops a pair of soft leather knee high boots onto the chair. “I’ll have the remaining outfits delivered to the competition field.” Nodding first to Gaius and then to the back of Merlin’s head, the tailor turns on his heels and leaves as quickly as he’d entered.

Merlin drops his head back to the top of his knees. “He’s mad at me. I didn’t and still don’t want anything new to wear.” He mutters unhappily. “I just want to be left alone.” Looking up into the Court Physician’s eyes, the young man pleads, “Isn’t there a potion that can be made to make this go away? Can’t you just tell everyone that it’s all a terrible mistake?”

“I’ll look to see if there is something that I can make to make this easier,” Gaius says, gently rubbing the back of Merlin’s neck. “Geoffrey has given me a book that provides information about male Omegas. Since I haven’t had a chance to read what’s in the book, I can’t promise anything. Merlin, the best advice I can give you is to come to terms with your role.”

~*~*~

Chapter Text

Although it takes a great deal of prodding, Gaius manages to get the Omegas bathed and dressed in their new finery. Getting them delivered to their tent beside the competition field, however; is a major production that draws curious onlookers and hopeful Alpha men. When two of the Alphas attempt to slip into the group as guards, a fight breaks out between Lord Cleriff’s men and the persistent Alpha intruders. In the middle of the fight between the pair of Alphas and the Guards, Merlin tried to sneak off to check on the Prince. This caused a mild panic for the Court Physician who shouted about Merlin’s complete lack of self-preservation. By the time the group arrived at the Omegas tent, both Gaius and Lord Cleriff are visions of exhaustion.

Upon entering the Omega tent, the Court Physician drops into a bench and waves his charges towards a food laden table set up with a variety of fruits, cold meats, breads, and cakes. “You are encouraged to eat and drink as much as you can,” Gaius says offering his most professional expression for his charges, “At the height of your cycle, you will likely want nothing to do with sustenance so it’s quite important that you prepare yourselves while you can.”

The women, including Lady Bridget, Lady Rebecca, Jessica and Gwen wordlessly accept the advice and migrate towards the table. “I’ve heard stories about the last Tournament held to celebrate the Blessing of the Wolf. Is it true as Omegas that we’ll be the first considered by the more dominate Alpha’s?” Gwen asks between bites of bread. “I’ve also heard that we’ll be unable to resist. Is this true?” She adds with color rising on her cheeks.

“Surely we’ll be able to resist enough to be sure of a good match.” Lady Bridget says as she plucks a slice of cheese.

“If you find an Alpha to your liking as a match and you’re drawn to his scent, then you will indeed find the Alpha irresistible. And for the most part, an Omega is normally the choice of your more dominate Alpha’s. ” Uther says as he enters the tent with Arthur at his side. “But it is far from a single sided attraction. Just as you’ll be unable to resist someone to which you’re drawn, your matching Alpha will find it nearly impossible to resist you. “

“Your Highness,” Lady Rebecca says as she curtsies to the King and the Crown Prince to acknowledge their entrance. Beside her the other ladies join her show of respect. From his hiding place in the shadows, the lone Omega man bows his head to offer a halfhearted show of respect.

“What if we don’t want to participate?” Merlin asks boldly from the furthest corner of the tent. “Are we free to leave or return to our duties?”

“You no longer have duties you idiot, and even if you don’t want to participate, you are already in the thick of things.” Arthur says in a low, almost threatening voice. Taking a few steps towards his former manservant the Prince glares harshly into the shadows of the corner.

“You’ve sacking me? None of this is my fault!” Merlin complains with disbelief as he steps out of the corner. “And I’m not participating unless you call being forced into a dungeon cell, forced to take a bath and then made to wear new clothes participating. I don’t want to be a part of this.”

Shaking his head as if amazed that his fiend was truly missing the full picture of what was happening. “You’re already churning out pheromones to the point that your scent is overpowering the ladies combined scent.” Closing the distance between them, Arthur stops within Merlin’s personal space. “You can’t possibly leave without attracting any number of Alphas who don’t manage to gain a respectable ranking. Even you can’t be stupid enough to not be aware of the danger you are to yourself.” Pausing a moment, the Crown Prince draws a deep breath as if focusing his thoughts. Finding no relief, Arthur turns and stalks back to his father. “Congratulations Merlin, you’ve reached a new level of distracting.”

“I didn’t do anything!” Merlin objects as he crosses his arms protectively over his chest.

“Sire, do you think it wise to have the Prince here.” Gaius says politely as he carefully inspects the Prince’s physical responses to his exchange with Merlin.

“I’m fine Gaius,” Arthur says quickly.

Uther snorts dismissively. “He is to be a future King, and I would be negligent if I didn’t teach him to contain his impulses. This is a rare opportunity to demonstrate mastery over instinctual impulses.” The King says as he looks at each of the Omegas with a lusty arrogance. “Each of you should be honored.” Uther says with a slight curl to the corner of his mouth as he gazes at the ladies. “You’ll have the opportunity to make a match with the finest that the Kingdom has to offer.”

The Lady Rebecca elbows the Lady Bridget and they both cover their mouths and giggle softly.

“I’d be glad for a hard working bloke with stamina.” Jessica says with a grin that does little to hide her anticipation. Suddenly realizing who she was speaking to, she quickly curtsies and then adds, “If it would please you to grant me such Sire.”

Gwen looks up as if she wants to add something, but upon catching sight of Arthur’s confused expression focused on Merlin, she blushes fiercely and lowers her gaze.

When the King turns his gaze to the male in the group, he narrows his eyes and flares his nostrils drawing in the scents perfuming the air. “Your presence in this tent surprises me.” He says to Merlin. Taking several steps towards the younger man as would a predator. “How did you manage to step into a role that has been unheard of for hundreds of years,” Uther growls out as he backs Merlin further into the corner of the tent.

Merlin lowers his gaze and makes several distressed whimpering noises that reveal his confusion and inability to respond to the Kings words.

As the King reaches out a hand to grasp the front of Merlin’s tunic, Prince Arthur steps forward to catch his father’s wrist. “Father, he’s an idiot and there is little sport in tormenting him.” Arthur says glancing between Merlin’s submissive form and his father’s intimidating posture. “He’s clearly confused and completely unaware as to how or why he’s managed to land himself into such a historical role.”

“Do you think him worthy of a noble?” Uther asks his son in a challenging tone. “Or are you defending him in your usual fashion?”

“He is an Omega and as such he’s no more and no less deserving of a union with a noble than are the ladies.” Arthur says firmly as he continues to hold his hand atop his father’s wrist. “And he deserves the same consideration and comfort we provide to the others.” He adds boldly.

The tension between the two Alphas is thick enough to cut as they stare stubbornly at each other. With neither Uther nor Arthur backing down, it looks as if it might be a long challenge.

“Sire, forgive me for interrupting, but the time to strengthen and prepare my charges draws rapidly to a close.” Gaius says softly as he looks between the King and the Crown Prince. “If it would please you, I’d like to see to my duties.”

Turning from Arthur, the King looks from Merlin to the women and then to the Court Physician. After flaring his nostrils to catch the arousing collective Omega scent, Uther heads to the entrance of the tent. “Very well,” He says, halting his departure at the entrance, the King turns his gaze to the Court Physician. “I’ll leave you to it then.”

When the King leaves, Gaius takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “Is everyone all alright?” The Physician asks, looking first to the ladies and then to Merlin.

“The King was frightful,” Jessica says absently, “But in an strangely delicious sort of way.”

“I can agree with the frightening part.” Gwen says wringing her hands nervously. “I’ve never seen the King act like that and Arthur didn’t seem to think his father was acting out of sorts at all.” Glancing towards Merlin, she adds, “The Prince did seem protective of you Merlin. I was happy to see him stand up against his father.”

“We’re already concerned and confused by what’s happening.” Merlin says from his corner. “What purpose was there to add to our torment?” Crossing his arms over his chest the dark haired lad sulks quietly.

“He offered us no torment.” Lady Rebecca said with a privileged lift of her chin.

“In his own way, the King’s visit demonstrates his concern. Your wellbeing is for the benefit of Camelot,” Gaius says gently ignoring the slight dig made by Lady Rebecca, “And at risk of sounding like a mother hen, I need to remind you that I want you to eat and drink so to keep up your strength for the next few days”

“Not hungry,” Merlin mutters as he leaves his corner to pace around the tent. “Gaius, is there anything that can reverse this so called cycle? There must be something to turn it off.”

“If there were something that could turn it off, as you put it,” Gaius replies as he furrows his brow in thought. “It couldn’t be used. The King has good cause to identify you and see to your protection. I cannot overstate the danger that exists for an unprotected Omega, especially one whose cycle has been disrupted to fall out of the normal timing. Should you come into your cycle without the protection of the crown, you would likely cause substantial disruptions to the point of a horrible gang attack.” The Court Physician shutters with the thought of what could happen. “It would likely shatter you in every sense of the word.”

“Like the incident in the courtyard,” whispers Gwen, clearly upset but the thought of what could have happened. “Only it would be worse for us.”

“Thankfully our fathers saw to our protection without incident.” Lady Bridget says offhandedly. “They said that they recognized the early onset of the blessing from their own experience years ago, and they took joint action to see to our safety.”

“This is all fine and good for a first time,” Jessica says with a hint of worry in her voice. “But what will we do when it happens again? Or does this cycle stop after this first time?”

“You’ll be matched and bonded once the Alpha’s sort out their dominance and that changes your scent.” Gaius explains. “You’ll be noticed, but your status as a married and bonded Omega will be respected.”

“I suppose it does make sense,” Gwen says with a sigh. “And it is comforting in a way.”

“It makes perfect sense for you Gwen since both Arthur and Lancelot will likely be competing for your favor.” Merlin says as he runs his hand through his hair.

“It would make sense for any noble to favor a Lady better suited to the demands of the court, not to mention the needs of a Prince who requires a suitable future Queen.” Lady Rebecca says offhandedly as she returns her attention to the food table. “No offense intended, but it would be odd for a man to want the company of another man when there are ladies to choose from.”

Rolling her eyes at Rebecca, Gwen turns her attention to Merlin. “Aren’t you hoping for Arthur’s favor?” She asks softly while moving to stand near her friend. “It makes sense that you’d want that since you two are very close and all this nonsense opens a different means to express that closeness. Even Uther didn’t seem to object on the fact that you’re a man. He questioned the rarity of a male Omega since they’re so rare.”

“I’ve never thought that way about Arthur.” Merlin says forcefully as he turns his back to Gwen. “How would I ever be able to look him in the eye again if I were to want such a thing?”

Jessica puts her hand to her mouth attempting to hide a girlish giggle. “Sorry!” She says when Merlin’s head snaps towards her with a hurt glare. “I can’t help it. I got all warm inside just thinking about it. You and the Prince seem to have such strong personalities that I think a match would be bloody brilliant.”

Gaius crosses his arms across his chest and frowns. “Merlin you’re going to make yourself sick if you keep worrying as you are.” Sweeping his gaze from Merlin to the women and then back again, he lifts his left brow appraisingly, “Man or woman, you are all Omegas. On this there are no pre conceived notions of what is right or wrong.”

“My father says that the mind may well get clouded at the height of our cycle.” Lady Bridget says, “So perhaps the lack of notions might only apply during this time. Will that hold true after the fact?” Lifting her chin with a snobbish tilt, she looks down her nose at Merlin before focusing her attention on the Court Physician. “Or will the long term match between two men cause difficulty?”

“What does it matter to you?” Gwen snaps with a frown. “Can’t you tell that Merlin is having a hard enough time with this as it is? Rather than tossing out unhelpful comments you could actually be a little supportive.”

“Gwen, I don’t need to be defended.” Merlin says as he glares at the Ladies Bridget and Rebecca. “They have every right to say what they want and no one has said anything that I haven’t already considered myself.”

“Why would I do that?” Lady Bridget asks of Gwen with a slight furrowing of her brow. “There has been very little information released that gives us an idea as to how we’ll be making our matches and without the direct influence of our respective fathers we are on our own so the person we should be supporting is ourselves.”

“Bridget is right about this,” Lady Rebecca adds into the rapidly heating conversation. Turning her attention to Gaius, she adds, “Both Bridget and I have a great deal to lose if we don’t keep our focus on our best interest. “

“Exactly what is it that you wish to accomplish with this conversation?” Gaius asks in a neutral tone that he often uses during council meetings where the topic grates on his nerves.

“Seems to me that we’re all a little confused about what’s happening. And maybe at the same time some of us might be a little resistant in taking their lot in life so maybe they’re trying to make themselves feel better at the expense of someone else.” Jessica says with a shrug of one shoulder. Looking from one face to the next, the former scullery maid offers a smile. “Trust me, when it looks to be the worst being tossed at you, you’re better off thinking positive and maybe having a bit of fun.”

“Well said.” Gaius says approvingly. “Now let’s see if we can enjoy the rest of this evening. Tomorrow the Tournament begins, and all of you may begin to feel the effects of your cycles.”

~*~*~

The first day of competition, announced to be hand to hand combat, saw the Alpha women on the field with little interest in the observation stands. The Lady Morgana, dressed in trousers, boots, and a heavy leather vest, paired off in a match of wrestling against the Lady Diane who dressed in a like manner. Expectations were low, up until Morgana’s opening charge.

With the drop of the King’s hand to signal a start to the match, the dark haired ward of the King charged forward with her hand extended toward the Lady Diane’s throat. In a swift move of grace and strength, Morgana had her opponent on the ground and firmly incapacitated by a tight grip at the throat and a knee in the middle of the other woman’s chest. “Do you yield?” Morgana asks with a confident smirk. “Or should I break a few of your ribs to make it appear more believable?”

Gritting her teeth, the Lady Diane snarls out her agreement to yield. The responding cheer that rises up from the stands is deafening. The cheer grows louder as the victorious offers a helping hand back to her feet to the defeated Lady. After a nod between opponents, Morgana bows to the King and then raises her hands in victory before the crowd.

“Well done Morgana!” Gwen calls out from the sitting area directly opposite the formal stands arranged for the King, the nobles and the Alpha’s. “I would say that she could take at least half or more of the men. Don’t you agree Merlin?”

“The Lady Morgana inspires fear.” Merlin mutters as he shifts uncomfortably on the bench beside his friend. “I don’t exactly agree that she could take half the men out of competition, I do think she could take out an impressive number with intimidation alone.”

“The women competing as Alpha’s are eligible to be selected by an Alpha, aren’t they?” Lady Bridget asks while fidgeting uncomfortably.

“Perhaps the winner among the women has the choice of Merlin.” Lady Rebecca comments as she watches the next two contestants walk out onto the field.

“No,” Merlin says flatly as his face and ears flare up with a bright red color, “The match wouldn’t work.” Glancing at Gwen he chews uncomfortably on his lower lip to keep from sharing the growing need to have something inside.

“Oh is that the Lady Lillian?” Lady Bridget calls out as she points to the redheaded woman turning to face the King.

“And that’s Shelia, one of the cheese makers in the lower town.” Gwen says with excitement. “She’s going to be hard to beat. Even Lady Morgana will be hard pressed to take Shelia down.”

“She can carry three wheels of fine cheddar on her shoulder.” Merlin says with awe. Turning, the dark haired young man searches for the Court Physician. “Gaius is probably going to be needed after this round.”

“It’ll probably be over as quickly as Morgana’s match was.” Gwen says with confidence.

When the King calls for the match to begin, the Lady Lillian throws a confident punch to Shelia’s jaw. Much to the dissatisfaction of the Lady, the cheese maker not only takes the punch with ease, she smiles in response.

“That hurt.” Merlin mutters as he visibly winces while watching Shelia grab the hair on either side of Lady Lillian’s face only to bring the Lady’s head down to meet with the cheese makers rising knee. The impact results in a loud crunch that echoes over the field. The sound draws a collective groan from the spectators.

A shout of outrage causes blood to splatter from Lady Lillian’s nose, drenching both her and Shelia’s clothing. Moments later, a patch of brown hair is ripped forcefully from the cheese makers head. “That can’t be proper ladylike behavior.” Lady Rebecca comments as she covers her eyes to avoid the sight of raw female violence.

“Good one Shelia!” Jessica calls out with excitement.

“Did Shelia just bite Lady Lillian?” Merlin asks with a strange tilt of his head as he watches the women grapple. Wincing at the free flowing blood, he adds, “I suppose it’s a good thing that neither of them brought in a weapon.”

“Definitely biting,” Gwen says as a hand reaches up to cover her mouth. “Oh my, that’s a lot of blood for a bite to the arm.”

The combatants circle each other, one attached to the other by way of teeth sunk into an arm. Lady Lillian tries her best to pry Shelia’s teeth off her arm. When an attempt to gain freedom from the bite fails, she turns to punching the sturdier woman in the face and neck. It quickly becomes apparent that the cheese maker is fully capable of hanging on, the Lady yields.

“That puts Shelia up against Lady Morgana.” Gwen says with excitement, turning and grasping Merlin’s arm. “Who do you think will win that match?”

“You won’t have long until you find out. Morgana’s entering the field again.” Merlin says, lifting a hand to point towards the charging Lady Morgana. All eyes watch as Lady Morgana sneers at the Lady Lillian as they pass while one is entering and the other leaving the field. They clearly exchange unpleasant words, though low enough that the exchange remains private.

The tension in the observation stands is high and Uther does not keep the crowd waiting. The instant the King gives the signal Morgana and Shelia are at each other’s throats. The crowd had gained a taste of blood from the last match, and now they are cheering for it. From the aggression being demonstrated on the field, it is clear that the crowd was going to receive what they wanted.

Going for the cheese maker’s throat gives Morgana a slight advance, but an angry responding attack sends both women into a rolling match on the ground. The Lady Morgana is the first to roll out of Shelia’s grasp, and once free she quickly regains her feet. With fire in her eyes the heavier former peasant woman launches to her feet and charges the dark haired Ward of the King like an angry bull.

Laughter erupts from the Lady Morgana’s mouth as she steps out of the path of the rampaging woman. As Shelia passes Morgana catches the other woman’s arm. With the cheese makers arm caught, Morgana takes two steps around the other woman’s back and then swings Shelia around using her own momentum. In the blink of an eye, the Kings Ward sends her opponent into the solid planks of the viewing stands. A crash sounds out over the competition field. A few moments pass as the dust raised from the broken wood takes a moment to settle. Under the small pile of broken wood, Shelia is out cold.

And with that, the first victor of the Tournament is named. Morgana has proven herself to be the dominate female alpha of Camelot.

Chapter Text

~*~*~

At the afternoon meal, following Morgana’s morning victory, the King praises the Alpha women for stepping forward to acknowledge and embrace their place as leaders within society. Lifting his wine goblet high, Uther congratulates Morgana for gaining the position as Camelot’s premier Alpha female in Camelot. Allowing the court a few moments to express their accolades, the King offers his ward a proud smile. Morgana proudly accepts the honors, lifting her goblet, saluting first the King and then the court at large.

“Let this tournament remind us of our obligations ….” Uther calls out as he lifts a hand to quiet the court before he continues, “to the kingdom and the future that stands before us. Camelot has been blessed with leadership that stands above all others. In the days to come, join with me to witness the test of strength, power, and leadership awaits those marked as our finest by the Gods.” Applause echo’s the great hall for several moments before the king turns the mood of the crowd to the early celebrations at hand.

With the hierarchy of leadership established for the Alpha women, a preliminary courtship begins among the Alphas during the short celebratory luncheon while the field is being prepared. The women boldly mingle among the men clearly seeking potential matches. For most within the court, the interactions between the Alphas appear to be more a power struggle filled with various levels of confident posturing between the leaders.

Finding little patience with the social power struggle, the Crown Prince is the first to leave for the competition field. Walking along the side of the field in front of the Royal box, Arthur’s eyes drift towards the Omega tent on the opposite side of the field. The Omega scent is strong, even at this distance from the tent.

”We’ll be hard pressed to keep our focus on the competition.” Lancelot says as he steps forward to join the Prince. “”There is little doubt that you will prove to be the greatest of us all.”

”I was pleased to see that you were drawn to Camelot for the Blessing, Lancelot.” Arthur says with a sincere smile. “It didn’t surprise me to see you counted among the few Alpha men.”

”You honor me.” Lancelot says with a responding smile. In an unspoken agreement, the two men turn their attention to the competition field. In silence they watch the workers hang the brightly colored rope that divides the field into two equal spaces where two competitions can be held at the same time. When the workmen begin to gather their tools, signaling a completion to their labors, Lancelot sighs softly. “Is it the same for you, my Lord? Can you catch her delicate fragrance with each breath taken?”

The Prince’s eyes narrow slightly as his focus narrows towards the Omega tent. “You mean Gwen?” Arthur asks with a frown. “Surprisingly, I can tell she’s nearby with the others, but hers is not the scent that seems to be driving me to distraction.”

”Is it Merlin? He has a remarkable talent for distraction.” Lancelot comments with the shrug of one shoulder. “Perhaps this tournament will give us the time we need to sort through our emerging roles and the reactions we might have to others enduring their own trials.”

”Perhaps,” Arthur says without being specific about what he’s answering. Reaching up to slap a firm hand against Lancelot’s shoulder, the Prince adds. “Come on. Let’s get ready for the first rounds.”

A short time later, as the sun begins its decent towards the western sky, competitors and an enthusiastic audience gather to hear the details about the first round of combat. For her victory that morning, the Lady Morgana is granted the privilege of drawing competitor names from a large bowl. Drawing the names with dramatic flair, the dark haired ward of the King glances over the Alpha men as she calls out the names, randomly paired the opponents for the afternoon’s combat.

Sir Michael and Lord Cromer are called to combat on the Northern portion of the field and Sir Frederic is called to join Gwaine on the Southern portion of the field. As the four men take their place in the center of their respective fields, the King rises to his feet and raises his hand signaling the competitors to come to attention and to make ready. In a moment where it seems that every soul within the audience is holding a collective breath, Uther drops his hand, signaling the combat to begin.

“Sir Michael is positively the most handsome man I’ve ever seen,” Lady Rebecca says with a distracted release of her breath as she and the other Omega’s watch the events from the guarded safety of their observation stands.

“True,” Comments Lady Bridget with a shrug of her shoulders, “But Lord Cromer is wealthy as well as kind on the eye.”

“It’s Gwaine who has the strength on the field at the moment.” Merlin comments as he watches the match on the southern field. “He’s supposedly a tavern hopper, but he fights better than a lot of Arthur’s knights.”

“Sir Frederic seems almost dumbstruck.” Gasps Gwen as she places a hand against her chest.

Merlin laughs out loud. “No Gwen, Sir Frederic is out cold.” He says as he watches Gwaine’s blow send his Knightly opponent to the ground. “Less than five minutes and Gwaine won against a knight!”

With his match won, Gwaine struts before the Omega stands, cheerfully boasting his victory to the observers in the Omega stands. His antics earn laughter from the audience and encouraging waves from the common born Omegas.

“He should respect that there is a match still on going.” complains Lady Rebecca while at the same instant almost joining in the laughter at Gwaine’s playful escapades.

Sir Michael and Lord Cromer continue their match nearly another ten minutes and the Knight claims victory just as Gwaine is in the midst of attempting to bribe the Omegas guards to bring the Ladies and young man the small flowers he’s picked from the tournament field. In the end, the roguish first round victor has to settle for blowing several kisses to the Omegas as he and Sir Michael march off the field to take their place in the stands set aside for the victors.

“That one’s got bullocks he does, and a handsome face with a playful nature. I bet his cock is as boast worthy as the rest of him.” Jessica says with a grin as she watches Gwaine’s retreating back.

“Oi! Man present!” Merlin chokes out as his face bursts with embarrassed color.

“Sorry luv, it had to be said.” Jessica says as she offers Merlin a smile.

“There is absolutely nothing about his behavior or his skills that imply his privates are worth boasting about.” Lady Bridget snaps tartly in challenge.

“It’s more likely his antics are an attempt to make up for a lacking manhood.” Adds Rebecca sarcastically. “It’s more likely that he’s all flirt with no significant ability to please a woman.”

“You’d both likely sing a different tune if he had land holdings to back up his playful nature.” Jessica snips back. “From what I hear from the two of you, looks and personality are low on your list of must haves for a potential husband.” Shaking her head, she turns her back on Bridget and Rebecca. “You’ll both end up fridge old nags who’ll have no way to heat yourselves up save for putting another log on the fire.”

“Hello? The next matches have already started.” Gwen says sternly as she looks over her shoulder at the arguing threesome. “We should make some effort to pay attention considering they’re competing for our favor.”

“Sir Leon, and Brandon the Master Woodsmith from the lower town are on the North field.” Merlin says, subtly catching the ladies up with the events on the field. “He’s definitely superior with fighting skill. He’s been in the middle of too many skirmishes to not know the best way to bring down an opponent. Even with that, Brandon isn’t showing himself to be an easy mark.”

Collectively, the crowd on both sides of the field draw in a breath as Sir Leon and Brandon collide with a solid crash. Showing his skills on the field once more, Leon is quick to turn and send his elbow flying back forcefully into Brandon’s face. With that Sir Leon wins the match as Brandon drops to the ground only moments after the crunch of broken bone and cartridge sounded over the field.

“The match on the Southern field will likely take a long while.” Gwen comments as everyone turns their attention to the Southern field. “Sir Elbert and Sir Alan are of equal size and skill.”

With both men dancing around each other, landing various boxing blow, it does indeed look as if it will be a long drawn out match. That was the case up until the point that Sir Alan managed to move around to Sir Elbert’s back. Given the opening, Sir Alan leaped upon the other man’s back and drives his thumb into Elbert’s right eye socket. The match comes to a quick halt when a loud squishy popping sound echoes over the field as Elbert’s right eye is popped disgustingly out of its socket. As one knight screeches in pain and outrage, Sir Alan is declared the winner of the match.

Chaos follows the match as the victors move to their place in the stands with the other winners, Gaius hurries across the field to salvage what he can of one Knight’s eyesight and another man’s nose. Some in the crowd cheer for the gory results whilst others as struggling to keep their stomachs from revolting.

“Will Gaius be able to save Sir Elbert’s eye?” Gwen asks as she does her very best to keep from looking in the direction of Gaius and the injured men.

“Possibly, but it’s hard to tell from here and there is a possibility of complications beyond the obvious.” Merlin says as he watches his mentor work. “But if anyone could save the day, it would be Gaius.”

”I can’t say it makes much difference at this point.” Lady Rebecca says with a shrug of her shoulders. “Both the injured men are no longer in competition for our attention.”

”You really have a lot of nerve saying something like that.” Gwen says as both she and Merlin turn to glare at the young woman.

”What?” Lady Bridget says rolling her eyes. “The men that fail to win this round will marry far outside the hierarchy of the Blessing. They’re not worth our attention.”

Everyone is worth our attention.” Merlin says firmly.

Next on the North field is Sir Peter matched against the former peasant Lancelot. On the Southern field it is Sir John matched against Sir Nathan. While both matches appear interesting at the start, attention quickly goes to the Southern field as Sir John shows a bizarre strategy which involves backing up away from his opponent until he stands in front of the wood barrier that protects the front of the viewing stands south of the Royal box.

“What is he doing?” Merlin asks with a furrowed brow as he watches Sir John’s actions.

”Who?” Gwen replies as her attention never waivers from watching Lancelot with a dreamy look of fondness.

“Sir John.” Merlin says glancing at his friend. Catching sight of her besotted gaze and then glancing to her focus, he smiles and shakes his head. “Never mind Gwen, it’s not nearly as interesting as what you’re watching.” He laughs as he turns his attention back to the odd match on the Southern end of the field.

Had Merlin waiting a moment more to return his attention to the match, he’d have missed Sir John leaping forward to grab Sir Nathan’s right wrist. The sudden change in action causes the crowd to collectively gasp in surprise. Taking advantage of the surprise his move has caused, the cleaver Knight quickly circles the other Knight without letting go of his wrist. Building up momentum, Sir John comes to a sudden halt and the energy built up from the momentum is thrown into swinging Sir Nathan into the wood barrier. Sir John raises his right fist in victory when Sir Nathan remains unmoving in a heap on the ground.

Meanwhile on the Northern field, Lancelot is holding his own quite spectacularly against Sir Peter. Clasping his hands together, Lancelot is battering the trained Knight with his combined fists that are being swung like he were wielding a two handed sword. As Lancelot smoothly moves around his opponent, Sir Peter is unable to successful land a strike. The Knight’s first successful blow manages to hit his opponent in the shoulder just as Gaius is called to see to Sir Nathan. The Knight’s success is short lived. Lancelot’s next blow strikes solidly against Sir Peter’s jaw, knocking him down and out.

On the tail of Lancelot’s victory, the first death of the competition is announced. The Court Physician’s review of the body reveals that the wood had splintered when Sir Nathan had struck the wooden barrier and that a thick splinter had been driven through the man’s chest when he’d fallen upon the wood.

Soft murmurs echo through the observation stands as the dead man is rolled onto a stretcher and taken from the field. The shocked crowd offer no cheers for the victors in the third set of matches.

The mood of the audience is darkened by the death, but it does not halt the competition. Sir Amos takes the Northern field against Lord Barthwell as the Lord Carthdill is matched against Sir Charles on the Southern field.

“I don’t want to watch anymore.” Gwen says softly as her eyes drop to the barrier that guards the Omegas stand from the field. “I didn’t think that this sort of competition would leave someone dead.”

Patting her shoulder, Merlin offers Gwen a sympathetic smile. “I’m sure no one will notice if you keep your gaze away from the field. Besides, it’s nearly over for the day.”

The blood shed with Sir Nathan’s death has for the most part subdued the crowd, but in turn it’s stirred the aggressive nature of the competitors. On the Northern field, Sir Amos attacks viciously throwing fists and kicks at Lord Barthwell’s until finally the Knight raises both fists and brings his forearms down in a mighty blow, harshly breaking the Lord’s collarbones. Withering under the pain, Lord Barthwell drops to his knees as his arms fall uselessly to his side. With that, Sir Amos claims victory on the Northern field.

On the Southern field the Lord Carthdill stands stubbornly against the clearly superior skill of the Knight Sir Charles. The match begins with careful movements around each other, but quickly falls into an exchange of fists. As the bruises increase in numbers the match looks as if it’s going to be long and quite possibly boring. The aggression in the match turns suddenly, and in a surprise move Lord Carthdill suddenly lowers his shoulder and charges forward catching Sir Charles in the stomach. In the blink of an eye, the Knight is lifted and flipped over the Lord’s shoulder. An instant Sir Charles hits the ground a blow follows to his temple bringing an end to the match.

Sir Amos and Lord Carthdill join the other victors in the stands as Lord Macfien joins Sir Hengist on the Northern Field and Sir Sigbert follows Sir Osred onto the Southern field.

The matches on both ends of the field are without question, the most unremarkable out of all competitions held. The blows taken are hesitant and fall softly against the flesh of their intended target. After a half dozen strikes fall harmlessly, a few in the crowd begin to call out insults questioning the Alpha status of the competitors.

“For a Knight, Sir Hengist is showing himself to be a weak competitor.” Merlin whispers to Gwen. “I think the only reason the competition is still going on is because Lord Macfien barely leaves his desk so he has no fighting skill at all.”

“There’s something about Sir Hengist that’s always come off not quite right.” Gwen whispers back in agreement. “He’s got this stare that seems almost makes you feel dirty.”

Regardless of skill, the first victor is finally named on the Northern field when Lord Macfien accidently trips on the uneven ground. Falling forward the pathetic Lord strikes his head against Sir Hengist’s knee as the Knight stepped forward continue the combat. Accidental or not, the victory goes to Sir Hengist when Lord Macfien manages to knock himself out.

As laughter fills the stands at the odd victory on the Northern field, the end to the match on the Southern field comes with the larger of the two Knights growing bored. At the height of the laughter Sir Sigbert charges forward and manages to push Sir Osred onto the ground. With Osred down, Sigbert jumps into the air and lands solidly atop the smaller Knight. Sir Osred attempts to topple the Larger Knight off his belly, and he does a good deal of yelling and threatening, but he finally yields and Sir Sigbert is declared the Victor.

Laughter gives way to excitement as the final two pairs take the field. On the Northern field Lord Kedington is set against Lord Gisleham and Prince Arthur enters the field to challenge Sir Malvern on the Southern Field.

“I don’t know if I can watch.” Merlin mutters as he leans forward to place his face into his hands. “If something happens to Arthur, I don’t know if I can sit here and do nothing.”

“Arthur will do alright Merlin,” Gwen says as she places a comforting hand on his back. “He’s won harder matches than he’ll face today.” She suddenly sucks in her breath as she looks up in time to see Lord Kedington take a blow to his groin.

“What happened?” Merlin asks as he drops his hands and leans forward staring intently at the competitors on the Southern field.

“You’d think that all of em would keep clear of beating on each other’s bullocks.” Jessica comments with a shake of her head. “Seems rude to take aim at something a bloke might expect to have use of in a day or so.”

“I think you’ve surpassed the point of being crude, Jessica. Can you stop commenting on the combatant’s genitals?” Lady Rebecca complains.

Jessica snickers. “Little miss high and mighty is starting to feel the excitement.” The former scullery maid teases.

“I don’t think any of us are particularly immune.” Gwen says flushing deeply. The first strike against Lord Kedington is followed by a second groin shot. Wincing, Gwen withdraws her hand from Merlin’s back so she can silently wring her hands while watching the match progress.

“Sir Gisleham has a cruel streak.” Comments Lady Bridget as she watches the match with a frown. “I cannot say I approve.”

“It does seem underhanded.” Lady Rebecca says opening her mouth to say something more, but Lord Kedington suddenly launches himself at Lord Gisleham, knocking his fellow noble to the ground. The sudden move is followed by fists to Gisleham’s jaw, over and over until it’s clear that Kedington has managed to beat his opponent into unconsciousness. After adding a couple more hits, Kedington is declared the winner.

“Oh ho, a couple of hits to the tender bits certainly managed to push Lord Kedington into finishing the match rather quick.” Jessica comments with a grin. “Good for him.”

“Look! The Prince is making his move.” Merlin says, staring intently at the Southern field. Moments after the end of the match between the Lords on the Northern field, Arthur clasps his hands together and delivers a heavy blow into Sir Malvern’s gut. As the Knight bends into the force of the blow, the Prince brings his clasped hands up and then down across the back of his opponents head. Malvern drops unconscious onto the field.

The crowd on both sides of the Tournament field erupts into cheers for the final two victors of the first round of competition.

“Ladies, Merlin, you have an hour to rest before you have the opportunity to entertain a short supervised visit by each of today’s match winners.” Gaius announces as he joins his charges in the stands. “You cannot be permitted to be alone with any of them, but as a whole it will give you a chance to learn something about a potential spouse before you reach the height of your cycles.”

“There are only five of us.” Lady Rebecca says with a hint of excitement in her voice. “This leaves us with the choice between men rather than hoping that one will choose us.”

“That’s delightful!” Lady Bridget says with a bright smile and a happy clap of her hands.

“There are four Alpha women that share the same prospects with you.” Gaius interjects. “This narrows the odds slightly.”

“That doesn’t seem fair.” Jessica complains. “Those ladies have the option to mingle with the men and possibly gain favor with blokes that could be better off with one of us.”

“Maybe the Alpha women could join us for the visit,” Gwen suggests. “Then we’d all get an idea about who they might be favoring so we won’t set our sights on someone who might be favoring another.”

“That is an excellent suggestion Gwen.” Gaius says, beaming at the darker skinned young lady. Turning, away from the Omegas, the Court Physician crosses the stand towards the cluster of guards that are gathering to follow the group. Upon catching the eye of Lord Cleriff, the older man calls out, “My Lord, would you kindly send word to the king asking permission to invite the Alpha women to the Omega tent so that they might join together during the official visit from the winners of the first round of competition?”

A single nod is the response from Lord Cleriff, who in turn sends one of his guards off with the message to the King.

~*~*~

News of King Uther’s approval about the Alpha women joining in on the winners visit comes in the form of the arriving group of Ladies. “Up to it Ladies, your competition for man flesh is here!” Lady Morgana calls out as she enters the tent. “The first choice cuts of meat is due in fifteen minutes so you’d better get yourselves together or you’ll miss the feast!” Both Lady Diane and Lady Lillian look at Morgana as if she’d just spouted something scandalous, but Shelia snickers softly at the humor.

The first to poke her head out of one of the partitioned sections of the tent is Gwen. “Morgana!” The former maid calls out happily as she rushes forward. Morgana affectionately greets Gwen with a hug and a smile. “My Lady, you were absolutely brilliant in your matches, both Merlin and I knew you’d take the lead and of course you did.” Pausing she glances at the other Alpha woman and her cheeks color slightly, “Not that I meant the rest of you didn’t do well, but …..”

“Gwen, don’t worry yourself with explaining anything. We had to find our spots in the hierarchy. The only thing that annoys me is that we’re like a pack of wild dogs the minute I show any weakness they’ll be on my back to take my spot.” Morgana says, turning to look boldly into the face of her fellow Alphas. “That’s the way it works unless I manage to choose a husband strong enough to defend me in a moment of weakness.”

“Is there anyone you fancy?” Gwen asks in a low voice as the two noble women and Jessica appear from their partitioned area of the large tent.

Morgana smiles and she nods her head. Leaning forward for a moment of privacy she whispers something into Gwen’s ear. When the Lady pulls back, the former maid squeals in delight. “Perfect!” she whispers fondly. “I couldn’t think of anyone better for you.”

“By all that could be holy!” Shelia exclaims as she steps further into the tent. Lifting her chin her nostrils flare. “I didn’t think we’d be all that affected by an Omega, but that bloke hiding somewhere in here has a scent that positively makes me want to have my way with him.”

“It is a rather strong scent.” Lady Diane agrees looking in the direction that could only be where Merlin is hiding.

Morgana rolls her eyes. “Now you’re sounding as ridiculous as the men. Next thing you know you’ll be drooling and make bizarre comments over his tasty fragrance. Before you make utter fools out of yourselves, please remember that we don’t have what it takes to give the poor boy what he’s going to need to ease his misery.”

“There’s no need to be vulgar.” Lady Lillian says in an even insulting tone.

“Did I say anything about his needing a cock up his arse?” Morgana quips boldly as she stares down the Lady Lillian. “Of course I didn’t. There was absolutely nothing vulgar with what I’ve said so calm yourself Lillian.”

“Morgana, Ladies, we’ll never get him out here if you keep talking like that.” Gwen says as she sends nervous glances towards Merlin’s area of the tent. “It’s not been easy for him. His whole world has been turned upside down.”

“Nonsense. He just needs someone to talk some sense into him.” Morgana says as she moves around Gwen heading for Merlin’s sanctuary. “Come on Merlin, you’d better hurry if you expect to get yourself sorted out before the first of our visitors arrives.” With no hesitation whatsoever, the Lady disappears inside Merlin’s sleeping area.

“Merlin?” Morgana asks as she finds the dark haired young man sitting on the side of his cot.

“Morgana.” Merlin replies flatly.

“I suppose you heard everything said.” The Lady says with a half-smile of amusement.

“I did.” Merlin says in a low voice. From his lowered gaze and his voice, it is clear that the Warlock is distressed by what’s been said among the ladies.

“So get over it.” Morgana says harshly. “The truth isn’t always the easiest thing to swallow, but once you have it down you tend to feel better.” Crossing the small partitioned area to sit on the cot beside Merlin, he turns to look into his face. “You really have nothing to worry about. All said and done, I suspect that Arthur has it in his head to claim you so at least you’ll have a friend with you through the unfamiliar parts.”

Looking up and turning his head to inspect Morgana’s expression, Merlin frowns. “That’s not possible. His father would never allow such a thing.” Merlin argues. “Who in their right mind would risk their place in the court to even think about ……….claiming me.”

“You are clearly a moron, Merlin.” Morgana snaps unkindly as she rolls her eyes. “Here you are a male Omega, blessed by the gods themselves as a superior match for any man. You positively embody the definition of exotic. Legend, or at least the legend that’s spreading among the Alphas, has it that you are as fertile as a rabbit. You’re beautiful with delicate features that draw the attention of men and women alike. Adding to all that, you’re entertaining, cleaver, and fun to be around. What part of all that are you not getting?”

Looking back down into his hands, Merlin sighs and chews on his lower lip. “How can I trust you?” He finally admits. “You’ve not been a friend to Camelot since the Crystal of Neahtid was stolen.”

Silence smothers the two dark haired people as they are left to their memories for a short period of time. “You are right. My hatred for Uther grows daily. I cannot deny it.” Morgana finally says. “I can see why you might not want to trust me, but I am asking that you do so now.”

“You’re asking a lot, Morgana.” Merlin says with a frown.

“For whatever reason Uther has decided to allow this Tournament and everything it embodies, including the magical influences. Something has happened to set Uther along a path that doesn’t involve executing anyone who’s participating in an event that clearly reeks of magic.” Morgana says with such openness that it can’t be confused for anything but honesty.

“Has this softened the hatred you feel for Uther?” Merlin asks with a brief glance up into Morgana’s face.

“I won’t lie. It’ll take much more than that to soften my hatred.” Morgana says with a glimmer of hatred in her eyes and a frown upon her lips. “But his time is coming to a close by his own hand, and I’m finding that I can trust Arthur and his vision of what Camelot should be.”

“What makes you so sure he’s not like his father?” Merlin asks hesitantly as if afraid he would reveal too much about himself in their discussion.

Morgana laughs. “Of all people to ask that question, you sound the most foolish uttering that question. You know he’s not like Uther.” She says with a slight shove against Merlin’s shoulder. “What is truly sad is that I’ve known him so much longer and I am only now coming to the realization that he is his own man, capable of a future for this kingdom that I can embrace without pain.”

Merlin smiles at that, but he continues to look into his hands. “I’m glad you feel that way Morgana. He truly does cares about you and that won’t chance once he finds that you have magic.”

Again the Lady Morgana laughs. “Last night he came to see me to ask if I’ve had any visions about the outcome of this Tournament and who I might have seen to be his choice.” Pausing to shake her head, she reaches out to place a hand upon Merlin’s back. “He said that he didn’t want to offend or frighten me, but he was sure that my past warnings were caused by magic and he felt that he could trust what I might tell him.” Sighing softly she lets silence settle around them before she continues. “He has something planned for the future and while I have yet to see it in a vision, I find myself looking forward to a kingdom under his rule.”

“Merlin, Morgana, the first victor is due to arrive any moment now, and you should not be found alone with an Omega.” Gaius says poking his head into Merlin’s small area. “You both should join the others.”

“We’re coming Gaius.” Morgana says in an upbeat tone. Bending forward and looking up into Merlin’s eyes, she offers the smile of a friend. “Shall we?” she says extending her hand.

The dark haired young man says nothing but he does reach out a hand to accept Morgana’s outstretched one.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

Morgana and Merlin arrive in the common area of the Omega tent just as the first victor is being escorted in by a pair of Lord Cleriff’s guards. “I knew I dressed up for a reason!” Gwaine calls out to the temporary residents of the tent and their guests the Alpha women. Dressed in brown Breeches, tall black boots, a white shirt with billowing sleeves that are contained at the wrists by leather bracers, and a dark forest green doublet, Gwaine presents a handsome figure.

“I hoped that I would be able to gain an advantage by being early.” Gwaine says with a slight chuckle as he looks over the older man’s shoulder to smile at the Omegas and Alpha women.

“None have the advantage until the final match.” Prince Arthur calls out from the entrance to the tent. “Guards, spread out and take position along the interior walls of the tent. By order of the king, should any visitor make any inappropriate actions against any Omega or any Lady present, they are to be escorted out immediately.”

Over a dozen guards file into the tent, moving to the left and right of the entrance until they circled the public areas of the tent.

“Gaius, the others are waiting outside for your permission to enter the tent” Arthur says in a strained formality.

“Thank you Sire,” Gaius says with a slight bow of his head. “Gwaine, could you please go out to let the others know that they are free to come in.” Turning to glance at Gwaine’s escorts, he adds, “You two can join the other guards.”

“Certainly.” Gwaine says as his escorts move off to stand against the back wall. Offering a wink in the general direction of the Ladies and Merlin, the flirtatious Alpha turns to walk outside the tent.

Gwaine returns a moment later, leading the Knights Sir Michael, Sir John, Sir Leon, Sir Alan, Sir Amos, Sir Hengist and Sir Sigbert, the Lords Carthdil and Kedington and lastly Lancelot, into the tent.

“And the twelve Champions arrive,” Mutters Morgana as he moves to stand behind Merlin and Gwen. “All present to visit with nine prizes. I wonder which of them will have to go home empty handed.” She comments in a low sarcastic voice.

“Welcome gentlemen, and congratulations on your victories this afternoon.” Gaius says in an even tone as he eyes the men carefully.

“Thank you,” Lord Carthdil says stepping forward. “Are we free to mingle?” He asks with his attention focused upon the Lady Diane.

Sweeping a hand back towards the Omegas and the Alpha women, the Court Physician nods. “You are welcome to do so.” Gaius says stepping back as the men surged forward.

Sir Leon and Lancelot are quickly drawn to Morgana and Gwen, and by virtue of his proximity, they draw Merlin into their conversation.

“How are the Ladies treating you, Merlin?” Sir Leon asks in a friendly yet curious tone. Tilting his head slightly he adds sympathetically, “I can only imagine how difficult it has been for you to be put into your position.”

“For the most part, everyone is fine.” Merlin says, glancing across the room to watch Arthur as he speaks with Lady Bridget. “I don’t think anyone really knows how to treat me, and I imagine fewer still even understand what I am for that matter.”

“As with everything you’ve ever been seen to do, you’re demonstrating a remarkable strength and bravery as an Omega male.” Lancelot says warmly to his friend. “I think there are few who could endure such a stressful situation without falling to madness.”

“I think you should make the most out of this whole situation.” Morgana says knowingly as she smiles openly at Sir Leon. “Just as the rest of us will be doing.”

“If you favor the boy, I’d be glad to offer this young lady a better future.” Sir John says to Lancelot, moving into the group to stand near Gwen who in turn looks uncomfortably towards Lancelot and then Merlin.

“Sir John, the Lady is clearly uncomfortable. Perhaps you should share your presences elsewhere.” Sir Leon says in a manner that made it clear there were no other options save the one he mentioned.

“Do you think your place one of authority with your selection of the Kings Ward as your Lady?” Sir John asks boldly glancing from Sir Leon to Lady Morgana. “You have no worry that I will challenge you. My interest falls with the Lady’s maid.”

“It is as Sir Leon says,” Lancelot says offering a hand to Gwen so to draw her from Sir John. “You make the lady uncomfortable. She does not share your interest and as such, I and any honorable man here will stand to defend her right to bestow her favor on whoever she chooses.”

“I suggest you leave.” Merlin adds as he places a protective arm around Gwen’s shoulders. Gently pulling his friend out of the conflict to leave the Alphas sort out the problem, he is shocked with a firm hand grabs the arm he had around Gwen’s shoulders. Looking first at the hand and then into Sir John’s angry face.

“Are you offering to take her place?” Sir John asks as his grip holds firm.

“Let me go,” Merlin complains as he tries to jerk his arm free.

“A Knight is expected to adhere to a code of honor. And you are obligated to follow your King’s commands.” Arthur says, appearing out of nowhere. “You’ve managed to fail miserably at both this day. I’m very disappointed Sir John.”

“I have every right to get to know the Omegas.” Sir John says with a frown.

“Gwen? Merlin? Did you want to get to know Sir John?” Arthur asks with lift of his brow.

“He was asked to leave.” Gwen says as she moves to stand closer to Lancelot. “Then he grabbed Merlin’s arm when he made to pull me away while Sir Leon and Lancelot took the matter in hand.”

Jerking his arm out of Sir John’s grasp Merlin glares at the Knight. “He doesn’t take no for an answer.”

“Well there you go. The King was very specific. Those who acted inappropriately towards an Omega or any other Lady present would be escorted out.” Arthur says flatly as he lifts two fingers to motion a pair of guards forward. Looking over his shoulder, the Prince makes eye contact with both guards. “Gentlemen, you are to escort Sir John back to his chambers and see that he stays there.”

Silence fills the tent as all eyes turn to watch the disgraced Knight disappear through the entrance of the tent. The interest is short lived, and the sound of conversation soon returns to the gathering of men and women.

“Merlin, can I speak with you privately?” Arthur asks as he turns his attention back to the small group.

“I’m alright Arthur.” Merlin says as he rubs his arm.

“I had no doubt that you were, but I’d still like to talk to you. Alone.” Arthur says evenly.

“Go on Merlin, we’ll be right here if you need us.” Morgana says with a smile. “He probably wants to know where you put his favorite pair of socks.”

Narrowing his eyes, Merlin looks suspiciously at Morgana and then Arthur. “I suppose we can talk.” Following Arthur, the dark haired young man frowns with uncertainty.

When the Prince comes to a halt in a semi-secluded corner, he turns to face his former manservant. “Are you sure you’re alright?” Arthur asks in a low voice.

Smiling, Merlin nods his head once. “I’m fine. I’m tougher than I look.” He says.

“Have Gaius look at it later.” Arthur says, sounding half commanding, and half asking. “Please?”

Furrowing his brow, Merlin’s smile fades. “What is this really about? You’re acting strange.” He says as if accusing the prince of something vile.

“I suppose Morgana told you that I plan to claim you.” Arthur says, coloring slightly with embarrassment.

“She seemed to think you might, but she wasn’t definate. She also thought that I was some kind of unique prize to be had.” Merlin says in a low tight voice. Stepping closer so that their words would remain private, he continues. “Arthur, you can’t do this. You need a queen, and your father will have fits if your choice isn’t someone he approves of. ”

“I need someone who can give me an heir.” Arthur argues as he narrows the already short distance between them. “The rules have been changed and now I’m given a choice that hasn’t been open to anyone for hundreds of years.”

“Are you saying this so you can turn around and have a good laugh at me?” Merlin says bitterly, glancing around him to be sure that their privacy remained. “Because if you are, I don’t think it’s very funny. I’m having a hard enough time with this as it is. I can’t deal with anything more.” For a moment the Omega male seems close to tears. Pressing his lips tightly as if afraid to say anything more, Merlin makes to move around Arthur so to return to his friends.

“I’m not making fun of you.” Arthur says, holding out a hand to halt Merlin’s escape. “I’m trying to have an honest conversation with you.” Looking Merlin in the eyes, the Prince sighs softly. “We don’t have much time and for once we need to be completely candid with each other.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Merlin says diverting his gaze to the ground.

Reaching out, Arthur places two fingers under Merlin’s chin and lifts. When their eyes meet, Arthur says, “You know exactly what I mean so don’t pretend ignorance. Perhaps we can start with what we’re thinking or feeling.”

“I….I” Merlin sputters out uncomfortably. “I’m confused, alright. I have urges like any other man, and I’m not a girl no matter what I thinking I want done to me.” He says as the tips of his ears turn bright read and unshed tears well up in his eyes. “I’m a freak, Arthur, and you should do everything you can to stay away from me or everyone will think there’s something wrong with you too.”

“Merlin, you are not a freak and there is no mistaking you for a girl.” Arthur hisses firmly as he lowers his fingers from Merlin’s chin and draws closer so that his breath brushes against the other man’s cheek. “And, you’re not the only one confused. And I’m having a hard time understanding why I can’t stop thinking if you like the same sort of touches that I like, and I can't stop wondering how it’ll feel when I bury myself deep inside you.” Shaking his head, the Prince adds, “I don’t think these things when I look at other men. Those thoughts are only for you. Your scent and the sight of you overpowers everything and I’ve had such urges that I should never associate with you but the feelings and urges are there and I can’t deny it.”

Swallowing hard, causing his adam’s apple to bob sharply, “But I’ll be an embarrassment to you. I barely managed as a servant.”

“That’s true,” Arthur says with a smirk. “You are positively useless as a servant.”

Pressing his lips together in a frown, Merlin looks down to hide the sting felt by Arthur’s quick agreement at his failure as a servant.

“But you have all the necessary qualities I need in consort.” Arthur says with a smile. “All things considered, you really only have one major flaw that concerns me.”

Befuddled, Merlin looks up with a furrowed brow and asks, “What’s that?”

“You have a complete and utter lack of an instinct for self-preservation.” Arthur says staring the other man directly in the eye.

“Oh.” Merlin replies, dumbstruck for a moment. “With all the things that might come up with taking me as your consort, that’s the only thing that concerns you? Arthur, you’re really not thinking this through like you should. What’s going to happen when you realize that I’m not worth the headaches? You’re my friend and I can’t bear the thought that I might lose that.” Merlin says looking down once more as tears begin to well up again. This time the tears escape his eyes and streak down his cheeks unchecked.

“Merlin, I’ve always said that there is something about you, and while I still don’t know what that something is, every instinct I have is telling me that you are the only choice I can make.” Arthur says with conviction as he lifts his hands up to cup Merlin’s face. Brushing away the tears, he adds. “It may sound very odd, but it’s like we’re two sides of the same coin and I need you if I am to have any hope to fulfill my purpose in life. “

Wide eyed in surprise at how closely Arthur’s words mirrored what the dark haired young man had come to accept as the truth about their future, Merlin opens his mouth to reply. His thoughts and anything that he might have said is lost as a shout from the opposite side of the tent interrupts.

“Sir Hengist!” Lady Diane shouts in outrage as she slaps his hand. “I certainly did not invite you to explore.”

“You said you needed someone to hold you.” Sir Hengist says holding both hands up for all to see that he was not in fact touching anything.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, and clearly growing impatient with the interactions, Gaius takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “Ladies, gentlemen, I think perhaps it would be best if we called this visit to an end.” Gaius says as he lowers his hand and looks around the room. “It’s been a very long day and tomorrow will be equally long.”

“We’ve barely had the chance to speak with everyone we might consider for a match.” Lady Rebecca complains.

“I have to agree with the Lady,” Gwaine adds. “I’ve not had a chance to chat with Merlin, and I have a few more stories to share with the ladies. I’d hate to deprive anyone of a good story and time with me.”

Jessica laughs softly. “I think you’re smitten with life, Gwaine. I can’t see any one person holding you down to a single choice and if you do make a choice it would have to be someone who could tolerate your flirtatious nature.”

“Perhaps,” Gwaine agrees with a laugh of his own. “But then it might be your teasing talk that brings it out in me.”

“Gaius is right.” Arthur says as he takes a step towards the Court Physician. “The scents in this tent are strong enough that they’re overriding sound judgment.”

“Perhaps for the lesser of our company.” Sir Michael says rudely.

“Most among us are conducting themselves appropriately even with the influences of our current condition.” Lord Kedington says adding his own opinion to support Sir Michael’s comment.

“Influences upon behavior are not on the Alphas alone.” Sir Leon says, “The Omegas are also affected.”

“I doubt any among us wish to end the visit, but it is our role to lead in both behavior and example.” Lancelot says in a cool even tone.

“Say your goodnights and go.” Gaius says with more confidence than he had when he called an end to the night.

“That includes us, Ladies.” Morgana adds after bestowing one final smile towards Sir Leon. “We’ll need our rest as much as everyone else. Tomorrow promises to be a busy day for one and all.”

“Lady Morgana is quite right.” Gaius says in agreement as he ushers the visitors away from his charges. “Thank you all for coming, and good luck to all of you in the games tomorrow.”

~*~*~

As the morning of the final day of competition dawns Camelot wakes to a level of tension that is both exciting and overwhelming. The Omegas pheromones are at their highest point, which in turn brings even the most stable Alpha to the point of distraction. Instinct is powerful, and it is only the greater intelligence of the human race that keep order within the walls of Camelot.

Shortly after dawn, a knock sounds firmly on Prince Arthur’s door. Caught in the midst of dressing in his hunting leathers, he looks up at the door and snarls out. “Enter!”

“You sound positively pleasant this morning. Are you all ready to bleed and break a few bones?” Morgana calls out as she enters the Crown Prince’s room. The green silk of her gown swishes softly as she crosses the chamber to the table. “Oh look, your temporary manservant has made sure to bring enough breakfast to feed a wild beast.” Looking over her shoulder she eyes the Prince. “I suppose that would be you. Even Leon has been a bit testy this morning. What is it with men and the need to breed?”

“Morgana, I’ve absolutely no patience to listen to your nonsense this morning.” Arthur snarls back as he tightens the buckle on his belt. “I need to eat and get down to the competition field. That leaves me with no time to entertain you so be quick about telling me what you want before you leave.”

Moving around the table, the King’s Ward takes a seat across from Arthur’s normal chair. “I wanted to know what you said to Merlin last night.” Morgana says as he reaches across the spread of food to take a slice of apple. “He looked to be in a state of shock when we were leaving. As I stepped out of the tent it looked as if he disappearing off to bed without saying a word. Gaius looked a little worried so I promised him that I’d speak to you.”

“Don’t you have your own business to worry about?” Arthur says as he moves to the table. “Or do you take some particular delight in sticking your nose into mine.”

“Oh it is partially for the delight, I assure you,” Morgana says as she reaches for another apple. “But if you must know, I can’t help but feel a little protective of Merlin. He’s like a wounded puppy at the moment and he needs someone to look out for his best interest.”

“I’m taking full responsibility for Merlin and his needs so you can go back to minding your own business.” Arthur says in a low threatening voice. “I will not have anyone interfere with him or what he needs.”

“Do you really think Merlin will be so easily bullied into accepting your intent to take charge of his life and his future especially since your primary interest is to mount him like a primitive beast?” Morgana replies with a hard glare. “He trusts you so it’s your responsibility to support his emotional needs while you’re satisfying your physical ones.”

“Are we really talking about this?” Arthur snaps out with anger.

“You barely acknowledge him as a friend and even then it's when no one is around to witness it, and now you’re going to take him as your mate. Do you have any idea how he feels about all this? Do you even care if he’s terrified?” Morgana asks as she leans back in her chair. “The fool cares for you and has always gone out of his way to see to your needs, but this might be asking too much from him unless you’re willing to invest some time and effort.”

“He’s adaptable, and much stronger than he looks.” Arthur says defensively with a frown as Morgana’s words begin to break through his distractions. “And I’ve stood up against my father over Merlin before. He knows I’ll protect him.”

Shaking her head, she leans forward slightly while gripping the arms of the chair. “Have you ever thought about his position in all this or how you would react in his position? A week ago, the world looked upon him with the expectations of a regular man who might someday marry a woman and father a child, and now he’s facing an expectation similar to a woman. And the worse part for him, he probably woke up this morning in a painful state that has him craving to be penetrated over and over until there is no doubt that he carries a child. Emotionally, he's bound to be a wreck.”

“You aren’t helping Morgana.” Arthur complains roughly as he reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose hoping to calm the burning red in his cheeks. “Everything he’s feeling, I feel on the opposite side. His needs mirror my needs with such intensity that it’s a real effort to keep from going to him at this very moment. I want to do everything right, and I do want to make it as easy as possible for Merlin." Stopping a moment, he looks intently into Morgana's eyes. "I swear I’m doing the best I can to contain my urges. We've talked a little, but even I know we haven't talked enough. The worst part is we won't be able to talk anytime soon because if he's feeling half of what I'm feeling it'll be days before we are capable of stringing more than a few words together.”

“Well, I suppose that’s the best anyone could ask for, and it does seem as if you've given some thought to the matter.” Morgana says with a smile. “So with that said, let me offer a little advise. If you want to have the energy to make it through both matches and then any celebratory activities afterwards, I suggest that you sit down and eat.” Morgana says as she sits back in her chair.

Dropping down into his chair, Arthur picks up his fork and stabs a slice of ham. “How is it that everyone else seems to be going through their own brand of torment, and you are gliding along unaffected enough to put forth some effort to add to my torment?” Arthur asks between bites of ham.

“Haven’t you heard? I’m the lead female Alpha.” Morgana quips out as she reaches for a grape. “According to the other Alpha women, that makes me Queen of the Bitches.” She adds with a smirk. “And even you have to admit that I make a spectacular Queen.”

~*~*~

While the Alphas prepare for their matches and tuck in their breakfast, the Omegas are urged to prepare as well. “Merlin! Ladies! It’s time to rise and prepare for the day.” Gaius calls out from the common area of the Omegas tent. Hearing various mutterings of complaint and a few curses, the Court Physician slips into Merlin’s sleeping area. “Merlin, are you awake.”

“Leave me alone,” Merlin groans softly as his arm stretches upwards to cover his face. “Please, just leave me alone.” He adds in a lower voice filled with pain.

“Merlin, I’ve finally had a chance to finish looking through the book that Geoffrey gave me.” Gaius says quietly as he moves closer to the bed. “And I’ve made the potion recommended in the book for Omegas with magic.” He adds in a voice barely above a whisper. Sitting down on the edge of the cot, the Court Physician reaches out to gently lay a hand upon Merlin’s shoulder.

“Don’t!” Merlin shouts as he draws away from the older man gasping as if burned by the encounter. Drawing his breath sharply in and out through his teeth, the Warlock is clearly in pain from the light touch. “Gaius it hurts, my magic is boiling under my skin. I need…..my magic seems like it’s trying to help but instead, it has me on fire.” Taking two large gulps of air, Merlin withers on his cot.

Staring curiously at his fingers where he’d touched the warlock, Gaius gently shakes out the mild sting that prickles atop his skin. “Your magic is amplifying the instinctual yearnings felt by all Omegas. There’s a chance that it’s working to attract a mate without your knowing for sure. The potion I’m made claims to ease some of the added discomfort and calm your magic so it won’t interfere with finding and bonding to an Alpha.”

“Do you have it with you?” Merlin asks shifting uncomfortably on the cot. “I’m willing to try anything to stop the burning.”

“Oh, yes. I have it right here,” Gaius says as he slips his hand into an inner pocket of his robes. “I’ve made several bottles for you since the effects last only four to five hours. The book recommends that the long term solution of bonding the Omega to an Alpha as quickly as possible.” Stretching out his hand, the older man offers the small vial containing a bright blue liquid to his ward. “Since three rounds of competition are scheduled for today, I’ve made four treatments. It should be enough to get you properly bonded.”

With shaking hands, Merlin grasps the vial and brings it to his lips. Slowly tipping back the vial, the Warlock slowly swallows the liquid, grimacing at the taste as it goes down. “What else was in the book?” Merlin asks in a strained voice.

The Court Physician carefully looks over his wards shivering form. “There was very little that we didn’t already know, save for the effects magic has over your body’s response to the Omegas yearnings and later the effects your magic will have on your bond with your Alpha.”

“Bond?” Merlin asks with a frown. “You mean marriage, yeah?”

“Early on, I mentioned that an Omega is a risk to themselves and others until bonded to an Alpha. Or at least I think I mentioned it.” Gaius says gently with an expression of consideration for all that has been said about the Omegas. “For the most part, this bonding is a chemical reaction where the Omega absorbs some of the Alphas chemical characteristics, changing their scent so that it identifies the Omega as mated and bonded to a specific Alpha. It’s a rather remarkable process.”

“Is there any part of this that is simple?” Merlin groans with frustration. “And how does magic affect this chemical bond?”

“Well, the book warns that when one or both of the partners has magic, a bond between an Alpha and an Omega goes beyond the chemical to the point that emotions, and depending on the strength of the magic holder, thoughts and memories as well.” Gaius says in a whisper so to keep the conversation private. “The potion I gave you calms your magic and will decrease the aggressive depth of your initial bond.” Tilting his head to one side and furrowing his brow, the Physician adds, “From what was written, I believe that the potion lessens the shock from the power that might be felt by the non-magic holder.”

“So Arthur will potentially learn that I have magic the minute we…….” Merlin says in a panic as he painfully pushes himself into a sitting position. “Arthur can’t find out like this.” He says as he stumbles off the cot to stand uneasily on his feet. Gathering up his blanket like a frightened child, Merlin stares fearfully at his mentor. “I can go into the catacombs, or somewhere deep under the castle. I can cause a collapse and block myself off from everyone.”

Rising to his feet, Gaius raises his hands in a placating gesture. “Merlin, you can’t leave now, it isn’t safe.” Gaius says gently, “You’d never make it to the castle let alone down into the catacombs.”

“What am I going to do?” Merlin whines as he drops back down to sit on his cot.

“Perhaps the potion will dull the effect to the point that your magic won’t be noticed.” Gaius says sympathetically. Sitting down beside the younger man, the Court Physician stares intently at the ground. “So,” He says glancing up. Lifting a brow high onto his forehead, he asks, “So Prince Arthur wishes to bond with you. Your mother will be pleased. She thinks very highly of the Prince.”

Disbelief flickers over Merlin’s face. “That doesn’t help Gaius…..”

~*~*~

Chapter Text

Carefully inspecting each Omega reveals them all to have the same edge of impatience as well as an inability to sit still. “I’ve brewed some calming tea for all of you should impatience get the best of you.” Gaius says sympathetically. He points to a large metal pitcher sitting off to the side of the Omegas sitting area.

“ …….round two of the competition will take place on horseback. In addition, each competitor will then be given a staff. The object of the match will be for each competitor to unseat their opponent in any manner available. The winner of each match will move on to the next round.” Pausing to look upon the twelve competitors, the King grins. “May the best man win the day!” Turning he motions for Lady Lillian to come forth to announce the first two participants.

“Sir Alan and Sir Sigbert, please take the field!” Lady Lillian calls out with excitement. She waits as the two Knights ride onto the field, each carrying a simple staff. “Begin!” she calls out when the Knights nod to signal their readiness.

The rhythmic pounding of the horses hooves against the firm ground excite the crowd as the two knights being their effort with a full charge to see who between the two will pull away first. The crowd cheers wildly as Sir Sigbert jerks the reins of his mount, causing the animal to veer away from the other knight’s animal. The initial collision is avoided, but Sir Alan brings his horse around in a full circle and pushes into a second charge. Lowering his staff as a lance he looks the picture of a madman.

Sir Sigbert brings his staff up and then quickly snaps it down, aiming to hit Sir Alan’s staff. Had the effort worked, it stood a chance to disarm and perhaps unseat Sir Alan, but the aim goes off and Sir Sigbert manages to strike his own animal’s forequarter. The accidental smack against Sir Sigbert’s own horse causes the animal to jump unexpectedly to the right. Sigbert is startled by the horses sudden move so in the blink of an eye, the knight is unseated. The Victory goes to Sir Alan.

The crowd cheers Sir Alan as he trots his horse along the outer edge of the field. Bowing first to the King and his ward, Sir Alan makes a pass by the Omega stands were he throws a kiss to Lady Rebecca.

With the first round over, Shelia steps forward to announce the second match of the round. In a loud commanding voice she calls for Sir Amos and Sir Leon to take the field. When the two knights nod to signal that their ready, Shelia bellows out “Begin!” With that single word, the Knights rally into a charge and the crowd rises up in a cheer.

As the two animals draw near enough to worry about a collision, Sir Leon’s horse rears up. Showing expert horsemanship, Sir Leon hangs on, and in fact turns the animal as it dances on his back legs. What might have unseated Sir Leon now is a danger to Sir Amos. Backing his mount, the other knight has to dodge hooves striking out from the rearing animal.

In a crowd pleasing show of horsemanship, balance, and keen strategy, Sir Leon jabs his staff at Sir Amos who has his attention on avoiding hooves. When the staff hits him squarely in the chest, a look of surprise washes over the knights face Sir Amos falls back off his horse with his arms flapping uselessly in an attempt to remain atop the horse. Sir Leon wins the match! Trotting along the field in victory, Sir Leon pauses his animal before the royal box so that he can bow to the King and then to the Lady Morgana who in turn offers an accepting nod of approval.

When Sir Leon departs the field, Lady Diane steps forward to announce the third match of the round. “Sir Hengist and Lancelot, please take the field.” She announces. Without hesitation the two men ride out onto the field and quickly signal their readiness. “Begin!”

Sir Hengist’s horse shifts sideways before acknowledging his riders kick to charge forward. At the same instant, Lancelot is charging forward on his own horse. As the two riders come within an arm’s length, the knight swings his staff, aiming to sweep his opponent off his horse. At the same instant, Lancelot crouches forward and readies his staff for a quick jab as he passes by the knight. Sir Hengist’s strike whistles harmlessly through the air and Lancelot’s jab unbalances the Knight.

The heavier than average Knight nearly falls off his horse to the right. As he begins to fall, he grasps the horse’s mane in order to compensate for the shift in his balance. The horse does not take the sudden shift of weight nor the sudden tug on its mane very well. In retaliation, the animal hops left then right, then turns around. What Lancelot’s staff started, the horse finishes when the horses odd movements unseat the Knight, tossing him to the ground. With that, Lancelot takes the match.

Riding along the outer edge of the competition field the common born Alpha bows to the King, and then waves to the cheering crowd. His last stop on the field is in front of the Omega box where he offers a bright smile and a bow of his head to his lady, Gwen. Gwen in turn blushes fiercely and grabs Merlin’s arm to whisper her delight.

Morgana rises up from her seat to present the fourth match. “Lord Carthdill and Prince Arthur, you’re called to the field!” she calls out with a glance towards the Alphas waiting area. Only a few seconds pass before two horses thunder out onto the field. The competitors glare at each other intently, but they both manage to signal that they are ready and perhaps a little eager to begin. “Begin!” she shouts. Remaining on her feet, she watches with delight as the two men coax their mounts into a fast and furious charge. Their positions in the saddle are much like a jousters and it becomes clear that they both mean to utilize their staff like a lance. It’s both a daring and a dangerous move.

As the two men near each other, Arthur leans to the right, making a smaller target of his left side. At the same time, the Prince adjusts his aim with the blunt end of the staff so that it’ll graze the other man’s shoulder. The sound of collision mingles with a sharp collective gasp from the audience. Lord Carthdill falls back over the hindquarter of his horse and the nobleman is dragged by his right foot which is tangled in the stirrup. As the horse nears the barrier around the tournament field, the animal slows and is quickly captured by an attentive squire.

Several seconds of complete silence fills the time from when the knight falls from his horse to the point in which his runaway horse is captured. It’s almost as if the crowd is waiting to determine if Carthdill is unharmed. When he waves a hand to acknowledge his loss, the people in the observation stands rise to their feet and a deafening cheer fills the air for their Princes victory.

Riding his horse on a victory lap around the competition field, the Prince pauses in front of the Royal box where he bows to his father the King. He pauses only a moment more to offer Morgana an arrogant grin. From there, he guides his horse to a stop in front of the Omega box where he throws a smirk in Merlin’s direction before trotting off the field.

“Merlin, Gwen, would you mind going back to the tent to get the last pitcher of tea?” Gaius asks as in frustration as he holds up the empty pitcher of calming tea. “I hadn’t expected to go through a whole pitcher so early in the matches.”

“Sure, no problem Gaius.” Merlin says rising to his feet.

“Take several guards with you.” Gaius calls out as he turns his attention back to calming a very flustered Lady Bridget.

“I’ll go in Gwen’s place if you don’t mind.” Lady Rebecca says as she stands and moves quickly to the Omega male. “If I sit much longer I’ll go mad.”

“That’s fine.” Gwen says as she returns her attention back across the tournament field. From her current position, she can see Lancelot’s handsome face. “I’ve had a couple mugs of tea so I’m fine just sitting her watching.” Sighing happily, she tilts her head in adoration as her attention remains focused on Lancelot sitting with the Alpha winners sitting in the stands across the field.

“Merlin,” Gaius says stopping the Warlock before he departs the stands. “You need to take this,” he says in a low voice as he passes a vial of bright blue potion. “To contain the….” The Court Physician coughs rather than finishing the last of the sentence.

“Right.” Merlin says as he accepts the vial. Quickly uncorking the bottle, he downs the potion in a single swallow. Passing the empty vial back to Gaius, he offers a grateful smile. “Thanks Gaius.”

Gathering up two guards as escorts, Merlin and Lady Rebecca walk towards their tent at an easy pace. From the field, they listen as Lady Diane calls forth Lord Kedington and Sir Michael for their match. They enter their tent as the sound of horse hooves striking the ground echoes through the air. At that moment sounds from the field are followed by blinding white stars and finally blackness as the four who entered the Omega tent are knocked out.

On the Tournament field, the match between Lord Kedington and Sir Michael proves to be the longest match of the second round. After the initial charge, both competitors seem to be driven to demonstrate expertise with the staff rather than to seek out a well-placed strike to win the match.

“Knock em off their horse!” Someone from the stands calls out. The shout is quickly followed by laughter from the audience.

Both men ignore the crowd and continue to exchange strikes, one after the other in a pattern that almost sounds like the rhythmic beating of a drum. “Get on with it! We still have one more match to go before the next round!” Gwaine calls out impatiently from the sidelines. Turning to say something to Sir John since they are both waiting for their match, he finds his opponent staring intently across the field.

Following his opponents gaze, Gwaine stares curiously at the Omega tent before returning his gaze back to the Knight. Frowning deeply, the roguish Alpha glances next at the Omega observation stands. Finding two of the Omegas missing, he turns once more back to watch Sir John. Before he can question anything, the match on the field ends with Lord Kedington finally earning the win.

As Kedington makes his victory lap around the field, the last two competitors mount up so to be ready for the call. When Gwaine finds Sir John continuing to show the Omega tent an uncommon amount of interest, he sets his jaw as if coming to a decision.

When Lady Lillian calls Gwaine and Sir John to the field, both men urge their mounts out onto the field. Gwaine however heads straight to the Omega stands to confirm the absence of two Omega’s before turning his mount to pass in front of the Omega tent.

“Competitors are asked to make ready!” Lady Lillian calls out, clearly frustrated at Gwaine’s erratic actions.

Gwaine lifts his hand to acknowledge the order, but instead of complying he sends his horse galloping across the field towards the barrier where the winners from previous matches stand to watch. Bringing his horse to a quick stop, Gwaine urgently motions Prince Arthur to come forward.

“What’s wrong?” Arthur asks, having guessed that something was off.

“Competitors are to either make ready or forfeit the match!” Lady Lillian shouts out, pointedly staring in Gwaines direction.

“Sir John was paying a close attention to the Omega tent,” Gwaine blurts out quickly. “And, at the moment there are two Omegas missing from the observation stand.” He adds with a hurried voice. “When I made a pass near the tent, I thought I saw what looks like a boot laying near the tent entrance. Something feels off and it needs to be checked out.”

Arthur nods intensely. “Good man, now go before you forfeit your place in the competition.”

Gwaine nods and skillfully turns his horse, returning to a ready position upon the field. Nodding to his opponent, and then a second time to acknowledge that he’s ready to go, Gwaine leans forward slightly with his staff bowed forward along his left side.

“Begin!” Lady Lillian calls out.

At the signal, the two men spur their horses forward into a charge. They pass each other at high speed with both successfully dodging the first jab of their opponents spear. Gwaine quickly wheels his horse around and pushes the animal forward to pursue Sir John. Gwaines second strike lands soundly against Sir John’s shoulder, causing the Knights own strike to go astray. The crowd calls out, cheering wildly for Gwaine as the favorite to win the match.

On the side of the field, Prince Arthur brings Gwaines observations at the Omega tent to his father’s personal guards who in turn bring it to the Kings attention. Without hesitation, the King sends two Knights to investigate. At the same moment, Gaius appears to be agitated as he steps down from the viewing stands to peer towards the Omega tent. After a moment of wringing his hands, the Court Physician motions for two guards to go in search of the missing Omegas.

In a brilliant move, Gwaine leans back in his saddle and makes a strong jab that catches Sir John in the side, sending the Knight tumbling to the ground. Gwaine wins the round. The roguish young man turns in his seat towards the crowd with expectations of approval, but instead finds a whispering crowd enthralled with the drama that is unfolding across the field at the Omega tent.

Shifting in his saddle, Gwaine catches sight of Sir John backing away from the field towards the opposite side of where he should be retreating to. “Hold there!” he calls out as he turns his horse and nudges the animal forward to pursue the suspicious Knight.

Catching sight of Gwaines pursuit sends Sir John into a full retreat. Turning around to put his back to the field and anyone pursuing him, the Knight takes off at a run, jumping up and over the barrier, and weaving in and around various obstacles. “Don’t let him get away!” Gwaine calls out as he weaves his horse through a series of frustrating obstacles.

Chaos erupts around the tournament field as Gwaine’s alert draws the attention of a few guards assigned to the Omegas, several victors from previous matches, and a good number of common folk with the good sense to pay attention. Blocking Sir John’s escape a wall of peasants manage to slow the Knight down long enough so to allow the guards to capture the escaping knight.

“Gaius!” Arthur calls out as he pushes through the huddle of guards outside the Omega tent. “Gaius, where’s Merlin? What happened?”

A distraught Court Physician looks up from examining the unmoving form of a guard. “Arthur,” he says clearly struggling to keep his voice even and focused. “He’s gone, Sire. He and Lady Rebecca have been taken.”

Chapter Text

~*~*~

“It should not have happened,” Gaius mutters unhappily after his announcement of the abduction. A mixture of worry and guilt make him seem much older than his years. “They are completely defenseless.” Slipping a hand a pocket in his robes, the Court Physician withdraws a small vial with a bright blue potion. Twirling the neck of the vial small bubbles churn around at the top of the potion. “Four hours …….”

If anyone had been paying attention to the Physician’s odd behavior, it might have raised questions. People might have questioned his words and wondered what was in the vial. While the older man’s words are low and grave, there are others loudly drawing the attention of everyone present.

“How could I possibly take an Omega while I was on the field in everyone’s full view?” Sir John complains loudly to the guards holding him captive. “Find someone who has a grudge against the Prince. He’s the only one I know that’s interested in laying claim to the boy.” The expression held on the Knight’s face was one of smug satisfaction. “Maybe someone just wants to test out the boy to be sure he’s worthy of the Prince’s affections.”

Prince Arthur’s reaction is instantaneous. In the blink of an eye, the smart mouthed Knight goes from being held by a pair of Guards to flat on his back courtesy of an angry Alpha. “Where. Is. He!” Arthur snarls over and over as he pounds his fists into Sir John’s face. Shock, surprise, and a partial agreement with the Prince’s reaction gives Arthur enough time to do a good bit of damage to Sir John’s face before the fellow competitors manage to drag Arthur back to his feet and away from the now bloody Knight.

Spitting out a tooth and a mouth full of blood, Sir John is roughly dragged to his feet. “Whoever arranged for the kidnapping of your Omega is probably pleased with your reaction.” the Knight mutters as he gingerly pokes at a bruise on his cheek. “They might also be interested in how much pain you’re feeling while being denied what you want.”

Five men are quick to react and even then they are hard pressed to contain Arthur’s efforts to renew his attack. “Arthur, calm down.” Morgana demands as she arrives to the sideline of the disruption.

“We tried that my lady,” Gwaine says as he’s jerked forward when Arthur attempts to grab at Sir John. “It didn’t work”

“He’s handling this rather well,” Lord Kedington growls as he adjusts his grip on the Princes leather Jerkin. “If the bastard were hurling taunts at me, I’d be mindless with fury seeking to do the same or more.”

“You know he’s responsible for their disappearance.” Arthur spits out.

“Does ‘win by any means possible’ mean anything to you?” Sir John hisses out. “The win in the end is all that counts.”

“Can someone gag him?” Sir Leon calls out in frustration as he takes his turn at being dragged forward by the Princes newest effort to get his hands on the mouthy knight.

Arriving in time to hear Sir John’s latest remark and his son’s reaction, the King takes charge. “Take him to the dungeon,” Uther says to the Guards holding Sir John. “I’ll be down shortly to personally discuss the matter with him.” With a wave of his hand, he sends them on their way.

Turning to Prince Arthur, the King moves to stand before his son. “And you will calm down. You have a tournament to complete.” Glancing into the faces of the other competitors, he adds, “You are all to return your attentions to the tournament.” Glancing towards Sir Leon, the King asks, “Who is covering your duties while you’re participating in this tournament?”

“Sir Brian, Sire.” Sir Leon replies quickly, still struggling with his fellow competitors to contain the angry Crown Prince.

“Have him gather a dozen Knights under Lord Cleriff. By my order they are to begin tracking the missing Omegas and their captors.” Uther orders firmly.

“Yes Sire,” Sir Leon says, cautiously releasing his hold on the Prince. The Prince remains clearly angry and on edge, but with the target his anger removed he appears safe to release. Nodding to the others who stand ready to contain the Prince should the need arise, Sir Leon hurries off to take Sir Brian the King’s message.

“How can we be expected to focus on these games when two Omegas, two intended mates, are in danger?” Arthur shouts in anger.

“You will not defy me on this matter, Arthur. When Sir Leon returns, you and the others will complete your competition in the Tournament.” Uther says in a low threatening voice that could easily be mistaken for a snarl. “I have a dozen knights preparing to follow the trail and I feel confident that we’ll have them back before nightfall. There is nothing you can do to help in the search for the missing Omegas. ”

“I should be the one to do the questioning ….” Arthur growls back, stubbornly pushing to do something.

“You will obey me!” The King says, his voice booming out over the Tournament field. After the quick burst of anger, Uther calms and lowers his voice. “I need you to continue in this tournament so you can take your proper place in the hierarchy. You have my word that both Merlin and Lady Rebecca will be returned!”

“I don’t often do this, but I do agree with Uther about finishing the tournament.” Morgana says sympathetically as she reaches out to place a reassuring hand upon her foster brother’s arm. "I know it won’t be easy, but it gives you the right to name your choice.”

Pressing his lips tightly together, Arthur’s expression is far from happy. “Fine,” he snaps out. “When it’s over …..” He adds, carefully eyeing his father’s expression.

”When it’s over then no one will stand in your way to rightfully claim your Omega.” Uther says with a firm tone that expresses both strength and understanding. “Until then, accept my pledge that I will do anything to assure the safe return of the missing Omega’s.” He says flatly with a strange hint of fear reflecting in his eyes.

Both Arthur and Morgana stare at Uther for several long moments, looking for some hint to explain the King’s odd expression. “Will you be announcing the third round, Sire?” Morgana asks as Arthur departs to join the victors of the second round.

“The sooner the match begins, the closer we are to finishing.” Uther says as he returns to the other side of the field.

~*~*~

The absence of warmth and comfort, the irritating scent of mold and mildew, the curious rhythmic dripping of water, and finally the sensation of a dull ache in the back of his head, all combine to lure Merlin from his unconscious state. Moving slightly, he moans as the ache in his head turns into a sharp throbbing pain. “Wha … happened.” He mutters as he struggles to shake off the fuzziness in his head.

“Quiet,” Lady Rebecca says in a whisper. “They don’t know we’re awake yet.”

“Huh?” Merlin says, blinking his eyes open. “Who?”

“They hit you harder than they hit me. The back of your head is bleeding.” Lady Rebecca whispers with a sob. “Please be quiet. I don’t want to know what they’re going to do with us.”

Reaching up a shaking hand, Merlin rubs his face as he becomes more awake. “Do you know what happened?” he asks, painfully turning towards his fellow Omega.

“We were hit when we entered the tent.” Rebecca says quietly. “That is the last thing I remember before waking up here.”

Shifting his position to sit up, Merlin winces from the pain. Moving his hand to the back of his head, he carefully probes the bump on the back of his head. “Ow,” he complains quietly. “It’s still bleeding.” He mutters in a low voice. Bringing his hand forward, he frowns at his bloody fingers.

“What can I do?” Rebecca asks as she wrings her fingers nervously.

“M’okay,” Merlin hisses softly as he looks around their environment searching their jail. “We’re in a cave?” He says with a furrowed brow as he takes in the shadows, rocks, stalactites and stalagmites. “Not far from Camelot.” He adds lifting his nose to draw in a breath to catch the scents. “I can still smell the Prince and a hint of Gwaine.”

“I thought I was imagining things when I caught the scent of Sir Alan.” Rebecca whispers with a sigh of relief. “If we’re not far then it won’t be long until we’re found.”

“You’re probably right.” Merlin agrees as he tilts his head slightly to listen for hints about their captor’s identity and purpose.

“Do you suppose they’ll ask for a ransom?” Rebecca asks. “I’m of noble blood, and everyone can tell that the Prince is keen to make you his consort.” Pausing, the scared young lady searches Merlin’s face. “Do you think it will be as simple as that?”

“We’ll get through this my Lady,” Merlin says in a soft voice, offering a small measure of comfort.

“I know I haven’t been the nicest towards you. I’m sorry.” Rebecca says with a small smile. “And out of all the Omegas, I’m glad it’s you with me right now.”

“Planning your escape?” A deep masculine voice says from the shadows at the back of the cave. “Let me save you the effort. The only way out is past me and the boys. If you go deeper into the cave you risk being eaten by the monster that lives there.”

“What do you want with us?” Merlin asks as he turns to the sound of the voice. Narrowing his eyes slightly to adjust to the lack of light, the dark haired young man is able to make out the shape of a large man.

“I personally have absolutely no use for either of you.” The man says as he steps out of the shadows.

“You’d get a fine sum asking for a ransom.” Lady Rebecca interjects as she scoots a little closer to Merlin. “The ransom would be paid for both of us.”

“He’s already bought and paid for.” The man says as he stares at the Lady. “But you, you were an afterthought. About half want to use you and then sell you into slavery, a few want to use you then slit your throat, and a handful want to increase our profits by ransoming you.“ The large man says as his face twists with a lecherous glare.

Gasping in fear, Rebecca grabs ahold of Merlin’s arm and buries her face in the fabric of his tunic. “You won’t survive if you attempt to use either of us.” Merlin says with a stubborn set of his jaw. “There are a number of people, including the Crown Prince of Camelot, who have a personal interest in our safety. As it is, just holding us is risking your life.”

The large man moves quickly. “Is that so?” He sneers as he grasps Merlin by the throat and hauls him roughly to his feet. Cowering on the ground, Lady Rebecca screams in surprise and fear as her fellow Omega is torn from her grasp. “And what makes you think that anyone is going to be able to find us?”

“Just let us go,” Rebecca whimpers as she cowers against the wall of the cave. “You’ll get a good ransom and no one will get hurt.”

Urgently digging at the hand gripping his neck, Merlin fights to free himself as his vision begins to blur from the lack of air. In the dim light of the cave an undetectable slender circle of gold glows brightly around Merlin’s blue irises. When nothing happens, the dark haired young man’s face fills with panic and his struggle becomes more desperate.

“Worthless bug,” The large man hisses as he tosses Merlin against the cave wall with a solid thud. “You’re lucky that your buyer paid the price for a live capture.” He says as the slender young man crumples to the ground. Turning a hateful glare towards Rebecca, the large man turns and disappears into the shadow.

“It doesn’t work,” Merlin sobs as he curls into a tight ball on the cave floor.

Glancing fearfully into the shadows and then towards Merlin, Rebecca crawls closer to the male Omega. “Are you okay?” she whispers fearfully. “Did he hurt you? What is it that doesn’t work?”

“M’fine.” Merlin says after a moment. Shifting slightly, the dark haired young man furiously wipes at his eyes to brush away his tears. “We can’t stay here.” He says flatly ignoring Rebecca’s last question. The only answer he could give her would reveal his magic. Magic which he just discovered wasn’t working at the moment. Facing helplessness for the first time in his life, he radiates fear.

“The King will have someone on their way to our rescue.” Lady Rebecca says with a blind confidence in the monarchy. “It can’t be much longer.”

Chewing on his lower lip, Merlin looks at Rebecca with doubt.

~*~*~

King Uther announces that the third round of the Tournament competition is ready to begin, and that the Lady Morgana will officiate over the event. As Morgana steps forward to announce that combat with staves is to be the challenge for round three of the Alpha male competition, the King slips away to the dungeon.

Sir Alan is called to stand against Sir Leon in the first match of the round. The match is fierce as Sir Alan channels his frustration over Lady Rebecca’s disappearance into raw aggressive anger against the other Knight. Parrying the first three strikes of Sir Alan’s strikes with his own weapon, Sir Leon demonstrates his superior skill with the staff. When Sir Leon turns offensive with a sudden jab to the ribs followed by an upward sweep of the staff, Sir Alan is quickly disarmed. With the end of Leon’s staff directed into his face, Sir Alan quickly yields and brings the match to an end. The first victory for the round goes to Sir Leon with Lady Morgana leading the cheer.

The second match is announced, calling Prince Arthur to the field with Lord Kedington. The combat has a rough start as Lord Kedington does little more than back away from the aggressive advances of the Prince. Glaring with the want for murder in his eyes, Prince Arthur mutters something low and angry before dropping the tip of his staff and suddenly sweeping it low and against the nobleman’s lower calves. Kedington’s staff goes flying as the man falls back with arms and legs flail about helplessly. With the swiftness of a predator, the Prince has the tip of his staff aimed solidly at Lord Kedington’s throat before the man can do anything to regain his feet. The instant Kedington yields a roar of approval sounds from both sides of the field.

The last two to be called to the field are Gwaine and Lancelot. Lancelot takes the lead, striking out with several quick jabs with his staff, all of which Gwaine dodges with an almost beautiful grace. Gwaines retaliation is a sweep of the staff at hip level followed by a jab and then a downward strike, all of which Lancelot manages to either parry or dodge. In a surprise move, Lancelot turns and quickly jabs his staff back into the center of Gwaines chest. As the roguish Alpha lands flat on his back he burst out in laughter. The laughter grows louder as Lancelot brings his staff to bear at the other man’s throat. Although it is Lancelot that wins the match, both men are cheered for their performance.

~*~*~

In the dungeon, Uther steps into Sir John’s cell and the Knight is on his feet bowing deeply.

“You have sworn your life and loyalty to me. Does this hold true?” Uther asks with his head raised regally.

“It does.” Sir John says with his head respectfully bowed. “You are my Lord and Liege.”

“As King it falls upon my shoulders to see that the Tournament of Leadership be conducted as it has since the gods first blessed the people of Camelot with this blessing of the wolf.” The King says as he watches for Sir John’s reaction. “Also, as King, it is my sacred duty to protect all Omegas and see them properly matched to an Alpha.”

Glancing up from his respectful posture, Sir John shifts his feet slightly.

“Are you involved in the disappearance of the two Omegas?” The King asks bluntly.

“I offer you no disrespect, my liege.” Sir John says nervously. “The Prince had me dismissed from the meeting with the Omegas.”

Lifting his hand to signal an end to the Knight’s words, the King asks, “Where are they being held?” His stare is hard, and his voice holds a hint of impatience.

The Knight delays his answer too long for the Kings liking. “You have until the count of five to end this without dishonor to your name and your family. Should you withhold the information beyond that I will bring my wrath down upon not only you but your family.” Tilting his head slightly in consideration, Uther adds, “One. Your parents still live do they not? And if I recall, you have two sisters and a younger brother.”

“Sire, I beg forgiveness” Sir John says as he begins to sweat.

“Two.” Uther says. “I also seem to recall that your Aunt and Uncle on your father’s side are here at Court.”

“You have to understand, Sire, the Prince embarrassed me in front of the Omegas.” The Knight says with a little retaliation.

“Three.” The King says, lifting his hand to inspect his fingernails.

“I can only tell you that the Omega man is being held at the mouth of the cave just south of the castle.” Sir John spits out quickly. “I can only guess the men I hired hold the other Omega in the same location.”

“Thank you.” Uther says, turning his back on the Knight. Walking out of the cell, the King pauses beside the master of the guard. “Kill him and have his body burned with the refuse pile.”

“You said I wouldn’t be dishonored if I told you!” Sir John shouts with a hint of hysteria.

“You die a Knight.” Uther says in a neutral tone that offers no sympathy. “You should consider that more honor than you deserve.”

~*~*~

“These three are our greatest champions. These three are leaders among all men and they are our future. Combat and skill has brought us to this point and now it is left to these three to determine the challenge to be faced.” Uther calls out, announcing the end of the third round and the beginning of the fourth and final round. “Have you decided on the challenge?”

“We have!” Prince Arthur calls out. “We have decided to continue combat with the staff. Three opponents will take the field at once. The winner of the Tournament will be declared when two of the three are defeated or when they have yielded. Second and third place will be determined by the order in which they are defeated or when they yield to the overall Tournament champion.” Glancing to the other two competitors, he waits for their nods of agreement.

“The terms are well thought out and reasonable.” King Uther says with his own nod of satisfaction. “You are free to begin.” Stepping back, the King lowers himself into the plush throne to watch the outcome of the final match.

Uther is barely seated when Morgana leans towards the King. “Did he tell you anything?” The King’s Ward asks, knowing full well that the King would know of whom she speaks. “Do you know where Merlin and Lady Rebecca are being held?”

Pausing with interest at the happenings on the field, the King watches as the three men retrieve their staves and gather in the center of the field. “The Knights have already departed to retrieve them.” Uther says sitting forward slightly so not to miss the first strike of the match. “The Omegas are not being held very far away so the wait will not be long.”

“And what of Sir John?” Morgana asks without hiding her disgust for the dishonored Knight.

“He is no longer a consideration.” The King says with a wave of his fingers.

Sir Leon, Lancelot, and Prince Arthur lift their staves up, angling them from their left shoulder to their right hip. “Ready?” Arthur asks, glancing first to Sir Leon and then to Lancelot. Both men nod.

What happens next is both startling and undeniably beautiful in its execution.

“My life and loyalty are offered to the King of Camelot and his heir. I Lancelot,” the handsome soft spoken young man says as he drops to his knees, “do now and in the future defer any authority and command to first our King and then to you, Prince Arthur.” Lowering his staff at Prince Arthur’s feet, Lancelot bows his head.

The people in the stands fall silent and wide eyed at Lancelot’s respectful and eloquent yielding of leadership. From the Omega stands Gwen looks to the kneeling man with such pride and approval that there is no doubt of her affections. Soft whispers begin to travel through the stands, and the Lady Morgana seems to be holding her breath as she turns her attention to Sir Leon.

“I Sir Leon of Camelot,” Sir Leon says, his voice rich with confidence of leadership and authority, “have sworn my life, loyalty, and fealty, to King and country.” He says dropping to his knees before Prince Arthur. “I live to honor and serve our King and his heir.” As Lancelot before him, Sir Leon lowers his staff at Prince Arthur’s feet, bowing his head respectfully.

Arthur’s adam’s apple bobs in his throat as the Prince swallows the emotions rising up in his chest. “You both honor me and in doing so have honored yourselves.” The Prince finally says in a deep voice. Stooping, he retrieves the two staves and turns towards the Royal box. Cradling all three staves across his forearms, Arthur moves forward with strong confident steps.

Rising to his feet, King Uther moves to the edge of the box to watch his son’s final approach with the pride of both a King and a Father. Although the tournament and all its ties to the world of magic he detests is being forced upon him, he cannot deny the great pride and satisfaction he feels at this moment.

Arthur comes to a halt before the royal box. “My King!” Arthur calls out, so to be heard by all. “I Prince Arthur Pendragon, Crown Prince of Camelot announce an end to the Tournament of Leadership. In doing so, I bring you the life and loyalty of Sir Leon first and then second I bring the life and loyalty of Lancelot of Camelot.” Dropping down on one knee, Arthur lays the staves on the ground before the King.

“You honor me with your offer.” King Uther calls out. “And in turn I honor you with accepting the offer.” Looking towards the expectant faces on both sides of the tournament field, the King smiles. “Let us give thanks to the gods for their Blessing of the Wolf bestowed upon the good people of Camelot. Let the Champions celebrate with their chosen match, also blessed by the gods as a union of marriage. And as our champions celebrate let the people of Camelot celebrate for three days with food, wine, and good cheer.”

Honoring a god’s blessing with a Tournament is cause enough to bring forth celebrations and song. But to add copulation, good food and drink, and an opportunity for song and dance, increases the excitement of the people to the point that the three day event promises to be a source of songs and tales for decades to come.

~*~*~

“Where is he?” Arthur asks as he approaches his father. While his tone is not disrespectful, it is hurried and barely restrained.

Uther presses his lips together as if considering possible responses to his son’s question. “Lord Cleriff and a dozen Knights have been sent to retrieve the Omegas from the mouth of the cave that lays to the south below the Castle.” He finally says in an even tone. “They should return in no more than an hour’s time.”

“That may be too late for Merlin, Sire.” Gaius says taking a hesitant step closer.

“Surely the boy can survive his urges for another hour.” King Uther says with disdain.

Gaius frowns, his emotions visibly at war between being offended by the King’s response and his own worry for his Ward. “It is not a simple matter of urges, Sire. An Omega male has unique biological aspects that must be treated during the delicate phase prior to the bonding to his Alpha.” The Court Physician says in a professional tone. “I have been treating him with a potion to stabilize the physical reactions to his cycle.”

“When does he need his next treatment?” Arthur asks with concern.

“He should be treated in less than an hour.” Gaius says softly.

“What will happen if he doesn’t receive the potion in time?” Arthur asks quickly.

“This morning, Merlin was in terrible pain from the effects of his cycle.” Gaius says hesitantly, “At the very least, the pain will return and based on the little information I have about male Omegas, at the worst it is suggested that all bodily functions will shut down, leading to eventual death.”

“Does Merlin know?” Arthur asks with concern.

Gaius shakes his head. “He has so much on his mind that I did not wish to burden him.” The Court Physician says softly as if being eaten by guilt. “He only knows that I am treating him with the potion to ease symptoms. And he is also aware that these symptoms would decrease and likely disappear once he is bonded to an Alpha.”

~*~*~

Chapter Text

“I need the potion.” Arthur says in a tone that was calmer than he should be able to muster. Laughter is heard all around them as the joyful celebration are taking off at the close of the Tournament. Alphas that were placed below the Prince in the leadership hierarchy are, one by one, making their matches with both Alpha women and Omegas. As the victor of the competition, the Crown Prince is still unmatched and still longing for his mate. Calm though he seems, the tight clench of his jaw, and the stiff set of his shoulders show that he is indeed affected.

“You,” He says making eye contact with one of his father’s personal guards, “Send someone to the stables with orders to meet me in the courtyard with my horse.”

The Guard nods his head and quickly departs to do the Prince’s bidding.

“I can ride with you,” Sir Leon offers as he takes a step from Lady Morgana’s side.

“In case things don’t go smoothly your combined strengths could easily sway the outcome in your favor.” Morgana adds with a supportive smile.

Shaking his head the Prince offers Sir Leon and Morgana a smile. “I won’t take from you what’s been denied to me for the moment.” Stepping towards Morgana, Arthur reaches out and gives her a gentle hug. “You and Leon are well matched. I am happy for you both.” Turning he offers Sir Leon his hand and the two men grasp each other’s forearms in a solid grasp. “Be good to her, she is dear to me.” Arthur says before leaning forward slightly to offer something more, “And, she’s dangerous when she’s not happy.”

Sir Leon laughs and nods his head as he turns a fond gaze to his lady. “I will be sure to keep her happy.”

“You should not ride alone.” King Uther says coming up behind the Prince. “I sent word to have another horse readied since there is another who is missing his match as well. Sir Alan will meet you in the courtyard.”

Nodding in silent agreement, Arthur turns to Gaius who had not moved since the Prince had asked for the potion. With a lift of his brow, he asks, “The potion? Do you have it?”

Slipping a hand into the pocket of his robe, the Court Physician withdraws the vial filled with the bright blue potion. Silently, Gaius offers the potion and the Prince is quick to take it.

Holding it up to the light, Arthur examines the potion with a furrowed brow. “How amazing that something so small can save a life.” Shaking his head slightly, the Prince tucks the vial into a small leather pouch attached to his belt. “Thank you,” He says to Gaius. Without another word, he hurries off to the castle.

The horses are being brought into the courtyard as Arthur arrives, but a desperate call from behind him keeps the Prince from rushing towards his mount. Finding no sign of Sir Alan, the Prince turns to allow his pursuer a few moments. He’s surprised to find a breathless Court Physician practically stumbling to catch up. “Gaius? What is it? Is there something more that Merlin needs when I reach him?”

Upon reaching the Prince the older man grasps Arthur’s arm and holds tight as he huffs and puffs in an effort to catch his breath. “Something…. More.” He gasps out in a desperate need to reveal additional information. “You must understand, Sire. When you give Merlin the potion you must take care to not touch him until it begins to work.” Gaius says nervously looking up into the Princes face and then to the ground with an expression of guilt.

The Prince’s expression twists with confusion and he tilts his head to carefully inspect the Physicians expression and reactions. “There’s something you’re not telling me.” Arthur says flatly with a hint of anger creeping into his tone. Arthur’s expression darkens as his suspicions grow. “Secrets put us in this position!” He snarls out as his reaction turns from impatience, to anger, and threatening. “Nothing about this situation has been easy so I need you to tell me everything. And it has to be absolutely everything Gaius.”

“It’s not Merlin’s fault. He wanted to tell you many times. We both thought there would be time.” Gaius blurts out, protectively. “None of us knew that the Blessing would rise up as it did. We had no way to know that he would be an Omega. We had no way to ….. “

“Gaius! Stop with the misdirection and the excuses. Tell me what I need to know,” Arthur demands, roughly grabbing the Court Physician’s upper arm. “I can’t help Merlin if you blind me by withholding information.”

“If-f-f the potion is allowed to fully wear off, Merlin is a danger.” Gaius says fearfully, stuttering slightly with hesitation to speak. “An Omega generates a powerful pheromone to attract a mate, and when they do mate they bond and their scent takes the signature of their mate.”

“You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. What does it have to do with Merlin being a danger?” Arthur says impatiently, jerking the Physician’s arm to hurry him to fully disclose all that he was hiding.

“A male Omega generates the strongest pheromones,” Gaius says quickly.

“Again, something I already know!” Arthur snaps clearly growing angrier with every word spoken. “I can catch his scent even now. Over the last days that scent has my blood boiling with a consuming need to claim him.”

“This attractant combines with Merlin’s other abilities and the attraction becomes more aggressive, and the bond deeper. With him the sharing isn’t only a combination of scents that is to be expected with a normal mating, with him it’ll be a sharing of actual memories and thoughts. If left in this state too long, his body might begin to burn itself out in an effort to expand the attraction in an effort to reach his chosen mate.” Gaius explains hesitantly. “If threatened or in a situation that might keep him from his mate, like he is now, his natural abilities might generate explosive results. You must be careful not to be mistaken for a threat. “

Realization hits the Prince only seconds after Gaius falls silent. Turning fully towards the Physician, Arthur grabs the front of the older man’s tunic and pushes him back roughly until they reach the castle wall. “Is this a roundabout way of telling me that Merlin has magic?” he hisses in a low dangerous voice against the Physician’s ear. “Because the only people I know that can be explosive or be a danger like your describing are sorcerers.”

“It doesn’t change who he is, Sire,” Gaius says quickly while at the same time not disputing the Prince’s conclusion. “He has always put your needs above his own and he has served you with everything he is, loyal to a fault.”

“And he’s lied to all of us.” Arthur growls. “And what about you Gaius, you know my father’s view and you kept this secret. You’d have me bind myself to a liar and a Sorcerer leaving me blind to these facts until I was vulnerable and unable to resist his magic?” Roughly shoving himself away from the old man the Prince turns his back. “Have I been enchanted?”

“Sire, I swear with my very life, there is no enchantment. He would never do that to you, his devotion and loyalty is too great. He would never see harm come to you, even at a cost of his own life.” Gaius chokes out in a panic. "We just didn’t know what to do. I would not have said anything but in Merlin’s current state, the risk to you is too great to disregard. I had no choice but to tell you."

“Gaius, I’ve heard more than enough from you.” Prince Arthur says, clearly torn and at war with what he’s been told. He has little time to think or consider his response when Sir Alan arrives. After looking over his shoulder to offer the old man an angry glare, the Prince swiftly mounts his horse.

“What are you going to do, Sire?” Gaius asks with worry as he wrings his hands nervously.

The Prince’s horse shifts anxiously as Sir Alan mounts his own animal. “I don’t know.” He finally says as he urges his horse forward. Before anything more can be said, the Prince and Sir Alan disappear from the courtyard, over the bridge.

~*~*~

“Tie him up and leave him here. We’ve fulfilled the bargain, Kullen.” A man with a deep voice complains outside the cave. "Who among us really cares if the boy is claimed by our employer?”

“What about the woman?” Another voice asks. “We’re going to ask for a ransom aren’t we?”

“Slit her throat. She’s more trouble than she’s worth.” An older sounding voice adds with a hint of disgust.

“No woman should die without being tasted first.” The second voice points out with a laugh. “If we’re not going to ask for a ransom, we should at least have a little fun before we kill her.

“Keep your pants on, Candelmes.” A deep voice growls from a position further in the cave. “The time has long passed for the boy to be picked up, so something’s gone wrong. If something went wrong for the gent who hired us, it’ll probably get worse for us if we waste our time sampling the goods. Kill them both and we move on.”

“Everything is done and dead with you Rasnorer.” The first voice snaps out. “It’d be nice to walk away without a bucket of blood on our hands.”

“Yeah it’d be nice, but not as nice as it is with the profits we all enjoy, Turtill.” Rasnorer spits back.

Inside the cave, the two Omegas draw closer to each other as they listen to the conversation outside. “We have to go deeper into the cave.” Merlin whispers as he fights to control the tremors caused by the combination of his heat and the fear of what might happen without his magic to rely upon. He prods his fellow Omega into action as the men outside the cave continue to argue. “Hopefully they won’t waste time looking for us if we make it hard for them to find us.”

“They might not have time to kill us.” Rebecca says as she shivers under the effects of her own advanced stage of heat. “We should be rescued soon.”

Closing his eyes, Merlin sighs. “Rebecca, things aren’t always that simple. Sometimes you have to rely on yourself or at least stall to give others a chance to help you. I know help is coming, but I’d prefer to be alive when they get here.”

“What about the monster that man said was in the cave?” Rebecca asks.

Rising to his feet and grabbing the woman’s hand, Merlin pulls Rebecca to her feet. “If I’m right about the creature they’re referring to, it’s not a threat to us. It’s long gone. At this point it doesn’t really matter and we don’t have the time to think about it. I have no desire to hang around long enough for them to stop arguing and start doing something.” He says as he drags her into the darkness deeper inside the cave. “They won’t want to waste much time finding us so we shouldn’t have to go very far.”

A few short moments pass and a deep laughter echoes though the cave. The laughter is still echoing when one of the men is heard saying. “They’re gone. We scared them into trying to hide deeper in the caves. Better fetch a torch Candelmes. ”

“Let the monster get them.” Kullen grumbles. “They don’t have to go too deep before the creature shows itself.”

“Maybe the beast will breathe fire and toast them alive.” Another man says with a deep laughter.

Hearing the echoes of their captor’s words, Rebecca starts pulling back, too afraid to go any further. “I can’t go. I won’t.” she hisses in a soft whisper. “I don’t want to die burnt alive.”

Chewing on his lower lip unable to argue with the woman’s fear of the flame since it matches his own fears, Merlin falls silent for a moment. Narrowing his eyes to help his sight, the dark haired young man searches for a hiding place in the nearly non-existent light that reflects off the milky quartz formations. At first he misses it, but a trickle of water that turns to a steady flow of droplets catch his eye, revealing an opening in what appears to be a delicate ripple of stone. “There.” Merlin whispers as he changes direction to drag his fellow Omega towards the strange formation. “Crawl in here, and stay quiet. I’ll lead them away in a different direction. Don’t come out unless you’re sure it’s safe, alright?”

Pressing Rebecca to her knees, and towards the opening in the rippled cave formation, Merlin hurries her into hiding. “It’s so dark.” Rebecca sniffles as she holds back tears of fear.

“Just be as quiet as you can Rebecca, and remember, don’t move too much.” Merlin whispers softly to keep his voice from carrying in the dark.

“Be careful, Merlin, and don’t go too far.” She whispers as she settles into the tight hiding spot.

“I’ll be fine.” Merlin says quietly in the opening that the frightened woman had just crawled through. “And remember, you are to be quiet no matter what you hear.”

Moving through the changing passageways of the cave is easier alone, and Merlin manages to get a good distance into the cave before the sounds of his pursuers begin to echo off the cave walls in what seems to be a bad dream. Flickers from their torches show the cave ceiling to be well above what the light can penetrate.

From the sounds echoing against the stone walls, his captors are far behind him so Merlin slows his frantic pace. What little light that had managed to gain entrance into the cave, is now nonexistent leaving him in a blinding darkness that feeds the rise of fear urging him onward. Feeling his way through the maze of upward sloping channels, the Warlock goes only a short distance more before dropping to his knees in the soft dirt of what is probably a long dried up streambed.

Whimpering with discomfort, Merlin turns and sits atop the ground to wait. At that moment he is hit with the first returning sensation of his magic. His skin prickles lightly as if coming back awake after long inactivity. With the return of magic comes the almost desperate yearning to find his Alpha, along with physical aches for unspeakable things. Groaning in frustration, the dark haired young man leans forward to rest his forehead against his knees. The sensations of magic mingling with his Omega needs builds swiftly and in a short time the tingling under his skin becomes a painful, almost unbearable, burn.

”Arthur,” Merlin whispers desperately as he rolls over, tucking himself against the cave wall. Giving into the pains surrounding him and the ache of need, magic crackles into a life of its own, protectively hovering over the trembling Omega.

~*~*~

Upon their arrival at the entrance to the cave below the castle, the rescue party of Knights sent by the King find a half dozen unattended horses and a dwindling campfire. “Spread out and search the camp,” Lord Cleriff calls out as he lifts his head to draw in a deep breath through his flaring nostrils. “The Omegas are in the cave.” He says as turns his head away from the cave entrance to scan the area for some sign of the men who had taken the Omegas.

“What can you tell about their captors?” Sir Brian asks as he scans the area in the opposite direction that Lord Cleriff looked.

“I’m not a bloody hunting dog. The best I can tell you is that the Omegas are nearby,” Cleriff snaps as he nudges his horse forward towards the cave. “Take half the men and continue searching the surrounding area. I’ll follow the Omega scent with the others.” Lord Cleriff says as he dismounts his horse. “If the boy continues true to his nature, he made a bid to escape and likely took Lady Rebecca with him. Their captors will likely be inside the cave hunting for their captives.”

Well over a half hour passes, offering no success in finding anything outside the cave. The search of the campsite and the area around the entrance to the cave hints at the number of kidnappers and the price that Sir John had paid for deed, but little else. When a challenging shout echo’s from within the cave, Sir Brian gathers his knights outside the entrance of the cave, readying them to lend aid to those inside.

“Have they been found?” Prince Arthur calls out as he and Sir Alan gallop into the clearing. Leaping from his horse a few feet from Sir Brian, the Prince continues his forward motion on foot.

“Where are they?” Sir Alan add as he dismounts a few feet behind the Prince. Lifting his head and drawing in a breath. “They’re in the cave.” He says, swiftly tying the reins of his horse over a low hanging branch.

“Lord Cleriff and six Knights entered the cave over a half an hour ago. “He was sure both Omegas were in the cave and he also seemed sure that Merlin had escaped and taken Lady Rebecca along on the escape. “We’ve just now heard a shout and were preparing to entered, but to be honest I’m hesitant to send more men into a potentially tight area shrouded in darkness.”

“You’re right to be hesitant. Too many in a small area would indeed hinder our success.” Arthur says firmly as he peers into the cave, catching sight of a few abandoned bags. “Have you determined how many men were involved in the abduction?”

“We know that there are at least four men involved, but there is a possibility that there are as many as six.” Sir Brian says sweeping his hand towards the horses found when the Knights had arrived. “There were six horses when we arrived, and two appear to be pack animals.”

Opening his mouth to ask something more, the Prince falls silent when the sound of metal against metal echoing loudly from the bowels of the cave. Rippling sounds with tones of threat vibrate along with the clash of metal. Arthur looks at Sir Alan, and they both look at Sir Brian. “Wait here with the others and be ready to take custody of any who are brought out. Sir Alan and I will need to be there to lend aid to the Omegas.” With that said, the two Alpha males draw their weapons to ready and hurry into the cave.

The Prince manages two steps into the cave when he catches sight of the first of the kidnappers being dragged out. “We don’t have anyone. We’re simple travelers who are checking out this cave for shelter.” Kullen shouts as he’s dragged from the depths of the cave. “They’re protecting themselves, and only because you jumped us from behind.”

The sound of sword fighting softens, as if two blades have suddenly quieted. “Candelmes! Rasnorer! Give it up.” Turtill, a second man calls out as he too is hauled from the shadows of the caves depth by two of Camelot’s finest.

The soft sobbing of a woman joins the echoes of the sword fight. “That’s Lady Rebecca.” Sir Alan growls protectively as he pushes past the other Knights in an effort to get to his lady. He reaches her as she emerges into the light spilling through the mouth of the cave. “My Lady! Are you alright? Were you harmed?” he asks as he gently wraps an arm over her shoulder. Taking charge of his Lady, the clearly relieved Knight takes proceeds to lead her out of the cave.

One last grunt echoes through the cave as the sound of steel quiets. “Lord Cleriff?” Prince Arthur calls out into the silence. Several moments pass and a deep growl fills the air.

“What in the name of the gods is that?” One of the Knights exclaims from just outside the cave. All but the Prince retreat a few steps towards the cave entrance as the sound continues to vibrate ominously.

Candelmes laughs. “Not afraid of a monster are you?”

”Retreat and fall back!” calls a commanding voice from the darkness.

Arthur doesn’t hesitate. With his weapon at ready, he strides bravely into the shadows at the back of the cave, disappearing from sight as a second growl sounds dangerously in the darkness. Aided by the glow of the crystal formations, the Prince is able to see the shapes of Knights hurrying past towards the cave entrance.

“Prince Arthur,” Lord Cleriff says as he catches sight of the Prince in the shadows. Looking back along the path that he’d just traveled to where the source of the growl had surely originated. “There’s a monster up there with golden eyes. The last of the men who captured the Omegas is dead, but it’s not safe to retrieve the boy Merlin at this time. He’s still alive for the moment and the monster doesn’t appear to have caught sight of him so he appeared safe as long as we didn’t draw attention to him. Perhaps we can try again once the beast retreats.”

“Go, I need to see if there is something that can be done to drive this beast back or if there is some alternative way to rescue him.” Arthur says firmly as he brushes past the Lord. “You have two of the men responsible for the abduction of the Omega’s. I suggest you send them back to the King for judgment.”

Ignoring anything more said by Lord Cleriff, the Prince carefully moves further up the slope. It is a short distance before he finds the body and torch of one of the abductors. On the outer ring of light cast from the torch, the foot of the second ruffian can be seen. Beyond that Merlin’s slender figure can be seen curled up against the cave wall, shivering. “Merlin, it’s safe now. I’m here now and you’re safe.” Arthur clamps his mouth shut upon speaking, knowing full well that the dark haired young man may not be safe. There was still the matter of magic and the lies between them. Thinking, however; is nearly impossible with the nearness to Merlin’s overpowering scents. The urges and desires developing made it seem as if he were being pulled towards the smaller man despite the danger of an unseen monster. He had to think……

Merlin was, is, and always will be his friend……

…….Merlin is unshakably loyal. Devoted to the point he placed his prince above all else…….

No matter the situation, Merlin always brought him comfort………..

The torch flickers, casting a golden light over Merlin and the Warlock’s pain and discomfort is easily seen through the dancing shadows. “Damn it Merlin,” Arthur mutters as any anger held is set aside as the Prince begins to slowly approach his Omega, ready to defend them both from the beast.

~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

The Prince’s decision to defend seems enough to bring forth the beast. A threatening roar echoes through the cave as Prince Arthur steps closer to Merlin’s curled up form. The sound vibrates through the cave walls and the delicate formations, leaving no clue as to where the sound originates from. In the wake of the roar, the chilled cave air swirls to life, drawing dirt and small stones into a rapidly forming figure that is both majestic and horrifying. Mighty wings, terrible claws, and a face that could bring nightmares for a lifetime take shape from the cave debris. In the center of the forming creatures face two glowing orbs of gold glare dangerously at the Prince. It looks real enough at first glance, but for anyone who might inspect the creature carefully, it showed itself to be nothing more than an elaborate scarecrow born of desperate magic.

“If this cave connects to the deep caverns under the castle, as I suspect it does, then the rumored beast this vision mimics is chained without ability to reach this place. There is no leash long enough to stretch the distance.” Prince Arthur says as he bravely lowers the tip of his sword. There is a slight hesitation as the sword dips low, but that delay fades as the illusion flaps its wings without stirring the air around it. “Still, the illusion proves Gaius’s thinly veiled hint that you have magic. A great deal more than I expected considering all I’ve seen of my manservant’s skills.” He says with his voice starting out strong and sure, and but fading slightly as the illusions teeth seem to solidify threateningly.

“Arthur, you need to go.” Merlin says in a voice that sounds pitiful and weak. “I can’t control it. Please, I don’t want to hurt you.”

The beast roars again and its head reaches down with a wide open mouth aiming to swallow the Prince whole. Within an arm’s reach of the prince, Arthur sweeps his blade up and through the cluster of dirt and stone that is its head. The strike knocks fistfuls of debris to the side, proving to be harmless. The Prince narrows his eyes, clearly growing annoyed with the illusion. “Merlin! Stop it!” He demands impatiently as the dragon head begins to reform. “We have enough to deal with at the moment without your ridiculous nonsense.”

As quickly as the dragon had formed to defend the shivering Warlock, it disintegrates faster in the face of Prince’s demands. “Arthur, you have to go. Leave me, please.” Merlin whimpers in a barely audible voice.

“That’s not going to happen.” Arthur says firmly as he steps past the dead kidnapper and the still flickering torch. “You’re mine.” He says stubbornly. “Mine to deal with, mine to claim, and if I don’t claim you soon, I’m going to end up killing someone to ease the frustrations your scent is putting me through.” Kneeling at Merlin’s side, the Prince tucks his hand into the pouch on his belt and withdraws the potion. “Gaius told me that you are to take this to ease the effects of your additional problem caused by your…..” He says pausing to wiggle his fingers before continuing. “He’s also said that I’m not to touch you until the potion takes effect.” He says as he offers the small blue vial. “Drink,” he adds softly.

“What about the law? I know what you have to do.” Merlin whispers as he looks first to the vial and then to the Prince. Want and need are easily seen in his gaze, but it’s guarded by a hint of fear. “Gaius wouldn’t have told you unless I am a threat to you and I can’t bear to be that.” In the torchlight, the warlock’s face twists with pain as he closes his eyes. “Just make it quick. Please.”

“Will you shut up and take the potion,” Arthur growls with frustration as he clenches and unclenches the fist that doesn’t hold the vial, “Or we’re both going to find out what happens when I touch you without the potion.” Uncorking the vial, the Prince presses the opening to Merlin’s lips. “Drink you idiot.”

Given little choice, Merlin opens his mouth to drink the bright blue potion. “What are you going to do?” He asks softly after darting a tongue out to capture the last drop of potion lingering on his lips.

Watching the other man’s tongue dart, the Prince groans with need. “What do you think I’m going to do?” Arthur snaps as he moves a short distance away, fidgeting slightly in an effort to find a comfortable sitting position. “I’m going to wait for the potion to take effect, and then I’m going to try to drag you out of here, take you back to my chambers to claim you well and proper before I completely lose control of myself.” Arthur says with a voice only a step above a growl. Groaning slightly as he shifts his seat, the Prince frowns. “At least that’s my plan unless my balls explode from the pressure building up.”

“What about my magic?” Merlin hisses as he pushes off the ground, settling on his hands and knees.

“I don’t want to think about it right now.” Arthur snaps back with narrowed eyes as he stares at Merlin’s position with intense desire. “We’ll talk about it later once we can think of something other than exercising mindless carnal exploration.”

“You would do that and then have me killed?” Merlin gasps in shock as he uses the cave walls to rise to his feet.

“What?” Arthur says with a furrowed brow of confusion. “Why would I do that?”

“The law? Your father? Death to all Sorcerers?” Merlin says growing more hysterical as he turns and leans back against the cave wall to help support him on his feet. “Will it be by fire or will I lose my head? I never understood your father’s choice of one over the other for the executions.”

“How, in the name of the gods, can you think of anything but joining our bodies until we drop from exhaustion?” Arthur hisses out as he runs a hand through his hair while rising to his feet. “I am angry at you, alright? I fully plan on discussing your lies, and your crimes in great detail. After that we’ll discuss any punishments that will be imposed upon you for both the lies and the violations of Camelot’s laws.” Stepping forward the Prince closes the space between them. Placing his hands against the cave wall on either side of Merlin’s head, the prince glares deeply into Merlin’s eyes as he adds, “Make no mistake Merlin you will be punished, but it will be a private matter and it will not involve death. And most importantly none of that will happen until we’ve bonded.”

“What about the King and the laws?” Merlin whispers as his eyes drop to focus on Arthur’s lips.

“You are mine.” Arthur whispers possessively as he’s drawn forward so that his breath brushes over Merlin’s lips. “My father has made it clear that he wants no knowledge of any aspect of our relationship other than to be presented with any children I may sire.”

At the mention of children, Merlin blushes so brightly that the redness of his cheeks and ears can be seen in the torchlight. “The potion is working.” Merlin mutters as he leans forward to close the distance between them, shivering at their nearness. “My magic is being suppressed and my body would welcome you if you wished it.” He whispers with a slight quiver in his voice.

Half closing his eyes and drawing a deep breath to savor Merlin’s scent, Arthur emits a deep throaty groan. “I’m barely able to restrain myself.”

A short distance away, closer to the body of the killed kidnapper, a Knight clears his throat loudly. “Sire? We’ve been sent to aid you with the beast. Have you killed it?”

“It fled, the danger has passed” Arthur answers quickly as he pushes back from Merlin’s trembling form.

“What are your orders then Sire?” The Knight asks uncomfortably as several of his fellow knights appear at his side, each looking around to be sure that the beast is in fact gone.

Grinding his jaw to gain some semblance of control, the Prince turns towards the Knights. “I want four of you to escort Merlin without delay to the castle. Once there I want him safely delivered to my chambers. There he is to remain in guarded isolation until I return.” The Prince orders in a tone that demanded compliance.

“We could just stay here,” Merlin suggests quietly. “Then you …….. “

Arthur turns to glare at Merlin as he growls out his response, cutting off anything further his Omega might have said. “You will do as you’re told, Merlin.”

For an instant Merlin looks as if he might argue with the Prince in his usual fashion. The instant passes quickly as his nostrils flair, drawing in Arthur’s dominating scent. Several emotions flicker across his face before he lowers his head submissively, silently accepting the Princes orders.

Turning back to the gathered Knights, the Prince continues his orders, “The rest of you are to gather up the remains of the men responsible for taking Lady Rebecca and Merlin and deliver them with the living Lord Cleriff has been ordered to bring before the King.”

The Knights bow obediently and the group divides. “And you my Lord? Will you be accompanying the party escorting Merlin or will you accompany Lord Cleriff’s group?” One of the Knights ask.

Arthur doesn’t answer for several long moments as he stares into the darkness while Merlin is escorted away. “I will accompany Lord Cleriff’s group.” He replies stiffly, clearly struggling with the decision. “Go ahead out, I’ll follow shortly.” He adds as he rolls his head to ease the tension in his shoulders. Closing his eyes, he draws in deep even breaths seeking to calm himself. Frowning, the effort is lost since Merlin’s scent remains heavy in the air, drifting seductively around him. The Princes body is responding to the Omega’s scent instinctually with engorged genitals and a feverish need to claim what he’s rightfully fought for and won. Reaching down to his crotch, he adjusts his aching balls and cock before bending to retrieve the torch. After a few deep breaths, the Prince follows the Knights out of the cave.

Thirty minutes pass slowly for the Prince. Painfully slow while riding on horseback with a hard need that is unwilling to go away. Arriving with the main body of the returning search party, the Prince is the first to dismount his horse. Without comment or consideration for the others, he turns over the reins of his horse to a waiting stable boy. Flaring his nostrils, Arthur follows the scent of his Omega as he had for each step and hoof beat taken from the cave. The tingling heat present low in his belly grows into an undeniable fire the closer he gets to his chambers. Each step taken is stiff and burdened by the aching hardness between his legs.

Reaching the hall outside his chamber, the Prince barely notes the guards stationed along the hall. “We’re not to be disturbed.” Arthur growls to no one in particular as he forcefully pushes his chamber door open. Stepping into the room, Arthur quickly closes and locks the door.

Inside the room, Merlin looks up in the final act of removing his boots as the Prince enters the room. “I didn’t know what you wanted me to do.” He says as the boots are dropped beside the chest at the foot of the bed.

“Help me take my armor off.” Arthur commands as he moves into the room mirroring the countless times they’ve repeated this task since Merlin had become his manservant. Coming to a halt a foot of his bed the Prince lifts a brow in expectation.

Eying the Prince suspiciously, Merlin goes about the familiar duties of unbuckling, unstrapping, and removing plate armor, chainmail, and then slowly removing the quilted coat and the Prince’s shirt. “I’ll need you to sit so I can take off your boots.” The Warlock chokes out as his eyes gaze intently at his Alpha’s golden flesh.

Sitting atop the chest at the foot of the bed, the Prince offers nothing but a hungry gaze. “Pick up the pace, Mer-lin.” Arthur finally demands as his former servant kneels to take hold of his boots.

Tugging off the Prince’s right boot, Merlin moans with need as he catches the stronger Alpha scent radiating from the blonde man’s crotch. “This isn’t easy.” He complains. “Your scent and the sight of your skin are making me think things I’ve never considered before.” He admits honestly as he reaches for Arthur’s left boot.

“I can’t say I’ve ever considered anything going through my mind at the moment either.” The Prince says with a smirk as his left boot comes off, leaving him in just his trousers. Rising up to his feet, Arthur pulls Merlin up with him. “For the moment let’s agree to forget what we think we should feel and focus a bit more on where instinct is leading us. All this is a bit out of our control, so it might make things easier for the both of us if we just follow what’s expected of us.” Arthur says with a strained release of breath as he peers intently into his former manservant’s eyes. “Can you do that Merlin?”

“I can try.” Merlin says looking back into Arthur’s eyes.

“Close your eyes.” Arthur whispers softly as he leans forward and lightly brushes his lips against Merlin’s. The first touch is light and curious, but is soon followed by a bolder caress. As he licks into the slighter man’s mouth, the Prince smiles at the eagerness he finds in their kiss. When he trails his tongue along his Omega’s jaw, Merlin lifts his chin to submissively show his neck, inviting complete access. Nipping and sucking at the tender pale flesh of Merlin’s neck and shoulder, his Alpha instincts rise up when his mate moans at the attention. “This is as it should be.” The Prince mutters with heated passion as he draws back enough to inspect the marks left upon Merlin’s neck.

“Arthur….” Merlin says breathlessly before leaning forward to bring their lips together once more. Reaching up with shaking hands, he weaves his fingers into the Princes blonde hair.

The Prince’s hands sweep down along Merlin’s neck and around his shoulders while his tongue aggressively explores Merlin’s mouth. With both men panting heavily, Arthur draws back and rests his forehead against Merlin’s. “I want you Merlin. I want to claim you so that everyone will know that you are mine and mine alone.” the Prince asks in a deep needy voice. Pressing forward slightly, Arthur brushes his lips lightly against the Omega’s full lips before pulling back once more to peer into Merlin’s eyes. “Will you let me?”

“Please,” Merlin whispers against Arthur’s ear as his hips snap forward against the heat of his Alpha’s crotch. Shivering under the Prince’s touch, his tongue darts out and licks his lips before continuing, “I want you, no, I need you to ….. to.” His expression turns almost painful shy as he can’t complete his thoughts. Squeezing his eyes shut, he looks away. “I’m …… Confused.”

“What is it that you want? Do you want me to claim you?” Arthur offers as he lowers his head so that his words sweep over Merlin’s shoulder. “Do you need my touch? Can you feel the need to join our bodies?” he says as he sweeps a hand down over Merlin’s spine. Lifting his head the Prince turns his head so to brush his lips over the other man’s jaw. “Do you want me to kiss you some more to ease your confusion?” He asks as he lightly presses his lips against the other man’s own.

“I ache for all of it.” Merlin says swaying towards the Prince’s warmth as a single tear trails down his cheek. “I want you so badly but I can’t think of why you would want someone like me, especially since you know my secret.” He whimpers as a second tear trickle down his cheek. “You’re destined for such greatness Arthur. What am I compared to you?”

“The very best that Camelot has to offer is mine to take, should I choose it. I won the right.” Arthur says between gentle brushes of his lips against Merlin’s eyes, face, and lips. Bending his head to explore the other man’s neck, Arthur smiles as he leaves a trail of wet kisses. “As ridiculous as it may be, I am no fool. Even when you were no more than my ridiculously annoying manservant, you have always inspired me to be the best I can be. It matters little that the fates have put a slight twist on how our future unfolds.”

Moaning against Arthur’s ear as he loses himself to instinct, Merlin reaches forward to explore the Prince’s bare skin, eagerly dipping his fingers into the waistband of Arthur’s trousers. “I still can’t help feeling this is all going to end with neither of us being able to look each other in the eye.” He whispers as he backs away to pull off his belt and tunic, exposing his bare chest to the Prince. The remainder of their clothing quickly follows, all while Arthur pushes them to the side of the bed closest to the window.

Tumbling into the bed their next minutes are filled with heated exploration with their mouths and hands, bringing them both to the point of frantic need.

Leaving trails of wet licks and open mouthed kisses over Merlin’s chest, Arthur pauses at each nipple to lightly nip and suckle, drawing deep moans and erotic whimpers from the former servant. Slipping one hand downwards, the Prince wraps his fingers around his Omega’s swollen cock. “You are so aroused, so wanting. All for me.” He whispers against Merlin’s tight belly.

Stroking Merlin at a firm even pace, Arthur lowers his head and flicks out his tongue to tease the tip of Merlin’s cock. A low moan escapes Merlin’s lips as the Prince lightly blows over the dampened skin of his Omega’s cock. “You taste so good,” he says after capturing droplets of pre-come leaking from the slit. Still grasping the base of Merlin’s cock, Arthur trails his tongue along the vein on the underside of his Omega’s cock before running a flat tongue from root to tip. “You’re scent is so exotic and I feel like I need you like I need to breathe.” Swirling his tongue over the other man’s cock head once more, the Prince smacks his lips as his tongue leaves a sloppy wet trail up and down Merlin’s cock, licking as if devouring a tasty treat. Opening his mouth Arthur swallows his Omega’s cock into the wet heat of his mouth, drawing low moans and a shiver from the dark haired man.

Shifting his position Arthur settles comfortably between Merlin’s legs, bobbing his head up and down aggressively making filthy wet sounds while devouring his Omega’s scent and taste, committing both to memory. Merlin’s hips jerk upward into the slippery heat of Arthur’s mouth as he wiggles and moans beneath his Alpha. Humming as he sucks, the Prince looks up to watch his Omega begin to come apart.

Arthur grins around his Omega’s hard cock as his hand slips behind Merlin’s balls to explore. With his fingers the Prince seeks out the expanse of flesh behind Merlin’s balls that is now hot, swollen with need. Further back, Merlin’s puckered hole is moist and loose in invitation. Excitement rises and an eager determination appears on Arthur’s face as he explores the rare physical aspects that make the male Omega ready to fulfill his breeding task. Slipping two fingers into Merlin’s hole brings forth a shiver from the slighter man. The thin layer of flesh inside the dark haired young man’s hole holds firm, revealing a slick wet and untried channel into the young man’s body. The exploration is too much for Merlin to endure and he comes hard, calling out Arthur’s name. Eagerly lapping up his lover’s release, swallowing every last drop the future King emits a low satisfied growl. A proud grin emerges as Merlin’s cock pops from his mouth. “You are mine Merlin.” He says possessively.

In the moments following orgasm Merlin is stunned and almost sleepy in the blissful afterglow, Arthur gently shifts Merlin’s position spreading his legs wide with his knees slightly bent. Crawling up between the Warlock’s open legs, Arthur places gentle kisses over his mate’s pale abdomen and chest. Tucking his hands under Merlin’s shoulders, the Prince gently kisses the other man’s lips. “I’m going to open you now, Merlin.” He says as he moves his hips so to place his cock against Merlin’s entrance. Groaning with restraint, Arthur gently kisses his Omega’s closed eyes. “It may hurt a little at first, but I don’t know for sure what will happen when I take your virginity. I just don’t know.”

“Doesn’t matter. I need to be filled.” Merlin hisses as the ache to be possessed follows on the heels of his orgasm. “Please, Arthur, do it.” He begs as he shifts his hips upwards to help with the joining. “I need you.”

“Look at me Merlin.” Arthur says as he rests his weight on his elbows and forearms so to look down into the Warlock’s face. “Open your eyes. I want you to see that it is me who claims you.”

Merlin’s dark lashes flutter shyly on his cheeks before his eyes open to gaze into his Prince’s eyes. Shifting his hips forward, the Arthur slowly breeches his Omega’s hole with the head of his cock. “Alright?” He asks softly with tight restraint as he allows the outer ring of muscle to relax and accept penetration. When the dark haired young man nods, even if somewhat uncertain, the Prince continues to sink deeper. Pausing when he meets resistance inside the Omega, Arthur leans down to gently kiss Merlin’s lips in distraction. When Merlin eagerly kisses back with an open mouth and deep breaths of need, the future King pulls back slightly and then snaps his hips forward easily breaking through the other man’s internal resistance.

Merlin’s eyes open wide at the unexpected pain at the loss of his Omega virginity. Gasping painfully and whimper into Arthur’s mouth, he attempts to pull away from the painful intrusion. Pulling out slightly and snapping his hips forward once more to firmly possess his lover, Arthur holds Merlin tight and whispers “it’s okay Merlin, we can stay like this for a short while. The pain will pass in a moment. Trust me.” Long moments pass as Arthur focuses on gentle kisses while he resists the urge to pound his claim into his mate.

Soothing kisses and soft touches help guide Merlin through the newness and shock of being breeched for the first time. Shifting slightly under Arthur’s greater weight, the Warlock finds the movement surprisingly pleasant. “Please move,” the Warlock whispers as pain and shock give way to raw need and pleasure. Arching his back to push up against Arthur’s cock, Merlin’s face is flushed with growing instincts.

Arthur slowly pulls out and Merlin whines in protest as he’s left empty. “Shuuuush, I need to change our position if we’re to be comfortable once we tie.” The Prince says as he rearranges their position so that his Omega is lying on his left side with his right knee bent and nearly touching his chest. Pausing a moment, the Prince slips two fingers into his Omegas now opened hole and gently rechecks the moisture. Finding the passage slick and wet, Arthur smiles and kisses Merlin’s back and shoulders as he adjusts his position to reenter. Leaning forward to lick one of Merlin’s ridiculous ears, he softly whispers, “Are you ready to continue Merlin?”

Arching his back to push his bottom into Arthur’s lap, Merlin moans wantonly. “Hurry, I can’t stand this emptiness,” he whimpers with confusion over his own body’s reactions.

As Merlin pushes back into his lap, Arthur presses forward, instinctually finding entrance into the Omegas body. Wrapping his arm around the former servant’s hips, the Prince covers Merlin’s back while filling him with shallow strokes. Both men groan as the passion of their union seems to take control of their actions. Arthur’s hips snap forward diving deeper into his lover as Merlin grinds back onto the Prince’s lap. Their actions work in tandem towards the point of a complete union of their bodies.

”Arthur. Please.” Merlin whimpers deeply as he pushes back against the Prince.

Panting heavily as his cock slides deliciously in and out of Merlin’s tight channel, the Prince drops wet kisses along Merlin’s neck and shoulders. The sound of hard flesh rubbing against wet flesh mingles with small gasps of pleasure and creaks from the bed frame as the Prince dominates his former manservant. As the heat between them grows Arthur’s pace grows more urgent. “Mine,” Arthur growls possessively against Merlin’s back as his arms circle his Omega to still the slighter man’s movements. “Mine,” he repeats as he grinds his hips forcefully against Merlin’s ass to push his knot into his lover’s tight hole. At the instant the knot slips into his mate, Arthur clamps his teeth down at the apex between the darker haired man’s neck and shoulder.

Little keening cries of pain fill the air as Merlin is unable to resist the push of Arthur’s knot entering his body. At the instant of Arthur’s bite, a tingle of magic dances irresistibly along the skin of both men as one final forceful thrust imbeds the knot beyond the tight muscle ring of Merlin’s puckered hole, locking the two men together. Gasping with pleasure, the Prince clings to Merlin as he climaxes and spills his seed into the Omegas body.

The magic continues to swirl over the skin of the lovers sparking gasps of contented pleasure from both men as the two men relax into the blissful afterglow of their coupling. For a time the sensation they feel is much like the evaporation of sweat on a heated body, but rather than fade it grows stronger and more pleasurable. “Is this the bonding?” Arthur asks as he slides his hand possessively up and down Merlin’s belly and chest. Flashes of emotions join the tingling sensation as Arthur rolls his hips against Merlin coming a second time within his Omega. Smiling into the dark curls at the back of Merlin’s head the Prince places tender kisses against his neck. “Merlin, this is perfect,” Arthur mutters softly between kisses. “You feel so good and with the touch of your magic I can tell that you feel satisfied.”

More accustomed to the feel of magic, Merlin reaches out along the tendrils of power swirling around them. “It feels right, almost happy.” He says with a soft sigh. “It likes our being together ….” He says in awe.

The delicate and teasing magic of the ancient blessing explodes in the glow of contentment as it melds with the curious touches of Merlin’s magic. The delicate magic of bonding expands with the power of their union. Either heard or felt the ancient words of the blessing surround them as memories, feelings, hopes, fears and dreams of one is revealed to the other well beyond the connection their bodies now shared. The eyes of both men glow golden as the magic of the blessing is powered by Merlin’s own. It is a bonding stronger than has ever been considered as the secrets fall away leaving both with a greater understanding and knowledge of the other.

Separation in station dissolves as the blessing brings equality between mates. The Prince and Peasant are now brought together as one. Weaknesses found in all fade to unimportance when strengths are combined for the greater good. Knowledge brings power and understanding brings peace, love grants acceptance, while fear is left behind. Through their bond, the great shall be made greater and prosperity is assured.

A strangled cry sounds out into the room, either from Merlin or Arthur, or perhaps both of them as the two men are bonded Alpha to Omega. The surge of magic that bonds them is overwhelming despite the suppression of Merlin’s magic. Consciousness fades from them both, and while they remain tied together, they fall into a healing sleep.

Sometime later, as one or the other shifts in their sleep, Arthur is roused when his cock pops free of his Omegas body. Still lost in the twilight of sleep, the Prince gently caresses his lover’s belly while placing several kisses and wet licks against the back of Merlin’s neck. As if suddenly remembering all that they had experienced together, the Prince slows his attentions. “Merlin? Are you awake?” Arthur asks as his caresses turn to a firm hold atop Merlin’s chest.

“Yeah,” Merlin says quietly after a long pause.

“You alright?” Arthur asks as he lessens his grip on Merlin’s chest, moving his hands to lightly caress his lover’s nipples.

“What’s going to happen now?” Merlin asks in a low voice touched with uncertainty and a hint of fear.

“Well…” Arthur says as he snuggles his nose into the hair at the back of the Warlock’s neck, “I thought we could have another go.” Placing a line of light kisses down Merlin’s neck, he adds, “Your scent has changed, but I can still smell your need. And, since you’re officially my consort, we should get used to this sort of thing happening on a regular basis.”

Turning in the Prince’s arms, Merlin maneuvers himself so he can look into Arthur’s eyes. “I don’t mean about right now.” He says, clearing his throat and lowering his gaze. As his long dark eyelashes brush his cheeks, Arthur leans in to kiss first one eyelid and then the other. “You did say something about going at it until we drop so I know about now,” Merlin says while one hand sweeps down the Prince’s chest, “I mean for things other than sex.” His breath hitches as he brushes over Arthur’s growing erection.

“You’re an idiot.” Arthur growls out as his hips arch upwards towards Merlin’s hand. ”You’re my consort so the possibilities are endless for you. I’m sure you could come up with some do good project to make the crown look good while giving yourself a sense of accomplishment.” Leaning forward he kisses Merlin. “But do me a favor, think about it later.”

Silence follows, but the Warlock’s hands continue to touch and explore the Prince’s body. “My secrets are gone.” Merlin mutters in a whisper. “You can’t blame me for being a little worried about what you plan on doing with me.”

“You are without question a master of bad timing, Merlin,” Arthur says impatiently. “Look, you know I distrust magic thanks to my father but I am NOT my father. We’ve seen enough magic used for evil but nothing either you or Morgana has ever done has revealed itself to be evil. You both have gone out of your way to prove yourselves to be loyal and devoted to me. How can I fear that?” Tenderly, the Prince traces his Omega’s jaw. “I don’t want you to worry about it right now. I know you, just as I know Morgana, and I know that neither of you would ever bring me harm.”

“You said I’d be punished.” Merlin says nervously.

“That’s later, much later, and possibly I made it sound worse than I could ever go through with. For now shut up and think pleasure, think nothing but mind blowing, toe curling pleasure,” Arthur says as he pulls until Merlin is stretched out on top. “Think rubbing, think me moving in and out of your tight heat, and think about you grinding against me until your mind explodes with the feel of it. I don’t want to hear anything more out of you unless it’s moaning or begging me for more.”

“I know we’re being driven by instinct, but I think you’re enjoying this aren’t you?” Merlin mutters as he wiggles on top of the Prince.

“What’s not to enjoy?” Arthur says as he rolls them over. “I finally have the power to shut you up.” He says as he leans down to press an open mouthed kiss to Merlin’s lips. In turn the Warlock eagerly responds, wrapping his arms around the Prince’s shoulders to draw him closer. When Merlin’s hip starts to thrust upwards against Arthur’s hard erection, the Prince pulls way and with a chuckle he rolls Merlin onto his belly. “And I get you to make the most pleased little sounds instead of your listing one complaint after another.”

“Didn’t we have an aversion to this a few hours ago? Weren’t we both uncomfortable?” Merlin mutters into the pillows as he pushes his backside up in invitation. “Now we’re seeking it out and teasing each other about it."

“You have to admit, we’re good together.” Arthur says as he nudges Merlin’s legs apart. With one hand on the Warlock’s hip, the Prince reaches around to take hold of Merlin’s hard cock. “And if you think about it, the gods themselves brought us together. Who are we to argue with the gods?”

“Arthur, isn’t it time you stop talking and start working on getting me to make those pleased sounds you mentioned.” Merlin grumbles in a teasing tone as he rolls his eyes and raises his arse a little more.

“You are eager aren’t you?” Arthur teases as he leans forward over the other man’s back, slipping the head of his cock into Merlin’s arse as he moves. Pushing forward, burying himself balls deep into his Omega the Prince releases a breathless gasp as his partner moans. Nipping lightly at Merlin’s shoulder, Arthur withdraws his hard cock until only the head remains inside and then thrusts forward embedding himself in his Omega’s warm heat. “So hot and tight and utterly perfect,” he whispers while firmly stroking the Warlock’s cock in time with his own thrusts.

“Faster, please, please, please!” Merlin pants out breathlessly whimpering as he pushes back roughly in time with Arthur’s thrusts. “Oh gods, Arthur,” he gasps out as he comes undone. Shallow jerks of his hips send ropes of pearly white come shooting through Arthur’s fingers and onto the sheets beneath them.

Four more deep thrusts and Arthur’s knot is once more securely buried in Merlin. “Mine.” The Prince mutters against the other man’s dark hair. “Now until the gods take you from me.” He says as his hips grind against Merlin’s backside finding blissful release. "Mine."

Chapter Text

~*~*~

Merlin sighs as the heavy brocade doublet is slipped over his arms and smoothed out over his shoulders. “Are you sure about this?” he asks with a slight pout as he looks into Arthur’s eyes as the Prince carefully fastening the buttons of the doublet.

“Yes Merlin, I’m absolutely sure about this.” Arthur says as he fastens the last button on the doublet. Reaching up, the Prince sweeps an inspecting hand over the fabric of the newly made garment. “There. You’re ready to be presented to both King and Court.” He says with a satisfied grin. “You’ll have to send the tailor your compliments for creating such a fine outfit based only on the measurements he took before the tournament.” He says stepping back to carefully inspect the overall effect of the fine clothing over Merlin’s lanky frame. “I must say Merlin, you look much better than I had hoped. I think I’ll quite enjoy showing you off.”

“Arthur, I don’t know if I can do this. Everyone’s going to know what we’ve been doing for the past week.” Merlin mutters under his breath as he looks down at the richly embroidered doublet and the soft twill breeches the Prince had dressed him in. Lifting his right foot he flexes the soft leather of his calf high boots. “Dressing me us isn’t going to change that.”

Arthur pauses to offer his Omega a cocky smirk. “It has been a particularly pleasant and satisfying week, hasn’t it?” Pausing to look down to inspect the blood red velvet his own doublet. Frowning slightly, he lightly brushes away a stray thread of lint. “If it makes you feel any better, we’ll be in good company. We’re not the only newly bonded couple that spent the last week tied in their passions.”

”It has been lovely.” Merlin agrees softly as his cheeks and the tips of his ears turn a bright red. “But I still fully expect to die of embarrassment before the main course is served.”

“The court actually has manners Merlin, so I sincerely doubt our private activities will be a topic of discussion.” Arthur says as he steps forward to draw his Omega into a comforting embrace. “Trust me, Merlin. No one will say a word.“ Leaning in the Prince lightly brushes his lips over Merlin’s pouting lips. “There may be a few inquiries regarding a possible pregnancy and even so, that is only likely to come from my father or the council.”

Merlin’s eyes open wide in a panic. “How can I answer something like that? Am I supposed to know if I am, you know, pregnant?” Backing out of the embrace and placing his hand over his flat stomach, the former servant looks as if he might panic. “Gaius said it would be too early to tell, even with my, um, skills. He said it would be harder to tell with me since I don’t have regular lady cycles.” Turning around and taking a couple steps he wrings his hands before glancing back to the Prince. “I’m a terrible choice for a royal consort, Arthur. There are just so many oddities that have to be dealt with. Too many questions we just can’t answer. Maybe you should just leave me behind tonight.”

“It’s a bit late about my choice, don’t you think? Good or bad, you’re mine now and we’re leaving the room together, today.” Arthur says with amusement as he folds his arms over his chest. Shaking his head with sympathy, the Prince sweeps a hand to the door. “Come on then, let’s get this over with so you can settle your nerves and get back to focusing on me.”

Drawn out of his building panic by Arthur’s ridiculous self-focusing statement, the dark haired young man blinks several times. “You really are a spoiled prat aren’t you? Do you even listen to some of the things you say? I can’t even have a nervous breakdown without you turning things around to be about your needs.” Merlin huffs as he moves towards the door. “I’m warning you right now, if you did manage to get me pregnant, I fully intend to turn the table and give you a taste of never ending demands.”

“And that’s when I’ll introduce you to what is generally referred to as a servant.” Arthur teases as he follows Merlin out the door. “I know it’ll be a novelty for you, but I’m sure you’ll learn to appreciate the efforts of a hard working servant who actually manages to meet your needs.”

”You do realize that I’m never going to feel inadequate about my time as your servant since you ended up madly attracted to me in the end.” Merlin quips as they wander down the hall together.

The easy banter between the Prince and his consort continue as the couple makes its way to the great hall. Entering with smiles, they are greeted with laughter and good cheer from those already present in the great hall. When Arthur sets foot into the hall, all but the King rise to their feet to acknowledge the arrival of royalty, falling silent with respect. Placing a hand at the small of Merlin’s back, the Crown Prince guides his clearly nervous consort forward towards the head table. “My Lord,” Arthur says with a respectful bow of his head towards his father.

Fidgeting for less than a moment, Merlin adds his own greeting to the king. “My Lord,” Merlin whispers softly as he bows alongside the Crown Prince.

“Arthur.” Uther replies in a booming voice, proudly acknowledging his son. Turning his head, the King lifts a brow and then nods his head. “Merlin.” He says in a lower voice. “It’s good to see you both return to the court.”

Rising up to his full height, the Prince lightly nudges his consort to do the same. “I’m eager to return to my duties, my Lord.” Arthur replies with a broad smile.

Uther looks at both men for several moments before sweeping his hand to the two empty seats to his right. “Join me. The King says flatly. “It’s time to turn our attentions to celebration of your placement and the placement of all others in the tournament.” Polite chatter returns to the hall as Arthur escorts Merlin the last few steps to the head table after the King acknowledged their arrival.

The King waits a few moments for the couple to settle before leaning towards his son. “Tomorrow, I want you to begin evaluation of our new nobles for consideration for a knighthood. Assuming that the young man Lancelot has maintained his skills with a sword he will be easily confirmed.” Uther says in a low voice as he nods towards the two men in question. “The young man Gwaine might be a challenge, but he certainly demonstrated a superior fighting skill.”

“And what would you like me to do with Brandon?” Arthur asks as his own gaze sweeps towards the heavily muscled former Woodsmith. “He didn’t show well in the first round of the Tournament so his skills aren’t as advanced at the other two men.”

“No, he didn’t, but Sir Leon was quick to point out that the man had absolutely no training in the arts of battle or defense so he might surprise us with a little training.” Uther says as he follows his son’s gaze to look upon the former peasant. “Speak with him, arrange for some private lessons. Give him the opportunity, but do realize that not all nobles are fighters, he may find his calling elsewhere.”

“I will see to the matter with all three of them in the morning, Father.” Arthur says firmly, accepting the direction without hesitation. “I’m sure all three will be a fine addition to our nobility.”

“The Lady Morgana has offered to take charge of the Omega’s. She’s a good choice for offering direction and purpose to those unfamiliar with their new roles within the hierarchy.” Uther says turning his head to smile warmly at his ward who sits to the Kings left with her new spouse, Sir Leon. “She pointed out that it would have been traditionally your Omega that would fulfill that role, but she would be happy to take upon the role until Merlin is ready to assume the role.”

As if sensing that she was being discussed by the two men, the Lady Morgana turns her attention from Sir Leon to look towards Arthur and the King with interest. Lifting her goblet in salute, she smiles and takes of sip of wine. “The Lady Morgana’s offer is without question a welcome one since Merlin is facing adjustments in both his status within the court and his role as an Omega.” Lifting his own goblet he calls out a thank you to Morgana who accepts it with a smile.

”Just do what needs done to get the boy properly trained for the role he will eventually assume, and see if you can manage it without creating any issues.” Uther says with a firm glare towards the distracted Prince’s consort.

“You worry too much, my Lord.” Morgana says boldly joining the conversation. “Merlin has a perfectly delightful personality that the people of Camelot will find endearing.”

”I trust you both to work together on the matter.” The King says as he releases a skeptical snort. With the personal matters addressed, he turns his attention to those attending the banquet. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the dawn of a new era for Camelot lies before us.” Uther says as he rises to his feet to officially begin the celebration. “The Gods have granted us strong men and women that will lead the kingdom forward into a prosperous future.” Sweeping his left hand towards Lady Morgana and his right hand towards Prince Arthur, he continues. “The Crown Prince with his consort and the Lady Morgana with her husband Sir Leon have long been loved by our people. They have proven their affections for and loyalty to their King, the Kingdom, and the people. With their victories in the tournament, I foresee them assuming a greater role in assisting me with the management and caring of the land and its people.”

As the King pauses to take a breath in his speech, Arthur leans forward to catch Morgana’s attention with a curious lift of his brow. Together they share a look of confusion and a shrugging of their shoulders at the Kings announcement.

”It is my expectation that there will be little change in duties for the Crown Prince and Sir Leon, but I am most pleased to announce the revival of the Queens Trust. For those that might remember, the Queen’s trust is a royal charity once managed by the late Queen Ygraine. Her loss was a heavy blow to this kingdom.” The King says, pausing a moment to clear the emotion that had caused his voice to break as he spoke his last words. Lifting his goblet, he takes a few sips of wine before continuing. “It is my expectation that the Lady Morgana and the Prince’s Consort will take the lead to return the royal institution to its former glory for the benefit of Camelot’s people.”

The hall erupts with the sound of cheers and enthusiastic clapping in response to the Kings announcement. Even the nobles who gain very little from the trust appear pleased with the apparent softening of Uther’s firm hand in dealing with the population. In the midst of the cheers, Merlin leans towards Arthur and softly asks, “I’ve never heard of the Queen’s Trust. What exactly does it do?”

Arthur tilts his head towards his consort while he continues to clap his hands in approval for his father’s announcement. “It’s a charity that focuses on the needs of orphans and the poor. Since my mother’s death there hasn’t been anyone able to manage the charity so the people have mostly gone without.” Leaning a little closer, so that his breath brushes over Merlin’s ear, the Prince adds, “And I suspect that this is Father’s way of assuring that you’ll have some time consuming work that will keep you and Morgana out of his hair.”

“Oh,” Merlin says softly, furrowing his brow in consideration as if trying to decide if he’s insulted or thrilled with the Kings announcement. It takes only a short moment for an ear to ear smile to appear on the Omega’s face. “I have to admit, no matter what your father meant, it’s the sort of work that I can honestly say I’m looking forward to doing.”

”This is only the beginning, Merlin.” Arthur says with a blinding smile. “As my father said, we’re at the dawn of a new era.”

~*~*~

In the weeks that follow, the Kingdom does indeed begin to show the benefits of the Blessing of the Wolf. With those gains come questions. So few Alpha’s and even fewer Omega’s emerged during the rise of the Blessing, and yet they’ve brought so much to the prosperity of the kingdom in such a short time. Much to the Kings displeasure, whispered questions are being raised about why such a beneficial tradition had been abandoned. As with many things, the questions remain unanswered.

“You should count yourself among the blessed, Uther Pendragon. The gods are pleased.”

The sweet whispered voice that drifts like a feather within the King’s chamber startles the King from his slumber. Sitting up in alarm, Uther turns his head quickly, sweeping his gaze over the room. “Who’s there?” He calls out.

“In less than a month’s time has passed and the path of darkness and destruction is set aside and the prosperity of the land is now assured without your blood being spilled as penance.” A tittering laughter dances in the air. “Although that might change with the choices you make along the path before you. Your blood might still be required as payment depending upon the decisions you make.”

“Show yourself!” Uther demands harshly. The light streaming in through the window flutters and takes the shape of a woman made of golden light. As the woman solidifies, the Kings eyes grow wide. “You? Why do you continue to torment me? I’ve done what was demanded of me.”

“You have.” The Goddess says as her form evolves, taking shape into something more human. “Our blessing once more touches and nurtures the people of these lands. As I said, we are pleased.”

“Then leave me in peace.” Uther says as he tosses his blankets roughly aside. Slipping out of the bed, the King eyes the intruder with distrust.

Laughter rings out around the King. “How sharp your tongue is for one who is granted the rare privilege to stand before a god.” The Goddess says as she waves a hand to the nearby window. In the blink of an eye, the window stands open without moving as if it had always been open. Gliding to stand before the cascading light sweeping in through the open window, the Goddess looks down upon the activity in the courtyard. “Are you not pleased with what has touched your family by way of the blessing?”

A number of emotions flicker within the King’s expression, ending with a slight frown as he moves to stand beside the Goddess to look down into the Courtyard. Spying his son laughing at something said by his dark haired consort, the King frowns. “My son’s choice was not my own, and there is little I can do about what I consider an ill-suited match.” Uther says carefully. “You’ve made it clear that the Omega’s are not to be harmed so I’m forced to suffer Arthur’s selection.”

“And what of your daughter? Are you displeased with your daughter’s match?” The goddess asks, turning a sly gaze to the King’s shocked expression. Uther’s mouth opens and closes as if searching for something to say in reply. “Think wisely before you speak to deny the truth. There is very little that escapes the God’s notice.” The Goddess adds with a knowing smirk.

Uther’s eyes narrow, but his mouth closes tightly into a thin line as he considers what has been said. “I have always expected the Lady Morgana to find a match with a Knight of Camelot. I do not think she could have found a better match than Sir Leon.”

“There is no greater turmoil than that of a daughter seeking her father’s love and acceptance. For a time this is averted but not forgotten. Be wary Uther Pendragon, one’s offspring can bring great joys while having an equal chance to bring dark misery before your days are done in this world.” The Goddess says with a hard stare before she returns her gaze to watch the activity in the courtyard. “Consider this an opportunity to clean another of your sins. It is a precious reward for your obedience.”

Three small knocks against the door to his chambers draws Uther’s attention from the Goddess. Turning to the door, acknowledge the interruption, the King’s brow furrows with irritation. Looking back to the Goddess to say more, he finds his divine visitor gone. Frowning deeper since he’d been afforded little time to pursue an argument with the Goddess, he calls out. “Enter!”

“Your highness?” Gaius calls out as opens the door and pokes his head through the opening. “I could have sworn that I heard you speaking with someone.” He says as he glances around the chamber while he crosses the room to join the King. Grasping his hands together, the Court Physician tilts his head expectantly. “You wanted to speak to be about Merlin?”

“Arthur should contain the boy within the castle.” Uther says peering out the open window. Shaking his head slightly as he looks down at the bickering pair the King sighs heavily before glancing over his shoulder at Gaius. “I’ve sworn to say nothing to my son about his relationship with your ward, but surely I’m not the only one who can see the needless risks being taken.”

“I’ve expressed my concerns as well, Sire,” Gaius says with a sigh. “I count it as a victory that Merlin now agrees to bring a pair of guards when he ventures outside the castle without the Prince.” Shaking his head, the Court Physician looks to the King. “When pressed on the matter, he’s pointed out that he’s not yet diagnosed as pregnant and if he does in fact turn up with child it is not uncommon for a pregnant peasant to follow their normal routines up to the point of giving birth. He’s refused to be forced into the role of a spoiled lady. Alas, when I spoke with the Prince, I learned that he saw no need to overly restrict Merlin’s activities at this time.”

At that moment, the world around the King seems to fade into blurry colors as the firm commands of the Goddess echo’s through his mind ………”The Omega’s must be protected………”

Visibly shaken by the words heard in his mind, the Kings concern turns quickly to anger. “Merlin is no longer considered a peasant, and the child he potentially carries is a future Prince or Princess of Camelot not a peasant.” Uther snaps. “While I don’t condone laziness, I do think that reasonable caution should be followed when it concerns something of such importance.”

Lifting his left eyebrow sharply, the Court Physician considers the King’s words. Moving closer to the window, the Court Physician peers down into the courtyard. “My Lord, they’re just going out for a day of hunting so there should be little encountered to be concerned about.”

~*~*~

“Mer-lin, I do realize that it’s only been a few weeks, but surely you’ve gained some experience that might give you a clue about how to properly conduct yourself in your new station.” Arthur says as he eyes his Omega up and down. “You’re not my servant any longer so there is no need to conduct yourself as one.”

“You’re seriously not counting our first week officially together as courtly experience.” Merlin grumbles while making one last check of the girth strap on his horse’s saddle. “Or do you consider our activities a part of my education in proper public conduct.” Merlin says with a deep blush and a shy laugh. Turning to look Arthur in the eye, he adds with a tilt of his head, “And since when am I not your servant? I still clean your armor, dress you for bed, do most of your laundry, and continue to manage most of your meals. With all that, how could I not be considered to be your servant?” Moving towards Arthur’s horse, Merlin quickly checks the buckles on Arthur’s saddle. “If anything you’re bossing me about more than you ever did before.”

An affectionate smile grows wide on the Prince’s lips as he focuses on his dark haired consort. “It’s my duty as a proper Alpha to keep you focused and productive. You’d be lost in confusion and inactivity if I didn’t direct your energies.” Arthur argues back as he watches his consort check the buckles. “Besides, you are the one who insists on taking care of my armor and clothing.”

“I don’t hear you complaining too much about effort I put into your armor. Personally, I think you are enjoying your role as my Alpha a bit much. Just because I’m an Omega, you shouldn’t expect me to roll over into submission every time you get overbearing.” Merlin grumbles as he returns to his own horse to take hold of the reins.

“There are other ways to demonstrate your affections Arthur.” Morgana calls out in a scolding voice as she descends the stairs into the courtyard. “If you continue to treat him as a possession that is yours to command, he’s bound to feel trapped and unappreciated.”

Rolling his eyes, the Prince turns to watch Leon and Morgana move down the stairs into the courtyard to join the hunting party. “You’ve never shown any interest in hunting before now, Morgana. Surely you can let Leon out for a little fun every now and again.” Arthur calls out with a laugh.

“It was actually my suggestion that she join us.” Leon says with a shrug of his shoulders while turning briefly to smile at his mate. “I thought she’d be good company for Merlin since he’s no longer part of the servants group and he never particularly enjoyed hunting.”

“At least someone is thinking about my feelings.” Merlin mutters as he makes a sour face at the Prince before turning to flash a smile towards Leon and Morgana.

“You’re not a delicate flower that needs coddled Merlin,” Arthur says as he moves up behind the slighter man to clamp a hand over the back of Merlin’s neck. “Had you really objected to coming along with us, I wouldn’t have pressed you to join me. You know very well that I like having you around.”

Clicking her tongue against her teeth Morgana takes the reins of her horse as Leon checks the girth strap for her. “Leon, am I mistaken or did that qualify as a proclamation of undying affections?” Morgana asks while smirking at the Prince. “Are we the first to witness the blossoming of Camelot’s Golden Prince’s tender nature?”

”Arthur just wants me along to blame if he misses his shots.” Merlin mutters with a knowing chuckle.

“Really Morgana, you’re not helping. You’ve already given him the idea that my asking him along is something intended to be unpleasant when in reality I innocently ask him to join me so that we could share a pleasant outdoor activity together.” Prince Arthur grumbles as he swings up into his saddle. “And you Merlin, I’m wounded at the lack of faith you have in my bonding efforts.”

Rolling his eyes Merlin meticulously checks the supplies attached to his saddle. “I mentioned an interest in pie this morning. We could have bonded over a nice apple pie on a picnic.”

Laughing as she catches sight of Arthur’s bewildered expression, Morgana moves towards Merlin while motioning for her mount to be brought forth. “Go on then Arthur. Gather your knights so you can plot out the day’s killing spree. Merlin and I will turn our attentions to intellectual pursuits and planning during the outing.”

”Not all of us have the luxury of spending our time nattering on about matters not directly associated with the basic needs for survival.” Arthur says impatiently. “If you will excuse me, the others in this party are relying on me to keep this hunt organized.”

”Someone doesn’t take losing very well.” Morgana says smugly. “It almost seems unfair to best him in a battle of words.”

“He’s not so bad, Morgana. Arthur is trying to help me adjust to my new place.” Merlin says as he lifts himself atop his own horse. Watching the Alpha Prince fondly as he moves to the group of Knights gathering in the lead, Merlin seems to grow affectionately distracted for a moment. “If it wasn’t for the tasks I do, I think I’d either be bored out of my mind or beside myself with feelings of incompetence.”

”I know he cares, Merlin, and I know you are as important to him as he is to you.” Morgana says as she graciously accepts Leon’s assistance to mount her horse. “Since the day you and Arthur met, you’ve been a lovely influence on the future of this kingdom.” Pausing to settle atop the side saddle, the Kings Ward looks towards the Prince’s consort with a sweet smile. “Even at my worst moments of frustration, I find hope in the King that Arthur will one day become with you at his side.

Merlin blinks at Morgana several times before fidgeting uncomfortably in his saddle. “To be honest, the most I had hoped out of today was to take advantage of the outing to gather a few herbs.” Merlin says as they nudge their mounts forward to join the departing party. “It’s hard to believe that I’ll ever look beyond the simple things in life to live up to what others think of me.”

”You are the best that could be for Arthur, and I pray you never change the things you value the most.” Morgana says with an open sincerity that warms the heart. Clearing her throat as if her words had brought forth a choking emotion, the Lady turns her attention to the group ahead of them. “So gathering herbs,” She says after a moment’s pause, “That seems a perfectly reasonable adaptation of Arthur’s overall plan to have you follow along after a group of trained killers while they tromp through the woods gathering woodland creatures for the butcher.” Glancing towards the Prince’s consort with a sweet smile, she adds. “In all, unless something better comes along, it sounds like it’ll be great fun. I’ll be happy to help.”

~*~*~*~

When the group stops for lunch, Morgana and Merlin take a stroll while the servants tend to the horses and prepare the afternoon meal. Not far from the camp, the two non-hunting members of the group find a small creek that acts as a divider between the forest and a small isolated meadow. “Do you suppose the meadow would offer any of the herbs that Gaius could use?” Morgana asks as she stoops to caress a spray of soft yellow flowers.

Merlin laughs. “You’ve found a good sample right there.” He says as he drops to one knee beside the proficiently growing plant. “This is hypericum perforatum. A tea that helps improve the mood can be made from the leaves and flowers.” He says as he snaps off several stems containing both leaves and flowers. “Gaius prescribes a tea twice a day to several ladies in the court.”

”There are a number of different yellow flowers growing across the creek in the meadow.” Morgana comments as she scans the vegetation in the meadow. “Oh and there are a number of lovely white flowers as well.”

Following Lady Morgana’s gaze, Merlin grins happily. “There’s a good number of herbs I can spot from just a brief scan.” Pausing to put the clippings from the leaves and flowers into a bag strapped over, the Prince’s Omega turns to look at his friend. “Gaius has a good many books on herbs that would help you learn about the ones used in Medicine as well as the ones that would be used with your, um, special talents.”

Cautiously looking over her shoulder to gauge the nearness of anyone who might overhear them. “Would Gaius teach me?” Morgana asks in a soft whisper that reveals interest and nervousness.

”I’m sure he would if he asked.” Merlin says as he rises to his feet. “If he doesn’t have the time, then I could ask Arthur to see if he’d have any issue with me teaching you what I know.”

”You would do that?” Morgana asks with a hint of amazement that someone would share something that daringly neared the forbidden arts of magic. On impulse, Morgana reaches forward and gathers Merlin into a tight hug.

”Any other Alpha would feel the tip of my blade for touching Merlin such as you are.” Arthur says as he approaches. While his words hint some level of tolerance, his tone hints a struggle to keep his possessive nature under control. “Lunch is being served and I wanted you both to know before the Knights had a chance to inhale what’s been made without consideration.”

”We’d better hurry.” Merlin says as he pulls away from Morgana. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been out with the Knights and found myself with little to nothing left to eat once my chores were done.”

Laughing softly, Morgana offers Arthur a smile. “In that case, thank you for the advance notice.” Nodding towards Merlin, the dark haired noblewoman makes her way past the Prince to return to the camp.

”You’ve picked an amazing spot to stop for lunch. The nearby meadow is bursting with herbs that I can gather while you’re off slaying some poor forest creature.” Merlin says as he leans forward to place a light kiss against the Prince’s jawline just below his left ear. “I hope you can sense how much I appreciate the fact that I can do something useful while you enjoy your sport.”

Smirking, Arthur snaps his head towards the camp. “Go get something to eat, you idiot.”

”You just want me to get fat.” Merlin says with a laugh as he practically bounces towards the camp, following along after Morgana.

Arthur stands and watches his consort retreat towards the servants serving the afternoon meal. On impulse, his nostrils flare slightly and he draws in a deep breath as he savors his Omega’s scent. Shaking his head the Prince follows to get his own meal.

The meal is little more than a simple venison stew, bread, and an offering of dried and fruit and cheese along with wine and cool water. The meal is over quickly and both Merlin and Morgana stand back with a few servants and a few token guards watching the Prince, the Knights, and several men brought along to drive the prey from the brush, depart for the main event of the outing.

Slinging a large bag over his shoulder, Merlin turns and heads off towards the meadow before the last of the hunting party disappears into the forest. “I’m going to go ahead and get started. I’m not going very far from the camp so I should be easy enough to find when you finish up here.” The Prince’s consort calls over his shoulder as he moves briskly towards the meadow.

”I shouldn’t be more than a few moments.” Morgana calls back as she turns to watch her foster brother’s consort navigate his way over the creek. Smiling to herself, she turns her attention towards supervising the lunch clean-up and camp organization. “The hunting party will return in a few hours with the expectation that everything will be ready for our return to Camelot,” the dark haired noble says as she looks to the servants assigned to the camp. “This includes having the cart reorganized to transport any carcasses they manage to arrive with.” Smiling warmly, she adds, “Let’s get to it so we can have a little time to enjoy ourselves before they return.”

The abundance of herbs to be found not far from the camp quickly draws Merlin’s full attention. In very little time the bag thrown over his shoulder quickly expands with the precious leaves, stems, and flowers gathered. The young man is so focused on his gathering efforts that the distant sounds of Morgana and the servants and the occasional rustling movement of grass by some small animal mingles into a garbled rumble of undefined sound.

”How confident must you feel about your place in this world.” A familiar woman’s voice sounds from the forest edge, opposite the camp and the small creek. “Have you not learned it to be unwise for a Pendragon to ignore their surroundings?”

Startled by the nearness of the voice, Merlin looks up and peers cautiously into the shadows of the forest edge. “Perhaps, but then I’m not a Pendragon.” The dark haired young man says as his search reveals his visitor hidden against a large oak tree. “You’ve proven yourself no friend to Camelot Morgause. You tried to set Prince Arthur against his father.”

”And yet, Uther still lives.” Morgause says in a tight voice that reveals that she is far from pleased with the statement. “What sort of man forgives a man for murdering his mother and then using that murder as a reason to commit untold horrors upon an innocent population?” Stepping away from the tree, the armor clad woman glares at the Prince’s Consort. “What kind of man would bond with someone who ignores the sins of their father?”

”Arthur is a good man, and he’s nothing like his father.” Merlin snaps out defensively. “He already bears the burden of his father’s actions. What sick justice would try to right a wrong by forcing a son to end his father’s life?”

”By supporting his father during this reign of terror, Arthur accepts and shares the guilt for the crimes committed against the people.” Morgause says in an angry twisted voice that hints to the full depth of her hatred. “Uther must die for his crimes, as should all those complicit with his actions.”

”By your reasoning, anyone who isn’t being hunted is guilty. By your own definition, you’ve sentenced a kingdom full of people to death.” Merlin replies back coldly. “Do you even wonder why fear and hatred for angry magic users exists? Someone has to make a stand to make the changes needed. Arthur is that man. Arthur will return peace between those with and those without magic.”

”He’s right.” Morgana says drawing close to Merlin while he and Morgause argue. “Even if it can’t be seen by the general public, Arthur is the better man who is slowly chipping away at the hate and anger that fuels Uther’s reign. One day, he will be a great king to both magic users and those without magic.”

”You can live with the horrors Uther continues to commit against the people of Magic?” Morgause asks with wide eyes of disbelief at what the Lady Morgana has said.

”I hate Uther for what he’s done, and for the things he’s capable of doing, but I also know that Arthur is not his father. He’s embraced the most uncommon bonding during the Blessing of the Wolf, he knows about my magic, and he’s promised to protect me until the time he can bring change to our future.” Morgana says with an affectionate smile. “I trust him, and I think you should as well. He is a good man.”

”You’re asking me to ignore the fact that people are still being persecuted and they’re still dying.” Morgause says harshly. “Uther continues his reign of terror and I can’t turn my back on that as long as I have the ability to do something about it.”

Reaching up with one hand, Merlin pinches the bridge of his nose as if to ward off a headache. “I won’t say that Uther hasn’t earned the hatred directed at him,” Merlin says softly as if the words pain him in some way, “But neither Arthur nor the citizens of Camelot deserve to be punished for the King’s actions. Adding to that, Arthur must not be used as the tool that will bring down his father.”

”Also, because Arthur trusts us, we can’t be part of any effort that will bring about his father’s demise.” Morgana adds firmly. “Arthur doesn’t agree with his father, but he still loves him. He would never forgive anyone who betrays him by being a part of a scheme that brings harm to his father or the people of this Kingdom.” Glancing at the ground and then up towards Merlin her brow furrows slightly as if troubled. “Until the events of the Blessing, I had grown sure that Uther cared for no one but himself. I lived in fear that he would discover my magic but again with the Blessing, he’s allowed magic back into the Kingdom. For a reason I can’t explain, he’s changing and that change is for the better.”

”The King embraces the Blessing, and this Blessing embodies magic. By extension the King is once more embracing magic.” Merlin adds with sincerity.

”Morgana, the choices you make now will change the shape of everything that is to come.” Morgause says with an eerie intensity. “If you choose to stand with them then …… “

”Whatever it is that you’ve done, you must undo Morgause?” Morgana says interrupting the armored woman. Taking a step forward, the Kings Ward narrows her eyes as if searching for some hint to the other woman’s actions. “Give the changes that are taking place some time to fully unfold.”

Taking a step forward, Morgause lifts a gloved hand to gently brush Morgana’s cheek. “The time has come Morgana, Uther’s reign must end.” Morgause says with a strange tenderness towards the darker haired woman. “If it is as you’ve said and change has begun, then I pray that you remain safe.”

“What have you done?” Merlin says with urgency. “Tell us!”

Morgause glares at the Prince’s consort, “You will learn soon enough.” She snarls. Before anything further can be asked of her, the blonde witch mutters several words in the old tongue, bringing forth a strange screaming wind around her. In an instant the summoned magic whisks her away.

”We have to warn Arthur,” Morgana says reaching out to take hold of Merlin’s arm. “Morgause has done something and we cannot take the chance that her plot is focused on Uther alone.”

Nodding his head in agreement, the Prince’s consort turns and starts towards the camp. “We’ll send …” He starts to say when he suddenly gasps out in surprise as his hand lifts to rest upon his belly. Expressions of confusion, concern, and a touch of fear, mingle swiftly over his face before his eyes roll back in his head and he drops heavily to the ground. Merlin’s last brush with consciousness is the sound of Morgana screaming for help from the guards left behind in the camp.

Chapter Text

~*~*~

In the darkness there is warmth and a soft comforting barrier that stands as a guarding presence against anything that might bring pain or discomfort. ”Mer-lin …… Wake up my boy.” A gentle voice calls through the darkness surrounding the young warlock. “Mer-lin, you need to wake up.” Groaning softly in protest, the Prince’s consort turns away from the voice that seeks to draw him from his sleep.

”Merlin my boy, Arthur needs you.” An older, more fatherly voice calls out, penetrating the Warlocks cocoon of comfort. “We need you to wake up.”

There are few words that draw Merlin’s attention in the world of slumber. When one such word, a name, is spoken, a response stumbles forth from the Warlock’s lips, drawing him from his deep sleep. ”Arth …. “ Merlin mumbles as the darkness of sleep begins to fade to grey.

”That’s right my darling boy, your Prince needs you.” The gentle woman’s voice calls out, bursting through the haze, bringing light and wakefulness to the dark haired young man. “It’s time to wake up Merlin.”

”Mother?” Merlin mutters with confusion as his eyes blink a few times in the face of the nearly blinding daylight. “Where am I? What’s happened?” He asks with a slurred voice as he struggles in an attempt to sit up.

”Easy now.” Gaius says as he gently pushes Merlin back into the comfort of his bed. “You fainted while out on a hunting trip. You were brought back along with a very worried Prince and tales of warning from the Lady Morgana.” Patting the young man’s shoulder, the Court Physician offers a comforting smile. “You’re in the rooms that you share with Prince Arthur, and everything is fine now. As far as what happened, you simply fainted. It’s all perfectly normal, though you’ll likely need to get a little more rest and a little less excitement over the next few months or so.”

Furrowing his brow slightly, Merlin’s vision focuses upon his mentor before turning curiously to his mother. “But why did I pass out? It’s never happened before so it’s not all that normal for me.” Tilting his head upon the pillow, he blinks a few times at his mother. “Is it something serious? Is that why you’ve been sent for mother?”

Hunith smiles affectionately as she reaches up to sweep a gentle caress against her son’s cheek. “Oh my dear boy, no one sent for me. When I heard the news of your place among the blessed, I couldn’t stay home. I’m only sad it took me so long for the news to reach me.”

”I didn’t even think.” Merlin sputters out as his face colors with embarrassment. “So much has happened in the past weeks, I didn’t even think to send a letter. I’m so sorry mother. You should have been notified and given a proper escort. I’m sure Arthur would do that much for me since you’re my mother.”

”It was actually Uther that sorted things out. He sent an official notice of intent through diplomatic channels with King Cenred of Essetir.” Gaius says as he pours a little honey into a liquid filled cup. “He informed Cenred that as full company of Knights were on their way into his territory to retrieve the mother of the Prince’s consort and he provided one hundred gold pieces for any trouble the event would cause within Essetir.” The Court Physician pauses a moment to bend down to help Merlin into a sitting position so he can take a few sips from the honeyed liquid. “It’s a strengthening tea. It’ll get you back on your feet in no time at all.” He says as he lifts the cup to Merlin’s lips.

After finishing the cup of tea, Merlin settles back down against his pillows, leaving Gaius to continue his explanation of Hunith’s arrival. “Considering the fact that the return of the Blessing of the Wolf has most of Camelot’s neighbors tied up with concern for what it might mean should Uther decide to stir up hostilities with them, Cenred was more than pleased to accept an amicable intrusion into his Kingdom. He even went as far as doubling the amount of gold and sending it back with a request to give it to Arthur and his consort as a bonding gift.”

”Uther did all that? He did all that for my mother?” Merlin asks skeptically. Turning to look at his mother he tilts his head slightly on the pile of pillows. “The King brought you all the way from Ealdor for a visit? And the King even sent gold to Cenred for any inconvenience that might be caused when he sent the escort?”

”I dare say that it’s a little more involved than how it appears.” Hunith says as she sits on the edge of Merlin’s bed. “When I arrived in Camelot earlier this afternoon, I met with the King to discuss the circumstances of my visit. “ She says gently as she reaches for her son’s hand. “The King is concerned that someone might attempt to use me to sway decisions in Camelot now that you are the consort to the Crown Prince.” Pausing to glance at Gaius as he moves to stand supportively at her side, Hunith returns her gaze to her son and continues to speak. “He’s strongly encouraging me to consider staying in Camelot indefinitely, for both my safety and to ease concerns my family may have for my safety.”

”The King does have a point, Hunith.” Gaius says as he places a comforting hand upon the woman’s shoulder. “Since Merlin is highly inexperienced in his new position, Uther was wise to implement protective measures for his family that are commonplace among nobility.”

”I don’t know what to say.” Merlin says in a flat voice that hinted that the young man is overwhelmed. “I know that Uther doesn’t exactly approve of me, so I never would have expected him to do something like this for my family.”

”You don’t need to say a thing.” Hunith says as she gently pats Merlin’s hand. “For whatever reason he has, what’s done is done and I’m more than happy to move to Camelot. Gaius is in need of help, and I have missed you more than I can express my boy.” Leaning forward, she places a soft kiss against Merlin’s cheek.

”There is little chance that Uther acted with your interest at heart, Merlin.” Gaius says with a shake of his head. “But in the end it works in your favor, and in the best interest of your family. You and I will both have our minds at ease knowing that Hunith is safe and sound under the protection of the crown.”

A heavy knock against the door to the Crown Prince’s chambers prevents any further discussion that might have taken place. ”I’m sure that will be a messenger from the King. The King, the Prince, the Knights, and the members of Council with the exception of myself, are all in the Throne Room discussing the news the Lady Morgana brought from your meeting with Morgause along with other news that’s come not long after the hunting party went out.” Glancing back over his shoulder, Gaius frowns with concern. “A Shepherd arrived earlier with news of activity in Idirsholas and the King sent a small group of Knights out to check on the sighting and to calm the fears that might arise.” Sighing deeply, Gaius adds, “I fear that the two are related.”

”If the King is summoning you then I should go with you.” Merlin says pushing aside the covers and sheets. “I’m feeling better now so there’s no reason to hide away in bed when I might be able to help in some way.”

”Yes, I agree you might be needed. The matter is magical as will be the solution regardless of how Uther feels. Thankfully, the tea I’ve given you should help with any lingering weakness you might feel from your earlier episode.” Gaius says as he helps Merlin from the bed to his feet. Pausing to offer the young man his boots, the Court Physician helps to steady his ward as he hops about in an effort to don his boots. “But I must warn you Merlin, I don’t want you to do anything too strenuous or stressful.”

”I’m fine Gaius. You said as much yourself.” Merlin says with a broad smile. “Besides, it’s just hearing a report of activity about what a Shepherd saw, and a discussion of Morgause’s warning. There might be some shouting but I can’t see much more than that.”

”Still, you need to do as Gaius has asked.” Hunith says softly as the knock sounds against the door again causing all within the room to pause and look towards the door. “Take it easy for a few days, even if it’s only to humor us.”

”We’re coming!” Merlin calls out. Enveloping his mother in an affectionate hug, he kisses her forehead. “I’m glad you’re here mother. We’ll talk later. I promise.” Reluctantly, the Prince’s Consort pulls away from his mother’s embrace and moves towards the door.

Gaius starts to follow Merlin, but Hunith reaches out to grab the Physician’s arm to halt his exit. “Are you sure it’s best not to tell him?” She asks softly.

”We both know how both the King and the Prince would react Hunith. Magic is going to be needed if Camelot is to survive what I suspect is rising up against us. ” The Court Physician says in an equally low voice. “The secret will be held for only a short time, have no fear Hunith.” Taking Hunith’s hand from his arm, Gaius offers a smile and a reassuring squeeze of her hand before stepping away to following the younger man out the door.

~*~*~*~

Both Gaius and Merlin arrive in the throne room quietly, and the two men separate and make their way towards their respective place beside the council and the Crown Prince respectively. While Arthur looks relieved to see Merlin up and moving on his feet, Uther acknowledges the arrival of the Court Physician with a nod followed by the start of the discussion. ”The Fires of Idirsholas burn once more and the Knights of Medhir have taken the lives of four knights.” King Uther announces to all present in the throne room. Low mummers ripple through the council at the announcement, and the King continues to speak over the slight interruption. “Clearly this magical nightmare is the work of the Witch Morgause.” Frowning deeply, the King eyes the gathered group, “How can we remove this threat?”

”Eight well trained and experienced Knights went against these undead creatures, and while we dealt them mortal blows at points all over their bodies, they would not fall.” Sir Stephen says in a haunted voice that matches an equally haunted expression. “There was nothing we could do save retreat in order to report of the advancing terror.”

The Knight’s words serves to increase the volume of the whispers among the councilors present. “There must be something in Camelot that can stop this threat,” demands the King as he sweeps his gaze over those present in the hall, looking for someone to speak.

”As you know Sire, the Knights of Medhir were created over three hundred years ago by a powerful sorceress called Medhir when she seduced a group of seven Knights of Camelot. One by one the Knights succumbed to her power, becoming a terrifying and brutal force that rode through the lands leaving death and destruction in their wake. There is no weapon that can harm or kill them.” Gaius says as he clasps his hands in front of his waist. “They were only stopped when the sorceress herself was killed. Even then, without the power of the sorceress to animate them, the Knights became lifeless. According to the stories passed down, it is said they can be reanimated again if a strong enough power summons them. From past experience with Morgause, she has the power needed.”

”So we need a means to kill Morgause.” Prince Arthur says as he folds his arms over his chest. Pursing his lips, he adds, “And to do so, we’ll need some way to find her.”

”But she has powerful magic, how can we combat that level of magic with swords? She’ll strike us down, or have the Knights of Medhir strike us down before we could hope to get close to her.” Sir Leon comments in a steady voice. For the briefest moment, Leon looks to his wife, the Lady Morgana, before returning his full attention to the King. “If there are none in the Kingdom with experience or knowledge of magic, save what Gaius has told us, what are we to do?”

”There is another.” Gaius says, stubbornly looking Uther in the eye. “He might know of a way to defeat the Knights.”

”Who is it Gaius?” Arthur asks, looking from his father to the Court Physician as they glare at each other. “If there is someone who might be able to provide us the knowledge we need to safe Camelot, then we must speak to them. It is our duty to do whatever it is that needs done to protect the people and this kingdom.”

”No.” Uther says as he narrows his eyes in anger. “Never. I would never ask, and he would never tell.”

”It might be ….” Gaius starts to say.

”I said no!” Uther growls out. The Kings voice is laced with warning and his expression grows deep red with anger. “Do not test me on this matter Gaius. I promise you, you will regret it.”

”Father. If Gaius knows of a way to gain the knowledge needed to protect the Kingdom, it is our duty to hear it out.” Arthur says as he takes a step closer to his father’s throne.

”Be silent!” Uther snaps out as he loudly slaps the arms of his throne.

”Then it will be your pride, Sire, that is the undoing of this kingdom.” Morgana says in a voice with a barely concealed hint of disgust.

Uther’s eyes widen slightly upon hearing Morgana’s words. For an instant, her voice sounding identical to the mocking tone used by the goddess that has forced him to bring back the smallest hint of magic to Camelot. The moment quickly passes and the King rises to his feet as he shouts, “How dare you!”

”She dares because she is right, Sire.” Arthur says stepping between the King and Lady Morgana. “You have wisely told me more times than I can count that pride has no place in the ruling of a Kingdom. The Lady Morgana and I have no choice but to offer a reminder.”

The tension in the Throne Room is thick enough to slice with a dull blade as the King, Camelot’s primary Alpha, stands against his heir. Both are strong, but in this instance the King is in fact forced for face the fact that pride does rule the King’s decision. Uther glares at Morgana over Arthur’s shoulder for several long moments before he lowers himself back onto his throne. Closing his eyes and leaning his head back against his throne, Uther says in a voice void of emotion, “Arthur, Morgana, Gaius, you are to remain. Everyone else, leave me.”

One of the older council members steps forward, “Sire, should we not discuss this ….” He says timidly.

”I said leave me!” Uther snarls, glaring at those who’ve hesitated in departing.

As the King orders the hall cleared, Lady Morgana reaches out to take Sir Leon’s hand. “My Lord, I request that my mate remains at my side.” She looks towards Leon who offers her a nod and a reassuring smile.

Uther’s nostrils flare slightly as if he’s ready to argue with Morgana’s request. Instead he turns to his son. “And you. Do you request that your consort remain?”

Arthur shrugs his shoulders and glances over his right shoulder at Merlin. “Merlin won’t leave my side even if I were to wish it.

”There is no disrespect intended, Sire.” Merlin says softly from over Prince Arthur’s shoulder.

Glaring first at Merlin and then at Leon, the King releases a breath as if in defeat. Turning his attention to the guards at the doors, Uther nods and waves a hand dismissing them. Bowing deeply, the men close the throne room doors, leaving those closest to the King with their privacy. “Gaius, you waste precious time suggesting that we consult with the great dragon.” Uther says, pausing as several present draw in startled gasps of air. “Given any choice at all, he would kill me himself and bring my kingdom to ruin. What is it about this situation that you believe he would aid us?”

The Court Physician sweeps a hand towards Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, and Leon. “You have begun to show some level of tolerance for magic as is represented by the unions of both you son and ward. That too is in the Great Dragon’s interest.”

“If in some wild portion of your imagination he agrees to help, he will surely ask for his freedom in return.” Uther says leaning forward impatiently. “Even if I were desperate enough to bargain with something so farfetched, that cannot be allowed. There are none that could control him and keep the Kingdom safe. I will not trade one threat for another.”

Gaius purses his lips into a tight line as he considers a response to the King. For the briefest moment, the Court Physician glances towards Merlin before holding his head high to look directly into the Kings eyes. “There is a possibility that a Dragon Lord survives to this day.” He says flatly. “I have heard rumors that the Dragon Lord Balinor lives in hiding outside of your reach.”

“What’s a Dragon Lord?” Merlin asks as he steps forward to stand beside the Crown Prince. “And how would he control a dragon?” Glancing nervously at the King, the Warlock adds, “From what I’ve heard about dragons, they can be a stubborn lot that seek to serve their own selfish desires.”

“They are destructive and dangerous creatures, as are all things of magic.” King Uther snarls out. “Even if Balinor still lives, he would be as resistant to helping Camelot as the dragon.”

“Perhaps,” Gaius agrees, “But again, by embracing the Blessing of the Wolf, you show a change that might sway Balinor’s decision to help. There is no cost to speak with the Dragon, and should we need the aid of a Dragon Lord I know of someone who might be able to persuade Balinor to lend us his aid if you also grant a pardon of past judgments and his future safety from persecution.”

“It seems our best option at this time father.” Arthur says after a moment’s consideration. “From what has been said of the Knights of Medhir, we face the potential of great losses with little chance to defeat them without some measure of Magic on our side.”

“You have already embraced some level of Magic with the Blessing,” Morgana says with a smug glimmer in her eyes. “Would it really be that difficult to accept a little more to save Camelot from pain, suffering, and potential destruction?”

A sound of distant laughter echoes through the halls, timed almost as a response to the Lady Morgana’s words.

Chapter Text

~*~*~

”Gaius, how could you?” Hunith asks with barely concealed anger. “Uther brought nothing but disruption and pain into Balinor’s life. He felt he betrayed dragon-kind. He was driven from a life with those who did and would love him. And now you suggest bringing him back to the source of his pain?” Grasping one hand with the other as if preparing to pray, she paces for several steps before turning back to the Court Physician. “Neither Merlin or Balinor know of the other. You would have father and son meet in the service of a man who would see them both dead? And there are no doubts. The King will do everything in his power to see them both dead, no matter what he promises.”

”I would have gladly gone to my grave with your and Balinor’s secrets, but the circumstances we now face offer no other choice. The Great Dragon may well be the only source for a solution to combatting the Knights of Medhir.” Gaius replies quickly as he reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose to starve off a growing headache. “Kilgharrah will, without hesitation, demand his freedom as the price for helping Camelot. An angry, vengeful dragon amounts to the same danger as the Knights. With Balinor’s assistance, the dragon can be controlled and the danger minimized.”

”You saved Balinor’s life in the Great Purge, and I never looked for him when he fled Ealdor ahead of Uther’s pursuit. I held his secret from everyone, including his own son. The persecution we’ve seen demanded the precautions to keep the boy safe from those who might do away with him for having a father with magic.” Hunith says dropping her clasped hands to clench the fabric of her apron. “Now, because the Kingdom is in need, you would throw away all we’ve done to keep him and his son safe?”

”I can’t explain it, Hunith, but something has changed with the King.” Gaius counters with a firm conviction. “While there is no formal acceptance of Magic, the acceptance of the Blessing of the Wolf has in fact subtly brought magic back to Camelot. Added to this, Arthur knows about Merlin’s magic and has been nothing but protective and supportive of his consort. When considering the state of things, it does seem reasonable that the last Dragon Lord might find some tolerance where none existed in years past.”

Silence fills the Court Physician’s chambers as Hunith considers her old friend’s words. Frowning deeply she shakes her head as she finally replies, “I don’t have the same trust in the King as you seem to have, but I do trust you. The only thing that I have to ask is that you promise me that you won’t needlessly risk Balinor or Merlin. I need you to swear that you will do everything you can to safeguard Merlin and his father.”

”Hunith, I’ve done everything in my power to protect them in the past, and I swear to you that won’t change.” Gaius says as he reaches out to put his hands on Hunith’s shoulders reassuringly. “What happens now is going to depend on what transpires between the Great Dragon and the King in the morning. And if Balinor is needed I will trust no one but you and Prince Arthur with the information needed to find him.”

Hunith visibly relaxes with the last bit of information shared by the Court Physician. Lowering her gaze to the floor, she sighs. “Let us hope the morning finds cooperation in abundance.”

~*~*~*~

”You aren’t coming with us in the morning.” Arthur says firmly as he follows Merlin into their shared chambers. “You can spend the time with your mother, or sleep in if you like.” Continuing into their rooms past his mate, the Crown Prince slips his jacket off his shoulders and tosses it in a chair sitting beside his wardrobe.

”Excuse me?” Merlin draws out in a challenging tone as he turns to face the Crown Prince. “Out of all the people who should accompany your father on the visit to Kilgharrah, I have the most recent experience with him.” Crossing his arms across his chest, he adds, “Not to mention the fact that I happen to be one of the few who might actually be able to prevent the Dragon from frying everyone to a crisp if the visit turns ugly.”

”And that’s the exact reason why I can’t let you join us.” Arthur replies with a stern glare as he steps closer to his consort. “I won’t risk you or the dragon exposing your magic to my father.”

”Of course Arthur, it’s much better to have Kilgharrah fry your father into a nice crisp lump of smoldering royalty than to possibly risk him finding out about my magic.” Merlin says flippantly. “Oh but wait, why would the dragon stop with toasting the King when he can take twenty years of frustration out on everyone who shows up to chat.”

”Merlin, you do realize that normal people manage just fine without magic.” Arthur replies coldly. “The Dragon is chained, and we can protect ourselves from the beast’s flames with shields. If need be, the shields will hold until we can retreat into the tunnels leading up into the dungeon.”

”Then there is little chance that I’ll reveal myself.” Merlin says with a slight frown. “Please Arthur. It would be a big mistake to exclude me. I know that you’re worried about me, but no more than I worry about you. I swear to you that I’ll stay out of the way and no one will even know that I’m there.” Closing the gap between them, Merlin reaches out and places his right hand on Arthur’s chest. “Please Arthur; if you force me to stay behind I’ll be sick with worry.”

”Do you mean sick with worry such as how I felt when I sensed that you were alarmed about something while I was out hunting and then when I sensed a sudden absence of feeling? Or do you mean the worry I endured upon returning to the camp to find you passed out for some unexplained reason after a threatening visit from the witch Morgause?” Arthur asks as he reaches up to place his hand against the back of Merlin’s neck. Drawing Merlin close, so that his lips brush intimately against his consorts ear, the Crown Prince adds, “Or the worry I now feel since I can sense a subtle change in your scent, and Gaius still has no explanation for your fainting.”

”I’m fine Arthur.” Merlin whispers against Arthur’s cheek. “I just need to know that you will keep me at your side.” Drawing back slightly so that he can look into Arthur’s eyes, the Warlock’s words are soft and pleading. “Please don’t force me to wait and worry while you and your father go to speak with Kilgharrah.”

Arthur leans in and brushes his lips lightly against Merlins. “Let me think about it. We’ll see what the morning brings.” He says leaning in a second time for another kiss. “I need to know that you are well and that you will show enough good sense to avoid revealing your magic to my father.”

”What can I do Arthur? How can I show you that you can trust me?” Merlin says as the hand he has resting on Arthur’s chest migrates to his Alpha’s back. With the barrier between them gone, the Warlock presses closer, lightly grinding his hardening cock against his mate.

Arthur’s embrace becomes tighter and he laughs with amusement. “Merlin, are you seriously trying to seduce me to gain my approval for you to join the group set to visit the dragon?” Shifting from one foot to the other, the movement reveals that he too has a growing interest.

”No. Of course I’m not.” Merlin quickly says as he makes to step away from the Prince. Lowering his head to hide the embarrassed flush upon his face, he instead shows the flaming red tips of his ears. “I only thought you wanted me and I wasn’t exactly opposed to participating.” Squirming to gain release, the Omega only manages to achieve a pleasant amount of friction. “I didn’t mean to make you think I was trying to influence you with …… you know.”

”Will you stop fidgeting.” The Alpha demands with a roll of his eyes. “I’m not about to turn you down tonight or any other night for that matter. I think we’ve both grown to quite like our private moments together.” He adds while his lips take possession of his Omega’s full mouth. Arthur’s kisses draw needy whimpers and moans of enjoyment from the Warlock while the Prince’s hands explore his consort’s slender body. One hand lightly skims along the trail of Merlin’s spine, finally ending with fingers woven into soft dark curls at the nap of the Omega’s neck. Arthur’s other hand migrates downward to lightly sweep over Merlin’s lower back and bum.

Merlin opens his mouth to the warmth and friction of Arthur’s lips, wordlessly inviting the Prince to explore his Omega’s mouth. Moaning in pleasure as his mouth is possessed by the more aggressive Alpha Merlin grinds his hips forward into his lover’s hip. “Arthur,” the slighter man whispers as Arthur moves to suck a mark of possession at the apex of Merlin’s neck and shoulder. “Gods I need you,” the Warlock whimpers, leaning his head back to offer Arthur better access to his neck.

Arthur smiles against Merlin’s skin as he kisses the newly made mark on his Omega’s neck. “What do you need Merlin? Do you need me to hold you? Kiss you? Fill you?” He asks as his fingertips slip under clothing to lightly brush over bare flesh. Lifting his head the Prince presses a slow kiss against his lover’s pliant lips. Drawing back, Arthur looks into Merlin’s eyes before he steps back to put a slight distance between them. “I want you to take off your tunic Merlin.”

Tilting his head and looking up into the deep blue eyes of his Alpha, Merlin licks his lips leaving a moist trail over his mouth. “Alright,” he whispers as he crosses his arm over his belly to grasp the hem of his tunic. Dropping his gaze briefly to Arthur’s lips, Merlin half smiles as he swiftly lifts his tunic up over his head.

”Now remove your boots,” Arthur commands as he brushes the fingertips of his right hand over Merlin’s left nipple. The Prince adds as he takes a step back to enjoy the sight of his mate exposing himself. Letting his right hand sweep lower to caress Merlin’s flat abdomen, Arthur adds, “Once the boots are off, I want you to remove your trousers as well. Then perhaps we’ll talk about needs.”

”Are you going to take off your clothes as well Arthur?” Merlin asks rebelliously as he kicks off his boots one, after the other. “Or will you need my assistance?”

”Your Prince has given you instructions,” Arthur commands with a spoiled tone and a smirk. “I’d think it would be wise to focus on that first.” Lifting his brows expectantly, the Prince rolls his hand signaling the other man to move along.

”I can do as I’m told.” Merlin says as he lowers his gaze to concentrate on undoing the ties on his trousers. “But I want you to know, I’m not doing this because I want to convince you to let me come with you tomorrow.” Looking up to watch Arthur’s face, the Omega pushes his trousers down to pool around his ankles. Licking his lips with anticipation, he moves to the side as he steps out of his trousers. Now free of clothing, Merlin reaches down to stroke himself absently. “Have you noticed that this isn’t the same as when I was in heat.”

”You’re right, there are a number of differences in the how we make love in the absence of the pheromones you release during your heat.” Arthur says as he looks at his former Manservant with a raw hunger. “But I think it’s safe to say that the attraction between us remains, and we’re very passionate in expressing our affections even without the intense animalistic drive.” Taking a step forward to stand before Merlin the Prince’s smile becomes bolder and he reaches out a hand to brush a few fingertips against his Omega’s right nipple. “Now I want you to kneel.” He says with a husky voice.

Merlin looks directly into Arthur’s eyes with a grin on his lips as he drops, without hesitation, to his knees before his Prince. Leaning forward, he brushes his cheek against the clothed swell of his Alpha’s groin. “What do you want me to do now?” he asks as he closes his eyes and draws in his lover’s musky scent.

”I want you to open my trousers and prepare me with your mouth to fulfill your needs.” Arthur says in a deep voice that catches slightly as he says ‘mouth’.

Breathing heavily, the Omega reaches up with trembling hands to unfasten Arthur’s trousers. “When I do this, it causes my cock to throb.” Merlin says as he quickly pulls the Prince’s trousers down. Eagerly, Merlin closes his right hand over his lover’s cock. Without hesitation, he jerks his hand twice over Arthur’s cock then takes the smooth swollen head into his mouth.

Arthur draws in his breath sharply as the moist heat of Merlin’s mouth envelops his cock. “By the Gods Merlin, that feels so perfect.” He says as he quickly peels his tunic off, removing the cloth barrier so he can look down and watch his cock disappear between the slighter man’s full lips. Burying his fingers in his Omega’s hair, the Prince groans with pleasure at the sight and the feel while he jerks his hips forward slightly. “Your mouth is amazing.”

Humming with his own pleasure, Merlin relaxes his jaw and swallows Arthur’s cock to the root. The Prince’s knot is slightly swollen and the Warlock pauses to lightly tease the knot swell with pressure from his lips. Drawing back to keep from gagging, the Omega begins to suck. Gripping the Prince’s hips and pulling, Merlin encourages the Prince to start thrusting.

Closing his eyes and tilting his head back, the Prince moans blissfully while he gently thrusts into Merlin’s mouth. The sounds of slurping mingles with moans, and Arthur is soon quivering as he struggles to keep from losing himself to the pleasures of his Omega’s eager mouth. “Stop,” he hisses while jerking forward one last time. “I want you on the bed.” The Prince orders as he grips the base of his cock to starve off his orgasm.

Grinning, Merlin leans forward to boldly lick the sloppy wet flesh of Arthur’s cock. “I like doing that to you.” The Omega whispers as he climbs to his feet. “Watching you nearly come undone makes me want you even more.” He says before leaning forward to lick across the Prince’s left nipple.

”Bed. Now.” Arthur growls out as he swats at Merlin’s naked rear. Kicking off his boots and trousers, Arthur follows his mate to their bed. Squeezing the base of his cock once more, the Prince watches as his Omega lays back on the bed and spreads his legs in invitation. “Can you use your magic to open yourself or …..”

”If I could wait, I’d rather you do it,” Merlin says pausing to bite his lip. After a moment, the Warlock’s eyes glow a rich golden color before he adds, “But I can’t wait.” Whimpering the Omega adds, “I need you to fill me, please Arthur, I need ….”

Pushing off his trousers, Arthur crawls on the bed and between Merlin’s open legs. Leaning down, the Prince captures Merlin’s lip in a filthy kiss. “Do I need to use anything?” He whispers urgently between kisses.

”No, you just need to ….” Merlin says pausing to stretch upwards into a kiss.

Before anything further can be said, Arthur buries his cock deep into his mate’s body. “Mine,” He hisses as he bottoms out amidst hungry kisses. Shivering with pleasure at being fully sheathed with Merlin’s body, the Prince aggressively pounds his thick cock into the Omega delicious heat, drawing out grunts and groans of satisfaction from them both. An intense rhythm is quickly reached between the two men and their shared pleasures are marked with tiny gasps begging for more mingled with affectionate endearments promising love unending.

Wrapping his legs around Arthur’s hips and arching his back for deeper penetration, Merlin slips his hand between them to stroke his cock in time with the Prince’s thrusts. When Arthur’s cock brushes against a sensitive spot deep within him, Merlin cries out and comes undone, spilling his seed between them. Two more thrusts, and Arthur pushes his knot into his Omega’s hole, tying the two men together. Rolling his hips one more time and the Alpha gasps out as he releases his seed deep into his mate’s body.

~*~*~*~

The light of morning filters through the stained glass window of the Prince’s bedchamber, casting a colorful rainbow over the tangle of arms, legs, and blankets stirring atop the bed. Merlin is the first to open his eyes he sighs happily as he burrows against the delightful heat of his mate. “Time to rise and shine, sleepyhead.” The Warlock purrs while stretching his long limbs under the chaos of sheets and blankets.

Arthur practically growls as he pulls a pillow over his head. “You are entirely too perky in the morning, Merlin.” He mutters in a groggy voice. “It’s gotten notably worse now that you share my bed.”

”How so?” Merlin asks as he rolls over, steals the pillow over Arthur’s face, leaving them facing each other nose to nose. “Is it less appealing to hear with us both naked?” he says with a playful grin.

Groaning unhappily, the Prince rolls over onto his back. “The disgustingly disruption of my sleep used to be presented with a platter of sausages, bread and cheeses.” Arthur grumbles.

”Well no sausages in bed today, sire. Today it’s fruit and formal courtly fun and excitement with your father. Remember you agreed to meet with everyone for breakfast before heading down below the dungeon.” Merlin says as he pushes the covers aside. “Better get up and get moving or Uther will send someone along to see what’s keeping you.” Moving from the bed to the wardrobe, the Warlock begins to dress.

”You’re coming with me, no matter what I say, aren’t you?” Arthur asks as he rolls over to watch his consort dress. “And before you answer, I want to remind you that as the Alpha in this relationship, you, the Omega, is supposed to adhere to my wishes.” Swinging his legs off the bed, the Prince rises up to sit at the side of the bed. “I don’t mean to be overly critical, but you fail miserably in this aspect of being an Omega.”

Merlin looks over his shoulder and smiles. “Call it what you will, I’m still going, unless you plan to lock me in a cell along the way.” He says with a tilt of his head.

”Which won’t hold you when you’ve got your mind set to go against my wishes.” Arthur says as he rises up from the bed. “Really Merlin, you’re going to have to work on this obedience issue before you damage my reputation as the lead Alpha.”

”I would never reveal you as anything but utterly perfect.” Merlin teases. Opening his mouth to say something more, he is interrupted by a loud knock to the door. “As I said, your father would send for you ……Hurry, hurry, time to get moving.”

By the time Arthur and Merlin arrive Uther, Gaius, Sir Leon and Lady Morgana are waiting impatiently, all clearly eager to face the dragon. “It’s about time,” Uther grumbles as he glares at first his son, then his son’s consort. “We’ve had reports that the Knights of Medhir are on the move and will soon be reaching Camelot. Time is running out, and the sooner we get the information needed from the Dragon, the better.”

The passage down into the deepest darkest areas under the castle, past the dungeons and lower cells is traveled in silence. The final decent is a damp and well-worn staircase that ends at a ledge over an impossibly large cave. For the entirety of the procession Sir Leon leads Uther’s chosen few to the rocky ledge. Holding a single torch high, the Knight forms a circle of light, into which the Kings group gathers. “Call him.” Uther commands of the Court Physician as he peers carefully into the eerie darkness.

Gaius steps forward and after a moment of consideration, he calls out into the darkness, “Kilgharrah!”

Silence fills the moments that follow the Court Physician’s call and it soon appears as if the call will go unanswered. The silence continues into minutes, and the King shifts his feet impatiently. “Call him again.” Uther growls out impatiently.

”What’s that sound?” Morgana whispers as the flapping of leather echoes in the damp darkness, interrupting the King’s final few words. “Do you hear that sound?”

”He’s coming.” Merlin says softly from the back of the group. For his contribution, the Warlock receives a hard glare from the Crown Prince.

The flapping sound of large leathery wings grows louder, and the damp musty air swirls around the visitors waiting in the deep. “Well, well, well,” A deep sarcastic voice sounds out loudly as the dragon lands heavily on a large outcropping of rock opposite the cave ledge. “A number of surprise visitors come this day.” Kilgharrah snarls out as his gold reptilian gaze glares at first Merlin, Gaius, Morgana, and finally focusing on the King. “Yours is one face I never expected to see. Why aren’t you dead yet?” The dragon snarls in an unfriendly tone. “What do you want Uther Pendragon? I would gladly help you on on your final journey into the afterlife.”

The King sneers at the Dragons ill delivered humor. ”The Knights of Medhir ride against Camelot. They have been called forth by the witch Morgause.” Uther calls out with a proud lift of his chin. “The Court Physician Gaius feels you may know of a way to defeat them and end their threat. A solution to find a way to locate and defeat the witch controlling them, or to bring them down in direct combat, is equally acceptable.”

The Dragon blinks several times upon hearing the reason for the visit and silence fills the air, leaving nothing but the uncertain sound of breathing. The silence suddenly comes to an end as the Great dragon fills the air with laughter.

”We need your help or innocent people will be harmed!” Arthur says calling out as he steps forward.

All laughter comes to a halt as the Dragon stretches his neck to peer at Camelot’s Crown Prince. His eyes narrow as he stares before speaking directly to Arthur. “When the Once and Future King joins with Magic, embracing the full potential, then prosperity will be found. The product of this unity heralds freedom for all save the old who will fall back to linger in a clouded future with another who has been long lost. Freedom will be served in the dawn of a new age of prosperity.” On his last word, the dragon’s eyes flicker with a golden fire and he shakes his head as if dislodging the a sense of confusion.

”We’ve no time for your riddles!” Uther snaps out impatiently. “Your help is required to keep the kingdom from falling to the Witch Morgause. Can you stop the Knights of Medhir?” he demands

Laughter fills the air again as the Great Dragon turns his attention to King Uther. “How dare you, Uther Pendragon, how dare you ask anything of me while your chains hold me imprisoned.”

”Sire I believe he was citing a prophecy, though I’m unfamiliar with this one.” Gaius says with a furrowed brow and a slight frown.

”And you, you stand in support beside one who has single handedly caused more pain and suffering than any other man in history.” Kilgharrah roars as he stretches up to an imposing height atop the rock outcrop opposite the ledge. Slight trails of smoke rise up from the beast’s nostrils.

”Um. Arthur, I think you might want to get your shields in place.” Merlin mutters as he clenches and unclenches his fists as if preparing for something.

”Until I am freed from these chains, you will receive nothing but death from me!” The Great Dragon roars as he drops back down onto the outcropping of rock while extending his neck with his mouth wide open. Threats, protests, demands, and words of caution all fall silent in the face of deadly fire spewing forth from the dragon’s frightful maw.

Chapter Text

~*~*~*~

Mix the demands made by a King who is singlehandedly responsible for decades of death and suffering forced upon all things magical with the reactions of a highly irritated and outraged dragon, the only outcome possible is disaster of the highest order. Although armed with both weapons and shields, the Prince and Knights of Camelot are far and above ill prepared for the explosive situation that unfolds.

The Great Dragon’s threat echoes like thunder through the cavern in response to Uther’s demand and time seems to slow as Kilgharrah utters his last words. Hesitation and confusion registers on the faces of most present, save for the Court Physician and his ward. In slow motion Gaius calls out a warning, but like the Knights and Royals even he is too late in his reaction to the Dragon’s anger. No one makes the move to back away and the large shields held by the Prince and the Knights are not brought up in time for protection. It is little more than a blink of an eye that passes before the Dragon opens his mouth and extends his neck while releasing deadly flames in murderous anger.

Reacting in the face of a real danger from both the Dragon’s anger and the Knight’s sluggish response, Merlin steps forward to stand slightly in front of the Prince and the King. Lifting his right hand, the Omega’s eyes blaze a rich molten gold at the same instant that the dragon flames burst towards them. As time speeds to its normal pace, a protective shield appears over the targeted victims of the Dragon’s anger. The Warlock and the Dragon stand off against each other with their power and conviction stubbornly equal with one championing protection as the other is committed to destruction. “No one can deny your anger, but this is not the way my friend.” Merlin says softly.

Flames dwindle as the dragon draws back from his attack. Instead, the great beast roars in frustration at being denied vengeance. Uther is the next to react, and shockingly it is not against the Dragon’s attack or the lack of reaction by the Prince and Knights. Irrationally, the King targets the small party’s unexpected savior.

“Sorcerer!” The King snarls out as he turns towards his son-in-law to viciously grasp him by the neck. A forceful tug pulls the younger man back and down into the dirt of the ledge. An instant after Merlin hits the dirt Uther drops, driving a knee into the slighter man’s chest. “You brought this upon us!” Uther hisses between clenched teeth. “You’ve consorted with her to force this all upon us!” As the King shouts his hands intent upon murder grip the Omega’s neck. Through it all, with his eyes wide with fear, the Warlock somehow manages to hold the protective shield in place even while struggling against a father-in-law who clearly intends him great harm.

Recovering from the surprise of the dragon’s attack, Arthur is first to be spurred into action. Charging forward, the Crown Prince drops to his knees and tries to pry his father’s hands from Merlin’s throat. “Let him go Father!” he shouts out in anger. “I can’t let you hurt him.” Failing to make any progress, the Prince growls and then viciously shoves a shoulder against his father in an added attempt to dislodge the King’s deadly hold.

The Dragon withdraws almost instantly as if shocked at the results caused by his actions. “You would murder the one who selflessly protects you?” Kilgharrah roars at the King in outrage. “Even now your hatred twists your common sense!”

“You fool!” Gaius shouts without hint of whom he might be calling a fool. Stepping back, the Court Physician’s concerned gaze flows from the Dragon, to the King, and finally to the struggling form of his Ward. “You must stop your Highness, you must think reasonable! If you continue, there might be more harm than you know!”

“All the hatred and violence you force on us, all the fear and terror you instill in those who are nothing but innocent. You poison all that you might have hoped to be your legacy! Camelot faces a dark path because of you, Uther.” Morgana hisses as she looks down at the struggling threesome. “And now we know that even your family and those sworn to be under your protection aren’t safe from you.” Her tone takes on a hint of loathing and disgust.

Sir Leon steps before his spouse to shield her from the violence. “Morgana, you should leave.” He says softly, reaching up a hand to guide her from the cavern.

“Leon, no!” Morgana shouts as she shoves away her spouse’s hand to stand firmly in witness to the Kings actions. “We can’t turn our backs on this. We must do something! Help Arthur! No one is served with this! The hatred and fear must stop or there is no future for Camelot and its people.” Without waiting for Leon, the Witch moves forward to pull the King in the direction the Prince is attempting to push. Only a moment later, she is joined by her husband.

“You’ve enchanted us all!” Uther snarls as he presses his full weight down on Merlin’s throat despite Arthur’s efforts to protect his mate. “The spell will end with your death!”

Shouts continue from all in witness, and Gaius joins the Crown Prince in an effort the physically break the Kings strangling hold on Merlin. As the Omega’s struggles begin to grow weaker, it seems clear that nothing said or done by those present are able to dislodge Uther’s murderous intent.

“May the Gods forgive me Father, but I will protect what’s mine, even against you!” Arthur shouts as he draws back to unsheathe his sword.

Whimpering in fear as the King tightens the grip at his throat without mercy, the Warlock concentration falters and he weakly lowers the hand that had held the barrier against the Dragon’s fiery attack. Merlin frantically brings both hands into the fight to break Uther’s grip. Twisting and squirming he tries to pry the Kings hands from his throat. The Omega’s face reddens with effort and his mouth silently pleads for his freedom.

Alas, there is little need to tread where the Gods have already issued a warning. A deep rumble echoes through the cavern and the torches swirl and flicker as if being passed by some unseen force. Something or someone stills the advance of time, leaving Uther and to some extent those possessing magic in an untouched bubble of normality. An angry voice booms out reprovingly at the same instant a blinding white light fills the cavern. Startled, the King immediately draws his hands away from Merlin’s throat and those who would save the Sorcerer.

“YOU WERE WARNED UTHER PENDRAGON!”

Rapidly flashing images of the past, the present, and the future replace the white void. Images known to be the truth mingle with visions of what might have been. Actions of the past lead forward into the changing visions of the present and future. The King is forced to see all that plays out, and those with magic bear witness to the visions. For those with magic, the completeness of what is seen varies based upon the strength of magic held.

Visions of the current threat posed by the witch Morgause twist and warp showing first to what is now before showing what was. Uther frowns in confusion as he witnesses a pact made between half-sisters Morgana and Morgause leading to all in Camelot but Morgana falling into a helpless sleep. Drawing away from the vision, curling in on himself, the King shivers as his ward is revealed to be a witch who is being driven mad with fear of persecution by someone claiming to love and protect her. Wrapping his arms around himself, Uther finds little comfort against the rapidly flashing images of a future that might have existed without the return of the Blessing of the Wolf. The King’s cries out from the pain of realizing his responsibility and guilt.

“You would kill our son’s mate and the child that the Blessing gives them?” An accusing voice from Uther’s past whispers as the ghostly form of the long dead queen Ygraine takes shape before the King’s eyes. “You would defy the gods again when they grant you a second chance to escape a broken existence and eventual death brought about by the actions of a bastard daughter you drove into madness with your hatred?”

“Ygraine, I would never…..” Uther whimpers as he shivers in horror at the images of what might have been that continue to assault his mind.

“YOU WERE WARNED!”

The delicate image of Uther’s dead queen fades into the light. Images reform to reveal siblings at war, ultimately leading to death for both children as a result of their father’s legacy of hatred. A hard won kingdom is left to wither and be lost in the annals of time.

“IN THIS LIFE, AND ANY LIFE THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN, OR EVER WILL BE, YOU REAP THAT WHICH YOU SOW, UTHER PENDRAGON.

In the swirl of images, a once great King cowers in confusion and shame. The voice of the goddess stings hard in Uther’s mind.

“IT IS A GREAT PUNISHMENT CAST UPON YOU TO KNOW AND LIVE WITH THE PAIN YOU HAVE CAUSED IN ALL OUTCOMES THAT ARE AND COULD HAVE BEEN.”

“I’m sorry,” Uther whimpers in shock as the images fade and reality returns. Quickly withdrawing, backing tightly into the cavern wall, the now broken King continues to wimper. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” As the King mutters and shivers in a state of shock the others blink in confusion at the sudden change in behavior. “I would have never …..” He starts, as his eyes dart to look up into Morgana’s eyes. His expression filled with guilt and true sorrow at the pain put upon his daughter. “Had I known, I would never….. I’m sorry.”

Turning his gaze towards his son, Uthur’s lower lip quivers. “I …” He begins, only to be cut off short by an unforgiving tone.

“I don’t want to hear it!” Arthur snaps harshly, “He saved us, he protected us, and offers nothing but loyalty and devotion to this Kingdom! Nothing you can say will ever make your attack on him alright!”

Lowering his eyes, the king whispers a few more barely heard apologies even as his son turns his back to reach out to gently touch his shivering mate’s shoulder. “It’s alright Merlin, you’re safe now.” Drawing Merlin into his arms, the Crown Prince looks over his shoulder to glare at his father without sympathy.

“There is a child, or so your mother said, and there is so much change.” Merlin gasps in confusion with a voice weakened by Uther’s efforts to strangle him.

“I’ve got you.” He whispers into the Warlocks ear, holding his own reaction to Merlin’s confusing words. “We’ll get everything sorted out.”

“How can it be?” Merlin mutters as he draws himself closer into Arthur’s embrace. A sob escapes the slighter man’s shivering form. “His mistakes, his actions, and so many paid.” Burrowing his face into the crook of Arthur’s neck. “Even you,” Merlin sobs, “Even you paid with your life for your father’s hate.”

“No one’s hurt, no one has paid any price for my father’s actions.” Arthur says gently, “You’re understandably upset. Everything is fine now.” The Crown Prince flashes a concerned glance towards Gaius.

“I felt it, or at least I think I felt something shift.” Tilting her head she frowns slightly, “Or at least I think I saw a glimpse of what might have been.” Morgana mutters as she looks from Uther to Merlin, frowning as she struggles to understand the little that her magic has revealed. Her brow furrows and she whispers softly. “Magic cannot be denied in this or any other life. It is a constant like breathing.” Narrowing her gaze she glares at the broken man the King has become. “Morgause seeks your death. She seeks safety for those with magic.” She states bluntly. “Her hatred for you is as strong as your hatred of Magic.”

Merlin shivers at Morgana’s words, and he turns his head from the comfort of Arthur’s embrace. “I’m sorry Morgana. For what might have been.” He says with a voice that chokes with emotion. Suddenly the Omega pushes away from Arthur and rolls onto his hands and knees. The cavern grows silent save for the sounds of the Warlock violently heaving up the contents of his stomach.

“Merlin? You saw more didn’t you?” Morgana asks with concern as she continues to stare at a broken Uther. “I think perhaps I was spared from seeing too much.” Shaking her head, Morgana’s expression turns hard. “He deserves this and possibly more. No one should live in fear as he’s forced so many to live.” She finely says, turning her attention to the dragon. “Do you know what’s happened? Why things differ from the visions seen?”

Kilgharrah shifts on his rocky perch, clearly enjoying the King’s fall into madness. “The path into the future has an endless number of branches. You know this from your dreams, witch.” The dragon says with a snort that brings trails of smoke rising up from his nostrils. “Anything and everything can change with an action taken by man, woman, or a god.”

Narrowing his eyes slightly, the Great Dragon peers at all present. “All I can say is that this is not the path originally started upon and there are substantial changes. With your untrained powers, surely you saw some of what was.”

”Saw what? What are you talking about? What was? What might have been?” Arthur shouts impatiently. “What has happened to Merlin and my father?”

Snorting in a manner that could be taken for disgust or disinterest, the Dragon shakes his head. “I care little for your father young Pendragon, but for the sake of the Warlock I will tell you what you need to know. Something or someone has caused the time to shift away from the events that would have led you all along a path of destruction. Whoever is responsible for the shift has allowed those of us with magic to witness some of what now torments Uther.”

”Is this an attack or some twisted means of punishment?” Gripping his Omega tighter, Arthur frowns while struggling to understand what’s happened.

A deep reptilian laughter echo’s within the cavern. ”The visions offer an understanding or knowledge of justice being done. Either way, the time of my freedom is now so close I can taste it.” Spreading his wings the great beast launches himself into the air where he quickly disappears into darkness.

Frowning deeply as she watches Kilgharrah disappear, Morgana turns to the Prince. “Let me speak to Morgause. I think I can convince her to withdraw.”

“Morgana, NO!” Leon interjects as his attention is drawn from their broken king. “While an Alpha you may be, it still isn’t safe for you to travel to meet with a woman who has clearly laid claim as an enemy of Camelot.”

“Then you can travel with me.” Morgana says firmly with a lift of her chin. “She’s been kind to me in the past, and she’s given me a means to help calm my dreams when nothing else worked.” Holding up her right arm, she turns her wrist to shows a delicate bracelet. “I am sure that she will do me no harm. But if you like, she can accompany me as both my mate and my guard.”

“I cannot allow the King’s ward, alpha or no, to go blindly into danger!” Arthur hisses in alarm.

“Morgana is my daughter,” Uther mutters softly, following up his revelation with a string of apologies and soft sobs.

“What?” Arthur exclaims in surprise, looking from his father to Morgana shocked expression. “Father? Did I hear you right?” When the King remains withdrawn into his own mutterings, the Prince frowns and adds, “Father?”

Kneeling slowly beside Merlin, Gaius looks at each person present in turn. “There is much to reveal and much to do, but the revelations must wait since the doing part is a great deal more important at the moment.” Reaching out to place a comforting hand on Merlin’s back, the Court Physician looks to the Prince. “It would be best to accept what both Merlin and Morgana have said. We have very little time before the Knights are upon us. If you would hear my council, then I would advise that you take action to see about Uther, Merlin, and then Morgause, and then sort out the fine details afterwards.”

~*~*~*~

It is well past midday before the Crown Prince can approach the matter of Morgause and the Knights of Medhir. By agreement when they left the caverns earlier, Arthur and Morgana arrange to meet in the throne room just past noon. Arriving first, Arthur steps forward to his father’s throne. Stepping around the imposing chair, the golden haired royal sighs deeply as he reaches out to touch the tall back.

“Although he probably doesn’t deserve it, the King is resting comfortably.” Morgana says as she enters the Throne Room from a side entrance. “Something has clearly triggered a madness that seems quite inescapable. I saw very little of what he might have seen, but even with that I doubt he will ever regain his former self.” Taking the final steps to the Throne, she too places a hand on the Throne’s back. “How is Merlin?” She asks with genuine concern.

“Bruised and somewhat shocked at what occurred. He seems to have been exposed to a great deal of what tormented Uther. Even so, he’s settled and now sleeping. Gaius and his mother have remained at his side to watch over him.” Arthur says, his tone revealing the stress of dealing with all that has occurred. Taking a deep breath and tilting his head, the Crown Prince looks at Morgana with a hint of curiosity and wonder. “So, I have a sister. Gaius confirmed it while tending to Merlin. He said he was sworn to silence upon which he faced the penalty of death if he revealed Father’s secret. He seems ill at ease for keeping such information.”

“Does it bother you?” Morgana asks defensively. “Being forced to deal with the knowledge that I’m your sister?” Squaring her shoulders in preparation to defend herself in the face of Uther’s claim to be her father. “I don’t know what he was thinking to tell us now at a time where it will only add confusion to the threat from outside.”

Shrugging his shoulder, Arthur says, “Should it bother me? I’ve always thought of you as a sister while we were growing up so nothing has really changed in my mind. The particulars are still a little unclear, but without all the facts are in I rather like the idea of a blood relation.” Tilting his head slightly the Prince eyes Morgana carefully. “Regardless of the timing, I’m glad it came out. Together we’re only stronger than we would be apart. Besides, I think you’ll like having a brother. I’m sure you’ll find new and interesting ways to use that to your advantage.”

A small laugh escapes despite the tension of the moment. “Thank you Arthur.” Morgana says with a weak smile, “I’m sure that you’ll be surprised by this, but I think I’ll wait until this crises is over before I think too hard on what this all means.”

”It is going to take a good while until we all understand everything.” Arthur says as he releases a breath of frustration. “Now, about Morgause…..” He says carefully.

“She won’t hurt me if I travel without you. You have to let me talk to her, Arthur.” Morgana says firmly. “It is the best way to make her aware that Uther is no longer a threat. She will trust me if I tell her that he’s nothing more than a shell.” Stepping around the throne, she moves to stand before her new found brother. “I saw a glimpse of what might have been, and in that other reality my fear and hatred for Uther resulted in my aiding Morgause in this threat against Camelot. In the vision of what could have been, she herself said that the decisions I made would change the shape of things to come and I sided with her. In this time when she made a similar statement I sided with you. She said Uther’s reign had to end, and with the way he is now, she has all that she wants. I think revealing his condition will more than satisfy her.“

“Merlin tried to tell me some of what he had seen as well.” Arthur says as he places a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “But he said he I should trust you, and that changes had been made that would keep you and I close.”

“Then you’ll let me try?” Morgana asks quickly. “We’re running out of time and I’ll have to act quickly.”

The Prince searches Morgana’s face for several long moments before coming to a decision. “I do trust you Morgana. And as much as I hate to admit it, you have a better understanding of what Morgause wants and of what’s happened better than most. Our best chance to settle this matter without bloodshed rests in your hands. But I can’t let you go alone. Take Leon, and three others of his choosing under a white flag of truce.” Holding up his hand to stall any protests she might have, Arthur continues, “Your importance to Camelot cannot be dismissed. Any fewer numbers traveling with you is unacceptable for a Princess of the realm.”

Rolling her eyes, she steps back. “As long as those who go with me understand that they travel at my pace, not at a leisurely stroll.”

“Just please be careful Morgana. While you can and often are rather annoying, newly discovered sisters who’ve been dear friends over the years can be difficult to replace.” Arthur says, offering a genuine smile filled with affection.

~*~*~*~

“While there is a chance that your father will regain his senses, I suspect that chance is rather slight. Based on what the Great Dragon has said, your father is lost in the guilt of what his actions might have caused or perhaps what they will cause if he were free to act.” Gaius says softly as he and the Crown Prince travel along the corridor leading to the King’s bedchamber. “Beyond that, there appears to be no physical cause for his state so there is nothing I can treat him for.” Shaking his head, the Court Physician turns his gaze towards the Prince. “Had I found some disorder, or disease, then I would be able to offer a greater chance of recovery, without the physical, it is left to guessing the full extent of what horrors the King might be facing in his mind.”

“And what of Merlin?” Arthur asks as he continues to watch the slow rise and fall of his father’s sleeping form. “He seems to have been exposed to the same visions that now disable my father.”

“He will recover fully.” Gaius says with no small amount of satisfaction in reporting a more positive diagnosis. “As you know he’ll have some sever bruising around the neck and shoulders as well as a few other bruises caused by the rough treatment, but there is no lasting physical damage. We can expect him to still be in shock, but we won’t have a clear idea about his state of mind until he awakens.”

“Is there any sort of….. ” Arthur says, pausing to wiggle his fingers, “……that can be used to help Merlin or my father with the trauma they’ve experienced? There are several hints that Merlin might be with child, so something that might confirm or deny would be helpful.

Gaius lifts one brow nearly to his hairline as he peers harshly at the Prince’s wiggling appendages. “If it is your command to find a magical solution, I will do so. But for the moment I must, however, point out that as long as Uther is still King, sire, his laws still remain. Any discoveries or recovery might be viewed as a complete disregard for the law by a council that must still be consulted in the things that you will need to do.”

“Never mind….” The Crown Prince mutters with a deep frown and a slightly embarrassed tint to his cheeks.

Nearing the Kings chambers, Arthur nods to the guards on either side of the door. After entering the rooms, the Crown Prince pauses to watch the servants attending the now sleeping King. He remains silent for several long moments before he says in a low voice. “You do realize that change is coming, don’t you Gaius? Although at this time I can’t say what or how as much depends upon Morgana at the moment.”

“I am well aware of that, sire, and I trust that you to do what is best for the kingdom.” Gaius says warmly.

~*~*~*~

As the view of Camelot’s Castle fades from view, the Lady Morgana and her escorts come to a halt atop a small hill overlooking a flowing field of grain. To the south, the Knights of Medhir riding out into the field in formation behind the golden haired Lady Morgause.

Morgana turns to her mate and nods. Leon in turn raises a lance with a white flag affixed to the tip. “The rest of you are to remain here.” Leon says firmly as he glances to the other Knights. “You are only to join us if the Knights disregard the flag of truce and move forward to accompany Morgause. As I’ve said before we began this task, we wish to settle the matter without bloodshed. Understood?”

When the three remaining Knights nod gravely, Sir Leon turns to Morgana. “All is ready my Lady.”

Smiling warmly at Leon, she nods and turns her attention to the approaching threat. Without a word she spurs her horse forward. Her green cloak billows out behind her and her ebony locks dance upon the breeze caused by the swift pace she’s set her mount to take. Behind her and slightly to her right, Leon keeps pace with his lady while holding the white flag high above their heads. Much to their relief, the Lady Morgause has halted the Knights moments after Morgana and Leon break away from their group.

Bringing their horses to a halt nearly in the middle of the field, Morgana and Morgause eye each other critically. “Morgana.” Morgause says stiffly. “You look well.”

“As you well know, the bracelet you’ve given me has afforded me rest without interruption. I am still grateful for the gift.” Morgana says with a quick glance to her adorned wrist. “But that is not what I’ve come to speak with you about.” She says looking past Morgause to the dark clad Knights standing as statues in the distance. “I ask that you release the Knights from the threat they hold over Camelot and her people.” The blond knight quickly shakes her head against such a request. “Hear me out.” Morgana says quickly. “We know you seek to remove King Uther from the throne, and I am here now to share the news of what has occurred only this morning.”

Narrowing her eyes she glances at Leon then toward Morgana. “Is Uther dead?” She asks with a deadly hopefulness.

“No, but in a way I believe what has happened is better, especially if one wishes for him to suffer for his crimes.” Morgana says flatly, offering no sign of remorse for her words. “Uther is gripped by madness and is no longer able to sit upon the throne. Something has happened to change the world for the better. It’s hard to explain, but it appears that the once great King is tortured with the knowledge of how things might have been with the choices he made.” The corners of her mouth lift slightly, showing some satisfaction in her father suffering. “Both Merlin and I have been afforded a glimpse of what might have come from his sins. Along a different path, Arthur knew nothing of my magic, and I sided with you as I fell into madness.”

Closing her eyes, Morgause tilts her face back and lifts her palms up to the sky as if searching for something unseen. Her expression pinches and her eyes flutter with effort. After a moment she frowns. “I thought it might have been the Knights and the magic that stirs them to life,” the armor clad Lady says softly. “But there has been something, almost like a pebble being tossed into a tranquil pool of still water. If one searches, the slowly calming ripples of the disturbance can still be felt even if the source is unrecognizable.” Opening her eyes she searches Morgan’s face. “If what you say is true, then what does Camelot plan to do? The intent to remove Uther was intertwined with the intent to remove the laws against magic.”

“With the King immersed in madness, Prince Arthur has no choice but to replace his father. He will be a Great King, Morgause. I know him as well, if not better than, I know myself. Our Future King will place the needs of all his people and his kingdom first and foremost in his heart.” Morgana says with a passion that is born of great trust. Pausing a moment, she smiles. “And, He will protect those with magic.”

“Will he protect you? What has you so sure that Arthur is not his father’s son? How do you know that he won’t turn on you just as his father turned his back upon our kind?” Morgause challenges. “When his father’s part in his mother’s death was revealed to him, the great Prince Arthur did nothing. How do you expect me to believe that he’ll bring a long awaited justice for all?”

“To subscribe to his father’s beliefs, Arthur would have to abandon his Omega and several others of whom he’s come to care about. I don’t always agree with him, but I do trust him he has not abandoned anyone who’s shown to have magic.” Morgana responds strongly. “Please Morgause, I ask that you remove the threat against Camelot so that Arthur might take the crown in peace so he can begin to undo some of the damage done to his people.” Pressing her lips tightly as if considering her next words, the dark haired lady lifts her chin a bit higher when she adds, “And if I’m wrong, which I know I’m not, should Arthur refuse to uphold the needs of Camelot and its people, then I will stake my own claim as Queen. The people of Camelot will not continue to suffer. I swear to you. Change has come.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Morgause tilts her head. “You would claim the throne of Camelot?” She asks with no small measure of interest.

“Uther has revealed that I am his daughter.” Morgana says without emotion. “Both the Court Physician and Arthur have confirmed it. It would be my right.”

“Really? Uther told you himself?” Morgause asks in surprise. Glancing from Morgana to Leon, she sees no hint of deception. “Then today is a day for celebration. Today just may well be the end to Uther’s persecution.”

“Then you will end your threat against Camelot and send the Knights of Medhir away?” Morgana asks hopefully.

“For now I will.” Morgause replies. Lowering her chin slightly, and offering both Morgana and Leon a stern and warning gaze, she adds, “But mark my words, if Uther returns to the throne or Arthur shows himself to be filling his father’s shoes, an even greater threat will return.” Backing her horse up a few steps, she smiles and bows her head to Morgana. “Perhaps the next time we meet will be in peace.” She says before turning her horse and retreating to the line of magical Knights.

Morgana and Leon watch the retreat of the witch and her knights in silence. When the Knights themselves turn and follow their mistress out of sight, Morgana takes a deep breath and releases it slowly as if expelling any tension that might have been present during the meeting. “You did it.” Leon says proudly.

“Of course I did.” Morgana says with a snort of confidence. “Did you expect any less?”

~*~*~*~

Chapter Text

~*~*~

The sound of a dog barking echoes over the silently sleeping land. The commonplace sound breaks the nervous silence that grips Camelot and the lower town. Moments later a child cries from somewhere within the safe confines of the citadel. From the open window of the Crown Prince’s chambers, the guards can be seen patrolling atop the outer walls. “The tension is unnerving.” Arthur says softly as he watches the empty moonlit courtyard. “Even the crickets chirping seem conspicuously absence.”

“At least it’s given Merlin a chance to rest.” Hunith whispers softly as she turns in her chair away from her son’s sleeping figure. “You should be resting as well. You look exhausted.” Offering a weary smile she places her hands on the arms of the chair and starts to rise. “I should leave. If you need me, you can always send someone to fetch me.”

“No. Stay.” Arthur says softly as he looks over his shoulder towards the bed. “I’d like someone to be here in case I’m called away.” The Prince’s eyes meet his mother-in-law’s gaze, and they both seem to silently acknowledge that he might be called to either fight or to meet Morgana’s return. Good or bad, neither wanted Merlin left alone.

“Why are you doing….” Mutters in his sleep, drawing the attention of both Hunith and Arthur. “…ever tell me.” Twisting and turning on the bed, random words form on the sleeping man’s lips but are uttered so softly that they go unheard.

“Is he waking up?” Arthur says as he moves from the window to sit on the bed beside his Omega. Gently pushing a sweat dampened lock of hair from Merlin’s face the Prince glances at Hunith. “Do you think we should get Gaius?”

“He’s with your father. “ Hunith says rising from her seat beside the bed. “I can go fetch him or send someone to do so.”

“Please no, please, I can save you.” The sleeping Warlock whimpers desperately as he begins to thrash about, fighting some unseen foe. “We need you. I need you.”

“Send someone.” Arthur says quickly without looking at the older woman. “He’s ….”

NO!” Merlin screams out gasping for air as he bolts upright in his bed. Eyes wide open and body trembling, it takes a moment before confusion grips the Omega.

“It was a dream dear boy,” Hunith says softly. Gently reaching out to place a reassuring hand atop her son’s shoulder. All three are startled when Merlin harshly jerks away from the gentle touch. When he turns his head slightly to seek out the source of the attempt at comforting, he is first confused by his mother’s presence. Confusion quickly morphs into anger.

“Mother? Why, why didn’t you tell me?” He says turning a hostile glare towards his mother.

“Merlin, you were dreaming, it’s alright.” Arthur interjects so to draw the attention of his mate.

Glancing quickly towards Arthur with a look of impatience, the Warlock frowns. “No, it wasn’t. It was a glimpse of what might have been. It was real. I know it was, even if it isn’t that way anymore.” Returning his gaze to his mother, Merlin’s frown remains. “Why did you not tell me that Balinor was my father?” Tears well up in his eyes, “I had a right to know, mother.” Tears tumble from his eyes as he repeats in a smaller voice that reveals a deep pain. “I had a right to know….”

Uncertain about what was happening, the Prince rises up from his perch upon the bed. Watching in silence, Arthur rises from his perch atop the bed and steps away to allow Hunith more space beside her son. Moving to stand at the foot of the bed, he continues to listen curiously about something clearly very important about his mate’s linage.

Drawing her son into a motherly embrace, the gentle woman’s voice catches with emotion as she speaks. “I had no choice, Merlin.” She says through tears of her own. “I had to keep you both safe. Uther wanted him dead and had he known of your connection he would have killed you before he could have even learned about your magic.” Looking down, the years seemed to weigh heavily on her shoulders. “He left to keep me safe. We didn’t even know about you when he fled.”

Choking out his sobs and tears against his mother’s shoulder, Merlin shivers slightly with the knowledge coming to light. “In that other life. The one that might have been. Payment to the dragon for the information needed to combat Morgause and the Knights was his freedom. He would take nothing more.” Lifting his head from his mother’s shoulder to look into his husband’s eyes, the tears continue to stream down his face. “He would have taken nothing less. But rather than to find peace in some distant land, Kilgharra retaliated and brought pain and sorrow to the Kingdom. I had no way to know the he would choose to retaliate against your father and everything and everyone that stood with him.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Merlin.” Arthur says, “Had it even happened, which is did not, the responsibility would have rested on my father’s shoulders, not yours. He is the one that brought pain and suffering to magic kind. I know you, and I know you did what you had to do.”

“My father is a Dragonlord.” Merlin says quietly as he pulls slowly out of his mother’s embrace. “In the ….. the other time, Balinor was killed saving me. He had known me as his son for less than a day and he saved me.” His haunted gaze lowers. “Upon his death, I inherited my father’s powers, and I sent the Dragon away. He didn’t deserve to be locked up and he didn’t deserve to be killed.”

“I promise, Merlin, the dragon is yet another issue that needs to be sorted out. Now knowing that the rumors of its existence in the caves below are true, I can’t leave it so his anger festers any further. Something will need to be done. We’ll need to contact your father in the hopes that he’ll agree to keep the dragon out of trouble once he’s released. I swear we’ll find a way to get everything to work out fine.” Smiling at Merlin and then to Hunith, he adds, “Besides, even if we didn’t need him to keep a dragon in line, Balinor is certainly a man that I look forward to meeting. How can I not like him already?” Arthur offers with a tilt of his head and a smile. “Sight unseen, when he saved Merlin’s life in a time that might have been, Balinor has already proven his worth to me without doing anything at all in this life.”

A weak smile appears on Merlin’s lips, only to disappear a few moments later. “So much has changed already.” He mutters more to himself.

“It will be alright Merlin.” Arthur says protectively. “There are so many who will do anything to help you get through what has happened to you and the stress of seeing what might have been. I need you to get through this unharmed.”

Furrowing his brow and looking up into his Alpha’s eyes, it is clear that Merlin doesn’t seem to understand what he’s being told. “What?” He asks with genuine confusion. When his mother gently pats his arm supportively, Merlin shakes his head. “No, I’m fine, really I am. The bruises and aches will heal, and sorting out what I’ve seen is going to take a little to process. But really, I am fine. There are so many more important things to worry about.”

“I’m sure you are just fine Merlin,”Hunith says patiently, “But I hope you’ll bear with us for a little while until we come to accept for certain that you’ve suffered no lasting side effects.”

~*~*~

With Merlin back to sleep in the bed, and Hunith settled comfortably in a bedside chair, Arthur is serenaded by soft snores from the two. Having returned to stand at the open window overlooking the courtyard, the Crown Prince patiently watches for Morgana’s return. So much depends on the news she might bring, and his Alpha protectiveness extends to the people of Camelot. Sleep will come when safety is assured for all under his care.

A gasp followed by a soft slurring of words has Arthur looking over his shoulder. The tension and the worry fades from the Prince’s expression, giving way to fondness for the man snuggling deeper in to the warmth of their bed.

The moment is interrupted by a tapping at the door. Moving towards the door, Arthur frowns at the tapping repeats persistently. “I’m coming,” the Prince hisses as the tapping repeats as he nears the door. Several steps later, the door is pulled open to reveal a weary Gaius. “Has something happened to my father?” He asks with a furrowed brow.

“I’m sorry to disturb you so late, Sire, but we’ve had several council members sending messengers to your father’s chambers asking for an update to our present crisis.” Gaius says quietly, his tired eyes revealing his lack of rest. “I have attempted to delay them by telling them that the King was ill at the moment and that they should have some answer in the morning. I know that you’re waiting on Morgana’s return before anything is said, but they’ve now begun to demand an emergency meeting. They are becoming rather insistent so I assured them that I would bring their concerns to you.”

Reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose as if to block a rising level of frustration, Arthur takes a deep breath and releases it slowly. “Have messengers sent to all members of the council to inform them that I’ll entertain their concerns and provide what answers I have at dawn.” When Gaius turns to do as he is bid, the Prince looks up and adds, “And Gaius? Thank you for everything.”

“You are welcome, Sire.” Gaius says, pausing to look over his shoulder.

Closing the door, Arthur takes a deep breath. “How I long for something simple….” The Prince mutters as he turns away from the door.

“I’m going with you.” Merlin says wiggling his way out from under the many layers of linins on the bed. “You need me there, if only to offer proof of your father’s loss of control.” Moving carefully to keep from waking his mother, the Omega manages to throw back the covers.

“No. You’ve been through enough in the last day, and besides, it’s still early. Dawn won’t be for another few hours.” Arthur says as he blocks his mate’s escape from the bed. At that moment Hunith shifts in the chair beside the bed and snorts softly in her sleep. Both men pause and glance in her directions.

“We should wake her to let her return to her room.” Merlin says in a low voice. “Then we both could get a little rest before dawn.”

“Leave her to her sleep. She looks comfortable.” Arthur replies in an equally low voice., omitting his desire to have someone in the room should he be called away. The Prince sighs and gives Merlin a light tap on his shoulder. “Move over.” He demands, “I can’t promise I’ll sleep, but I will take the time until dawn to rest with you.” Poking his Omega one more time for a little more room, Arthur settles on top of the covers. “And don’t take this as any sort of victory. I’ve only agreed to rest with you since you’re unwilling to do anything I’ve asked of you without making demands of your own. You still need rest and clearly this is the only way I’ll get you to do it.”

Offering an ear to ear blinding smile, Merlin budges over. “Admit it, you love the challenge.”

“Right. I adore senseless struggle on matters that should be common sense and self-preservation.” Arthur mutters as he shifts a little to get comfortable. “Now shut up and go back to sleep.”

~*~*~

Arthur rises in the pre-dawn hours as the inky blackness of night gives way to a muddled grey highlighted with ripples of orange and red along the eastern horizon. Moving quietly through the room using the skills of a hunter gained from years of practice, the Prince gathers his boots and a change of clothing. Slipping behind his changing screen he emerges a few moments later only to find Merlin gathering his own clothes.

Arthur hisses softly in a tone that clearly reveals his annoyance. “I want you to stay here and rest. I’ll let you know everything that’s discussed in the meeting.”

Merlin pauses his preparations and glares at Arthur with narrowed eyes and tightly pressed lips. “Do we really need to go through this again Arthur? My place is at your side.” Rolling his eyes, the Warlock returns to his preparations, not realizing that he has another set of eyes focused on his back.

“He’s worried about you.” Comes the soft and gentle voice of Merlin’s mother, now awake as the first hint of light reaches the chamber’s windows. “You’ve been traumatized both physically and mentally. You can’t deny either. The bruises are visible and it wasn’t but a few hours ago that you awoke from terrible dream.” Rising from her chair to fully face the stubborn Warlock, Hunith crosses her arms over her chest. “There is no shame in allowing others to face obstacles without you when you’ve given more than your fair share of effort.”

Grinning with approval, Arthur nods once and adds “You should listen to your mother, Merlin. She’s clearly thinking about your welfare.”

Muttering quietly, Merlin steps behind the changing screen to dress. “I won’t be swinging a sword, and I highly doubt I’ll be needed to do any sort of magic. I hate to say it, but after the day we’ve had yesterday, I highly double I could manage much of anything beyond standing.” He says with is voice changing with the effort of pulling on trousers and a tunic. “When it comes right down to it, I am Arthur’s Omega. Like it or not, I’ll be expected to stand supportively beside him as he has his say with the Turnip Heads who are calling for a meeting when we should all be tucked happily in bed.” Poking his head out from behind the screen, the Warlock gives his mother a careful look before adding, “Tucked happily in bed without one’s mother looking on I might add.”

“It was Arthur’s request that I watch you!” Hunith exclaims defensively. “And knowing your predisposition to run off into trouble without any sense of self preservation, I can understand his reasons.”

Turning his glare to the Prince, Merlin’s says in a flat unreadable tone, “Then clearly Arthur and I have a nice long talk ahead of us.”

Rolling his eyes and throwing his hands in the air, “Fine, come along. There’s clearly no stopping you regardless of what I say.”

~*~*~

Dawn settles over the land as the doors to the council chamber swing open. The faces of those already present inside look up expectantly.

“Your Highness, the last word received is that the Knights will reach the lower towns sometime this morning,” Lord Garrah says rising to his feet as the Crown Prince enters the hall. As he rises, he launches into his nervous summary for the requested meeting. “There has been no assembly of Knights sent out with the purpose of stalling the attack, nor has…”

“Lord Garrah, you have reached the limitation of my tolerance and I haven’t even reached my seat!” Prince Arthur snaps in a low and unmistakably deadly voice as he strolls into the council chambers with Merlin at his side. “You are advisors to the King, and in his absence to me, and you will be well served to remember that for this and all future issues that arise.”

Lord Belden glances at the faces of his fellow councilors, before speaking in a calmer tone. “The situation is dire, my Lord.”

“I am well aware how urgent our situation is and as such I’m allowing some leniency with the council’s actions,” The Crown Prince says as he reaches his father’s chair at the head of the table. “I am currently awaiting the return of a diplomatic party sent out yesterday in the early afternoon to speak with the witch Morgause. If they are successful, the matter is resolved.”

“If not?” Lord Belden inquires.

“Then we will be dealing with an ancient magic.” Arthur explains with a level of patience that one might use if speaking with a gathering of children. “After consulting an equally ancient source, it is determined that the only way to stop the Knights will be to remove the person who has animated the Knights. Meaning, we will avoid direct combat with the Knights as much as possible while seeking a way to kill the Witch Morgause. The exact details on how that might be done are still under consideration.”

“And the King agreed to this?” Lord Trevelyan asks, bringing to light the absence of the King. “Earlier this morning my manservant reported that he saw the King being escorted up from the Dungeon’s by the Lady Morgana and Sir Leon while the Prince Consort was being carried. Did something happen in the Dungeons that might be related to the dangers that now face this kingdom? Is there anything that the Council needs to know about?” Trevelyan asks, his voice laced with suspicion.

“The situation is filled with enough tension without your creative implications, Lord Trevelyan.” Lord Cleriff shouts with a slap of his hand atop the council table while giving his fellow council member a hard glare. “The King is ill, the Prince has stepped forward in his place. Let us keep focused on the matter at hand.” Turning his gaze to the Prince, Cleriff lifts a brow. “Is there anything else that we might be told to ease our minds and those of our households, Sire?

Opening his mouth to reply, Arthur is interrupted by the doors to the council chambers open slightly, followed by the shouts of flustered guards attempting to dissuade the intruder. Over the shouts, Sir Leon’s commanding voice can be heard, “The Crown Prince is waiting on the news that the Lady Morgana brings. On my order you will admit her!” With that, the guards fall silent and the doors are fully opened.

“Arthur, you could have mentioned to your guards that I was expected.” Morgana chides with a roll of her eyes as she marches into the chambers. “We’ve ridden all night to get back here only to be stalled in the courtyard by a knight insisting that he send someone to the council chambers to announce our arrival, followed by an attempt by your guards to bar us from this lovely meeting.”

Clearing his throat from behind his lady, Sir Leon steps forward and bows respectfully to the Prince. “My Lord, we hope to share the news of our mission with you.”

Rising to his feet. Arthur places his fingertips on the table and leans forward. “I had hoped to discuss the details in private before making any news public, but given the urgency of settling the nerves of our people we will bring all news to the table.” Turning his gaze to the Lords seated at his left, he says. “Lord Foss, will you and all other seated beside you move to allow the Lady Morgana and Sir Leon a seat beside me at the Council table.”

Lifting a curious brow, Morgana watches in silence as the Lords do as they are bid. In turn, Arthur responds with a lift of his own brow. A silent understanding passes between the two with the Crowned Prince making it known that he wishes his sister by his side, and Morgana accepting the offered place of honor. Lifting her chin and taking Leon’s offered arm as escort, Uther’s daughter moves along the council table to take her place at the table. Behind them, the doors to the council chamber close with a finalizing boom.

Standing tall at the head of the table, Arthur moves his gaze to each face present, ending with the smiling face of his consort. “Before I begin, there are a number of things that must be put forth in order to secure and assure the safety and prosperity of the realm. You have all heard Sir Leon. Those sent as diplomats return successful. The threat from the Knights of Medhir is gone. It is now that other matters that arose during our efforts to secure the realm’s safety can be brought forth.” The Crown Prince says with a firm voice that defies challenge. “In the face of a danger that no mortal power can defeat, King Uther, myself, my consort, the Lady Morgana, Sir Leon, and Gaius our Court Physician and expert on matters of magic, went deep into the caverns under the dungeons of Camelot to discuss the matter with a beast of untold power and knowledge.”

“Are you talking about the beast in the cavern that was driven off when your Omega was rescued?” Lord Cleriff interrupts. “It’s said to be a fierce dragon.” Pausing as several council members mutter their own thoughts to either themselves or to their neighbor, Cleriff shakes his head. “What we saw and heard is not something that could be consulted in our favor.”

“The beast is one and the same,” Arthur says, stretching the truth of what was in the caverns during Merlin’s rescue with that of the creature that actually exists.

“In reality, Kilgharra is knowledgeable about a number of things when he isn’t demonstrating anger at being kept captive by King Uther.” Gaius adds helpfully, falling into his role as a magical advisor. “His anger is great, but he is still controllable and unable to harm anyone or anything. Given the situation, we had no choice but to consult with him.”

Arthur nods his thanks towards Gaius before continuing to speak. “During the consultation with the dragon, a number of things came to light.” He says as he continues to move his gaze to watch the reactions on the councilor’s faces. “To begin with, the King revealed that the Lady Morgana was brought under his care not due to his friendship with Gorlois, but because she is his actual daughter.” This news brought gasps of disbelief and shouts of disbelief.

“Prince Arthur’s words are true.” Geoffrey of Monmouth says in a clear and steady voice. “The King charged me with safeguarding the information and to record it should there be any requirement to confirm the Lady Morgana’s or her children’s lineage.” This information brings the council chambers to silence.

Clearing his throat, Prince Arthur returns the attention to himself. “Based upon my father’s claim and until such time as it can be made official, the Lady Morgana will henceforth be accorded the rights and respect as the Kings daughter. Hereafter, she is to be known as Princess Morgana.” Scanning the faces present, he finds a number of members twitching uncomfortably, but none willing to offer a challenge.

“The next matter is a delicate one.” Prince Arthur says as he stands a bit taller. “In the efforts to secure Camelot’s safety during our recent crisis, King Uther is now left in a broken state.” A few mutters of unrest fill the air, but Arthur overlooks this as he continues. “I cannot say with any certainty that he will not recover, but in his present state, the King is not able to provide for his people in a manner that he nor any of us present today find adequate.”

“We have only your claim that he is unfit!” Lord Trevelyan shouts as he rises up to his feet in protest.

“Will you sit down and listen!” Morgana snaps with narrowed eyes. “Let Prince Arthur speak before you fly off on a tangent.”

Narrowing his own eyes at Trevelyan, forcing the Lord to return to his seat with the glare alone, the Prince pauses a moment as silence returns to the chamber. “I am to take on the role as Regent until such time as the King either recovers or is determined to be without hope of recovery.” He says without hesitation. “Now to the matter of the Knights of Medhir.” He says turning towards his half-sister and Sir Leon. “You have news?” Arthur asks when his half-sister and Sir Leon settle into the seats vacated for them.

Morgana doesn’t answer right away. Instead she carefully eyes each council member with contempt, until finally settling on her brother. “The Lady Morgause has a high level of loathing for King Uther and his persecution of her kind.” She starts, pausing only to glare at a few who had the gall to make comments. When the room quiets, she continues. “Since it is King Uther she opposes and he is the reason for her reanimation of the Knights of Medhir, I have told her of his condition and that Prince Arthur will be assuming the throne in his place.”

Several council members shoot to their feet in anger. “Traitor!” One shouts, “Betrayer!” says another.

Sir Leon rises to his own feet. “Be silent!” He snarls out. “Or the next shall be a challenge to combat for your words against my lady!”

“Be silent!” Prince Arthur shouts from his seat at the head of the table. “I will hear the full report!”

Morgana waits, sitting back with her elbows resting on the arms of the chair and her chin resting on clasped hands in a pose that reveals that she’s patiently waiting for the shouting to settle. When the volume lowers to a few dissatisfied mutters as everyone settles back into their seat, she lowers her hands to rest in her lap as she leans forward to speak. “As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, the Lady Morgause took the news under consideration and has decided to withdraw for the time being in order to allow the Prince to demonstrate his devotion to the people of Camelot.”

A sense of relief fills the chamber, with several exhaling audibly as if they had been holding their breaths awaiting the news. “The danger has passed and we can all get on with our lives.” Arthur says, vocalizing what several within the room surely were thinking.

“Perhaps we can now return to the matter of the King?” Gaius says after several moments of silence.

“Yes, of course. Thank you Gaius.” The Prince says offering the Court Physician a nod, before looking back to his councilors. “Over the next months, those who wish a private audience with the King to assure themselves of his state may do so. If it has not been settled beforehand, my place as Regent will expire in six months. If I have not stepped down for my father to return, I will become King in my own right. Any thoughts on the matter?” He asks.

“If your father is as you say, the terms of the regency is reasonable and in the best interest of the Kingdom. You are the King’s heir by blood and by your victory in the tournament.” Lord Cleriff agrees. “Will we be allowed time with the king in complete privacy?”

“As long as the King is unable to protect himself, I cannot allow it.” Arthur says after a moment of consideration. “All weapons, trinkets, food, and drink shall be surrendered at the time the visit takes place. Sir Leon will assume responsibility for arranging guards around the clock both inside and outside the Kings chambers. Gaius, I would like you to arrange for an attendant who will sit with my father, also around the clock. The King’s manservant will see to his personal needs. Merlin will you see to that?”

Merlin’s head pops up, almost in surprise to have been spoken to in any official manner. “Yes, alright.” He says, stuttering over his response.

Finding nods of agreement to the assignments, the Prince turns to Geoffrey, “While the Kings state is seen to and reviewed by the council, I will need you to gather a full accounting of the Kingdoms laws, treaties, and finances for my review.”

“Yes, my Lord.” Geoffrey says with a nod of his head in acceptance.

Looking first into Merlin’s supportive gaze, and then to his newly found sister’s equally supportive gaze, he holds his head a little higher as he looks back into the faces of the Council. “Today may well be the dawning of a new day in Camelot. You stood with me as your Prince, and now I as for the same and more as I take upon the role as your Regent. I am certain that a great deal will come to this table in the coming moments, and much more will be decided. In all there is to come, I ask that you stand strong beside me for the sake of our people. Let us together assure the greatness of the Kingdom so that all who look upon us will strive to join us in treaty or flee with the knowledge that none can oppose us. ”

EPILOGUE

“I’m not very happy about my mother traveling off to find my father without me.” Merlin grumbles softly into his pillow. “I know we need a Dragonlord if you’re to set Kilgharrah free, but I still don’t see a reason why I couldn’t have gone with her.”

“What part of you being an Omega, my Omega specifically, and an Omega who quite possibly is carrying the future heir to Camelot, don’t you get?” Arthur asks with exasperation.

“You’re sending guards. I’d be as safe as my mother will be during her travels.” Merlin argues as he rolls over in the bed and swings an unclothed leg over his Alpha’s equally unclothed hip. “Unless of course my mother won’t be as safe as I want her to be on this trip.”

“Sir Gwaine and Sir Lancelot will see that Hunith is as safe as she would be here in Camelot.” Arthur says as he takes advantage of the position of Merlin’s leg. Rolling the Omega onto his back, the Prince Regent buries his face against his neck as his lower half settles between the Warlock’s legs. “And you clearly need to be distracted if I’m to get any sleep tonight.” He says as he plants warm kisses along Merlin’s neck.

Sighing with contentment, Merlin tilts his head back slightly to offer better access to his Alpha. “Oh I suppose if we were talking about your sisters petition to allow female Alpha’s into the Knighthood, or the fact that the last Council member visited your father today so you can soon expect to be crown King, it’d be a totally different story.”

“There are many stories yet to tell.” Arthur says as he lifts up on one elbow to look into Merlin’s eyes. “Now can we please turn our attention to proper bed time activities?”

“You do realize, all things considered, that I am most likely pregnant. If you like I could try to use my magic to figure it out for sure?” Merlin says as he wraps his arms around Arthur’s neck.

Groaning softly, Arthur leans down to gently brush his lips against Merlin’s. “Maybe,” the Prince says between kisses, clearly focusing more on the task at hand rather than any discussion that might be had. “But then we’d both be unable to announce it due to the laws on the use of magic.”

Gliding his tongue over Arthur’s lower lip, Merlin pushes his hips upwards to rub his swelling cock against his Alpha’s hardening cock. “So that too is another story for another time?” He asks.

“Of course.” Arthur says as he captures Merlin’s mouth in a deep and filthy kiss.