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The Two Kings - By OceanNeil

Chapter Text

Merlin woke up early. Which was unusual but welcome for him. It meant he could get over on Arthur all day. No "You're late Merlin", no "It's lunchtime Merlin and I still don't have my breakfast" and definitely no throwing of pillows. Merlin thought the best way to ensure he was the winner today as to get Arthur's breakfast early and to arrive in his chambers wearing the full Camelot servants uniform including the dreaded hat. That would surely put Merlin in Arthur's good books. He hadn't been in the good books lately and was at a loss as to why Arthur had been so rude to him.

Merlin dressed in the full ceremonial outfit and got a look from Gwen in the hallway. With a quick "no time to talk Gwen, big job today," Merlin left her puzzled and went down to the kitchens. The Chef, Mable had always been a fan of Merlin, indeed all of the kitchen staff liked and admired him. Mable loaded him up with Bacon, Eggs, Cheese, Ham, Bread and Tomatoes. Merlin thought to himself that this really was food fit for a King.

He arrived at the Prince's chambers to find Arthur still asleep. Merlin carefully laid the food out and using a small spell silenced himself so that no noise was made. Arthur looked very peaceful asleep and Merlin was in two minds whether to wake him at all. However, if he didn't get Arthur ready and dressed on time then the stocks would be waiting for him. Arthur covered up for Merlin a lot but even he couldn't fool King Uther forever. It was clear to the whole court that Merlin was not employed for his serving skills alone.

The warlock was unsure just how to wake Arthur but settled on waiting another few minutes, while peering out the window to see if the Sun had fully risen. Minutes later Merlin woke his Prince with a steady but not too loud "rise and shine". For once Arthur responded immediately, waking up like a shot and then his eyes widened as he saw the feast, for that was a more accurate decision, in front of him.

"Dear God, who are you and what have you done with Merlin?"

"Oh a thank you would have been too much wouldn't it? Typical."

"A thank you for doing your job properly."

"No a thank you for arranging all this food, without waking you up and I am in the full uniform including the hat you love so much."

"You have that right; I do like you in the hat. You look ridiculous."

"And you still look like a prat. Don't know why I bother."

And with that, Merlin walked out of the chambers, leaving a shocked Arthur thinking he may have gone too far.

What was it with Merlin he thought? How did his manservant who was incredibly annoying also his best friend? When he stopped to think he realized he was grateful Merlin had really tried this morning and felt slightly guilty about his reaction. Now he needed Merlin to get him dressed and ready for a hard days training.

"Merlin."

"Merlin."

"MERLIN!"

To Arthurs slight surprise, Merlin came back into his chamber.

"You called sire?"

Great, it was going to be a Sire day. Marvelous.

"I did Merlin. I need to dress and be ready for my training session."

"Yes Sire."

"Merlin"

"Yes Sire?"

"Nothing."

Arthur really took his frustration out on the knights. He had not reckoned for Gwaine being sober and unexpectantly lost against him. This added to his anger. Next he had an audience with the King. After the audience which had not gone well, Arthur was ready to explode with rage. Unfortunately for Merlin Arthur returned to his chambers just as Merlin thought it would be a good idea to clean Arthur's floors. Just to spite him. Arthur managed to slip and fall flat on his back.

"Of all the times to finally do your job properly you decide to do it today. You're like a curse Merlin. A plague on me."

"No, Sire, I am cursed to serve you. I don't know what has got into you today but I have had enough. I tried making an effort this morning as you've been telling me even more than usual how useless I am. I even have worn the hat. Then you throw that back in my face. You take your frustration out on your knights and despite me making more of an effort cleaning your floor, you don't look where you are going and now blame me yet again. I do not know what pole has got up your backside your highness but if you don't remove it soon, then you won't be seeing me."

That seemed to shake Arthur out of his mood. Pausing for a second, he then said "today is my birthday Merlin."

"I know Arthur. Why do you think I made such an effort today?"

"Well you what it means?"

"Yes, it is your birthday. It is also the day your mother died. It also happens to be a week after my birthday which you didn't remember and two days after my father died. So you aren't the only one with problems."

"I didn't know."

"No, you never do."

"This is why you have been quiet isn't it?"

"Well was it too much for you to ask me if I was ok? You are meant to be my friend."

"I am your friend; well I hope I still am Merlin."

"You are, providing you stop acting like a prat."

"That will be hard for me to do Merlin, it is a reaction to your incompetence."

"Odd, because you were a prat the day I met you and I wasn't in your service then."

"I'll give you that."

Silence, both were unsure what to do next.

"Right, well, Merlin. I am going to make it up to you. From now on we are going to remember our birthdays and our parent's deaths together. "

"You promise?"

"On your life, Merlin."

With that Merlin broke into a smile, as did Arthur.

"Come on then Merlin, we've earned a drink in the Tavern. Only one for you considering your track record."

Chapter Text

One year later Merlin returned to Arthur's chambers with the full outfit and the same food as last year. One year later Arthur greeted him with a smile not a scowl. Arthur went off to train his knights and didn't lose. In fact he got on so well with his knights that day that he went to the Tavern with them.

Merlin had had peace and quiet all day. He had watched Arthur for a bit but he wanted to ensure that tonight would go well for Arthur had ordered him to dine with him that night in his chambers. Merlin had managed to get Mable to make all of Arthur's favourites, Chicken Pot Pie, A Pig's Head, Fresh bread, cheese and strawberries. Arthur adored strawberries. Merlin also arranged for some of Camelot's finest wine to be delivered. He had changed into his best outfit, not the ceremonial one but thought Arthur deserved the hat. With everything prepared he sat and waited.

Arthur was having a whale of a time in the Tavern. His knights were excellent company.

Merlin became uneasy, where on earth was Arthur? He thought he better make sure training had finished. He walked out to the field and no knights could be found. He thought that maybe Arthur had stopped to check on Uther, which could happen at any occasion.

"Merlin, Merlin you've got to come and see this."

"See what?"

"The Princess has challenged me to a drinking contest."

"He's done what? Where is he?"

"He is in the Tavern, you have to come and watch."

"Oh I most certainly will."

Merlin was fuming. After all this time, Arthur was still Prince Prat.

Gwaine walked with him and could tell something was up. "What has he done now?"

"Nothing unexpected Gwaine. Nothing unexpected."

"He's going to have a sore head tomorrow, trying to take me on."

"Good, I hope it hurts for days."

Merlin swung the door open to find Arthur standing up drinking against Leon. "Oh looked who has joined us, the man who can only drink half a glass of mead." No response. "Merlin, did you hear me?" "Yes I did sire." "I Merlin, am going to beat Sir Gwaine here in a drinking contest."

"Arthur, you won't feel good tomorrow, this is not a good idea."

"Merlin stop clucking around me like an old mother hen. I don't need you here. I will win. I am the Prince"

"No you are going to lose, you'll have a headache in the morning and it won't just be the drink. It will also because you have your head up your backside."

"MERLIN."

"Good night Sire."

Merlin stormed out of the tavern with the knights opened mouth. Except for Leon who was concerned. He knew Merlin wouldn't have spoken back lightly. Despite the banter between Arthur and Merlin to do so in public with an audience was unusual. Clearly Merlin was upset and clearly Arthur had upset him. Leon hated it when the two of them fell out and certainly didn't like anyone upsetting Merlin.

"Maybe I should go and keep Merlin company after I have beaten the Princess?"

"You will do no such thing" Leon responded. The last thing he wanted was a drunken Gwaine trying to get his hands on Merlin. He had enough to deal with Arthur and Merlin's complicated relationship let alone Gwaine being in that equation. Leon looked at Merlin as a younger brother. They had quickly bonded; Leon had even visited Ealdor with Merlin to see his mother. Arthur had insisted someone went with him and Leon leapt at the chance. The two of them got on so well so easily. The banter was different from that of Merlin and Arthur; it was certainly a brotherly bond. Leon made a note to see Merlin in the morning. Seeing him now would make it worse, besides he had a drunken Prince in front of him.

It had taken both Leon and Percival to get Arthur back to his chambers. When they opened the door, they were greeted with the feast that Merlin had laid out for Arthur. Arthur had spent most of the time on the way back rambling about Merlin.

"Percival, look, food."

"I'm Leon sire. Percival is the one trying to undo your boots."

"Oh, of course. Is that a pig's head."

"Yes sire."

Arthur looked at the pig's head, for a second he thought it had turned into Merlin with an apple stuffed in his mouth.

Leon found a long tube on Arthur's bed with a ribbon around it.

"Sire, there seems to be a present for you on the bed."

"It will be from Merlin, probably a picture of a Badger or something. Give it here, I'll open it."

What greeted Arthur, Leon and Percival was no Badger. It was a coat of arms. The coat of arms was a Lion on the left hand side with a crown on its head and standing on its back legs. It was holding a harp with its front paws. One the left side of the harp was a Unicorn, again with a crown holding the other side of the harp in a mirror image.

"What is that my Lord."

"That Leon, that Percival is my mother's coat of arms. Merlin has drawn it from scratch. Can you leave me now? Thank you for your assistance."

Leon knew that for Merlin to do that and then organize the feast meant that Arthur was definitely in the doghouse. Even he failed to appreciate what Merlin would do next.

Arthur fell asleep holding the scroll and was confident that the Pig's head definitely had turned into Merlin.

Chapter Text

The Prince woke up himself. There was no "rise and shine", no "up and at them." Nothing. The headache presented itself immediately and Arthur had a hazy recollection of coming back from the Tavern. He couldn't place where Merlin had been. Did he help him home?

He struggled to dress himself, not because he couldn't. He may have a servant but he wasn't that useless himself, it was just difficult with the pounding in his head. Arthur decided that the best course of action was to call for breakfast and then some hard training of his knights. He had worked out that a number of them had been drinking too so if he was suffering then he would make them suffer more.

"Merlin."

"Merlin."

"MERLIN."

The last shout could probably have been heard across the castle. Arthur could hear footsteps but what greeted him was not Merlin but Gwen.

"Sire."

"Ah, Guinevere. Do you know where my useless manservant is?"

"He is not useless Sire and he is not here."

"Yes I can see he is not here, do you know where he is?"

"No Sire, but he told me to give you this."

With that Gwen handed Arthur a note and with a look of pity said "you've really messed up this time Arthur."

Arthur retreated to his chamber and opened the note. No doubt Merlin had just gone off in a huff or was picking herbs. Then he began to read:

Dear Arthur,

Firstly do not follow me. I have no wish to see you ever again.

I do not have to explain myself to you but will do so anyway in the hope you learn from this.

Your recent behavior to me has been unacceptable. I am your servant but also your friend. You treat me more like a slave and I don't want to be a slave. I used to think it was an honour to serve you. You have no idea how many times I have saved your royal backside. I didn't ask for much in return, I know you are the Prince. But you did not need to humiliate me last night. I believed you when you said that we would commemorate our parent's deaths together. I never thought you could be so selfish but you proved what a complete Prat you are.

I am not a mother hen.

And I am no longer your servant

Merlin

P.S best not to tell Leon you're the reason why I've left.

Shaking, Arthur walked out of his chamber and called for a servant. A small lad came up to him and Arthur ordered some cheese, bread and wine. He needed wine to clear his head. He couldn't think straight. Just what had happened last night to him and Merlin?

The refreshments quickly arrived and while chewing on some bread, Arthur had a realization. Yesterday he was meant to spend the evening with Merlin. Merlin had found his mother's coat of arms and drawn it as a birthday present. Merlin had come looking for him and tried to stop him embarrassing himself. Instead Arthur rejected him and then embarrassed him. Arthur groaned, he didn't think the morning could get much worse.

Leon had heard from Gwen that Merlin had left. He was bitterly disappointed he left without a proper goodbye and the bitterness was soon redirected to Arthur when Gwen implied that his master had something to do with it. The knight knew Arthur shouldn't be questioned but when it came to Merlin this didn't matter.

Arthur wasn't surprised when the morning did get worse and the knock on his chamber door turned out to be Sir Leon. Both looked at each other and it was more than a minute before Arthur said "Leon, right. You had better come in."

Arthur gestured to Leon to have a glass of wine. Leon shook his head. Another minute before Leon said "Sire"

"Leon."

"Sire."

"Leon, what brings you here?"

"You know what brings me here. Where is he?"

"I don't know. Gwen didn't say."

"I know this has something to do with you my Lord."

"I don't know what you're talking about Sir Leon."

"With respect, you do. Merlin. You've upset Merlin. Again."

"Even if I have, it is my business."

"No, Sire, it is not your business when you have made Merlin leave. That becomes my business."

"You care for him don't you?"

"Of course I do and clearly if you do you will take leave of me and this castle and go and find him. For I swear Sire if he does not return within the week then I will not rest until he is found. And I hold you accountable for his disappearance. In fact I won't be the only one. I bid you good day."

Leon marched out, secretly he was shaking. He had never spoken to the Prince like that before but he needed a talking to. Merlin was right; he really could be a prat sometimes.

Arthur took all of thirty seconds to recover from the outburst before resolving to go and fetch his manservant from whether he was and bring him back. Firstly he needed to tell his father he was going hunting which was almost accurate, although he had not fully recovered from his illness after Morgana, he felt he needed to see him. Uther was in high spirits for once, pleased that Arthur was showing every ounce of youthful vigor. Arthur wasn't so pleased when Gwen accosted him in the stables and told him that word was spreading that Merlin had left and that Gwaine had joined Leon in being extremely angry about the disappearance.

The prince didn't know what made Gwaine and Leon so interested in Merlin's wellbeing but he had a vague idea. Gwaine had flirted with Merlin on more than one occasion and after Leon's performance this morning it seemed that he more than one admirer. The thought of Merlin with either of his knights bothered him. He didn't know why but he didn't like the idea.

"Promise me Sire that you will return with him."

"Gwen, I will bring him back."

"Good. I'm sorry I spoke out of turn."

"Guinevere sometimes I need telling. You know you can always talk to me."

Arthur placed a small kiss on her cheek. Gwen smiled. Arthur felt warmer that Gwen still responded to him. He would have felt even warmer if Merlin was here and not lost somewhere with two of his knights clearly pining for him. Gwen helped him onto his horse and he then rode out.

Chapter Text

The ride had gone on for four hours before Arthur worked out there was only one place Merlin would go to, Ealdor. Arthur changed direction at once and was not surprised when at dusk he saw a tall lanky shape in the clearing below him. He was not sure how to approach Merlin and thought about holding off. His horse though had other ideas and decided to lead him down the hill.

Merlin was startled by the noises behind him and nearly fell over a log when he saw Arthur riding towards him. His mind was racing, although pleased Arthur had made the effort to find him, he was in no mood to yield easily and forgive him.

Arthur approached with caution. How would he start? Would Merlin refused to talk to him? At least Merlin wasn't running away. That was a start. He just didn't know where to begin. Princes weren't taught how to do the emotional stuff. Merlin wouldn't be placated with a friendly slap on the back; Arthur had learnt that treating his servant as one of his knights simply didn't work. The thought made him feel like even a bigger idiot considering his behavior yesterday. He stopped his horse and jumped off.

Merlin backed off from Arthur. He didn't feel the need to be close to him and moved to sit on the log that he had almost fallen over on. The young warlock sat there, eyes staring at his Prince, waiting. The wait began to frustrate him when Arthur had been standing there for a couple of minutes simply lost for words. Why was it that he always had to take the lead?

"If you keep your mouth open without talking for much long Arthur bats are going to fly in there and nest."

Still nothing.

"Well Sire, I have nothing to say to you, so I'm just going to sit here and wait until you do."

It took Arthur another five minutes before he murmured "Merlin."

"Sorry Arthur, I can't here you, did you saying something?"

"I said Merlin, Merlin."

"Anything you want to add there?"

"Yes well, it's getting dark Merlin, we need shelter. I've brought a tent with me."

"I am fine, I have my own. Besides you need to be getting back to Camelot."

"So do you Merlin."

"No I don't need to be anything Arthur. I have quit. I am no longer your slave. I will not return."

"You bloody well will Merlin."

Merlin stood up at this point and moved slightly towards Arthur.

"No I won't. You can't see it can you? I've left my home, Gaius, Gwen, the knights. I've left Leon for god's sake because you have driven me away. That's right, you drove me away with your do this Merlin, do that Merlin, Merlin you are a complete idiot. Merlin where is my bath? Merlin don't be a mother hen, go away Merlin I'm with my friends drinking. Merlin I don't care that I promised I would remember my mother and your father with you. I'm not bothered your birthday was last week. Clean my boots, scrubs my floor you incompetent worthless buffoon."

Arthur didn't say anything.

"See, pretty accurate impression of you wasn't it my Liege? Well here is something else for you. You are without doubt the most pompous overbearing supercilious arrogant piece of work I ever have had the misfortunate to know. You are not fit to be King. Baynard or even Cenred would be a better ruler of Camelot than you. You have no discerning features and are only known for your selfishness and total pigheadness. No one likes you. The Knights don't respect you, Morgana wants to kill you, Gwen loves someone else and your father is right to be disappointed in you. The only time I have been a complete idiot is to have ever thought there was a shred of goodness in you. I hate you. I wish you nothing but pain and misery. If I could I would curse you Arthur Pendragon to a life of damnation and hell. Because that's what you did to me. Made my life a living hell."

Merlin was now shaking. And a little fearful as Arthur moved towards him. At least his sword hadn't been drawn. But he had just wished a curse on him. Merlin knew though he couldn't curse Arthur. Despite his anger his magic simply wouldn't allow it. Arthur was moving closer and closer until their faces were almost touching.

"You have no right to speak to me like that Merlin."

"You had no right to treat me like a slave and to humiliate me."

"I know."

Arthur backed away two paces. Merlin went back to sitting on the log. This was going to be a long night he thought but he was not going to back down.

The silence settled, Arthur was shuffling his feet like a small boy who had been told off by his teacher.

"Merlin."

"Merlin."

"Merlin. Look. Can't we just? Can I sit down with you on the log? I'm knackered."

Merlin looked up at him and said nothing.

"Fine ok, well I'm going to unpack, light a fire and then sit down next to you ok?"

With the fire roaring, Arthur felt slightly more at peace. Merlin still had not spoken or really responded to him. Oddly for him, he didn't feel anger or frustration, just a nagging disappointment in the pit of his stomach. Had he really gone too far this time? He clearly underestimated the strength of Merlin's feelings but at the same time thought Merlin had over stepped the mark with his last salvo. Surely not everyone hated him? And who did Gwen love?

"Are you going to sit there Sire and look like your brain is going to explode from too much thinking or are you going to cook something to eat? Mind you, you don't need to eat too much do you?"

"Are you calling me fat Merlin?"

No response. Arthur wasn't sure how to handle the one way conversation. His stomach told him Merlin did have a point so he reluctantly began unfolding his rations. Walking over to Merlin, he shoved a plate of bread ham and cheese in his hands. Merlin took it graciously and hadn't thrown it at his face which was a small start.

"I'm going to warm some Cider. Do you want some?"

A nod.

"I'm then going to sit on the log again by you if that is ok?"

Second nod.

"We don't have to talk Merlin. Just sit. I'll help you put up your tent later. Is it ok if I camp near you?"

A third nod.

The cider warmed Arthur and he hoped it had warmed Merlin and maybe had calmed him down. At least there was no more shouting. The silence he could deal with, quite often when it was the two of them they could fall into an easy comfortable silence. Arthur though was not feeling comfortable at the moment. Merlin looked as if he was ready to doze off.

Arthur rose, walked over the Merlin's horse and took down his tent. It did not take long to build. Arthur could feel Merlin's eyes watching him. He then out up his own tent, again with Merlin watching him. The prince went back to the log, poured Merlin some more cider and sat back down.

"Thank you for putting my tent up."

"You're welcome."

Arthur smiled at Merlin and was alarmed that Merlin did not smile back. This was proving more difficult than he first thought. His usual response to these matters was to shout and have it all out. Merlin though had bettered him twice now in what had been a one sided slanging match and Arthur did not want a third round of Merlin telling him some home truths.

"I need to sleep, goodnight Sire."

It was moments like this, moments when if you didn't do something drastic all could be lost. The more Merlin had refused to engage properly, the more Arthur had thought that he was in danger of losing Merlin completely. Nothing had worked and now Merlin was retiring to bed.

Arthur grabbed Merlin by the arm. Merlin stilled and looked irritated. "Get your hand off me. I am not your slave."

"No you aren't. You're my"

"I am not your anything Arthur Pendragon."

"Wait, Merlin, for god's sake. Wait. Please"

Merlin stopped after turning his back to Arthur.

"Merlin, I was going to say you are my Merlin. You are my friend, my guide, my counselor. You are my best friend. You may infuriate me and clearly the feeling is mutual but I am here to say that I would be lost without you. I have hated today. You won't believe the threats and looks I've had. Gwen was angry, Gwaine's unhappy and as for Leon."

"Leon visited you and said if you didn't bring me back he wouldn't rest till I was found."

"Something like that. What is it with the two of you?"

"None of your business."

"No, I suppose it isn't. Look Merlin, I am terrible at this. I have been here hours and all I've managed to do is give you some cider and say a few words to you. But I meant every word. When you first arrived I was awful, I was so spoilt and not fit to be a Prince. But you helped me become the Crown Prince. You help change me for the better. I'm sorry that I've slipped back recently. I'm not making excuses but since Morgana it has been harder for me to trust people and let them in."

"And when did I ever betray you Arthur? When was I nothing but loyal and dedicated to you?"

"I know, but I thought she was too."

"I am not an evil witch Sire."

"I know that. But I lose everyone I care about. Morgana, my mother, clearly now Gwen."

Merlin felt awful at that moment. Throwing Gwen and Lancelot at Arthur was not a good thing to do. It was frankly a terrible thing to do.

"Erm yes, Gwen. I didn't mean that."

"You did. We can talk about that later. Gwen, my father, none of it matters if I don't have you by my side. Please Merlin. Don't make me beg."

"I could never make you beg Arthur. I am not you. I can recall you asking someone if they could walk on their knees."

"Merlin I would walk on hot coals if I thought it would help right now. I need you to be with me Merlin."

"Fine. But not as your slave. I didn't deserve your cold shoulder."

"Merlin, will you turn around and face me."

Arthur wasn't surprised that he didn't turn around.

"Ok then Merlin, if you won't face me then I will come and face you."

The prince moved quickly, his heart was beginning to beat quickly. He was now face to face again with Merlin. The strange feeling in his stomach had returned.

"I don't know what more to say to you Merlin. You are my best friend. I am sorry. Sorry for everything. I only know of one way to show you now. Please don't hate me."

Arthur moved his face further in, with one arm, he stroked Merlin's face. "You mean everything to me Merlin." The other arm moved round Merlin's waist, pulling him so their noses were touching. Then with one swoop, Arthur pressed his lips against him.

Merlin didn't move a muscle, he didn't open his mouth either which panicked Arthur. Arthur thought he would have one more attempt. With a pleading "Merlin…." Arthur began to prize Merlin's mouth open with his tongue. Firstly he was greeted by teeth but with his tongue so insistent, Merlin finally relented. Arthur moved in for the kill and licked the top of Merlin's mouth before tackling his tongue head on. Merlin moaned and the Prince could feel the tension seep away from the both of them. His heart was definitely louder than usual, he was worried that half the forest could hear it but his minded was focused when Merlin suddenly twitched and moved away.

"Arthur, I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"this, erm, it's not what you want."

"You may know me Merlin but you don't know everything about me. I wanted to do this."

"No, you're just being nice to be to get me back to Camelot. It's ok I will come back, I know you're sorry."

"But you clearly don't know that I've wanted to kiss you for quite a while now."

"You haven't, otherwise you would have been nicer to me and would have remembered what we should have been doing yesterday…" Merlin stopped, his brain caught up with him.

"Oh. Oh. You were. Yesterday was. Today as well. All this time. Was because."

"Was because what Merlin?"

"Was because you are even more of a clotpole than I thought you were. All this time you wanted to kiss me and you didn't do anything about it. How could you? No wait, how dare you?"

"How dare I? Oh this is rich even for you Merlin."

"For me? Arthur, you played with my feelings. One minute I'm your best friend. The next I am worthless. How could you?"

"I didn't want to see you hurt. I had Gwen Merlin. Plus my father would hardly have approved of me shacking up with my manservant."

"But you wanted to shack up with Gwen?"

"Yes, well I did. But I also liked you. But Merlin I have a kingdom to think about. And my father may not like servants at the best of times but a male servant sharing my bed would have seen you banished or even burnt at the stake. I couldn't use you like that. To have you once and then destroy your life in Camelot."

"Yet you've ended up destroying it anyway. And now your father isn't in a fit state to stop you."

"No he isn't. But we had drifted apart and I wasn't confident in your feelings. And with Leon and Gwaine now involved with you I couldn't compete. I know Leon has met your mother."

"Leon and Gwaine."

"Yes. You love Leon don't you?"

"Of course I do."

"See what I mean Merlin. You're a fine one to talk about Gwen and I when you have Leon."

"Arthur. You total idiot. Leon is like an older brother to me. And yes he has met mother as did you. She adores you both. Mind you Leon has never treated me this way so you probably aren't the favourite at the moment."

"There is still Gwaine."

"Gwaine is a flirt. And why shouldn't I flirt back? It's not like you love me Arthur."

Merlin suddenly wanted to hit himself over the head for speaking before his brain could engage his mouth. Of course Arthur didn't love him. That would be ridiculous even by today's standards.

Arthur said nothing. Oh god Merlin thought, he did, didn't he?

"Arthur."

"Merlin."

"Arthur."

"You're going to make me say it aren't you Merlin?"

"Your feelings Arthur."

"Fine"

"Oh no my Lord, don't feel like you have to say it."

"Are you mocking me?"

"No Sire."

"Merlin."

"Merlin, I, look, I actually do love you. I don't care if you love me back but you ought to know. You have a right to know the reasons behind my behavior. I am truly sorry and I promise you if you come back to Camelot you don't have to do anything you don't want to. I'm making you my advisor because heaven knows you aren't much cop as a servant but as a friend you excel yourself and you are a pretty good speech writer and listener. What do you say? Fancy helping the Crown Prince of Camelot learn how to be a good king?"

"You don't need to learn that Arthur, you will be a great king."

"You don't think so."

"I was wrong. I was out of order there Arthur. I was bitter. You will be twice the king of all of them."

"I only will be if you are there with me Merlin."

"Ok. Arthur, I am tired, been a long day."

"Me too. Look I can't have you in another tent. You could be attacked in the night or something. You can stay with me. And Merlin we don't have to do anything, we can just be in the same tent together."

Merlin smiled.

Ten minutes later they were sharing blankets together. Arthur was dozing off but he heard Merlin say quietly, "Love you too Arthur."

Chapter Text

Arthur woke up due to what he thought was Merlin shifting in his bed. He moved his arm to shove him but his arm reached out to empty space. Confused, he tried again. Something was up and then leveled himself up to find Merlin levitating. It took his brain a few minutes to process the sight in front of him. Merlin was floating in the sky and now Arthur had no blanket around him.

"MERLIN"

"MERLIN"

"mmmrtat"

Merlin made a confused sound and fell down back to earth. Looking around he found Arthur glaring at him.

"Merlin, don't even speak. You had better have a good explanation for levitating during your sleep."

"Arthur, Arthur…"

"Not good enough Merlin. Only people with magic float. Am I correct?"

Arthur didn't want to look at him. Merlin wanted Arthur to know his sorrow. "You are correct Sire."

"So you have magic Merlin?"

"Yes."

"You know what the penalty is for magic users."

"Death."

Arthur shook at the mention of the word death. Did he want Merlin dead? No. Did he want Merlin alive? Probably. Why Merlin? Why now after they had got through so many of their issues. Merlin had magic and he had kissed him. A thought then developed in Arthur's mind. Merlin was in love with him. Merlin had bewitched him. He had made Gwen turn against him or had she been with Arthur all along and Merlin was lying? Sorcerers could not be trusted.

"You. You bewitched me."

"When?"

"Now. Merlin. These feelings. You deny you have bewitched me?"

"No."

"So you made me fall in love with you?"

"No."

"but you said you bewitched me."

"I have in the past cast spells on you to protect you. I only have used my magic to protect you, to protect Camelot. I love you Arthur but I could never make you love me with magic. I only wanted to be with you if you felt the same."

"Merlin. I don't believe you."

"I knew you'd hate me. I knew you would want to kill me. This is why I couldn't tell you before."

"I don't want to kill you."

"But you hate me."

"I don't know. I don't know Merlin. No don't look at me like that. This is your fault."

"Arthur."

"Be quiet Merlin. I need to think."

Arthur sat down on the floor, with his head in his hands.

Merlin didn't what to do. He couldn't push Arthur. He also knew he couldn't go back to Camelot. He could only go to Ealdor. It pained him that this really was it for him and Arthur. He wanted though to give Arthur something, just in case, when all else failed he could reach for him.

"Arthur. I am leaving. No don't speak. I never meant to hurt you. I have though. I have lied to you and betrayed you. I am sorry. Know this that I only used my magic to help and protect you. I believe in you. I cannot though ask for you to choose between me and your father and the kingdom. I vow I have not cast a love spell on you. You don't believe me and that hurts me."

"You think that hurts. How about falling for your best friend only to find out he represents everything you have been taught to hate?"

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too Merlin. Merlin with the power invested in me I hereby exile you from Camelot. You may not return unless expressly summoned by me or you will be killed."

"Arthur I accept your decision. But I want you to have something. If Camelot were to fall, I would never forgive myself. I want you to have this."

With that Merlin pulled a plain ring of his finger and moved towards Arthur.

"Don't worry it's not a love token or anything. Just take it."

Arthur did not want to but his body responded differently and his hand opened. Merlin placed the ring in it and whispered a spell. His eyes flashed. The prince wanted to reach for his sword but the other half of him told him no.

"It is done. If all hope has been lost then I want you to rub this ring and say my name. It will summon me."

"What you are that powerful?"

"You have no idea Sire."

Arthur almost allowed himself a smile. "No and I don't suppose I will. Right, this is it. I don't trust you and what's worse is I don't trust myself so come no closer." His voice was beginning to break. He would not allow Merlin to see him crack. "For once in your life, follow and order and do not even think about following me."

"I promise I will not Sire."

"Merlin, its Arthur."

Arthur held himself together. Princes did not cry. Especially ones that may have been bewitched by their best friend. Who happened to be a wizard. A powerful one apparently. The idea of Merlin being powerful was some form of twisted joke. He picked up his bags. Merlin had clearly used his magic to pack the tent away. Without looking at him, Arthur saddled his horse and rode off. If he had turned round he would have seen a broken warlock, completely lost.

Chapter Text

Merlin sat down on a log and wept. He felt lost, broken, and no longer alive. He had lost Arthur once and for all. He resented his magic. In a fit of rage his magic flew out of his hand and set the trees around him on fire. He didn't care. His density had collapsed around him. Watching as the fire engulfed the wood, Merlin wishes his magic would leave him completely. A small voice told him that burning down a whole wood wasn't a good idea and he should put the fire out but he wouldn't respond. Magic had got him to this place and he wasn't going to use it any more.

Arthur had been riding for only half an hour before he saw the sky blacken with smoke, stopping his horse he turned round to see half of the wood now on fire and the fire spreading at an alarming rate. It was painfully obvious that the fire had come from Merlin. This was the proof he needed that magic users were evil. If Merlin could want to burn down a whole wood, risking the lives of many animals and maybe a few humans too then he was evil.

An hour later, Arthur shouldn't have been surprised to see the rain fall down. Merlin clearly had snapped out of his mood. This turn of events conflicted Arthur. Merlin had clearly unleashed his anger but had then relented. If Merlin could realize his mistakes then did that still make him evil? What about all of the times Merlin had saved his life? He knew now that branches just didn't fall and rocks didn't roll at their own accord. Merlin had saved his life more than once. He had even been willing to drink poison for him. What was he doing leaving him behind? He had to see him again.

The prince turned his horse round and speed of for where the fire had started from, hoping to see Merlin again.

The fire now was merrily devouring the wood. Merlin knew it was wrong but refused to use his magic. His mind was clearer, he needed to go to Ealdor now, back to his mother, back to safety. No more magic. He was therefore surprised when a familiar booming voice was heard in his head.

"Young Warlock, you must stop this fire now before it engulfs the whole land."

"I will not use my magic anymore. You can stop it if you want."

"Merlin stop being a petulant child. You are not Prince Arthur."

"I'm not taking orders from you, him or anyone else. I will finally be free."

"No one, not even one as powerful as you can escape their destiny. You must stop this fire before it reaches Camelot and Ealdor. Do you want your friends and family to suffer?"

Merlin blinked. Of course he didn't want to endanger the people he loved. Sighing, he raised his hand to the heavens, whispered a brief incantation and the rain began to fall.

"Merlin. You must now go to Ealdor. You must rest. Do not fear. You will be visited by someone soon who will help you."

"Thank you Dragon. I will not call for you again."

"I may regret this, especially since you seem to think I am a horse on which to carry you, but I am at your service. You will always be my Dragon Lord."

"Since you said it so nicely, please take me to Ealdor. I want to go home."

"I am regretting this already. Merlin one day you will realize I am more than a mode of transport to you."

"Maybe and one day you will realize that I want a normal simple life."

"No you don't Merlin. You want to be with the Prince. Do not fear, one day you will be."

"There's more chance of me not using you as a horse than me being with Arthur."

"Well considering you will be with Arthur one day, I can look forward to my retirement."

With that, Merlin climbed on Kilgharrah and went home.

Hunith wasn't that surprised to see Merlin. She had felt the day before something was wrong and then had heard rumours of a fire spreading across the woodlands and then a bucket load of rain. The state Merlin was in, bleary eyed and exhausted hinted he had something to do with it. And with no Arthur in tow Hunith knew something had clearly gone horribly wrong. A mother knows when to ask though and now was not the time. Hugging Merlin she made him some soup and then ordered him to bed.

Merlin went out like a light but Hunith was still troubled. The expression on Merlin's face was that of sorrow.

Chapter Text

Arthur had arrived back at the clearing with no Merlin in sight. The rain was now turning into a storm. With much reluctance he decided to go back to Camelot. Merlin would clearly be in Ealdor and with an ill father; Arthur had duties he could not escape from.

The ride back to Camelot had been a nightmare. The storm had picked up with the odd clap of thunder and flash of lightning. Arthur was grateful that his horse was so experienced. Arriving back drenched he made his way to his chambers; he called for a bath and sunk himself into it. The boy who had brought him wine a few days ago offered to clean his back but Arthur declined. He didn't want anyone touching him. Secretly he knew it was because it wouldn't be Merlin touching his back, kneedling the kinks out of his muscles. Scrubbing his back clean from sweat and dirt. Merlin had always known where to touch Arthur and the thought aroused him. The arousal made him even more confused. Merlin had magic but had not been executed. Merlin had insulted him and run off but had been kissed instead of being put in the stocks. Merlin had lit a wood on fire but instead of anger, Arthur felt sorrow. Sorrow that he wouldn't have Merlin's touch again. With eyes closing, the Prince knew he needed to sleep. Perhaps the rest would ease his mind and clear his thoughts. With a heavy heart Arthur climb into his bed and prayed that sleep would come.

The prince woke by himself but knew someone else was in the room. And that that someone was not Merlin.

"Good morning brother."

"Morgana. How on earth?"

"Well, I missed you so much; I just had to see you."

"Guards, Guards."

"No one can here you Pendragon. They are asleep."

"Oh another sleeping spell Morgause, do you know of any other? Don't tell me everyone is asleep so you can take over the castle again. Yet you will fail once more."

"I don't think so. This time is different and our sister will be Queen."

"Indulge me then, considering you are about to kill me."

Morgana put on a face of mock outrage "kill my own brother? Oh no I could never do such a thing."

"Of course you will, while I'm alive no one will yield to you. Leon told me what happened last time."

"They will yield. This time Arthur, they will have no one else to yield to. You simply won't exist."

Morgause was getting impatient, time to step this up she thought.

"As much as this is fascinating dear sister, it's time for the spell. You see Arthur, we failed before as we were not wise enough, however one wider than us showed us the true way. We will cast a spell so deep, so powerful that it cannot be easily broken. Rather than killing you, you won't exist. Everyone will think Uther has but one child, his beloved daughter, Princess Morgana."

"And when my poor father dies from overwork, the people will insist that I take the crown. For there will be no one else to guide them."

"Oh really? And who is this great thinker who has shown you the way?"

"Nimueh."

Arthur shook at the name.

"You see, Nimueh is alive and well. And she has shown us the way. She learnt that normal magic would not be enough to stop your destiny."

"And now you think you have the answer?"

"Yes, for this spell will be woven in the deepest magic of all. Love."

"You don't love me Morgana, you hate me."

"Dear brother, how can you say such a thing to a loving princess? It is not my love it is bound by. It is yours. And considering no one will know who you really are then your true love will never be reunited with you. The spell will continue. All we need to do is ensure that you survive for a year. Which won't be difficult when you are in my dungeons. I could keep you as a pet."

"Speaking of which, where is Merlin?"

"He is seeing his mother in Ealdor, she is sick."

"Oh this is too good, isn't it Morgause?"

"How?" Arthur was not in the mood for more games.

"The spell covers all of the five kingdoms. Merlin, Uther, even your precious Gwen, no of them will know you."

Arthur's mind was racing; he couldn't take on the witches with conventional means. He didn't have magic either his brain said. But a small voice helpfully pointed out the ring that Merlin gave him.

"Morgana, it is time to claim your inheritance."

Morgause lifted her hand up, the air died in the room. Arthur felt as if he was falling asleep. The last movement he remembered was rubbing the ring. Hoping that they did not see.

Chapter Text

Merlin screamed and Hunith ran to where his bed was in the corner to see her son shaking, fitting was a more accurate description. Merlin had broken out into a sweat which was flooding the bed. Suddenly his head rolled back and Hunith saw his eyes flutter. Merlin began whispering a spell and Hunith expected him to wake but he fell silent. Then Merlin shook as if his whole life was leaving him and the screaming began again.

"Merlin, Merlin, my son, calm, please be calm." Nothing Hunith was doing could stop the screaming and shaking. In desperation she called out for help but knew none would be coming at this time of night. She was alone with a shaking, screaming son. She almost missed the banging on her door.

She rose from Merlin's side, walked towards the door and was promptly knocked over by a tall, blonde, burley knight.

"Hunith, Hunith, are you alright?"

"Leon. Oh Sir Leon, you've come!"

"I heard a call for help, what on earth is going on?"

"It's Merlin. He is having some form of fit. I can't control him. The screaming is non stop."

Leon rushed over to Merlin's side. Merlin was still shaking and twisting in the small bed. The knight instinctively grabbed Merlin's right arm and with his left hand, stroked his face.

"Merlin, Merlin. It's me. Leon"

Merlin stopped screaming. Hunith was now the other side of the bed, clinging on to Merlin's left arm.

"Merlin. It's ok. I'm here, you're mother is here too. What's happened to you?"

"Arthur" Merlin chocked out.

Leon didn't even need to be told that the Prince had something to do with Merlin's current state. After learning from scouts that Arthur was on his way back to Camelot on his own, Leon had set out for Ealdor to retrieve his baby brother once and for all.

"I know brother, I know. Sleep now."

Merlin smiled, eyes still closed. "Leon. Safe."

Hunith couldn't believe the power Leon had over her son. Merlin was now completely still. And had had called Merlin his brother. She knew they were close but she always thought Arthur came first in Merlin's life. A nagging doubt, known to most as mother's intuition told her that tomorrow would not be an easy day.

"Leon. I am in you debt. Thank you. Please, stay the night."

"It is nothing Hunith, but I will stay. I need to make sure Merlin gets back to Camelot in one piece. Trouble seems to be attracted to him."

Hunith smiled. Then she realized she didn't have much room.

"I'm sorry Sir Leon; I don't have a spare bed. Please take mine."

"It's Leon, Hunith. And it's fine. I'll stay with Merlin if you have a blanket?"

Five minutes later, Leon was settled down next to Merlin. He wouldn't sleep yet; he wanted to make sure Merlin was at peace. Whatever was disturbing him would be dealt with tomorrow. No one caused Merlin that level of grief without Leon extracting his revenge.

Chapter Text

Watching all of this had been the Dragon. He felt Merlin's magic react badly and when he reached to call him could only hear his screams. The Dragon thought that turning up at Ealdor might frighten the visitors and be counterproductive and knew that his seeing spell would come in handy. It was not surprising to see Hunith try and desperately help her son but the arrival of Sir Leon of all people was not expected. Why was he there? And how on earth did Merlin's magic respond so well to him?

Kilgharrah thought that he knew all the players in Merlin's destiny. But for Leon to have soothed Merlin and to have seen the obvious affection they had for each other meant that something was out of kilter. He was not sure how to react to this turn of events. Merlin did not know his full destiny yet and it was his job to help him realize it. There was no one who knew more than him.

He knew that Merlin's magic would only act that badly if there was something wrong with the Prince. Rather than ponder the role of Leon, the Dragon decided it was time to find out what was happening in Camelot. Reaching into his past he brought up a spell few would know, recanting it slowly he was transported into the castle. Downsizing to the size of a fly was difficult and unwelcomed but the only way to have unfettered access to the castle. He resolved to find out what was troubling his Dragon Lord and would then find the truth about Leon.

Chapter Text

Hunith woke to find Leon up and making tea. She smiled. The feelings Merlin had for him where clearly mutual and she adored Leon herself. She knew Merlin would have questions about his fit but also knew she didn't have the answers to them. The answers she had where to a whole other puzzle.

"Ah Hunith. Did you sleep well?" Leon kicked himself for the question. Of course she hadn't had slept well. Her only son had had a massive fit and then he had turned up, as if he was saving a damsel in distress. What must she think of him? It was bad enough with Arthur seeming to get the wrong impression without Merlin's mother. He simply cared for Merlin.

Leon couldn't remember when he and Merlin had bonded. It just happened. Their mutual respect for Arthur had helped, until Leon realized just how badly he treated Merlin. They had a shared love for nature. Leon loved riding, fishing even just walking outdoors and Merlin responded well to requests for walks. Leon let Merlin talk about various plants and herbs in a way that Arthur simply would not have understood. He smiled at the thought of Merlin wanting to ride with him by the second day of any hunting trip they were both on and was always apologetic after he had caught something. He could feel Merlin's eyes burrowing in to him. Once they had rowed about hunting but once Leon explained to Merlin that he had to do it as part of being a knight and that it wasn't like he wanted to go into the forest and butcher every harmless rabbit, Merlin relented. Leon chuckled at the thought that Merlin still gave Arthur hell for killing innocent animals.

"Leon, would you like some water?"

Hunith's question snapped Leon back into the real world.

"You coughed?"

"No, it was a..Leon could hardly say a laugh at a time like this. It was just something small. I'm fine."

"Is Merlin up?"

"I'm here mother."

"Right, well you both must be famished. I shall do you breakfast. Then I need to talk to you both."

"Mum, I can't stay, Arthur needs me. Something has happened."

"If you think you are going anywhere this morning then you have another thing coming."

"Leon, I'm fine."

"You are not fine. You had a fit. And you left Camelot in a hurry after a row with Arthur. You aren't going anywhere just yet."

"Fine."

Hunith was still impressed as to how Leon made Merlin co operate. On another occasion she would ask him how. She also thought that Arthur could do with some lessons too.

"Mother, what do you want to talk to me about?"

"Not just you Merlin, Leon too. I'll do it once we've eaten. "

Merlin shot Leon a look. Leon shrugged and returned a look as if to say "she's your mother."

After breakfast was finished, none of them wanted to speak. Hunith by now was a bag of nerves. She didn't know if she could do this.

Her son was growing irritated. "Mother, I love you but unless you start speaking, I'm out of here."

"Merlin, don't speak to your mother that way."

"Well, it's driving me crazy Leon."

"And I bet you drove her crazy, show some respect."

"That's enough boys."

"Merlin, I know why Leon is here."

Oh great Leon thought, someone else thinking him and Merlin were engaging in nighttime activities.

"You do?"

"Yes and it has come as no surprise to me."

Merlin was blushing. Leon rolled his eyes; Merlin was useless at this sort of thing.

"I can assure you Hunith that you are mistaken."

"I am not. You have feelings for each other."

"That is correct. But I am not Merlin's lover."

Merlin spat out his tea. It was bad enough when he had had this talk with Arthur, let alone his mother.

"I know you are not. You have a different love."

"Yes Mum, Leon and I are like brothers."

Hunith stilled and fell silent.

"Not just like brothers. You are brothers."

Chapter Text

Merlin was first to speak

"Say that again."

"You are brothers. Well half brothers."

"How?" Merlin was surprised by how low and threatening his voice sounded.

"Me. Merlin, Leon, I'm sorry but I am mother to you both."

"I don't believe you. How could you?"

"Merlin, none of this was easy. But you both deserve an explanation."

Leon turned to look the woman in the eye, "Yes Hunith I believe we do."

"You had better both sit down. This will take some time."

"I have all the time in the world Mother, as does Leon."

"Ok. Right. Well, I firstly want you both to know that I love you and never wanted to hurt either of you. I was young and foolish and got involved with someone I shouldn't have. He left as soon as I told him I was pregnant. I came to Ealdor as Gaius was here at the time. I had nowhere else to go. Then your father came Merlin.

I loved him from the moment I saw him. He was kind, just and yet powerful. He told me his past but I didn't care. He made me feel alive.

Leon, you may have heard about the Purge. Well Uther suspected Balinor, Merlin's father of sorcery."

Merlin watched Leon for a reaction. Balinor was known as a Dragon Lord. Leon didn't move.

"Please go on Hunith."

"Uther sent out his most trusted knights to purge the land of magic. One, Sir Alain led a party to Ealdor. He spotted Balinor and saw me with child. He was a good man, a kind man who didn't agree completely with Uther but orders were orders. Rather than arrest us there and then he let us try and explain ourselves. Balinor pleaded with him not to take him away from me and Sir Alain clearly noticed I was with child. So he struck us a deal."

"My father promised not to reveal Balinor's whereabouts in exchange for the baby."

"Exactly. He didn't know it was not Balinor's and reasoned that any child of his could be persuaded to use magic. While if it was in his care, he could ensure it did not learn the Old Ways. His explained his wife was barren and nothing would bring her more happiness than a child to care for. We reluctantly agreed. I had to see you live Leon, if we had refused and Sir Alain had no choice to arrest us, Uther would have burned us at the stake, including you. And Sir Alain offered a life I couldn't give you."

"But mother, it didn't work. Uther came back for my father."

Hunith bowed her head and shed a tear. "He would not stop. Sir Alain told Uther that there had been no sight of him but that there had been reports of sorcery and those were now dead. It stalled Uther for three years but he could not be swayed from starting out again."

"Your father Leon, sent a note to warn us. And your father had no choice but to run Merlin. He didn't know about you. I swear."

"I know. I had to be the one to tell him."

The room fell silent. Hunith was sobbing now in the corner. Merlin was sat on the table watching Leon for any emotion, any movement. Leon was just staring into air.

Suddenly Leon rose.

"Hunith, thank you for telling me. Despite your motives you gave me up and let me live a lie. You've stolen my family away from me."

Between sobs. "I'm sorry, I'm just so sorry."

"Merlin, I can't. I need to get out of here."

Merlin nodded, he then walked over to Hunith and hugged her. "Mother I'm going now, we will be back soon. Leon just needs some time."

And with that Merlin and Leon left a sobbing, broken Hunith and walked outside.

Merlin led Leon outside. Leon didn't ask how two horses were already waiting for them. Climbing on he looked at Merlin as if he had been fatally wounded.

Chapter Text

Merlin decided that he should take Leon to a clearing he visited when he was younger with Will. It was calm and peaceful: just the place to hopefully try and talk and make sense of the unexpected news. With Arthur already playing on his mind, and he was sure something was not right there; the young warlock wondered how much more he could take. Arthur's reaction was still playing on his mind: the young warlock wondered how much more he could take from his prince. He was sure something wasn't right, though. What had made his magic react like that last night?

Merlin also knew that Leon deserved to know about his magic. He could not tell his own flesh and blood. Oddly enough, the idea that Leon was actually his half-brother made sense. In a warped way they had behaved like brothers for a while and Merlin always felt calmer around him. Despite this, he hadn't crossed the line and told Leon about his magic. How could he have told Leon when Arthur should know first? But then Arthur did now know and clearly thought he had bewitched him.

"Leon."

"Yes?"

"Time to stop."

"Oh. Ok."

"Stay here and make camp; I'll get the firewood."

"Ok, Merlin,"

Merlin knew he would be the one to take the lead here. Leon would be hurting more. He had, after all, found out that his life had been based on a lie. Merlin could hardly forgive his mother overnight but she had tried to make the best of a bad situation. He could relate to that, he had hardly been perfect since his move to Camelot. He felt his magic playing up, it was being playful, urging him to light fires, call down the stars and generally give Leon a display. Maybe later, he thought.

Coming back with firewood, he wasn't surprised to find Leon still standing by his horse, mouth open like a fish and having barely moved.

"I've got the firewood."

"Oh, ok."

"It's all right, I'll unpack, you go and sit on that log over there."

"Oh, ok."

"Fire's lit. I'll start dinner."

"Oh, ok."

An hour later, and after a deafening silence that was beginning to drive him mad, Merlin had produced a rabbit stew. Leon hadn't even asked where the rabbits had come from and just took the blow and began eating. His brother remembered that when Arthur was in a mood, it was best to get him to snap out of it. Better out than in, he thought, so with a little trepidation Merlin began to force the issue.

"You're quieter than Arthur when he's come back from hunting without a catch. As moody too."

"I am not moody."

"You are and it is understandable. But don't shut me out."

"I'm not shutting you out."

"You've said no more than two works to me. Oh and ok."

"Oh, ok"

"See - did it again"

"Well what do you want me to say, Merlin? Yippee? I have a new brother. My parents aren't my real parents and my mother's a peasant who lives in a hut."

"That's our mother you're talking about."

"Sorry. But Merlin my whole life has been one big lie. How can I go back to Camelot? To Arthur? And look him in the eye knowing I'm lying to him. I'm not even a real knight."

"Of course you are, Leon; you're one of the noblest people I know."

"But no longer of noble blood."

"Yes you are. Your parents were nobles, they loved you. It doesn't matter who your birth father is, it matters who your family is now. "

"My family is you."

"See! Not so bad after all."

Leon huffed. "I can see why Arthur relies on you so much."

"Well I also rely on you, and now you are my official brother that won't change."

"Always wanted a brother you know Merlin, that's why we became close. Odd how destiny pans out."

Merlin let out a loud breath. Here was the opening.

"And what do you know about destiny, Leon?"

"I thought I knew mine." I thought I would be a good knight, protect you and Arthur and the kingdom. Marry, have many children and die old and happy."

"You can still have that Leon, all of that. And now you've got someone watching your back."

"Merlin. Arthur once said to me you can be infinitely wise when you want to be and that you told him you'd always protect him."

"I did. And I do."

"How?"

Was Leon pushing Merlin into revealing his magic? Merlin thought of all the times he had used it and he had to admit he had been careful around the knights. If Gwaine hadn't found out and nor Arthur, then did Leon know? Probably not. But he couldn't hold it in any more.

"Leon, there's stuff you don't know about me. Stuff with destiny. But you're my brother and now the most important person to me in the world. I know you've found out secrets already today but please know I'm telling you because I love you, ok? And I can't lie to you."

"Go on Merlin. Whatever it is, I'm still your brother."

Merlin stood from the log. His magic wanted a show and he thought maybe he could put the words he wanted to express into action. With one small spell a vision appeared in front of them both of Merlin arriving in Camelot on his first day. The vision changed to the great hall where the witch Mary Collins had wanted her revenge, then to Valiant with the snakes, then a pale ball of light protecting Arthur, then the Sidhe, then the unicorn and Arthur drinking the poison before ending with the Quisling Beast and the destruction of Nimueh.

Leon had not moved a muscle, transfixed by the vision in front of him. He then noticed that Merlin had fallen silent and was beginning to shake.

"M-Bro, M-Bro. Merlin. My God. Seriously. Merlin."

Noticing that his brother had not stopped shaking, Leon rose and walked towards him. Merlin flinched. Leon smiled and pulled him into a bear hug. Merlin smiled and relaxed against him.

"When I was a child, I used to pretend I had an amazing brother who could slay witches and always save the day. Turns out I have one."

"You're not angry?"

"Mad? No I'm proud. Is there any more to the story of how amazing you are."

"Erm, there is."

"Right well, let's see it."

"It's getting late Leon."

"Yes, but I want to know, M-bro. We're still bonding and where else is there to go?"

"Ok. It gets worse. I'll send mother a note to say that we are safe and will return tomorrow."

"How do you do that?"

"Oh you know, just magic a message to her."

"Is there nothing you can't do?"

"You're about to find out."

The vision changed to Cedric. Leon hated that guy. He had come in and disrupted Merlin and Arthur's relationship and Leon had had an overwhelming desire to destroy him. He beamed with pride when he saw that Merlin had done just that. Fresh from killing a high priestess, Merlin had stopped one of the greatest sorcerers of all time. Then came Morgana's nightmares and the ambush which saw Arthur and Lancelot both try to rescue Gwen. Clearly Arthur had a rival for her affections, even if he did love her at all. Leon still had not got to the bottom of why Arthur and Merlin had fallen out but now he had a hunch.

Leon was transported back to the time of the troll Queen, seeing how Merlin had comforted Arthur and had tried to warn him over and over again. He wanted to scream at Arthur for not listening to Merlin even after he had been proven right so many times before. Leon was proud of Merlin's disposing of the witch finder, but saw how scared he had been. Now he had a protector. Him.

The knight then saw the scene of Arthur trying to kill Uther and Merlin of all people stopping him. He decided that he wanted to find out more about that story later. Leon had a tear in his eye as Merlin said goodbye to Freya and then as Morgana's slow decent into betrayal was played out. By the time he saw Merlin poisoning Morgana to protect Camelot he was a wreck. Nothing, though prepared him for the sadness of seeing Merlin lose his own father, even after Arthur had admitted they were friends.

"Ok, that's enough."

"There is more, a lot more. I've done some good. I promise."

"Everything you've done is for good."

"I tried to kill Morgana."

"Yes to protect the kingdom and the ones you loved. You tried to help her before, Merlin."

"I could have done more but Gaius and the Dragon warned me not to."

"They were right. Even the Camelot-attacking Dragon."

"He wanted revenge, but after I gave him mercy he changed. He has helped save me and Camelot more than you know."

"I have no doubt you will tell me, M-bro."

"Right what is it with this M-bro?"

"It's my new nickname for you. M for Merlin, Bro for brother."

Merlin's eyes widened.

"Well if you're calling me that I'm calling you Curls because of your hair."

"Fine. Arthur called me worse."

"I bet he did."

"Don't worry, I got my own back."

"Please. You have to tell me."

"Well I was Arthur's only friend when we were growing up. Most of the other children thought he was too proud and stubborn or were jealous, but sometimes I had enough so I invented a new name for his lordship."

Merlin was as excitable as a child in front of a large piece of cake.

"What Leon, what?"

"Prince Pratty Pants."

Merlin fell on the floor laughing, tears streaming down his eyes.

"He challenged me to a duel and won but it was well worth it."

"Why didn't I think of that one?"

"Cos you already had several good ones. Besides, you had more important things to worry about."

Leon looked at his brother. The smile had evaporated.

"Merlin, you created the rabbit stew didn't you?"

"Kind of, I found a dead rabbit but made him into two."

"Reckon you can conjure up some Ale? I think even you should have some. I doubt you can be

drunk after today's events."

Merlin smiled; somehow Leon knew what to say to get him to smile.

"I'm pretty sure I can create a whole tavern."

"Best not, M-bro, or Gwaine will be here at any minute."

"I hope he is ok. Something has happened I can feel it."

"I'm sure everything will be fine, but why don't you ask the Dragon? He should be able to help."

"You sure you want to meet him?"

"Yes, he says he is your kin. I am your kin. So it's important to me."

"Alright. Just don't be ….. you know…."

"I'm not Arthur, Merlin, I think I can behave myself."

Killgarrah arrived minutes later, looking very pleased with himself. He had discovered the reason why he hadn't known about Leon and where his place was in his master's destiny. That and why Merlin had fitted.

"Ah young warlock. And Sir Leon. To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Something is wrong Killgarrah, I can feel it."

"You are correct; there has been a great disturbance. But fear not, your destiny is intact."

"It is?"

"Indeed Merlin, it is taking an interesting turn, one that is for the best."

"Is Arthur ok?"

"The prince lives"

"Tell me what has happened."

"All in good time, all in good time. First I have some other news for you."

"I want to know where Arthur is. I command you."

"He is alive and well in Camelot. He is safe. No harm will come to him."

"If it does, you will tell me."

"Young warlock, when have I ever not wanted to help you and Arthur claim your destiny? I swear that if I think he is in danger, you will be the first to know. You going back to Camelot now will not help him. You must have patience. Besides, you've both had a bit of a shock today and after what I'm about to tell you, you are going to need to focus. Remember, Destiny can twist and turn."
" I just want to see him, we parted on bad terms."

"I know, the prince cannot see what is in front of him."
Leon interrupted. "You mean Arthur doesn't know about Merlin's magic?"

"Indeed he does, Sir Leon, but he chose to ignore it. Having Uther as a father makes it hard for him to leave such ignorance behind. But he will, one day. A half cannot exist without the other to make it whole."

"You mean to say, Dragon, that my brother and Arthur are each other's halves?"

"Leon, please." Leon turned round to find Merlin blushing.

Killgarrah chuckled. "All that power and yet he can't stop himself showing his feelings."

"You didn't answer my question, Dragon."

"The name is Killgarrah, Sir Leon, and I am not yours to order around. But yes. The prophecies speak of a union between Magic and Courage that will last the ages. A Union helped by Hope, Strength and Wisdom. I believe Sir Gwaine is Strength and Sir Lancelot Hope, so that leaves…"

"Wisdom."

"Correct. You know more than you think, Leon. You were always drawn to Merlin and you've shown wisdom to Arthur that has seen you rise to become his first knight."

"If I'm so wise, how come I didn't know about my parents and upbringing?"

"You were not supposed to, not yet; however the disturbance that Merlin reacted to has meant your Destiny has become clearer. I confess I did not see yours until I saw Merlin fitting. I then resolved to find out who you truly were and why you were involved

Merlin was getting frustrated: "And who is Leon then Killgarrah?"

"He is Merlin, a warlock guide."

Merlin was now thinking the Dragon was doing his usual of not making much sense "A warlock guide?"

"Don't sound so surprised young warlock. He is your flesh and blood. Considering you are the most powerful warlock ever to roam these lands, it cannot be a surprise to find out that he is magically linked to you."

Leon looked confused. "Do I have magic? Like Merlin?"

"Not exactly."

"Then what do I have?"

Killgarrah sighed, this was taking longer than he had expected. Still it could have been worse: it could have been Arthur he was talking to. That would have taken hours.

"I shall be brief, for I am not an oracle. Years ago it was foretold that in order for Magic to take its rightful place as the protector of all that is good, it would have to be purged from the land. The Great Purge was known hundreds of years before it happened. And you know why it did."

"Uther hated magic."

"But why?

"I saw Merlin give you some of the highlights of his magical adventures, but he left the bit out as to why Arthur wanted to kill his father. Uther and his wife could not conceive and Uther went to Nimueh for help. A child was born: Arthur, but the magic demanded a life for a life. There must be balance. Arthur's mother died in childbirth and Uther demanded revenge. It was this revenge which led you to be fostered and forced Merlin to grow up without a father. It is also this revenge which impacts on my reason for being here, though it is not for me to say why.

"Magic was purged from the Kingdom but it found refuge in the son of a farm maid. That boy grew up with unspeakable power and, with his mother afraid of what he could become was sent to an old family friend, Gaius. That boy is your brother, Merlin. Now Merlin, as you know, has a pure heart. However, magic had been caught out before. You've seen how cold Morgana became and how evil Morgause and Nimueh were, not to mention Sigan. So magic needed an insurance policy, someone who would keep Merlin's heart pure. A normal love could not, for who can deny their true love anything? So it needed someone whom Merlin would trust and love, and whom he would listen to. That someone was you."

"You are Merlin's guide and protector. Your magic will respond if Merlin is in trouble as Merlin's does when Arthur is in trouble. Even a warlock needs help sometimes. You will also act as his counsel, his keeper of secrets and as a sounding board."

"But I already have Gaius as a mentor." said Merlin.

"Yes you do, and he has served you well. But the magic couldn't trust him, for he renounced Magic and stayed at Uther's side. Also he is not of an age where he can protect you for what happens next. Do not fear Merlin, he is still of use to you and will be around for some time yet. Before you ask, he is perfectly safe at the moment. He will come to no harm."

Leon looked somewhat awed as he tried to process this. "So, let me get this right. In order for Magic to be restored to the land, it was purged. Uther has fewer scruples and less honour than even Morgause. Arthur, Merlin and I are born of magic. Merlin here is even more powerful than I thought and I have magic too."

"Correct."

"What about Arthur?"

"Oddly, Merlin has never asked me that question and I do not know the answer. He was born of magic and of course his half-sister has magic but I do not know. I know he has a form of magical bound with our kin here, and is predisposed to being attracted by those that use magic."

"You're telling me that the Crown Prince of Camelot fancies my half-brother? Don't you think I've had enough to deal with this evening? Merlin, fetch me the mead!"

"Love works in mysterious ways."

Leon shook his head. "You work in mysterious ways, Killgarrah; in fact the whole thing is mysterious."

Merlin refilled Leon's cup and then his own. Leon chuckled when Merlin gulped it down in one.

"Careful there M-bro, I don't think the old wise Dragon here has finished yet."

"I wish he would."

"MERLIN!" The Dragon roared.

"Well honestly Killgarrah, did you have to tell him about Arthur? I thought you had a reason for being here. I'm getting tired now, so tell me."

Killgarrah sighed.

"Don't sigh at me Dragon, I am your DragonLord. Now tell me your business here."

Killgarrah looked mutinous, but replied. "Merlin you really need to stop taking lessons from Arthur on how to be a prat. And you need to stop focusing on the first part of your title and think about the second."

"What?"

"Lord, Merlin. The Lord part."

Chapter Text

"What do you mean 'the Lord part?'"

"You are noble Merlin."

"I know, I know. Dragons are a noble breed and I'm Lord Emrys, heard it all before," he sing-songed sarcastically.

The Dragon sighed. "Merlin, you not just a noble in the spiritual sense, but also in the physical one."

"My mother lives in a hut. As Leon reminded me."

Leon winced slightly. He'd thought that Merlin had got past that part of their discussion. Obviously not.

"Merlin, I think what Killgarrah is trying to say is that you have noble blood. Remember you don't know your father's background."

"Leon shows his wisdom. For your father is from the House of Geraldine."

Merlin thought for a second, "Where on earth was my father from? I've never heard of it!"

"No, I dare say you haven't. I will allow you a refill of mead before I continue, and I suggest you both sit down."

Merlin looked at Leon, who shrugged and said, "Look, today's been a nightmare, may as well get it over and done with."

"Leon it is late, we need to sleep or it will be dawn soon."

"Fear not, I shall watch over you both. You both need rest but not until I have finished. You should be grateful that for once, Merlin, I am not speaking in riddles," Killgarrah added, chuckling.

"Yes, lucky me, it's only taken 3 years." Merlin rolled his eyes.

"I'll ignore that, young one. I'm sure you can hear, with ears as large as yours."

"Killgarrah, only Leon and possibly Arthur are allowed to mention the ears. Now get on with it."

"Your father Balinor was the son of Garrett Fitzgerald, the King of Munster and of Kerry, in Hibernia. Hibernia is the large Island to the east of Albion. It is also my home. Your father left his family at the age of twenty for reasons which I will let them disclose. Garrett had a younger brother to whom he awarded land, and that man, your uncle, became Duke of Leinster. That Duke had two sons; the first became wayward and unfortunately sired an illegitimate son. That son was born to Hunith, your mother, and was called Leon."

"Wait, Leon is my half-brother but also a cousin?"

"Correct Merlin. He is of noble birth after all and can keep his knighthood. In fact he will come into a significant fortune and land himself."

"And I'm the grandson of a King."

"Yes, and as your father is no more and you are his son, you are the heir to the throne."

Merlin looked at him blankly. "You have got to be kidding me."

"I never 'kid' young warlock, you know this by now."

"Why tell us now?"

"Because Sir Leon, or rather I should say Lord Leon, you and Lord Merlin here need to go to Hibernia. The King is elderly and the land is under threat from raids from the Norsemen. It is your destiny to go and save the Kingdom."

"My destiny is to protect Arthur and unite Albion."

"Yes, and you can't do that without this first. You know something has happened and while I assure you that Arthur is safe, you cannot finish what you've started without claiming your rightful inheritance. How did you think you would unite the five kingdoms? Through the Knights of the Round Table and your magic? You need men, armies and wealth."

"If I'm going to be a King, I'll need a wife and an heir."

"All in good time Merlin, all in good time."

"And I really am Noble?"

"Yes Lord Leon, although you were already noble through being a Warlock guide. Plus I can see the goodness in your soul."

"What happens next?"

"That's down to you both. But I know you want the whole truth about your family and I cannot give that to you. I also know both of you wouldn't want to see a Kingdom suffer under tyranny irrespective of where it is. This will take time but I vow to help you. Remember it is my homeland too, and I do not want to see it fall."

"I need more mead." Merlin looked at Leon as to convey a silent message of "Sorry brother, look what I've got us into." Leon picked up on it instantly and walked over to Merlin. Clasping an arm on his younger brother's shoulder he said, "Dragon, I have no reason to trust you so I ask you to swear to Merlin that what you have told us is the truth."

"I thought you were wise? I cannot lie to my Dragon Lord. I can decline questions but not outright lie."

"Thank you. Can you please leave us? We need to talk, and then rest."

Killgarrah looked at Merlin, "Merlin, do not think you can escape your destiny. I would add that your mother did not know Balinor's true parentage. He kept it quiet to protect her. You have to go and see your grandfather. Your fate, Leon's and Arthur's depend on it."

"Fine. Now I want you to watch over us from a distance. As soon as we are falling asleep I shall let you know."

"Good night Lord Merlin, Lord Leon."

When the dragon had gone, they settled themselves besides the dying fire.

"M-bro, this is the last of the mead."

"Thanks, Curls."

"So, we are both nobles then?"

"It would appear so. What I don't understand is why my father never told me. I know we didn't have much time, but he could have warned me."

"Maybe he was ashamed, Merlin, or mad? He had been hiding in a cave for twenty years. I suppose it can do strange things to people."

"Sorry, I shouldn't talk about parents not telling me stuff."

"You can. I can't have you ever thinking you can't talk to me. If we are going to make this work we have to be honest with each other and no lies or secrets. I trust you M-bro, with my life. I love you."

"I trust you too Leon. Despite today I am delighted I have a brother whom I can love and protect."

"I think you'll find I'm the one protecting you."

"If only you knew."

"I will find out, and you have the rest of your time in Camelot to tell me, too. But not tonight. We must rest."

There was a pause. Leon broke it suddenly. "Do you want to go and see our relatives?"

Merlin faced him, examining him carefully. "Do you?"

"Well the Dragon thinks it is important for you to see your grandfather. And if I can see my father for one moment, I would be happy. I need to know why. But I won't force you to go."

"If you want to go, I'll go."

"And if you want to go, Merlin, I'll go."

"We could be having this talk all night. I'll sleep on it, Curls."

"By the way Merlin, we don't have much bedding."

"Blaincéid dúbailte i méid, a thabhairt dom piliúir níos." With that the blankets doubled in size and suddenly four more pillows were produced.

"Is that enough?"

"Nothing my brother can't do is there?"

"I don't know if I can go through with this."

Leon clutched Merlin's arm. "Come to bed Merlin. You need to rest. Even with your powers no one can stay awake forever."

"I've been having dreams Leon."

"And if they turn bad, don't worry, I'm here."

Leon planted a kiss on Merlin's forehead.

"Goodnight, M-bro."

"Goodnight, Curls."

Chapter Text

Reviews / advice appreciated!

Chapter 14

Leon woke early. Turning, he saw his brother peaceful and quiet. He was pleased that at least one of them had slept well. His mind had been racing over the betrayal he felt towards both his birth parents and those who had turned out to be his adopted parents. Only Merlin had been truthful, but even then he had hidden the part about being magic. Leon, deep down, did not mind Merlin having magic but the side of him that was a Dragon Lord was a concern, even if the Dragon swore he could not lie to him. It wasn't Merlin having magic that was the issue, he knew Merlin was good, and he was so proud of him, but something gnawed inside that the Dragon was going to be involved in his life. From now on, he only wanted to deal with people who always told the truth. No more secrets.

What worried him even more than the Dragon part was the Lord part of M-bro's title. Merlin had a good, kind heart and was incredibly loyal. Leon recognised that, while being the manservant to the Prince of Camelot gave you a pretty good introduction of life at court, no matter how close you were to your master it was far different to being a noble yourself. Then Leon remembered that Merlin was no mere noble, but heir to a throne. Having watched Arthur grow up Leon had seen many sides to him, and lately he seemed almost ready to rule – apart from when he'd upset Merlin, that is. This new heir had grown up as a peasant in a single family. Leon knew he would have to help him, to guide him. Maybe that was the true meaning of being a Warlock Guide?

The idea that he had some form of magic himself was something Leon wanted to explore. Merlin had seemed pretty surprised by that revelation, while the Dragon seemed to imply he was wrapped up in the whole Arthur-Merlin-destiny thing. For the time being though, Merlin came first and if he was meant to save a Kingdom from the clutches of the Norsemen than he was going to need every ounce of Leon's support and concentration. Besides, considering Leon's run of bad luck at the moment, his magic would appear out of nowhere and run wild without any training or lessons. He reluctantly knew he had to wake Merlin up.

First Leon needed to put on the porridge. Merlin never ate enough. His brother had wondered whether Arthur was feeding him properly, and had made enquires to Gwen and Gaius. Gaius had said he was simply a growing lad and used up a lot of energy. Now Leon knew why.

"M-bro, M-bro." He shook Merlin lightly.

"Leon, what time is it?"

"Time to face destiny, Merlin"

"Seriously? You too?"

"The Dragon has a point here. You keep protecting Arthur, you fall out, something has happened to him and now you are heir to a rather large kingdom. Sounds like some of it has been planned to me."

"Yes, I'm always the last to know."

"I am too you know, you never said about your magic. And what about our family?"

"Curls, I wanted to tell you, I was scared."

"And are you scared now, with the next chapter to your story about to begin?"

"Not scared, just, apprehensive."
"Me too. Listen I think we need to go to Hibernia. Even if it is just to say hello and get some closure."

"I do too. I just needed some time." Merlin said, looking at his brother for support.

"I know, but if Killgarrah is correct we don't have much time. And we need to save Arthur."

"And we need to eat breakfast."

"One step ahead of you M-bro."

With that, Leon handed Merlin a bowl of porridge and watched him wolf it down.

"When we arrive Merlin I suspect a feast will be held in our honour. A good thing too, since you need to eat more."

"I get enough of that already from Arthur."

"I'm just looking out for you."

"I know. You always did"

"Always will do, too." Leon picked up the bowl and grasped Merlin's shoulder.

"Going to call the Dragon then?"

"OH Dragon, sinn a thabhairt chun Hibernia, mar beidh muid ag freastal ar ár teaghlaigh"

Killgarrah appeared almost out of nowhere Leon thought. Was he always going to be around? For the Dragon's part, he was delighted that Merlin was seeing sense for once and taking heed of his advice.

"So my Lord, you have decided to follow your destiny," a smiling Killgarrah said.

"Not quite, but we both deserve some answers."

"And you shall get them Merlin. If you do not I shall ensure that the truth will out. I will not interfere in family affairs unless I believe your life is under threat. I am sure your grandparents will clarify matters."

"How long will it take us to get to Hibernia?"

"Three hours, possibly four."

"Four hours?" Leon interrupted.

"Leon, I maybe magic but even I have some limits. It's not like I can take a break either. People tend not to like a Great Dragon suddenly landing in their farm lands."

"Won't we be spotted?"

"Merlin, if you would do the honours?"

Merlin turned to his brother, smiling and said "Curls, I can make us invisible. Well, not to each other but while on a Dragon my magic works with his to ensure that neither of us is seen. We protect each other."

"Ok then. Ready M-Bro?"

"As I'll ever be. I'll need to send a note to my mother first."

"What will you say? Can it be from both of us?"

Merlin smiled. "Are you sure?"

"I wasn't till I just asked but she has a right to know we are safe. Besides where you go, I go."

The Dragon chuckled "Oh my dear Lord Leon, how prophetic those words are."

"Killgarrah do me a favour and cut out the destiny for just one day will you?"

"I can, my Lord Merlin, but by the time the day is out, you will see that Destiny is an unpredictable mistress."

"And I don't doubt you will take great delight in all that occurs."

The Dragon couldn't help but laugh, "Well, you do keep me entertained young warlock. Busy, but entertained none the less."

"M-bro, when you and the Dragon have had your lovely conversation, we need to go. We can't stand

around all day gossiping."

"Arthur, Arthur, you are here after all!" Merlin couldn't resist teasing his big brother.

"Very funny, Merlin."

"Well if you sound like the Prat, I'll treat you like the Prat."

"And if you and that infernal beast don't get a move on you will see what it is like to be on the receiving end of my revenge when someone upsets you."

Merlin shuffled and looked down at his feet. "Ok, sorry. Ready now."

"Lord Leon, you are growing on me all the time. If you can get him to shut up all flight, then I'll grant you one wish."

Leon chuckled "Even with my supposed magic Dragon, I doubt I ever could manage such a spectacular feat."

Merlin squinted at him. "Now who is gossiping?"

"One more word, Merlin, and I'm tackling you to the floor."

Chapter Text

Leon wasn't sure what to expect from riding a Great Big Fire Breathing Dragon but the flight so far had been remarkably smooth. Merlin had been very very quiet. He could feel his brother's tension; with his arms round him he had thought that his presence would be a stabilishing influence.

"M-bro you haven't spoken in two hours. What is it?"

"What did you mean about seeking revenge on people who upset me?"

"Just that, if someone upsets or hurts you I will deal with it."

"Leon I am not a girl. I can defend myself you know."

"Yes and according to the Dragon I'm your guide. And you are officially my little brother."

"I'm the same height as you"

"Yes but not the same build, there is nothing of you"

"Leon I am not a weakling. That's why I'm quiet. Have some more confidence in me."

His brother hoped what he would say next would calm Merlin's nerves: "I do. Didn't I say there was nothing you cannot do? You are heir to a throne and apparently your future kingdom is under threat from the Norsemen. I've met Norsemen Merlin. They make Morgana look like a unicorn. I don't want to see you dead in battle. I know you. You are brave and loyal and you will fall in love with your new Kingdom and want to protect it. You've spent years protecting a Prince and a Kingdom. You have risked your life to save the life of a King that would see you burn at the stake."

Merlin said in a small, quiet voice, "Curls you can't blame me for wanting to protect the people I care about."

"M-bro I never will. But you've got to accept that I won't stop protecting you."

"But you don't know how. You've got some form of magic it seems and you don't know how to use it."

"Well who taught you yours?"

"I was born with it. Gaius helped me. The Dragon has sometimes. I've got the Lady of the Lake. I have random sorcerers who offered their help and even the Fisher King. All that help and Camelot was lost to Morgana and Morgause, not to mention I had to kill the High Priestess of the Old Religion in order to save Gaius and Arthur."

Merlin sighed, "You have no idea Curls of what you can do with magic. Look at what happened to Morgana. She turned evil. I have this gift and I have been made to work hard for it. You don't know what it is like."

"So help me then M-bro. I have some form of magic and I've never used it."

Killgarrah interrupted, he thought the conservation needed some guidance. "Incorrect Lord Leon. You have. You just didn't know it. How do you think your bond developed with Merlin? Magic attracts magic. Add in your blood links and it is little wonder you feel compelled to help him."

"Ok then Killgarrah, what is he meant to do with it?"

"Guide and protect you Merlin."

"Anything more to add?" Merlin did not need the usual run of mystery.

"That was enough."

"Helpful as ever aren't you?"

"In case you didn't notice Lord Merlin you are treating me little better than a horse."

"You offered."

"I'm regretting it."

Turning to Leon, Merlin said "Curls maybe your magic can find a way of making my Dragon here more co-operative."

"And maybe young warlock your guide can knock some sense into you."

Leon laughed: "You mean there is a spell to give Merlin common sense?"

"There are not enough pages in the annuals of the old religion for that length of spell Lord Leon. Besides your mouth would dry out from the length of it!"

"Right you two; I'm not talking the rest of the way now."

"Leon I believe I owe you a wish. What is it?"

Leon laughed. Merlin shot him a look. The more he did the more Leon laughed. Leon thought this must be how like for Arthur sometimes. Then felt guilty. He needed to know where Arthur was.

"Dragon, once we have sorted out our mess of a family, I want you to tell Merlin and I exactly what is going on with Arthur and where he is."

"Granted."

"You promise?"

"Leon, you may not be a Dragon Lord but you have Dragon Lord Blood in you from your family. I cannot break a promise to you."

"There are two things I value above all Killgarrah. A man's word and Merlin."

Killgarrah chuckled, "And you were worried you weren't noble. Speaking of which, Merlin, Leon we are half way there. I suggest Merlin you use this quiet time to think about your next moves. I will be on call but I can hardly be tethered like a horse at the Castle gates."

"Oh he will be thinking Killgarrah, he's ignoring us remember?"

"It will be bliss for me Leon. You grow on me more and more."

Leon laughed as another dirty look was shot from Merlin.

Merlin thought well if they want me thinking that's what they will get. His first thought was Arthur. Where was he? What had happened? He was still alive he was sure of it and yet something felt off. It was if Arthur was not truly there. Killgarrah said his destiny was protecting him and wanted Merlin and Leon to come to Hibernia to help with that quest.

So if they were to visit and even stay, then wouldn't Uther or however were in charge get suspicious? Merlin had just upped and left and now Leon had too. Wouldn't someone be looking for a knight of Camelot? And if this had been a revenge attack from Morgana then wouldn't she come after Merlin?

"I've been thinking and we've got a problem."

"What is it M-bro?"

"You left Camelot in a haste to find me, who had also left Camelot in haste. Something has happened to Arthur and we don't know who is in control. And whether it is Arthur or even Morgana. They will want to come for us. And we won be in Ealdor. Or even in the same land."

Killgarrah knew this was coming: "Excellent point young warlock. But one that can be handled."

"How?"

"Lord Leon you need to write to Camelot and say that you have found Merlin and that you are staying there. Remember that Ealdor came under attack from bandits and Merlin along with Arthur, Morgana and Gwen went there? Well, if you write that they have come under attack again and have appealed for help you can argue it is within the knights' code to help. If Uther has regained his consciousness then at worst he can be annoyed you're helping some peasants. If Arthur is in control you are being noble. And if Morgana or someone else is then you are giving them a reason not to come after you."

"If Morgana…?"

"Yes Merlin, if Morgana. She may now be in control."

"You mean to say you don't know what's happened to Arthur?"

"Not exactly Merlin."

"Well do you or don't you"

Killgarrah sighed. "I do not. There is something blocking me from knowing."

"Turn around. We're going back to Camelot."

"Merlin. I understand your concerns but you can't turn back now. You need to meet your family. This is your destiny."

"No mine was to protect Arthur and now no-one knows what has gone on."

"I have an idea Merlin but I cannot be for sure."

Merlin snapped, "Then find out."

"After you and Leon have got to your family. I vow I will find out what has happened. But all I know, all I can see is that destiny says you mustn't run back to Camelot. Look at it this way; if Morgana is on the throne then you will need an army, men, money to help Arthur. I promised Leon I would tell you what has happened to Arthur. And I shall once I know for sure, I shall tell you. I said Arthur was safe because you and I both would have felt a magical disturbance if he was dead. You need to trust me."

The warlock was growing angrier, "You've misled me Killgarrah. I command you to do not mislead me in future. Vow to me that Arthur is safe and that you will go and find out what has happened."

Leon wondered aloud, "Merlin, how is the Dragon going to find out? Camelot would see him coming?"

"I can shrink in size. Down to an insect. I just need Merlin's help with the spell."

"You will have it."

"Right so just to make sure. As you've misled my brother and I here Dragon. Merlin will help you shrink in size. You will then get to Camelot and find out what is going on. You shall report back to the both of us 3 days from now. If you do not, then Merlin will release the spell and command you not to respond if you are attacked. You will be defenseless."

"While this is happening, Merlin and I will find out why we are related to Irish royalty and then return with you to work out how to fix the mess that has been created."

Merlin put on his best 'don't even mess with me voice', one which Leon was very impressed with, "Killgarrah I order you to accept these terms."

"As you wish young warlock, Lord Leon."

The rest of the journey no one spoke until Killgarrah indicated that they were due to land.

Merlin was focusing on what had happened to Arthur while Leon was more bothered for the time being by the land itself. Hibernia did not seem too different from Camelot, except there were more castles. Leon wondered how many his family had. There were the usual peasant villages and livestock and the coasts had busy ports. Leon knew nothing about Hibernia except that there was more than one kingdom in the land. He couldn't tell though where one ended and one began.

"My Lords, we are coming into land. From here you have a 2 hours horse ride. Though I'm sure you could speed that up!"

Leon asked,"Do you know where the castle is Killgarrah?"

"Of course, when we land I'll show you."

Leon got off the Dragon first, he gave his hand to Merlin to help him down, only for Merlin to try and get of himself, but he became unbalanced and landed on top of Leon. The Dragon could not help but laugh. Which promptly scared the birds that had been watching the event.

"Right, well, you need to show me then."

Merlin's brother had not known what to expect but the sight of the Dragon blowing what looked like golden smoke onto Merlin was a lot more calming than he first realized. As the dragon moved closed to Merlin he had instinctively reached for his sword, just in case. Merlin had rolled his eyes at him and smiled as if to say "I've not some handmaiden to be rescued."

"I believe you now know where to go young Merlin?"

"And you know what you need to do next Killgarrah."

"Yes but before I go hasn't your brother got a letter to write?"

"Good point. "

Merlin flashed his eyes and suddenly a pen and paper appeared. He handed the paper and pen to Leon and said "It needs to be in your handwriting."

Leon for a moment had writer's block. What if he involuntary put them into danger?

Killgarrah sensed his stalling "Lord Leon do not worry about the letter. Uther or whoever is not going to go to Ealdor to check up on you. Providing you keep regular updates all will be fine. Besides I am going to be at the court watching what is going on. If you and Merlin are in danger, I have to tell you. It's the Dragon Lord bond."

"I shall return in 3 days. Try and keep out of trouble."

Killgarrah smiled at the two young noblemen in front of him and flew off.

"Can we trust him?"

"When he has promised me something, he cannot break it Curls."

"Well we had best be going."

Merlin sighed, whatever destiny had up her sleeve; he knew he wasn't looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

Author's notes: Thank you for those who have reviewed or added my to their favourites, most kind.
Thanks for reading

OceanNeil

Chapter 16

Morgana had had a couple of very good days. The spell was holding and the death of her beloved father had not disturbed it. Her coronation had been humble yet joyful. Both Morgause and Agravine had told her to gain the people's trust as quickly as possible.

Her wailing at Uther's funeral had been a sight to behold. She broke with tradition by not only attending it but addressing the assembled nobles and guests. The eulogy had clawed in her throat but Agravine recommended that acting the distraught, loving daughter would put her into the hearts of the people. Despite Uther having been somewhat of a tyrant, the people had respected him. Morgana followed this up by declaring that she would build a statue of Uther in the Garden and would visit it every month. For she reasoned that going every month she could goad his spirit that she had won and he had lost. The public lapped it up.

Her run of good public relations continued with her announcement that her coronation day would always be a public holiday and that she would cut tax rates this year due to the bad harvest. Morgause and her needed to keep the public onside. For Morgana did not want to stop at Camelot. The more she gained the people's loyalty, the more they would support her in exchange.

The support of Agravine had been vital. As the brother in law to Uther and a power in his own right, he could have caused difficulty. The fact that he had also wanted revenge and transpired to be Morgause's uncle through her father being Tristan de Bois helped. He had been made heir to the throne. Neither Morgause nor he was technically related to Uther but both to Uther's wife and therefore Arthur. Morgana thought it was hilarious that Arthur had been Morgause's cousin this whole time and had never knew. When she was told by Morgause that her aunt Ygraine had died to childbirth because Arthur had been convinced with magic with Nivemuh's assistance, she first thought it was some mistake. Then on reflection it made sense as to why Uther hated magic so much. He couldn't accept he was at fault so blamed everyone else.

Nivemuh had aided their quest because she wanted the ultimate revenge. She had also warned that the spell could fall apart if Arthur was killed immediately or if magic suddenly swept through the Kingdom. For the time being the ban on magic remained, it was better to get the trust of the people first. Nivemuh also revealed that ancient prophecy said someone would take the throne of Camelot and restore magic to the land. That magic had hid somewhere due to the Purge. It had taken all of five minutes for the party of four to work out that Morgana or Morgause (being sisters) had a decent chance of being the person in the prophecy. It spoke of two sides of the same coin and what was closer than sisters?

The only small drawbacks is that Merlin, Arthur's manservant was in Ealdor and not dead. She wanted her revenge but had been warned by Nivemuh that his death and that of Gaius (who had attacked Morgause) could weaken the spell. If too many people connected to Arthur died suddenly it could jolt the memory of people. It was best to leave him in his dingy village with his sick mother.

Gaius had caused no trouble and had sworn loyalty to the crown. Morgause said that the spell had not only deleted Arthur but actions involving Arthur would have been forgotten. This meant Morgana's previous seizing of the throne had been forgotten. Gaius did not see Morgana the witch and enemy of Uther, but Morgana the grieving daughter. It had been the same for Arthur's knights, although Lancelot was dead and Leon was missing. And that was her second drawback, having the most loyal of Arthur's knights not around was nagging in her mind. The spell would descend across Albion but until then he was at large.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her sister.

"Morgana, are you alright?"

"Just thinking, Leon is still at large."

"Do not worry about one knight. The kingdom is under your control. And I have thought of a way to further advance your reputation amongst the knights.

Uther it seems had not given away any land for years. So fearful was he of a challenge to his throne. Giving land to your knights and nobles will help cement their loyalty to you. I suggest that you pick 2 nobles and 1 knight and give them land. It will keep the others on their toes, in the hope they will be adequately compensated. Why not do it on those who have displayed a loyalty to you already?"

Morgana smiled, "An excellent idea. And as we seize land from Cenred's old kingdom, we can install our loyal favourites to keep an eye on the populace."

Morgause smirking said, "Yes, I suppose I am Cenred's heir in a way. After all he did vow to give me anything I wanted. We should give Agravine the job of beginning to take land. And he could be one of the first to benefit."

"Agreed sister. What's on for today?"

"A council meeting and then you have a meeting about building that awful statue. And Gaius is waiting to see you."

"Send him in."

"Gaius what can I do for you today?"

"Majesty, I have a letter addressed to your late father. The serving boy saw me and suggested I gave it to you rather than you receive it in the normal manner. I know how distressed you are about his passing."

Morgana smiled sweetly, trying to keep the bile down. "My dear Gaius, you are a true friend. Thank you for thinking of me. Please, open it."

Gaius began reading, his mind racing as it was from Sir Leon. And mentioned his ward, Merlin. He had gone home to see his mother who was ill.

"Speak Gaius."

"Sorry my Lady Morgause, it is from Sir Leon. He is safe and well. It turns out that my ward Merlin has had his village attacked. Leon has helped organize the defenses and the villagers overcame the bandits. Now they seek protection. Leon says he will stay there until instructed otherwise."

"Bring it here."

Morgana read the letter, this was almost too good. Leon had not realized she was in control and had just given news of a village already to cross over. She had been to Ealdor before and knew that although the village itself had no value, it was in a good location. If Ealdor came under her banner and the surrounding villages, she would have the foothold required. And she had a knight ready to help her.

"Gaius, can you leave us. I am fine. Thank you for your concern."

Gaius departed glad his ward was safe. Something was troubling him though.

Morgause had clearly had the same thoughts as her sister. "This is the opportunity we were waiting for in more than one way. You could tell Leon to stay there and accept the village into your kingdom. Encourage him to visit others in the area. And as a sign of your good grace, give him the land to govern. It is of little value for taxes so will not affect your treasury, which longer term needs help after you cut the taxes this year."

"Plus Agravine"

"Agravine can take land elsewhere. With Ealdor and the area in the bag, he can move to the North East of Camelot. If you take land in both bottom corners of Mercia then you can grab the middle and move upwards. Plus our North East land borders Lord Godwin, Uther's ally. It will help cement relations."

"I've had a further idea too Morgana. We need somewhere for Arthur. We cannot kill him yet, Nivemuh said so. But we cannot risk him being in the dungeon. He needs to be held elsewhere and away from your maid servant. You could give Leon the land in exchange for looking after Arthur."

"But Sir Leon was his premier knight." Morgana said, worried.

Morgause reassured her sister: "And clearly doesn't know who he is, or he would have written to Prince Arthur wouldn't he and not Uther? Remember with Arthur gone, history has changed. Uther never went mad. We never tried to take over. You're the loyal daughter."

The grin on Morgana's face almost spilt her mouth open, "So Arthur can work on a farm, as a peasant. Merlin can stay there too. I cannot bear to look at him."

"And in a year from now, their deaths can be arranged. This will be easy to do. With Sir Leon as the Lord of the Manor and Agravine in control of other parts of your new expanded Kingdom."

"What do I tell our loyal Sir Leon?"

"Tell him that the man is dangerous but that you in your mercy have decided to banish him. You can even make an announcement of it at court. That you are showing mercy. Leon will have an incentive to keep a close eye on him as you would have just made him a Lord."

"And he is further away from Gwen."

"Exactly. Without being near his true love. The spell will hold."

Morgana couldn't help but cackle, "How nice, the great Arthur now mucking out the stables. We could make him stay with Merlin. The thought of him sharing a cabin with his ex-servant and his mother is delicious." Morgana cackled again and turning Morgause said, "Sister, the matter is settled. We shall announce at the council meeting that Ealdor has sought our protection and that Leon will stay there to keep an eye on things. I do not want one of my knights being seen to be disloyal."

"You should write back to him straight away and say that Uther has died but you accept his offer. Do not mention Arthur yet. Get him onside and then you tell him his new mission."

The new Queen rose, clasping her sister's arm and with a broad smile said, "This is a good day. Right, best get my weeping face on. After all I am still mourning."

Morgause smirked at her sister, so far, so good.

Little did either of them notice the small fly sitting on the window ledge. If they had conjured a magnifying glass they would have seen a Dragon aghast.

Chapter Text

Kilgharrah had seen a lot in his life. Few events could surprise him anymore, but this really was something else.

So, he thought, it was the witches after all.

But how on earth was Nimueh still alive? He had felt her death when it happened, so when Merlin had told him that it was he who killed the old witch, it had not been a surprise.

So how was she alive? Or was she simply there in spirit? The Cailleach had made a grave mistake if it was she who had let the sorceress out, and the old wretch was one not to be trifled with. If Nimueh had escaped out from the veil, then she must have had help. Either that or something about the spell wasn't quite right.

A life for a life, Kilgharrah thought. Had Nimueh offered the Cailleach something even better than herself?

Nimueh knew Merlin had power. Had she worked out that he was Emrys? But even if she had, and there was no doubt that Emrys was a great catch indeed, would he be enough to satisfy the Cailleach?

The Dragon doubted it. It was more likely that she had offered more than one magical creature in exchange for her release. Kilgharrah knew that he needed answers, but it wasn't as if she would give them to him. He would have to consult the only person he knew who had the power to foresee what happens next.

A trip to the lake was in order, and he wouldn't be having a bath.

Firstly, he needed to get to Gaius. The old man had magic, even though it had been buried. At some point it would start giving him visions—visions of a prince. He couldn't trust Gaius not to then tell Morgana, thinking he would be doing so out of loyalty when he didn't know the full truth. It would be just typical if the man Uther relied on accidentally did his son in.

Gaius left his meeting feeling disturbed. How had Leon ended up with Merlin? Yes, they were close—but that close?

No. There was something missing. He could feel a ringing in his ears. He needed to sleep.

The death of Uther had taken its toll on him. Yes, the late king had not been perfect, but they had been friends in the past and his ward—his daughter—had needed a lot of medical attention.

The old medic lied down on his crib and hoped for peace.

Gaius.

A snort filled the air, cutting sharply through the room. Sheets rustled as a slightly roused body turned over, returning to his slumber.

Gaius. You cannot have forgotten me.

Gaius opened one bleary eye, taking in the empty room. He hummed, disregarding the voice as a figment of his dreams, and readied himself for sleep once again.

Gaius.

The physician awoke, startled. Where was that voice coming from? Now that he was up and alert, he remembered all manners in which such voices could come from, and he knew there was reason for concern.

Such manners could only come from a powerful being—one deeply entrenched in magic.

Suddenly, a torch became lit. He felt he had to pick it up, and for some inexplicable reason, he felt an irresistible urge to leave his chambers.

His mind raced as he walked down the winding stairs of the castle. There was something irrefutably familiar about the path he now took—a sense of déjà vu washing over him with every step—of him doing this before.

Of wanting to find out answers to the questions running through his head.

Gaius came to a small entrance, the opening barely small enough to crawl through. Getting onto his hands and knees, he crouched and pushed through the hole, discovering a vast cavern.

And a lizard.

"Finally. It took you long enough."

A talking lizard. A small talking lizard. Gaius thought for a minute it could be a rare newt it was so small.

"Speak, Lizard."

"I assure you, old man—I am no mere lizard!"

"My eyesight is in perfect working order! You are a Lizard"

"I am not."

"What magic is this? What trickery?"

Kilgharrah laughed loudly, "Oh, that's rich! Trickery? Coming from a supporter of Uther?"

"I have no time for this. Goodbye."

Kilgharrah sighed. Gaius had clearly let his magic wane. One would think that with him using it more than once to help Merlin, the old man would have kept it up to date by now.

"Merlin."

The name struck a cord with Gauis, what did this lizard know about his missing ward? "What about him?"

Kilgharrah grew in size, Gaius backed off. The Dragon grew until he was the size of a dog. Then, with a single cough, expelled a gold mist that instantly swarmed around Gaius's stooped form.

"His Destiny."

Gaius slipped further onto the cold, hard floor, his aging eyes flickering.

Kilgharrah winced. Despite his dislike of Gaius, Merlin would not appreciate it if his mentor was injured from the fall. After all, Gaius was an old man—not a young Warlock with his whole future ahead of him.

"What has happened to my ward, I have not seen him for days? Tell me!"

Ah, Kilgharrah mused, the old Gaius voice was back. Excellent.

"He is safe, and will continue to be, provided that you heed my warnings."

Gaius could feel the Dragon's eyes piercing into his soul. "You are troubled. Something has unsettled you, and it is not just the death of Uther. A piece is missing. Do you know what it is?"

No, Gaius thought, no. He was going mad.

Kilgharrah chuckled. "You are not mad, Gaius. Just…misguided." The dragon's eyes glinted in the meagre torchlight, as if saying, Let me guide you. "Think, old sorcerer. Think hard. The answer is in front of you."

Gaius choked out the name. "Arthur."

Kilgharrah looked pleased at his conclusion. "Indeed. Arthur. Prince Arthur. Or King Arthur, as he should be known."

The old physicians mind was racing, until a moment ago he had forgotten King Arthur, that meant magic was involved. "Morgana? Morgause?"

"Oh yes. And Nimueh."

Gaius shuddered, for that name brought back painful memories. Merlin had defeated her after she nearly destroyed his destiny. And now she was back?

"How?"

"That is something I'd like to know as well. I think the Cailleach has something to do with it. If she does, she will pay a terrible price But for now, what I do know is this," Kilgharrah said, his wings shifting agitatedly on his back. "Morgana and Morgause have cast a spell forged in the darkest of magicks—blood magic. The spell cast has made everyone forgot who Arthur is. I have seen their intentions to banish him to Ealdor and have Leon watch over him as Lord of the Manor. For what I can tell they have involved the maidservant Guinevere in the spell and wish to keep her away from Arthur."

"Gwen and Arthur have a complex relationship. I believe Arthur loved her."

"But she had feelings too for that knight, Lancelot. Or so my Dragonlord once told me."

Gaius was becoming more and more concerned, three witches equalled trouble. "Morgana hates Merlin. He poisoned her. She will want revenge."

"And she does. But not yet. You see, Nimueh has told them both that Merlin and Arthur cannot die for a year, lest the spell fall apart. Now, I wonder why that is?"

Gaius shook his head. "She has her own plan."

The Dragon was glad he wasn't the only one to have thought Nimueh was up to something. "You know her as well as I do. She has something up her sleeve, she wants vengeance. Merlin killed her, after all, and now she is back from the dead. Even a spirit as powerful as she cannot get past the Gatekeeper without some form of promise."

Gaius felt his knees wobble with fear. "She's promised Merlin to the Cailleach?"

"Or Merlin and Arthur. Or perhaps Morgause and Morgana. Who knows, maybe she even promised to deliver all four of them. She's told the witches to wait a year, and we both know that the Samhain comes in eleven months. She clearly wants them all alive at that time, which makes me sure that she has offered a soul or two in exchange for her own."

"What happens now?"

"That depends on you, Gaius. Merlin and Leon are safe and well. They are not in Ealdor, but in Hibernia. They will write to you, and you need to stay in the witch sisters' confidence. Merlin would want me to ensure no harm comes to you. And I will do so. Provided that you finally accept that magic is going to need to be restored."

"I always knew Magic needed to be restored, Kilgharrah. My concern was for Merlin's safety."

"Firstly, it is Great Dragon to you. Secondly, we have a year to stop whatever evil is going to happen next. Do you agree, Gaius?"

"I thought I was long past making deals with you. It seems I was wrong," Gaius sighed. "Very well, Dragon. You have my word. I will help Merlin and Arthur."

"And you would do well to heed this advice," Kilgharrah adds, making Gaius straighten up once more. "If you give any of the witches the smallest hint you know, it won't just be the end of you."

Gaius nodded. He knew he was getting too old for this. Perhaps he could face one more fight.

One last battle.

For Merlin. And Arthur.

Chapter Text

Since the Dragon was—hopefully—off discovering what on earth was going on, it was one less thing for Merlin to worry about. The thought of meeting his family, the Royal Family,became more and more nerve racking the closer he and Leon got to the Castle.

Leon had also picked up the increased nervousness in Merlin's demeanour. But with his own heart also racing with anxiety, he was hardly in a position to offer brotherly advice and support. He had accepted responsibility for guiding Merlin, though, and he would therefore need to calm his younger warlock of a brother down, sooner or later.

"M-bro, how much longer do you think?"

"Half an hour's normal ride."

"You know, we don't have to arrive there in half an hour."

"But we will."

"You're missing my point, Merlin. We don't have to hurry. It's all right if you want to stop first and collect your thoughts."

"Leon, I think it would take me days, maybe weeks, to collect my thoughts. How on earth am I meant to go up to my long-lost family and say, Hi. You know that son of yours who was a Dragonlord? Well, guess what? He fell in love with a peasant girl, got her pregnant and ran away to hide from a murderous, magic-hating king. By the way, I'm your grandson. Your magic using, Dragonlord of a grandson who apparently has a destiny to unite all of Albion with the biggest Prat of a prince ever to exist!"

Leon blinked and forced himself to focus on the most important bit. "Maybe a simple 'Hello, I'm Merlin' would be a start?"

"Sorry Leon, it's just…."

"Scary?"

"Yeah and what if they don't like magic?"

"M-bro, your father—their son—was a Dragon Lord. I suspect they are going to be fine about you having magic. How'd you think they are going to cope with the fact they have a new great-nephew on top of that?"

Merlin's eyes darted up to his hair. "They will love you, Curls."

Leon laughed. "Yeah but they will love you more. Look M-bro, all of Camelot adores you. I love you. As does Gwen and Gaius. And as for Arthur…"

Merlin sighed. "Arthur doesn't love me."

"Of course, he does. You and he adore each other. It is obvious. It's just…maybe you two haven't quite gone there yet."

"Maybe you're right. I do love him, I suppose, but I don't know how. I've not loved a man properly before you know. Just Gwaine. Kind of."

Leon did not want to have this sort of chat, "Merlin, I say this with all love and kindness I feel for you—but I do not want to nor do I need to know what sort of love you've had with Gwaine. Except to say that once we are out of here, he and I will be having a lovely conversation. And I suspect that if Arthur hears of it, Gwaine will find himself in an even worse position."

Merlin blinked in that clueless way of his. "But he didn't take advantage of me, Leon. It just happened. Once."

"Trust me, M-bro—it won't be happening again. Now, if you can get the thought of Sir Gwaine out of your head, I'd appreciate it."

Merlin chuckled. "You really are taking this big brother thing seriously, aren't you?"

"Oh, you have no idea, Merlin. No idea at all." Leon glanced at his brother. He really wanted to give him a hug and say it was okay.

"M-bro, let's stop for bit. I'm starving and you always need feeding. We don't know when we'll eat next."

"You said there would probably be a feast, Curls."

"Yes, there probably will be, but we don't know their customs. Come on. Rest for half an hour. Clear your mind."

"Okay."

Both of them climbed off their horses, pleased the other didn't want to go headlong into the castle. Their family could wait another half hour.

"We haven't got supplies, Leon."

"Magic something then, M-Bro. Can you do a roast chicken?"

Merlin grinned. "Watch me," he said, holding his hand out. "Eireog féasta arán donn."

Leon smiled as roast chicken, bread and butter appeared on the rock he was next to.

"Good job, Merlin. Now, come and sit next to me."

Merlin didn't need telling twice and bounded over, launching himself into the chicken. In light of the meal, he suddenly lost some of the nervous that had been building in his stomach. Leon had that effect on him.

"Hey Leon," Merlin said between bites, "when we get there, we will stick together, won't we?"

"Merlin, don't eat with your mouth full, it isn't noble!"

Merlin smiled but he wanted an answer, "Good point, we will though, won't we?"

Leon out his plate down and motioned for Merlin to come closer; "M-bro, come here. Look, we have each other's backs. We will be fine. You mustn't worry. It is all right to be scared, you know."

With that, and Merlin's small grin, Leon thought it was time for the hug. He grabbed Merlin, who nearly feel of the rock in surprise, and held him tight. Merlin relaxed into the hug.

"Thanks, Curls."

"No, thank you! This food was excellent. Now finish your food with your mouth closed, then go down to the river and freshen up. We have time."

"I don't know what I'll do without you, Curls."

" Probably starve and let the Dragon run circles around you."

"You don't trust him, do you?"

"Not really, no. There are only a few people I trust in this world, M-bro."

"He did give you his word," Merlin pointed out. "As a dragon, he can't break a promise."

"That may be the case, but he never told you about your nobility before, did he? Just be careful with him."

"I am. I will be. But he is sort of my brother too. He's my kin."

"Arthur's going to hate it when he finds out that the Dragon and I are both closer to you than he is!"

"Maybe I can be your servant and escape from him?" The warlock shot him a hopeful look.

"M-bro, you're going to be a King. No more serving from you. Besides, even I know that at the end of it, Arthur will always come first."

Merlin looked at his brother who seemed a little crestfallen by his own words, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Curls, you are irreplaceable. It's just a different love."

Leon scowled playfully. "I already told you Merlin—I don't want to hear about your love with other people! I think it's time you had that wash, and then we should go."

"Thought you said we had time."

Leon's voice was beginning to reach a higher pitch than it normally should. "We do, but not if it's going to end up with a discussion about your fancies and loves. I've had enough stress already."

His brother looked a little rueful. "Fine, I'll go and wash."

"Much better, M-bro. Much better."

While Merlin was washing, Leon prepared himself for what was going to happen next. He set himself three key tasks for the visit to his new family.

First, to ensure that Merlin remained safe and was not taken advantage of.

Second, that the truth regarding their family came out.

And finally, find out what all this had to do with Arthur and his life in Camelot?

The dragon had said he wouldn't interfere in family matters, but Leon simply did not trust him enough to take him at his word. He was proud of Merlin for standing up to Kilgharrah and hoped that one resolution from this entire mess was that the Dragon could be out of their lives.

His mind wandered onto the question of his own father—how would he react to seeing his son? How would Leon himself handle it? He was so angry with all of the lies and deceit and part of him wanted nothing to do with any Irish relation. But Merlin needed to be here, and therefore, so did he.

The magically warmed water (there was no sense in getting a chill hours before a family reunion!), coupled with the chicken and Leon's words had calmed Merlin down sufficiently. He felt ready to meet his grandparents, and was quite excited about it too. He wondered if he could get his mother out of Ealdor one day and give her a whole new life. The thought of being Royal still wasn't sinking in, but if it meant helping Arthur and becoming a force for good, then he would do it.

The warlock could hear Leon moving about. An actual brother—now that was an incredible bonus for him.

Of course, he was already close to Leon, Gwaine and the other knights, and he'd had lots of friends too. But growing up, he'd often felt lonely. His mother was always so worried about his magic, and she'd been so mad when Will had found out. Coming to Camelot had created a new family for him, with Arthur at the center, but now that centre was being threatened.

He sighed. Merlin did not know what was going to happen to him and Arthur. Their final parting had not gone well. The feelings Merlin had built up had been put out in the open, and just as Arthur was opening his heart as well, he had closed it shut in the next heartbeat.

Merlin had felt liberated when him and Arthur had finally kissed. He wasn't used to giving into his feelings. The one time he and Gwaine had drunkenly kissed and fumbled was just that—a drunken one off. The next day, Gwaine had been remarkably calm about the whole affair, while Merlin was certain someone would work it out. But no one had, and by the time night fell once more, he and Gwaine were back to normal, and since then had become best friends.

He smiled to himself. The knights, as a whole, were pretty stupid when it came to him sometimes.

Merlin missed Gwaine and others deeply but for now, rested and somewhat less nervous, he was ready to face his family.

Chapter Text

After having climbed back onto their horses and having reassured each other that they were both ready to face their new family, Leon and Merlin had arrived quicker than expected.

To Merlin, the castle looked larger than Camelot, but less ornate. Its large keep was surrounded by a moat and bailey, and tall, thick walls dominated the sky line, as if to keep people out.

The villages surrounding the castle seemed quieter, and Merlin noticed people would hide as he and Leon walked past. It was as if the people were afraid.

Of them.

The other major difference was the voiceless humming in the warlock's head. There was definitely magic at work here. From his reckoning, there must be a sorcerer within the Castle walls. Merlin felt a power which was strong but no match for him. If things did go horribly wrong he was reassured that he could plot a quick escape for him and Leon.

Merlin turned to look at his brother, who had been scouting out as much as he could. He briefly wondered how Leon became so well versed at being a knight, and whether he would have to undergo training if he was going to meet some future responsibility, like Arthur had been doing since he was young. If he really was the grandson of a King then it was likely he would have to learn how to fight like a full knight and not just rely on his magic.

Leon stopped his horse, catching Merlin's eye. "I think it's time we stopped. Looks like we're here."

Facing the brothers were two guards wearing similar dress to Camelot, except the Pendragon crest had been changed to that of a diagonal red cross. Merlin had noticed that this crest was also hanging from the one solitary banner from the keep. It didn't take a genius to work out this was the family crest.

The two guards looked at Merlin and Leon. Leon and Merlin looked at the guards.

No one spoke.

A little flummoxed, Merlin summoned up the courage to speak and said, "We are here to see the King."

Leon's eyes widened when one of the guards replied, "Welcome Lord Merlin, Lord Leon, please follow me."

Dumbstruck, Leon and Merlin did as he asked. Both looked at each other, as if to say, 'How on earth do they know who we are?'

Merlin shrugged, and Leon shook his head. To him, something was not right and he could almost hear Merlin's heart racing. Moving up to his brother, he whispered, "M-bro, you need to calm down. It'll all be okay."

The guard stopped outside a large wooden door and knocked loudly.

The throne room, Merlin thought as another guard opened the door.

Come on, M-bro, you can do this, Leon thought as they walked through the door.

Sitting on two, plain wooden thrones were a short man and a very tall woman. Beside them was what Merlin assumed was a knight, but actually looked like the spitting imagine of Gwaine.

Leon had noticed this too.

Rising, the King spoke. "I see magic and wisdom have arrived. Pray tell where Courage, Strength and Hope might be?"

"Courage is missing, Strength remains and Hope? Hope is dead." Merlin replied. Leon didn't have a clue what he was on about and his face confirmed it.

The woman rose. "You are Emrys, of the prophecies. We have been expecting you."

Great, Merlin thought, someone else thinking they know his destiny. He sighed "I am he. I come to seek an audience with the King of Munster and Kerry. We have travelled a great distance to meet with him."

The King smiled. "And what do Magic and Wisdom require with an old man such as I?"

Merlin shifted nervously, glancing at Leon. His brother nodded at him encouragingly. Comeon M-bro. You can do this, he thought.

"My name is Merlin. This is Sir Leon, my brother—"

Before Merlin could finish that sentence, the tall woman jumped out of her seat and rushed toward him. Merlin didn't know whether to move or not, so he stilled as she came in for an almighty hug.

The tears were also unexpected. He never liked seeing a woman cry. When his mother did it, her tears haunted him for days, and now he had this tall woman—taller than even Leon—crying into his shoulder.

"My grandson!" the woman cried. "I have waited for so long to see you."

Merlin looked over to Leon, whose thoughts of How do they know who we are?were reinforced. The Dragon had said Hunith didn't know Balinor's family, so how did they know about Merlin? He thought that it was possible they knew their nephew sired an illegitimate child, but why hadn't they made contact with him sooner?

An uneasy feeling grew in his stomach, one that later he would seek to dispel.

The King rose and moved towards what Merlin now knew was his grandmother—the Queen. His grandfather said, "Elizabeth, leave the poor lad alone for a moment."

Gesturing towards Merlin and Leon, the King said, "Please, both of you, sit down. There is much to discuss." He then gestured to the man who the brothers thought was Gwaine's double. "Henry, call for some food and wine. My grandson here looks like he is half-starved. And we are all going to need a drink."

Henry—who Merlin secretly thought should have also been named Gwaine—obediently stepped outside.

Once the double was out of sight, his mind began to race. A grandmother who was impossibly tall? And a grandfather who knew who he was?

How?

Thinking that respect would probably be worthwhile in this instance, Merlin sat down and asked in his most respectful tone, "Sire, how do you know who I am?"

His grandfather smiled. "It had been prophesied by your grandmother here, over twenty years ago, that a boy would arrive, full of magic, accompanied by his protector, his half-brother. Who also seems to have some magic within him, am I correct?"

Leon replied, "We have been told by a Dragon that I do have some in me, my Lord."

"Then you are a Warlock guide, are you not?"

Merlin wondered aloud, "How do you know I have magic when you have none yourself?" And then he blushed and added, "Sire."

The King chuckled. "Merlin, you do not have to use any honorary titles with me when we are in a private setting. I know of your magic because your grandmother has it. And I have lived a long-enough life to see it within people. Though the fact that you are Emrys is still a surprise to me. Where have you come from?"

"Camelot," Merlin answered immediately, but then added as a second thought, "Well, Ealdor was where I was born, but I have been living in Camelot with Leon and was a servant in the royal household."

Merlin didn't notice that the King and Queen shot each other a look as he said that. Leon did though.

"You were a servant?"

"Yes, well, my mother was poor and we lived in Ealdor. It is a small village in Essetir. I left for Camelot because she was worried my magical abilities would get out of control. I was sent to live with Gaius, the court physician, as his assistant. But I ended up being the servant to a Prince there."

"And what brings you here?"

Merlin wasn't sure what to say next, so Leon helped him. "Your majesty, Merlin and I were told to come here by the Great Dragon. He said that your kingdom was under threat and that it was Merlin's destiny to help."

The Queen spoke for the first time since the sobbing incident, smiling grimly as she said, "Yes, nephew, it is."

Right then, Leon thought, I knew they knew more than what they're letting on. Neither Merlin nor I had said I was related to them, just that I was his brother. His thoughts were interrupted by the return of Henry, and it started again as soon as Henry spoke and said, "Uncle, Aunt, the servants will be in shortly with food and wine." All right then, Leon thought, there is a strong chance that Henry here is a cousin of mine as well.

Merlin hadn't missed the familiar address either, and with a bravery he didn't think he had in him, he turned to Henry and asked, "They are your Aunt and Uncle?"

Henry looked to the King for help and after a nod, he replied, "Yes, Merlin, they are. I am a cousin to you both. My name is Henry Fitzmaurice, the Knight of Glin, and I am the captain of the Royal Guard."

"Do you have magic?" Leon asked.

"No, not everyone is our family does, cousin."

"Do you have any brothers, sisters?" Merlin interjected.

"I have one brother, his name is Thomas."

Just one, Merlin thought, and he's not called Gwaine.

"I'd like to meet him." Leon surprised himself by saying so.

"I am sure he would like that as well, cousin. He is currently out on patrol."

"What is his patrolling for? Is it routine or for a particular reason?" A knight at heart, Leon wasn't about to give up the chance to question another knight, especially one from another kingdom.

Henry shuffled in his seat, and Leon swore he heard a sigh of relief as the servants knocked and entered the room with refreshments.

Not wanting to let up though, he asked again. "Does he have many men with him? What is the size of your guard here?"

His cousin had no choice but to reply. Henry thought that Leon clearly knew his stuff and wasn't about to let go. "The Royal Guard has twenty of our best knights. Overall, we have one hundred knights, though we can draw on armies of five thousand strong if need be. My brother is currently patrolling our northern borders."

Henry had hoped his uncle would interrupt at this point, but no such luck.

"What's on your northern borders?" Merlin asked. Leon smiled to himself, pleased that his brother was always alert.

This time, the King did speak. "At the moment, only the people of Connaught. But previously, the Norsemen came to us."

Leon saw an opening and, looking at the King, said, "I know of the Norsemen. They have no morals."

"Indeed, nephew. They do not."

"But they do not attack without reason, your majesty."

"Leon, please call me Uncle. And yes, you are correct."

"Why are the Norsemen attacking you then, Grandfather?" Merlin asked.

The King sighed sadly. "They want our land, Merlin. Like any other greedy kingdom, they seek to expand their borders. If they take my kingdom, they will hold over half of Hibernia. From here, they can conquer the whole Island, and begin their assault on the kingdoms across the sea."

Leon's gut twisted as he realized the King was hiding something. "Excuse me, Uncle, but my point was that they do not usually attack unless provoked."

He saw the Queen shoot a look at her husband.

King Garratt sighed. "Yes, you are right, Leon. They do not. Unfortunately, they think they have a reason to attack us. But they do not."

Merlin wasn't about to give up either. "What's the reason? I mean, I've seen battles in Camelot before. I've seen wars start. They always have a reason."

"Merlin, they do have a reason. Greed. Now, I want to know more about your childhood, and so does your grandmother."

And I want to know what you are hiding, Leon thought.

Chapter Text

Despite attempts at moving the conversation back to how exactly the King and Queen knew who they were and why the Norsemen were taking an interest in the Kingdom, Leon had not allowed for Merlin's ability to talk about Ealdor and Camelot. His grandparents seemed remarkably interested in both of Merlin's homes, as well as his life with Leon. Merlin had not mentioned Arthur's name in any of the discussions,which Leon thought was odd. But his little brother clearly had a reason.

An hour had passed with no sign of Leon finding out more, and he was beginning to despair, especially when his uncle announced that Merlin and he would be escorted to their chambers to rest before thebanquet being held in their honour that evening. Merlin though was smiling as the announcement was mad, as he needed the opportunity to speak to Leon on his own terms and without the rest of his new family there.

The King rose to speak. "Merlin, Leon, you have travelled a long way and you now must rest. News of your arrival has spread, so while I am sure you'd like nothing more than a quiet evening, I'm afraid duty dictates that your Grandmother and I hold a small reception in your honour. I can assure you it will be a small affair, and you have nothing to worry about.

"Now please. Henry will introduce you to your servants. Your rooms will be next to each other."

Servants? Merlin thought he would die of embarrassment as soon as he met them. They would know instantly that he was one of them and had had no previous experience as a Noble. What would he say to them? Still, at least he could actually spend some time with Leonalone and talk about their family meeting.

And he had a reception to prepare for. He hoped his grandfather really would ensure that it would be a small event. Receptions in Camelot were always grand, what with Uther always wanting to impress his guests. On Merlin's part, the success of the event depended on Arthur's mood. If Arthur liked the guests and hadn't fallen out with his father, Merlin relaxed more and was often invited back to Arthur's chambers for some food and wine. However, Arthur in a snippy mood often meant a fight between the two of them would occur, and Merlin would end up not speaking to the Prat for several hours.

He was brought back from his thoughts by Henry's voice. "Cousins, please follow me."

Merlin and Leon were lead down a corridor, then another [add a direction here] and then another right. Stopping abruptly, Merlin turned to his cousin."Henry, how much further? I don't think I'll know the way back."

"Another few minutes, Merlin," Henry answered. "I organized your rooms so that you are next to each other. I am also on the same corridor. I hope to be able to spend some time with you both while you are here. I'm told it would be good for me to speak to people my own age."

Merlin was warming to him—Leon could see it on his face, and he had to admit, Henry seemed OK too. And he clearly wanted to talk to them. And did saying that he wanted to talk to people his own age meaning that he didn't want the King and Queen there?

"Of course! Leon and I would love to get to know you—wouldn't we, brother?"

"Definitely, Henry. Although I am sure you can appreciate that Merlin and I've had a long day and also need time to rest. Perhaps we could meet tomorrow morning?"

Henry looked slightly crestfallen. "It may have been presumptuous of me, but I thought that perhaps after the feast, you might like to come back to my chambers for a drink before you sleep."

Leon knew what Merlin would say, and suddenly thought he should be a bit friendlier to his cousin. "I'm sure Merlin and I could do that, Henry. Though my brother here can't drink too much wine!"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Curls, it's not as if I can't handle myself."

His brother couldn't resist. "M-bro, you once had two glasses of mead and you insisted on singing in Arthur's chambers. He couldn't get you to stop and I had to come and rescue him."

Their cousin snickered as Merlin's cheeks reddened."Why do you call each other Curls and M-bro?'

Leon grinned. "Well, I have curly hair, and M-bro stands for Merlin and brother."

Henry laughed. "It's good. I like them. I could call Merlin M-Cuz."

Now it was Leon's turn to laugh, and he patted Henry on the back. "Great idea!"

"If I'm being called M-Cuz, then you need a nickname, Henry," Merlin interjected.

"Well, Thomas calls me Henners."

"Are you close to him?" Merlin asked curiously. "I've always been close to Leon, but I've only recently known him to be my actual brother."

Leon wondered whether Merlin was doing the right thing mentioning that. Although, he had accidentally mentioned Arthur...

"We are close," Henry agreed. "I mean, we argue and fight over small things, but he has always been there for me."

On reflection, Leon thought this was another opening."And the rest of the family? Do you all get on with each other?"

Henry shuffled his feet and said with a hollow laugh."Oh, Curls. You know what families are like."

I just might, the knight thought, but not what this one is like.

Before he could find out more, Henry announced that they were at their chambers. "Your servants will be along in a minute. They will escort you to the reception. You have three hours. I'm sure you both will want to rest."

"Thanks Henners."

"See you this evening, M-Cuz, Curls."

With that Henry left the brothers, Leon's mind was working overtime. "M-bro, we need to talk. I suggest we meet our servants and then reconvene?"

"I agree."

Merlin opened the door to his chambers, which were even bigger than Arthur's, and was startled to find his servant in his anti-chambers which seemingly connected to Leon's.

The servant, nervous about his new master spoke."My Lord Merlin, I am Michael, your manservant during your stay. I have made your bed and arranged for a selection of formal outfits to be delivered to your chambers. Would you like me to run a bath for you?"

"Not yet, Michael, and where does the Bath go?"

"It will be in your anti chamber Sire." Michael pointed at the door at the end and said "that door then connects through to Lord Leon's chamber."

Merlin was confused, "I have a shared bathroom with Leon?"

"Yes, sire. Is that not to your liking? I could see if you could be moved."

"No, Michael. This is fine. And please, call me Merlin."

"Of course, sire."

Merlin thought that Michael was perfectly nice, but he wanted to be called Merlin. Is that what it was like for Arthur before he came along? Arthur had always moaned about his serving skills, but Merlin secretly knew Arthur wouldn't be able to cope even five minutes without him. And probably wasn't coping well right now. He really hoped the Dragon would return with good news.

Michael was still standing there, the picture of perfect subservience. Merlin smiled kindly at him. "I insist you call me Merlin, Michael. Now, if you could leave me, I need to rest. Please return an hour before the reception."

"Of course, sire— Er, sorry, sire! I mean, Merlin."

Good, Merlin thought. It was bad enough he was Lord Merlin, grandson of the King, without being reminded of it every five seconds.

While Merlin and Michael were bonding, Leon had the misfortune to have been given an elderly man, Thomas. While Thomas seemed perfectly capable,Leon was used to doing things for himself. He was a knight, not a Lord in Camelot. In Camelot the knights did not have enough money for their own full time servants. And an elderly man just seemed a bit odd for him.

It got worse when Thomas suddenly started coughing and collapsed on the floor. Leon quickly rushed to the old man's side.

"MERLIN! MERLIN!" he shouted at the top of his voice. Merlin bounded in from the odd, shared bathroom to find an elderly man coughing and Leon holding him. "Merlin I don't know what happened. He was fine and suddenly started coughing and collapsed."

The training Gaius had instilled in Merlin came to the fore, "Help me get him onto the bed and I will take a look at him."

"Michael! Michael!"

"Yes, sire?"

The servant looked at the scene in front of him, bewildered; "What has happened to Thomas?"

"Leon saw him coughing and then he collapsed. I need you to get me some water and blankets."

"Right away, sire. Shall I send for the physician?"

"Not yet. I have had medical training." Merlin then kicked himself, telling a servant that he had medical training would lead to questions.

Leon had thought the same thing and, seeing Michael's face twist in confusion, said to the servant,"In our Kingdom, it is customary for nobles to be trained in the sciences, Michael."

This seemed to allay Michael's curiosity. "I will be back right away."

Merlin turned to his brother and mouthed, Thank you, before taking a look at his patient. Thomas was obviously old, but the coughing was very severe for a normal chill. He examined the servant and was surprised to find boils on his chest. "Leon, he is severely ill. See these boils? I have seen them before, with Gaius."

"Is it the plague?"

Merlin grimaced. "Not exactly. It's magic-related. The case I saw was an elderly man Gaius said had been suspected of sorcery in the past."

"How is it magic-related? Has someone cast a spell on him?"

"No—worse. He did this to himself."

Leon looked shocked. "How? Why?

Merlin shook his head. "Brother, the boils are a reaction to a certain spell gone wrong."

"What's the spell?"

"That's the truly horrifying part. The spell is used to give a victim the plague. But if the victim has magic, is protected by some form or magic or the spell caster says it wrong, the magic bounces back."

"You mean?"

"Yes. Thomas here wanted to kill someone."

Leon's blood went cold. "One of us?"

Merlin didn't want to think about that. "Perhaps. Or Henry. Or the King or Queen. Maybe even someone of lesser rank. My magic won't be able to work that out."

"You need to cure him, so we can find out."

"Curls, you can't. The spell will kill the sorcerer as a safety measure."

"But we need to find out, Merlin."

Merlin knew they needed to, but the answer wasn't easy. "Yes, but I don't think I want to tell my grandparents yet. Something is telling me not to."

Leon asked, "Is it your magic? I mean, you are powerful. Perhaps it's your magic that's speaking to you?"

"I hadn't thought of it, but yes, my magic could be telling me something. But you're right. We need to find out more."

To Leon, the answer was obvious. "Henry, M-bro. We should speak to Henry. But what about Thomas here?He's going to die and someone will ask questions. Your grandmother has magic, remember?"

"I can cast a glamour over him. To everyone but me,the boils will not exist. It will look like he died of old age."

Michael entered the room abruptly. "My lords. What happened to him? Will he be all right?"

Merlin didn't like lying, but had little choice. "He's contracted a chill, Michael. He's not well."

"We must move him, sire. He cannot stay in Lord Leon's bed."

Merlin nodded and almost lifted the man off the bed himself. "Michael, fetch a couple of men and take him back to his room. I have given him something to help him sleep. I fear he may not wake up."

"I need to inform the King. Thomas was his groom."

"Certainly, Michael. Please make the arrangements now." With that, the servant left.

The King's groom,Leon thought. Was the King in on it? Or was it a simple coincidence?

Merlin turned to his brother. "I'm thinking the same thing, Leon."

"Read minds, can you?"

"No, but I don't need to. Something is not right about this whole thing."

Leon spoke in a tone he wasn't used to with Merlin and instantly regretted being that harsh. "I know, M-bro, and I wanted to find out more, but you took the conversation straight into your life and Camelot."

Merlin lowered his head and nodded. "I'm sorry, but I wasn't sure what to do next. And I didn't want to raise suspicions until I spoke with you."

Leon moved to him, touching his chin and looking in the eye. "You did the right thing. Now, as soon as Thomas is moved, we can talk. I also need to take a bath before this feast."

Merlin's face suddenly looked panicked. "I thought it was a reception?"

"I don't think it is a small reception, M-bro. I think it's bigger than they were letting on."

His brother winced. "I don't want a big event, Curls. I mean, I wasn't sure about coming and now I'm not sure I want to stay."

"I feel the same way," Leon admitted. "But the Dragon will be back soon, and now I want to know the secrets our family is still hiding."

"So do I." Merlin had an idea. "I think Henry is uncomfortable. Did you notice his relief when the servants came in with food? And he wants to see us later this evening. I think he wants to tell us something."

Leon nodded, but before he could speak, Michael arrived with three more servants. After receiving brief instructions from Merlin, they departed with Thomas, leaving the brothers in peace.

"What now?" Leon asked.

"I need to sleep, Leon. Especially if we will be up later talking to Henry. I'm still not right after my fitting in Ealdor I told Michael to come to me an hour before the reception."

"Okay. I could do with the rest too. And a bath."

"About that, Curls. Don't you think it's weird we have a shared bathroom?"

"It is, but perhaps this was used for a couple and they just don't have the room. We can ask Henry—he did say he sorted out the arrangements."

"Alright, but I'm not sharing. It's bad enough I'll have a servant with me."

Leon smiled. "And how does it feel to be a lord, M-bro?"

Merlin shuffled and looked down at the floor. "Weird.I mean, how many nobles treat sick servants? And being here, in a chamber, it reminds me of Arthur."

His brother put an arm round him. "M-bro, it is perfectly all right for you to miss Arthur. Try not to worry. You need to focus on what is happening here."

Merlin sighed. "I know, Curls, but it's hard. I do miss him. Despite him being a prat."

Now Merlin was in a full on bear hug. "I promise you I'll help you find out what has happened." With a kiss to Merlin's forehead, Leon said, "Get some sleep," and departed to his own chambers.

Merlin walked back to his chamber, his magic was telling him to be alert for the evening. He didn't want to dwell too much as to why.

Chapter Text

Author's Note: I sadly do not own Merlin or anything relating to the BBC series.

Chapter 21

Two hours later Merlin was woken up by Michael who had also run a bath for him. Michael had insisted Merlin bathed much to Merlin's chagrin considering his brother could walk in at any moment. His servant though had reassured him that yes he would inform Lord Leon not to come in.

Unfortunately for Merlin, Leon had locked the door to his chambers on both sides. Michael had little option but to leave a note under the door. Of course, Michael not wanting to worry his new master did not inform him of this and went back to Merlin to reheat the bath tub and assure him that he could relax.

After Michael had departed, Merlin finally relaxed. He didn't like other people seeing him nude, especially with the various scars and burn marks he had. Michael supposed that Merlin was a mighty warrior and told one of the serving girls. Within an hour the castle was full of stories of their new Lord's bravery, all the while Merlin was engaged elsewhere. As his mind relaxed, he began to assess the visit so far. Clearly Leon hadn't taken to his grandparents well and the death of Thomas was an additional complication. That and of course the fact that the Dragon told him his destiny was to become King here and then work with Arthur. As the name Arthur raced through his mind, Merlin began to day dream of his prince. He rested his head back against the tub and shut his eyes. His hands couldn't help but wander down to more intimate areas and he let out a small groan, "Arthur."

Leon woke and remembering he had locked the doors and need to find a chamber pot, opened the shared chamber door. The shock of his brother clearly dreaming of Arthur was more than he could take. That was nothing to Merlin's surprise of seeing his brother. Merlin's magic had conjured up fairly lights around the bath as well as a Pendragon red cloak floating in the air. Merlin's surprise saw his magic overreact and the cloak promptly flew straight into Leon's face, before Leon could move he was covered and couldn't see. Merlin watched as his brother stumbled about before tripping over his feet and falling straight into Merlin and the bathtub. The noise was deafening, as was the shout of "Of all the stupid things Merlin, why is it always you?"

Merlin wasn't used to Leon shouting at him and always gave as good as he got. "Haven't you heard of knocking? What's the matter with you?"

"Me? Leon roared, "I'm not the one in the throes of ecstasy over a Prince"

Merlin blushed, "I wasn't in the throes of ecstasy."

"What do you call fairly lights and a dancing cloak then, boredom?" Leon glared at him. "And now look at me, I am soaked."

"an Bráthair bi An Aimsir Láithreach" Merlin whispered and Leon was as dry as desert. Turning to his brother the warlock said "Happy now Curls?"

"Well I'm dry Merlin, but still you gave me quite a display."

Merlin glared at him, "Still gave you no right to come in did it? It's not my fault my magic does something like that?"

"You mean you can't control it?" Leon said aghast

"Most of the time I can, it's just sometimes, sometimes with…"

"With Arthur"

Leon saw Merlin blush as he replied "Yes, with Arthur."

"Ok M-bro I don't need to hear any more."

Merlin smiled and then sheepishly said "er I know you're dry but do you want the bath?"

"No it is fine, it will be cold."

Leon shouldn't have been surprised that second later the bath was steaming.

His brother smiled, "I'll leave you to it. And I'll lock the doors."

"I wouldn't worry, not as if I'll be day dreaming over a prince."

No, you won't, but surely Curls there is someone?"

"No one Merlin." Leon settled back into the bath. He hadn't lain with a woman for a few months. Not that he didn't get offers as Arthur's premier knight. It was just with the various battles they kept facing he was always exhausted. Plus he didn't agree with the Gwaine approach to romance, despite the other knight's tales. He then frowned. He hoped Gwaine hadn't been describing a night of passion with his little brother. What was he going to do with Merlin? He couldn't stay here forever; he clearly needed to see Arthur. Then again, Leon thought, "we don't know where he is." And now their family was up to something. He sighed; the Dragon had better come up trumps.

Leon drifted off and was awoken by a knock on the door. Could only be one person.

"Leon, we need to get ready or will we be late."

Smiling he retorted, "Unusual for you to be on time isn't it? Arthur was always telling me how late you were."

"I was either practicing spells or saving all your backsides. Are you getting out of there or not?"

"Fine, I'll see you shortly."

"Er Leon you might want to check out the clothing they've left you."

Leon was interested now, after drying he quickly went into his chambers and to the wardrobe. He was disappointed to find a standard, albeit it very smart outfit. Turning back to the joint bathroom, he knocked on Merlin's door. "It's nothing Merlin, just the usual stuff."

"Is it?" Merlin sounded surprised. "I don't remember seeing this sort of thing in Camelot."

"Think you better open the door M-bro."

Leon couldn't help but laugh at the sight in front of him. Merlin was wearing black, tight trousers, far too tight he thought with a red shirt. His brother had a cape around him of white with a diagonal red cross on the back. What topped off the outfit was the brown hat in the shape of a monkey.

"Is that? Are you?"

"What is it?"

Grinning he said, "It is a monkey Merlin, they are very rare."

"Why aren't you wearing one?"

"I don't have a hat Merlin, just boring standard stuff. Brown trousers, red shirt, same cape. No Monkey and no revealing tight black trousers."

"Oh."

"Oh indeed M-bro. It must mean something."

"I hope I haven't got to wear it all night Curls."

"I hope you don't either Merlin. One I don't think I can keep a straight face with that thing on your head and second of all those trousers are far too tight."

"Don't look then." Merlin snapped.

Leon did not want an argument and hoped Merlin would understand his point of view; "It's not me, M-bro, it is the court. We don't know their customs remember? Half the court could find you irresistible for all we know. And I don't want to have to get into a sword fight on our first night here as your grandparent's guests."

He wasn't surprised when Merlin snapped again, "Well what do you want me to do?"

"M-bro, no need to snap at me is there? Just don't attract attention and if there are some over friendly knights or ladies, just come and introduce them to me."

"Err thanks." Merlin fell silent and Leon could see the nervousness in his eyes. Placing a hand on his arm, he smiled softly and said "Listen M-bro there is nothing to worry about. Yes the outfit is even worse than the one Arthur made you wear, but remember I'm here with you. Just think that it's a party in your honour and you will be fine. I will be at your side. You have nothing to fear. You are a very powerful warlock and I'm proud of you. Now, let's go and make our grand entrance. You are heir to the throne apparently."

'Heir to the throne?' Merlin thought, more like court jester.

Chapter Text

Merlin's embarrassment of his outfit faded somewhat when Henry arrived to escort them to the Great Hall. Despite wearing the same outfit as Leon, he did not bat an eyelid or make any comment about said outfit which was a relief to his cousin. In fact he didn't speak until they arrived just outside the hall. Turning to both Leon and Merlin, he shook his head slightly and said "Good Luck." Henry then knocked on the large wooden door and the trumpets blasted.

The door swung open and the brothers' eyes widened for what was in front of them was not a small reception but a full scale banquet. Leon instinctly clasped Merlin's arm and gave him a silent look of understanding. The King rose and with a smile Merlin thought had a canny resemblance to Uther, spoke:

"My Lords, Ladies and honoured guests of the court, I present to you my grandson, Lord Merlin of Munster and Kerry and my nephew, Lord Leon of Leinster. They have travelled far, from Camelot and the Queen and I are most glad to see them."

He was led along with Leon through the hordes of starting eyes to the top table. Merlin was beckoned to sit to the right of the King, with the Queen to his grandfather's left and Leon next to her. Next to Merlin was Henry. His cousin could see the nerves bouncing off Merlin, "Merlin, I might not be your brother do not fear I'm right next to you. " Merlin smiled weakly at him, Henry had said Good Luck after all but the tone of his voice and the shaking of his head made him suspicious and coupled with the fact that Leon was on the other side of the Queen; he had a deep unease about this evening. And he was the only person in the room wearing a monkey shaped hat.

Leon hadn't wanted to be separated from Merlin but knew more about the court. As they were both guests of the King and Queen it was natural for them to be spilt. He looked over to Merlin and smiled, Merlin smiled back, perhaps Leon thought he would be ok, he did have Henry next to him. Leon prided himself on being a good judge of character and he had warmed to his cousin.

Merlin needed to know why he was wearing a monkey on his head. He wasn't sure about asking the King but Henry seemed a good bet. "Henry, why am I wearing a monkey shaped hat?"

"Ah. Good question cousin."

"And the answer is?"

Henry looked uncomfortable and as he was about to respond, the King said "All in good time grandson, all in good time."

"Sire, I think Merlin should be told". Merlin was pleased Henry was supporting him.

Again Merlin thought the King turned into Uther as he glared at Henry and in a definite I am the King do as I say tone, "and he will. When I decree it is right." Ok Merlin thought, all Kings are scary. Henry shifted in his seat. He was fuming inside and definitely was going to tell Merlin and Leon a few things later that evening, however for the time being he needed to keep the peace with his uncle.

"Of course sire, forgive me if I spoke out of turn."

"We move on Henry."

"Now grandson, tell me more about the Dragon."

Maybe it was his magic Merlin thought but something told him to remain guarded, "Er, not much to tell really. I mean he is a Dragon, you know flies, breathes fire, that sort of thing."

"And he brought you here, so where is he now?"

"Oh he's off, you know doing something"

"And what is that something?"

Merlin wasn't about to relent, and two could play at secrets he thought, "All in good time, your majesty, all in good time." Henry chocked on his wine, no one spoke to his uncle like that. He particularly liked the way Merlin said your majesty, it was almost mocking. He turned to look at the King who was speechless and his cousin now looked unsure as to whether he had done the right thing. Before Merlin could get himself into more trouble, Henry called a servant over to refill their goblets. The action helped to calm the tension that was quickly creeping over the hall.

Leon and the Queen had overheard the discussion and Leon was extremely proud of his little brother. The Queen for her part was not amused with either her Grandson or her Husband. She turned to him saying, "Do you not think it is time the servants began the first course my love?" Glad for the distraction, the King said "of course", rising he announced the first course of the seven course banquet would begin.

After course three, and no speaking between the King and Merlin, the warlock thought it was time to move on. From what he knew of Uther, Kings liked to talk about their own power and conquests. Hoping also to find out more of his history, he asked the King how he got to have two Kingdoms. The conversation developed into a history of Munster and Kerry. It transpired that there had been a war between the two Kingdoms and Merlin's great grandfather had united the realms. Merlin plucked up the courage to ask about his father, all he was told in exchange as that Balinor was much loved but had followed his own path. The way the King had spoken and the reaction of Henry, which was to say nothing but give Merlin a look ,gave Merlin the feeling that there was more behind his father ending up in Ealdor and then living in a cave than the King was letting on.

Two hours into the feast and Merlin really had had enough of not being given the full truth and wanted to leave. He said to his grandfather that he wished to be excused for he was still tired from the journey. The King saw through this lie and also seemed slightly on edge, "Grandson, you may be excused but before you do I need to address the Hall, after then you may leave."

Leon saw the King and Queen exchange a look and then the real drama started.

Rising, King Garrett looked at the assembled guests in front on him, and then to his grandson. Strong boy he thought, questioning nature, clearly got the mental strength from his father as well as his magic. And that of his wife's too, in fact the magic coming out of Merlin worried him. He was almost too magical. Still, that could be moulded he thought.

"My Lords, Ladies, welcomed guests. As you know my Grandson here and his brother (odd Merlin thought, Leon was introduced as his nephew earlier) have travelled from Camelot. You could say it is destiny that has brought him here."

"It is also, I am sure because of a sense of loyalty, loyalty to this great Kingdom. Since the death of my son Balinor years ago (Merlin and Leon raised an eyebrow to this), I have been without a formal heir. That can now change for I can now announce that Lord Merlin is to be crowned tomorrow as Prince of Munster, Kerry and Ulster. The ceremony will be at dusk tomorrow in accordance with our traditions."

The King smiled at Merlin and lifted his goblet, "Please, stand and join me in a toast. To Merlin, our new prince."

Leon signalled to Merlin that he needed to stand and say a few words in response. Merlin was still in shock but the magic within forced him to stand. "My King, you are most gracious, it will be my honour to serve the people of your realms as their Prince." The warlock quickly sat down to a round of applause and a smiling set of grandparents. Henry patted him on the back, "well said cousin."

Merlin turned to the King "May I now leave sire?"

"Of course"

Merlin rose, Leon automatically bid his farewells too and followed him out of the Hall and then had to run after Merlin who was extremely quick about getting back to his chambers. Merlin turned and particularly threw Leon into his room before waving his hand and the door locked. Shaking, he turned to his brother, "Crown Prince? Me? The Crown Prince? And of Munster Kerry and Ulster? Where the hell is Ulster? My grandfather is King of two Kingdoms not three!"

"That is odd, Merlin, as is his refusal to talk about the monkey hat."

"Well, I'm not doing it. I'm a servant to a Crown Prince not one myself. I've had enough Leon. First it was the magic, and then it was the destiny of protecting Arthur and uniting Albion. Then it turns out I'm a Dragon Lord, not to mention having the power to destroy the most powerful sorceress of all time. Then I find out I have a half-brother, that I'm a Lord and now I'm to become the Crown Prince of three kingdoms? "

He sat down on his bed and sighed, "I wish I could turn back time Leon, I wish I was at home with my mother and none of it had ever happened."

An arm on his shoulder, "M-bro you don't mean that, Camelot is your home, you know it, I know it. Besides it can't all be bad, you wouldn't have me for a start."

Merlin laughed, "Nor the ability to clean out Arthur's stables in the same day as washing his floors and mending his socks."

"Ok, big brother hug time" and Merlin couldn't escape as Leon clasped round him. He ruffled his hair, "No one is forcing you to do anything Merlin. But I think you will make a great Crown Prince."

"Thanks."

A knock on the door saw both men jump. "Cousins, it's me, Henry."

Leon rose and opened the door, "Henry? You said you would be coming later?"

Henry walked, in, looking around the nerves were bouncing off of him;"I just wanted to check you were both ok. I know that announcement was a bit of a shock. I am sorry."

"What for?" Merlin asked.

"I should have, I could have warned you that was going to happen. It is why you were wearing the hat. It signifies that you are the heir to the throne of Ulster."

"About that, my grandfather is King of two Kingdoms but I am heir to three?"

Clearing his throat Henry thought he may as well start the sorry tale of woe; "Of course, your grandmother, the Queen has her own realm, that of Ulster. It is to the North East. It has been raided several times by Norsemen and your grandparents entered into an alliance with each other. Ulster you see has plenty of magic users but it needed a professional army, which both Munster and Kerry shared."

Leon nodded, "That goes some way to explain about the Norsemen. But what I don't understand Henners is why my brother and I were kept in the dark about him being made Crown Prince."

Henry looked at them both. Merlin thought he had aged in just a day and looked tired. "I know there has been an argument between the King and Queen. There is much you do not know."

"I know my grandfather is hiding something, as is my magic using grandmother."

"Quite, look I shall return after the first sleep. I do not wish to create suspicion and it is best for all concerned that my aunt and uncle do not here of my plans to meet with you both."

Merlin at this moment looked concerned and Leon looked dangerous. Best for honesty Henry thought "Do not fear, I will reveal all that I know. My loyalty is to you now Merlin, not the King or Queen." Henry was pleased when Leon broke into a smile as did Merlin. Clearly supporting Merlin went down well with Leon the knight thought.

"I bid you a good sleep, your servants are outside."

"I best depart to my chambers also Merlin. See you in a few hours."

Leon and Henry shook hands; Merlin simply hugged his cousin who was taken aback by the gesture.

He waved them out and let Michael in to turn down his bed. After bidding him good night, he lay himself down and sighed. Destiny was a complete pain and the Dragon was just going to love this development he thought. Mind you, what would Arthur say? He was the nominated Crown Prince to three kingdoms which combined outweighed Camelot in size. His grandfather had at least told him the population of his kingdoms and the number in his army, add in Ulster; which he thought was an odd omission from his grandmother and he was sure of it.

The Prince's mind wandered. If he was going to be Crown Prince and therefore King he would need a wife, an heir. It was a shame he thought that he couldn't just marry Arthur. Far easier to unite all of Albion with four Kingdoms already under their rule and at least he trusted him, he didn't like the idea of marrying a women he didn't know. A lot of the women Merlin encountered wanted to kill him or Arthur. But Arthur didn't trust Merlin any more so the dream quickly faded as Merlin fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

Leon dreamt of a throne, and the faceless King sitting on it had cloak of white with a red cross on it. A voice boomed, "When the King of a Hundred Knights rises, all of Albion will fear his wrath." The King rose holding onto staff with a blue orb on it. Words were uttered that Leon did not recognize and the orb lit up, a blue pulse throbbing into the sky.

The dream shifted to a battlefield, Leon recognised the language of Norsemen, he was now on a horse, covered in blood. He rode to a small lake and washed his hands, yet the blood would not come off. He could feel a stabbing pain and a cry interrupted from him and he woke, sweating.

His brother had dreamt he was in Ealdor, the dream felt similar to the time he went there with Arthur, Gwen and Morgana. Arthur was sitting at his mother's table being all polite and princely like last time. Merlin thought Arthur really knew how to flatter people. His mother however was not smiling but shouting at him. He looked over to Arthur who was motionless, watching the fight without commenting. Merlin rose and then was then outside, then on a white horse which took him to a field. The field had odd shaped stones, surrounded in a circle.

He stepped into the circle to find blood soaked goblet, and a humming entered his head. Then a blue light shot to the sky. A voice could be heard "when the King of a Hundred Knights rises, all of Albion will fear his wrath."

Merlin stepped out of the circle, now he was back in Ealdor with Arthur. Arthur was wearing his clothes, Merlin moved towards him, drawn to him he smiled, Arthur's eyes danced and rising from the table he pushed Merlin up against a wall. The kiss was electric; Arthur's tongue demanding entrance and Merlin could feel his magic surging, his eyes flashed gold and the two were locked in an embrace, floating over the table. A crash and they fell to the floor. The Warlock Prince woke to a strong carnal urge. Before he could give into temptation there was a knock at the door.

"Merlin."

"Leon?" Merlin awoke quickly and shifted in his bed—he didn't want any additional embarrassment with his brother.

"Yes, Merlin. Is it ok to come in?"

"Sure, give me a minute." Merlin didn't know his magic could control his urges before but said a silent prayer of thanks when it did.

"A minute? Are you ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry, Curls, just waking up. Come in."

Merlin took one look at his brother, and realized— "Are you sweating?"

"That obvious, is it?"

"Leon, you look like you've been swimming! You have a fever, don't you? Merlin then panicked, Oh, you've been poisoned! Quick, come here!"

Typical Merlin Leon though, always worrying about other people: "Relax, relax, I haven't been poisoned. Well, I don't think I have. It just was a bad dream is all."

Merlin looked puzzled. "Do you have bad dreams often, then?"

Leon shook his head. "It is the first time in a long while. Most unusual actually."

"What did you dream about?"

"I'm not sure. I dreamt there was a King on a throne. He had the same cloak as the Fitzgerald's, but I couldn't see his face. I could hear a voice though. It said that when the King of a Thousand Knights rises—"

"All of Albion will feel his wrath," Merlin finished for him.

"How did you know that?" Leon said, eyes widening.

"I heard the same voice, but I saw no King. I was with Arthur in Ealdor. Mother was there too, but we were arguing. Arthur just sat there. Then I was on a field, I think there had been a battle because I found a goblet with blood on it. I saw a blue light shoot to the sky, then the voice came."

"I saw a blue light too—from a staff that I think the King had. I had blood on my hands but it would not come off."

Merlin shifted uncomfortably. "We are being warned. This was what it was like for Morgana, before she changed."

"Have you had visions before then, Merlin?"

"Only once or twice. Always when something bad is going to happen. I have had them awake too—in the Crystal Cave I saw the future. I saw Morgana try to kill Uther. I saw the Dragon attack Camelot. Then when I met the Fisher King, he warned me Camelot would be in peril. And of course I had that fit in Ealdor."

Now Leon was uncomfortable. Looking at his brother, he said, "Do you know what this means?"

Merlin shook his head. "The dreams are visions, but they are never complete. Even those that I saw in the Cave. Someone or something is trying to warn us. Have you heard of the King of a Hundred Knights before?"

"No, M-bro. I was hoping you had."

"It is not a name Gaius or the Dragon has mentioned before. We will have to ask Kilgharrah who he is."

"Or maybe our family?"

"Our family?"

"Yes, M-bro. Think about it. Your grandmother has magic, you felt magic here. There's been some form of magic involved with that servant who died. The King is acting oddly and your father was a Dragon Lord. Not to mention, Henry says he is going to tell us more. It makes perfect sense."

"I don't want to ask my grandparents, Curls. I just do not trust them."

"Me neither."

Both men were interrupted by a knock on the door. "Cousins, it is I—Henry."

Merlin looked at Leon, who nodded. "Give us a minute, Henry."

Merlin rose out of bed. Greeting his brother in bed was fine, but to receive a visitor properly, Merlin knew he should make himself presentable. His hair was sticking up, which cause Leon to ruffle it in an attempt to pat it down. Merlin ended up whispering a spell. With a sly grin he looked at Leon and said, "Ready."

Henry looked awful. Leon thought he had become as pale as Merlin—which was quite a feat—while Merlin thought he had aged more in a few hours. The young warlock motioned to his cousin to take a seat and looked round for a jug of wine, Henry looked like only a strong wine would help break the tension. He found that it empty, took it back to the table where Leon and Henry were now sitting and said "sorry out of wine."

His cousin chuckled, "I think you can sort that out. And maybe some food—look at you, you wouldn't know there had been a feast in your name."

Leon barked a strong laugh and Merlin shot them both a look. "I've had it with people saying I need to eat more, I'm just skinny, and that's all."

"You need to eat. Magic doesn't sustain itself, Cousin."

"Actually, it does with me. I'm kind of special." Merlin smirked. Normally he was bashful over his magic, but being here, being with Leon and Henry he felt he could more open.

"Yes, I know. But I didn't interrupt this evening to see you waste away."

"Fine, fine. I'll fetch a servant."

Henry flinched and grabbed Merlin's arm. "No, please! Remember, no one knows I'm here."

"Ok, I'll conjure something up." Merlin's eyes flashed gold and Henry and Leon both beamed as they were presented with a second feast.

"I suggested some food, Merlin, not a whole banquet."

Merlin waved his arm and the jug floated to Henry's cup. As it was filling the goblet, Merlin fought back. "Know what, Henners? You sound just like a certain prat I know."

"Oh, and who might that be? The great Prince Arthur of Camelot?"

Merlin jumped and the jug flew straight to Leon, knocking him in the face and spilling the wine onto the floor. "Oops! Sorry, Curls."

"Merlin!" Leon glared at him.

"What? Henry startled me."

"Fine, but still did you have to make so much mess."

"It's no big deal."

"Someone could have heard your racket."

"Well, they won't now. I've said a silencing spell."

Leon looked at him suspiciously. "But you didn't speak?"

"I don't need to speak for every spell, Curls. Some I know instinctively or through practice."

"A rare talent, Cousin."

"Henry, how do you know I know Prince Arthur? I have not mentioned him."

Henry looked him straight in the eye. "That is partly why I am here Prince Merlin—we know all about you."

"What do you know?"

"Everything, Cousin. Everything. I know you were sent by your mother to Gaius in Camelot because she feared for your future. I know you saved Arthur's life countless times and even went to the Isle of the Blessed to sacrifice yourself for him. I know you stopped Morgause and Morgana more than once, and that you met your father and are now master of the Great Dragon."

"What else?"

"I know that your magic is greater than even you know, and that the prophecy about you is to unite all of Albion with Arthur."

Merlin sighed. "Well, it may have been, but something has happened to Arthur. We don't know what though. Do you?"

Henry shook his head. "I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not."

Leon was puzzled. Henry did not have magic, so how did he know so much? "Henry, you have no magic, correct?"

"That is the case, Curls."

"Then how do you know about my brother here?"

"I know because I overheard my aunt and uncle. I know why you are here and I know what they have kept from you."

Merlin stared straight into Henry's eyes, and he could see Henry's fear. "Henners, we need to know. We want to know."

"I said to you both before and I say it again, my loyalty is now to you. But before I speak please both of you swear to me that you will do nothing rash and that you will not tell the King and Queen what I am about to tell you." The brothers looked at each other and were relieved that both were having the same thought. Merlin wondered if this was a part of Leon's talent or whatever it was as he was his Warlock's guide.

Leon spoke. "Of course we won't, and we appreciate you telling us."

Henry grimaced. "You might not appreciate the story once you know, but still, I will tell it. I suggest you both get a refill."

Chapter Text

"What do you know?" The young Prince asked.

Henry knew this was it, he wouldn't back down. Since Merlin and Leon had arrived he knew that his future would change. He had never agreed with everything his family had done and his cousins had opened his eyes. Their loyalty and love for each other was infectious. Both relied on the other, both trying to reassure each other and subconsciously themselves. By dawn Henry knew that they would need each other more than ever and he knew he would need them too. He missed his brother desperately, he would know what to do.

Clearly this throat he stared directly at Merlin: "Everything cousin. Everything. I know you were sent by your mother to Gaius in Camelot as she feared for your future. I know you saved Arthur's life countless times and even went to the Isle of the Blessed to sacrifice you for him. I know you stopped Morgause and Morgana more than once and that you met your father and are now master of the Great Dragon."

"What else?"

"I know that your magic is greater than even you know and that your prophecy is to unite all of Albion with Arthur."

Merlin sighed, "Well it may have been, but something has happened to Arthur. We don't know what though, do you?"

Henry shook his head, "I am sorry to disappoint you but I do not."

Leon was puzzled, Henry did not have magic, so how did he know so much?

"Henry, you have no magic? Correct?"

"That is the case Curls."

"Then how do you know about my brother here?"

"I know, I know because I overheard my aunt and uncle. I know why you are here and I know what they have kept from you."

Merlin starred straight into Henry's eyes, he could see fear. "Henners, we need to know. We want to know."

"I said before to you both and I say it again, my loyalty is now to you. But before I speak please both of you swear to me that you will do nothing rash and that you will not tell the King and Queen that I told you."

The brothers looked at each other and were relieved that both were having the same thought. Leon spoke, "of course we won't, and we appreciate you telling us."

Henry grimaced, "you might not appreciate the story once you know, but still, I will tell it. I suggest you both get a refill."

His cousin waved his arm in the air and smiling weakly at both Leon and Henry said, "Done."

The Knight of Glin fell silent, his previous determination was waning, how on earth was he even going to begin?

Leon looked at Merlin who looked back at him. Their silent exchanges were telling each other that one of them would have to help Henry along a bit here. Clearing his throat, Leon thought he needed to take the lead: "cousin, please, we won't judge you."

"Fine. But know this. If I had known earlier I would have tried to help."

"Merlin, Leon, what do you know about your fathers?"

"Not much, mine was a Dragon Lord, I met him briefly but he died. He was living in a cave after King Uther of Camelot had tried to hunt him down. He died in front of me."

"And mine, well, I know nothing about. It transpires that my parents adopted me. My birth mother is Hunith, the same as Merlin's and my birth father is the son of the Duke of Leinster. The Duke is the brother of Merlin's grandfather, the King. So I am his cousin and his brother."

"And you know nothing else?"

Both said at once, "no".

Henry looked at them both, how he told them the truth would impact not only on themselves but the future of the whole Isle, possibly all lands within Europe. He could not back down though, he had made a promise. "I think I best start with your grandmother Merlin, she is the key to the truth."

"As you know your grandmother is Queen in her own right and you are heir to both your grandparents' kingdoms. You also know that your Grandmother has magic and her kingdom welcomed magic users but had to ally with your Grandfather for protection."

Merlin nodded, "but what I don't understand is why the King said Balinor died a long time ago, he had not, it was two years."

"I did not know he had died until you just said Merlin, I am sorry for what happened. To the King, he was dead to him a long time ago. Balinor was not to be mentioned."

"Why did my grandfather and my father fall out? My father never spoke of his family. It was difficult, I was with Arthur and we were on a quest. There was so much I wanted to ask him." Henry could see a tear was forming in Merlin's eye.

"I am truly sorry Merlin; I would have liked to have met him. I know this is painful for you to discuss but I'm sure you want to know more about him, and you shall, but I have to continue about but the part your grandmother plays linking this together."

"Fine Henry, but I won't let you leave till I know."

"I told you before; I will tell you all I know."

"As I was saying, your grandmother is Queen of Ulster. She had no siblings but a cousin, Matilda who married the Duke of Westmorland. They had four children, Tristan, Agravaine, Gorlois and Igraine. Tristan fathered a magical child, Morgause, who you know."

Leon interrupted, "wait, Morgause is a cousin of Merlin."

"Yes and to that extent, you and I also. But I will return to her later."

"Agravaine never married and was a brave knight in his youth. Gorlois married the Lady Viviane after fighting Tristan for her. It caused quite the scandal. And then there was Igraine, who married Uther Pendragon."

Merlin shook his head, "Uther. Uther is what? My second, third cousin through marriage?" This information was going to be hard to take in.

"I suppose, it also means Arthur is a distant relative of you both also."

"Sorry, I need a minute. Uther. King Uther who hates magic and magic users, who hunted my father like he was a beast, who butchers and maims without a moment's thought and who would execute me on the spot if he knew I was a warlock, married my Grandmothers niece?"

"Yes. Noble families are often related to each other somehow. Look at you and Leon, you are twice related."

Leon had to enter the conversation; he knew Merlin was going to take time to process this new information. "I don't see how this relates to Merlin's grandmother?"

"It all interlinks, Curls. The scandal saw Igraine back Gorlois and her and Tristan fell out. Agravaine took Tristan's side. This is vital to the rest of the story. Uther saw Gorlois as a natural ally and supported his wife."

"But Uther betrayed Gorlois and fathered Morgana with Viviane."

Leon's eyes almost popped out of their head. "So that is how Morgana has a claim to the throne?"

Merlin nodded, "and Leon Uther betrayed his wife too. He went to Nimueh for help and she gave Uther a child, in exchange for his wife's life."

"Ah, but did you know Uther went to someone else first, someone he trusted more?"

"Who?"

"Your grandmother."

"What has my grandmother got to do with it?"

"She was a relative of Igraine; Uther approached her asking for help with Nimueh. She was a powerful sorceress in her own right. The Queen refused on the grounds that magic was unpredictable. Uther however took it as a personal slight and broke his alliance with your grandparents."

Merlin's head was spinning with the new information but wanted to continue with the story, "So Henry, after my grandmother refused, Uther went ahead anyway. Which lead to the death of his wife and him blaming magic. Did he then blame my grandmother as well?"

Henry nodding, "Indeed he did. He thought that your grandfather wanted to see him suffer and was jealous of his Kingdom's growing power. Uther threatened war but your grandmother would not be bullied and she called the Dragons together along with every sorcerer she knew. Uther became more enraged, convinced that there was a plot to overthrow him and declared war. Your grandparents struck first and Castle Pendragon was destroyed in Dragon fire."

"Uther realized he could not defeat the King and Queen so he sued for peace in exchange for them renouncing magic. Your grandparents agonized over the decision but agreed for the sake of their Kingdoms. Already the Norsemen where making further raids and they could not risk an alliance between Uther and the invaders."

Some of this was now making sense to Merlin, "My grandparents renounced magic? That's why my father became a Dragon Lord isn't it?"

"Correct. Your father did not agree with the decision and rebelled. He went to Uther and signed a new treaty in which there would be peace in exchange for no more Dragon attacks. Uther however tricked Balinor into bringing the Great Dragon in and you know the rest."

"How do you know all of this Henry, I mean Merlin and I don't have reason to doubt you, but we've had enough lies already?"

"It is fair question; I know partly due to the discussion I overheard, partly due to my own father and in part due to a book which recorded the history of magic, The Book of Kells."

"Where is the book?" Merlin asked.

"I do not know. I hope the Dragon when you see him next can tell you."

Merlin shook his head, "he's got some explaining to do."

"Don't be so hard on him cousin, your grandmother bewitched him into talking in riddles, but more on that later."

The candles were now coming to an end, all three men were struggling to stay awake, all three though wanted to remain in Merlin's chambers. Merlin yawned and then realized he ought to stop time.

"Curls, Henners, I need a minute. We are all tired but we need to finish the story. I will pause time so we can continue but can then still have enough time to rest before the break of dawn."

"Can you turn back time Merlin?"

"I don't know, don't want to know really." Merlin always thought he would never need to. He had hoped that his magic would always be enough.

Henry grimaced, "I hope it does not come to that but you may have to. I best continue."

"So my Grandmother was a Dragon Lord?"

"Indeed, the power can be handed down to a daughter if there are no sons. When she renounced magic the power went to your father."

"I am sorry Merlin but your Grandparents role does not end here, but I also need to discuss, you Leon and your father."

Leon stilled, he knew that the truth was coming but still had not looked forward to it. "Go on Henry."

"Well, your mother Hunith was a maid at this court along with her sister, Clarice. Your Aunt attracted attention wherever she went but refused to give up her honour easily. Your uncle Leon, my father married her. The reaction of our grandfather, the first Duke of Leinster and his brother the King was to banish him from court but before he left my father made an even bigger mistake."

"What made this worse is that my father, Henry Fitzmaurice, the Knight of Glin was jealous of his brother, Gerald, who had been courting Hunith without much success. He tried to have an affair with her but she refused. As she was only a servant and ashamed for herself and her sister, she panicked that her word would not be taken as read and so she fled. She went to live with a relative, Gaius who I understand Merlin is your mentor in Camelot? In the resulting scandal our grandfather and yours Merlin banished my father. My mother stupidly followed him."

Merlin simply nodded, this story was getting worse by the minute. All three took a large gulp of their wine.

"When Hunith fled, your father Leon wanted to go and find her because he did not believe she was at fault. Our grandfather refused and they quarrelled. The stress for him was too much to bear and the Duke died. The new Duke Gerald refused to listen to the King, his uncle and went after Hunith. He found her and she fell with child. Unfortunately what they thought was love was shattered when the King offered your father Leon additional land to return. He took it and received a large Earldom in exchange for his support. Mine remained banished and ended up in Mercia. This then sent Uther into a rage as he thought the Fitzgerald and Fitzmaurice families where plotting on his borders."

Merlin's voice had risen a notch; "My Grandfather is the reason my mother was left alone expecting Leon? Which lead to Leon being given up?".

"Sadly yes. But the Duke wasn't exactly blameless. If it is any consolation, my father is much worse. He has sired several bastard children as well as three legitimate boys. We had to grow up in Mercia before the family relented and took me and my brothers back to Hibernia. My father was not allowed to return."

Leon interjected, "You said you had one brother Henry, why did you lie?"

"I do, I have not seen my other brother for years. He does not want to be found."

"When did you last see him?" Merlin was curious to know more.

"Five? Six years ago? He went off to be a knight errant. He clashed with the King and Queen, though I do not know the full details. He simply left without saying goodbye. My aunt and uncle refused to speak of him and without knowing where he went, Thomas and I stayed here. He's never written to us. He did not agree with our father's behaviour so I don't think he went back to Mercia." By now Henry had sadness in his eyes the brothers had not seen before.

Merlin didn't want to see Henry upset; he placed an arm on him.

"What's his name Henry?"

"Gwaine. His name is Gwaine."

Leon spat out his wine. "Gwaine? Tall, dark hair, cocky, looks like you?"

Nodding; "The very same."

Leon's voice squeaked, Merlin thought it sounded like a mouse, a large mouse which was now looking a little bit angry at him: "Oh dear lord. MERLIN! You slept with your cousin!"

Now it was Henry's turn to be surprised.

"You both know Gwaine? And Merlin you had relations with him?"

Merlin shot Leon the sort of look Arthur got when he had been a Prat all day. "In my defense, I was drunk, he was too. It was just a fumble."

Henry had gone bright red, "Leon, I am sorry for my brother's behaviour, I'm afraid he has caught the trait from his father of chasing everything that moved."

"I am NOT everything that moved! I am his best friend!" Merlin snapped. This was so embarrassing.

"I'm sorry cousin, but this is a lot for me to take in."

"You think it's hard for you? How'd you think I feel? My grandparents are possibly more domineering than Uther and on top of Arthur and Morgause being distant relations; Gwaine is Leon's first cousin and my second."

"Who you slept with! Henry I have already promised Merlin that Gwaine and I will be having a lovely conversation."

"I doubt you will see him soon Leon, he will not want to return here."

Merlin felt sorry for Henry, he hadn't done anything wrong and had been caught up in family scandal and politics. It wasn't fair he had not seen his brother for so long. "Henry, as a thank you for telling us the truth, we will reunite you with Gwaine, won't we Leon?"

Leon nodded, Merlin had such a good heart sometimes and it wasn't right that Gwaine was spilt from his brothers. With everything that had gone on, Leon thought there should be no more suffering. Except for Gwaine who deserved a punishment after deflowering his baby brother. "We shall. But no funny business Merlin."

"Not a chance! Now Henry is there anything else we need to know about?"

"Only about your father, Merlin. Your father was an honourable man. After his exile he travelled round Albion helping villagers where he could with his abilities. He came to a small village Ealdor, where Hunith was now living. She left Camelot and the care of Gaius after Uther discovered she had been a maid at the court of the Fitzgerald's. He thought she could be a spy."

Henry continued, looking at Leon he said "Within weeks, one of Uther's knights had discovered them and as you know, Hunith gave you up Leon so that you might live. So fearful where they both of Uther's revenge. Then Hunith fell with child." Then turning to Merlin, "Sadly for you Merlin, someone betrayed them."

Merlin thought he knew the answer already but he needed to be sure." Who?"

"The high priestess, Nimueh. She wanted revenge on the Fitzgerald family because Uther blamed her for the death of Igraine. She disagreed with the King and Queen for renouncing magic and she disagreed with your father Merlin because he tried to negotiate with Uther. Balinor appealed to your grandparents for protection. He was worried that if Uther knew he had fathered a child that the child would be at risk also."

"But I didn't end up in Hibernia?" Leon and Henry both noticed the coldness of merlin's voice.

"No. Your grandparents refused to help. They argued that bringing Balinor back would risk the whole Kingdom and lead to war with Camelot. They also did not agree with Balinor falling in love with a maid and had had enough of what they saw as scandal. Your grandmother though played one card that Nimueh didn't think she would. Although she had publicly renounced magic she vowed to use it if all else failed. She called every remaining sorcerer in Ulster she knew and they transferred their magic to you. She knew you were the Emrys and that you had to be protected. In an act of bravery, the Queen appeared in the dungeons of Camelot and spoke with the Dragon. Once the Dragon was convinced you were Emrys and had read the Book of Kells, he used his considerable power to protect you. Nimueh tried several times to kill you while you were in your mother's womb but with no success. Once you were born she was unable to kill you."

"Kilgharrah saved my life?"

"Yes, and remember your grandmother cursed him to talk in riddles. She did not want you to know the true extent of your powers."

"Why not? You said she summoned magic to help protect me?"

"She did, but she also banished your father, renounced magic, helped break your mother's heart twice and exiled my father. Your grandparents bribed Leon's father to leave your mother while refusing to help Uther when he wanted a child which drove him into the arms of Nivemuh and saw Arthur lose his mother when he was born. Not to mention the fact they knew all this time that you were living in a hut and never once sent you money."

Leon chimed in "and if they knew the prophecies about you, they could have been of help. They have told the whole Kingdom Merlin that your father died years ago when he was living in a cave. Not to mention the poisoning incident earlier."

Henry was shocked, "What poisoning incident?"

"One of the servants given to us Henry died. Merlin thinks he was casting a spell on one of us to kill us. The spell rebounded on them."

Poisoning? "While the Queen has reason to fear you, do you think she is capable of murder? If she wanted you dead she wouldn't have stopped Nimueh."

Leon was not cheered by reminder of what happened earlier, "That is a good point cousin. So that leaves the King?"

Merlin didn't think his grandfather was capable of Murder. "Or Morgause, Morgana, the list is endless of people who want me dead Curls. My grandparents may be a lot of things, but murdering me really would be something else. Besides, they know I could repeal a spell thrown at me."

"Merlin, I agree, I don't think they are guilty of trying to murder you. And you know all there is that I know."

There were a couple of niggling questions both brothers had. Merlin asked, "You said you overheard the King and Queen, but that's a lot for one conversation."

Henry smiled at Merlin, this cousin was incredibly bright and was not going to e fooled easily; "I've had my suspicious for a while. I had heard of whispering in the past and of course I was told all about my father and some of the banishments handed out. I knew Balinor was not to be discussed. You have to believe me Merlin that I didn't know about you and Leon. I would never betray you."

Merlin nodded, "We both know that. It's just there was a lot to find out."

"I had some help, I admit."

The young warlock didn't even need to ask, but he had to "It was the Dragon wasn't it?"

A nod.

"But how M-bro?"

"Leon he dropped us off remember, how do we know he didn't stay? Half my family seems to have some form of magic, he could have called out to Henry."

"Which he did cousin, he said that the fog around my destiny would soon clear and he told me parts of your lives. He also told me to seek out a book. The Book of Kells."

Merlin's eyes lit up, "A book of Magic."

"It is, it has something to do with you apparently. Now the book has been lost, I do not know where it is, but the Dragon told me I could find a couple of pages in the vaults. As I am the head of the Royal Guard no one would question me visiting down there. Tomorrow I can show you the pages."

By now Merlin's face was beaming. "Even if it is only a couple of pages, anything magical is welcomed. Especially if it has something about my destiny in it."

Henry was relieved that Merlin seemed pleased by this piece of news, "I am glad Merlin, now forgive me, I must retire."

"What about the Norsemen Henners?" Leon asked. There was something about the raids that did not stack up.

"Ah, I do believe Munster Kerry and Ulster are not to blame for the raids and battles. The Norsemen want land and resources. The King and Queen believed that Nimueh may have been involved. Remember they were also worried about an alliance with Uther and so they fought strongly against them. Norsemen do not like to be beaten, this has caused them to intensify their attacks."

"So to recap this sorry tale. My grandparents, particularly my grandmother are devious backstabbers who spite ended up splitting up more than one relationship, exiled several people, saw my brother here live a lie, left my mother in squalor, my father in a cave and refused to bring me under their protection here. Not to mention the fact that I really could have done with some help with my magic which is recorded in a magical Book that they have somehow managed to lose." As Merlin spoke, Leon heard the cold tone of his voice again. Merlin did not like betrayal, no one did but it particularly stung him

"And they bribed Leon's father to return and banished mine and yours also. And they fell out with Gwaine causing him to leave this place and his brothers."

Henry wasn't hopeful of dousing the fire he had lit, "My father deserved banishing; do not feel sorry for him. But the rest, yes it is not good."

"And I am expected to accept all this and become heir to their thrones?"

The room fell silent; Leon could tell Merlin was developing a thought in his mind. He saw Merlin refill their goblets and gulp his down in one. Merlin then rose closed his eyes for a second and the unmistakable flash of gold that Leon had seen before was there and the voice.

A cold voice spoke; "They shall pay for what they have done to us in the hardest way possible."

"How brother?"

Merlin stared at his cousin and his brother. He wasn't sure what Leon and Henry would think of this statement but he had to, he had to do it. Enough with this second destiny he thought. It was time to rescue Arthur, leave this place and get back to normal.

"I'm renouncing my claim to the throne and I am removing the magical barriers around this place. Their Kingdoms will fall to the Norsemen. And with venom he had only just found, Merlin spat, "And my grandparents can do nothing about it. They shall feel the wrath of Emrys."

Chapter Text

The Dragon knew the vision spell would come in handy. Since he left the young Warlock and Leon in Hibernia, he knew that there was a strong chance at some point that the truth about their family would come out. As a safety measure he had cast a spell so he could watch Merlin and his brother just in case.

Kilgharrah had not reckoned for the incident with the servant. Had the King's Groom tried to kill Merlin or Leon? With Henry telling the sorry tale of woe that was the Pendragon and Fitzgerald rivalry this part had almost been forgotten but was one worth exploring. The Dragon sighed, he would have to add it to the list of questions he had for his next port of call.

He looked down at the land and could see the lake shining in the distance. It always amazed him just how peaceful the Lake of Avalon was, an oasis of calm in a world of chaos. Kilgharrah had heard from Merlin about Freya and what she had become. He was confident that the mention of his Dragonlord would give him a chance with the mysterious lady.

Landing, he recanted the spell he had discussed with Merlin. During their many discussions, the subject of what would happen if Kilgharrah did not know the answer to Merlin's questions. The Dragon said that the destiny he knew of spoke of a Lady of the Lake who was another guide for Merlin. Merlin had then explained the story of Freya and how she could be summoned.

Freya rose from the water, "You have been expected."

"Correct, I am here for my Dragonlord, you may know him as Merlin?"

"Then you have questions about his future path?"

"Indeed. I had always known his destiny was to help Arthur unite all of Albion. However that destiny has increasingly become hard to see. First I thought he was going to sacrifice himself to close the veil and now I have learnt of a plot to change the course of history once and for all."

"Morgana, Morgause and Nimueh. Fear not, they will not succeed."

"What is Nimueh's role? Merlin had killed her. I fear she has promised the Cailleach a soul or two."

"You know as well as anyone, a life for a life but that once you are dead you cannot fully come back."

"You mean she is a form of spirit?"

"At the moment, only if she succeeds will her life be restored. But it shall not come to pass. Merlin is simply too powerful for her."

"And what of the Witch Sisters?"

"Only one can survive what they have started. You should know that will not be the final battle. There is still the matter of Modred."

The Dragon shook his head. "I had feared so. I had warned Merlin several times of an alliance between Morgana and Modred and he did not act."

Freya smiled, "You said yourself that his destiny has been unclear. It was not his destiny to end their lives then. Both Merlin and Arthur have to go through challenges in order to build the future we all wish for. "

"Arthur does not know who he is. He is bewitched."

"You know how the spell can be broken. It was cast in love and can be ended in love. You must ensure that Merlin and Arthur reunite. You know that one cannot act without the other. Once united they will be able to work together and break the spell."

"My Dragonlord has got himself into a situation in Hibernia."

"No, you got him into that situation; you should have told him what you knew."

"I could not; I was under a powerful spell. Do you know how frustrating it is to have to talk in riddles?"

The Lady of the Lake smiled sweetly, "And yet you do it so well. At least that is what Merlin told me."

"So what now? Merlin is refusing to take the throne and with good reason. I do not think Leon will try and change his mind."

"It is not Leon's destiny to change his mind on this matter. That falls to someone else."

Kilgharrah racked his brains, who else? The Mother, Hunith? Henry? No it was obvious. Arthur. Of course, the person Merlin puts above all others.

"It is not the Prince, Great Dragon."

"Who then?"

Another sweet smile, "The prophecy spoke of Magic, Strength, Courage, Wisdom and Hope working together. That is still the case."

The Dragon nodded, he now knew who he needed to seek out. "It is now obvious to me, what I must do."

"You may think that but there is more you need to know. First why the Norsemen are raiding Hibernia. Secondly why a King's Groom was casting that powerful spell. Thirdly, Lord Agravaine and his family. And lastly, the tale of the King of a Hundred knights. All key to what happens next to our Merlin."

For the next hour, Kilgharrah sat by the lake, absorbing the twists and turns, the parts of Merlin and Arthur's destiny that had always been grey.

After vowing that he would bring Merlin back to the Lake so he could hear himself the final truth directly, the Dragon flew off. Next on his agenda was a meeting he was unsure about. For the other party wouldn't exactly welcome him with open arms.

Chapter Text

Henry and Leon were wide eyed at the venom that had poured from Merlin's mouth. Henry looked for Leon to take the lead but Leon wasn't in the mood to try and reason with Merlin and had just upped and left leaving Henry and Merlin. Henry was unsure of his footing and so he bade Merlin good night and left, hoping to find Leon and see if they could stop the madness that would happen next.

Merlin had watched both of them leave without a word. His mind was racing far ahead of the rest of him. First thing in the morning the magical barriers were coming down, and then he was going to find out why his grandfather's groom had been casting a dangerous spell, before really letting them have it. Enough of being trampled on he thought. His family was no better than Uther, in a way they were worse. At least Uther didn't hide his contempt for magic users and foes alike. His grandparents on the other hand clearly thought it was acceptable to leave their son without protection and to see their Grandson grow up alone and scared. Not to mention the stress and pain they had put his mother through.

In a way Merlin was pleased he could now refuse this destiny and get back to the one planned for him at Arthur's side. Even that had gone wrong recently. Nothing was going right for the young warlock except the fact he had a new brother and a cousin although thoughts of his cousin then led to his other new cousin, Gwaine and that was complicated also. His head was spinning and he moved his tired body back to bed.

As he lay down, Merlin remembered back to when he had first met Gwaine. He should have known that warlocks with his destiny don't just meet random sons of nobles who don't want anyone to know they are noble. It was as if all the Gods themselves had sat round a tavern table and after a few jars of ale thought they had the most cunning plan ever. Why have a simple, normal, peaceful realm when they can over complicate it? The universe he was sure was laughing at him. The only two people who would understand him both had their own problems, one with a horrible family and the other was in some form of trouble. Suddenly a thought jumped into his mind. Arthur. Arthur had rubbed the ring. That's why he had fitted; he was calling for him, calling for help. His final words as he drifted off to sleep where "I'm coming Arthur. I'm coming for you."

While Merlin was sleeping, Leon and Henry were having a strong debate over what they should do next. Both agreed Merlin, indeed all three of them had reason to want revenge on some of their family but weakening the defences of the land went against both knights' training.

"You have to reason with him Curls."

"I cannot, Henry, I think only Arthur could get him out if this mood. And even then Merlin never listened to his Prince. Merlin's mind is made up and while I don't agree, I will not stop him. I've said before there are two things I value more than all, a man's word and my little brother. Our family has lied to us and they betrayed my mother. I want nothing to do with any of them?"

Henry looked a little shocked, "Including me?"

Leon smiled, "No, you're fine. As are your brothers, well one of them. One brother has some grovelling to do."

"What's he like now? When he was here he was stubborn, proud and interested only in girls and ale."

A laugh, "pretty much the same then Henry. Gwaine is however extremely loyal, especially to Merlin. He will go ballistic once he finds out what Merlin has been put through."

"It is a good job he isn't here then isn't it?"

A knock on the door, both men weren't expecting guests and looked unsure at each other. "Perhaps it is Merlin?" Henry enquired.

"I doubt it Henners, once Merlin is asleep he is dead to the world."

The knocking got louder.

Henry rose, moving to the door, he hoped it was none of his blasted family. Leon would probably run them through. And yet there was one of his family right in front of him.

"GWAINE!"

Leon particularly jumped out of chair to great his fellow knight.

"Hello Henry, Leon. What was it you were saying about it being a good job I wasn't here?"

"Er, brother, you had best come in. How are you? It has been so long."

"Well, you can't have been surprised that I stayed away Henry?"

"You could have told Thomas or me where you were. You could have written."

A snort came from the newest member of their family, "Why? So you could run to Daddy? Or our dearest Uncle?"

Henry's voice was rising "Don't blame me for what happened to you Gwaine. Fault me for staying here but not everyone can run away. Sometimes you have to stay and face your troubles head on."

Gwaine nodded, "Yes I suppose you do." And with a smile he looked at Leon "Sounds like you could take some of that advice too eh Leon?"

"I suppose. I have some advice for you too Gwaine. Go anywhere near my brother again when you are feeling lecherous and you will feel my sword through you. Even so much suggest to him a repeat performance of God knows what you two got up to and I will run you through."

"Come on cousin, I didn't know who he was then, did I?"

Leon snapped, "Oh so you think it's perfectly acceptable to seduce innocent young men?"

"Merlin knew what he was doing. He wanted it as much as I did."

Suddenly Gwaine was very aware of the close proximity of Leon and him, "Er that is to say, that we both had a lot to drink, we both did."

"You took advantage, you know as well as I do Merlin can't handle his drink. What do you think Arthur is going to say?"

Gwaine suddenly had the opening the Dragon told him he would get, "Well he won't know. Considering the Princess doesn't even know who he is at the moment, we have bigger problems than my dalliance with Merlin."

Leon looked suspiciously at him "What do you mean Prince Arthur doesn't know who he is."

Gwaine sat down, "Henry is there anything to drink in this stinking castle. Leon's going to need one."

"There is but it would involve waking up a servant and questions will be asked."

Gwaine groaned, "Fine. Shame Merlin is asleep or he could conjure some up."

"You've been in Merlin's chambers! That's it. I will run you through right now."

"Calm down, Leon, I just went to see if he was asleep."

"We should wake him" Henry suggested.

"No." Leon and Gwaine answered in unison. "He needs to sleep brother, he's had a long day and his magic needs the rest. Or he won't be able to do what is required next." Gwaine turned to Leon, "see you aren't the only one who is looking out for Merlin. Seriously Leon did you think I was going to jump him? When he is family? You're both family to me cousin, I guess you already were back in Camelot."

"Speaking of which. What's happened with Arthur? And how did you get here."

"Oh funny story. I was coming back from the Tavern when I heard a strange voice call to me. I could hear a woman, and well, you know I can't resist." Leon rolled his eyes.

"Well, I followed the voice to outside the city walls. I ended up in a field but there was no woman. The next thing I knew a Dragon was flying at me."

"Kilgharrah."

Gwaine nodded, "Yes. Of course I pulled my sword out ready to face him but he chuckled and started talking about destiny and me as Strength. Which is the second time I've been called that. The other was on a quest with Merlin and Arthur. Being called Strength caught my interest and so I listened as the Dragon told me what had happened to Arthur and why I needed to come back to my old stomping ground and stop you and Merlin from cocking it all up."

"So what has happened?"

"Morgana, Morgause and a woman called Nimueh. A spell was cast making everyone forget who Arthur was. The spell wiped out the memory of Morgana's takeover last year. All she needed to do was kill Uther in his sleep and she was named Queen. Have to hand it to her, she did quite a display at the funeral and is having a statue built of him."

Leon looked crest fallen, "Camelot has fallen."

"Not quite. Remember what happened last time, well none of that has happened this time round. There's been no crop burnings, no shooting at the townsfolk. She's acted like a good and dutiful Queen, not an evil witch. Morgause is also being nice and normal. The only problem is your lack of appearance but they even have a plan for you."

Gwaine then explained to both of them everything he knew and everything the Lady of the Lake had told the Great Dragon.

Leon had been up for hours and now it was almost dawn. He needed to rest, he didn't need much sleep, years of training and battles had seen to that but Merlin needed him to remain alert. "Gwaine, Henry, forgive me I need to sleep. I must retire."

As he rose a thought crept into his mind. While Gwaine was talking and desperate to get all the information out there, Leon hadn't asked the most basic question of them all.

"No one knows who Arthur is. Yet I do. Merlin clearly does and you do to. Why?"

He really shouldn't have been surprised when Gwaine gave his usual smirk. "Magic, cousin. Merlin is magical; you're magical and guess what? I am too!"

Chapter Text

Leon left the newly declared magical Gwaine to his brother. He had the good sense that sometimes brothers needed to be alone with each other, besides his mind was racing from yet another round of revelations. One of these days he thought he will wake up, perhaps go on a hunt, see his brother for dinner, drink with his fellow knights and go home to a nice woman and some peace and quiet. The knight wondered whether his magic would allow him to cast such a spell or whether Merlin would have to do it for him. Being in Hibernia had drained him and now that he knew of the truth as to why Merlin had fitted and what had happened to Arthur he was more determined than ever to go back to Ealdor with Merlin and plan how they would fix this giant mess. No doubt with Gwaine and Henry in tow. One good thing to come out of this whole farce was Henry, and Leon was looking forward to meeting the third brother, Thomas tomorrow.

After arriving back in his chambers and having checked on Merlin just to make sure he was sleeping and not up worrying, Leon climbed into bed and hoped there would be no more dreams. That hope was short lived when he woke an hour later after seeing an image in his mind of Merlin lying in a pool of blood with Gwaine frantically trying to stem the blood flow. He woke in a cold sweat and after telling himself it was just a bad dream, fell back to sleep. Leon was then confronted with a new vision; there were a series of odd shaped rocks jutting out into the ocean. Merlin was standing on them and the same voice he heard the night before was back, "When the King of a Hundred Knights rises, all of Albion shall fear his wrath." The image faded and he turned over, finally finding some peace.

Gwaine and Henry barely spoke after Leon had left. There was a short, curt exchange about Gwaine doing magic and Gwaine had wanted to leave on the pretext of having had a long journey. The oldest brother of the three had no formal chambers to sleep in for his arrival at court had been secret. He was incredibly touched as he went to leave Henry that his brother offered him his bed. Gwaine's heart melted quickly, his younger brother had always looked up to him. It was kind of in the way Merlin did, though Merlin of course was able to take care of himself. Gwaine wondered what his best friend would make of his latest revelation and he hoped to explain himself fully. It wasn't as if he was a competing warlock, Merlin was definitely The Emrys. It had not been Gwaine's fault that he had had visions of the future and had similar abilities to Morgana. Nor had it been his fault when his grandmother had stripped him of his powers and he had no choice but to flee. As he technically did not have magical powers when he met Merlin he knew he had not lied to his face. It was hard for him to witness Merlin's growing power and be unable to comment on it.

Long ago Gwaine thought that if Merlin knew that he knew about his powers that he would panic. And he would no doubt worry that Gwaine knew and not Arthur and would feel like he was betraying him further. Once he had witnessed the hatred in Morgana's eyes of Camelot and Arthur's continued rejection of magic, no good could come from him revealing his past. Above all it was a sense of loyalty to Merlin, that he didn't want him having this additional burden of keeping Gwaine's secret safe. One thing Gwaine had not known was that he was related to both Merlin and Leon. He knew the King and Queen had had a son and had discovered part of his families past through his visions and reading the archives. Gwaine bet that Merlin wouldn't believe that he actually used to like reading. So much of his life had changed and he had been shaped by his family's rejection.

Ending up in Camelot had not been his plan, however as soon as he had met Merlin all bets were off. Merlin was exactly what he wanted in a best friend. In a way working for Arthur and in effect Uther was a way of getting back at his family. Although the Pendragons hated magic, they hated the Fitzgerald family even more. So Gwaine had ended up thinking his enemy's enemy was his friend. But he knew deep down it was the bond with Merlin which kept him in Camelot. The bond had developed so strongly that it had ventured into territory neither of them would be comfortable with again.

He also had an additional challenge on his hands. After hearing the full story from Kilgharrah, Gwaine was resolute that Merlin must take destiny by the horns and become the heir to the throne. There was no way, even with magic that he could save Arthur and put him back on the throne without an army and a significant power base. Gwaine also knew that Arthur was trained to fight and would always feel he was inadequate if he was King once again thanks to Merlin swooping on in and saving the day by himself. If that happened, Arthur would slowly distance himself from Merlin and resent him. Despite the Princess' faults, Gwaine knew Arthur loved Merlin, possibly more than life itself and there was no way he was going to stand idly by and let the two of them drift apart.

Gwaine sighed, Henry had fallen asleep and he knew he needed to rest too. He could feel his magic returning to him. It was an odd sensation, and one that came with severe risks, namely the ability to see the future. In a way he was grateful he hadn't had the ability for the last few years, then again it would help Merlin, Arthur and Leon now. He was going to have to explain tomorrow how his powers had come back. For now it was enough to know Merlin and Leon were safe and his little brother had accepted him back. He was looking forward to seeing Tommy tomorrow.

Merlin woke after a restful sleep. He had only stirred once in the night and had woken himself up after hearing a voice saying "fear not Emrys, the answers you seek are upon you." Merlin thought that counted as good news considering recent events and had fallen back to sleep easily. Now he was debating whether to get up or doze for a little longer. His new found peace was quickly shattered by a banging on the door, it sounded like Arthur in a particularly bad mood. The young prince yawned, pulled on his cloak, nearly tripped over his own feet and then promptly fainted as he opened the door to be greeted with a beaming Gwaine.

Gwaine, not exactly expecting a fainting Merlin had quickly grabbed him as he fell into his arms. The stronger noble moved him straight back to his bed and gently slapped him to rouse him.

"Ow! You're worse than Arthur; at least he doesn't beat me."

"It was a small slap Merlin!"

"You call that small; you don't know your own strength. What are you doing here anyway?

Gwaine chuckled, "Oh you know strength Merlin, always comes in handy."

"What on earth are you talking about? You're drunk aren't you? Honestly Gwaine it's early in the morning."

Merlin noticed that Gwaine's face suddenly changed to that of one looking to speak seriously, "Merlin, I am not drunk. Though that may have been easier."

"What are you doing here then?"

"Ah, about that. Well I'm here for a reason."

The warlock was getting impatient with his friend and had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that Destiny was about to produce her must spectacular revelation yet. His brain suddenly went into gear, only one person could be responsible for this latest event.

"Ó Dragon, ní mór dom a bheith cursed a chaitheamh mo lá gan fhios agam cad a bheith ag súil eile. Cén fáth ar gach duine tú a thabhairt Gwaine a fheiceáil dom? Ná gceapann tú go bhfuil mé go leor chun déileáil leis?"

Gwaine lost his cool quickly and was shouting; "Charming Merlin. Charming. I come all this way and you're complaining at the Dragon for me being here. And what exactly did you mean by "Why of all people did you bring Gwaine to see me? Don't you think I have enough to deal with?" I'm here to help you know!"

"Oh really." Merlin said sarcastically. "What could you, the drunken knight do to help me with this situation? In case you hadn't noticed our family has got it in for me. And it turns out I slept with my cousin."

"And you think I would have wanted to had I known you were family? Believe you me Merlin I wouldn't have."

"How do I know? All of your family are liars." Merlin spat out.

A thump on the table. "Don't you dare, don't you dare take this out on me Merlin. How dare you? How dare you act like I am the enemy? I left remember. And I had good reason to." Gwaine wasn't used to this form of Merlin but wasn't going to go down with a fight.

"Oh pray tell me. What happened to make you leave and run to Camelot, meet me and live a lie?"

"Me live a lie? I'm not the one who's the most powerful Warlock that has ever lived."

Merlin just shook his head, "No you're just a drunkard, a knight who used me for his own pleasure and a member of a family of vipers."

Gwaine was wide eyed, "You thought? You thought I used you?"

The young warlocks voice was raised; "Well you didn't come back for a repeat performance did you Gwaine? What's the matter, wasn't I slutty enough for you?"

"Merlin. We were drunk. And don't act innocent with me. You only slept with me to try and get over Arthur. No don't you sit there all innocent eyed. You didn't love me. You loved him. You are at as much fault as me. You wanted me to take away the pain."

Merlin shook his head again and sighed, "But instead you gave me new pain."

"I didn't know Merlin. I didn't want to come between you and Arthur. I also didn't want to be used as a substitute. That wouldn't be fair on either of us. I'm sorry, I really am. Besides we can't go back to that now that we are related."

"Yes, I know." Merlin looked a bit sheepish now. He cleared his throat; Gwaine was a good man really. "Gwaine do you think we could start again?"

The warlock thought the smile from Gwaine could light up the whole castle and wasn't surprised when he was particularly lifted off the floor and into a hug. Honestly he was as bad as Leon for doing this. And he ruffled his hair as he let him go. "Whatever you say cousin." And then with a mocking bow that only Gwaine could pull off, "Sorry I should say your highness."

"So you know then?"

"For once I know more than you Merlin."

Gwaine motioned to Merlin to sit down at his table. "What have I got to do to get a drink round here?"

Merlin rolled his eyes, "Don't change do you?"

"You'd be bored Merlin if I did."

"Oh yes, boredom, I remember boredom, fondly."

"Well sorry Merlin but what I have to tell you isn't boring."

Merlin chuckled, it felt good to be around Gwaine again, "And why does that not surprise me? Are you going to tell me then?"

"Are you going to conjure up something then?"

An arm wave later and Gwaine was settled with a jug of mead and a chicken leg. Merlin was watching him, waiting. "Well go on then cousin; tell me why the Dragon brought you here."

"I will but I think you ought to get Leon. If he finds out I am in your chambers."

Merlin laughed, "You've seen him already haven't you?"

"Yes and my brother Henry, they know most of what I am about to tell you. Though Kilgharrah swore me to secrecy for the final revelation. He said I needed to bring you to him and that you would insist Leon comes with you. He asked me to persuade you to come on your own but I reminded him that you never do anything you don't want to do and that knowing Leon even before you were blood brothers there was little chance of him not coming even if you put your foot down."

"Exactly. But he doesn't need to be here. I want him to rest. I bet he was up half the night talking to you and Henry. And we haven't exactly had a peaceful time with your family."

"They are your family too."

"I'm trying not to think about that Gwaine."

"Right well, this will sort of take your mind off of it."

Five minutes later and Merlin was cursing the Dragon and telling Gwaine that he was waking Leon and going straight to Camelot to destroy the three witches once and for all. Gwaine, having worked out in advance that this would happen threw the only ace he had in his pack.

"Merlin, do that and you and Arthur will both be dead within the day."

"And how do you know?"

"I can see the future Merlin. I know what happens next."

"Rubbish only a seer can see the future. And you're no seer."

Both fell quiet. Both were looking at each other as the one part of Gwaine's life he didn't want Merlin knowing and the one part of Merlin's he had kept from Gwaine collided together. Silence fell over the chamber and neither wanted to make the first move. Merlin however had had a belly full of destiny and thought it was better to get everything out in the open once and for all.

"You have magic don't you! I knew it! I knew that there was something about you. At first I just thought it was your secret nobility but then we went on that quest and the dwarf at the bridge called you Strength. And you fought Wyverns suspiciously well. Are you? Are you a Dragonlord?"

"I am honestly not a Dragonlord, though I can see why you would ask. Our family though does have a better sense of how to beat Wyverns. We all have a little Dragonlord blood in us but nothing that compares to you. The Great Dragon respects me but I don't have the strength to control him."

"You were called Strength for a reason though. I should have thought more about that then."

"I am for a reason, and I will get to that. Well the Dragon will do when you see him."

"Bloody Dragon." Merlin grumbled.

"To be fair to him your highness, he isn't at fault. Your grandmother forced his hand and he had to speak in riddles. He was powerless not to."

Merlin glared at Gwaine, "Hold on you just called me your highness. Don't you start doing what I do to Arthur and mock him."

"It wasn't in jest Merlin, you are my Lord."

"Gwaine don't act weird. And I am not your Lord. I am refusing the throne. I want nothing to do with our family."

"That would be a terrible mistake Merlin. Look, we have all suffered. Your grandparents banished me. I had turned to them for help as a teenager when my powers started to develop. Your grandmother stripped me of my powers. She didn't even have the decency to do it herself. She got a servant to poison me."

Merlin then realized exactly what the King and Queen had been up to. "To poison you! They tried to do that to me or Leon. Thomas, my grandfather's groom collapsed in our chambers and came out in boils. I knew it was a react to a spell that had gone wrong but I thought it could have been an attempt on our lives."

Gwaine's faced flared in anger. "Of all the cheap tricks to do."

"And you wonder why I want nothing to do with them?" Merlin took a sip of his wine and shook his head. He knew that he was right to refuse to be involved with his family.

"Merlin, look, this is why you need to accept their offer. You can fix the wrongs they created. You can ensure this realm is protected and you can free magic here. And Leon, Henners, Tommy and I will all be behind you."

"Be that as it may Gwaine, I am not ready to be a Prince. I am a manservant not a Prince."

"Rubbish, you've been with the greatest and most difficult Prince of them all for years now and served at a court of a King who would have seen you burnt. You can handle this court."

Gwaine now saw the vulnerable part of Merlin, the part that he loved the most and the part that Leon clearly was protective of. Merlin had such a good heart and never wanted to let anyone down. Rather than act high and mighty, Merlin had taken his magical powers to mean he should help others, not himself. "I love you Merlin."

"WHAT?"

Leon came crashing throw the door and leapt onto Gwaine, the chair promptly fell over as the men crashed the ground rolling around.

"Leon! Leon get off of him!"

"I warned you, I warned you not to get any ideas. You sleazebag, you had to try it on didn't you?" Leon was now glaring at Gwaine. Merlin thought if Leon's magic allowed him to kill on sight then Gwaine would shortly be a heap of ashes.

"Leon" he barked, "Honestly he wasn't trying it on with me. We were just talking and he said it."

Leon having got off of Gwaine at Merlin's instruction was now about to throw him against the wall, Merlin quickly jumped in between the two of them.

"Stop it now Leon. I mean it."

"Explain to me then why he suddenly came out with it!"

"If you had cared to let me finish, I was about to say "I love you Merlin. I love your kind heart. This is why you need to right our family's wrongs and become heir to the throne. Instead you showed yourself to be as stupid as you look Leon."

Leon was now glaring with such intensity that Merlin knew drastic action was required. Raising his hand he threw them both against the nearest wall and with a flick of his wrist vines wrapped around their bodies. Now both were glaring at him.

"Glare all you want but neither of you are being released until you listen to me."

Merlin stared straight into their eyes. "Leon you are my brother. Gwaine you are my cousin. Which by the way Leon makes you Gwaine's cousin. In fact Leon you're related to him more than I am. And I know both of you love me in your own ways. I've had enough Leon, of Arthur being jealous of you and my mother thinking we were having it off."

Gwaine giggled but quickly regretted it after a glare from Merlin.

"Both of you need to apologize to each other and drop it. Leon I am not going to sleep with Gwaine again. You both know who I want. And I now know what's happened to Arthur and what happened to Gwaine. Leon do you realize that Gwaine suffered worse than we have in a way? Gwaine do you realize how Leon and I feel knowing our whole family was built on a lie?"

Both men looked crestfallen. Merlin nodded; "Good, so you do. So you know that I am determined to rescue Arthur. And you both know I have the power to destroy any enemy of mine with or without your help. But I want you both at my side, helping and guiding me. Now do you think you can be knights of Camelot once more and work together?"

While Merlin was lecturing them both, Leon and Gwaine were silently giving each other encouraging stares, neither of them wanted to argue.

"Ok M-bro."

"Ok your highness."

Leon looked at Gwaine amused, "You're calling Merlin your highness. And not saying it in the way you call Arthur a Princess?"

Gwaine smiled and nodded, "Of course. Merlin is going to be our Prince after all and our Lord."

"That's enough of that Gwaine. Besides Arthur is your Lord and mine."

"But until we fix this mess Merlin, Leon and I have no Lord. Uther is dead and Arthur is not recongised as the true King. We are Lord less."

Leon interjected, "And yet we have a Prince right in front of us."

"Oh no. Oh no. You're both going to try and swear loyalty to me aren't you?"

Both men nodded enthusiastically.

"I am leaving you in the vines then."

"Merlin." Leon used his best "I am the older brother and I will get you in a headlock and rub your head until you bleed" voice.

"Fine fine."

Rather than fall to the floor, both men floated back to their seats. Mead flowed into their cups. Merlin sat back down. "Not a word from either of you for a minute. I need to think."

"Bet that's going to hurt." Both Leon and Gwaine said in unison, breaking into laughter and a real pout from Merlin ensured.

Five long minutes later, Merlin rose from his chair, turning to look at Leon he nodded and received a nod in exchange. Leon had used the time to work out what Merlin was going to do next.

"I've decided. I am going to become Crown Prince. But I have two conditions. One, the rules relating to magic will be relaxed over the next year leading to a full lifting of any ban."

It fell to Gwaine to ask, "And what's the second?"

Merlin took a long sip of his drink. "Sir Gwaine, the second condition is one our family needs to hear as one group."

Leon smiled, despite his reluctance he knew exactly what was coming next. And while the King and Queen wouldn't like the relaxation of magic idea, that would look like a delightful banquet compared to Merlin's second demand

Chapter Text

Leon was smiling at his brother while Gwaine looked confused.

"Well M-Bro, I think we had better go and meet the King and Queen then." Then turning to Gwaine, "Gwaine I think you should get your brother Henry and if Thomas has arrived he should come too. Get Henry to tell them Merlin and I need a private audience, we will be ready in half an hour."

Gwaine nodded and left the brothers alone.

This was one of those occasions where Leon would have to push Merlin into doing what he wanted to do deep down. "Merlin. I'm right am I not? You're going to make some very unreasonable demands of the King and Queen."

"How are they unreasonable Curls? They've had this coming to them!" Merlin looked as if Leon had betrayed him with his comments.

"M-bro I am on your side remember? I think they are reasonable but the King and Queen are going to have a fit. You are going to change their Kingdoms for good. They will hardly thank you for your demands."

"I know but I cannot become their heir knowing how they have treated magic users or our family."

Leon put an arm on his shoulder, "And that is why you will make a great King one day."

His brother shock his head, "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was about to become heir to a Kingdom. Bloody destiny."

A chuckle, "You're ready Merlin. Let's run through what you are going to say and then I say we go and see the King and Queen."

After discussing what Merlin was going to say, Leon knew more than ever that the two of them were about to cause the almightiest of rows. He walked shoulder to shoulder with Merlin until they reached the outside of the Great Hall. He pulled Merlin in for a hug, ruffled his hair and said "Time to face destiny your highness."

Merlin elbowed him while smiling and then Leon knocked on the door which opened revealing their family. Leon saw two new additions, one a man who must be the third Fitzmaurice brother and an older man who looked to be Leon's father.

The brothers walked into the hall and kept constant eye contact with the King and Queen. Leon could not tell their expressions, both were stony face, neither giving away their true thoughts.

Merlin stopped and looked at them both, oddly though he had no nerves in his stomach. It was a bit like addressing Arthur when he knew he was in the wrong and Merlin was right. His grandfather still looked like a bit like Uther but he was not scared. If his family wanted him then there was a price to pay.

The King stared at him. Merlin thought there was so much anguish in those eyes, and an almost weary resignation. "Speak Grandson."

"Your majesties, last night I came into possession of some facts relating to myself, Leon and my family history. After weighing this up carefully I had decided to reject any claim to your thrones and to go back to my mother in Ealdor."

The Queen looked at Merlin, shaking her head. The King turned to her "I knew this would happen Elizabeth. Running scared just like his father."

King Garratt was taken aback by the coldness in his grandson's voice." Do not speak of my father in that way if you wish to survive." Then he regained his composure.

"You seek to threaten me? The King? One more word and I'll have you locked in the dungeons."

Leon was ready to withdraw his sword when Merlin responded "As if you could. I'd only escape."

"Fine" the King growled, "Go back to Ealdor and live with that whore of a mother."

Now Leon was losing his cool. "Say that again and King or no King I will run you through."

"That is ENOUGH." All turned round to find Gwaine of all people shaking. "You will all listen to what each other have to say."

"Oh so the other coward has an opinion too?" The King looked around "Anyone else? Henry? Thomas? Or have you forgotten you owe your place here to your Aunt and me?"

Leon could see why open rebellion was tempting at this moment in time. Merlin just looked at the King with pity; "Just like Uther."

The hall fell silent.

"What did you say", the King now was openly glaring at Merlin and had given up any pretence of hiding his emotions.

"I said, just like Uther."

"I am nothing like that barbarian scum."

Merlin did not take his eyes of the King "But yet you too banished magic. Out of fear. You too hid deep secrets from your family. You too rejected those who did not agree with you."

"I did no such thing. All I ever did was to try and protect my family."

"Oh so that is why you tried to poison Merlin then and strip him of his magic?" Leon stared into the man's eyes.

"I did not try and poison my own grandson."

Gwaine interjected, "No you sent a servant just like you did to me."

"You nephew were dangerous with the ability of being a seer. My grandson is the fabled Emrys, I would not act against him."

Merlin was not giving in, "Yet a servant tried to do it anyway. The spell backfired, he is dead. So if it wasn't you, your majesty who was it?"

Even the King was not impressed when Queen Elizabeth rose and said "Me."

"Elizabeth! Of all the things to do!"

"I had to Garrett. Merlin is a risk to the peace of our Kingdoms."

"I am no risk Grandmother, it is you who is the risk."

"You have no idea Merlin of what horrors I have faced or know could happen next."

"And you have no idea of what I have had to go through your majesty before I got here. I have lived in a Kingdom where magic is feared, where I have risked my life over and over again for a Prince who doesn't notice me and for a King who would burn me. I grew up in poverty without a father or any family."

"Then I discover that my father was banished by his own parents. That my cousins here were forced to grow up away from their home. That my brother here was adopted and that my mother had to live in a hut raising me on her own while you stood idly by and did nothing."

Merlin let out a chuckle, "No I'm sorry you did. You cursed a Dragon to speak to me in riddles and you stole my father from me. One night, one night is all I had my father for. And that is all your fault."

The Queen was now shaking "And I suppose that it was Henry here who told you all about it."

"Not just him. Gwaine too. Oh yes, your majesties, Gwaine has been in Camelot and is my best friend. Oh and by the way he came here on the back of Killgarrah, who told him in great detail about our family and Uther's. Not to mention that I'm allied with the Lady of the Lake and I will be visiting her fairly soon to hear the final revelations."

Now turning fully to his Grandmother. "Should I also point out to you, that I defeated Nimueh at the Isle of the Blessed, stopped Morgause and Morgana Le Fay from conquering Camelot before, defeated Sigan, that's right Sigan and meet the Fisher King and Taliesin. Who has been dead for over 300 years but is my ally. So Queen Elizabeth if you think you can try and strip me of my powers or lie any more think again."

"This is why you are dangerous. Such power will throw our lands into peril. We already have the Norsemen attacking and Uther could always break the truce between us."

Merlin was not going to yield here. "Uther is dead. Nimueh has escaped from the other world and helped Morgause and Morgana take Camelot. A spell was cast making everyone forget Prince Arthur and so all Morgana needed to do was sit and wait and she poisoned Uther and took his crown as his legitimate loving daughter."

"So that leaves me no choice. I have stopped the three witches before and I will do so again. Nothing will detract me from fulfilling my destiny and putting Arthur onto the throne. There has been enough lies and bloodshed. Arthur will oversee a golden age and I will be right at his side. You cannot and will not stand in my way. Which is why I have the following demands."

King Garratt knew his wife had lost control of the situation. Merlin was more like him than he first thought.

"Speak grandson." The King raised a hand to his wife's face. "I think you've said enough my dear."

"I will become heir on two conditions."

"One. The ban on magic will be lifted. Uther is dead. You have nothing to fear from him anymore and Morgana and Morgause will not attack."

"Uther may be dead Merlin but if Nimueh is in league with them and she finds out who you are then war will follow. You must know by now that she hates your grandmother and I. Likewise Morgause is sadly related to us. She knows she has relations here. If you become my heir then you are at risk."

Merlin wasn't following; "But you announced me as your heir yesterday?"

The King nodded, "And I did before I knew you wanted the ban on magic lifted. You being my heir is one thing. No Kingdom attacks because the King's grandson is made the heir to the throne. But a Kingdom may attack once it finds out said grandson is a very powerful warlock.

Now considering what you've told us so far it would seem to me that all three of them have reason to seek revenge on you and two of them have reason to see my Kingdom suffer. I cannot lift the ban now Merlin even if I wanted to. You must see that."

"I do not. The ban must be lifted."

"And if it is Merlin and your abilities are known the Kingdom could come under attack."

For once the King softened his face. "It is clear to me that you now need to know why the Norsemen have been attacking. Perhaps when I tell you may change your mind on wanting the ban lifted."

"Now this is not for public consumption and is for Merlin's ears only. Something must be a state secret."

Merlin was resolute, "Leon stays."

"No Merlin he does not. He has some catching up of his own to do. Leon, this man to the right of me is my brother, your father. I suggest you use this time to get yourselves better acquainted."

Now turning to his nephew "Henry, Thomas, I suggest you take Gwaine on a tour of the Castle and lower town and show him what he has missed out on."

The Queen rose, "Elizabeth you are not leaving. You can tell Merlin here a little more why we have been under attack."

Leon looked at Merlin, everything within him was saying, stay, stay with your brother, but even though he did not know his father, he felt he needed just one conversation with him. He wasn't looking for a new father. But some further understanding would help him. He reluctantly went up to Merlin and without caring for probity, hugged him. Leon whispered "If you feel threatened, I am sure you can find a way of contacting me. I will not be long."

The King coughed and neither Leon nor Merlin cared. Merlin whispered back "Don't be long, I still don't trust them." After a minute which both brothers thought was enough to prove the point that yes they really were that close and no King was going to come between them, Leon departed.

For the rest of his life he would always look back and regret that decision

Chapter Text

The King looked at Merlin and then his wife. He thought that this time she really had messed things up and had some explaining to do. First though he was intrigued as to what Merlin's other demands where.

"You had other demands Grandson?"

Merlin nodded. "I want the wrongs in my family righted. My father is dead but he was not the only one affected by your decisions. First my mother is to be afforded protection of the Kingdom. If she wishes to live at this court she shall. "

"A reasonable request, despite my objections to the match she clearly raised you well."

"I have not finished." Merlin was still as stern as he had been for the last hour.

"If I'm to become your heir then the ban on magic must be lifted."

King Garratt sighed, "Merlin I have already told you why I object to this. It is for the Kingdoms protection."

"I suspected as much, so I propose that you stand down in two years from now. I am not ready to be King and in case you didn't notice I have other problems to deal with. If you will not relax the ban in magic, you will give up your throne to me and I shall do it."

The Queen remained silent; Garratt looked into his grandson's soul. "No."

"No? What do you mean no?"

"I will not be ordered around by my own Grandson."

Merlin was not going to back down. "And I will not be told what to do with my life by people I do not trust."

"Then we are at an impasse."

Both fell silent. Both seemed shocked when the Queen finally spoke.

"Oh enough of this charade. Both of you do not control what happens next."

Merlin spun his head to the Queen, her voice sounded different. Looking back years later he should not have been so surprised when he suddenly went crashing into a wall.

"Elizabeth! That is too much!"

A cackle, "Oh that is nothing dear King to what happens to you."

Merlin could see his Grandfather from the corner of his eye fly into a large pillar and slump head down onto the floor. He sensed a stronger magic from the Queen than he had first seen.

He shouted; "How could you? To your own family. You're meant to be my grandmother!"

The Queen flashed a smile, "Yes I am meant to be your grandmother. About that."

Merlin could still not get off the floor. He tried to reach inside for his magic but it was not responding. There was only one hope now. He summoned his strength to call to Leon.

The voice turned sarcastic, "Oh look the young warlock is trying to get his little friend to help."

"Who are you?"

The Queen looked at him, with a familiar smirk; "Oh don't you recognize me Merlin? How about this?"

King Garratt had begun to stir, just in time to see his wife, his beautiful wife turn into the one creature he never wished to see again in his life.

"Nimueh. With all the strength in me, what have you done to my wife?"

Nimueh, still smirking looked at the King, walking over she stroked his face and lifted his chin up. "Oh your majesty, I sent her to her death. A fitting revenge for what you both did to me."

"We did nothing." The King grit out.

The witch nodded. "Indeed, nothing. You let me be hounded by Uther. You both knew what was involved when he made such demands on me. You turned your back on the old religion. Even your own magical son and grandson have suffered at your hands, well no more."

"You will not kill my Grandfather."

A cackle, "Oh dear Merlin. I seem to remember you saying something like that before. And what happened? Here I still am?"

"In spirit form. No one comes back from the dead."

"Be that as it may, I have enough power to dispose of you both. You see Merlin you and that Dragon of yours think you have destiny all planned out. Well you see there is a book, The Book of Kells. It contains secrets to deep magic. And it also contains the steps you need to take to kill a warlock. Yes even one as powerful as you."

"Well if you knew that you could have killed me when you had the chance!"

Nimueh moved from the King and was now towering over Merlin, "And ruin all my fun? I have been waiting in the spirit world for my revenge. And the witch sisters gave me the perfect opportunity to escape from the Cailleach."

"You've promised her something!" Nimueh nodded. Merlin could feel his strength fading, his life force leaving him and where was Leon?

"The Cailleach had her chance to have me Nimueh and she did not take it."

"You aren't for the Cailleach. She will have a King and two witches that is enough. I can't have you copying me and escaping in a few years can I? No Emrys, for that is what you truly are; you will not get the luxury of the spirit world. You shall be no more. Your magic will end, you shall end and just like Arthur you shall be forgotten forever more."

King Garratt felt he could stand. Nimueh looked slightly surprised as he began to do so and turning to him, "You know this to be true Garratt."

The King felt all the life then sucked out of him as he nodded sadly. "It is. Merlin I am sorry. The book says 'Magic can fall when Hope is lost and Courage forgotten. For without hope and having lost courage what can Magic do? When magic ends its powers will leave this world forevermore."

"Want to tell your Grandson how you know?"

Garratt shook his head. "Merlin, the book was held by the Norsemen. Your Grandmother stole it when she heard what it contained. She did it to try and protect the future. When we married I vowed to help her hide it. That is why the Norsemen have been attacking."

"And that is another betrayal of me Garratt. That book was to be mine! You stole it from me. And now you must die."

"NO!"

Nimueh was secretly delighted that Merlin was going to show some fight in him after all. The warlock rose and outstretched his hand sending a ball of fire straight at the High Priestess which she deflected.

"Must do better Emrys."

"Oh I shall."

Merlin's eyes flashed gold and with a snap of his head, Nimueh flew into the ceiling, falling back down with rubble surrounding her. He quickly stumbled to where his Grandfather lay. Looking at the King who seemed to have ages ten years in ten minutes, Merlin forgot all about their trials and the lies and focused on the fact that he had tried to protect him as best as he could. "It's ok Grandfather, it will be ok."

"I highly doubt that Emrys."

Nimueh flew a bolt of lightning at Merlin sending him into the door. Merlin felt the air in the room change; this was something he could not defeat alone. With what little strength he had left he called to Leon and to Killgarrah, hopeful at least one would save him.

"No one not Leon, not the Great Dragon," and then with an additional cackle, "why not even the great Arthur Pendragon can save you now Merlin."

"Oh really?"

Leon barged into the Great Hall and waved his arm at Nimueh. Nothing happened. "Oh dear, the Warlock's little helper doesn't know how to use magic properly. Let me show you."

"trí thine"

Leon was quickly engulfed in fire. Oddly the fire did not burn him, but simply stopped him from moving.

"No one can stop me. Now this ends."

"I don't think so witch."

Gwaine and Henry both said in unison.

"Excellent, why not have the rest of the family. I can kill you all at once. Then Garratt your kingdom will fall, and who will have the power to put it back together?"

"Over my dead body Nimueh."

"Careful what you wish for Garratt."

Nimueh lifted her hand, she was going to enjoy killing this treacherous King in front of his grandson, Years she had waited for her revenge and nothing would deny her.

"Still as arrogant as ever Nimueh." She turned to see who had said that and was greeted by a small lizard.

"Brilliant, the Great Dragon reduced down to a Lizard. How apt. So tiny and insignificant."

Killgarrah roared with laughter, "I am still twice the magic scholar you are."

"Ó Calieach, OH choimeádaí na geataí ar an domhan thíos, teacht agus do duais a éileamh"

The ground shook as a small grey light formed in the centre of the hall. Nimueh backed away while Leon and Gwaine stood in front of Merlin and the King.

"Who calls the gatekeeper without a blood sacrifice?."

"It is I. Killgarrah, the last of my kind. I call you to reclaim a soul which has escaped."

The Cailleach appeared from the veil, smiling, "Well what have we here? The mighty Emrys on the floor? The great King Garratt barely breathing and the last Dragon a small lizard. And you think to summon me Lizard?"

"I believe we have something of yours?"

"Indeed you do, but she has promised me a soul or two as compensation."

Merlin was not surprised when the Dragon grew in size to that of a dog and bared a smile. "Yes but what did she promise you?"

"The soul of a King. One as great as Arthur, no less."

"And yet we have a King right here with larger lands and a bigger fortune, will he not do?"

The Cailleach shook her head, "A nice try Dragon, but he is dying. I will need more than that."

"Have me."

"Ah but Emrys, you chickened out before, why should I trust you now?"

Merlin was resolute; "If my life brings Nimueh back to where she belongs I will gladly give it. If my life means the plans to kill off Arthur fall then I will submit to you."

"He is lying" Nimueh was now glaring at the Cailleach and Merlin. "He cannot be trusted. He must die now."

"Hush witch, you have no control over me. He shall die as shall you."

"We had a deal."

"I deal with no one, not even a High Priestess. You allowed yourself Nimueh to be defeated by Emrys and for that you will always be a failure. I have no desire to ally myself with you. I only used you and the sisters to get what I want. What I desire above all. The soul of the most powerful, the most high warlock of them all."

"You will not take him." Leon shouted.

"Try and stop me. It is of his choosing."

Leon was now crouching down at Merlin, "Merlin you can't do this. What about Arthur and your future?"

Merlin smiled weakly. "That is why I must do it. It is my destiny to protect him, and now apparently this land too. If dying means Nimueh is gone and things will get better then so be it."

Leon shook his head, "What about Morgana? And Morgause?"

"Emrys knows what happens next. For such a powerful spirit to leave this realm means that magic will be unbalanced. Their spell will crash around them. Arthur shall be freed."

"Is this true?" Leon was now staring into his brother's soul, hoping it was not the case.

Merlin nodded. "I am that powerful. If I die it will unbalance the earth, nature itself will be in revolt. They are not powerful enough to stop it."

By now Leon had tears in his eyes, he was holding onto Merlin and would not let go. "You cannot go Merlin. You cannot die here. You are my brother, hell you are my world. I love you. Don't leave me. Don't leave me here with Gwaine!"

Merlin chuckled, "I love you too. And you Gwaine. I'm sorry it has come to this."

"Enough of this all. No one crosses Nimueh. I shall have my revenge."

Nimueh threw a ball of fire at the Cailleach who reached for her staff and deflected it back, the priestess jumped out of the way. "Think you can beat me Nimueh? Ha!"

Nimueh conjured up another ball. "I don't need to, but I can deny you what you want and survive here." She threw the ball at Leon knowing Merlin would throw him out of the way and jump in front of it. Merlin's body took the full force of the blast and fell back into the door.

"You will pay for that witch."

Leon finally threw off the shackles of not knowing his magic and instinctly flicked his wrist sending Nimueh backwards into the widening veil. She screamed as the darkness took over her. The Cailleach cackled. "Escaped again I see Emrys. Perhaps it shall be third time lucky."

"Never."

Merlin rose. He spat out. "I have had enough of you. Enough of Nimueh, enough of Morgana and Morgause and of every evil living thing on this earth. I am the Emrys. I have the power over life and death."

"But not over me. Or do you dare to try and take my throne?"

"I have no desire to become the keeper of the spirit world, but I judge you unfit to do so."

The Cailleach shot Merlin a steely glare; "Oh really? And what are you going to do about it? You'll have to fight me for it and you don't have the strength!"

Merlin rolled his eyes. "I don't have the strength? Funny how everyone always underestimates me. You have seen what I can do watching from the dark. Now you shall know it yourself."

The warlock looked at Gwaine and Leon and gave them both a nod, 'please let this work' he thought. Merlin reached inside of himself and called out to his brother's and cousin's magic. Come to me, come to The Emrys. Both souls responded and a pale blue light left Gwaine and Leon and wrapped itself around Merlin.

"Impressive indeed, but not enough Emrys. Not in your weakened state. Now this shall end."

The Cailleach rose her staff, electricity was coming out of the black orb and she pointed it straight at Merlin. The lightning bolts deflected off of him.

"Not enough either Cailleach."

"Ah but I am stronger than you. Let's see what you have got then Emrys."

Merlin bowed his head, "Killgarrah, Killgarrah, I need you to do this."

"Fear not young warlock, I have known for some time this may be necessary. You know the risks?"

"I do. I have to stop this."

"Very well."

"Come on Emrys, bowing your head isn't going to stop your death."

"No but it will see to yours." Merlin rose with arms outstretched, the castle shook and thunder could be heard. The Cailleach remained unmoved and her staff vibrated with the sheer energy she possessed. "Little chance of that Emrys". She raised her staff and pointed at Merlin but nothing came. She whispered something and tried again, this time the staff emitted a red beam of light that tore into Merlin causing him to double over in pain.

Gwaine saw the blood first. Leon saw a vision he hoped he would never see. And Merlin saw his chance. The Cailleach was too distracted by her impending glory to fail to notice his hand held slightly higher than the rest of his painful body.

But she did not fail to hear the voice from Merlin. She did not fail to see him rise one last time nor did she fail to see the determination in his eyes. "Ó Calieach, OH choimeádaí na geataí ar an domhan thíos, tá tú neamhábalta chun seilbh na hoifige sin. Glaoim ar an draíocht an domhain, d'anamacha bhfear, do shliocht an dragain a smite tú as an réimse. Is féidir do cumhachtach a scrios. D'fhéadfadh a bheith seo do lá seo caite. Is féidir do ríchathaoir a dhéanamh ag ceann purer agus de croí fíor. Calieach, tá mé Emrys. Agus mé do doom."

"No one can defeat me."

Merlin beamed at her. "Funny, I just did." He flicked his left wrist and the Cailleach went crashing into a wall. Merlin lifted his left arm, his right holding his flesh wound and threw her into the ceiling, then pulling her back onto the floor. His eyes went from gold to a dark red, a beam of red energy, of anger left his eyes and slammed into the body of the Cailleach. She screamed in pain.

"Now you know the pain I feel, that others have felt but you will have the mercy of having no life force at all. You are no more."

As the words left Merlin, the veil disappeared; the Cailleach was still on the floor. "Your world has left you. And I have no place for you here. mbeidh níos mó"

With that, the Cailleach's body caught fire and within seconds all that was left were ashes.

Merlin nodded at Killgarrah. Having borrowed the Dragon's magic was the only way to stop her. And now he felt faint, he became unsteadying on his feet. "Leon, I think I'm lightheaded."

Those were the last words he spoke. He fell into Leon's arms, Gwaine trying to stop the blood flow but failing to do so. Both screamed for help.

The Dragon shook his head. "Neither of you can help now. It has been done."

"He can't. he can't be." Leon choked the words out. "Come on Merlin, come on M-bro. You can't do this to me. Not now, not after what you have just done."

The King was the one to speak the sad realisation. "The book says clearly, Magic can fall when Hope is lost and Courage forgotten. Look Leon, look Gwaine at Merlin, the magic is leaving him."

It was unmistakable; a pale blue light was now leaving Merlin's body. Leon looked at the Dragon.

"The King is correct, that is the Warlock's magic."

"There must be something we can do?" Gwaine finally spoke.

"You must stop his magic wreaking havoc upon the realm. Everything has been disturbed. Kingdoms could fall, men will suffer."

"Tell me what we need to do." Gwaine looked at the Dragon.

"Very well. Merlin's body must now lie where none can disturb it. His magic must stay with him."

It was Leon's turn, "How do we catch his magic?"

Bring me the pendant you are wearing Leon."

Leon walked slowly to the Dragon. "Drop it on the floor and back away. I have no wish to see you hurt."

The Dragon blew fire onto the small stone that was hanging from the chain and the blue light rapidly sunk into it. The ground shook and all could hear a terrible, blood curdling groan.

"What was that?"

"That Gwaine is the Earth recognising what has happened. You have little more than a couple hours to get Merlin's body to where he must lie."

"And where is that?"

"The Giants Causeway in Ulster. He must be accompanied by one of blood and of magic.""

"Then I shall go."

"No Gwaine I shall go. I am his brother."

"And I am his cousin and best friend."

"You shall both come with me. It is what he would want is it not?"

"It is hours from here, at least a day Killgarrah."

"Indeed it is Leon, it brings me now joy to say that you shall both have to fly on me and hold his body. The path to the Causeway is not safe and we cannot afford for you both to be attacked on the way."

"Then if that is what is required to let my brother sleep and for the Earth to be calmed, then that is what shall be."

"Very wise Leon."

"Killgarrah."

"Yes your majesty."

"If there is one scratch on any of them."

"Fear not King Garratt, Leon and Gwaine will return in one piece. And Merlin's body will be unharmed."

"Good."

Leon and Gwaine both looked at each other, the short walk onto Killgarrah carrying Merlin would be the longest and hardest walk they would ever face. Both were secretly glad they would not be on their own.

"Come, the sooner this matter is closed, the sooner you can move on."

Leon shook his head, with tears in his eyes he said "I will never be able to move on Killgarrah. And I have to return to Ealdor and break the news to his mother."

"I am truly sorry to see you so upset Leon."

"Thank you."

Gwaine picked up Merlin's legs, Leon his arms and they carefully moved him to right by the Dragon. The Dragon nodded and grew in size, taking out the roof of the Great Hall. Garratt didn't care; his Grandson and his Wife had been lost forever.

Leon climbed on first and Gwaine lifted Merlin up onto him and then climbed on himself. "Well I guess this is it?" He said.

The King used what little energy he had left to speak. "I am sorry for my part in this affair. When you both return things will be different. I vow to my Grandson I will do better."

Gwaine and Leon both nodded at the King and Killgarrah took off.

Chapter Text

As they flew off, Leon and Gwaine both looked at each other and then at the ground. A fire was raging in the forest below, neither had to tell the other that the death of Merlin was to blame.

The Dragon had been remarkably silent since take off. Leon's mind wandered to what would be going on in Camelot.

If the Lord had been in Camelot he would have seen the horror on the face of the knights when their beloved Queen Morgana collapsed, fitting. They would have seen her sister, the Lady Morgause double over in pain and they would be concerned that Gaius'' potions had finally gone wrong.

Gaius didn't need the earth to shake to tell him Merlin was dead. The fireball that had flown out of his ward's old bedroom was enough. He was nearly knocked sideways by a long staff that he recongised Merlin had used against the Sidhe as it floated out of the bedroom and then spun before falling to the floor.

The physician thought the whole realm had shook, never had he felt such power. He left his chambers and thought first of the Knights and of Gwen. Running out he was greeted with chaos. The statue of Uther that was being built in the courtyard had toppled over. Shouts could be heard of "The Queen, The Queen." Gaius followed Percival into the Great Hall to find Morgana withering in pain on the floor. Despite now being a committed enemy of her, he still had appearances to maintain, he calmly bent down to her.

"What's wrong with the Queen, Gaius?" Percy spoke, scared.

"I cannot tell for she cannot be moved until the fit is over. When it has abated she must be placed in her chambers."

"Only magic could have done this Gaius, you know this to be true."

"That may be the case my Lady Morgause but you also know I cannot diagnose the problem right now."

"Fine, ensure that she is moved as soon as she can be."

Gaius looked at Morgause; she clearly had been affected also. "And of you my Lady, you are holding your stomach in pain? You also must go to your chambers."

"No, I must stay here and issue instructions. The Queen must be protected and her citizens must have confidence in her ability to protect them. Percival, gather the Knights and the court together. I shall address them."

"Is that wise my Lady?"

"What would you have me do Gaius? Run and hide? No, if this is the work of magic there is only one who has this power. The one that is called Emrys. Either he is dead or he is about to attack. I can only pray to the spirits that it is the former."

Gaius nodded; he knew that despite hoping it was the latter, the signs meant Merlin was dead, not about to attack and rescue Arthur. It suddenly dawned on Gaius that if Morgana and Morgause where affected then there was a decent chance Arthur and Hunith had been too.

"May I suggest some actions to assist you in reassuring the Kingdom?"

"Of course Gaius, Morgana has always trusted your council."

"Might I suggest that the Knights check on the prisoners? The castle walls have been shaken and you do not wish to see vicious criminals escaping free. That will cause worry amongst the people."

"A worthy idea." Morgause turned to Elyan who had now arrived. "You shall check on the prisoners. And on Gwen also, she must be reassured that her Queen is safe and she will be needed to treat her." Morgause thought to herself that the last thing she would allow is Arthur or Gwen to escape from Camelot. Especially if Emrys was about to launch an attack. It would probably be a good idea for Gaius to check on them, they couldn't allow Arthur to die yet.

"Gaius once the Queen has been cured and I am satisfied she is not in danger you shall be escorted to the dungeons. I do not want sick prisoners taking up vital resources. Nor do I need unnecessary panic or rumours. The more the people are reassured that no harm shall come to them the more they will feel safe."

The old medic nodded, "But of course."

Morgana was now asleep on the floor. "Right well, the Queen must be moved to her chambers, Elyan arrange her move now, she is more important than the scum below us."

Percival knocked on the door and entered, "My Lady the castle is in uproar, the statue of Uther has fallen over, the drawbridge has collapsed and there are several fires in the lower town. I have the knights out calming the people."

"A good move. Help Elyan move the Queen. The council shall meet in an hour."

Morgause then stood still, looking at the three men in front of her, "And one more thing. If word of the Queen's condition escapes this room I will hold you three responsible. Do not test my patience today."

The Knights looked sufficiently forewarned, "Of course not my Lady." Percy said nodding. The burly knight bent down to lift up the Queen, Elyan rushed to the other side with Gaius following. "Move her this way, the late King had a secret door in case of emergencies, that way she will not be seen. It links direct to his chambers."

None of the men noticed Morgause wince at the mention of Uther. The last thing her sister needed was to wake up in the bed of the man she despised. Still it was that or risk rumour around the Kingdom. Morgause would not let anyone get a whiff of trouble. Not when they had so much to do.

While Camelot began to resemble a war zone, Ealdor remained a picture of calm beauty, all except for one house. The owner had been out at the market when she heard the shouting. When they turned to see the house on fire, they knew what it meant.

The woman fell onto her knees weeping. The other villages rushed to try and douse the fire but it would not be tamed. The woman screamed, holding dirt in her hands, barely able to breath at the horror she faced.

All over Albion reports came flooding into the castles of Lords and Kings of strange beasts roaming the earth. In Mercia rumours swept that a three headed beast was eating children. Lord Godwin received reports that a Quisling Beast was spotted on the borders with Camelot. As the day progressed the rumours became bigger and more fantastical. Wyverns were seen leaving the Kingdom of the fallen Fisher King and were openly roaming the forests. Rivers had turned to blood and refugees began the trek to their Lord's castle in the hope for protection.

The Lord Agravaine had left Mercia at the first sign of wild beasts and led his men back to Camelot.

The council meeting in Camelot was chaos itself. Morgause had struggled to keep order and she was grateful for once for Gaius and the Knights agreeing with her every word. Several of the councillors seemed to have taken leave of their senses. 'That's what you get when Uther has dominated them' she thought. As soon as this was over there would be some fresh faces at court. Several of them had demanded to see the Queen and she had to remind them more than once that the Queen was resting and while Agravaine was not at court, she was the heir presumptive and it would not be a wise idea to question her decisions. Morgause had been very tempted to reveal that she was a powerful sorceress and could be more than a match for magical beasts but it was a decision she needed Morgana to agree to. And they should consult Nimueh.

Nimueh who was nowhere to be seen. She would surely know what had happened. Morgause silently called out to her and was puzzled when she had no response. Then it dawned on her. Wild magic was afoot. Magic which had affected her and knocked her sister unconscious. Nimueh had to have been involved. Had she killed Emrys? Had Emrys killed her?

The notion of Emrys was still slightly new to Morgause; it had been Morgana after the Cailleach had warned her that he was her doom who had told her about Emrys. Morgause consulted her books. The details were incomplete but she knew enough that there was a prophecy about Emrys being a very powerful magical user. And that he could be defeated "when Hope and Courage had been lost." What that exactly meant she did not know. Now she was more determined than ever to find out who this Emrys was and whether he was responsible for her sister's affliction. For now she needed to get control of a rowdy court. At least Arthur was still alive. She had been assured by Elyan that no one had escaped and that Gwen was more concerned for her mistress than herself. Gaius had just been dispatched to the dungeons.

A plan formulated in Morgause's mind. She needed Leon and Gwaine back at Camelot. It had been acceptable for Gwaine to offer to assist Leon in his endeavours and in a way sending two knights of Camelot showed Morgana in a good light, that her best men were available to help out poor villagers. But until the threat was over, they were needed here. A messenger was quickly dispatched. The people needed to have confidence that the two knights were still alive and the kingdom was functioning.

Next, Morgana was needed to be seen in public as soon as possible. And that bloody statue of Uther would need repairing. Having the former King tumble into the courtyard was not a vision she wanted the populace to be reminded of. A Kingdom needed stability. Fallen statues of the old King would remind people of the frailty of the monarch. And Morgause would be dammed if after all her and her sister had done that their dreams would now come undone. The statue would be fixed.

And Arthur would finally be dispatched to Ealdor with Leon after it was felt his and Gwaine's return had proved that all was well. If Emrys was coming to save the day he would find an empty cell, well a cell without the former Prince. There was nothing to say it would not have a powerful sorceress waiting there for him or some other threat.

Chapter Text

Leon, the Dragon and Gwaine arrived at a cliff edge. Slowly stepping off, still holding the lifeless body of their brother and cousin, neither knight spoke, both still lost in their thoughts.

"We are here."

"Now what Killgarrah?"

"Now Leon you and Gwaine must carry Merlin down the cliff edge. You see those pillars jutting out? That is the causeway of the Giants, known as Clochán an Aifir. The warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill built the causeway to walk to the land of the Picts to fight the King, Benandonner. Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh cast a glamour on him so he appeared as an infant. When Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.

Fionn did beget a son who begot a son who begot a son. One of his decedents united this area and named it Ulster. They had a daughter, Elizabeth who had a son Balinor, who had Merlin."

Leon was not surprised at all by this news, nothing surprised him now. "Merlin is related to an ancient warrior?"

Killgarrah nodded, "oO course and one who married a magic user. Did you expect anything else? When the bride was destroyed Oonagh turned it into a shrine to magic. For magic had protected her love. And now magic must be protected by her love."

Gwaine coughed, "If this place is magical like you say it is, then surely Merlin can be brought back to life?"

"You saw what I saw Sir Gwaine. You heard the prophecy as did I. I may be powerful but I do not have the power over life and death, that power was Merlin's and he used it to judge the Cailleach. I cannot bring him back."

The Dragon's words finally hit home to Leon that his brother had gone. He had thought that secretly maybe the Dragon knew a way out. To hear confirmation that his brother was truly gone was too much to bear. He wept openly. Knights did not cry but he was beyond caring. Gwaine pulled him into a hug. "Leon, Leon, cousin, come on. Merlin wouldn't want to see you like this would he? Come on we have a job to do here."

"He is right, Lord Leon. Your job is not complete. It does not end here. Magic is wreaking havoc across the Kingdoms."

"I do not care. Without Merlin there is no point. Arthur is lost."

"Arthur is not lost. You may not have heard but recent events mean that the spell the witch sisters cast will break. Nothing can withstand the force of untamed wild magic. And when Arthur realizes who he is, he is going to need his premier knight to help him."

"Hey! I am pretty good too!"

"Yes Sir Gwaine you are, but Arthur is not going to handle a future without Merlin, the one person he trusted the most, if his most trusted knight, who has been there since birth is not there to help him. For while you loved Merlin, only Leon can really relate to what Arthur will feel at his loss. And even then it is a different form of loss."

"You mean to say Dragon that this is not over?"

"The part involving the restoration of the Pendragon has not even begun. Whether you like it or not, you cannot escape Destiny. What has been written so must come to pass."

"But we are just knights in Camelot Killgarrah. No one knows of mine or Leon's heritage." Gwaine was beginning to look like a man possessed.

"And they cannot right now. But the time will soon come to pass where you both must make a stand against evil. Do not fear for you shall be helped."

Leon was tired, and his brain was beginning to freeze. "How?"

"Magic. You both have it. It's about time you used your considerable talents for good is it not?"

Leon and Gwaine looked at each other and nodded.

"You two must leave Merlin in peace. You cannot allow the situation to continue. When you have placed him on the rocks, you must call for me. Then the spell can be sealed."

The trek down was the longest walk Leon had faced in his life. He could not look down at the body of his brother. He looked so peaceful. Leon wondered where Merlin would be now.

Merlin did not feel cold. He did not feel warm either. He just felt nothingness. There was a light in front of him, a pale blue light. Was that his magic? He thought.

Moving towards the light, his brain began to register that this was not a land he had seen before. And there was no Leon. In fact there was no one, no one but him and the pale blue light.

The light formed an orb, spinning slowly in front of him. Then a voice.

After laying Merlin on the rocks, Leon had not wanted to let go of his body. Gwaine had to reason with him that yes Merlin was truly gone and they needed to call down Killgarrah and seal the spell. The spell that would stop Merlin's magic escaping and causing havoc.

Reluctantly Leon agreed and the Dragon rested upon a rather large rock that was jutting out. He simply nodded at both men and said "It is time. Both of you must hold one hand of Merlin's each and recant the spell I shall speak."

Neither man could understand the Irish that the Dragon spoke and they repeated. Words sounded familiar but distant at the same time. The words "Ní mór mar sin caithfidh sé a bheith, draíocht agus misneach a chéile arís." made the ground shake. The Dragon simply continued, the final passage was a blur, a storm was raging, thunder clapped and lightening hit a rock.

"Beidh wisedom thabhairt draíocht ar ais go dtí áit a bheidh sé." The Dragon said and as the cousins slowly repeated the words, the lightening ended. Now there was calm.

"You have nothing to fear Lord Leon, Sir Gwaine. The matter is closed."

"You mean?"

"Yes, the warlock's magic has been sealed with him. Now he must rest."

"Killgarrah, tell me this, where is my brother now?"

"He is at peace, Leon. That is all I know. Now I know this is hard, for I loved him in a way too but the both of you must now follow your destinies. Arthur must be saved. Don't let what has happened to Merlin mean all he has done was in vain. He spent years protecting the Prince and you cannot give up now."

Killgarrah's words stoked something within Gwaine. "Leon, we cannot let Merlin down now. The dragon is right. We have got to continue."

"I have no wish to do so? How can you? How can you?"

"How can I what?"

Leon did not answer.

Gwaine shot him a look. No, he thought, no he can't think that! "Leon, what did you mean?"

"Nothing Gwaine, let's go."

"No. You meant something. What was it?" Gwaine was already on edge, he had after all just lost his best friend, why should Leon be the only one miserable?

"Fine. If you must know, you hardly seem upset here?"

"Take. That. Back."

"TAKE THAT BACK." Gwaine lunged at Leon who tumbled off a rock onto another, it all happened so quickly. Gwaine looked in horror, "Killgarrah, quick, we must get down there."

Gwaine landed next to Leon who seemed unconscious, "Leon, Leon. No! No! Not now! Come on Leon, come on cousin."

Leon had not moved. The Dragon shook his head. One day destiny would give him a break.

"He is gone Sir Gwaine."

"Gone? Gone where?"

"He is not breathing. He is fallen."

Gwaine wept.

Chapter Text

Life began to return for to some sense of normality for those Merlin and Leon had left behind.

The ban on magic was lifted by the King who then sent ambassadors to the court of the new Queen of Camelot, Morgana Pendragon. Morgause had recommended that the Queen accepted the peace proposal. Both her and Agravaine filled Morgana in on the parts Uther never told her.

Morgana had not been surprised that Uther could have been so stupid as to have taken on a kingdom significantly bigger than Camelot. The fact that said kingdom was open to magic and had sought peace meant they were a natural ally.

The Queen could reflect on a good few months. The revelation from King Garratt that Nimueh had been destroyed by the Emrys who in turn died from his injuries had done much to calm her. She was now growing into the Queen she'd knew she could become. Even the death of Leon from a battle in the woods by Ealdor had had a silver lining. There had been few dreams, certainly none involving voices saying "Emrys will be your doom."

Lancelot had returned and Gwaine told the court how Lancelot had rescued him and Leon only for the other knight's injuries to be too great. As a reward Lancelot had been given Ealdor but with Agravaine as the overlord of a wider area. The Queen made no objection when her maid Gwen asked to go too

With Gwen in Ealdor. Arthur had been dispatched to Earl Gwaine's new lands in Ulster. King Garratt had insisted that Gwaine lied to keep himself safe from Uther and had hated the former king. After a behind closed doors session with Gwaine and Morgause the new Earl had been forgiven. He went into detail about his plan to work against Uther from the inside and apologised to Morgana for acting against her father. When the Queen revealed she had the gift of being a seer and never agreed with the ban she saw Gwaine relax. After he left Morgause and her spoke of marriage. There could be far worse matches than someone from the Fitzgerald clan to produce an heir. They could always been dispatched if need be leaving Morgana a future Queen Regent. In fact with a supply of Fitzgerald men available, the sisters joked that they could sleep their way to the whole kingdoms.

Agravaine was busy seizing Cenred's lands without objections. Lord Godwin had sadly died while hunting and no one had seen the Princess Elena. Well apart from Agravaine's troops who had seized her and locked her in his dungeon. He wasn't a monster after all.

Camelot had had no choice but to invade to protect the people. Morgana spoke at the funeral of the Good Lord Godwin and how he had been a long and strong ally. It was all she could do in his memory to protect his people. It's what he would have wanted. Repeating her previous trick she announced a break in taxation to help the people after their raids from the vicious Norsemen. Oh and that a statue of Lord Godwin would be built. Every resource would he directed to the hunt for Princess Elena. Morgana promised as soon as she was found Camelot would restore her to the crown.

'Fat chance of finding her' she thought.

Soon Morgana Pendragon would be the ruler of the largest kingdom in Albion. With her hitched to Hibernia's rising star she could begin to dream of an empire.

The hardest part for Gaius was the evenings. He had become accustomed to having merlin share supper with him. Even with Merlin's strong bond with Arthur, he had always made time for Gaius. He had visited Ealdor to see Hunith who was reeling from the shock of the death of both her sons. He had offered her a home with him but she declined.

Gaius was surprised when Hunith accepted the offer to live in Hibernia, he suspected that having Agravaine nearby had something to do with it. Although on the outside everything appeared calm in Morgana's expanded kingdom, Agravaine had a reputation for being partial to women peasants and Gwaine did not want to take chance. Lancelot may control Ealdor and the surrounding lands but he was just 1 local landowner.

King Garratt had insisted via Gwaine that Hunith came to Hibernia; he said that Merlin and Leon would never forgive him if something happened to their mother. Reluctantly she moved without much fuss and settled in Ulster under the care of Gwaine. She could not face living in Castle Desmond and it made sense for her to stay with the closest link to Merlin and Leon

Gwaine had welcomed her with open arms, the man had changed. Gone was drinking all night and grabbing the nearest bar maid for now his focus was being a kind and efficient ruler. Although Garratt had not publicly declared it, for fear that the last time he did something bad had happened; Gwaine was now the de facto heir.

The new Earl missed Leon and Merlin deeply. It was the small things he missed most. Merlin's laugh, Leon's hair and the way they bounced off each other. What made it the hardest for Gwaine was seeing Arthur every day. The former prince was now under his guard, Morgana had said he was a threat to her but did not disclose why and wanted him out of the way for almost a year.

As a token of the goodwill between the kingdoms, goodwill which clawed in his throat, yet he understood his uncle's reasons why, that Arthur was exiled to his care. Even without knowing his upbringing Arthur of course became an excellent guard for Gwaine and a good manservant to boot. It was destiny laughing at them Gwaine thought that he had ended up the noble and Arthur the manservant. He could not face the idea of Arthur becoming Merlin and attracted to him, but there was something there he could not dismiss.

In his previous life as a knight, Gwaine had always taken the mickey out of the Princess but deep down admired and respected him. A little part of him was jealous that Merlin's heart beated for Arthur first. He did not plan to become attracted to Arthur but there was no denying he still looked like a Prince and every man had needs. Gwaine shook his head and focused on the task in hand, repairing defences after the last round of Norsemen raids. After the death of Nimueh the Norsemen had backed off a bit, scared of the power that the three kingdoms possessed but now they had resumed. The raids also meant that the Norsemen weren't just after the Book of Kells, a book which Gwaine had located and after a discussion with the King and Kilgharrah had placed in the tomb of Emrys.

The tomb had formed from an earthquake the day after their deaths, rocks crashed down and the brothers bodies were sealed. No man had visited except Gwaine who visited monthly, on the same day to pay his respects and to just talk to them both. Of course Leon and Merlin never responded but it provided some comfort to Gwaine. He had apologised over and over for his role in the death of Leon but the dragon had told him it had been destined from the start.

Gwaine through his dreams realised that everything had happened for a reason and despite Merlin's death; Albion would be secured albeit in a different form. Hibernia was slowly uniting and the ban on magic had been lifted. At some point war with Camelot was inevitable. Although allies, neither was ever going to let the other dominate for all eternity. Gwaine, Garratt and his two brothers had prepared for the eventuality and plans were in place. With Gwaine being the most powerful magic user at court he was going to have to train to horn his skills. Coupled with a bigger army and more knights, Ulster Kerry and Munster stood a good chance. Slowly old wounds elsewhere in Hibernia were being healed and a united Eire would be more than a match for the two witch sisters.

The Earl's thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. Henry was due in his chambers for a drink. Although he did not frequent a tavern every day, Gwaine was not going to be a monk either. Henry and some of the other knights, and now and again his manservant Arthur visited the taverns and reported back to him with what the people were saying. Gwaine had learnt from his time in Camelot that listening to Tavern gossip was an excellent way to find out public opinion.

"Come on in Henry." That was another thing; nicknames now were out of the window. Too difficult to use now Leon and Merlin had gone.

"It is Arthur, Sire."

"Oh. Come on in then."

Arthur stepped inside. He liked his new master Gwaine. Gwaine was kind yet strong. A good man. Arthur still could not recall why he had been a prisoner but he regretted every day spent in his cell and was determined to become the best servant possible. He had already polished Gwaine's armour and had spent time with the knights today but as he returned to his chamber he had been instructed to deliver a message to the Earl.

"I have a message for you my Lord."

"Arthur, it is Gwaine remember."

"Of course, sorry, I'm not used to calling nobility by their first names."

"Well get used to it. So, the message?"

"Ah yes, it is from the King, it came by a deliverer just now." Arthur looked at Gwaine and handed the sealed note.

"Well I better see what he wants. And Arthur stay. If I'm needed to trek all the way to Castle Desmond again I am going to need your help."

"Of course, Gwaine."

"Good man. Now while you are here, where is my brother?"

"In the tavern still."

Gwaine shook his head, "Not anymore. Bring him to me, and find some wine and chicken. I want him here, for he may be needed."

"The message said sire, that the King told him to tell you only you can open it."

"Fine, leave Henry where he is."

Arthur began to leave, "Er where do you think you're going? You can stay Arthur."

"I was going to get the wine and chicken?"

Gwaine was beaming, "You are becoming an excellent servant. Who would have thought it?"

"I am touched. I am but a simple man."

Now the Earl laughed, "Oh nothing is simple, not you Arthur and not life itself."

The manservant looked puzzled, "Best get the wine my Lord."

"Arthur…"

Arthur grinned, "sorry a slip of the tongue." He then licked his lips and left.

Gwaine frowned; did Arthur just lick his lips at him? Dismissing that, he opened the letter from the King. And then slammed his fists down on the table.

Chapter Text

Merlin had been surprised to see Leon tumbling through the veil and into the lake which was now his home. He looked at his brother who seemed unusually scared. Shaking, Leon reached out to touch Merlin, as if he was seeing a ghost.

"I'm real Curls. I'm right here."

"Yes but where are we?" He stopped. The thought he didn't want to have was jumping out at him. "Merlin, I am? I am aren't I?"

Merlin nodded, "I'm afraid so, you are trapped with me."

"I didn't expect death to be like this. I expected." Leon sighed. "Well I don't know what I expected but I'm glad I'm not in the fires of hell. And I didn't expect to see you."

"Of course you wouldn't be in the fires of hell, Leon, honestly. And are you surprised you ended up with me?" Merlin looked at him, "why are you surprised you're with me? Do you not want to be?" Merlin fell silent and looked down at the rocks below.

"Don't be stupid M-bro, I can't imagine anyone better to be with. But I thought, you know, you might be somewhere more magical."

Merlin was bemused, only he could be having this sort of conversation, "What did you expect? That I would be frolicking around with unicorns?"

"Well maybe not unicorns, considering you are no longer pure, but something yes."

"I AM PURE!"

"You were corrupted. By Gwaine."

"Leon please don't go on about it!"

"I will do Merlin, Gwaine is the reason why I am here. He killed me."

"He did WHAT?"

"He pushed me Merlin, we were arguing about, well that doesn't matter. And I fell."

Merlin shook his head, "You were arguing over me because you're too overprotective and you slipped. He didn't murder you or anything did he?"

"Well I'd rather be alive" Leon snapped.

"Oh and I wouldn't?"

"Sorry, sorry, this is just hard."

"You're not going to make it easy Curls if you stay in the past."

"Ok, so if I embrace this future, what happens, and where on earth are we?"

Merlin cleared his throat, "There's someone I'd like you to meet. Someone very important to me, someone I love."

"Arthur is here?"

A shake of the head, "No Freya, otherwise known as the Lady of the Lake. Also the new keeper to the spirit world."

Leon was bemused and wide eyed, suited him Merlin thought. "Hold on, you love someone who lives in a lake?"

"She wasn't always in the lake; do you remember a winged beast you, Arthur, and the others defeated, a bit like a giant cat?"

A nod, "Yes, it was attacking people at night. A wretched piece of sorcery."

"She wasn't a wretched piece of sorcery! She was a girl cursed! It wasn't her fault." Merlin was close to tears.

Leon had a flash back to the event and the aftermath when Merlin was strangely quiet for a week. Leon had assumed Arthur had been treating him badly. He had reacted by being as stubborn and as difficult as he could be without the prince sending him to the stocks. Arthur hadn't known to react to Leon at the time and Leon relented when Arthur said briefly and very quietly that he had enough to deal with Merlin not talking to him and he didn't need his premier knight falling out with him too. Leon and Arthur had then stared at each other, clearly uncomfortable and a hand shake had closed that particular episode.

"That's why you were miserable wasn't it? I thought Arthur had been mistreating you. We fell out; well I avoided him until he told me he didn't want to fall out with me as he had enough problems with you moping around. Merlin it wasn't mine or Arthur's fault that we killed Freya, she was attacking our people."

"I know, I know, but she was my first love, we had a bond, a connection, something I hadn't felt before. I was going to run away with her Leon but something stopped me."

"Of course it did, it's called Arthur". Leon smiled, "and I like to think a little part of you didn't want to leave me."

"Oh don't flatter yourself, besides I'm stuck with you now aren't I?"

"And her? Where is she?"

"Hard to explain, I mean we are in a lake. But she's now controller of the spirit world. I think we are going there soon; this seems to be some sort of holding area."

"So she was a girl, cursed, how did she end up in a lake? No I know, you did it didn't you? She was injured."

"Yes, and then she helped me retake Camelot and destroy the cup of life. She's kind of been a guide to me."

"I thought I was your guide?"

"You are, it's hard to explain. But now she has a bigger destiny. I'm sorry but I couldn't let the Cailleach continue. That woman was pure evil. And I couldn't have Arthur destroyed. Both the Cailleach and Nimueh were unfit for their powers."

"So you decide who has control over life and death? That's a bit scary M-bro, are you sure your brain can handle that?"

"Oi!"

Leon stared straight at him, "Seriously Merlin, that is some responsibility you have there."

Merlin just nodded. Both fell into silence until a nagging thought jumped out of Leon.

"You have control over life and death?"

A nod.

"You now decide who the gatekeeper is?"

A nod.

"You're destined to be the greatest warlock the world has ever known and help Arthur reach his destiny?"

A nod.

"Then you must be able to send us back. To finish what we've started!"

Merlin sighed. "I don't know how to."

And at that moment in time, the young prince, warlock, friend and above all brother fell to his knees on the bottom of the floor of the lake and wept.

Leon felt all his life suck out of him. He had hoped deep down that Merlin could save them. But even one that powerful couldn't get them out of here. They were dead. He had no idea what to do next except to grab Merlin into a hug.

After a few moments passed, Leon thought about speaking. "Merlin, Merlin."

A very small voice replied, "Yes."

"You know I am not blaming you don't you?"

"I would blame me if I was you."

"Why?"

"It's my stupid fault we've ended up here. It's my destiny sucking you in. It's been my destiny sucking the life out of anything that is good in this world. For years I've been servant to a Price who hates me and it turns out all the time that I didn't need to be a servant at all and I was actually a noble myself."

"yes. I know. But that is not your fault is it? Look, we have to make the best of things."

Merlin had released himself from Leon's arms and was know staring at him. "How?"

"Well, for a start, you've er got me and Freya."

Merlin just carried on looking at him.

"Merlin, about, about Freya I am sorry I helped killed your girlfriend."

His brother smiled, "It's fine. Well it isn't fine because I would rather she hadn't been bewitched and was a normal girl. But she is ok with it. Aren't you Freya?"

A seductive, no, it was not seductive, a calm voice could be heard. "Yes my Warlock."

Leon looked around and could not see anything. "Oh she's hear Leon, but se is busy right now. We will meet properly later won't we my Lady."

"Yes we shall. For we have much to discuss."

...

Gwaine could have done without being summoned by King Garratt. Arthur had arrived and had settled into his manservant role well. But Gwaine was under an obligation, a promise not to move him from Ulster. Queen Morgana was clear she didn't want her former prisoner escaping and coming back to Camelot. Morgana had been extremely good at implying Arthur was a hardened criminal without revealing the nature of his acts. They were apparently unspeakable. When questioned about why he hadn't been put to death, Morgana had responded that she believed in second chances and wanted a fresh start in her kingdom. Gwaine admitted to himself that she was an excellent liar.

The Earl had been tempted to bring Arthur with him but knowing the witch sisters, they could have put a tracking spell on him or something. It was best he stayed in Ulster. Gwaine however also had obligations that he felt to Merlin. The passing of time did not heal his raw wound. He would never get over the death of his only friend or his murder of Leon. He had felt so ashamed of his actions. Oddly the King had not put him to death and said it was an accident. Because of that he felt a new loyalty to his uncle, who had Gwaine admitted actually changed and become a better King. Gwaine felt that this new found respect meant he had to, despite his objections pay the kKng a visit.

He arrived at Castle Desmond under the cloud of darkness. The journey thankfully was only a day's ride. The land was at peace this week, there had been no raids from the Norsemen but of course they couldn't be ruled out. Henry was left in charge in Ulster with Thomas to greet him at Desmond. After seeing the impact of events in their uncle, the brothers had changed plans and agreed that they would rotate around their lands and would also take it in turns to help at the court. Despite asking to come and being very good at putting Gwaine's pack together, Arthur was instructed to remain in Ulster. Besides Arthur had been acting slightly strangely, the lip smacking was off putting.

"Gwaine, brother." Thomas lit up a smile, after the hugs were exchanged, Gwaine through a shoulder around him as they walked over the drawbridge of the inner moat.

"Ok Thomas, what's new? How is the King?"

"Good, he's good. He still has bad days where he goes quiet but overall, I think he is recovering. What about you Gwaine?"

The Earl sighed, "I'm ok. I'm sleeping a bit better. But I can't forget."

Gwaine stilled, "Is he? Is the Duke here?"

Thomas nodded, "yes he is paying a visit too. I guess Uncle Garratt wants you and the Duke to make peace?"

"Would you make peace with me if I had killed your son?"

"It was an accident Gwaine, and despite me not knowing him well, Leon was my cousin and Henrys too. We forgave you, so did the King."

Gwaine smiled weakly and hugged his brother for a second time. "I've missed you, it wasn't easy."

"I know" Thomas clasped a hand on Gwaine's shoulder. "Come on brother, the sooner this is over, the sooner we can go for a drink."

Gwaine smiled, "oh not for me, gave it up remember?"

Thomas laughed, "I'm sure you can make an exception."

"Fine, only because it's you and I haven't seen you for weeks!"

The brothers arrived at the Great Hall, the scene of so much drama. Right Gwaine thought, quick audience, then a drink with his brother, some dinner and a long sleep. Maybe a hunt in the morning and then back to Ulster. He could do this.

The guards opened the door, Gwaine walked in and realised he was on the spot where Merlin had fell. The King seemed to have aged further Gwaine thought. And the Duke looked worse.

"Ah Nephew, do come in. And Thomas, close the door. On the outside. This will be just for the three of us."

Gwaine growled.

"I'm sorry nephew, but I was asked to make this audience private."

"You haven't changed have you, still dealing with secrets!"

"Gwaine! That's enough! In case you didn't realise Leon's father is right here."

"A father who did nothing for Leon?" The Earl's defence mechanism was kicking in.

"You really want to do this now Gwaine?" The King was rising in anger; this nephew was the most stubborn of them all.

The Duke shook his head, "He's right Garratt, I did nothing, and we did nothing to help them did we?"

Garratt sat back down and the room fell into silence.

Gwaine broke the uncomfortable silence. "So did you have anything to add your majesty or can I go?"

"Ah yes, the reason why I called you here. And why this is private. Gwaine would you mind reading something for me?"

The King walked up to him and handed him a fire scorched piece of paper.

"What is it? I can't read this language?"

"Just try."

Gwaine cleared his throat and the words flew out of him, rolling off his tongue. The ground shook, which reminded him of the recent spate of deaths and then he was in a field.

"Greetings Earl Gwaine."

"Kilgharrah."

"Indeed."

"What? What is it now Dragon? How did I end up here?"

"Well the power of a Dragon Lord moves within a family, for each death brings a new Dragon Lord."

"I'm your Dragon Lord now?"

"In the absence of Merlin and without Leon, then yes some power defaults to you. You know this. Your dreams are back. And I know you're considering using what powers you have to take on Morgana and Morgause."

"Someone has to."

The Dragon shook his head. "You do not have that sort of power. And the prophecy is clear. Arthur can only be restored with Magic, Courage, Wisdom and Hope."

"Well I have magic and courage, and Henry is very wise. As is Thomas."

"You need Hope."

"I'm afraid I have no Hope."

Kilgharrah laughed.

"Oh my dear Earl Gwaine. Hope is a funny thing."

"What? What's so funny about hope?" Gwaine thought the Dragon was never going to stop speaking in riddles. And yet for once the Dragon made some sense

"The funny thing about hope, Gwaine, is that it springs enteral."

Chapter Text

The idea that Lancelot was alive and therefore there was still hope had occurred to Gwaine before, so that had not come as a shock to him. However Lancelot was in Ealdor. And even with him in tow, Merlin and Leon were dead. Gwaine didn't have that sort of power.

"I know your thoughts Earl Gwaine, you are right; your magic cannot bring them back. I am sorry."

Kilgharrah waited for a seconds silence before continuing; sometimes the drama of it all amused him.

The dragon cocked his head at Gwaine, "But then again you aren't destined to bring magic back. Remember Magic can fall when Courage is missing and Hope is lost."

"Yes" Gwaine said bitterly, "I know."

"And magic needs strength and wisdom to survive."

"Wisdom? If you mean Leon, well Wisdom is dead."

"One can gain Wisdom. Wisdom can take a while to acquire. It is not easy to find. One usually becomes wise with age."

"You're not making much sense. How did Merlin cope with you?"

"He didn't. But don't interrupt me."

"I'm your Dragon Lord, you have to obey me."

"Oh you can tell you are Merlin's cousin with an attitude like that."

"Are you going to make more sense or leave me with a pearl of wisdom?"

"I think that's enough. Besides your two uncles do wish to speak with you. I would return if I was you."

"Fine. But I will call you back Kilgharrah."

"Oh you're a Fitzgerald, I don't doubt it."

Gwaine arrived back as he left, in a whirlwind. His Uncles had not moved from their chambers. Thomas was nowhere to be seen.

"What time is it?"

"You've been gone for an half an hour nephew. Please sit."

"Did you know where I was going?"

King Garratt nodded, "Of course. "

"Kilgharrah said I'm his Dragon Lord now, well sort of?"

The King smiled, "Yes, you're the next in line for more than one title."

" About that, I'm grateful but I'm not comfortable becoming the next King."

"Many of us do things we are not comfortable with. Did you want some wine?"

Gwaine nodded, he wasn't going to fall off the wagon and get drunk but a drink would help.

"Yes and why isn't Thomas here?"

"That is down to me. Well and the Dragon." The Duke finally spoke.

"You see nephew, I am old, and it is obvious to all that I will not survive much longer. My body is riddled with a disease that cannot be treated. But I have some use. I have been consulting with the Dragon and my brother in private."

"Oh and why might you be doing that?"

"Gwaine, do you know about the balance of life and death?"

"Yes I know. I am despite appearances well read. I know that Merlin used it to kill Nimueh and she managed to cheat death. And of course I saw him take the Cailleach."

"So you know a life for a life?"

"I do, wait, and hold on here, are you saying you are going to sacrifice yourself for Merlin and Leon? But there are two of them? And you are ill? I don't see that being enough."

The Duke nodded, "No, it will not be. My death will not bring back Merlin, however a father laying his life down for his son. That is a fair price."

Gwaine looked at them both, "But there is no guarantee that that will be enough. Look what happened to Arthur, he lost his mother."

"It isn't the Cailleach anymore. Perhaps the new keeper will be more receptive?"

"I'm sorry uncle, sorry uncles. But Leon won't thank you for bringing him back and leaving Merlin behind."

"You are indeed correct. My death won't solve everything but it gets Leon back here, that is a start."

The King interjected, "You remain sceptical, Gwaine. That is good. It is good never to get your hopes up or see hope when there is none."

"Hope?"

"Yes nephew, hope."

"Odd thing. An odd thing." Gwaine paused. Something was missing.

"Your Majesty, your Grace, Kilgharrah said to me that hope was odd."

The King smiled, "Oh and why might that be?"

"He said Hope that hope springs eternal."

"It does. And did he say Magic needs Strength and Wisdom?"

"Yes, yes he did."

Garratt thought now was as good as time as any. "Oh Kilgharrah, I might not be a Dragon Lord but would you do the honours?"

Gwaine ended up exactly in the same field but with his uncles now facing the dragon.

"In all my life, I never thought I'd have King Garratt expecting a ride on my back."

"Blame it on my Grandson, Dragon."

"No, King, I blame you for this all. You, Uther and the witches. You brought all of this on yourself."

"I know. Hence why it needs to be fixed. I did vow to become a better King and I shall be."

"Well the sooner we leave my Lords, the sooner I'm no longer a horse."

"Where are we going Kilgharrah?"

"To the lake of Avalon my Earl. And we are not going fishing."

No one spoke on the arrivals light to the lake. Gwaine was still trying to work out how they would get Leon back. And how Leon would react to seeing him.

And if he as with Merlin, there was no chance he would leave.

King Garratt watched Gwaine throughout. His nephew clearly had picked up his stubborn streak. He had always known that he and Gwaine were sometimes too similar. The way though the man had fought back from being destroyed by his demons was remarkable. He was becoming the leader Garratt had saw in him years ago. They would never be close, too much had gone on but Garratt saw clearly what Merlin and to an extension Leon had seen in Gwaine.

Despite only having a Grandson for no more than a week, Garratt had grown attached to the boy. Merlin was a product of both parents. Garratt had reason to dislike both of them but he had a grudging respect for Hunith. Bringing up that type of child with the magic bubbling under him would have been a lot to deal with. Despite his views, he was glad that Hunith had accepted his invitation to be in Hibernia, Gwaine would ensure no harm came to her.

Garratt turned his thoughts to Leon. The loyalty he had shown Merlin was nothing short of inspirational. If Merlin had been created to protect Arthur, then Leon had been to protect Merlin. He would not be pleased to be brought back on his own but the King had a plan, one that was majestic. One that would hit back at the Pendragons once and for all. He may have no grudge against Arthur and certainly wouldn't want to see any harm come to him for Merlin's sake but no way would he let his kingdom fall to a witch daughter of Uther. There may be peace at the moment but he knew the Pendragon streak for greed, a streak that would be egged on by Agravaine and Morgause. Agravaine really was a tedious creature; a toad had more use on this planet.

One of his biggest regrets was that he hadn't been able to dispatch Agravaine yet or Morgause. He sighed, he couldn't do it all. Some would have to be left to the next king. His own father had told him a successful king was one with few regrets. Garratt had plenty. He couldn't bring himself to think about Elizabeth it was too painful. In that respect he could now understand Uther and his loss. But his reactions did not justify what happened next. He hoped that since Elizabeth's death he had become a better king. And his next actions would, he was sure, seal him in folklore.

And destroy the evil wrapping itself around the isles once and for all.

Chapter Text

Arriving at the lake, Gwaine saw a beach head but no people. All three men had climbed off the Dragon without a word. The three nobles were simply staring at each other.

"In your own time my lords."

"Kilgharrah I don't know what to do next."

"It is easy Earl Gwaine, you must repeat these words after me."

"Ó coimeádaí, OH choimeádaí na lasracha seachtracha. Ó Mhuire Loch an. Is féidir leis an duine Emrys amháin scrios. Ó coimeádaí, scaoileadh nach bhfuil an méid mise anois. Feá mé coimeádaí tú a chur ar an Diúc ina ionad."

Gwaine heard a clap of thunder, trees began to sway and a wind picked up. The thunder grew louder and hail flew out of the sky. Lightning crackled, Gwaine could now see a tree on fire, the wind was still picking up.

The King, Duke and Dragon, remained rooted on the spot.

Then there was a light, a pale blue light forming above the lake.

Down below, the noise was heard:

"What was that Merlin?"

"What was what Curls?"

"That noise Merlin, sounded like thunder."

Merlin shrugged, "Oh yeah could be, I think we can hear the weather still."

"Merlin, does your head hurt?"

"No I don't think we can feel anything anymore, well I don't."

"I do. My head is spinning and I can hear voices."

Merlin stared at his brother, "What sort of voices?"

"Well I'm not sure, but they sound familiar."

Merlin was puzzled, "Are the voices still there? What does it sound like?"

"If I didn't know better, I would say it was some form of spell."

Merlin knew at that moment what was coming next. "It is. Someone is trying to bring us back. Idiots."

"What? Wait? Why are they idiots?"

"We can't be brought back Leon." Merlin pointed to the sky, the roof of the lake. "There is no one out there with the power to bring me back. And if I can't be brought back then I can't get you back can I? We are stuck here."

Freya appeared in the sky, "Things are not what they seem Merlin."

"Freya? Sorry, my Lady?"

Leon thought that was the first time ever he'd heard Merlin embarrassed about not addressing someone properly.

"It's still Freya, Merlin."

"Of course. And what do you mean things are not what they seem?"

"You have the power over life and death Emrys, this you know. You made me the gatekeeper. And I told you once that I would help you no matter what."

Leon's eyes had lit up.

"Leon, she doesn't have the power to bring me back."

"That I do not. But they are not calling for you to go back, but your guide here, Lord Leon."

"I'm not going anywhere without Merlin. It is not happening."

Freya smiled, "You do not have a choice when destiny calls. I'm sorry but not even I can refuse what is being asked of me."

Merlin put his hand on Leon's cheek. "Leon, Leon, you have to go back."

"I can't" he choked out," I can't go without you. I can't live without you. When Gwaine murdered me all I can think of was coming to you. And making sure you were ok."

"Gwaine didn't murder you Lord Leon."

"He did my Lady, he pushed me."

Freya looked down directly at Leon, "No you fell. Don't blame him. It was your destiny. You had to come here to see my Merlin."

Leon turned to Merlin, staring into his eyes, pleading, "See Merlin, my destiny was to die and come and be with you."

"And now it is to go back, you won't be alive fully but it is better than staying trapped in a lake. "Merlin raised his hand and pushed it towards his brother, with tears in his eyes, he ground out

"Lad siúd a lorg ar an athchóiriú a eagna, chuala mé do ghlaoch, ní bheidh mé ag stopadh an gatekeeper más rud é go raibh a mian."

Now the wind really was blowing a gale, the sky had fallen to a pitch black. The only light supplied was the flashes of lightning overhead. Gwaine was the first to see Leon walking out of the water, 'if looks could kill,' he thought.

The Duke shook the King's hand and nodded to Gwaine.

"It is time, take good care of my son."

"I will brother." Garratt would miss his brother. Scandal or no scandal, he was still his brother. And he had come around in the end.

The Duke walked straight into the lake, Leon's eyes almost exploded from their sockets as he saw his father walk into the lake. He stopped.

"This is not right. I am going back without Merlin."

"I'm sorry my son, sorry for everything, but I am sick, riddled with illness. It is an honour to change places with you. I'm just sorry I couldn't help further.
"There was so much I wanted to say to you Leon. Know this; I am very proud of you. Your parents did a fine job in raising you, and do not blame Hunith. You should make peace with her."

"I cannot dismiss a dying man's wishes. Thank you." Leon went to shake his father's hand but he had gone.

As he walked onto the shore, the hail began to fade and light slowly returned, but the thunder remained. He was completely soaked and shivering. Gwaine just stood there gawping at him. Leon thought it was typical that he would have to make the first move. But Merlin wouldn't forgive him if he wasted this opportunity.

He took one look at Gwaine and bit out "Apparently you didn't murder me. I fell."

"Leon, please, cousin."

"And there's no use arguing about all of it Gwaine. Merlin's old girlfriend is pretty powerful and she told me the truth. I know you couldn't really murder me. I was angry, angry that I had not been able to protect Merlin. Angry that I had ended up in a Lake. And I am still angry he is stuck down there."

Gwaine cocked his head at his cousin, "Girlfriend?" Then with his hand on his chest. "Oh I am wounded."

"Careful, Gwaine. Careful." Leon was now de facto face to face with him.

"Apparently destiny wanted me to go; you were just helping it along. But that doesn't mean to say this will be easy."

"I know. I'm sorry Leon. I know I act like devil may care, but there are some people I do care about. You are one of them. "

"I know. Come here." Leon beckoned Gwaine to come closer. Gwaine stared at his cousin, part of him thought that everything happened for a reason and that they would be fine in the end. The other reminded Gwaine that he had lost Merlin and that recent events proved nothing remained the same for long.

Gwaine saw that his legs were still making him walk towards Leon despite his reluctance. Merlin, he thought, Merlin is pulling us together. Well, he couldn't deny Merlin his wish could he? He particularly jumped Leon.

Leon grabbed Gwaine's shoulders and pulled him in. "I should run you through. But I just can't. You're the closest family I have now Gwaine."

Merlin smiled, his two protectors were going to be ok. He turned to Freya. "What's next Freya? I know this is not it."

"Everything you think could happen could happen. Destiny is going to settle down but not yet. I do have a revelation for you though. Well two."

"One, your story is not complete."

"And the other?" Merlin did not like where this was going,

"Is too horrifying to say aloud."

Chapter Text

The ride back to Castle Desmond was filled with Leon explaining to Gwaine and the King what had happened to him and Merlin. Leon told them that Merlin had spent the first few days asleep, almost like in a trance state, floating in the Lake, while Leon sat on the floor.

Nights were spent asleep floating, while the days dragged until Merlin had woken on the fourth day. Leon then learnt more about Freya and her destiny, as well as a lot more about magic. Between Merlin and Freya, Leon had learnt enough to be judged a competent magic user.

Leon had to remind Gwaine more than once that Merlin had said he could not be brought back. The King had remained silent throughout.

"Leon, Gwaine, we are an hour's ride away. I must speak to you both now before we arrive back."

All three dismounted from their horses, the King motioned to the cousins to sit down on a nearby log, while a pouch was passed around.

"Recent events as you know have impacted on my Kingdom considerably. And I assure you both they have impacted me personally. While I cannot do everything you no doubt wish me to do, there are some things, I do have the power to change."

"First, Leon you are fully legitimized. As the only son of my brother you are his heir and will be made a full Duke. Secondly, as I now have no heir, my titles would have passed to my brother. However, now he has passed that duty and honour also falls to you."

King Garratt turned to Gwaine, "Gwaine, I am sorry, I am sure you thought you were going to be heir, however the law is the law."

Gwaine laughed, "I'm pretty pleased actually. Being King is not for me."

Leon suddenly realised what Merlin had felt when he was being told about destiny, "And what is to say it is for me? Do I not have a say in this?"

"You doubt you can do it nephew?"

Leon coughed, "I have been through a lot these past few months, I hardly think I am in a fit state to become your heir."

"Nonsense, what does not kill you makes you stronger. A bard told me that once. Besides you are Merlin's heir also."

The King raised his right hand, "Before you say anything, let me finish. I know that you both have had a terrible loss in Merlin. I have already made provisions for his mother to be under my protection and I will put the full power of my Kingdoms and that of my late wife's to that protection. I have no intention of allowing either of you or Thomas or Henry to come to harm."

"Second to that, I also pledge that I will do everything possible to ensure that your former Prince Arthur survives. I do not have the gift, or curse of Magic that you both do. There is much you can learn from Elizabeth's old texts and from the Dragon. Now I do not know what the future holds for you or for Arthur but know this, I would rather die than see Morgause or Morgana succeed. I do not think that you can get the people to remember, but that does not mean to say that you should give up hope."

"Give up hope?"

"Yes, Gwaine, hope."

Gwaine's mind was racing, was it coincidence? "The Dragon said something about Hope?"
"Did he? I doubt that beast knows the meaning of the word."

"No your majesty, he did. I was talking about helping Arthur and he said he could only be restored with Magic, Courage, Wisdom and Hope."

The King was interested, "go on"

"Well, I said I had no Hope and he said that Hope was a funny thing and that it-"

Leon was now interested too, "What Gwaine, what is it."

Gwaine looked at them both, hoping they could help decipher the meaning. "He said that Hope, that Hope springs eternal."

"Are you sure nephew, that Killgarrah of all people said that?"

"Definitely Uncle."

Garratt chuckled, "Well, well, isn't he just full of surprises." Looking at his nephews it was clear to him that they were going to need some help understanding, both looked confused. "Both of you stop looking like someone has slapped you around the face and pay attention. I know what the meaning is behind the Dragon's latest bout of riddles."

"What is it?"

"Leon, if I have this right, and I think I do then he is talking about what you, Gwaine, indeed all of us would lay down our lives for. The restoration of Merlin and of Arthur."

Neither noble spoke, both were trying to get their brains into gear, just how was Merlin going to be brought back? And Arthur?

"I am sure both of you have questions for me; however, I need something from the vaults before I can confirm this for certain. I purpose I will meet you both at midnight in my chambers. We will not be disturbed."

"We should bring Thomas too. And send word to Henry. "

"I'm sorry Gwaine but the less people know the better."

"But they are my brothers! And you promised things would be different. There can be no more secrets."

The King snapped back into his old voice immediately. "I will determine what secrets there cannot and can be. I am still King. And this is for Merlin's safety. I will not put my Grandson at risk!"

Leon decided he needed to make a stand here, "I do not agree with you, your majesty. And I will point out that I am your heir now."

The cold Kingly voice remained, "That you may be but you have to see that your brother's safety comes first. What if Morgause or Morgana get a whiff of the return of Emrys? Remember every Kingdom thinks this great Wizard has died. And it is not as if I can announce the return of my Grandson, it will be most suspicious. "

Leon did not look convinced, nor did Gwaine, Garratt did not care, he was right, "Both of you, you have got to understand that I also have to concoct a plausible story as to why Leon here has returned from the dead. The fewer the people who know the truth, the bigger the chance a story can hold."

"You have a point." Leon turned to Gwaine, "I mean technically I died. I come back to life and word will get out to Morgana and Morgause. Then how do we explain that? Gwaine? Gwaine? Are you listening to me?"

Gwaine nodded, "Sorry Leon, I just, how on earth are we going to announce we are back? I told them that you had died defending your lands. Lancelot is now in charge there. I managed to get Arthur over here as my servant. If you reappear everything goes wrong."

The King smiled at them both, "And now you both realize, the difficult decisions you have to make as a King. There are ways around this but it requires a story, one that must spread throughout the Kingdom. Leon's appearance must change, as must his name."

"Oh don't look so perplexed you two, both of you have magic. I am sure combined with the Dragon you can work something out."

Leon had a realisation, "Merlin did tell me he used it to change into an old man. Gwaine remember that doddering sorcerer, Dragoon? Well that was Merlin. Dragoon the Great." Leon laughed, "Original was it not?"

Gwaine laughed, it was good to think about Merlin in this way. "Very. Typical Merlin."

The King there and then that he had them both where he wanted them, "So, you see, you are already thinking of ways this can be done. Now, for the back story. As you both know there has been some scandal within the family. It will not be difficult to have Leon as a long lost nephew that should satisfy. Even Agravaine does not know how many children have come about from all this mess. The other thing is that to legally be heir and for that legality not to be questioned when the truth wills out on day, you must have a link to your new identity."

"Leon, do you have a middle name?"

"Yes, it is Kay."

"Well, the matter is settled then. Leon will you please kneel down in front of me?"

Leon knelt; he was not sure where this was going.

"Lord Leon, do you accept my offer to become heir to the thrones of Munster, Ulster and Kerry. Do you swear to protect the lands?"

"I so do."

"Do you swear loyalty to the King? Do you swear that you will lead the Knights of the Realm faithfully and enforce the Knights code?"

"I so do."

"Then I name you my heir. I am bestowing upon you the Dukedom of Leinster. Arise, Duke Kay of Leinster, the heir to the thrones of Munster, Ulster and Kerry."

Gwaine did a mock bow at Leon; in fact it was a smug bow. "Your Grace, I think tonight requires ale to celebrate."

"Gwaine I thought you had given up drinking?"

"I had your Majesty, especially as I thought I was your heir, but now that Kay here has that privilege, I can hardly not celebrate his elevation can I?"

"Fine, fine, I suppose it is good practice."

"Practice for what your Majesty?"

"For tomorrow, Leon, sorry Kay. Tomorrow I will have to throw a feast for my long lost nephew. And then there is the official crowning ceremony. It is not becoming to be made Crown Prince in a forest clearing."

"Excellent idea your Majesty. And of course Duke Kay will need to be introduced to his Knights. Who will no doubt wish to bond with him?"

Garratt smiled at Gwaine, "Earl Gwaine, I am impressed you show you have learnt much. Kay must bond with the Knights, it is very important. That will require some training exercises, a few hunts and of course, Knights and their leader must bond over tales over a banquet or two."

"And Duke Kay has magical abilities; he is going to need to learn how to use them properly."

The King twisted his lips into a full on smirk "Indeed, indeed he shall."

"Are you both finished with your suggestions?"

Leon glared at Gwaine, who was also smirking.

"Earl Gwaine, I do not know why you are smirking, your magical abilities are going to be tested too. His Grace here will need assistance. Both of you will receive instruction from a very wise magical user?"

The cousins said in unison, "Who?"

"Why, Killgarrah of course." Both groaned.

"Now, do not be like that. I am sure you both will enjoy the experience. Let's get him here and let him know."

Garratt looked at Leon, "Kay that means you, go on, call him."

Leon glared at him. "Fine. I'm doing this for the good of the Kingdom and it is what Merlin would want."

Minutes later a very pleased Dragon arrived.

"Why Duke Kay, it is good to see you. And you too Earl Gwaine. I suppose the King here wishes for you to master your arts?"

'Yes."

"Oh no don't sound like that your Grace, this will be good for you both."

"I don't see how?"

"He who cannot see will remain blind. He who opens his eyes can see."

"Clear as usual Dragon."

"Let me be clear then." Then cocking his head and smiling, "Just this once mind."

"Kay, Gwaine you shall both have your eyes opened. For with open eyes you will see what must be done and can be. That Hope springs eternal. That prophecy can often be incomplete. That Magic can be a force for good. And can be restored."

Leon's heart was beating loudly. He swore the others could hear it.

"You mean? You mean?"

"Correct."

Gwaine was not getting this; Killgarrah was still talking in riddles as far as he could see.

"Correct? Correct what?"

"I said this would be a one off and so it shall be. The King was right for once and Merlin was wrong. Magic can and must be restored. It will take its rightful place. All things must come to pass and the evil that has taken the land of Albion will be lifted. Magic will run free. It cannot be stopped. For Wisdom is handed down through the centuries, Courage can be developed, one can build up Strength. And Hope, yes Hope, Hope is for all humanity. And where there is Hope, there is a way."

"Do not get over confident. There is much to be done. And foes you do not let know the full nature of. But let me assure you that these words are true. Gwaine, your gift of being a Seer will grow, Kay you have been told in your sleep that the King of a Hundred Knights shall rise and all of Albion will feel his wrath. The next few years will be dreadful; I can promise you that evil will show no mercy. But let me also promise you this, with every breadth of my being Merlin shall return and Arthur will have his rightful place restored to him. I cannot tell you everything, for I cannot see it myself and the journey will be long. But never give up."

"And never again lose Hope."

The Dragon turned to the King, nodded and flew off, leaving behind a bewildered but happy trio of men.

Chapter Text

The rest of the ride back to Castle Desmond was strangely in silence. Leon was trying to contemplate his new responsibilities. In all of his life he never expected to be named heir to a throne and a Crown Prince. He remembered his recent thoughts of one day having a normal life, where he was a Knight and nothing more. He would spend time with his brother and fellow knights, settle down and raise a family. Now he was expected to lead Knights, not that he could not of course. Arthur had essentially made him his number two. Leon had enough confidence that he was a skilled fighter and a good leader. The challenge for him was what was he supposed to do now? The Dragon was quite clear that Merlin could come back but had been short as usual on the detail.

'Just how was Merlin going to come back?' The Duke, for that was his latest title thought. He had come back after a sacrifice? Is that what was needed? If so who on earth was going to be scarified? He was pretty confident that to get someone as powerful as Merlin back would involve something special. Also, Freya did not seem as vicious and evil as the Cailleach. So what exactly was needed?

'So many questions' the Duke thought. And he had to get used to a new name. Surely they would slip up at some point? Could the King really pull off this latest lie?

Leon wished Merlin was there, right beside him, helping him, listening to him. He would give up his new titles in an instant if that meant a return of his brother. He waged though that it would not be that easy. His thoughts were interrupted as usual by his loud cousin.

"Almost here, your Grace."

"Gwaine if it is all the same to you, I'd rather you did not use my title in the same way that you used to mock Prince Arthur."

"Of course. Anything for his Grace, your Grace."

"Gwaine. If you do not stop I will put you in the stocks."

"Oh, you see that your Majesty, power has gone right to his head!"

"If you both do not pack it in this instant, both of you will be in the stocks". The King shot them both a smile. He really was beginning to grow rather fond of Leon and was rediscovering why Gwaine had been his favourite nephew until his difficult phase.

Both nephews shot a smile back and then continued their bickering.

"See your Grace, his majesty here does not condone your behaviour."

"My behaviour? What about yours. You are hardly setting a good example Earl Gwaine."

"And your Grace is hardly being Gracious."

Garratt thought it was better for the two of them to be light of heart than to focus on the challenge that awaited them. The King knew that in order for Merlin to come back, sacrifices would have to made and that secrets he had hoped to take to his grave would have to be revealed. It was not as if there was anything scandalous, they had got everything relating to their family out in the open and for that he was glad. It was more that he did not want Merlin, if they managed to pull off his return to be angry when he knew of the price paid. The King was pretty confident that his Grandson was clever enough to realize what was required. He had pressed Leon for information and was sure that Merlin knew more than he had been letting on. No one got to be that powerful without knowing some of the secrets of magic.

The King was determined that from here on in everything would go as he wished it to be. Leon would make an excellent heir and Gwaine was growing in statute. His brothers would also be given more to do. He had learnt the hard way that too much power and secrets in the hands of one or two people could cause immeasurable damage. Never again would his Kingdoms be risked in the way that they were.

Garratt stopped his horse. "Gentlemen, we are here. Kay, you had best stay here. Gwaine and I will ride in and then Gwaine you must come back out here. Do not forget a cape, Kay here must enter wearing my crest. You will also need the spell needed to change your appearance. You had best communicate with Killgarrah, I am sure he can assist."

Leon waited for the return of Gwaine; he should have known that his cousin would turn up late. He said he would only be a few minutes. It had felt like hours. Gwaine of course had come bundling back with a cape and with a mask "in case their magic did not work." Leon tutted and then reached for the Dragon.

"Well your Grace, I am not at your beck and call all the time you know, but yes I will come and help you."

After the Dragon arrived, this time as a small lizard again because a great fire breathing beast near the Castle would have caused panic, Gwaine and Leon were reciting words they did not understand. Leon felt faint before collapsing into the arms of his cousin. Moments later he rebounded out of Gwaine's arms.

"How do I look?"

"Very Gracious."

"Honestly Gwaine, what do I look like?"

Gwaine was not sure what to say. If people did not think Leon was Merlin's brother, he certainly was now. Gone had the blonde curls, replaced with short black hair. The Earl told Leon that he had got taller, slimmer too. It was almost like looking at an older version of Merlin, just without one key feature.

"You look like Merlin. Just without the ears."

"Are you being serious?"

"If your Grace does not believe me then go and look in a pool of water."

Leon looked around for the nearest puddle, none was forthcoming. He cursed to himself, then he saw that a pool of water did appear.

"Gwaine did you do that?"

"No, I think you did."

"So this magic reacts to my thoughts. Interesting."

"Go and look then."

Leon walked over to the pool of water, Gwaine was right he did look a bit like Merlin, though not as much as he had made out. The hair was similar as were the eyes. The ears were definitely a lot smaller. And he was nowhere near as skinny. In fact he looked a cross between Gwaine and Merlin. His stubble had changed colour. He looked every inch the noble he thought.

"I am not like Merlin. For a start I do not look half starved."

"I know. You look slightly like me at an angle."

"Yes, I appear to be a cross breed of you and Merlin, as if I was your child or something." Leon then blushed, "Not that you and Merlin would have children. Gwaine do not even think about attempting that."

"Of course not your Grace, that would be most ungracious."

"Actually, it is Kay. Remember?"

"Fine, Kay then." Gwaine smiled at his new cousin. "Well Kay, best come and meet your adoring public then. Not every day Castle Desmond welcomes a long lost Duke!"

"GWAINE"

Gwaine walked up to Leon and threw his arms over his shoulders. "Look Leon, you have to let me have my fun. I do not see why you are like this though. It will all be fine."

"I've heard that before Gwaine."

"I know. And I know you are missing Merlin, I am too. But Killgarrah was clear. He will return. " He pulled Leon in for a proper hug, "Now cousin, I'm right behind you remember, let's go and face destiny eh?"

Leon could not help but think that Gwaine was performing the role he did with Merlin, being by his side, reassuring him. He never thought he would be so grateful for his company.

"Yes yes, unhand me. Duke's cannot be man handled in public."

"Of course. What would the court say?"

"The court would say once a drunkard, always a drunkard."

Killgarrah could not resist, "The court will also say that Dragons should be treated with respect and fear, not to be called at all hours."

It was Gwaine who helpfully pointed out to Killgarrah that Duke Kay was the new Merlin and therefore Killgarrah had to obey him. Killgarrah pointed out that Merlin got the power from his father not his mother and therefore the power defaulted to someone else in the family.

"Gwaine, I think the Dragon wants you as his next Lord."

"Your Grace and the Dragon both forget that you are also my cousin and the son of the late Duke, therefore the power, if not with Merlin and not with his Grandfather would then pass along and you're the oldest."

"Trust the drunkard to become knowledgeable", Killgarrah scowled.

"So as your Dragon Lord Killgarrah, I want you to help train Gwaine and I, we need to use our abilities."

"I consent."

Leon beamed, "Good, now if you do not mind, I have to go and present myself at court as the latest long lost relative of the great King Garratt."

"Then your Grace, I have one last task to perform. Years ago Merlin learnt how to falsify documents, he did this to help Lancelot try and get a Knighthood the first time round. That spell is something I am aware of too. Repeat after me once more."

Armed with his documents and sporting a very impressive cape, Leon was ready to face the court once more.

Riding through the lower town, Leon was reminded of his original entrance with Merlin. So much had happened in a short space of time that it had been difficult to keep up. He had changed his name his appearance, his whole life taken apart and put back together. Leon thought it was worth it though, worth it if after all this pain and anguish that Merlin would be back restored and that finally they could get on with their original purpose, the overthrow of Morgana and Arthur back where he belonged.

Leon was not so naïve to think that their lives would all be fixed in a week. For a start getting Merlin out of a lake was not going to be easy. Nor would getting Arthur and Merlin to discuss their true feelings for each other. And that was not a conversation Leon wanted them to have. Yes he wanted his brother happy but happiness with Arthur had not been found yet and there were many who would try and stop them. What of their two courts? Rivals could sometime become allies but asking the people of the 3 Kingdoms Merlin would one day lead to accept their King was in love with the King of a Kingdom the people have been taught to hate was little more than asking for a miracle. That and asking the two courts to accept that they would have Two Kings, not a King and Queen.

It was not as if Leon had an issue with two men having a relationship. It was not unheard of for the Knights when they were away from home to find solace. That was different from two royals. Two royals who had not managed to sort themselves out before. Two royals who included a very powerful magic user and a Prince who by all accounts was madly in love with the servant girl. Now he was annoyed with himself for over anaylsing when he should be focusing on the here and now.

"We are here Kay."

"Thank you Earl Gwaine. I presume the King has been informed of my arrival?"

"Indeed he is waiting for you now."

Leon smiled at his cousin, "Best not leave him waiting, it has been a while."

Chapter Text

The King had had the foresight not to have the whole court waiting for him but rather just Thomas, Henry still was in Ulster. Lying to his cousin was not something that sat well with him but he understood the reasons why. It has been a challenge but they seemed convinced that Kay was the other son of the late Duke of Leinster who had sadly just died.

Thomas in particular had been very understanding at the shock Kay displayed when told that his father had died. Kay explained that he had never really had much to do with father (which was true). The man channelled how he felt with the loss of Merlin when the King revealed that Kay had not been the only relative to recently reappear and had explained briefly the recent losses, there was also a brief mention of two pretenders but no further details were forthcoming. The Court historian had been summoned so Kay could submit his documents and his seal for verification. So far, the lie was holding.

Citing a long journey, Kay had excused himself and was shown his chambers by Michael, Merlin's assigned servant. Thankfully he was in his old chambers rather than being out in Merlin's. It felt odd to be back in this room, especially without his brother. He laid down on his bed only to be disturbed by knocking, sighing, for only one person would knock now, he climbed off his bed and opened the door.

"Earl Gwaine."

"Duke Kay."

Leon stared at him, he was tired and as much as he loved talking with his cousin he could do without further talking this evening.

"Is your Grace going to let me in or stand there staring at me?"

"If you must."

"I think that would be wise. We have much to discuss."

"Surely it can wait until tomorrow Gwaine, I am very tired."

"Oh it could do, but then how are we supposed to hone our gifts?"

'So', Leon thought, 'Gwaine was not hear just to get drunk but to work with him. He really had changed'. "You had best come in then."

"Great, and I've arranged for some refreshments to arrive." Gwaine smiled as Leon pulled a disapproving face at him, "Oh keep your knickers on your Grace, just some meat, bread and a small jug of ale. I don't think magic and alcohol mix. Well, they never did with Merlin."

Leon laughed, "No but that did not stop him trying to prove us wrong." Then staring at Gwaine. "Do you know how to do, you know", Leon was waving his arms in the air.

"A little. I mean you are the one who used it against Nimueh. I guess though that was a reflex because Merlin was under threat."

"That's what I have thought, that it only works in relation to Merlin. Yet the King implied we should practice, and I did manage to call a Dragon…." Leon trailed off in thoughts, just where on earth would they begin?

Gwaine had sensed the nerves radiating off of his cousin. Usually Leon was cool, calm and collected. "Leon, it will be fine. You need to stop over thinking. When I first started messing about I tried moving objects off of a table. We could try that?"

"What sort of thing can we move?"

"Why not try and move the jug, make it float."

"I do not know how."

"Ah, well I know a few basic spells. Repeat after me Bogadh crúiscín, snámh, ardú agus ansin caith tú féin ag Leon."

Leon saw the jug, saw it float, it was calm, definitely magical. The jug moved towards him. And then promptly threw its contents at him. Leon jumped, his chair moved and he ended up on the floor. He peered up to see Gwaine grinning like a madman.

"Oh very funny."

Gwaine chuckled, "Yes, it most certainly is. Now does your Grace wish to stay down there?"

Leon thought two could play at this game. He crawled out of his chair, hair dripping wet. He shook it, droplets flying in all directions and then barked "Pláta, bain", waving his arm at Gwaine, who was whacked in the face by the plate of food, resting on the table.

"That was not very gracious was it? And where did you learn that, I thought you did not know what you were doing?"

"Oh I do not, not really. Merlin taught me the odd small spell while I was in the Lake with him. Nothing major. Certainly nothing to help us with our quest."

Gwaine took that to be his cue to be more serious. "Leon what do you think our quest is exactly?"

"Well that is simple to work out. Even you could see it."

"I know it has something to do with Merlin and Arthur?" he offered.

"Which means Gwaine that you and I are going to have to learn about Necromancy. The blackest and mostly difficult of all magic according to Merlin."

"Necromancy?"

"Yes, the art of raising someone from the Dead. And it has challenges, if the spell is not conducted properly there can be many unintended consequences."

Gwaine did not like the sound of this, he had seen the results with the Dorcha."Is that wise? Look at what Morgana and Morgause did. We had spirits everywhere."

"Oddly I do not think it is the same thing because we are bringing a warlock back. Merlin was very cagey and insistent he could never return but the King seems so sure. Also Arthur if you remember does not know who he is. He is alive. I think that makes some difference. Well I hope it does."

Leon then realise he had not asked about his Prince, how selfish was he?

"I am sorry Gwaine, I have not asked. What has it been like, you know, looking after Arthur?"

Did Leon really want to do this now? "Hard to explain, let's talk about it tomorrow."

"You are the one who came in here Gwaine. So I want to know now. Come on."

"He is still our Prince. I mean he does not act like a Princess anymore but it is him. He is still Arthur inside. He is loyal, he is very good with a sword and he has an energy about him. And he." Gwaine stopped before he could babble on.

"And he? And he what Gwaine?"

"It is nothing."

"Oh come on you can tell me."

Gwaine fell silent.

"Gwaine, I do outrank you and tomorrow I am going to be Crown Prince."

"I never had you as one for titles Leon." Gwaine smiled.

"Says the man calling me your Grace every two seconds."

The Earl laughed, "That's to make sure it does not go to your head."

By now both had recovered and were sat by the table.

"Tell me."

"I wish I had a drink for this."

Leon laughed at Gwaine. This felt good, that despite the titles and the life changing experience they were still friends first and foremost. "I know that spell. I made Merlin tell me it very early on."

"Why?"

"I don't know. I guess it was destiny?"

Both were laughing hard. Then Gwaine stopped, his cup was refilled. Gulping down the ale he looked at Leon, thinking do not, do not go off on one now and said "Arthur acts oddly around me. Sometimes I catch him staring at me when he is dressing me. Or when we are hunting. He licks his lips"

Leon was not expecting this. "Are you trying to tell me that Arthur of all people has a crush on you?" Then realizing Gwaine's previous ways, "Please tell me you have not despoiled the Prince!"

"What do you take me for?"

"You slept with my brother Gwaine, anything is possible."

"Are you never going to let me forget about that?"

"Unlikely, he is my little brother."

Gwaine did not have time for this. "And in case you did not notice, he is a grown man, a powerful sorcerer and if he comes back he will be King one day. You cannot, and I will not allow you to continue to give me grief over what happened. It was consensual. Whether you like it or not Leon, Merlin sought comfort in my arms."

"What happened?"

Gwaine's eyes almost fell out of their sockets.

"No, I do not want those sort of details Gwaine, but why he was so upset."

"I do not know. This is the truth. All I know is him and Arthur had a fight and Arthur was being worse than usual. I told Merlin that Arthur was jealous of him. Jealous of him spending time with you and me."

"Hold there! It is not my doing that he fell into your arms."

Gwaine sighed; Leon really was going to be the most overprotective brother for all eternity. "What I meant was is that Arthur was jealous of Merlin having other friends."

A realization hit Leon. "So that is why Arthur was so funny with me. He thought I was taking Merlin away from him."

"Leon, Arthur was driving Merlin away. He was listening to Agravaine more and seeing Gwen more. Merlin was being pushed out. You saw what he was like. He looked."

"Heartbroken."

"Exactly Leon. He was heartbroken. I am not sure how to tell you this but Merlin and Arthur, well I think the feeling was mutual. Deep down. I am sorry Leon but if they do come back then I am afraid that there is a decent chance that Merlin and Arthur will finally realize that they are meant to be."

Leon never thought it was his place to gossip, certainly not about Merlin but Gwaine had worked some of it out separately. Which meant that there was a good chance that what he had thought deep down could actually be possible. The Dragon had mentioned about Hope and the King was adamant that that meant something.

With a clarity he was grateful for he said, "Gwaine, I know. I know how to get Merlin back and for Arthur to be restored."

"Lancelot. Lancelot liked Gwen. I know that may sound a shock but she liked him. I was there when they first met. Merlin confided in me that he was worried about Arthur. I saw their attraction myself. Then he left and she and Arthur fell for each other. Yet after Lancelot returned, Arthur grew more irritable remember the training?"

"Gwen was talking to Lancelot more and Merlin was with us more. Little wonder Arthur worked us extra hard." Gwaine then realized something, "Leon, remember the passing of Lancelot. Who was there out in the courtyard on their own?"

"Gwen was. Merlin told me. He said that Arthur barely spoke to him for the next day."

Gwaine was puzzled, "So Gwen and Lancelot could have happened. Arthur picked up on something and reacted by punishing Merlin. I do not see how that brings them both back."

"Think Gwaine. think hard about it."

The Earl could not say he was a deep thinker. He was not stupid. He had managed to live under the radar in Camelot. He had had the sense to pick up on the fact that he had some magical powers but he just could not see what Lancelot and Gwen had to do with Arthur. The spell could only be lifted when Arthur kissed his true love. The Dragon and the King had also been clear that magic would only be restored when there was strength, wisdom and Hope and yet that was not enough as it needed courage to survive.

"Leon, the Dragon and our Uncle have spoken about Magic being restored. I am sure that I am Strength and you are Wisdom. Apparently Hope is required and it springs enteral. Now to me that means Hope cannot die, you know like enteral life."

Leon nodded, "So who do we have that has come back from the dead?"

"You, possibly Merlin, Morgause."

"And?"

"Lancelot! He came back!" Gwaine felt the pieces where falling into piece, like a veil of darkness had been lifted. "Lancelot and you, you both came back. So I am guessing you are both needed to bring Merlin back. I am needed as I am Strength, the keeper of the Bridge had called me that. This means, no, surely not?"

"Surely not what Gwaine, you are almost there."

"Arthur is courage. I knew that but I did not see how he could be involved with him having no memory. Especially as he could only be brought back by the kiss of his true love. But Gwen loves Lancelot and Arthur clearly reacted to their closeness. We both now realize that."

Leon was showing remarkable patience but one more half pronouncement from Gwaine and he was going to call down the Dragon and let him do it.

"Yes. Gwen is in love with Lancelot. Arthur reacted. He punished the Knights and Merlin."

Now the veil was fully lifted. "Leon, he punished the people he loved. He loves us. He loves Merlin. He loves Merlin. Leon he loves Merlin!"

"Yes I know, Merlin told me how they ended up being spilt up. Arthur and he confessed their feelings and then Arthur saw him levitating in the night. He accused Merlin of bewitching him and banished him. What Merlin did not see is that Arthur came back for him. It was the Lady of the Lake who filled us in. Honestly Gwaine, she said that there was much to discuss and that was her opening part."

"If Arthur and Merlin are in love and therefore Merlin is his true love and not Gwen, that still does not help get Merlin back. Arthur can only help if he knows who he is."

"He does not need to help bring him back. Remember what the King said. Magic can be restored with Strength, Wisdom and Hope. It can be sustained by Courage. We, you, me and Lancelot have to bring him back. Then it's up to Arthur and Merlin to go that next step."

Gwaine smirked, "I never thought you would be a matchmaker for Merlin Leon, thought you would want him locked in a basement at night."

Leon thought Gwaine knew where to needle him. "I would rather he was single, but I will not deny his heart or his true love. And you had better not either. I have told you this for two reasons, one because we need help bringing my brother back and second of all, if you so much as look at my future brother in law funnily, I will run you through."

"You honestly think that Arthur is going to fall in love with Merlin, stay with him once he knows about his magic and his family? Do you not think that he will over react, he will see betrayal once more and he will not be able to handle the fact that his servant, his friend, his actual love is the most powerful sorcerer of all time and a King of a Kingdom bigger than his?"

Leon went silent. Gwaine was right. This was not going to be easy but they have to try. "I know all of that Gwaine but I want Merlin back."

"So do I Leon. It sounds to me like we need to focus on Lancelot first and getting him to the lake with us. I am not sure how we do that with you dead."

"I am not dead now. I am Duke Kay."

Now it was Leon's turn not to get it. "What do you think Agravaine is going to say when a Duke from his old enemies arrives in Ealdor? Or Morgana and Morgause for example. You can hardly turn up there without going to Camelot. "

"You can go though, you are their ally."

"I may be but I vowed to stay away and to also have their prisoner, Arthur under my care. He is not meant to be out of my sight. They are not going to let me take him with me to Ealdor where he can meet Gwen are they?"

Leon looked as if he was going to say something, then his head dropped. He stared at the table and shook his head. "No they will not."

"This will not be easy Leon. Do not get your hopes up."

The Duke perked up, looking at Gwaine, "Hope springs eternal. That is what the Dragon said is it not."

Gwaine nodded.

"Then we need Lancelot. The Dragon has told us. So the Dragon must know the answer."

To a passer by the two men in cloaks looked like Druids, or beggars as they walked through the Castle and then over the drawbridge and through the town. Not wanting to cause a scene, the horses were left behind. Once the Castle was in the distance, away from the last time he saw the Dragon as oddly he thought this needed the beast at full height, Leon called, calling out with a deep voice he did not know he really had.

"Ó Dragon, eitilt chun dom, teacht chugam. Ó Dragon do súil a chur chun earrach enternal mór duit treoir a thabhairt dúinn."

Chapter Text

The Dragon looked angry. Leon thought it usually looked displeased but this time it really was angry. As soon as Killgarrah had landed he had breathed smoke out of his nose.

"I am not at your beck and call Duke Kay. I do have a life you know."

"I am your Dragonlord?"

Killgarrah snapped, "Only temporary and believe you me that can be changed. I have told you before that you just cannot summon me when you feel like it. In case you did not notice, we have several situations on our hands and I cannot be in two places at once."

'Reasonable', Leon thought.

The Dragon stared at them both. "I am waiting for the reason why you called me yet again."

"His Grace thinks he knows how to bring Merlin back."

Killgarrah's head titled, "Oh really? Care to explain then?"

Leon spoke, "You said Hope springs eternal?"

"So I recall."

"Lancelot is Hope is he not?"

"Correct."

"So we need Lancelot here in order to bring Merlin back."

The Dragon was in the mood to play games; being called at this ungodly hour gave him the justification to string this out as long as possible.

"And what else?"

Leon had not picked up on the game playing but Gwaine had. "We are going to need to use magic, magic which with we are not skilled in yet."

"Indeed."

"Will you help Gwaine and I? Help us bring Merlin back?" Leon said.

"Of course. But do not think it is easy. How exactly are you going to get Lancelot here?"

"We were hoping you knew the answer Killgarrah."

"Of course you did Duke Kay, of course you did. But will you like the answer that is the question?"

"Whatever it is, whatever price we need to pay, we shall pay it if it brings my brother back."

"Very well. It is late and I wish to be elsewhere. I suggest we discuss after your crowning ceremony tomorrow."

"No, no I need to know now Killgarrah. I order you to tell me."

Killgarrah chuckled, "You are certainly Merlin's brother. You are adopting the same tone of voice as he did. I do advise you though that what I am about to reveal to you will cause you concern and I do not believe it is a good idea for you to be distracted during your tasks tomorrow."

Leon nodded "Yet I will be distracted anyway by not knowing."

The Dragon sighed, "It appears I have no choice but to tell you. First you both need to understand that you do not possess the power yet to bring about the start of what is required. This is going to take time. If you think that Merlin is going to appear tomorrow morning you are mistaken. The process will involve you both learning much but even then your magical abilities are not enough on their own."

"I suggest you sit down on that log over there."

Both men did exactly that. "Please Killgarrah continue, Leon and I are ready."

"As you have correctly deduced you need Lancelot. Lancelot does not have magic and even if he did, it is not his magical abilities that are required. You need his blood."

Leon's eyebrows shot up, Gwaine just stared into space.

"Do not fear, you do not need to kill him. He has come back and that would not be easy to do. You need to draw his blood from him, for it will be one of the ingredients used in a cup."

Leon interjected, "The cup of life."

"Incorrect. His blood must be placed in one of the thirteen treasures of the British Isles. The Horn of Bran Galed from the North has many properties but one of them is whatever drink might be wishes for is found in it. In order for Merlin to find the Hope he needs, the blood of Hope must be in the Horn."

"Where is the horn?" Gwaine had never heard of such a horn before.

"I am glad you asked. It is here. In fact it is in King Garratt's dungeon along with several other treasurers that are going to be required."

Leon was becoming more confident, "So all we need to do is bleed Lancelot in his sleep, fill up the horn and get to the Lake."

"Not so fast, Duke Kay. You think just giving Merlin some blood from a Knight is going to solve everything? Merlin still needs to get out of the Lake."

"But Freya, I mean the Lady of the Lake, she is not the Cailleach, I met her."

"That she is not. But the rules of magic are clear, a life for a life."

"I will lay down my life for him." Leon said without a moment's thought and of course Gwaine responded too,"So will I."

Killgarrah shook his head, "Neither of you are worthy enough."

"But I am his brother!" "And I am his cousin."

"Be that as it may, neither of you are a King. It is written that such a powerful magic user can only be brought back by the death of a King. Not only a usual King. A King that must be killed using a sword sired in the breadth of a Dragon."

"Excalibur, Excalibur, Merlin told me about the sword" Leon said.

"No, not Excalibur for only one man can wield that sword. No, another sword, the sword must then be sharpened on the whetstone of Tudwal Tudglyd. For if a brave man sharpened his sword on the whetstone then it will kill any man from whom it drew blood. If the man was a coward it would draw no blood at all."

Gwaine nodded, "Courage. Arthur needs to sharpen the sword. I guess the sword needs be made by one pure of heart?"

Killgarrah smiled, Gwaine was no fool. "Yes, I wonder where one could find someone who can make a sword and be pure of heart? Perhaps there is someone who is living with a hopeful Knight?"

Leon was beginning to catch up. "Can I just make this clear? We need to get Gwen to make a sword which is forged in your breadth, the sword then needs to be sharpened by Arthur. The sword can then be used to kill my uncle who by laying down his life will bring Merlin back. Merlin then needs to drink out of a Horn that has Lancelot's blood in it. All of this will bring my brother back."

"Yet."

"Yet Killgarrah that is only the start. Somehow we need to get Merlin and Arthur together and they must fall in love. The spell can then break."

"Correct Duke Kay. Also you cannot use any love spells to make them fall in love. It must be natural."

"Leon, this is asking a lot. We do not even know if our Uncle will agree."

"Oh he will agree alright."

Both turned around to see the King standing there.

Leon and Gwaine were agog, open mouthed.

"Good to see you King Garratt."

"Likewise Great Dragon."

"How? How did we not see you?" Both said in unison.

"I'd like to know that answer too nephews. I fear for my Kingdom if I can creep up on you unnoticed."

Both men then realized what they had been discussing was massively inappropriate, namely the death of their Uncle, a King.

"Er, Sire, we are, we are sorry."

The King strangely smiled. "It is fine. Well, it is not fine that you were talking about my death. I could have you both hanged." Both men looked at each other and took one step back away from the King.

"Oddly though, I will not have you both hanged for breaking the law and predicting the death of a King. For I already know what is necessary and I am willing."

Neither cousin expected this development nor did they know what to say. Gwaine nudged Leon; Leon stared at him, what you want me to talk about it? He cleared his throat, "Your Majesty, we are truly sorry but did you just say you are willing to be killed?"

"This may surprise you, and for heaven's sake call me Uncle please, but I am well versed on what needs to be done. Do you think that all these years being married to a magic user meant I knew nothing? And what did you think is in the book of Kells? It may contain details on how warlocks can be killed but it also gives details on how they can be brought back. I told you before that there was the odd scroll in the vaults, well you shall need them."

The King seemed oddly at peace with the idea of dying and this did not sit right with Leon. "Uncle, are you sure? Did you hear the part about being killed by a sword?"

Garratt thought what was required was his most stern voice, when deployed he had seen grown men weep at his fury. "I did. I will not be dissuaded. I am the King. I make the laws. This is my realm and I decide its future, not you, not Gwaine, not the Dragon, not the Norsemen, not Nimueh and certainly not Uther's pathetic family and that includes the two witches. Am I clear? I am the Law."

Gwaine was taken back to being a teenager and hearing that tone of voice before. Leon had never heard anything quite like it. Even Uther when angry over magic did not sound like he controlled the world and that it would do his bidding.

The Dragon had though, "I have not heard that voice from you for over twenty years, King Garratt. Last time you spoke in such a tone you nearly caused a full scale war."

"Then you should be able to confirm to my nephews that I will brook no argument."

"Duke Kay, Earl Gwaine, there is not much I fear in the world. I have seen Kingdoms rise and fall. I have seen Kings felled by the hand of sorcerers. I can assure you that the King will not change his mind. The matter is settled."

"In that case then, Uncle, we will need your help with the other parts of the puzzle."

The King spoke softly. Odd Leon thought that he could switch so quickly. It was certainly a skill. "Kay, sorry, Leon, we are going to need to think this through. There has been enough revelation for one day and I am crowning you in the morning. It will not do to have you asleep at the ceremony will it? We can sort the rest out tomorrow. The main issue is getting to Ealdor. We will have to cook up a plan."

"Don't make me use that voice again. Now both of you, come on, in my Kingly wisdom, I brought a spare horse with me. I am sure you can share. "

As Leon and Gwaine mounted the horse, with Gwaine insisting he would ride, the King looked at the Dragon, "Oh Killgarrah, and one more thing. My nephew here is your Dragon Lord whether you like it or not. I suggest that you adopt a more positive tone when dealing with him. I am not dead yet."

Killgarrah roared with laughter as he flew off, "There is more chance of Earl Gwaine being celibate than a change in my tone."

"Hey!"

The King smirked at Gwaine, "Oh come on Gwaine, you spent your childhood chasing every girl that moved. I know about you and that serving Girl."

Leon's ears pricked up, "What serving girl?"

"Which serving Girl would have been more accurate, he certainly developed a taste for them. That was after his first love broke up with him. Terribly sad Kay."

"You have to tell me what happened with his first love!"

Gwaine groaned. "You see your cousin when he was thirteen took a shine to a serving girl called Clarice who worked in the Kitchens. She was ample in more than one way and she devoured him. He looked a mess afterwards, could barely walk. He sent her flowers and a sonnet. Quite the scholar really."

"What happened next, Uncle?"

"Gwaine went to her room, to declare his love. But his heart was shattered for she was with another. Elizabeth found him sobbing in a dark corner of the Castle. He did not eat for three days afterwards!"

Leon could not stop grinning or laughing. Gwaine went to elbow him but he ducked it.

"So then Uncle, the reason why Gwaine here is such a tart is because his heart was broken by one?"

"Exactly Kay, exactly. Now let's ride back to Castle Desmond before Gwaine starts crying over his love."

Earl Gwaine hated the world at right now. Revenge would be his and it would be itchy.

Chapter Text

When the party of three had arrived back at Castle Desmond, Duke Kay was escorted to his chambers by Michael, Merlin's former manservant. Michael had told the new Duke that recently there had been a spate of bad news and problems to befall the Kingdom and he was hopeful that the Duke's arrival meant a new era.

The Duke almost agreed with him but then remembered his disguise. He was grateful to find that he was in the same chamber as before and not his brothers. Despite the hour a light meal of bread, chicken and tomatoes was laid out for him as well as a goblet of mulled wine. Michael had gone about his duties efficiently and Duke Kay had instructed him that no one was to disturb him and that yes he could undress himself perfectly fine.

Leon did not realize how tired he was until he was eating at his table and was nodding off. He gulped his wine as he knew it would help him sleep. Moving to the bed he almost collapsed into it but had the good sense to undress first. Michael had been insistent that he could and should help but Leon felt having a manservant fuss over him would unnerve him, he did not want to think too much about Merlin unless absolutely necessary.

The latest batch of revelations that evening had not surprised Leon. On reflection it was painfully obvious that to get Merlin back a price would be paid. He was still surprised how easily it was for him to have returned and he had not needed to drink from a horn or drink someone's blood. It then dawned on him; he had drunk from a cup before, the cup of life. Did that mean he was immortal like the army that was raised? That certainly was a question for the Dragon or probably Merlin, whenever they got him back. He sighed, he wanted his mind to focus on the announcement tomorrow at court that he was going to be made heir to the thrones and there he was remembering Merlin. Still, he reasoned it showed that he wasn't about to become a self-obsessed prince and surely that was a good thing?

Leon was now lying in bed. Boy did he miss Merlin. He knew he would see him again one day but a small part of him died the day Merlin died and unless he came back, he may never recover. He rolled over on his side, looking out of the window; the new Duke knew that his life was never ever going to be simple. That was fine providing he felt there was a point to it, which at the moment there was. He did not want to be still having adventures as an old man but he chuckled to himself at the image of Merlin being an old wizard. He should have known Dragoon was Merlin all along. His eyes shut and he drifted off to sleep.

King Garratt had stayed up reading. Well, that was the excuse he had given himself and others but in reality he was working out the story to give his court tomorrow. Part of him did not like the idea of bare faced lying but he would protect his family at all costs. He had determined that after tonight that Duke Kay would have to be the second son of the former Duke of Leinster. That was a plausible tale; half of his family had had no morals when they were younger. He did not like the idea of legitimizing bastards but he had little choice. Duke Kay could no longer be his grandson as he needed that slot for the return of Merlin.

He laughed to himself, it was typical that after all this time, all this time of lies and half-truths that there he was concocting more tales. The sad thing was he knew his court would believe it and that he had enough gossips to ensure that the tale of Duke Kay swamped any murmurings about the previous two visitors, who would be seen as pretenders at best. One challenge would be when the story got over the sea to the lands of Albion. The King knew the answer to that was that Duke Kay would be the son of his brother and Cenred's mother, Matilda. That really would set the cat amongst the pigeons and make it easier for him to visit his family lands. He would need some very convincing evidence for this but was confident the Dragon could help conjure up the necessary documents. Of course Duke Kay would have been adopted and there paperwork confirming his lineage.

Agravaine would be fuming that Duke Kay had a claim on Escetia and was Cenred's secret half-brother. He would not be able to stop him visiting his former lands. Also for Morgana and Morgause it would be a shot across their bowels, there would be a rival for the lands that they have conquered. It would be far easier then to get the two of them to then agree to a marriage treaty. Also it had the benefit of being partly true. Leon was the son of Hunith after all; she could have been his wet nurse or something. The King was now beaming; he had found a plausible tale for Leon and a way to upset Agravaine in one go. Everyone knew that Matilda had not been a paragon of virtue so it would not be difficult to bring her into this, she had died of what some had charitably called "the lover's disease" or what Garratt had called the Tart's Cough. It was all too easy for people to think she had smuggled a child out of the castle after an illicit affair, especially as his brother had been known to have visited the lands before. Why he even had a ring of Matilda's in his dungeon that he could give to Leon.

Fresh from concocting the most outrageous but believable lie he had ever peddled, Garratt turned to the other pressing matter, his planned death. He was not scared of dying; he had lived a good life and was missing Elizabeth desperately despite her carping and general bossiness. He knew that Merlin was going to be apologetic and there was a decent chance his naïve Grandson would try and bring him back. He was going to have to tie up a few loses ends and quickly. Merlin, Leon, even the new and improved Gwaine deserved to know the backstory as to why the Norsemen had been attacking. Yes they knew that they were looking for a book but he hadn't told them that said book was safely in his dungeons along with several other magical artefacts that could never fall into the hands of the Norsemen or those two witches. His only regret from the path he was to follow was that he wouldn't see the sisters and Agravaine's faces. He had worked out exactly how Merlin could bring Arthur back, but that was for another day. Now, he knew he needed to sleep for he had to wake up early and start the rumour mill in earnest. By the time the sun set, he would have a new heir and maybe have accidentally ensured that some gossips got on their horses and straight for the lands over the sea.

His last thought was that he really would have to put on a show tomorrow, the bigger the lie, the bigger the pomp and ceremony. Leon was going to hate it. It meant waking at an obscene hour but it would be worth it.

Gwaine had collapsed onto his bed fully clothed. He didn't care. His mind was focused on the fact that now he knew Merlin was going to come back. He was very much looking forward to seeing his cousin and getting him and Arthur together, if only to stop the crazy desire he thought him and Arthur may share for each other. He then turned his thoughts to Leon; his cousin was full of surprises and was taking to his new Dukedom with ease. Gwaine wasn't stupid enough to think it would not have been easier if Merlin was here but for all he knew, Leon was coping fine. Has he closed his eyes, he reflected that Leon and Merlin had always had this unspoken bond and of course Leon was the first Knight to speak to Merlin. They made great brothers and he was pleased he now could have a relationship with his own kin again. It had been far too long. He began to dream of a hunt with his brothers and cousins and fell into a deep sleep.

Leon was woken by trumpets. Trumpets of all things. He jumped out of bed and called for Michael who came running in very quickly. "What the blazes is going on?"

"They are trumpets, your Grace."

"Yes Michael, I can see that, where are they? No, don't tell me they are outside!"

"Er, Your Grace, the trumpets are outside at the King's instructions."

Leon grimaced, "Oh really? Is there anything else outside? Dancing girls perhaps?"

"No your Grace, but there are two guards ready to escort you. The King has decreed you are to break your fast here and to then bathe and dress. He is expecting you in an hour."

"Then why are the trumpets starting now?"

"The King decreed they are to start at this hour. Your Grace, there are men blowing trumpets all over the Castle and the lower town as we speak. It is to signify the start of the parade."

"The parade?"

"Yes Sire, the King woke early and called together all the servants and Knights. He gave instructions that today would be a day of celebration and that every musician and minstrel within the Castle and the Lower Town should be summoned and told to perform from this hour."

"And pray, what exactly are they singing and performing about?"

"Why the stories of old of course. Of the Fitzgerald Family and of the Monkey stealing the Earl's baby and his refusal to be cow towed by evil."

"Please tell me there is no hat for me to wear."

Michael looked slightly crestfallen, "There is a hat for you to wear your Grace."

Leon rolled his eyes, "Why does that not surprise me? Right I had best eat and get dressed."

"I think that would be wise Sire, the King was adamant that you were to arrive on time."

Leon smiled sweetly, "Oh I bet he was. Michael would you please ask the Earl Gwaine to visit me at his earliest convenience." No point in letting Gwaine have a lie in if he was awake; mind you Leon thought the trumpets really were waking up the whole Castle.

Gwaine jumped out of bed to the sound of trumpets. He smiled; his Uncle really had decided to push the boat out. He bet himself that Leon was going to have to wear that bloody monkey hat. He also knew that the feast later would include the play about the monkey saving the Earl's baby and there would be several songs about the physical prowess of the Fitzgerald clan. Oh the irony Gwaine thought. If Duke Kay was really lucky he thought he would be spared dances with every available heiress but considering the King had clearly opted for the loudest possible demonstration of his Kingdom's might he knew what would happen. He perked up when he remember that such a large scale feast usually involved a hastily organized tourney. With a hundred Knights, Thomas, himself and the new Duke there was more than enough for a good display and he was going to embarrass the new Duke and win it.

He called for his manservant but was greeted by Michael. "Earl Gwaine, our new visitor, the Duke requests you visit him in his chambers."

"Of course he does. I suppose his Grace wanted me to go now?"

Michael nodded, "If that is convenient Sire."

Gwaine smiled, "Why of course, cannot keep our esteemed guest waiting can we?"

It took Gwaine all of ten minutes to get ready, a quick wash and change and he was ready to go. He knew he would have time to bathe properly later before the major proceedings started, besides he had an opportunity to wind up Leon that he was not going to miss out on.

He locked the door to his chambers and made his way to Leon's. Michael of course was waiting outside. "I shall inform your Grace that you are here."

Michael opened the door and was quickly informed by the Duke that he was not ready to receive the Earl yet and would he mind waiting a few minutes. Leon knew Gwaine would come bounding over, two could play at that game he thought, and he could wait.

Leon could not fail to hear the taping of Gwaine's boots outside his door. After a few minutes, he thought Gwaine would be stewing enough. "Michael send him in please."

Gwaine predictably bounded in and then bowed. "Good morning your Grace."

"Earl Gwaine, so pleased you could come. Leon gestured to his table, please sit. Would you like any refreshments? I fear I do not have enough. I only think it is proper we break our fast together."

Gwaine smiled sweetly and nodded, "Your Grace is too kind. I would like some liquid refreshment and to join you. Unfortunately I did not eat before I came over."

"I see. Clearly you were very keen to see me?"

Gwaine cocked his head, there was that smile again Leon thought, "Well your Grace asked to see me and I could not decline a request from our guest, could I? That would be most improper."

Leon smiled back. "Michael bring us a jug of something. Nothing strong mind and some more bread cheese and ham." He looked back at the Earl, "I trust Earl Gwaine that would be to your satisfaction, after all I have dragged you from your slumber."

"Your Grace is most gracious. That would be delightful." Leon thought Gwaine was too charming for his own good sometimes.

Both looked at each other, neither willing to break their new roles yet and move away from the politeness so silence fell until Michael returned with the food and drink and quickly left.

Gwaine took a swig of the watered down cider and after a chink of bread and cheese said, "So why did you drag me here at this ungodly hour."

"Oh come now, this is a day for celebration. I thought you could tell me what the plans are."

"Oh Kay, I have no idea, the King is very secretive like that."

Leon shook his head, "Seriously? You have no idea."

"There will be a monkey hat and possibly a tourney but that's all I know."

"A tourney? What today?"

"No Kay, it will be tomorrow or the day after. I suspect today will be a lot of celebrating."

"In that case then who organizes a tourney for when people are hung over?"

Gwaine could not stop beaming "Our uncle, that's who. Of course you are meant to win it. It is a test of strength, that even after a heavy night; a true Knight can still be victorious."

"Great, that's just great" Leon said.

"Come now your Grace, you're not afraid of a little competition?"

Leon chuckled, "What from you? I've beaten you every time I've faced you."

Gwaine put a hand on his heart, "I am shocked, shocked your Grace that you wish to beat a humble Earl such as I."

"Gwaine! You can cut that out right now! We are cousins first." Leon stared at him, "Do you know how the King is going to link me back to the family?"

"I honestly do not. I think you will be the love child of your father's again. He can't have you as his grandson as Merlin is coming back. As for your mother, who knows? There have been plenty of noble women who have got chequered pasts. It should not be difficult to find a birth mother for you who had lose morals and succumbed to the lover's disease or as our uncle calls it, the Tarts Cough."

Leon had to breathe in deeply, "Charming, no really. My mother is to be a woman of no virtue."

Gwaine knew exactly what to say "Leon, you know that your mother did have virtue didn't you? What happened to her could hardly be all her fault."

Leon snapped, his mood had blackened quickly "Don't you think I know that! But she does not have a good reputation here does she?"

Gwaine shook his head, "No, but the King was adamant that she came to live with me in Ulster and was placed under my protection. You know you can go and see her don't you?"

Leon smiled weakly, "Yes but she will not know who I am?"

Gwaine gulped his wine, stood out of his chair and walked over to Leon. Leon looked at him and Gwaine instinctively walked round to the back of the chair and threw his arm around Leon. "Of course she will remember you Curls, you're her son. She will know."

Leon did not move, "You called me Curls."

Gwaine coughed, "Yes well, I haven't been using nicknames, it has been too weird, but for you I'll make an exception right now."

Leon moved his arm and got out of his chair He was now head to head with Gwaine. "Gwaine, I will not be able to do this, I won't be able to get Merlin back without you. Please don't let me down."

Gwaine felt a bit hurt. "As if I would or could let you down. Come on Leon! Don't you trust me?"

Now it was Leon hugging him, "Of course I do, it's just, this is still a lot to take in. I'm going to be Crown Prince!"

"Rather you than me mate!"

"Cheers, thanks Gwaine!"

There was a knock on the door which saw both men quickly jump out of each other's arms. "Your Grace, Earl Gwaine, the King is here."

"Open the door then!" Leon said.

The King walked in dressed in his full gown complete with an ornate crown on his head, and carrying a monkey hat. "Ah Kay, Gwaine, I am glad you are becoming acquainted with each other. Now you must follow me, I have an announcement to make from the balcony at the front of the inner Keep. In case you hadn't noticed, there is quite a crowd forming outside the drawbridge. It would appear that your arrival is, causing great joy, amongst the people." Leon thought he heard the King smirk as he made that announcement.

As they left his chambers, there were more sounds of trumpets, Leon and Gwaine could not miss the number of banners and tapestries decorating the castle walls, or the sound of the crowds cheering. The party had stopped to collect Thomas and now Leon was being led by his two cousins who had small crowns on their heads as well as capes that the King insisted they wore as they left Thomas's chambers.

Leon had been told that the monkey hat would be making an appearance shortly but for the time being he had to wear a Fitzgerald cape also. It was a clear brilliant white with a large diagonal red cross in the middle of it. He wondered from his last visit how they kept them so white. He was also wearing a ring on a chain around his neck. Looking every inch a member of royalty he was told by a servant to wait inside the parlour while the King addressed the crowds outside.

"People of Munster, people of Kerry, and those who have travelled from our realm of Ulster, I bring good news. As some of you know, last night I received a visitor, a visitor with a pedigree and unparalled lineage. He presented his credentials to me and I immediately had them verified by our court historian."

Inside Leon thought that his uncle really knew how to put on a show.

"I am pleased. No, I am delighted to be able to tell you that I have a new addition to our family. After recent events, I thought I would never discover joy again but I have. Good people, I can confirm that I have a new heir. Our brother the Duke of Leinster may not have been the most honourable of men especially in his romantic affairs but he was a good man at heart. As you have heard, he sadly passed away after a long illness."

"I was very distressed to lose our brother, on top of the Queen, God rest her soul." Garratt paused as the shouts of "God bless the Queen rung out." He dramatically wiped a tear from his eye. "However all of that sadness has been made easier by the blessing I have received. Our brother it transpires sired more than one child, I had heard rumours before but I had not dared to believe that they were true until now.

It brings us all overwhelming joy to tell you that last night I received a visitor claiming his name was Kay Fitzgerald and that his father was the Duke of Leinster. I had the misfortune to advise his of the Duke's death and asked who his mother was. He told me that he had been adopted at birth but that his birth mother was also a noble, for she was Matilda of Escetia."

The crowd gasped, Garratt knew he had them right there.

"Don't not be alarmed, good subjects. I had our court historian pour over the records all night and I had him question the visitor in intimate detail. Matilda had several key features, namely that she was blonde and had curly hair as does our visitor. However that was not enough to satisfy your King, for I have a duty to protect our Kingdom against interlopers and pretenders.

Gwaine noticed several of the knights below nod in approval. Leon was going to kill him he thought.

"It was recorded that any child of Matilda's would have a birth mark, a birthmark of a cross in the middle of their shoulder blades. I had my court physician check our guest."

The crowd had gone quiet, Leon for his part suddenly thought the top of his back was itchy.

Garratt smiled, this was almost too easy. "It is my pleasure to tell you that our guest did indeed have such a birthmark. Coupled with his papers and one of his father's rings, the proof is incontestable. The facts are undeniable. Good people of Kerry, Munster and Ulster, indeed of all Hibernia, I present to you, the heir to our throne, the new Duke of Leinster, Kay Fitzgerald."

Leon realised that meant he had to go outside; he did not have a birth mark though. He walked gingerly out onto the balcony and had to use all of his strength not to have his eyes pop out of his sockets. The crowd was hundreds deep. He waved at them and a roar struck up. "Show us the mark! Show us the mark!" Leon began to blush; Gwaine whispered in his ear, "Sorry Curls but it is definitely there." Leon shot him a look, "You! You put it there!" Gwaine was smirking, very quietly he said "Only on the Kings orders. It was to help your Grace. Now be a good boy and give the people what they want!" Gwaine could hardly keep a straight face; he was not going to admit that he had suggested to the King that perhaps the new Duke needed a birth mark to prove his parentage. Sweet revenge he thought for Leon prying over his love life the night before.

Leon growled for he really hated Gwaine right now; it was obvious who had magically placed a birthmark on his back. He beckoned for his cape to be taken off, which it was by Gwaine and Thomas. He then had no choice but to ask them to help lift his tunic off of him. Good job he wasn't fat Leon thought. He then turned around.

The crowd went into raptures. After feeling he had been gaped at for all eternity, Leon was grateful when the King motioned for the tunic to be put back on. Leon whispered into Gwaine's ear "You'd make a good manservant Earl Gwaine" which earned him a slap on his back. The King looked at them both with a stare which said 'now is not the time when I have whipped the Kingdom into a frenzy.'

King Garratt grabbed Leon's left arm and motioned to Gwaine to grab his right arm. He lifted Leon's arm, "Good subjects, you have seen the proof. Now rejoice with us, join us as I proclaim that Duke Kay is our heir and he will be crowned Prince of our realms this evening."

The roar from the crowd was deafening. Garratt looked out at the masses and thought that yes, this lie would hold. It had taken a lot. And this was only for Leon he thought, how they would convince people that Merlin was the true heir was something for another day. For a start he would declare the previous visitors he entertained pretenders which was easily enough, people would believe any old rumour. But to pass off two relatives that have come back from the dead was no mean feat. There and then he had a brainwave, he knew exactly how he could pull that off. Besides, he would be dead, so there would be only so much he could do. For now he had a public heir and with a backstory guaranteed to create interest. He could hardly wait for the responses from other Kingdoms.

Leon hadn't expected to be on such a high but the love of the people was intoxicating and with it came a great responsibility. Arthur had remarked, just the once that it was a burden being loved by the people and Leon now realised what he meant. Merlin told him when they were in the lake that part of him was glad he had not been crowned Prince as he knew the challenges he would face. For now thought he resolved to do his best as the new darling of the Kingdom.

Garratt clasped a hand in his shoulder, "Now nephew, we have some paperwork we need to complete before the ceremony tonight and the feast." The King turned around and waved to the crowds, then exited, followed by Gwaine and Thomas. Leon decided to do one last wave and bow and then followed them back into the castle.

Chapter Text

The next few hours were a blur for Leon; he had met the King's council and regaled them with his back story. He had been medically assessed by the court physician and then the court historian had told him of what to do during the ceremony. The monkey hat was sadly going to be staying until he received his crown. He had been told the legend behind it at last and the details of the vows he would have to take.

He had been given two hours leave to get ready. Leon was incredibly grateful to Michael for a bath being drawn in the shared chambers, as he stepped into the bath he instantly felt the tension he had been keeping inside slowly soothe out of his limbs. Leon was focused on the task in hand; nothing would distract him from being crowned in a few hours. Thankfully the trumpets from earlier had quieted down and the Castle felt oddly calm and peaceful, as if the evening's entertainment would be enough by itself.

Leon had to admit that Gwaine had been a godsend. All day his cousin had been by his side, sometimes offering an opinion and other times just providing a reassuring presence. Leon determined that he deserved a gift of some description for his efforts. He was not about to tell him personally how close he was feeling towards him, that way lay madness, Gwaine was hardly appropriate at the best of times. He had though grown in statue these past few weeks, almost as if the shackles were now off now that he no longer needed to lie.

The new Duke sighed, just as Gwaine was becoming free from his past, Leon was adding a whole new back story complete with the necessary scandal only a noble family could do properly. The lying did not sit well with him; he was essentially lying to his own people and his own family. However, he genuinely believed it was for the good of the Kingdom and really all of this was immaterial, the main thing was to stabilize the Kingdom and get Merlin back. Leon then thought that's surely how lies started out, that they were for someone's good. It was almost ironic he thought that his family had lied to him and Merlin to protect them, and now he was doing the same thing.

Leon was now mentally kicking himself for allowing his mind to wonder when he thought he was focused on the evening. He washed himself and then moved his head back to really relax for a few moments. As his eyes closed, he was not surprised to hear a voice.

"Leon, you mustn't worry."

He opened his eyes and straightened himself up. Looking around the chamber he knew he recongised the voice but couldn't see anyone.

"Merlin, M-bro where are you?"

"Still in the lake Leon. Still in the lake."

"So it is just your voice I can hear then?"

There was a small chuckle, "Yep, sorry, just the voice." Merlin then paused before adding, "Gwaine's been a lot of help hasn't he?"

"Don't you go telling him that, you know what he gets like!"

"Oh he can't hear me, I tried but it seems only your magic is recognizing me."

Leon chuckled, "Probably for the best Merlin. You'd be chatting to him for hours otherwise."

"I suppose so." Merlin then said in a quiet voice" Leon have you taken your medicine yet?"

"What medicine?"

"You need to take a potion to keep your appearance different. I will tell you how to make it in a moment but first, how are you feeling? You shouldn't worry you know."

Leon sighed, "I can't help it M-bro, I mean, it, well it's all a bit overwhelming."

"I know. That's how I felt, how I still feel. Since I went to Camelot all I have had is pressure about my destiny and then it got a whole lot worse and now I'm in a lake."

His brother suddenly felt he had been a bit selfish, there he was alive and almost well and Merlin was basically dead. "I should be telling you not to worry; you'll be back in no time."

Merlin grimaced, he knew Leon was going to be holding out hope, and this would be hard. "I won't be coming back Leon. I can't."

"Yes you can, don't worry the King, Dragon and I have got it all worked out."

His brother thought differently. There was simply no way none of them had enough power to bring him back. You couldn't just turn up and demand that the spirit world released the most powerful warlock of all time. The Lady of the Lake could only do so much but the balance of the world would be disrupted, the risk was the world would simply spin out of control. Merlin had seen the destruction wrought before he was taken to his resting place and he wasn't prepared to put the two realms he loved now through that. Nor risk his loved ones.

"Merlin", Leon's voice sounded slightly less confident which wasn't surprising with Merlin having fallen silent. "Merlin, M-bro, you don't think it is possible do you?" The new Duke was beginning to get a headache.

"Leon, the price you need to pay is too high. Despite what you, Killgarrah and my Grandfather must think I won't be able to suddenly appear."

"We know, that's why your Grandfather is going to pay the ultimate price."

Merlin knew the conversation was probably going to go down this route and that even with the death of the King, there was no guarantee that he would come back. He remembered that when he tried to save Arthur, he had put his mother and then Gaius at risk. There was every chance the King would die only for someone else to come back.

"It is not enough. Well, it could be, but Leon you know now that I risked everything to save Arthur and my mother and then Gaius were both nearly lost. That is too much of a risk to take. Anyone could come back. You could get my grandmother or even Nimueh."

"What? Wait? How? They are both dead."

"Yes and if a King dies then someone powerful can be released. Both of them would be seen as being powerful enough to warrant such a sacrifice."

Now it was Leon's turn to fall silent. This was an unexpected turn of events, everyone had been pretty adamant that Merlin would be able to come back. His mind was racing, what would they do now?

"You're thinking about it now aren't you Leon? And how hard this could be?"

"Yes." Merlin caught the quiet, sad tone of his brother's voice.

"Good. Because I want you to understand the risks involved. I have tried to tell you what it is like, what magic can be like. It can be cruel, it can be unpredictable but it can also be glorious. Mostly it depends on the magic user but some things cannot be controlled by magic users."

"You control it though, you destroyed the Cailleach and killed Nimueh and you Merlin, you can control what happens!"

Leon imagined Merlin shaking his head as he spoke, "I'm not the gatekeeper and not even the Lady of the Lake can control what could happen."

"But you have say over life and death now!"

"And are you comfortable with that Leon? That your little brother can dictate that sort of thing? Who lives? Who dies? I would be unstoppable if I come back. Magic wouldn't just be part of me, I would be magic. I would be the centre of all magic. My power would be unlimited and never ending. I would be immortal. And I don't want to be. I always feared that I was."

You see there have been incidents while I was in Camelot that no mortal man should have seen. I saw the Sidhe and Avalon; no mortal man has seen them and survived. I saw ancient sorcerers, the Fisher King, and I survived the Dorcha. No mortal man has survived their touch. I am sure if I return that I will never die."

Leon decided to take a new tack, "I don't want to be immortal either Merlin but I drank from the cup of life remember so I am pretty much immortal. And I don't want to be left alone. We can keep each other company."

"So I come back? Then what? Years from now everyone else is dead. You and I commended to live forever. I can't be King forever can I? One day Leon, Kings will no longer have the power that they have now. And magic will fade. I'd be left to reflect on one life while living many."

His brother snapped, "Oh so it's fine for me to be forced to live like that, but not you?"

"That is not what I am saying Leon and you know it. You know it would be different for me than you. Your magic is different, you are there to protect me and guide me. If I come back I would be cursed to be the most powerful magic user ever to have lived. I will be the focus of every evil doer out there. People will seek to control me and my magic for their own ends. Freya showed me some of the future and it is terrifying. Wars to end all wars, famine, hunger, floods…"

"And you can help all of that Merlin. Look, you have a good heart, a pure heart; you would do anything to help protect your Kingdom. Maybe, I don't know but maybe you could retire you know? Perhaps you could rest in the Lake and then come back when you are required?"

Merlin knew Leon was not going to let the matter rest. In a way it was nice to have someone who loved you no matter what and who wanted to help you, he really had turned out to be a true brother.

"I know you are only trying to help Curls and try and do what you think is right but it is complicated."

"It's only complicated if you make it so M-bro."

"When did you get so wise?"

Leon laughed and stared into the ceiling hoping Merlin could see the meaning in his eyes, "I'm your guide remember. It's my job."

"It's your job now to lead a Kingdom not to fuss over me."

"Rubbish I'm going to do both. Then when I get you back it's your kingdom." And with a big grin plasted on his face he added, "That means I'll have more time to fuss about you."

Merlin laughed, "I am grateful you know that don't you? It is just very hard. I have to be sure I will not make everything worse."

"I can hardly see how it can get much worse, I mean, I am left with Gwaine for heaven's sake. He's taken to using 'your Grace' in roughly the same way you used 'Sire' with Arthur."

Merlin stilled. Arthur, the name weighed heavily on his heart.

"How is he?"

"Gwaine? Pretty good actually, I mean he is annoying but good."

"No I meant Arthur."

"I don't actually know. He is under Gwaine's care as his manservant and apparently he is doing very well."

"Good." Merlin had deliberately avoided using his magic to watch over Arthur all day, it would have been too much, too difficult. And communicating through the veil wasn't exactly easy. He had been told though by the Lady that Arthur could soon face difficulty. Now seemed a good time to warn someone.

"Leon, there is something I need you to do. Freya, the Lady said that Arthur could soon come under threat. That is all she told me. I want you to make sure he will be ok."

"He's currently with Henry over in Belfast. Our mother is there also. Gwaine is due to go back in a few days' time. We have the crowning tonight, and then two days of tourney. Which reminds me, M-bro, I'm sorry but I need to get ready and prepare. I wish I could stay here though."

"Me too. This spell is very hard to do. I will have to sleep for days."

Concerned washed over Leon, "Wait. You will be ok though? You haven't hurt yourself."

"No, no, just will be tired. I can see your face all concerned and worried, stop fussing will you."

"Can't help it."

"Try."

"No."

"Fine Curls, but don't be surprised if that Monkey hat doesn't come off."

"You wouldn't dare."

"Wouldn't I? Think back to some of the pranks I played on Arthur."

Leon shuddered. "Ok, Ok, I'll stop. Just promise me you will keep safe and as soon as you can you will talk to me again."

"I promise. And Leon, don't worry, you will make a great Crown Prince."

"You too M-bro."

Neither quite wanted the conversation to end, both knew though that it had to.

Merlin went first, "I guess this is it then brother. Speak soon then."

Suddenly Leon couldn't get the words out, "Er, errm, yeah." Before he could pull himself together Merlin had gone. Leon rose, got out of the bath and kicked it hard in frustration; he had missed to chance to say goodbye properly.

Now, he limped around his chambers hurrying to get ready before his crowning. Life really did take an odd turn of events he thought and he hoped there would be no more surprises this evening.

Chapter Text

For once Leon had luck on his side. The crowning had gone exceptionally well. He remembered his lines, no one turned up throwing fireballs and the blasted monkey hat did come off to be replaced with a small but still perfectly ornate crown.

The King, Leon thought had pitched the event perfectly. Surrounded by what was estimated to be twenty noblemen and with a hundred Knights in attendance, Leon had said his vows with precision, the King beaming as the crown had been placed on his nephew's head.

Leon was now sat to the right of the King, with Thomas next to him, the King's left seat was taken up by Gwaine who was regaling the King with one of his tales. Leon had heard it before but still laughed at the right moments. The evening had passed off perfectly. He had been careful not to have too much wine, with a tourney in the morning and one that he was expected to win he needed a clear head. He noticed that Thomas and Gwaine were both doing the same. It was expected that both cousins would provide stiff competition and the final would see him pitted against one of the two of them.

He looked to the scene in front of him, with everyone laughing, joking and generally enjoying themselves he found it hard to think that this Kingdom had gone through so much pain and strife. In a way he thought that's what made today even more special, that despite adversity the Kingdom carried on. Leon had been taught a lesson since his return by his uncle in how to manage a Kingdom and win over the people. It was a lesson he would not forget.

After the minstrels had played and the King and him had both risen and made short speeches it was time for him to retire. He did though want to speak to Gwaine before he slept. Leon didn't feel right to keep his conversation with Merlin a secret from him or the King.

As the hall began to clear, King Garratt had motioned that he was leaving, now was his chance. "Your majesty, Earl Gwaine I wish to speak to you both if I may, in private."

"Of course Kay. Everyone, please it has been a long day and my nephews all need to sleep before the tourney tomorrow. I bid you all a good night."

Leon wasn't surprised when the room fully cleared after that. No one would dare outstay their welcome after that hint. "Shut the doors. No one is to come in unless I say so."

The King turned to Leon, motioning him to sit back down. "Now Kay, what is it?"
"I spoke to Merlin earlier."

Gwaine looked amazed; the King's face did not change at all. "I did wonder when this would happen. I trust my grandson is safe."

"He appears to be your majesty; he is still in the lake."
"I take it he did not contact you just to say hello?"

"No he did not, at first he told me not to worry about becoming Crown Prince."

"And you should not; I would not have crowned you if I did not believe in your abilities. Now I do not normally hand out compliments so I suggest you tell me what the conversation was really about."

The King was no fool Gwaine thought. Part of him was put out Merlin had not spoken to him but he desperately wanted news of him and now was not the time to come across jealous. "He told me he couldn't come back."

"Couldn't or wouldn't." The King knew Merlin was going to be scared and stubborn over the matter.
"Partly both. He was worried about the power he would possess; he said it would be unlimited."

"That is correct Kay; if he came back he would be unstoppable. He can control life and death and he would be my heir, which is a position of unspeakable power. For he would be able to raise armies to have to lead them and to be the most powerful warlock of all time."

"That's what he said."
"I bet he forgot the part about you being his guide though?"

Leon wasn't sure where this was going, "Not exactly, it was discussed Sire."
"Kay, I told you before, it is Uncle. Now what do you mean by that?"

"Well I was trying to reassure him, that if he came back he would be a force for good."
The King nodded so Leon continued, "He just did not seem fully convinced. Something was holding him back. I could tell."

Garratt nodded again, "I know exactly what was holding him back. Merlin is kind of heart he would be worried his magic could be corrupted or someone would seek to control him. He would be worried that he would have to live forever, condemned to be around a world no longer appreciating his talents."

"That's, that's exactly it Uncle."
"And I bet the Lady of the Lake told him that didn't she?"

"Maybe. I don't know. Merlin did say that she showed him the future."
The King shook his head, "I feared as much. Legend has it that she locks Merlin in the lake and he can never leave, so enchanted by her and her beauty."

Gwaine thought now was as good a time as any to enter the conversation, "but he doesn't love her. Not really. He loves Arthur. And Arthur loves him."

"If Merlin comes back Gwaine he will not be Merlin will he? I mean we will know he is but I cannot parade him around as Merlin, I have to come up with another back story and one that beats the one spun for Kay here and I have to find him a new name."

Garratt now looked at them both, "When he meets Arthur what will Arthur see? Merlin or a new Crown Prince?"

Leon caught on, this was why Merlin was being coy, Arthur wouldn't know who he is. "A Crown Prince, he knows nothing of Merlin."

"So he falls in love with a new Crown Prince. Which will not be easy as we do not even know if Arthur is that way inclined. We know he liked Merlin but that could be a one off and look what happened."

"He is that way inclined." Garratt shot Gwaine a death stare. "How do you know? You had better not despoiled him."
"Why does everyone think that? I have some standards. He has taken a shine to me."
"Most odd," the King said.

Leon suddenly had a realization. Arthur had always been that way inclined. Looking back on it all that thumping, slaps and half hugs. Arthur had not been with a woman in a while, there was Gwen but then he had basically picked someone he could never marry, no King could marry a servant. And no King could love and certainly not marry a male manservant.

"It is not, it makes perfect sense. We know Arthur admitted his feelings for Merlin and then rejected him claiming he was bewitched. That was an escape clause. Think about it, especially you Gwaine. Arthur surrounded himself with Knights of the realm and defended us to the hilt. He's always thumping someone on the arm or slapping them on the back and he even has slung an arm round Merlin."

"That doesn't sound Gay to me Leon, more like Arthur is uncomfortable showing his feelings."

The King caught on, "It can also mean he is uncomfortable because deep down he knows it is different for a Prince or King. Heirs must be produced. Arthur knows better than most the challenges that can bring. From what I heard his only recent conquest was that maidservant."

"They never have slept together; Gwen and Arthur were both too honourable."

"Exactly Gwaine. Arthur has been dallying with a serving girl. There is no way Uther would have sanctioned that marriage and if Arthur had become King do you think that Morgana would see her maid on the throne instead of her? There is more chance of my pigs sprouting wings than Morgana allowing that to happen. Besides we all know Gwen is in love with someone else. The whole relationship is built on a mountain of lies. Thank God it will not happen; it would only have ended in ruin."

"So," Leon said, "That leaves Arthur and Merlin…"

"I've already said there is not going to be an Arthur and Merlin easily. Thought it would seem that Arthur could be predisposed to male companionship, especially now he is not shackled with responsibility. Gwaine what exactly did you mean by your words?"

"I believe he was trying in an odd way to flirt with me?"

The Kings faced soured quickly, the last thing they needed now was Arthur Pendragon falling for the wrong Fitzgerald. "If you lead him on for a second."

Gwaine looked directly at the King, this would be his only chance to convince him. "I swear on my life, on yours, on Leon's, yes even on Merlin's that I did not."

The King searched his eyes, satisfied that he was telling the truth he clasped his shoulder. "Very well, I believe you. I suppose you are easy on the eye for impressionable people."

Leon accidentally let his head speak before he could close his mouth, "Yes Merlin knows all about that."

Garratt froze. Leon looked at the floor, not looking at a blushing Gwaine. Silence washed over the hall. No one spoke. After the most uncomfortable silence in Leon and Gwaine's history, Garratt finally relented. The King spoke softly, "I never want to know the details. Suffice to say that if there are any further developments on that front then I will take unprecedented action. I am not about to die to see everything fall apart because someone cannot keep their libido under control."

Just when Leon and Gwaine thought there were in the clear, the Kingly voice took the steal heard once before. "I trust I am clear on this matter."

Both nodded, Gwaine refused to look at Leon.

"Good, now both of you leave. And do not disappoint me tomorrow."

Garratt thought Gwaine had turned into a five year old boy as he said "Yes your Majesty" very quietly. Leon had simply said "Good night Sire". The cousins quickly left, neither speaking to each other.

The King stayed in the hall, he looked around, the feast had gone well, indeed the whole day had. He was confident that having put the fear of God into Leon and Gwaine that both would be on the top of their game for the next two days. The people needed a tournament to focus on and for the myth of the Good Duke Kay to take hold. What better way than to beat the best in the realm?

Leon also needed to command the respect of his Knights. Garratt knew of the battles to come, men would have to fight under his banner and be managed by the new Crown Prince. Men respected leaders who had honour and passion. These were qualities he knew both nephews, no all four nephews had within them. Garratt knew he had to unlock their talents, for combined the four would make a formidable team, a team which would be able to support his shining star, Merlin. The more he found out about Merlin the more he appreciated him and recongised Balinor in him and the more he knew that his instincts would be proved right.

Garratt closed his eyes for a second and rubbed his eyelids. Despite being tired he had one more task this evening. He took a torch from the wall and walked out of the hall. The vaults would be deserted, he would not be disturbed.

Chapter Text

The first day of the tournament had gone exceptionally well for both Gwaine and Leon. Neither was injured and both had progressed to the second day with relative ease. Thomas had also got through and was on track to face Gwaine in the semi-finals.

Garratt of course had lapped the whole affair up. To have three of his nephews performing so well had pleased him and the reception from the crowd was exactly what he was hoping for. The public had fallen in love with the new Duke Kay and had cheered his progress to the rooftops. Today had helped take the King's mind off other events. The visit to the vaults had confirmed his suspicions and it was a question of when and not if he would have to discuss affairs of state again with Leon. For now, his nephews needed to focus on the tourney and to have a clear head.

Garratt had ensured that the castle staff were very well prepared for the reception tonight, the news of the arrival and crowning of his new heir had sparked curiosity amongst the nobles of Hibernia. The castle and town was brim full of nobles and knights all wanting a glance at the future and a chance to get into the Duke's good graces. The new Duke had been pre warned that tonight he would have to mingle and there were several young ladies requiring attention. Garratt chuckled; nobles really were shameless at parading their daughters and nieces in the hope of gaining favour or a hand in marriage. Garratt was not about to sell Kay off so cheaply, a match for him would require a substantial dowry and land. The King was confident that Camelot would be greedy and stupid enough to begin to make manoeuvres.

After a long bath Leon was ready for the evening's festivities, there would be no hard drinking, just a polite glass of wine for toasting. He had to focus firstly on being polite and charming to the assembled collection of guests and in order to remain sharp for the second round. Reflecting on his first day he felt good, his limbs although achy were reacting well. His footwork had improved, he had years of training against Arthur to thank for that and there was a niggling feeling that someone, namely Merlin was watching over him.

Walking towards the Great Hall, Leon stopped as he was around the corner from the door. The evening had been staged managed with Gwaine and Thomas entering first, then the King who would welcome him in and toast him immediately.

After the toast and speeches, food was brought round. The King insisted that tonight was an informal, close affair with the ending of the tournament seeing a bigger feast. Garratt had told Leon that telling noblemen they were admitted to a quiet, select gathering sometimes did more for their egos than attending a major feast, as if they were in a special club. Garratt had another reason, competitors worked better in a tourney if they were not bogged down with unnecessary weight.

For Gwaine, the evening had been tremendously boring, except for the presence of several young noblewomen. Despite not being the main attraction, he was also on his best behaviour as was Thomas as noblemen in their own right. Gwaine was also seen as technically being the "spare" to Leon. Third in line and with an Earldom made you an attractive catch for most Lords, there were only two other Earls, both of a more senior age.

The Earl Gwaine had flashed his smile at many women and had had two very nice conversations with the twin granddaughters of the Earl of Tyrone. Gwaine thought to himself that at a another time he would have had no problem in taking both of them back to his chambers but now he was a changed man and had a lot to lose. Still, a man could flirt couldn't he, and the King did look pleased at his handiwork.

After the King had bid goodnight, Gwaine was left with just Leon and Thomas in the Hall. All three of them respected each other and all three wanted the glory victory would bring them tomorrow, all three also knew that one of them needed to be out above the others.

"So tomorrow, I have to go easy on you then, your Grace."

Kay smiled at him, "I expect you Earl Gwaine and you Lord Thomas not to go easy on me at all. If I am to be victorious it is because it is on merit, nothing more nothing less."

"How gracious."

"Honestly Gwaine, you could be more polite to our new cousin." Thomas clasped a hand on his brother's shoulder. "He is new and we don't yet know him well. You should show him more respect he is a Duke after all."

"I was Thomas; I was merely using his title."

"As an insult." Kay retorted. "Tell me Thomas is he always like this?"

"He was worse, but he has improved with age."

Leon knew there and then to leave, "Well maybe his manners improved with age but my fighting skills have. Gentlemen I bid you goodnight, the battlefield awaits."

As he was leaving, he couldn't help but notice the frown on Gwaine's face.

Gwaine left the Hall feeling uneasy. After a small glass of wine to help him sleep, he laid in bed restless. There was a niggling doubt at the back of his mind. He slept briefly with a dream recurring of a battlefield and a voice saying "When the Green land falls; the King of a Hundred Knights will rise. All of Albion will fear his wrath. "Gwaine couldn't make out the faces on the battlefield but it unsettled him that his dreams where back. He knew he would be tired tomorrow.

Just as the King wished, the new Duke Kay had won the tourney, beating Lord Thomas in the final after a one hour battle between Thomas and his brother Gwaine who seemed oddly quiet. Garratt thought it could not have gone better, the crowds were high on the thrill of battle, the legend was already forming of the Good Duke Kay, who helped his cousin up from the tourney field and had fought without his helmet on when his opponent lost his.

The new Duke had also acquitted himself with poise and grace as he accepted his trophy and reward of a land for a new castle, to be named of course after his most loving Uncle, Garratt.

Leon walked back with Michael in tow to find another bath drawn for him. He had a couple of hours before he needed to change for the victory feast tonight. As he lay in the bath, the water soothing his aching limbs he had hoped that Merlin would make contact with him but the room was silent. A small part of him told him to worry, that something was not right but he had dismissed that as brotherly fussing. Merlin was probably tired still and he had said it would take him a while to recover.

He woke to the sound of Michael knocking on his door, reminding him he only had an hour to get ready. Leon shook his head, just how tired was he, still it was better he was refreshed for tonight. Although he had another round of ladies to court, Gwaine, Thomas and himself had been given permission by the King to retire early, citing the strains of the tourney. The King being no fool then advised the three of them that two jugs of his finest wine would be in the Duke's chambers later for them to enjoy as a reward for their efforts.

After dressing, Leon was ready for an evening of playing the Good Duke Kay before showing his more relaxed side to his nearest and dearest. He looked in the mirror; he had to admit that the King had picked out exceptional outfits for him. In Camelot he was used to wearing chainmail or a standard clock and tunic. Now he was dressed in head to toe in a deep, royal blue at first he thought Gwaine had played a trick on him. Now though, looking in the mirror he thought the King must have been responsible. For someone as modest as he, he could admit that he looked dashing, every inch the Crown Prince.

While Leon had been sleeping, the King had been putting the next stage of his plans into action. He had called two servants to his chambers, servants well known for gossiping and then sent them on their way.

Garratt also bathed, thoughts of what he had found in his vaults were upmost in his mind. He had had the confirmation he required, confirmation that drastic changes were afoot. He had worked out what was meant by the prophecy. As he re digested what would happen next, a voice came into his head.

"I know what you know Grandfather."

"I thought you would, Merlin, I thought you would, after all the prophecies are called the Prophetiae Merlini, it wasn't hard to work out you would know them. They were written by you."

"So I gather, a future me, warning the past me of what would happen."

"You know then what it means?"

"I do sire, but do you? Perhaps you could tell some of it to me?"

The King smiled to himself, Merlin was not going to provide confirmation easily.

"When the land of the Green falls, the King of Hundred Knights shall rise. All shall fear his wrath for when Magic combines with Strength and Wisdom it shall be unstoppable."

"And what else?"

"Beware the Rowan, for it can spread quickly. Unchecked it will place roots across the land that will be hard to remove. The Rowan will survey the lands and say "Who can stop me? For even the Dragon now does my bidding."

Merlin thought he should make one last push, "And?"

"The Lion of Justice shall come and shake the Rowan and in the days of this Lion, gold shall be squeezed from the lily-Bower. The Monkey will at first mock the Lion but will ally. Was that it Merlin?"

"Almost, you missed out several other predictions, including famines and plagues and the part about the Rowan growing in the Danelaw. Surely you know what that means?"

"The alliance involving my deadly foes, the Norsemen. Yes, and I know what is about to happen. It is not my wish."

"Yet grandfather you do nothing to stop it?"

Garratt snapped, "What would you have me do Merlin? I cannot stop fate neither can you! I do not wish for terror or for more battles but I have little choice."

"I know, I have spoken with the Dragon, he will help where he can."

"Good. Now Merlin if you excuse me, I have to get ready and meet the rest of our family. I have a feast to preside over."

Leon's outfit had the desired effect the King was hoping for. As he walked into the Hall; his face remained static as he saw women gasp open mouthed at his arrival. Of course Gwaine was wearing perhaps the biggest smirk he had ever seen, it was a smirk topping off his own outlandish outfit of all Green. Leon thought he looked better than he had earlier that day.

Leon walked towards his cousins but was stopped by several ladies of course congratulating him on his victory. By the time he arrived at his seat next to the King he felt he had been mentally groped and ogled enough for a life time. He was hardly a prude but had never believed in sleeping around before marriage in the same way some other knights had. Leon had been grateful for the King beckoning him towards his seat, giving him a reason to politely bid farewell to the latest lady.

Sitting down, he was grateful that Michael had filled his glass. "I must thank you Sire for requesting I took my seat."

"Of course Nephew, one of course can be stimulated intellectually by such lively conversation but I am sure a sit down was required after a long two days of tourney."

"Thank you Sire for thinking about me."

The King chuckled, "Why of course you are upmost in my thoughts, now please eat; you will need to keep your strength up. And I suggest you go easy on the wine."

Leon was slightly confused, "I thought Sire that I had your permission to retire early and you had gifted some wine?"

"Indeed I had, but there is no harm in staying alert."

The voice was back Leon thought. The voice which said do not argue with me. He dismissed it as a slip of the tongue but thought it was a good idea not to drink too much, a drunken Crown Prince in public was not seen in the same way as one in private.

After the first course of stuffed quail, Garratt had made a small speech about how pleased he was that all of his Knights and guests had acquitted themselves with such valour on the tourney field and that he was sure the whole court would agree that the tournament would be fondly remembered in tales of yore.

Just as the King was sitting down, a great noise, of shouting and of an unholy rabble was heard. The room feel silent, the King looked at the door to the hall and then to his nephews. Automatically they unsheathed their swords as did the others in the Hall, the noise was coming closer.

The door opened to trumpets and what greeted the King and his family was not an army as first thought but a bedraggled Henry FitzMaurice with a sad, dirty woman behind him and a glaring angry blonde man by his right side.

"Henry! Good Grief, what are you doing here?"

"Ulster has fallen Sire, sacked by the Norsemen, we were overwhelmed. I, indeed we three were lucky to escape with our lives."

The King nodded, "And so you shall tell us."

Garratt looked at the collective in front of him; news would seep out quickly enough. He would need to respond to reassure the remainder of his Kingdoms. First he needed to deal with what was in front of him, his nephew, the mother of his Grandson and his nephew's manservant, the hidden Prince Arthur.

"My Lords, ladies and gentlemen of the court, please take your leave of me. I require counsel with my nephews in private. I shall call you back in due course with news of our response to this most appalling of news. For I do declare that on this blackest of days our realms will remain intact, united, and we shall not rest until every single Norseman is swept from all of Hibernia. It is time we unite in the face of this menace and under a leadership that will rule with dignity, compassion and honestly."

The room nodded, they all looked to him thinking he meant to unite Hibernia under his rule. Garratt knew differently, he had someone else in mind. It was time to bring some prophecies to life. Some people were about to get the shock of their lives.

Chapter Text

Once the room had cleared, no one spoke. Leon looked at his mother; did she recognize him behind the mask he thought? How did she and Arthur escape the Norsemen?

Garratt knew he would have to take the lead. "Henry, Lady Hunith, welcome I presume Henry that this is Gwaine's manservant?"

"Indeed Sire, this is Arthur."

Garratt nodded. "We are in for a long evening. First, have you eaten?"

All three shook their heads. "I shall get the Kitchens to make something. And you must all bathe. You have all had a deep shock and a long journey to get here. I suggest that you take leave of me for now and I will arrange for you to be given suitable chambers. Please, for your own sakes. We have time afterwards for your story."

"Thank you Uncle, it has been a horrid few days."

"I am sure it has been Henry. One thing, how did you get here so quickly?"

Henry looked at the floor and then at the King, not sure of how this would go, "Erm, we erm, well Sire, we rode on a Dragon."

Leon's eyes widened, Killgarrah rescued them? At his own accord? Then his brain kicked into gear. Merlin. The Dragon would never see Merlin's mother or Arthur threatened.

"I see. A Dragon, well we are cursed to live in interesting times. Now please return in an hour. Gwaine, Leon you shall stay here. Thomas, please go with them and ensure the servants are briefed."

"Of course Sire."

With the room down to the three men, three men who all had their own views on what to do next, the conversation could go down several paths. Leon decided to speak first.

"Ulster has fallen? Sacked by Norsemen? How would they have done that? I thought Gwaine you had strengthened the defences?"

Gwaine still looked to be in shock, "I did, I spent what money we had in fortifying Belfast castle and the city walls. I spent every day helping to train my knights and getting the guards to issue instructions to the populace. We had the odd raid but nothing to suggest a total sacking."

"And you wouldn't have Gwaine. Norsemen can act with surprise and stealth. They did not do this by simple means."

"Magic. They used magic."

"Correct Duke Kay, correct. There are several strong sorcerers in their lands; there is one called Loki who is feared amongst mere mortals. I said before they have been raiding here for a number of years and it is time I told you more than what you know. This is why in part the others were made to leave. You best sit down again."

After his nephews were seated, Garratt realized there was no wine. "Duke Kay, Earl Gwaine perhaps you could take care of the lack of refreshments?"

All gulped their goblet of wine, the King cleared his throat and began," As you now know Norsemen are fearless, evil creatures. They have been my mortal enemy for nigh on thirty years, even more so than Uther Pendragon. Thy have had their greedy eyes on this realm and my wife and I united our realms in the face of their provocations.

You know that our family has links to magic, we have been Dragon lords and we have also been custodians of several magic artifacts. Artifacts which if they fell into the wrong hands would cause chaos not just here or in the Kingdoms in Albion but all of Europe. You have heard of the Horn that Merlin must drink from and of the sword which must be used to kill me. Well, there are in total nine treasures of Britain and several prophecies. Two of the prophecies have direct consequence for us. The Book of Kells, and the Prophetiae Merlini."

"Prophetiae Merlini?" Both Leon and Gwaine said in unison.

"Indeed, now I shall continue. The Book of Kells describes how a warlock can be destroyed but it also contains how powerful magical users survive and what sustains them. It was written by an old druid order that also protected the thirteen treasures of Britain. The Norsemen attacked and the druids sought refuge with my father. He accepted and the treasures where escorted to Castle Desmond. Unfortunately one druid betrayed the order and stole two of the treasures, the Crock and the Dish of Rhygenydd the Cleric and the Stone and Ring of Eluned the Fortunate. If all thirteen treasures fall into the hands of evil then combined with strong sorcery all the British Isles are under threat. "

"You both have questions I am sure but I will continue without interruption. The Prophetiae Merlini detail how Arthur was conceived, where a powerful magic being can go to be restored to their full power after battle and the future of the world. I know not of what they all mean but I will tell you these parts and you will know what it refers to:

'Beware the Rowan, for it can spread quickly. Unchecked it will place roots across the land that will be hard to remove. The Rowan will survey the lands and say "Who can stop me? For even the Dragon now does my bidding. A shower of blood shall fall and a dire famine shall afflict mankind. The Red One will grieve for what has happened, but after an immense effort it will regain its strength. Men will suffer most grievously, in order that those born in the country may regain power. He who will achieve these things shall appear as the Man of Bronze, and long years he shall guard the realms.

When the land of the Green falls, the King of Hundred Knights shall rise. All shall fear his wrath for when Magic combines with Strength and Wisdom it shall be unstoppable. The Lion of Justice shall come and shake the Rowan and in the days of this Lion, gold shall be squeezed from the lily-Bower. The Monkey will at first mock the Lion but will ally. The King of a Hundred Knights shall meet the Once and Future.'

Garratt had watched Leon and Gwaine try and digest this information and admitted to himself that both seem to have caught up. "So, nephews, what queries do you have?"

Leon went first, "The Rowan is Morgana, it was her crest when she last took Camelot. The Dragon stands for the Pendragon family. The Red one? Well our crest is Red isn't it? And the Monkey, the Monkey is us too."

"Correct, do you understand the par about being born in the country?"

Leon nodded, "Yes that is Merlin and I. We were both born in the country, in Ealdor, Merlin is clearly the man of bronze or perhaps I am. We have had a conversation about both being immortal. "

"And do you know who the Lion is?"

"Yes, it is Arthur. Arthur's mother's coat of arms was a Lion and a Unicorn, Merlin drew it as a birthday present, Arthur showed it to me right before this whole trouble started." Leon answered.

"Yet again Merlin was making prophesy, he just did not realise it. You must also know that the Once and Future King discussed in folklore is Arthur."

Garratt turned to Gwaine, "You are oddly quiet Earl Gwaine."

"I let you down, I let the Kingdom down. I am not fit to be an Earl."

"Don't be ridiculous Gwaine; you did not have the Knights nor the men to withstand such an attack."

A thought dawned on Gwaine; the King was remarkably well informed about prophesy, "Did you? Did you know this would happen?"

"I knew the Norsemen would not give up their quest and I knew that Belfast could not withstand a sustained attack. Before you criticize you do not know the challenges and pressures a King faces. I could have sent more troops but then leave another part of my Kingdom unguarded. You forget that I have had to take care of three realms and deal with a lot of upheaval. I cannot risk my strongholds."

Gwaine was incredulous, "so you let innocent people die, you left them to their fate!"

"More people would have died had I stretched myself too thinly."

"Well know we now we must respond immediately."

Leon was getting good at noticing when the King was angry, his mouth twitched and the voice came back, "We shall do no such thing! To attack now would be folly and risks open war."

"We are at war! A War which you started!" Gwaine bit back.

"How dare you! You know not of what it is like to be King and thank God you never shall. I will not be questioned. In case you did not engage your brain let me do it for you. Norsemen have sacked one of my cities and stolen a Kingdom backed up with a least one powerful sorcerer. They are trying to steal magical treasures that if they can access to will cause unspeakable damage and they are allied with Camelot. Camelot which you seem to have forgotten is now controlled by two powerful witches with ambitions for Empire. I have lost my Queen, I have a new heir and I have no allies. And you expect me to just wave my hand and magically Ulster is ours again? Have you taken leave of your senses?"

Gwaine responded, "Yes, I took leave of them when I trusted you again!"

"GET OUT."

The Earl nodded at the King and Duke and slammed the door.

The King put his left hand over his face and closed his eyes, Gwaine would always have an imperious streak, he knew that. He now had to convince his other magical nephew he knew what he was doing.

"Sire, this is why Merlin cautioned about coming back wasn't it? He knew it would not be easy and he knew this attack was coming. He warned me as such. I have had a niggling fear for days which I failed to react upon."

"You were not to know what was going to happen Kay, but your magic was reacting which is a good sign and you now know why Merlin has been more reluctant than you would think about coming back."

"Because if the Norsemen get the treasures and do have powerful sorcerers then he could be destroyed. He is worried about letting everyone down, especially if he's King too after your death."

"Correct, he is also scared because of another prophecy. A Merlin will fly down with the Kites and eat up the bodies of the dead, it will nest on the walls of Camelot and in its nest will be hatched an Ass. The Snake of Malvern will nature this Ass and teach it deceitful tricks. The Ass shall be crowned and will clamber above all that is most lofty and terrify the people with its hideous braying.

Do you know who the Snake is?"

"Nivemuh?"

"Indeed, Merlin's reluctance is that in the melee of his return she escapes once more. An Ass is a creature begot of a Unicorn and a Lion. He is worried that Arthur falls under her influence."

"So he thinks it is better for him to remain hidden and see how it pans out first?"

"Yes nephew, but he is wrong and in a way Gwaine is right. We must respond, we cannot have Norsemen roaming free and their victory will embolden them more. Coupled with the greed of the witches our realms are at a critical moment. Merlin must return and with your help he will unite the Kingdoms of Hibernia and become the King of a Hundred Knights.

Now, our guests should be refreshed and we need to get Gwaine back here before he does something stupid. Go and fetch Michael and get everyone together. Somehow we have got to navigate the challenge of your mother being here while you are in disguise and the fact that the Once and Future King is currently homeless and is a manservant, not to mention the baying hoards of Norsemen to deal with."

Leon left quickly, his mind was racing, and yet again he had been caught surprised by events. He resolved that he would train himself better, how could he help Merlin and play his part if didn't see what his magic was trying to tell him? That though was for another day.

Tracking down Michael had been easy and it was obvious Gwaine would be sulking in his chambers, he had nowhere else to go. Leon didn't bother to knock, he just barged in:

"Oh too good to knock now are we your Grace?"

"Yes."

"Of course, been making plans with his majesty no doubt behind my back."

"GWAINE! Don't be ridiculous. If you hadn't shown off you would know it is far more complicated than you presume. The King will respond but not in the way you think."

"What's he going to do? Roll over and get his stomach tickled?"

"No. He is resolved to defeat the Norsemen once and for all and for Hibernia to be united. He meant it. It will not be his doing though, it is another's destiny."

"Who? You? You barely could win a tournament."

"No, although I did win. It is not I who is destined, I am not the King of a Hundred Knights. I am not Magic."

"Merlin? Kay don't mess with me here. You mean it actually is going to happen?"

Leon nodded, "Yes, the King and I will do everything possible and we suspect you will do too. He will return and then we are going to raise an army, find some allies and drive the Norsemen out for good."

Gwaine smiled, "I'll be right at your side your Grace."

"Speaking of people by your side, your manservant is here. That complicates things."

"Your mother is here too and both my brothers, who still don't know everything."

"Don't remind me." Leon walked up to Gwaine and placed a hand on his right shoulder, "Gwaine look at me. I promise it will be ok. I don't know how yet but I know something good with come from all of this. It was not your fault. I know your pride has taken a knock. And you won't let me forget this in a hurry but I am proud to be able to call you cousin."

"How Gracious of you Duke Kay."

Leon's eyebrows shot up and a smiled formed on his lips, "Nothing to add there Earl Gwaine? Nothing about me being a great champion and how you love me and will work with me?"

"Nope nothing." Leon moved his hand and chuffed Gwaine's right ear. "Noblemen these days, no respect for their betters."

"I know your Grace, it's shocking. Come now we best get back to our family and my manservant, heaven knows what he is thinking."

Heavens indeed Leon thought and a good job he doesn't know who he is his brain added. He shuddered, An Arthur knowing the truth would be an angry Arthur and he would not be there when that happened, Merlin would have that delight and honour. Leon would rather he wasn't in that discussion.

If anyone had asked Arthur at that moment in time they would have been surprised.

Chapter Text

Arthur had a headache. He had been imprisoned then banished from Camelot and had ended up in a strange Kingdom called Ulster. His master had disappeared and he was left behind with Lord Henry. Suddenly he found himself on a Dragon and now reunited with his master, the Earl Gwaine. It had all been a bit much to take in really.

He looked around his room, his own private room. He had been put in a room next to Gwaine which reassured him. Arthur wasn't used to such luxuries, the Castle at Belfast was half the size of Castle Desmond and to have his own bathroom and not to have to share with other servants was new to him. The room was finely decorated and he couldn't help but notice the tapestry on the wall to his left depicting a monkey holding a baby. He had never seen one in real life but Gwaine had explained what the creature meant to his family.

The bath looked very inviting to him and he knew he would not be in a fit state to serve his master or explain to the King what had happened. King Garratt reminded him of someone but he couldn't work out why or who it was. The King looked foreboding but Arthur was not scared, more so he was annoyed. Annoyed that his quiet life in Belfast had been taken away from him.

As he undressed and sunk himself into the hot water waiting for him, he harked back to the attack. The force used by the Norsemen had been overwhelming, thousands of baying angry hateful men had been seen as Henry and he had surveyed the land below from the Castle walls. Henry was insistent that they stayed and fought and Arthur had been proud to have played his part. When one of them had directly threatened Henry, Arthur had leapt in front of him and fought him off. As their swords clashed, the Norseman had bared his teeth but Arthur had been unmoved. No one was going to scare him; he had a job to do, to protect his temporary master. He remembered that Henry had shoved him out of the way to face his attacker himself and Arthur had fallen to the ground, then it was all a blur, shouting and screaming as a dragon flew overhead.

Arthur recalled a loud buzzing noise and a flash of light, pulsating towards the Dragon which took a direct hit, as he laid on the ground he heard words that made no sense to him and the flashing stopped, the Dragon roared and fire flew down from the sky onto the Norsemen. But Arthur saw that the Norsemen did not burn, protected by a bubble, the Dragon blew fire again and the bubble burst, Norsemen were in flames and Henry and he ran, ran until they were in a clearing. Arthur remembered that the Lady Hunith was there and the Dragon spoke to them, it actually spoke English and told them they must depart.

Now here he was in Castle Desmond. Arthur did not know how or when they would respond but he wanted to be part of it, part of the battle that was to come. He shook his head as if to clear the memories and focus on the task in hand of preparing himself to meet the King. Arthur could have sworn that someone else was in the room with him. He looked around from the bath tub but no one was there, he was unsettled because he could have sworn that someone was kneeling beside him, he had felt a breath on him, it was as if there was a ghost there, a spirit watching him.

Arthur decided the best thing he could do was to finish bathing and get himself dressed, he was a servant after all and now he could be reunited with his master. He really liked Gwaine, Gwaine had treated him with respect and had insisted when they were alone to be called by his first name, he had allowed him to come hunting with him and Arthur thought it was highly amusing that he could ride just as fast as the Earl and was just as powerful with a bow and arrow when hunting their prey. Gwaine had told him he was a natural huntsman and had ruffled his hair. Arthur liked it when Gwaine touched him, it stirred something within him. Perhaps now they were no longer in Belfast something could happen? His thoughts were interrupted by Michael telling him that Gwaine was calling for him and that they were expected to be in the Hall shortly.

The King spoke first once they had been reunited, insisting that Henry gave them every detail about the attack. Arthur had noticed Duke Kay smile at him when Henry had recounted the part about Arthur jumping in front of him and fighting his attacker. Arthur had also picked up on nervousness on the part of Lord Henry when he discussed the Dragon and picked up on the undercurrent in the room, that some matters would be discussed once he and the Lady Hunith had left the room. He was proved wrong when the King spoke,

"Thank you Henry, that has cleared matters up well. Now we must respond. I have had plans drawn up for a while in the case that one of our realms fell and I will enact them, first though I must consult with Kay in private. Please, the rest of you take your leave, I will see you in the morn. Sleep well."

"Your majesty, I insist that I stay, I have something to discuss with you." Arthur had been surprised to see the Lady Hunith speak, she had remained silent.

"I am sure madam but now is not the time."

"Now is the time my Lord. It is exactly the time for you to hear what I have to say."

Arthur wasn't surprised when the King glared at her and looked over to the Duke Kay who looked uneasy, almost on edge. "Lady Hunith, you are a guest at my court and as such you will do as I ask."

"My Lord, I mean you no disrespect, as you can appreciate I have a unique perspective on events and you would be doing the people I care about deeply a great disservice if you did not hear me out."

Leon's heart was beginning to race, Hunith was definitely looking at him now, she knew he thought, she knew who he was, he had to speak up. "Sire, the Lady Hunith has travelled far and has had a great shock; it would be disrespectful to any lady if she was ignored."

King Garratt snorted, "Disrespectful indeed. Fine." He smiled sweetly at the Lady and bowed slightly, "Lady Hunith you shall stay and address the Duke and I with what I am sure are your unique insights."

"I shall stay King Garratt, as shall all your nephews for I bring a report from Killgarrah that all of you should be aware of."

"You are trying my patience my Lady."

"And you are testing mine Sire."

Arthur's eyes nearly popped out of his head, he had never known of a woman addressing any man in this way let alone a King yet somehow he seemed the only one surprised by the exchange.

"ENOUGH! I am minded to have you dismissed from this Castle!"

"Dismiss me then King Garratt, dismiss the mother of the Red if you so wish."

Now Arthur had no idea what was going on but thought it was a good idea to make excuses about needing to polish armour and get to bed.

"Sires, may I be excused; I need to tend to some chores before I retire."

"GO. Everyone Go. The Lady Hunith shall be heard in private. Kay you shall stay."

Each nephew looked at each other, none of them wanted to move, Henry and Thomas looked to Gwaine to take the lead. "Sire, I would"

"I am sure you would Earl Gwaine but you should rest, for you will be studying the plans to retake the Castle you lost me. Now get out!"

Leon looked at Gwaine apologetic Gwaine nodded back as if to say, "You will tell me what happens" and then he left with his brothers.

Leon really had had enough of arguments and silences and decided that he would try and control the exchange between his mother and uncle before it got out of hand.

"Lady Hunith."

"I know I have no right but wouldn't mother be more appropriate?"

"You, you know?"

Hunith looked straight at him, into his eyes, his soul. He was kicking himself, of course she would know.

"Yes, you may look more like Merlin but I recognize those eyes anywhere. I may have given you up as a child but I never forgot your eyes." Leon could not fail but to be moved by this declaration.

"While this reunion may be nice for the both of you, I have other pressing matters Hunith."

"You never change do you Garratt?"

The glare and voice was back Leon thought, "That's King Garratt or your majesty to you, maid."

Leon then became very proud of his mother as she cut back, "Better to be a maid than a lying, deceitful King. A King too proud to love his son unconditionally. You brought all of this on yourself Garratt and I hold you responsible for what has happened to both my sons and to my Balinor."

"You know nothing of my responsibilities."

"And neither do you it seems, here you are still lying, forcing my son to live a lie."

"It is for his own good! Or would you rather the world knew that Leon had come back from the dead. How do you think the witches of Camelot would react to that news?"

"So you think lying, lying to half your own family is the answer? You have learnt nothing Garratt, how do you think Thomas and Henry will feel? And Gwaine?" Hunith looked at the King with pity. He would never change. At first when Balinor found her she had tried to get him to make peace with his father but nothing came of it. Many times she thought Merlin should know the truth of his family but she wanted him to have nothing to do with his Grandfather."

Leon thought he really ought to know interject, "Gwaine knows mother. The others do not."

"That does not matter, it is still lying."

Garratt had had enough, "You hypocrite. You lied, you lied to Merlin all of his life. You kept him hidden from his father from his family."

"No you did that; you had nothing to do with him. I was left struggling to raise a boy with unspeakable magical gifts right on the boundary of a Kingdom that hated magic. A Kingdom which hunted my one true love."

Garratt was not going to give in easily, "And you lied to Kay here, you gave him up and let him live a lie. Oh Hunith you may act all pious but you my dear, you are just as bad as me."

"She is not." Garratt was surprised by the toe in his nephew's voice, it was stronger than what he was used to. "She is not as bad as you. And mother you are not faultless, but both of you need to admit that mistakes have been made and both of you need to focus on what must be done next. We have to get my brother, your son, your grandson back."

Hunith smiled, "I knew you would be noble, Leon."

"You have to stop calling me Leon, my uncle is right, my status must remain hidden."

"It will not work, and I have no idea how you are going to hide Merlin and the truth about him when he comes back."

The King was torn between telling them now or leaving them to wait in suspense but it had been a long day and there was already going to be gossip about a palace row, he needed a united family. "Much as I will regret this, I'm going to tell you right now. Then I am going to bed."

"I have already started the process of handing over my realm. First I instructed messengers to go Albion and to Europe to spread tales about a monkey rescuing a baby . As you both know, legend has it that one of my ancestors had their first born kidnapped, rather than pay the ransom he decided to sire more sons. His wife though did not agree and pleaded to mother nature to help them. A monkey rescued the babe at night and brought him back into his mother's arms. The King was so pleased by this turn of events that he added the monkey to his crest. A legend was born that the Fitzgerald family when threatened could call upon mother nature for help. That legend was further helped when we were trusted enough to master the power of Dragons and elevated ourselves to being Dragonlords.

So, I have concocted a few tales to be spread around, rumours of a baby being found in a cave in Albion over twenty years ago, and of said baby being cared for by a monkey. I've also got rumours being spread that my son Balinor fathered a secret child. By the end of the week there will be rumours flooding this and all other realms. I will be forced for the good of my kingdom to issue a decree that anyone who is my rumored grandson to come forth to claim their rightful titles. This is going to have more than one benefit for me.

First, I can start the process of having you Kay supplanted and for my new heir to be legal, second I will be able to snuff out every single pretender and threat in one go. Every chancer, every greedy nobleman is going to find someone to try and take the spoils, we will be inundated by them."

"How will you ensure people don't accept the claims of one of the pretenders?" Leon asked.

"Ah, glad you asked, there is a cloak you see, a cloak that if the true heir wears it will recongise him, if it is a pretender then the cloak will burn them. That way when Merlin does reappear and the cloak sticks people will believe he is my rightful heir. There is also a sword, a sword which when held by someone of noble birth will light in fire. "

"So you're going to create chaos and rumour and reject every pretender so that when he does finally arrive people will believe him. A lie heaped on a lie?"

"Yes Duke Kay."

"My son is not going to agree to more lies."

"He has no choice Hunith, it is for his own good."

"I highly doubt that." She bit back.

"Well luckily I don't have to listen to your opinions. Now what news did you have for me from that infernal Dragon?"

"He said to give you a warning that Merlin's destiny is not on the same path as yours, that there is going to be great bloodshed and that Camelot is even more powerful than you suspect. Camelot has taken all of Escetia, has annexed Lord Godwin's lands and is now on the verge of victory over Wessex and Essex at the same time. Killgarrah said sorcerors are flocking towards Morgana's banner and that once she has claimed victory she intends to be crowned Empresses. Furthermore they are in league with the Norsemen and against them at the same time.

They plan shortly to hold a conference of the five Kingdoms and for each Kingdom to unite their armies under the leadership of Lord Agravaine in the face of the Norse threat, then when they have beaten the Norsemen once in a fake battle, they will keep control of the armies of the other Kingdoms. Slowly every realm will fall under her spell."

Garratt nodded, "Anything else to add Hunith?"

"None, except that their ultimate aim is to take your entire Kingdom also and have a united British Isles."

"There is more chance of you and I getting on than me allowing that to happen. I would say over my dead body, but it would appear that is necessary in order to precipitate our victory."

"Are you sure we can win against the Norsemen Sire?"

"Of course Duke Kay, of course, the Norsemen have played into my hands, I know each and every castle in Hibernia and I know how to take them."

"But you won't be leading us in battle, you'll be…"Leon went quiet, mentally kicking himself for raising his uncles death.

"Dead, yes I am aware of that fact thank you Kay. But I will have time beforehand to ensure that you and Gwaine are fully briefed. I have complete confidence in your abilities and confidence that wedded with Merlin's increased abilities the Norsemen will run. And you have the Dragon."

"The Dragon, King Garratt blew down fire, at first it did not work, the Norsemen seemed protected but then the fire broke through, there were men on fire, it was terrible to watch."

"They should not have attacked my realm."

"I don't understand why the Dragon did that without being commanded. It does not make sense to me." Leon asked.

"He was commanded nephew." The King replied.

A brainwave hit Leon, "Merlin, of course, Merlin told him to defend the castle and make sure people escaped."

"Exactly, and the Dragon is going to be most useful yet again."

"There is a problem with this though, if Camelot finds out that our victory over the Norsemen involved a Dragon then they are going to get suspicious are they not? I mean I know they know our families links to magic but only a powerful sorcerer can control a Dragon."

"A Dragonlord is not always a powerful sorcerer; some Dragonlords do not have magic. It will be seen as an asset and another reason for them to seek an alliance with us. They are greedy. When I am Dead Camelot, indeed every Kingdom will seek to influence the new King and gain favour, marriage offers are going to flood in."

"Merlin isn't going to marry Morgana!" Leon thought the King was taking leave of his senses.

The King smiled at him, "And he doesn't have to. You could do or Gwaine could, there are many options. The main thing is that Merlin must ascended to the throne and be recongised as my rightful heir. Then the hard part of restoring Arthur Pendragon can be started."

"Who is this Arthur?" Hunith suddenly said.

"Arthur is the true heir to Camelot. He has been airbrushed out of history by a powerful spell sealed in the dark magic. Only his true love can break it. His true love happens to be your son Merlin. Now don't look surprised, you know this. Arthur is the missing part, the part that you cannot put your finger on. "

Hunith closed her eyes, she remembered Merlin shaking, she remembered Leon arriving, she knew she had forgotten something had missed something. Garratt could not be trusted though.

"Kay, is this true?"

"I cannot lie to you. It is true. I know it is hard to take in but it is why Merlin has got to come back, to right a great wrong. He is destined to become a great man and it would appear he is destined to be Arthur's other half."

"Then I believe you."

Garratt was getting rather tired, and he had had enough of being around this woman. "Well now that is cleared up, I think it is time everyone retired for the evening. One more thing though Hunith, what is my grandson's middle name?"

"Ambrosius, Balinor said that was his grandfather's name. I wanted Merlin to have some link to his heritage even if I could not disclose it."

"Ambrosius, a fine name for a King, Ambrosius the Red. Excellent Hunith you may have done something right for once."

"Uncle, please this must stop."

Hunith rose from her chair, "It will never stop. We will never be reconciled."

"Good" Garratt spat back. "Now both of you leave me. The next few months are going to be as difficult as possible already without me having to explain myself every two minutes."

Leon bowed, Hunith nodded and they left Garratt in peace. Outside the Hall Hunith placed a hand on Leon's left arm, "Be careful. Be very careful. Trust yourself and your brother. No one else. Promise me."

"I promise. Now I need to escort you to your room, I think you're going to be a guest here for a while." Leon saw that his mother did not seem impressed by his statement, "It will be alright, nothing will harm you here."

"I know you'll protect me but I can't help but worry. And I am in the same castle as that man." Hunith was never going to reconcile with Garratt, he ruined her life, he had failed to protect the man she loved and he left her penniless to bring up his grandson. Nothing would change her mind. Hunith had thought about leaving but she couldn't do that to Leon. She barely knew him but thought he could do with a woman's influence in his live, that and the prospect of seeing Merlin again would keep her here, even if it was against her better judgment.

Chapter Text

Hunith's judgment she had to admit was faulty. As she reflected on the past months events she had grudgingly grown to respect her father in law despite his many, many faults. Garratt have proved to be an effective leader of men and an effective foil for her son and his cousins. What had really surprised Hunith however was Garratt's never ending questions about her other son, Merlin. He had asked what he was like when growing up and why he had ended up in Camelot of all places. A row had ensued when both accused the other of neglecting Merlin and placing him in danger which had ensured that Leon had played peacekeeper but apart from that they got on remarkably well enough not to try and destroy each other.

She was taking her morning walk and watching the Knights train out on the battlefield, Garratt overseeing one session and Leon the other. Knights had come from across Hibernia as news filtered through of the fall of Ulster and then the fall of Wessex and Essex across the sea. Rumours were abound that Camelot had executed Knights who did not swear allegiance to the new order and twenty had escaped and sought asylum in the Kingdoms of Munster and Kerry. Hunith had not been there when Garratt had had a messenger from Camelot warning him not to meddle in their affairs but had heard from Leon that his majesty had definitely not been amused.

Hunith felt proud of her secret son and the work he was doing, it had been difficult to bond with him, especially in public and privately Leon was too jumpy about his secret being discovered to talk much. At first Hunith thought it was because he still resented her but he had quietly told her that no, he did love her and yes he had forgiven her but that he had dedicated himself to getting his brother back safe and sound and he wouldn't risk anything or anyone. Her pride had swelled that day and she composed herself enough not to openly cry but to plant a kiss on his cheek and tell him that she understood.

Now, her new son was helping to lead an army and she oddly felt content. What had really helped was hearing from Merlin, albeit briefly. He had let her know that yes he was perfectly safe and no he was not injured or hurt. That's all a mother could ask for really.

Leon was tried, so very very tired. Every day involved more training. Every new Knight had to be vetted by him and then trained by him before they could be presented to the King. His cousins, particularly Gwaine had been a great help but he was the Crown Prince so it was his job to know about the knights more than they knew about themselves. How Arthur had done this with such ease was beyond him. Leon had to be leader and an older brother, he had to guide and admonish in equal measure. Leon had always watched Arthur from a distance when training and he was the closest knight to him but never had been his best friend, that was Merlin's job and he had never seen the full stresses of the job of being Crown Prince.

Now, he had known the challenges and pressures and he was almost enjoying it, except for the tiredness. Gwaine had told him there would be a surprise for him after training, he hoped it wasn't a maiden or something sent to his room, not that he wouldn't mind female company one day but he was just too tired to do anything about it. There was one lady though that had taken his eye, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Adare; she was a third cousin twice removed or something. She had been at the feasting for his crowning and the tourney but he had not really had the chance to speak to her until more recently. Part of being Crown Prince was the public relations duties, Leon had quickly learnt that he needed to be seen and to project confidence. Garratt had got to Leon quickly on that. Last night he had to entertain alongside Garratt and his cousins three noble families in a small and intimate gathering.

Leon smiled at that thought; the latest small and intimate gathering had involved a harpist and a juggler for entertainment and a six course meal. His uncle had told him that he would be spending every available penny at his disposal to woo the whole of Hibernia to his cause and Leon admitted that it was working. Thankfully he hadn't been dangled too much like a prize cut of meat but Gwaine certainly had been, Garratt had basically told all four men that at least one of them was going to have to be married off soon but that he would let them have some say on the matter. Over a whiskey he had explained how he married Elizabeth because they needed to unite their Kingdoms but also because they did like each other beforehand. Garratt cautioned all of them not to blindly go for the first woman that showed them interest, which had earnt several looks at Gwaine and some cat calls.
Later today while the King was entertaining the Earl and Countess of Adare he would have the chance to walk the Lady Emily around the castle gardens, along of course with her ladies in tow. Still he would have the chance to speak to her properly. He looked in the mirror and thought despite the tiredness he looked presentable. He rubbed his hands over his eyes to wake him up and then jumped out of his skin.

"Hello brother."

"Merlin! What on earth? You're in a mirror"

The face in the mirror laughed at him, "Nice to see your observant today Curls. Now, don't look so shocked, I am a warlock after all."

"Yes, I know but so far I have only heard your voice, it's been weeks, months Merlin. It's so overwhelming to see you. And why, I mean how, no why, why now?"

Merlin shrugged his shoulders, Leon could tell. "Well I needed to perfect the spell and then find time to talk to you, I mean what with you being Crown Prince and everything and I know how that usually goes."

"Have you been watching over me?" Leon saw his brother nod, "Of course I have and the others too, though not all at once, I'm not super human you know! It's mainly you, and mother, sometimes Arthur, just to make sure he's not being a prat."

"Merlin, I hope you haven't been looking at him when he has been bathing!"

Leon noticed the blushing, "Honestly that isn't fair on him is it?"

"No, I know. It's mainly to see if he is ok. Which he seems to be. Sometimes though Leon I think he thinks someone is there watching him."

"Hold on, wait, we shouldn't be doing this. You're meant to be dead and I am meant to be Duke Kay."
Merlin quirked a smile, "You think I'm not capable of creating a silencing spell? No one can hear us."

"Genius."

"No, just warlock."

"Yes, yes, now are you sure you are just saying hello?"

Merlin looked a bit rueful, "Ah you caught me. Firstly I wanted to tell you that I love you, I'm proud of you, of what you have become and you are doing a great job and you must stop comparing yourself to Arthur. Now don't look at me like that I know you will be. You mustn't, you have a different job to do than the one he did.

Secondly, thank you for making peace with our mother. I have been in her dreams; it's easier for her that way. She knows I am safe.

"Speaking of dreams."

"M-bro?" Leon looked at the mirror puzzled. "Merlin what is it?"

"Something is blocking Gwaine's visions, when he dreams he is only seeing half shapes, liked a blurred vision. He can't work out what is happening and is to bloody stubborn and proud to ask for help. You must speak to Killgarrah. I think a sorcerer is blocking the visions. There's a spell I can teach you but some of the ingredients for the potion are not close at hand and I am sure the Dragon would like nothing better than to run errands for you." The warlock barked a laugh out and was grinning from ear to ear.

"Even in a mirror your ears still look odd Merlin."

"Not as odd as your birthmark. I have to admit that whole episode was hilarious. My grandfather really pulled it off."

"You know what he is doing then for his next set of tricks?"

"Yes, and I am ready." Merlin fell silent; in his mind was he really ready, would he ever be?

"M-bro I know that tone of voice. Spit it out."

"Damm! Well I am ready. At least I think I am. I'm not sure. There are massive risks you have to believe me. I might not be the same; I could be stuck as an old man. I could come back radically different. And there is a chance that my return shakes the earth so much that Morgana and Morgause will realize something is up. Remember Leon that Morgana is a powerful seer."

Leon had an idea, "If someone is blocking Gwaine then do the same to Morgana. Surely you can manage that?"

"I can, but she only has to mention to Morgause that she can't see visions properly anymore and her sister will work it out. No, I must cast something more powerful, she needs to have visions, just false ones and that will not be easy to sustain, it will drain me."

"I am sure you are powerful enough." Leon smiled at his little brother; he was always worrying, always unsure of his power. One day he thought he would truly realize how special he was.

"Leon I know you think I am all seeing and all powerful and you are right. But if I am sustaining that spell and sustaining my cover, and helping to keep yours and protecting Arthur from harm and leading an army to defeat the Norsemen as well as keep Killgarrah in check, then well, that is a lot for one warlock, even me. This leads me onto my main reason for being here now."

Leon looked a bit confused he thought, clearly was too tired. "Curls. Magic. Yours and Gwaine's, you are neglecting it. You are my warlock guide and he is a seer. You need to practice, both of you do. You are spending so much of your time training the Knights, readying plans and parading yourselves in front of every noble, man woman and child that you have had no time to hone your skills. You have got to get me back and quickly. And you both have to stand on your own two feet magic wise. I am going to need some help."

It was as if a fog had been lifted in Leon's mind. Merlin was right as usual. He just did not have the time and he was so, so tired.

"I know you are tired, this is why I am in the mirror. I can slow time remember. I can lengthen the days so that you and Gwaine can come here and be taught by me. And I can get you both to sleep. You will be able to sleep for hours while to the rest of the world it will be minutes. "
"But, you'll be tired. You said so yourself that you cannot do everything."
"No I can't. But I can sleep when you are training and if I am only appearing in one mirror, well I can handle that."

"I'm your brother remember? We might not be exactly the same but we both want to help others and think of them before ourselves. Are you sure this will not hurt you"

Merlin shrugged his shoulders, "Got any other ideas?"

"No. Doesn't mean to say I like this one though."

"Tough, I am exerting my influence. I'm the powerful warlock remember, destined for great things, you'll have to lump it."

"And I'm the older brother. That trumps everything."

Merlin chuckled, it felt good to be like this, to be almost normal once more. "I can appear in dreams Leon, I could tell the King that you have to wear the monkey hat or the Kingdom would fall. I could tell Gwaine that you need to have another birthmark. I could bewitch ladies to fall at your feet, throwing themselves at you."

"The last one wouldn't sound so bad, if I weren't so tired."

"Yeah partly that Curls and partly because you're too honourable for your own good."

Leon's eyebrows shot up, Merlin had given him an open goal. "One of us has to be honourable Merlin, we both can't uphold the family tradition and be an alleycat!"

"Oh you have no idea, for all you know I have been cavorting with fairies and pixies every night."

"And have you?"

"No. They don't like me very much as you know. And I don't think they haven't given up on revenge yet. Which reminds me. I need my staff, well I need you to have it."

"The staff under your bed in Camelot."

Merlin nodded.

"How'd you expect me to get that?"

"I don't. I need it delivered here. You're going to have to get the Dragon to run another errand. He's going to need to collect it from Gaius."

"Merlin, is it safe? I mean could Gaius get caught?"

"There is no way I will put Gaius in any danger. I can promise you that."

Leon sighed; the Dragon was just going to be thrilled to be turned into an errand boy.

"Very well brother, consider it done."

"Good. Now tell me more about the Lady Emily." Merlin smirked at him.

"I'd love to M-bro, but I have to go, I'm expected."

"Ok. I'll be here tonight Leon, and don't forget, bring Gwaine along. Your education starts tonight"
Leon went to say that he loved his brother and wouldn't forget but the vision had gone. Staring into the mirror he was almost overwhelmed with emotion. Shaking his head he told himself that he needed to focus.

First, the Lady Emily. Second speaking to the Dragon and third, starting magic lessons for real. Life was never going to be easy he thought. And yet somehow he knew it would all be worth it.

Chapter Text

Walking around the gardens with the Lady Emily was a relaxing experience for Leon, she was a delight to be around. She had wit, she was poised and she was well read. An ideal woman Leon thought. Her parents seemed decent too and had firmly aligned with his uncle at their time of need. Garratt wanted an immediate debrief after the walk and so Leon found himself in the King's private chambers waiting for his uncle who had been detained on important state business.

Leon was grateful in a way that he had been given the chance just to sit and think for a few minutes.

His thoughts were interrupted by the King walking in with what looked like a scroll. The Duke was still standing up; you did not sit down in the King's chambers until you were told to. "Ah, nephew, sit down."

Garratt stared at Leon with intent, "How was your walk with the Lady Emily?"
"Good sire. She is a pleasure to be around."

The King smiled, "Oh I am sure she was, hence why I am speaking with you now. You know that I require allies and to seal them marriage is involved. Would this union be possible?"

His nephew wasn't sure what to say, was it a direct order? A hint? "Erm, well Sire, I defer to your counsel on these matters. My own view does not matter."

"If you had said that to me a year ago I would agree with you but considering the circumstances since then and the fact that shortly I will be replaced as King I have to take your views into account. I can hardly marry you off only for Merlin to object to it later on."

"Sire, the Lady seems a good match. I would consent and I would be happy."
"I shall bear that in mind. It would appear that rumours of marriage are sweeping the land, for she is not the only suitor I have been told about."

Leon was interested, who else was there?

Garratt smirked, "You want to know don't you? Well there are a few possible ones in there and one, well one which would send Merlin into a frenzy for Camelot is already showing her hand."

"Seriously? Morgana wants to marry me?"

"Oh she wouldn't be so blatant not yet. No they have sent out feelers. Queen Morgana has written to me expressing her shock at the fall of Ulster and offering her prayers for our health. She writes that sometimes alliances are required in the face of threats and that Kingdoms are stronger when they unite with their friends. She signs off that she would like the opportunity to meet my heir in the future for she is sure that they would become strong friends."

The King chuckled, "Well you have to hand it to her. She has got some gumption. And we know she is not Empresses yet. Still a most interesting proposal but one that Merlin will never allow."

"Sire you should know that I have spoken with him today."
"How?"

"Believe me Sire this is no lie but he was in the mirror in my chambers."
The King nodded, "Is he well? What did he have to say?"

"He would appear fine uncle. He was talking normally and wanted to know about Lady Emily. He was mainly concerned about me."

"Of course he was and what was his concern?"
"Come on Kay, spit it out."

Leon sighed, maybe the King would be understanding, "He, he wants Gwaine and I to start honing our magic. He Is worried he cannot do it all himself. He also thinks I am too tired so purposes he will stop time so that we can sleep more than we currently do."

The King's face gave no emotion, "And you agree with this view?"
"Yes Sire. I am sorry. I know I am meant to be a strong Crown Prince but it is tiring. Not that I am complaining though."

The King's face softened he noticed, "Not that you ever would. He is right though you do need to take it easy and this confirms my initial intentions which I shall now carry out. We shall have a tournament of all our new Knights."
"Majesty, a tournament is the last thing I need to be in."

"You will not be in it, you shall watch. As the commander of the Knights you must know each and every Knight better than they know themselves. You will be able to pick up a lot from just watching them. It will also allow your body time to relax and you will not have to attend all of the feasts. Your cousin Henry took a knock to his pride because of Ulster and it would be good for him to be able to compete and to have some female attention. Nor will it harm Thomas either."

The King was full of surprises sometimes. "Thank you Sire, I am most grateful."

"It is uncle and I'm not just doing it for you. I have perhaps been too hard on Gwaine also. A rest will do you both good. He needs to know the Knights too so you can take it in turns to accompy me to the tournament, this will allow you both time to rest and to be trained in your other abilities separately."

"Merlin would like to teach us at the same time."
"Merlin will not be your only teacher. I have mentioned the scrolls locked away before, it is time to dig them out. You must find magic in your own way. You never know nephew, you may be able to teach him a thing or two."

Leon smiled, "I highly doubt that. It would be good though to know a bit more of what it is like to be him."

"I think you have got the most out of him. In my short time with him he seemed very private."

Leon thought that was a bit unfairm "He was suspicious of you, we both were."
"And now?"

"Now we both understand a bit more about the challenges you face. But, respectfully we will take a different path I am sure in some aspects."

Despite coming close to criticizing the King, Leon had a limit that he would not cross.
The King rose and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Well said Duke Kay, well said. My new heir Ambrosius and you will I think be a good team for Hibernia."

Leon was now standing directly in front of him, "I hope so Sire."
A chuckle, "Hope? Hope is a funny thing Duke Kay."

Leon also raised a laugh, "It spring Eternal Sire. Now if you can excuse me, I need to converse with an old friend of yours."

Quick as a flash the King replied. "Make sure you're wearing nothing flammable".

Chapter Text

"Ah Duke Kay now there is a surprise."

Kay chuckled, "Oh come now Killgarrah did you expect to be left in peace?"

"Expect, no, hope, yes"

"Hope is a funny thing Killgarrah."

"If you've summoned here to quote prophecy back to me, boy, I shall not be amused."

"And there I was thinking I was your Dragonlord."

"Only temporary. Now what is it?" Leon took one look at the Dragon; it did not look in the mood for humour.

"I've spoken to Merlin, through my mirror. He needs his Sidhe staff."

"Of course he does, I already have secured it. It shall not take me long to bring it to the lake. I trust he is still technically in it?"

Leon nodded.

"Good, I also suspect you have something else you wish to ask me?"

"Yes, Merlin has offered to help also but Gwaine and I need your advice and help to harness our powers."

Killgarrah smiled, "But of course, for the time is almost upon us where your powers will be tested. I suspect Merlin told you he needs some support?"

"He did. Killgarrah this is going remarkably well, I must say."

" Duke Kay do not think it will be a regular occurrence for it shall not be but when the future of Hibernia, Albion and magic itself is at stake you will find that I treat it as no laughing matter."

"I know. I should have said thank you."

"Yes you should have but you Fitzgerald's think before you act. Or fail to heed my warnings."

Leon picked up on that last part. "Is there a warning for us?"

"That depends; tell me has Garratt told you of the artefacts and scrolls underneath his castle?"

"Yes. He has actually been quite helpful. He seems willing to die for Merlin and is being reasonable."

The dragon snorted, "Then you know about the Egg?"

The blank expression on Leon's face told Killgarrah that he did not. He sighed, "One day that man will bloody learn. Duke Kay there is an egg in the vaults, it is a Dragon egg. Now don't look so surprised, your family are Dragonlords after all. I am sure the King told you about the other artefacts and that in the hands of the Norsemen they would cause great damage. The egg is the most precious of them all. If Loki was to find it, he could hatch it and become a Dragonlord himself."

Leon's head was racing, why was it every time he spoke to the Dragon something else came out?

"But you're the Great Dragon, you could stop any new dragon that is hatched?"

"I can fight it but I cannot stop it wreaking damage, it will be controlled by its Dragonlord."

"So Merlin needs to hatch the egg, then it will do his bidding?"

"That only works Duke Kay if the Norsemen do not get it first. Or if you hatch it"

"I don't wish to be a Dragonlord."

"Very well, then the egg must be brought to me. I can keep it safe until such time as Merlin is returned. I cannot disobey Merlin's commands and will bring the egg back to him for hatching."

"Killgarrah that sounds a good idea. I must say you are being remarkably helpful."

"Old age does that even to a Dragon. Even I cannot live forever."

"Is there something you wish me to tell Merlin? He won't thank you for hiding anything."

"All in good time Kay, all in good time. Now return to me tomorrow night with the egg, there can be no delay. I will bring you the staff."

"One thing, how did you know Merlin wanted it and how did you get it?"

The Dragon smiled at Leon, "Tell my young warlock that I too know prophecy and I too wish nothing more than this whole mess to be dealt with once and for all. I will see him rise. For it has written, so it must be."

Killgarrah bowed his head and flew off. As Leon watched the great beast flap its wings he thought he had had a successful encounter. Maybe things were finally going his way he thought. Tomorrow he could have a lie in, watch the tourney and begin his magical education properly. All he had to do was convince Gwaine. He smiled, that would be easy, for Gwaine could always be bribed with beer or women. That was tomorrow though, after the tourney.

The tourney had gone well for both Leon and Gwaine. Both had been sat on either side of the King watching the Knights and both have picked up on how they fought. Leon spotted two knights which he would need to work with to sort out their footwork and he also saw that all of his men were fighting differently. Over a short lunch Gwaine had said the same thing, that they almost seemed relaxed and more eager to take chances.

The one person who seemed most eager of all was Arthur. Arthur had summoned the courage to ask Gwaine if he could compete. After a discussion with his cousin and the King the Earl had told his servant that they had no objection to him taking part but that he needed to be very careful.

Leon had not wanted him to compete but the King insisted that if they said no it would look odd. After all not everyone competing had been of noble birth. In order to boost his ranks Garratt had relaxed the rules and had promoted several of his men within his army to the rank of Knight. Leon still had not been happy so the King suggested that him and Gwaine combined and cast a protection spell over him. Leon had snapped that he didn't know any bloody spells which protected others which had then developed into a massive row about their magical powers and the King saying that he had meant what he said and they should learn and hone their abilities. Garratt told them to go downstairs and they would find the spell required.

So now in the afternoon Leon was sat watching his former prince fight in the last sixteen and he was easily winning. Arthur did not have his previous ability of reading the other opponent so well but the basics were there. His footwork was excellent, the sword seemed to be another limb to him and his concentration was not lacking. Suddenly the fight was over and he was up, alongside the King and Gwaine clapping. Arthur beamed and nodded at his master.

"You can tell that the skills of a warrior are in built, can't you my nephew?" the king remarked.

"Indeed you can. He fought well."

"I suspect he shall make the final four, indeed maybe the final itself."

Leon nodded. "What did you think of the other competitors so far Sire?"

"They are doing fine Duke Kay, the odd knight needs some assistance in training but no one has disgraced themselves yet. Have you seen anything you think the Knights may need to work on?"

"It has been a useful experience my lord, I have made some notes already as has Earl Gwaine."

"Good, now your cousin Henry is on next. After he has fought, you may take leave of me and return to your chambers."

"Thank you your Majesty"

The King nodded and smiled, he was not a slave driver.

-
Back in his chambers, Leon and Gwaine both looked slightly nervy at each other. How did they summon someone in a mirror? They had heard of fairy tales like snow white and yes Merlin was a bit pasty but were they really evil witches?
It wasn't as if either was scared of Merlin and Leon had spoken with him but the thought of actually starting their magical education properly was nerve racking for both of them.

"So are you going to call Merlin or shall I your Grace?"
"I'm not sure what to do Gwaine, last time he just appeared."
"Well why don't we say hello Merlin and see what happens?"

"OK, sure, ready"

"Hello Merlin"

"Hello your Grace, your Lordship, I trust you are both well"

"See told you it would work Kay!"

Merlin rolled his eyes, "It didn't, I was here the whole time watching you two idiots stare into a mirror. Honestly do you think hello Merlin is going to summon me?" Merlin by now was giggling like a girl Gwaine thought.

"Well if you were watching why didn't you say?" Leon shot back.

"I was having too much fun, I take it where I can get it, what with being stuck in a MIRROR"

Merlin was still smirking at both of them." Now before I start teaching you some spells tell me now why on earth you think it is acceptable to let Arthur fight in your latest stupid tournament?"

Leon and Gwaine looked at each other, silently Leon stared at Gwaine, suggesting, "I'll take this"

"Merlin we had little choice in the matter. He wanted to fight and the rules have been relaxed. He had shown incredible bravery at Ulster. It was the right thing to do"

"Of course he showed bravery, it's prince Arthur! What did you think was going to happen? That he would cower in the corner?"

"I don't see why you are getting your knickers in a twist there Merlin."

"Because Gwaine, if he gets injured all bets are off, he is your servant remember? What the hell do you think Morgana and Morgause will say if they find out you let him fight? And what happens if he died?"

"M-bro calm down, he's not going to die."

"And how would you know Curls, can you see the future?"

Leon at least had the decency to look crestfallen Merlin thought. Gwaine on the other hand still looked like he wanted the fight, "Well I can Merlin and he doesn't die, so calm it down"

"Actually you can't see the future, someone is blocking you. And I won't calm it down. After all that has happened you still think nothing can go wrong. Are you as stupid as you look Gwaine, as you're doing a pretty good job of being the biggest clotpole in the history of the kingdom!"

"Merlin! That's enough! Gwaine was only trying to help." Clearly there were unresolved issues there, Leon thought to himself.

"Fine" Merlin bit back. "You just better hope he doesn't get injured. Or I will be back quicker than you expect. And you won't like me."

Gwaine realised there and then that sometimes there would be no reasoning with Merlin when it came to the Princess. He would have to cut his losses. "I'm sorry Merlin." He gestured to Leon, "We both are. We will make sure Arthur is ok, now what's this about me not seeing the future?"

Merlin looked at Gwaine, deep down he was a good man but Merlin was a bit sick of clearing up after his mess. Hopefully they would heed his warnings. "Someone or something is blocking you. I think it is the Norsemen. Any advancing army would not want seers predicting their future moves. There's a lot in the old texts about the Green Knight being blinded and I think it is you. After all, you were wearing green recently and it is your favourite colour."

Gwaine simply nodded," Can you undo it? Even from you know, the mirror."

"Yes but it will take time, probably a week before you can see again properly. You must tell me your dreams every night and the Dragon also. Between us we should be able to interpret them if you cannot."

Leon's ears pricked up when he heard the Dragon mentioned, now was as good as time as any to tell Merlin about the egg. No way would he keep secrets from his brother." Merlin, while we are on the subject of the Dragon, I did ask him for your staff and he said he had it for safe keeping. He told me he would bring it to me in exchange for something."

"What, what Leon did you give away."

"An egg. A dragon egg."

Merlin screamed. Both nobles thought the mirror would break.

" You gave him a dragon egg. Where from?"

"It is in the castle vaults he said, we are meant to exchange tonight. Did I do something wrong?"

Merlin smiled at his older brother, he really did look crestfallen, "No. I am sorry I shouldn't have screamed. Look you will need to order him tonight not to try and hatch it himself and tell him it must be guarded with his life. If he is in danger he must tell you. Only I can hatch it."

"He did say that Merlin, that only you could do it."

Merlin sighed, "Well that's something I guess."

"Sorry to interrupt but why are you making such a fuss?" Gwaine didn't think he was stupid but when it came to magic and dragons and sometimes Merlin he needed a bit of extra help.

"No one should hatch a dragon apart from a Dragon Lord. If the egg fell into the wrong hands the dragon could wreak havoc. You weren't there in Camelot when the Great Dragon struck. I released it, it lied to me and I nearly had to kill it. I never want to go through that ever again. '

Gwaine was wide eyed and open mouthed, " I guess now is not the time for the full story."

Both brothers said in unison "No."

Merlin shook his head, 'The King should have told me before. I shouldn't have to find it out from you via the Dragon. The Dragon also kept that one quiet."

Leon wanted the family to remain united; he would have to be peacekeeper once more. "To be fair to Garratt, Merlin he probably thought he was doing the right thing in keeping it a secret. If he has it locked away it is because he thinks it's a threat to his kingdom."

"Maybe Curls but he needs to tell us everything, what would have happened if the Norsemen got it? It is not your fault. I shall be having words with my Grandfather shortly."

"Enough about the lying old toad now teach me some spells cousin." Gwaine butted in.

Merlin giggled, "Someone's keen. Let me guess you want the love spells first and the ones to turn water into beer?"

"Oh we've done the beer spell already M-bro, and the wine too."

"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Merlin then stared at both of them. "Now Kay, Gwaine you need to pay attention, firstly let's get that dreaming spell off you Gwaine and then I'm going to teach you both how to throw fire balls at people."

The cousins beamed.

It had taken an hour; several scorch marks and a burnt curtain before Merlin felt Gwaine and Leon had the hang of creating fire. Of course in the process they had tried to create water but hadn't succeeded. Merlin told them that their magic would come to them and would feed off his own. It was instinct he said.

The warlock had seen just how tired they both were and insisted that they took a nap in Leon's chambers. At first both had grumbled about sharing a bed until Merlin suggested that they top and toe and he could make the bed bigger so Gwaine's feet were nowhere near Leon's nose.

Looking at them both sleeping his mind harked back to when Arthur had come to Ealdor to help him fight off bandits. In those days Morgana was good too and Gwen was his friend first and foremost. They had worked as a team and despite the loss of Will, Merlin had left Ealdor knowing that him and Arthur were going to be close.

Sighing he thought back to earlier and his telling off at them over Arthur. They had to be so careful, Arthur wasn't someone who could just go out and fight. He was very unhappy to have learnt he had been left in Ulster but understood Gwaine's reasons why. Still though, they had a duty to keep him safe and if they didn't he would find a way to return, with or without a life for a life.
Speaking of which it was time to have a chat with his Grandfather.

Chapter Text

Garratt had watched the rest of the tournament with an increasing satisfaction. Henry, Thomas and Arthur had got through to the last eight and it was obvious that Henry looked on course to claim the crown.

His other two nephews were off learning how to hone their magical gifts while the rumours he spread were beginning to take effect. Tonight he had yet another small gathering he had made arrangements for and nothing was getting in his way. He was now outside his chambers door, as he opened the door he was grateful his servant had ran him a bath and was ready to see to him.

The King needed some time to think about his next steps so had dismissed his manservant after his boots were off. After the most relaxing bath he had had in years he was ready for the evening and the round of mingling he would have to do. Now sat at on his bed, he looked into the mirror and smiled. Despite his age, the King still looked good, Elizabeth had always remarked on his boyish good looks. He smiled to himself that thankfully he didn't have the same ears as his grandson Merlin.

"Hello Grandfather."

The King jumped and fell off the bed, dusting himself down he rose and looked into the mirror. "Merlin!

What in God's name?"

"I am not God your Majesty, I am the Emrys."

"You are my Grandson, now what on earth possesses you to appear in my mirror?"

"Because you have left me little choice, King Garratt."

Garratt was really unsure why Merlin was talking to him in such a harsh tone. He wondered what he had done to provoke such ire but recently he thought he had behaved exceptionally.

"Are you going to tell me what has provoked you to speak to me in such a tone?"

"Oh you know." Merlin said in an accusing tone.

"Actually I don't."

"Fine, Sire, I will make it easier for you. First, you never told me about the Dragon Egg under your castle, second Prince Arthur is still fighting in a tournament and third, third you haven't told the rest of my family about how exactly I am coming back and what is going to happen next."

The King stared at the mirror, he was almost breathless with rage. "I do not answer to you."

"No, you answer to your people, who will judge you."

"The people do not know what I have to do, what I still need to do to keep them safe."

Merlin shot back, "Well you lost Ulster, Sire and you're risking the Kingdom by having that Egg in the Castle, that's just for starters."

Garratt shook his head. "What would you have done then?"

"For a start I would have been a bit more truthful. I thought you had changed but you haven't. I would say I am surprised but really I am just disappointed. I shouldn't have to be doing all this work when I am meant to be resting but here I am again."

"Well go and rest then and keep out of my affairs Merlin."

"Not when they impact my brother or my future Kingdom."

"Oh future Kingdom? So you think you can do better?"

Merlin shook his head at his Grandfather, "I know I can do better."

"Fine, well you won't have to wait long will you?" The King spoke in a quieter tone than Merlin had expected, almost resigning himself he thought.

"No and that is something I need to address with you."
The King sighed, "There's no chance of you leaving until I talk to you is there?"

"None."

Looking at Merlin Garratt had to admire his stubbornness, he laughed, Merlin's eyes shot up. "You remind me of a younger me Merlin, few have ever spoken to me like that and live to tell the tale."

"Few know all about you Grandfather. Now are you going to listen to me?"

His Grandfather waved his right hand, "Yes yes get on with it."

"To start not telling me about the Dragon Egg was irresponsible. I am a Dragonlord. You know as well as I do that any Egg when hatched will automatically look to the person who hatched it as their master. Fitzgerald's were not the only Dragonlord family. You do not know if any of the Norsemen has Dragonlord blood in them."

"I understand the Dragon has told Leon he wants the Egg. This is dangerous in itself. Leon will order the Dragon to return the Egg safe and sound. Unchecked Killgarrah can be as you know a complete law onto himself."

"What would you have me do then?"

"The Egg must now go with Killgarrah and we can only hope he keeps it safe."
Garratt turned his head, "Why are you so keen for the Egg to go now?"

"The Norsemen will attack soon. You have little over a month before the strike."
Garratt had not been expecting this news, "Are you quiet sure? The scrolls did not mention it."

"I am sure, I have seen it. And I can see them remember? I can see the whole Kingdom."

Suddenly the King felt tired, he put his left hand over his face and squeezed tightly. He rubbed his eyes and then looked back into the eyes of his Grandson. "They cannot, cannot succeed. I will not allow it."

"I know which is why I need to come back quickly. Only I have the power to knock out Loki and their other sorcerers. With no magic defenses our troops will be able to beat them."

The King nodded, "I know, I have been preparing for your arrival. I always suspected it would be earlier. "

"There is a problem you don't know about Grandfather." Garratt smiled, Merlin was calming down which was a good sign. "Go on, I am listening."

"If I come back you know I need to be sustained and I am sorry to mention it but only your death can bring me back. That means I need to claim your crown quicker than expected. I also will not be fully recovered. Only once we get past the Summer Solstice I will fully recover. There is a risk that if I am injured I could not be healed. And there is a bigger risk, if I come back and it is not at the solstice then there is the chance others escape. You must know that a life for a life does not always work in the way you want it."

The soft voice was back Merlin thought as the King spoke, "Merlin I do know about what happened with you, Arthur, Gaius and your mother. I know what Nivemuh did but she is dead now."
Merlin stopped; the King wasn't getting it yet. "She is dead yes. But she escaped before and if we don't get my return right then the veil between this and the spirit world could break again. We could have Dorcha everywhere."

"And you are not in the spirit world, well not fully are you. So if you come back it doesn't mean that the veil breaks."

The warlock shook his head, "It isn't easy, there are always risks and I cannot allow risk to be taken that makes matters worse."

Finally Garratt realized why Merlin had been behaving the way he was, he wasn't angry, well he was a bit but it was mainly because he was worried about his future and that of the Kingdoms. Typical he thought, he had misjudged his Grandson yet again. "Nothing will ever be easy Grandson, that is why not everyone makes a good King but you will do. You are going to have to follow your own path and your own heart. No King gets it right all of the time, not even I."

"Thank you. Will you listen to me now?"

"I can but try. Oh and one more thing. I will not risk Arthur. Do not fear on that one."

"Thank you your majesty."

"Merlin please it's Grandfather."

Both seemed at peace with each other, it was almost calm.

The sad thing looking back Garratt thought was neither of them saw the approaching storm.

Chapter Text

Blood, Arthur looked at his left hand, he was bleeding, he pressed his hand to the left side of his body, it was clear to him that he had been stabbed and a feeling of light headiness was washing over him.. Arthur looked around the tournament field, the crowds were still cheering, and he stumbled slightly and went backwards. Could he continue he thought?

His mind said yes, yes you can don't back down now. He growled, he may be a lowly servant but he had his pride and he wanted his master to feel proud of him. He had picked up that Knights were brave, fearless and he would never get to be a Knight if he cowered now. He shook his head, as if clearing his mind of the pain would help him and he lunged forward.

Breadths ragged, he could hear the other man's nerves, he cannot have expected Arthur to have continued after that blow but Arthur was not going to give up. He lunged at the other Knight, who quickly stepped back and raised his sword to meet Arthur head on. The pain was coming back and he knew he had minutes before he would topple over. A thought came into his head, this Knights footwork was slow, Arthur was too quick for him, he knew that.

Arthur stepped two paces back, the other Knight was unsure, watching closely. He took one step forward and then Arthur struck, attack after attack, jumping, jabbing at the other Knight until the blonde saw his chance, his opponent mis-stepped and Arthur moved his sword, it crashed against the Knights helmet, sending him to the floor.

The crowd lept up, cheering. Arthur towered over the other man, "Do you yield Lord Thomas?"
Thomas, crestfallen nodded, "I so yield." Arthur offered a hand to him and helped lift him up, Thomas being magnanimous in defeat told the crowd that his opponent was a worthy victor. Arthur beamed; he did not deserve such praise. He took his helmet off to acknowledge the cheering masses.
Suddenly the pain was back and he felt disorientated, he looked down and saw blood now pouring out of him. Arthur reached out for support and Thomas grabbed him, his last memory was of a tall Dark Lord he recongised as Duke Kay with a face like thunder.

Kay's heart was racing, he hoped that the nobles and Knights around him did not see his sweating, his stomach churning; he felt he had been stabbed himself. The sight before him was the one he feared most of all, Arthur lying in a pool of blood. Nobility or no nobility, he had only one choice, he lept over the barrier and onto the field.

Thomas was wide-eyed as he saw his cousin rush towards him; he wasn't sure what to do. Arthur was an important servant after all but he was a servant. Kay was now hovering over Arthur; he turned to look at Thomas and said "Get Gwaine now and the physicians. He is badly injured." Thomas scrunched his face up and looked at Kay, was he serious? Arthur had just beaten him and now he had a serious injury? And what was Gwaine going to do?

"Thomas, I meant now. Go, please go!"

Kay now looked back down at Arthur; he could see the sweat on Arthur's forehead and wondered if his was as bad. "Arthur, Arthur stay with me, its ok, help is coming."

"Your Grace, please, I'll be fine."

"No you won't Arthur. You are badly hurt, you will need help."

Arthur chocked out, "You shouldn't fuss over me, I am a mere servant."

Kay smiled, "Many will disagree with you there." The Duke shook his head, where was Gwaine and the medical help? He looked up to the heavens; if Arthur died Merlin would never forgive them. He then felt a chill, the hairs on his arm pricked up, he felt something touch the back of his neck.

"He's dying. He's actually dying." An unmistakable voice in his head said.

"No, he will be ok, I promise."

"You can't promise that. Don't make promises you can't keep." The voice said sadly.

"Can you help then?" Kay replied.

"Of course. I'm keeping him alive now but he needs to be moved. Get Arthur to your chambers and I can instruct you and Gwaine."

As if by magic Gwaine had now appeared with two servants and the court physician, "What happened?"

"He fought bravely, he won and then collapsed, we must move him inside."

Kay turned to the physician, "I want him treated in my chambers."

The physician looked very surprised, "But Sire, that's…"

"That is exactly what I command, am I clear?"

"Of course. I need to examine him here briefly, there's a lot of blood."

"Fine" Kay said, "But be quick, there's been enough of a scene already."

The voice in his head said, "There's going to be more of a scene later once I talk to you in private."
The physician declared that Arthur could be moved and instructed the servants to help move him. Gwaine insisted he would help too. Kay looked at the scene in front of him, two servants, the physician and three noblemen all fussing over one servant, life couldn't get more strange.

Back in Kay's chambers, the bleeding had slowed down but Arthur was now passed out. The physician had declared that he had done all he could and it was now in the lap of the Gods. Kay had asked everyone to leave except Gwaine.

"Lap of the Gods, Kay. That didn't sound good."
"It's not in the lap of the Gods, Gwaine, someone can help."
Gwaine wasn't sure whether to be concerned or grateful, someone could only be Merlin.

"I presume we need to lock the door?"
"Yes, and be prepared for an argument afterwards." Leon shook his head; he knew Merlin really would give it with both barrels. First though Arthur needed fixing.

Gwaine walked over, locked the door and then turned to Kay and smiled weakly, "Want me to take the blow?"

"Thanks Gwaine but it's both our faults. One of us needs to be able to calm him down though."

A voice boomed from the mirror, "There's fat all chance of either of you calming me down, but first, Gwaine go to Arthur's left and place your hand on his chest, Leon you go on the right and do the same."

Both men moved quickly, albeit sheepishly. "Now repeat after me, OH domhain a mháthair, beseech i dhuit, Arthur ar ais ar a sláinte, sÚil a fhoirceannadh, a chur ar a pian ar shiúl. Insint mé leat go gcaithfidh an Pendragon beo, mar tá sé scríofa mar sin ní mór é a pas a fháil."#

As the men ended the chant, Kay noticed that the room grew cold, he looked at Gwaine, "I can feel it too Kay, it's got too cold." Gwaine peered over to the mirror, "Merlin is that you?"

There was no response, Merlin just stared at Gwaine. "Fine, no answer from the warlock. Now what do we do?"

The mirror responded, "Now say this, "Fola de Arthur regroup, Croí na buille Arthur, comhlacht Arthur a bheith socair."#

The temperature dropped further, Gwaine was now shivering, he looked at Arthur who was not responding, sure he was breathing he thought but he wasn't shaking and the cold did not seem to affect him.

"Almost done, this is the final part" Nádúr mháthair Oh, ais Arthur, a chur ar an cumhacht ón Emrys. Chun Tugann sé an saol Pendragon. Mar sin, caithfidh sé a bheith."#

The cousins were shaken by the unmistakable sound of a mirror smashing, the glass flew across the room. Merlin has gone.

"What has just happened Kay?"

"I, I don't know." Kay looked at Arthur, he was stirring, "Look Gwaine, look Arthur, he is waking up."
Arthur's eyes opened, where was he? Earl Gwaine and Duke Kay were looking over him beaming. "Er, what's going on?"

"Arthur, you were injured, badly injured in your fight against Lord Thomas." Kay spoke first.
"Are you ok, do you feel alright?" Gwaine asked, placing a hand on Arthur's forehead.

"I feel fine, well I think I feel fine. "
"Do you remember anything Arthur?"

"No Duke Kay, I do not. But I just had the oddest dream. I was by a lake. There was tall skinny man shaking his head at me. He had really big ears. He looked sad. I went to speak to him but the words wouldn't come out of my mouth. He told me that everything would be ok and then he changed. He was now wearing a crown and a robe of red. A monkey climbed onto his arm. Then I heard a roar, a really loud roar and I woke up. He looked, well he looked familiar."

Gwaine chuckled and ruffled Arthur's hair, "Some imagination you've got there lad. Glad you're ok though. Now you are to stay here and rest."

Arthur went to sit up and protest but his head felt too heavy, "I can't stay here my Lord, it wouldn't be right."

"Nonsense, Duke Kay won't mind, will you?"
"Not at all, not at all. You were very brave out there Arthur, you did your master proud."

"Thank you." Arthur yawned, he felt so tired. His head was now pounding.
"Excuse me my lords, I feel very tired."

Gwaine smiled at him, "And so you shall rest. I'll get someone to bring some water and we shall let you sleep." A servant will be outside, just call if you need anything.
Arthur went to argue back but his eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep.
Both men got up, they opened to the door to be greeted by the King, with what Gwaine could only describe as a death stare, "Ah my dear responsible nephews. Thomas has been to see me. He's told me that your servant Gwaine, by the name of Arthur almost died on the battlefield and is now in Duke Kay's chambers."

Neither wanted to respond.

Garratt glared, "I trust by your silence that that is the case. So you shall now walk with me in silence to my chambers and then you will be giving an explanation that I cannot wait to hear. "
The cousins nodded and then walked two steps behind the King.

Now outside the King's chambers, the silence was deafening. The King opened the door, following him in Kay and Gwaine saw what was in front of them and their mouths dropped.

"Hello Kay, Gwaine."

The body was unmistakeable, the hair the same as they remembered, the ears no different but the face, the face looked older, more ragged. But it was him, sitting on the Kings bed.

"Hello Merlin" Kay stammered, his emotions running wild, his brother was back, he ran towards Merlin to hug him but as he got to the bed he felt a force blocking him, like a bubble.

"Don't come near me."
"But Merlin."

A cold, hard voice responded, "DO NOT BUT ME. I AM THE EMRYS."

"Merlin, M-bro, come on."
"DO NOT CALL ME M-BRO. I AM THE EMRYS."

Leon looked at Gwaine crestfallen, what had happened to his brother? Gwaine picked up on his sadness and thought he couldn't do anything worse.

"Merlin, what's the matter with you?"
"What's the matter with me? What's the matter with me? Let's see, first I died, then I have been awake recuperating and helping your sorry arses and I leave you to do one thing and you can't even do that properly. Arthur nearly died. He nearly died and you have got the audacity to ask me what is the matter?" Merlin was glowering at the both of them, if looks could kill Gwaine thought him and Leon would be stone dead.

"As much as I enjoy my nephews getting this lecture, just how have you defied the laws of all magic and nature and appeared from nowhere?" King Garratt looked at his grandson, something was not quite right. There was nothing in the prophecies or texts he knew of a warlock just appearing from thin air.

"I am the Emrys."
"Yes I can see that Grandson but even you having that title doesn't give you this power. There if a life for a life if you recall."

Merlin nodded, "You are correct. But I have bended the laws to my will. It is a risk I had to take to protect Arthur. Since you are all incapable of doing so."

"So what are you going to do now? Sit here and brood all day? Not even you can cheat death Merlin." The King was sure there was a string in this tail.

"No, I will make sure Arthur has fully recovered and then I will not let him out of my sight."
"Merlin you can hardly be his nursemaid. And in case you hadn't noticed we've got a major crisis on our hands with Norsemen everywhere. We have got to stick to the plan." The King hoped these words would make Merlin see sense.

"That's your problem your Majesty, not mine. I care not. I only care about Arthur."
The King's voice went lower, softer, "Are you saying you don't want to help us? That you don't care about what happens?"

"I only care for Arthur."
Garratt was now agog. Merlin had just given up on not only him but his family and the Kingdom. He shook his head. "Then I have no choice Merlin, if you will not help my Kingdom I must ask you to leave."

"I WILL NOT LEAVE, I AM THE EMRYS."

Leon put his hands over his eyes and rubbed his face, this was not his brother. No one could get through to him, there was one last hope.

"Gwaine go and fetch the Lady Hunith. Now!"

Leon had never seen Gwaine move so fast, he lept out of the room.
Gwaine returned quickly with Hunith in tow who then took one look at Merlin and rushed towards him, arms waving in all directions before she crashed into him and hugged him. "Merlin, my boy, my son. It really is you."

Merlin hugged back, a tear forming in his eye, "It is me, I'm sorry mother, I really am."

Hunith pulled away and stroked his cheek, "You never have any reason to apologize to me, you are my son. I should be apologizing to you, for everything you have been through. I should have known something could have gone wrong. I betrayed you."
"You're my mother" Merlin cried out, "you could never betray me."

All three men looked at them and felt distinctly out of place, the King nodded to his nephews to indicate that they should leave them to it. Garratt took a step back only for Hunith to bark, "The three of you stay exactly where you are."

Hunith turned back to Merlin, "Now tell me properly what you have done to come back. You've done something, I can tell in your eyes, what did you bargain and who with?"

"No one, I broke free. I told Freya, that's the Lady in the Lake, it's all hard to explain but I told her I was coming back and then I was here."

"I don't believe you my son. I don't pretend to know everything about magic but I do know there has to be balance."

"Not for me mother, I control life or death."
Hunith turned to the men in the room, who all shrugged.

"Well, I suppose you could be right Merlin. If you say so."

"I am right mother. I am the Emrys."

A booming voice filled the room, "No what you are young warlock is impulsive and foolhardy. You have risked everything for the Pendragon and stretched the rules of magic to breaking point. You have made a terrible mistake."

Garratt knew at that moment the Dragon was right, even Merlin had to obey the rules of nature.
"Killgarrah, I suggest you show yourself."

Hunith's eyes bulged as she saw a small fly that had been buzzing around slowly turn into a bird and then a small Dragon. "Killgarrah, is that really you?"

"Hunith, it has been a while. I am glad you are here, perhaps you'll be able to knock some sense into my young warlock?"

Merlin stared at the Dragon who snorted, "Foolish warlock, so many times you have failed to heed my warnings and now a price must be paid."

The King felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, "What is the price Killgarrah and what is going to happen?"

"I do not know" Killgarrah replied. I cannot see the future, destiny is shaken. "All I do know your Majesty is that at the very least there must be a life for a life but I fear there is more to it. If Merlin bent the rules to come back then that means the gap between this realm and that of the others is weak, if not broken."

"What do you mean?" Garratt now was beginning to wonder just how bad this could get.
"Like I say, I cannot be sure but no one bends the rules of nature and magic without a price. It might not be straight away either, the price could come later. There is a risk that as Merlin escaped that others have. There is a risk that destiny has been altered or that time itself has been affected. Or."

"Or?" The King thought there couldn't be anything else.
"Or", Merlin responded, "Nothing has happened and you're wrong."

Garratt was glad his castle was built well when the Dragon boomed back, "Or Merlin you've let everyone and everything out of the darkness. For all you know every single dead being is coming back. For all you know destiny has changed beyond all recognition, for all you know you've brought on 13 plagues."

Merlin was not in the mood for the Dragon or be lectured at, "And for all you know nothing will change and I am that powerful."

There and then the King knew what must be done, "I will not take that chance Merlin. You have been foolish I have no doubt but let us hope my actions will fix this mess."
"A mess caused by none of you looking after Arthur properly."

"Well you told us a spell Merlin and it didn't work", Gwaine retorted.
"And you clearly didn't do it right did you?" Merlin bit back. "As for you brother, you should have been far more careful."

Leon nodded, "I am sorry, Merlin."
"I am too, I cannot trust you."

"Merlin! That is enough, he is your brother! I will not have the two of you fall out!" Hunith decided she had had enough of this all. "Now it seems that there's a chance you've done something beyond your powers so you can hardly lecture the rest of them. "

Killgarrah could not resist the chance to lay it on further, "And sentenced your Grandfather to his death."

Hunith turned wide eyed to the Dragon and then to Merlin, "Is this true? Your own Grandfather?"
"It's not what you think Hunith. Well, I do have to die but Merlin cannot help it." Garratt did not want Merlin and his mother falling out, despite how annoying she was.
Hunith did not respond, she just looked at Merlin, dumbly.

"You see Hunith, in order to bring back a powerful Warlock a King must die. It has been written for a long time, I always knew there was this chance. I have been ready, especially to see my darling Elizabeth again."

Hunith looked around the room, "Is this true?"
First Leon then Gwaine nodded. Merlin refused to look at her, "It is not my choice mother. I didn't ask anyone to die."

"Well Grandson I will be. Now we need to sort out some affairs of state first. In a way your pre-emptive return will help, because now I can introduce you and ensure the council accepts you as my heir. I must confess I was hoping not to have to do a repeat performance of the good Duke Kay's anointment but someone has it in for me. It's a good job my treasury has some funds left. Although you're going to have to do some alchemy soon in order to pay for everything you'll need. Not to mention a casting spell."

Garratt raised his hands before anyone could speak, "Now all of you leave me here to discuss some private affairs with my Grandson, some things are not for everyone's ears. Besides Arthur needs seeing to."

The King then looked at Killgarrah, "That includes you Dragon, don't think about hiding or listening in."
Hunith was first to move, hugging Merlin once more and whispering she still loved him, she titled her head to Gwaine to encourage him to move. Leon went to leave only for Merlin to run and grab his arm, "You're staying."

"I don't think that's for the best Merlin, we clearly won't be the same again. Besides the King was very clear."

"You're my heir Kay, If I die or something goes wrong you will need to know the secrets of state." Merlin looked at Garratt, "I do not want an argument Grandfather."

The King sighed, "Neither do I. But if he stays then you may as well tell all and sundry."
Gwaine knew he needed to be a big man here, "Uncle its fine, his Grace here got the brains, I got the brawn. I understand."

Merlin mouthed a thank you to him, "Not at all Merlin. Remember this next time you bite my head off."
"Sorry Gwaine, I am sorry."
"Me too Merlin. Now don't look like you're going to cry there, honestly don't be a girl."

Merlin smiled at his cousin, "Call me a girl and I'll turn you into one."
Gwaine beamed back; perhaps they would be ok and left the room. He did not seen Merlin's scowl on his way out.

The Dragon began to shrink in size, "I know where I am not wanted. But I suggest you heed my warnings if I find out more." The King opened the window, "Good, make sure you do."

Garratt watched the Dragon fly away and then closed the door, he turned and looked at Merlin and Kay.

"A drink is going to be required, one of you do the honours."
Merlin waved his arm, nothing happened. He waved his arm again, still nothing happened. He frowned. The warlock then whispered a spell and went white.

"My magic."
"What Merlin, what about it?" Garratt asked.

Leon looked at his brother who really did look as white as snow, he was now shaking. "Merlin, brother what is it?"

"My magic. It's gone."

Author's Note: So Merlin is back. He was always going to do something drastic when Arthur is in trouble. Remember he drunk poison for him, he offered to drink the cup of poison when the Unicorn was killed, he offered his life to Nimueh. Merlin jumped in front of the Dorcha and again offered his life to the Cailleach.

Please, please, please review!

Spell notes:
# 1) oh mother earth, i beseech thee, restore Arthur to his health, heel his wound, take away his pain. I tell thee that the Pendragon must live, for it has been written so it must pass.
#2) Blood of Arthur regroup, Heart of Arthur beat, body of Arthur be calm.
#3) Oh mother nature, restore Arthur, take the power from the Emrys. For he gives the Pendragon life. So it must be.

Chapter Text

Leon looked at his shaking, now crying half-brother "Are you quite sure?"
Merlin whimpered, "Yes, it's gone. I can't summon it. I feel odd Leon, and cold, so cold." Merlin knew there and then that he had made a massive mistake in coming back when he did. His body felt heavy, he yawned, aches and pains where forming all over his body. Merlin moved to sit back down on the bed; he could tell that sweat was beginning to pour out of his body. "I'm not well. Something is happening, Leon."

Garratt looked at the sight of his Grandson, his only Grandson his brain helpfully pointed out now shaking, almost in fear and looking like life itself was seeping out of him. "No you are not well Merlin, not well at all. And this doesn't look to me to be a normal sickness. That Dragon had better be called back. Can you try that?"

Merlin nodded, he was shocked to find he could still speak in Dragon tongue. "He's outside Grandfather, sitting on a window ledge, you best open the window."
The King knew that infernal beast would be hanging about trying to find out some state secrets. He opened the window and saw a small bug fly in. He had a good mind to admonish Killgarrah but it would do no good.

"Good job you decided to earwig after all Dragon."
The bug flew to the bed and then grew in size. Right now Killgarrah looked like a pet dog Garratt thought, although one with a long tail and flaring nostrils.

"What is it Merlin?"
"My magic, it's gone. And I feel so cold."

Killgarrah spoke in a harsh tone, "I am not surprised, you honestly thought nothing would happen? It would appear that you have placed yourself at an unacceptable risk yet again."
"I had to Killgarrah, for Arthur."

"No Merlin you could have let your brother here and your family deal with it. You should not interfere in things that do not require you. Now you must rest while I have to speak to the Duke and the King here. Sleep."
Merlin nodded and his eyes closed.

"Is he going to be ok Killgarrah?" Leon asked.
"I cannot say but there is every chance he will make a full recovery. But before that happens balance must be restored."
"You mean I must die."
"Yes your majesty, but I do not think that will restore the magic that has been lost on its own. Remember the prophesies, Strength, Courage, Wisdom and Hope all need to be involved."
Garratt bit out a laugh, "So no easy task then. Well we have got most of the players here."

"Yes but do you know what to do with them?"
"We know what needs to be done Killgarrah." Leon cut in.
"Yes but that was before Merlin decided to bend the rules of time, magic, and nature itself. It will need more than the death of the King and Merlin drinking his blood to restore Merlin's magic."
"What then? I will do whatever it takes to see my brother back."

Killgarrah bared his teeth, "I have no doubt Duke Kay, no doubt at all but this is not your task alone. You are part of it but even you must admit that another must play a bigger role than you."
"You mean Arthur" Garratt stated.

"Correct. The Pendragon and your Grandson are intertwined, just as Merlin can break the spell holding over Arthur, Arthur can help bring back Merlin's magic. For they are two sides of the same coin, one cannot function without the other."

"So what then, Arthur helps look after him?" Leon turned to his grandfather, "That shouldn't be too hard; he is currently a servant after all."

The King was desperately hoping this was not going down the path he had read about in the vaults and looked at Killgarrah, "I fear it is more than simply giving Merlin some water."

Killgarrah now beamed, "Oh indeed it is much more than a simple service. Once Merlin has drunk the blood of the King balance will be partly restored. But for his magic to be sustained he must become at one with its life force, namely, the Prince."

Oh, Garratt thought, that wasn't what I was expecting.

"Be at one with the Prince?" Leon thought, "Be at one?" His face dropped.
"You mean Arthur has to, you know."

The Dragon chuckled, "Yes, Arthur must plant his seed in Merlin. No mean feat considering Arthur doesn't know who Merlin is or who he is at the moment. And this is not in some hut somewhere but somewhere far more scared."

"Where then? This castle? The Crystal cave Merlin told me about?" Leon asked.
"No, at the circle of stones. The circle of stones which Merlin built himself."

Leon cocked his head slightly, "he told me nothing about building a stone circle?"

Garratt injected, "That's because he doesn't know he built it yet." The King looked at the Dragon, "I am right in thinking that we are talking of Stonehenge, the stone circle the ancients built? The circle mentioned in Merlin's prophesies?"

This was getting too confusing for Leon; he was going to need someone to speak slowly to him. "Hold on, Merlin wasn't even born. Something is not making sense to me."
Killgarrah looked at the King, "It is time Garratt, this one must know the truth."

"As I suspected, truth always comes out, do you want to do the honours or shall I?"
"He's your nephew your Majesty."

Garratt sucked in a breath, "Fine. But try not to take pleasure out of my difficulties. I am still the King you know."
"Will someone tell me what is going on?"

"Your brother here is quite the marvel. He has prophesied a great many things, you know this already. He also laid down instructions on how to build a circle which could restore magic to someone with great gifts. Merlin here can create gold, he can stop time and although he doesn't know it yet, he can transcend time itself."

"I can see you look confused nephew." Leon nodded.
"In the future, when Merlin is older he will seek to warn people of some of the dangerous he and the lands face. He will write it all down in the prophecy Merlin and send the texts back through time and space. Essentially he will be predicting his own future. Merlin will also ensure that magic is still around even after his eventual passing. It will be different but magic will always remain if you look hard enough for it."

"And that's not all" Killgarrah added.
"Yes, I was coming to that part. One day Arthur will sustain injuries he cannot recover from. Merlin will have no choice but to take him to rest in Avalon. Then when the time is right they will both return to reunite our realms once and for all. You've heard tales of the one and future King haven't you? Well that King is Arthur. Destined to come back, a bit like Merlin. Merlin is back from his resting place."
Garratt continued, "You will see Kay that Arthur and Merlin really are two sides of the same coin. Both lost parents to magic. Both have got a lot of family secrets and secret or not so secret half siblings and both have power few have ever witnessed before."

"I understand all this Sire, but what about Merlin and Arthur and the acts they need to perform in restore Merlin's magic? Arthur doesn't know who he is?"

The Dragon cut in, "Think Duke Kay, think. Sometimes you are going to have to work things out on your own. Your uncle and I will not always be around to help you." Killgarrah thought to himself that he hoped the other option would never have to be discussed and that the deep dark prophesy would never come to fruition.

Leon looked at the sleeping form of his little brother. The sweating looked to have cleared up. Glad in his heart that there was a chance Merlin was ok his mind still couldn't get how Arthur and him could unite. Arthur didn't know who Merlin was. He told himself he needed to think. Arthur had not met the new version of Merlin yet so it wasn't even certain they would get on. Princes and servants didn't usually become friends."

He laughed to himself, it was obvious really.
"Arthur needs to become Merlin's manservant. In the same way that Merlin fell for Arthur, Arthur has to fall for Merlin. You said their life mirrors."

Garratt clasped a hand on his shoulder, "Smart one, my nephew. Now Killgarrah if you don't mind, I think you need to depart. That horn and sword won't appear by themselves and we need Merlin's staff."

Killgarrah shook his head and jumped off the bed, now pacing around the room, "Back to being a horse again I see."

Garratt couldn't resist, "If you're lucky I'll give you a carrot."
"I'd prefer terrorizing some poor village somewhere."

"I'll tell Merlin to let you off the leash when he wakes up. I am sure there's some Norsemen you can go and terrorize, indeed we will welcome it."

Leon looked at the Dragon, it has an uncomfortable steel in his eyes, "That will be a great pleasure for me your majesty. Now do you think you and his Grace there can keep Merlin out of mischief until my return?"

The King snorted, "I haven't been able to keep control of my wayward family for half a century, it's not going to change now. But hope springs eternal."

"That reminds me, hope's about to get a bit of a shock actually." With that the Dragon shrunk back down and flew out of the window.

Leon was now looking at the King. "Well don't just stand there nephew, we have got work to do. Starting with your status as heir to my thrones." Garratt smiled, he felt a bit more alive, and a plan was forming once more.

He raised a hand to stop Leon from speaking. "Fetch me Michael, then the chief cook and then I want two of our youngest and silliest kitchen girls in here." Clasping his hands together and then rubbing them with glee "We've got some rumours to start. You best find the monkey hat."

Chapter Text

Merlin woke to the sound of trumpets, he still felt groggy and there was a numbing pain in his shoulder. Stretching he moved to sit up in bed and looking around he realized that he was in the King's chambers. Odd he thought why was he in this room of all places? And what were the trumpets about? He yawned and tried to think back to yesterday. He knew that he had come back, that Arthur had been injured and then he felt ill but something wasn't right.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door and he knew it could signify only one person for Merlin knew instinctively that there was no way Leon was going to let him out of his sight. "Brothers" he muttered.

"Come in"
"Good morning Ambrosius"

Oh it has started already Merlin thought, he grimaced. Did he really have to go through with this charade? He started to move out of his bed,

"Er good morning, Kay isn't it?" Leon smiled, "Well you best come in" Merlin then went to get up fully but couldn't, "You'll have to excuse me, I am still recovering"

"Not at all Ambrosius"

Once Leon was in the room, Merlin said "Lock the door, and repeat these words after me".

Leon looked at him, Merlin was clearly getting him to cast a spell on his behalf once finished Merlin smiled and said "Now no one can hear us so you can cut out the Ambrosius nonsense and we can be what we are meant to be, brothers."

His half-brother smiled at him, lips parted slightly uncertain, "I thought after yesterday that you and I may have some difficulty? I wasn't sure what to expect."

Merlin sighed, "We do and it won't be easy but you were in my dream last night. Come on Curls, sit on the bed will you and let me try and make some sense for once?"
"You make sense Merlin, are you sure that is possible?" Leon reached out and ruffled his hair.
"Focus will you Leon, I'm trying to apologise here and explain a few things?"

Merlin was now staring at Leon, "First I am sorry for the whole I am the Emrys stuff yesterday, I was just so mad at you all, especially you and Gwaine for not protecting Arthur. Then in my dreams I realised a few things."

"I was back in Camelot and I remember you being the first knight to really talk to me. That meant a lot. I then remember when Sigan possessed Cedric, although you weren't there in the battle, I remember you coming back from your trip and speaking to Arthur. I don't know what you said but it helped repair our friendship. Then I remembered you during the whole troll fiasco and then more and more. You were always there for me Leon"

"Arthur didn't always like it, at first I thought he was just being a prat but I knew it was because you were the only person apart from me who tried to reason with him. Well until Gwaine came on the scene and started calling him princess. You were and always will be someone I trust. When we were in the lake together I realised just how much I needed you, how much I still need you and you're my brother. In another life I think we would have been friends anyway despite you being Arthur's premier knight but in this life you get to be my premier knight. And my brother."

Merlin bit his lip, despite being brothers boys didn't tend to talk about their feelings in too much detail. Yes they had had talks before, especially after the revelation that they were brothers, but still he was worried he had just turned into a girl. If Arthur was here he would certainly mock him.

He shouldn't have worried he thought, not when he saw the beaming face of Leon.

"Thank you."

"Yes well" Merlin said, " I'm still not pleased"

"I know, perhaps we should have been stronger with Arthur in refusing him to fight but it has been really difficult. And worse for Gwaine you know. Trying to manage Arthur as your manservant when you know who he is would give anyone a headache, even you."

Merlin chuckled, "Arthur permanently gives me a headache, that's part of my job. I knew it a long time ago." Suddenly Merlin's head dropped, there were other things he realised, things he wasn't comfortable with sharing. But this was his brother after all if he couldn't trust him there was no hope for him.

"There's some other things Leon that I realised also. Not all of them are nice."

Leon reached for Merlin and grabbed his shoulder, "I know, and you don't have to tell me right now, it can wait."

His brother cut him a half smile, "Actually I think it is better that you know now. We did promise each other no secrets, didn't we?"

"I don't know Merlin, the day there's no more secrets is the day I think I'll retire. I'm clearly destined never to understand fully."

"I want you to understand me, Curls, heaven knows someone needs to."
"Alright, do you want to start with you not having magic right now?"

Merlin grimaced, Leon wanted to mentally slap himself for asking.

""It's ok Leon it has to be talked about, from what I know of magic it is rare it can be lost. You can strip people of their magic. I've done that before, it is how I beat Sigan. He wanted to harness his magic to mine and dominate me but I fought him off and trapped his magic back in the heart it came from. So I know it can be done."

"You know all about balance and a life for a life. You know about the cup of life and mortality and you know how I can be brought back. No wait. How I should have come back."
Leon nodded.

"I'm also betting that between my Grandfather and the Dragon you know a fair bit about the prophesies I've written."
"Yes and you can't worry. Well, look I know nothing is ever perfect Merlin but what I mean to say is that some of it might not come true. The whole stuff with an ass and a bird. It could be metaphors."

"It could be but there is a chance I could be controlled. I do have a counterpart." Leon looked like he had been wounded, "No don't worry Leon, we don't have another brother. Well I don't think we do. But there is a child, a druid boy, remember? His name is Modred. He can read minds, he knows who I am. The Dragon warned about him allying with Morgana and that he would kill Arthur."
"But Morgana isn't allied with him, she's got Morgause."

Merlin shook his head, "For now, maybe one day they do ally. The lady of the lake showed me Arthur dying on a field. She also showed me something else."

Leon suddenly shook, like a ghost had touched his neck, "The King and Killgarrah said yesterday that Arthur is the Once and Future King, that you would take him to rest until he was restored. At least according to what has been written."

Merlin nodded, "And now you know some of the risks, some of the things that the future possibly holds."
"But Merlin, that is one future. So much has changed, the Dragon said before he cannot see destiny, perhaps it has been re written."

"Some things are destined not to change, the characters may change, the actors may change but the world has rules that must be obeyed."

"Hold on Merlin, yesterday were you not saying hell to the rules, I am the Emrys, what has changed?"

"I woke up for a start and I have no magic. I'm clearly being punished and I know some stuff about Arthur."

Leon went quite. After a minute of unbearable silence he decided he had little choice.

The Duke cleared his throat and began speaking, "Killgarrah and Garratt told me how your magic can come back. It looks like you wrote a warning to yourself. I have to say I wasn't thrilled by what is needed to happen and I never wanted to be the one to tell you this."

Merlin looked at his brother who was now blushing; he was actually bushing "Well you've got to tell me now."
"Fine but I am not pleased. You and Arthur are two sides of the same coin, you both need each other. Arthur can restore your magic. Through an act."

Now Leon really was bright red, any redder and he would turn into a tomato Merlin thought. "What act?"

Leon waved his right arm in the air, his hand flapping widely, "An act, a personal act."

"What are you on about Leon?"

"You and Arthur, you need to perform, er not perform, but he needs to do something personal to you."

"Well why can't you do it, I mean Arthur doesn't know who I am?"

Leon began chocking, why was this so hard he though, his brain responded with, 'because you're a bumbling fool and haven't explained it at all. "
"It's not something I'll ever do. It is the act of a lover not of a brother."
Merlin froze.
Leon waved his hand in front of his brothers face "Hello Merlin? Merlin are you in there?"

Merlin nodded, "Good, did you hear what I said? I hope I don't have to draw you a picture."

A small voice said, "No, no picture is needed."

Leon wiped his brow, he hadn't realised he had been sweating. it had been a most embarrassing conversation though.

"Ok, good. Because I couldn't draw that. Now you look like you need some food and a drink. I'll fetch a servant."

"No Leon, I'm fine."

"No you are half starved. No what am I saying you always look half starved. This version looks more like a ghost."

Merlin winched, "Sorry M-bro wrong choice of words there. Anyway I'll be back in a minute and there are a few people wishing to see you."

"Mother, Gwaine no doubt. "

Leon nodded. "Yes but they will wait if you need a minute. I am sure your mother doesn't want to hear about what's required any more than I do. And I don't want Gwaine knowing, he'll never leave that idea alone."

"This is between you and me Leon. And there's a massive problem, Arthur doesn't know who he is and he is Gwaine's manservant not mine. "Leon picked up on the tone he used when talking about Gwaine, odd he thought, it was almost bitter.

"You feel for him as a servant maybe he will fall for you in the same way?"
"Arthur doesn't want me; he made it very clear to me if you recall that I had bewitched him?"

Leon coughed, did he dare tell Merlin?
"What is it," Merlin's gaze was now piercing him he thought, "What is it Leon that you're not telling me?"

"Well we may be wrong, and don't get upset but Gwaine swears that Arthur sort of made a pass at him. Once." Leon noticed that Merlin was forming what could only be described as the King Garratt death glare and quickly added "While he has been his servant M-bro, not back in Camelot."

"Oh."

There was a tear in Merlin's eye, Leon saw it instantly, there was only one choice. His brother was still in bed. He moved on his knees closer to him and grabbed him, pulling him into a fierce hug. Merlin shuddered and wept. Leon knew it wasn't just the news about Arthur and Gwaine but about the whole situation itself, well that's what he was telling himself as he listened to the sobs coming from his brother.

Chapter Text

After what had seemed to be an hour of Merlin's sobbing but was in fact just a couple of moments, Leon managed to get Merlin to calm down and listen to him.

"Merlin you mustn't get so upset, it is not like Arthur did anything. Besides you said yourself he doesn't know who he is?"

"You don't understand Curls. I have always wondered whether Arthur felt that way about me and yet he courted Gwen amongst others. He's pushed me away before and now it has been confirmed that deep down he is attracted to men. It's a bit hard to take. That he didn't want me."

"Merlin, he was the Prince. I doubt Uther would have been happy if his only heir announced he did not want to marry any of the noblewomen. Let alone find out he fancied his man servant."

Merlin looked like he was about to start sobbing again, "Which makes this all harder. This Arthur who isn't Arthur may just end up liking me but it's all a lie. I'm not Merlin and he isn't Arthur."

Leon looked at him fondly, "Rubbish, you'll always be Merlin; you'll just have a different name for a while. But it will still be you. And Arthur once he is restored will be free to follow his heart, not what Uther wants. Besides if he rejects you he's going to have me and Gwaine to deal with isn't he?"

Merlin giggled, "I can see it now, a duel over my honour. Uther would go ballistic." he wasn't surprised when Leon ruffled his hair and said "It won't come to that."

Merlin looked down at the bed covers, "I'm sorry Curls."

"What for?"

"You, being mixed up in all this mess. My mess."

"It is my mess too. Yes I'd rather a quiet life, a good women and a family one day. But then I wouldn't have you would I? It's my mess too M-bro"

Merlin looked back up; he wanted to tell Leon about what his future held. He knew Leon would find all of the things he wanted. Part of him wanted to tell him who his future wife would be but the other half told him not to. It was better for people not to know their destiny all of the time. Besides Merlin thought, once Gwaine honed his abilities further there was every chance he would blurt it out. The thought of his cousin made him uneasy. He was going to have to speak to him not just about Arthur but about his own path. While Leon didn't need to know the name of his future wife just yet, Gwaine was different. Gwaine was going to be able to see the future, or different versions of it. Knowing that could send a lesser man mad. Merlin knew he would have to help Gwaine understand his dreams and to help guide him to his rightful destiny. A seer without help could go down a dark path, fuelled by loneliness and despair. Gwaine would not become a second Morgana. Not while Merlin was breathing but there was a massive problem he would have to deal with first. He hoped that Gwaine would realise his destiny.

"Talking of mess. I had better see that big mess of a cousin hadn't I?"

"Only if you promise not to start a fight with him over Arthur."

Merlin quirked an eyebrow and put on his best innocent face, the one Arthur had told Leon once was a total nightmare to deal with. "Me? Start a fight? Never. I just want to speak to my beloved cousin."

Leon pulled a face, "mm. Well before that you're eating. No excuses."

Merlin's stomach suddenly growled. Leon reached over and patted it, " See I knew you were hungry. I'll make sure you are fattened up. It won't do for the new heir to the throne to keel over from a lack of meat. The crown isn't light you know and neither is the armour."

Two could play that game Merlin thought, "I might be heir now but soon you'll be the heir again. And as the new King I may or not change the crowning ceremony. After all I'm fated to unite all of Hibernia. Who knows what customs the other lands here have?"

Leon screwed his face up, "And I might even not have a crown for you, I may have to smelt it down for gold. You could end up wearing a monkey hat for all eternity. Oh yes very fetching. Just wait until I marry you off. Your outfit could be a sight to behold." Merlin was now rolling around laughing.

There was only one response Leon thought, grab him and pin him down. His reflexes were better than Merlin's and he pounced grabbing his arms and was now sat on his brother.

To at which point the door opened to a laughing Gwaine. "Your Grace! How unseemly of you! Assaulting our honoured guest in his nightclothes!"

A beet root coloured Leon jumped off quickly to the sounds of Merlin's howling laughter. "It's not what it looks like Earl Gwaine."

"No, no of course not."

"Why are you hear anyway Earl Gwaine" Leon glared at him.

The room feel silent. Gwaine looked down at his feet and shuffled them. He wouldn't look up at Merlin. He had missed him terribly but he also had had too many visions of them fighting recently.

"Well? It's not like you to fall silent, what is it?"

"I came, I came to see if I could talk to our guest. Alone."

Leon looked over to Merlin who was staring straight at the wall.

"Merlin? M-bro?" Leon noticed how distracted he was.

Merlin smiled weakly, "Sorry I was just thinking about Arthur. Duke Kay could you arrange that food for me? And I need someone to help me dress, he laughed as he said, as I suppose I'm going to be paraded around later so I need something else to wear, could you arrange that for me?"

Leon walked back over to the bed and whispered in Merlin's ear, "Fine, just don't kill him."

"Never."

Satisfied that Merlin wasn't about to turn Gwaine into a toad and that Gwaine looked sufficiently uneasy to behave himself, Leon left the chamber. "I shall return within the hour."

Merlin pattered the bed, "Come Gwaine, sit, please. We have a lot to discuss. Lock the door first."

Gwaine locked the door and then quietly moved over to the bed. It was odd seeing Merlin actually physically there in front of him. He sat down on the edge, rubbing his hands to calm himself.

"Pray what did you wish to discuss with me? And don't worry there's currently a spell over this room. No one can hear us. We can use real names and everything."

Gwaine sighed, "I don't know where to begin."

"Try." Merlin suggested sweetly.

"Well, erm, firstly, yes firstly I want you to know that I am sorry for what happened to Leon and the whole Nivemuh incident."

"Yes. I know. I think it's all interlinked. I didn't exactly like being stuck in a lake but I'll get over it."

A breath escaped Gwaine that he didn't realise he had been holding.

"Good. That's good. I have more though. Secondly about Arthur, Leon and me did what we thought was right. It has been hard, really hard to be responsible for Arthur, like looking after a baby dragon you aren't sure what's going to happen next and your worried you'll end up burnt."

"Nice analogy" Merlin flashed a smile that made Gwaine uneasy, "Tell me about it, you know what it had been like for you."

"It's well. Hard to describe. I mean he doesn't know who he is but sometimes, just sometimes I think he does, or part of him does. I feel as if he thinks he is trapped and cannot work out what is going on. plus I've had to work out a way of keeping the witches away from him. I've been sending updates on his progress and recently offered to visit them with him. Thankfully they declined and then I went and lost Belfast." The Earl sighed and shook his head.

Merlin felt sorry for him, there and then he saw the side of Gwaine he loved the most, the part that despite all the bravado cared deeply about others. He reached out and touched his cousins left arm. "You didn't lose Belfast. It is just under a temporary ownership. You will get it back; no we will get it back. I have faith."

"Thank you, that means a lot to me cousin."

Merlin hadn't let go of his arm let as he asked, "Anything else? About you or Arthur? You said some of the old Arthur is there. What parts are there, I am very interested to know?"

"He is headstrong. He does follow my orders but sometimes I swear he wants to answer back. He's good with a sword, the footwork is still there, plus he is loyal, he jumped in front of Henry at the battle."

"So I heard." Merlin still hadn't let go of his arm.

"Anything else? Had he made friends? Have you? Anyone special in your life?"

Gwaine shook his head, "Nope, no one special. To be honest when you and Leon left I felt lonely. I know I had my brothers, and I do love them but I did miss you both. I focused on trying to be a good earl. Stopped drinking so much. Grew up."

Merlin titled his head slightly to the right, "Good. So no women then? No one sired and now with child? Because we do not need any more secrets popping up do we?"

"Nope, no women" Gwaine threw his arms in the air, "Complete dry spell for me and you know what I'm like."

Gwaine noticed the cold tone in Merlin's voice when he replied, "Yes I do."

Then the room fell silent, Gwaine wasn't sure what was happening but suddenly there was a tension on the room he hadn't felt before. Merlin was emitting anger. He looked the same and his face stayed stoic but it was obvious in his eyes his cousin thought.

"Merlin if you have something to say, best you do so. I'm not a mind reader."

"Neither am I." There was a glint in Merlin's eye that Gwaine didn't like, "I did have the ability while I was trapped in that lake to be able to witness things. Things from the past, from the now and from the future. Just as I am sure you can see things in your dreams. Now you sure you have nothing you wish to share with me?"

Gwaine had no idea what Merlin had seen or thought he had seen. Did he mention about Arthur and the looks he was giving him or not?

"No, nothing. Besides if you've seen things why don't you tell me what they are?"

Merlin grabbed his arm again and gripped tightly. So tightly that Gwaine thought he would bruise, he went to move his arm away but the grip was vice like. Gwaine couldn't believe Merlin had that level of strength.

"Merlin! Get off my arm."

"Fine. I think you should leave Gwaine."

Gwaine snapped, "What's got into you? Whatever you think you saw why won't you tell me and let me explain?"

The door opened, Leon was carrying a plate of food. He put it down and quickly bolted the door.

Picking the tray back up he said, "I thought it was best I brought it myself. The King doesn't want people seeing you yet and gossiping, he wants to manage the message apparently."

Merlin smiled, "Just in time, can you bring it over here, I feel weak still." Weak Gwaine thought, yeah right, you just had my arm in a lock!

"Of course."

Leon moved towards the bed and Gwaine went to move off the bed to let Merlin eat in peace.

"No Gwaine, I think you should stay. I'm sure you're hungry too."

"No I should go Merlin. I ought to check on some things."

"No please stay, I insist. I tell you what I think I can get up if you and Leon help me. If you take an arm each I think I can walk over to the table and sit down. You can then join me for some refreshments."

Leon beamed, nothing would please him more than seeing his brother take some steps to recovery,
"Of course we can can't we Gwaine? And I will go outside and get some water." He looked at Merlin,
"I don't have your abilities as a manservant!"

Merlin laughed, "Few do, now please both of you help me."

Gwaine shrugged his shoulders maybe Merlin had calmed down after all. "It will be our pleasure." and moved to help lift Merlin up. "You're very light cousin."

"See M-bro Gwaine agrees with me, you need feeding properly."

Merlin just smiled, "Well if you two hurry up I can eat at the table can't I?"

After getting over to the table and Merlin insisting to Leon that yes he was perfectly fine thank you, the Duke and the Earl sat down to either side of Merlin. Leon then realised that without magic someone would have to get up and pour the water, he went to get up only for Merlin to say "No I'll do it, it's fine."

Merlin poured the water into Leon's cup, then his own. Hobbling round to Gwaine he went to pour the water over his shoulder but instead stopped and threw the jug straight at Gwaine's head.

"That's for sleeping with Arthur!"

"Merlin!" Gwaine shouted. " What the hell?"

"Oh spare me the fake outrage. You slept with Arthur."

Leon knew he needed to intervene, "Merlin, Gwaine told me what happened. Arthur seems to have had taken a shine to him but Gwaine vowed, vowed nothing ever happened."

Merlin was shaking with rage, "It might not have happened this time round Leon but what Gwaine isn't telling you is that he actively encouraged it."

"No I did not. I swear to you I didn't."

Merlin shook his head, rage building within him, "Meaningless words. You pounced on him before, why would I believe you now?"

Leon thought he was missing something. Gwaine had been adamant nothing happened but Merlin, well Merlin was his brother. "What is going on?"

"Oh, you don't know Leon? Well after Gwaine had had his way with me in Camelot, you know when I was upset about Arthur not appreciating me and then when Arthur and I were in the forest before he thought I had bewitched him, well guess what I found out?"

Merlin looked at Gwaine, "Nothing Gwaine, nothing you want to add here?"

"Fine. Well Leon. Gwaine knew how I felt about Arthur. We had had a discussion the week before I was stupid enough to sleep with him. That night, unbeknown to me Gwaine sought Arthur out and instead of trying to talk to him about me; he encouraged Arthur to talk about his feelings. A confused, and I might add drunk Arthur then was pounced upon. Although he was consenting, Gwaine here basically debauched him. The next day Arthur woke, realised he had been taken advantage of and feel into a black mood."

"If you remember Leon, Arthur was beyond insufferable at that time. At first I thought it was something I had done. I mean he made comments about you and Gwaine and I thought he was jealous but it wasn't just that. It was because one of his knights, no one of his friends prayed on his vulnerabilities and got his rocks off. Just as he did to me the week later!"

Leon was now shaking at this news. "Tell me why I shouldn't reach across this table and strangle you to death."

"Because it isn't true"

Merlin stood, hands clasping the sides of the table to steady himself, "Lies, pure lies. You lie like a snake Gwaine. I cannot. I will not trust you. Ever. I was shown this scene by the Lady of the Lake. And it makes perfect sense about why Arthur reacted to me the way that he did. Because Arthur found out about the two of us. No wonder he was as bad as he was. He probably thought I had bewitched you to take advantage of him."

Gwaine wiped a tear from his eye, this could not be happening. He had never touched Arthur. Yes he went to talk to him and yes there had been a weird tension that had ended up with a hug between the two of them, which Gwaine admitted was odd in itself but he had not, had not slept with Arthur.

"You have to believe me Merlin. Please I beg of you."

"Get out. Get out Gwaine. I may not be king yet but you are banished from this realm as soon as I tell my grandfather to do so. You cannot be trusted."

Gwaine looked over to Leon, "Leon please. It isn't true."

Leon stood up, arms folded, "Merlin would never lie. You don't need to be banished, just leave now. It is better for the kingdom if you depart. We have enough going on as it is. Go Gwaine, go and be a Knight Errant or something."

The earl shook his head, "I vow to prove to you one day of my innocence in this matter. I'm sorry. You know I'm sorry for some of the things I've done. I am not perfect but I'd never do this. I'd never hurt you like this Merlin, you have to believe me."

The scorn that was on Merlin's face shocked Gwaine, "I have nothing to say to you. Go now and we will find a way of dressing this up to the court as a positive thing. There are legends of a green knight. You like green. Go and be that legend. Just do something good in your life. But away from here."

Gwaine knew he was on a losing battle. "I never thought it would come to this. I will restore your faith. I don't know how but I will. I know neither of you will shake my hand so all I can say is that I love you both. And I hope one day to see you again."

A small part of Merlin's brain wanted to say , don't go, stay, but the rest of him told him that he didn't need this waste of space in his life anymore. The warlock shook his head despondently,
"Please Gwaine, go."

Gwaine walked silently, as he got to the door he turned around and said "Good luck. Tell my brothers I love them."

As soon as the door closed, Merlin shook, Leon rushed and grabbed him. As Merlin curled into him, he put a hand on his neck to hold him. "Best get you back to bed, you need to rest."

"I'll be fine. I want to see mother and the king. If I've learnt one thing it's that we need to get on with it. With getting my magic back, with defeating the Norsemen and with restoring Arthur. It's going to be easier now without Gwaine."

Leon sucked in a breath and let it out, "I don't know about that. But I'm by your side."

"Good, now can you help dress me properly? Since I'm not allowed a normal servant."

"Of course, but you do know Arthur is going to be your manservant don't you?"
Merlin rolled his eyes, "Destiny and fate clearly decided I haven't suffered enough."

Chapter Text

After helping Merlin get dressed, Leon felt a bit unsure of what to do next. There was too much going on. They had to explain to the King that Gwaine had left and Merlin had to make his appearance as the new heir, with a different name. Nothing easy he thought.
"I think it is time we go Merlin."
"I know you're going to have to help me walk. I'm going to need to have a staff or something for a bit, I still ache." Merlin looked at the floor, "And I kind of used up a lot of energy gripping Gwaine's arm very hard."

"That's in the past now." Leon grabbed his brother's right arm and led him to the door, as they opened it they were greeted with the sight of a very serene King.
"Ah good morning to you both. I've just noticed the Earl Gwaine leaving the castle. Which as you can imagine is now being talked about by half the court. Perhaps it is wise if you go back inside and then one of you can explain to your Lord, The King why the Earl of Ulster has disappeared without warning."

The brothers nodded and turned round to walk back over to the table.

Garratt kept his smile firmly fixed; he was going to enjoy this he thought. He turned round to the two guards he had brought with him, "Neither of you let anyone in. Is that clear?"
The guards nodded.
"Good. And if you breathe a word of what you have seen or heard I shall have you publicly flogged."
The King then slammed the door and bolted it.

Leon and Merlin were now both sat down and both kept their eyes on the King as he sat down and then clicked his knuckles. Neither wanted to speak which lead to King Garratt rolling his eyes and saying "If one of you doesn't speak now you will also be flogged."

The Duke knew he needed to start off this conversation and went to speak only for Merlin to say "There's a spell on this room. No one can hear us your Majesty."
The King simply nodded, not a complete idiot then he thought.
Merlin coughed, "Well, I suppose you want to know what happened to Gwaine. We, well we had a bit of a fight."

"A bit of a fight?" the King's voice did not increase in tone which made both Leon and Merlin feel worse. "Tell me my boy, what constitutes a bit of a fight?"
"Sire Merlin did what he thought was right and I support him in his decision."
"Oh do you know? And since when did your decision become law?" Garratt reached over and cuffed Leon round the head which led to a death glare from Merlin.

"Drop the glare Merlin you can't turn me into a toad. Besides I have every right to be angry. Gwaine was next in line to Leon in the succession. People will be talking for days, gossiping."

Merlin knew there and then that Garratt was secretly pleased, he could tell in the tone of voice.
"You. You are pleased aren't you? You're letting us have it and making us feel guilty but all the while you are secretly pleased. Why?"
Garratt stared right back at his Grandson, "I am the King I can do as I please."
Merlin wasn't going to be fobbed off with that, "As you've reminded us before. But that isn't why. Why are you so pleased to see the back of Gwaine?"

Too clever by half the King thought. He wanted to blame that excuse of a mother but he knew Merlin was only copying him.
"It will help bed you in the people's eyes and show misinformation amongst our enemies. The Norsemen will think the Kingdom is in chaos and will become complacent. Camelot or whatever the witches are calling it now will think I've finally gone mad and the people, well the people will lap up whatever rumour I spread around. And as you know Merlin, Gwaine was on a different path to you."

Leon interjected, "What path Merlin?"
"I think he is the Green Knight Leon, there is a lot in legend about a Knight with a dubious record becoming a great hero. I think it is Gwaine. There's always been something about him."
"But Merlin, he is meant to be around, you know the whole Magic, Strength, Hope thing."
The King shot Leon a look, "Please continue, acting like I am not here. I am only the King after all."
"Sorry" the brothers replied.

"So you should be. Now Merlin is right and you are also right Leon. Gwaine will return when the moment is right. We should not fear this development and believe you me I shall use it for maximum advantage in all my doings."

Merlin looked at his Grandfather; one destiny he thought was never to understand that man, "You aren't mad then?"

"I'm mad that you overreached your authority. I am still the King and you will be telling me by sunset what exactly possessed you to do such a thing. But for now I shall simply use the tools at my disposal. Garratt stroked his chin, "Yes, this is most satisfactory. In a way we have too many heirs and members of the Royal Family. It is confusing the populace over who is my heir and who isn't. I've got pretenders coming out of the woodwork, no bad thing as one can find out the traitors quicker but still, I must settle I can set the act of succession properly and, and I can start a new tale. About how Ambrosius the Red and the Good Duke Kay stopped a plot to seize my throne by the unscrupulous Earl Gwaine."

Leon and Merlin looked at each other, neither was happy, "You can't do that. Gwaine did nothing wrong?" Merlin cried.
"Then why did you banish him?"
"He erm, He and Arthur." Merlin could not complete that sentence.

"I don't need the details but he did do something wrong. Besides it is a rumour. Once he has redeemed himself in your eyes he can come back as a hero. Peasants love a reformed character."

Garratt knew he had to issue a threat now. "You may not agree with me. I don't care. I am the King and I swore to protect this land. More importantly I swore that I would protect you both."

The King looked to Leon and then to Merlin. "Merlin you are my Grandson. I have not been there for you but you have been a blessing to me, even if it is a somewhat difficult and misguided blessing but a blessing none the less. And Leon your behaviour has been exemplary, I could not ask for a better nephew. I love you both."

The room feel silent as all three digested the Kings declaration. Garratt rose and spoke, "Right that's enough of sounding like some old housemaid. We've got work to do."

The work the King had referred to turned out to mean that Merlin was first poked and prodded by his mother for nearly an hour as she insisted that as his mother she didn't care what the King or anyone else wanted, she was his mother and she wanted to make sure he was ok. It had then led to an awkward conversation about Merlin and Arthur and what would need to take place.

Merlin had reacted in horror when his mother had patted him on the arm and said that she knew that sometimes young men needed to deal with their urges and that she had tried telling him all that time ago in Ealdor that he meant a lot to Arthur.

After that embarrassing talk, Merlin had been left for half an hour in his chamber to read some papers Garratt had ordered to be delivered. Namely a backstory to help with the latest round of chaos caused by another heir coming onto the scene.

Suddenly the trumpets started again and Merlin knew it was time to be dragged around like a prize horse. The knock on the door confirmed it.
"Lord Ambrosius"
"Enter"

Merlin was glad it was Leon who had been the one to call for him. "Your presence is requested in the Great Hall. The King wishes to speak with you."
"I bet he does."
On the way neither spoke, neither was sure what they could or could not say to each other so settled into a comfortable silence.

"We are here."
Leon knocked on the door, "Enter"
"Sire, I come with Lord Ambrosius, you wished to speak with us?"

The King dropped his papers onto the table, "Ah yes, very good." Motioning to them both, "Close the door, and please both take a seat, there is much to discuss and we don't have much time. There's a council meeting in an hour."

Merlin let out a breath, "An hour your Majesty? I'm not sure I'm ready for such a gathering."
"Nonsense. You'll be fine. Besides one cannot escape one's destiny."

The King gave a piece of paper to Leon, repeat that spell Merlin told you. We need to speak openly.
Leon passed the note back to the King who then had to give it to Merlin as Leon couldn't recall the words. In the end Leon had managed to cast the spell.
"Is it done?" the King enquired.
"I believe so, Sire."

"Good, then let's begin. While you were being told off Merlin by your mother, I've been busy making arrangements for your public appearances. First you shall meet the council, then the wider public. It shall be slightly different from when I rolled out for Leon as Duke Kay as this is a bigger lie so I need a bigger display."

"After you've met the crowds, who will have actors in the crowd paid to cheer at random occasions, we will have a second council meeting. Then tonight a feast in your honour before tomorrow's rather impressive display of your abilities and qualities that will leave people in no doubt who my true heir is."

Merlin felt uneasy at the glee emitting from the King, "What will you have me do?"
"Oh nothing really. You'll just beat my current heir in a duel."

"A duel?" Merlin asked, eyes widening. "You want me to fight Leon? Have you seen Leon? He's twice the size of me? And twice no four times as good. He's your current champion and he was Arthur's First Knight."

The King smiled, "First he is bigger than you because Arthur clearly didn't feed you properly. Secondly he is your brother; he will go easy on you."

"But Sire," Leon said, "If I let him win the people will know something is up. I mean it's got to look real and to be real there's a chance Merlin could get injured or I could get injured. Merlin has not recovered, he could barely walk here, he would be no use in battle. It is too much of a risk and one I can't take."

Garratt sighed, he rubbed his face, "Really Leon must you fuss so? I'm not going to let either of you get injured but you're forgetting you have magic and Merlin knows a lot of spells. So you can conjure up Merlin beating you properly and you have healing magic. Yes ultimately Merlin won't be at full health until certain tasks are performed but we should be able to get him sorted out for a morning. It's not like I'll have you out there for hours."

He's right, Merlin thought but Leon didn't look convinced. Understandable he thought, he looked directly at his brother. "Leon, the King is right. I've helped Arthur before defeat magical foes in battle. I'm sure we can do something. I think I can borrow your magic, then I'd have enough energy to defeat you or you could make me more powerful."

"Are you quite sure? You can borrow my magic?"
"Remember Sigan? Merlin said. He wanted to take my magic for him. Powerful magic users can take magic from others. I think we can do it with the Dragon's help. I also know of powerful crystals from the birthplace of magic. I suspect I can use them to put myself at one with the earth."

The King smiled, "I thought as much, the Dragon and I of course discussed this matter. Your magic Merlin is in tuned with the Earth, you can derive power from nature itself but you know it is risky. It will not be a long term substitute from what must happen to sustain you."
Merlin shook his head sadly, "I fear that the acts required are too far-fetched."

Garratt stared at his Grandson, "This would appear to be a day for compliments. Merlin I am very confident that you and Arthur will get there. From what I've been told it would seem he was in love with you all along but being a typical Pendragon he didn't know what to do next. Arthur in this incarnation or as the Prince would be mad not to fall for you."

Merlin answered quietly "Thank You. Now we need to move onto the task in hand, I think I can be ok for a week or so."
"Merlin don't do this just because the King wants to do it."
"Leon, I want to do it. I want to get on with it all. The King is right."

"The King, who by the way should be addressed as Uncle or Grandfather when it is just the three of us does actually have an idea now and again. I have managed to rule a Kingdom for over forty years. I'm quite capable of pulling off one last big hurrah." Garratt shook his head; honestly these two thought they knew everything. His mind helpfully added that he had been exactly the same and it was probably a good idea that these two thought alike, having brothers in arms was better than brothers at loggerheads with each other. There had been quite enough of family feuds.

Leon had taken Merlin's words to heart and that of the King's he realised. "Fine, I agree. And it means Merlin you'll have to have a decent meal tonight. Nothing heavy mind but at least it will be a bit more than some soup."

Merlin rolled his eyes, "Oh will you all just leave it out for one day about my weight? I can't help it. I do eat you know, I actually think it is the magic, that the amount of energy I use means I will always be slim." He turned to the King, "Now Grandfather is there anything else apart from the joust?"

His Grandfather chuckled, "Why of course there is. You both know of the treasures of Britain, well one of them is a cloak. The Coat of Padarn Beisrudd for if a well-born man puts it on, it would be the right size for him; if an imposter it would not go upon him. So you will be wearing it, and that's not all."
"That's not all?" Merlin asked.

"No, while Arthur is destined to pull a sword from a stone, there is another sword, called White-Hilt, the Sword of Rhydderch Hael. Rydderch was an old King of Strathclyde, an area over in Scotia which has links to your Grandmothers old Kingdom of Ulster and an area now dominated by raiders and warlords. An area which by the way we shall soon take control of but that is for another day. The legend has it that his heir drew the sword he would see the sword burst into flames. An imposter however would see himself burst into flames. As you can imagine such a sword could be most powerful so it has been locked away in my vaults and Merlin I hardly need to tell you who created such a sword."

"Sired in the Dragons breath?"

"Yes." The King laughed, "You have to admit that the parallels with Excalibur are rather obvious but when you have twin swords, well what do you expect? Especially when both swords will be wielded by two sides of the same coin. These treasures coupled with your victory in the duel will be more than enough to convince people of your rightful claim. You will then declare that you will fight any pretender for the crown. I doubt anyone serious will come forward and if they do I am sure we can find a way of stopping them."

The King became more serious, "Then after we have driven every single stinking Norsemen out of my realms and I have passed into the next realm, there is one more treasure, that will be used for your crowning as High King."

High King? Merlin grimaced which the King picked up on instantly.

"Merlin do not fear. You will be High King of all Hibernia. It is the only way you will have enough power to bring Arthur back to the throne and for you to complete your destiny. You may not like it and I know that having your future discussed is something you don't like. I remember being brought up on my destiny it can get rather frustrating but I have faith in you."

"Are you sure I am meant to be High King? I mean destiny has sort of been buggered up recently?"
"MERLIN!" Leon was amazed that Merlin would use such a phrase.

His brother cocked a head at him, "Sorry Curls, I thought it was the best way of describing it all."

Garratt smiled, "Well it's one way of describing it. I do hope you use more kingly language with the council who will be here shortly. I suggest we have something to eat. I have no doubt that both of you experienced enough council meetings in Camelot to know nobles can be tremendously boring. Leon can vouch for this collection of bores too."

"Merlin used to give the nobles nicknames that he would tell me and Arthur. Sometimes we couldn't keep a straight face." Leon chuckled.

"There will be none of that. Your performance will be faultless. Tomorrow night once you've been declared the new champion I think some wine will be in order and you can tell me all about your opinions of your wise council."

Merlin rolled his eyes and was pleased when his stomach growled which caused a stare from the King who then berated Leon for Merlin's hunger only for Leon to answer back that it wasn't his fault Merlin was half starved and then shout at Merlin that this was precisely why Merlin needed to listen to him more, so that he didn't cause arguments over the fact that he was wasting away. The argument was ended by the knock of the servants with the food and the promise from Merlin that yes he would eat.

Chapter Text

After eating Merlin and Leon had been treated to a full blown display of Garratt's anger after one of his council suggested that they should vote on who his rightful heir was. Merlin wondered whether his Grandfather knew he looked like Killgarrah in a rage. The King had angrily dismissed the council and then thrown his goblet at the wall. Both Merlin and Leon did not know where to look but something inside Merlin told him he needed to take the lead here.

"Sire, that went."
The King growled at Merlin but did not speak.

Merlin took that to mean a good thing, "It was, well it was harder than I expected. Did you need to react in the way you did?"
"REACT? REACT?" The King jumped out of his seat and was now pacing around the room. "How DARE they? How DARE they question my authority after all I've done for them. I have kept them safe, I have allowed them to grow fat and rich and I have advanced them all. And for what? For them to propose that they elect my heir? What do they think this is? Ancient Rome? I should have them hanged!"

"I hardly think hanging is the right way to go Sire." Merlin kept a straight face at the King, he had learnt from his experiences with Uther not to show emotion. The King snapped his head back to him, cape flowing, "And what would you have me do? Considering this shall soon be your problem."
"I would speak to them individually Sire, noblemen want to be loved, and wooed, you told me that. You've wooed a fair few nobles already but you've neglected those closer to you. Bring them in one by one."

Garratt stared at his Grandson, clever move he thought. "Firstly stop calling me Sire. Second, you may have a point, they are hunting as a pack, pick them off one by one and then you are still the leader. "

Merlin smiled, "Good. And yes we know not to call you Sire but it is hard, I mean I was around Uther a lot, I daren't call him anything else."
"Uther was a fool, riddled by grief and anger."

Leon had been watching this exchange, his uncle was fundamentally a good man he thought but tired after spending so long defending his Kingdom. The Duke told himself that he would never let Merlin turn out the same way, that laughter, love and good friendship was always needed. Garratt now had no one he though except for his Grandson and his Nephews.
Leon at that point got out of his chair, hoping his actions would be welcomed and walked straight up to the King and tentatively placed an arm on his shoulder, "Then do not make the same mistakes he did Uncle."

"You're brave touching the King, Kay. Brave indeed, lesser men have been thumped to within an inch of their lives." Garratt clasped a hand back on his nephews shoulder and chuckled, "Yet you are more than them and you are right. I must be going soft in my old age."
Garratt shook his head, "I swear I don't know if you two were sent to guide me or hound me."
Merlin kept a straight face as he said, "Hound you, your Majesty, hound you." Leon smiled and nodded. Garratt had to respond, "Yes well, now we've got to go and meet your adoring public my boy. I hear that there are some young maidens getting very hot and bothered over rumours of a dashing new member of the family, with flowing long blonde hair and eyes that could melt snow and hearts no doubt."

His Grandson grimaced, "I suppose I should be glad that my cloaking spell doesn't completely turn me into Arthur." Now the King was smiling, "No that would be most confusing, besides you've got to meet him later, after all he will be your new manservant."

Merlin shut his eyes, was this really happening to him? That the ultimate twist of fate would happen? How could he face Arthur, with more lies, hiding himself away from him, knowing that when the truth came out Arthur would go ballistic? How could he allow himself to fall in love with this version of Arthur and try and get Arthur to love him with all of the lies and secrets, all of the layers between them? "Ambrosius, are you still with me?"

The warlock opened his eyes, "Sorry just thinking."
"About Arthur no doubt, fear not, it shall all work out, now let's go outside, mustn't keep the public waiting." The King signalled for the two of them to follow him. Merlin looked at Leon who simply shrugged his shoulders. "Fine, but I don't want to be wearing any stupid hats."
Garratt smiled, "Oh no my boy, what I've got lined up is far more than a simple hat."

As they left the room, Garratt gave away no emotion. He knew Merlin wouldn't welcome what was going to happen next but he had no choice. Merlin had upset the balance of the world with his reappearance and now even his own council was in uproar. Only a big display of power would win people over. Now it was the public chance and Garratt had enough experience to ensure the event was stage managed to perfection.

Merlin found himself cloaked and in the middle of a hoard of people, all chattering in the middle of the square in front of the castle drawbridge. He had been made to stand around for at least half an hour and was shocked by some of the rumours he had been subjected to. His grandfather really had fanned the flames.

Suddenly the familiar sounds of trumpets began to be heard and he looked up to find a beaming King Garratt and a slightly more stoic Duke Kay on the balcony.
"Good people of Kerry and Munster, I bring you news of a magnitude I suspected none of us saw coming. First, I can confirm that there has been a plot, a coup, a plan to take my life and install a new King."

Merlin's head snapped round as he heard shouts of "Traitor! A traitor in our mist, Kill him!" Turning back to the King he saw Garratt raise his hands and then lower them to quiet the crowd.
"The traitor has been dealt with, he has been banished never to return."

A cry of "He should have been executed" came from the man next to Merlin, he saw many others nod.
"Silence! He has been dealt with, he is no threat to the Kingdom now." The King stared down at the crowd, he was going to have to use all of his energies to make this stick he thought.
"But my people do deserve to know more, for I am an honest King."
"The traitor was revealed to me by the good Duke Kay who had the sad duty to tell me that a plot was happening right under my nose. It brings me no joy to say that the traitor was the Earl of Ulster, the Earl Gwaine." Garratt motioned to Kay, "The Good Duke here banished his cousin immediately and warned him never to return on pane of death. Now some may say he should have run him through but he was family, would any of you kill your own family?"

The crowd thought about this, Merlin could see people thinking and knew what was going to happen next, "No Sire, No" the man next to him shouted out.
Garratt smiled and nodded, "Kay here has got a good heart, a pure heart, he is not a cold blooded killer. Besides Kay also had help in under covering the plot for there is a man, a man of simple means who has known the traitor for many a year and knows how he works. This man followed the Earl here and the Earl sorted him out to help seize my throne. This man despite being a great warrior yet having no lands of his own refused out of duty and the love of his country."

"Now I am sure you are wondering who this man is, I confess I was at first too but then he handed me a small wooden figure which I shall now show you all." Garratt at that point reached into his cloak and pulled out a small monkey figure made from wood.
The crowd gasped, Merlin saw at least one woman faint and then thought that she probably was another actor.

"I can sense from your reactions that you are wondering why a stranger had such a figure as was I. I interviewed the young man and he told me that he was an orphan and that he had grown up in a small village, looked after by an elderly couple who had no children of their own. The man said his guardians told him they found him in the forest, being guarded by a monkey."

"Then when the man was a young boy he was walking in the forest when he saw a cloaked figure, the figure did not speak but to say that he had a great destiny and that one day he would meet the King. The figure gave him this small wooden monkey and disappeared in a puff of smoke. The boy ran home to tell his guardians who told him he must have been day dreaming. But they kept the figure. Sadly the couple died when the boy was just fourteen, with no other family he learnt to rely in himself and left his village at sixteen in search of adventure. Years later the man got to know Gwaine and they became firm friends. Now the man is here."

"Where? Where is the man?" Merlin heard as a cry.
Garratt was now grinning broadly, "The man in question, is here, he is within the crowd, he is not a noble, he wants for nothing but he is probably the most noble of them all, for he put this country above personal loyalty. Step forward, Ambrosius and state your kinship."
Merlin looked around no one was moving but everyone was looking at each other, how did he step forward exactly?

"Step forward Ambrosius, you have nothing to fear, reveal yourself."
Ok Merlin thought, he closed his eyes and shouted, "I am he, I am Ambrosius, Sire."
He opened them again to see the crowd had parted around him and had now formed a circle.
"Indeed you are he, Ambrosius. Now tell the people as you told me just hours ago, who do you believe is your father."
"Balinor, Balinor of Munster."

The King gripped the balcony, and stared directly at his Grandson, "If you are the son of Balinor that would make you my heir, yet you are a common man who lived in a village."
"I may be common sire but I am as noble as anyone else you have met, I know my duty and I love my country."

The crowd began to clap in approval, Good Boy Garratt thought.

"I see, well as my people know I have had quite a few pretenders recently and I cannot risk my Kingdom in such a manner. You shall have to undergo three tests to prove yourself. Bring me the Coat of Padarn Beisrudd for if a well-born man puts it on, it would be the right size for him; if an imposter it would not go upon him. You shall wear the cloak."
Merlin stood still as he replied, "As your majesty requests, I shall stay here while it is brought out to me."

The next ten minutes where excoriating for Merlin, all eyes were on him. He felt like a prized calf or worse like a pig that had been butchered and now had an apple in its mouth, People would not stop starting at him or whispering. Finally, two Knights came out from the castle into the square and handed him the coat.

"If you are well born it shall fit you. Now try it."

The new heir nodded and unfolded the cloak, deep purple in colour. Merlin desperately hoped the cloak would fit properly or he would look ridiculous, as he felt it in his hands, he could feel the magic within it try and call out to him. No good he thought, I'm out of magic at the moment, the cloak seemed to recognise this and he could feel it speaking to him, a faint humming noise, calling him. Now it was unfolded completely, he sucked in a breadth and put it on, tieing the coat with a bow around his neck.

There was the unmistakable rumble of thunder and the sky darkened, the coat had shrunk to become like a glove Merlin thought, no more like an invisible skin. He could see people backing away from him. Looking at the balcony, both the King and Leon seemed fine he thought.
Suddenly the crowd woke from its shock and begun cheering.
"Good subjects, it fits. Now for the second test, if you really are my Grandson then you will become a great warrior. Every warrior has a strong sword. Bring out White-Hilt, the Sword of Rhydderch Hael. If you are his heir who you would be from your grandmother's side, then the sword will burst into flames."

Merlin saw Leon leave the balcony and gave him a puzzled look, Leon smiled back. Oh Merlin thought, he's going to come down and bring me the sword.
Moments later his brother was in front of him. "If you are my cousin, it shall be an honour to serve you." The crowd began clapping as Leon handed him the sword, sheathed in leather. Merlin realised that that was no ordinary leather but the skin of a Dragon. The sword felt heavy in his hands, the magic wrapped round it was sad he thought, sad, filled with sorrow. White-Hilt was telling him of pain and of a past where it had not been used for good. Merlin closed his eyes, he did not care if people were watching him or waiting for him to unseat the sword and hold it as it burst into flames, he wanted to feel, to hear the swords story.

Merlin was transported back to a battle, a battle way before the King's time he thought where Dragons roamed the skies breathing down fire on both armies as they fought on a hill. The armies were huge Merlin thought, all covered in checked cloth and holding axes and shields. It was barbaric as he saw men one by one fall on the field of battle and then the unmistakable sound of Dragon roar. The sword was now speaking to him, "Emrys, Emrys unsheathe and finally claim your true destiny." It was now vibrating as he stroked it. "It is time Emrys, release me, release me."

The warlock took in a deep breath which he let out quickly and open his eyes, he saw everyone was now transfixed on him and the skies above where now black as coal. At that point, something within him snapped clear, he knew there and then that after this moment his destiny would be fixed and all he had feared would come to pass. He could not quite bring himself to begin to take the sword out until the sword spoke one last time, "Emrys, do it for the Once and Future King."

Merlin began slowly, pulling at the hilt, at first the sword refused to budge and stayed wrapped up. He tried again and told the sword he was ready, at that point the sword changed and now felt light in his hands, just as the coat did, like a second skin, with one movement he pulled the sword out of the casing and cast his right arm holding the sword into the sky.
The sword shook and shot a dark blue light into the sky, thunder cracked and then the skies cleared revealing a perfect blue sky. The sword then flew out of Merlin's hand and floated in front of him. Odd he thought it hasn't burst into flames just yet. He looked up at the King who was still smiling and then to Leon who was still standing in front of him. Leon showed no emotion except that in his eyes, telling Merlin that yes he thought it was odd too.

Garratt looked at his Grandson below, he hoped he would forgive him. When Merlin had returned he had thrown every plan out of the window, what was he going to do now? A life for a life, he knew that and yet there was Merlin alive and without Magic. Garratt knew magic wouldn't tolerate Merlin leaving the Lake without a quick resolution. He had become more worried despite acting normal to both Merlin and Leon. The scrolls told him what he needed to do and the Dragon had confirmed it, there was one more task to carry out.

All of their plans had changed, destiny had been respun and a new way of saving Merlin was required. One that he hoped his Grandson would forgive himself for.
"The sword has been released and you have not burst into flames. The legend clearly states that his true heir will release the sword and any imposter will burst into flames. The legend is also clear, that the sword will burst into flames and end the life of another. For Rhydderch can only have one heir at a time. And now it is clear, that Ambrosius is the son of Balinor, and is therefore my Grandson and the one true heir. I declare that Ambrosius is now the Crown Prince of Munster, Kerry and Ulster and he shall lead you all in battle to reclaim Belfast. Do I hear the approval of the people?"

"Long live Ambrosius, Long live the King! Long live Ambrosius, Long live the King!" Garratt smiled down on the crowd, now for the tricky part.
"It is settled, by popular acclaim and by his undoubted abilities, Ambrosius is my heir. And now good people, the final act will happen."
Garratt knew the words off by heart, he might not have had magic in the same way his wife had or his children or nephews but he had been around it enough and he knew the Dragon would not let him down.

Merlin was now next to Leon and whispered, "The sword's just floating there and the King looks happy. It's meant to burst into flames; people are going to remember that part in a minute."
As if by magic, someone in the crowd shouted, "But the sword, it has not burst into flames!"
"Not yet" The King shouted "But that's because it is destined to change the shape of this realm forever, it is a sword sired in the Dragon's breath, and therefore can only be destroyed by a Dragon."
Merlin really should have expected the appearance of Killgarrah but it was still a surprised as the Great Dragon appeared in the sky as if from nowhere and swopped down. People screamed in panic and ducked but looked up to see the Dragon wasn't raining down fire.

"Fear not, I will not attack you, I am here to rightfully claim what is mine."
"Great Dragon, are you ready to fulfil your side of the bargain, I have proved that I have an worthy heir."

Leon suddenly felt a sinking feeling in his stomach and grabbed Merlin's arm, probity or no probity, something was happening. "Cousin, there's something else going on."
"I know. The King's done something."

Killgarrah looked down at the crowd that was still cowering but hadn't moved and at Merlin, he hoped his Kin would forgive him for what he was about to do. Whether he understood it or not Merlin was going to have to accept that everyone had a destiny and that Killgarrah had been bound a long time ago to do his.

"I accept your heir King Garratt, now the sword shall be destroyed and the matter of who rules this realm settled once and for all."

The Dragon spoke in a soft language which Merlin knew instantly. He wiped a tear from his eye and grabbed Leon's hand, "It's worse than we can imagine, I'm so sorry I had no idea."
Leon gripped tightly, "Its fine, we will get through it."

The sword was now spinning around in the sky, the blue light was spinning out from all sides, the humming had returned in Merlin's ears as the Dragon bellowed, "King Garratt, your heir had unsheathed the great White-Hilt, he is the true heir. It has been written for centuries that the true heir will mean the sword shall burst into flames and for the heir to take to his rightful place. So it must pass so it shall be."

The sword stopped spinning, turned onto its side and flew straight into Garratt's chest, the King looked down at his people "People of my realm, this has been my destiny, serve the new King well, he will lead you to a golden age." He stumbled back and shut his eyes; he could see Elizabeth there waiting for him, "Hello my love", he whispered as he fell into Thomas' arms.
The sword burst into flames, consuming Garratt in seconds.

The crowd were stunned into silence, the Dragon roared, "Long live the King!" and looked at the scene below, Henry and Thomas were still on the balcony, now both were knelt down holding each other. The Dragon knew they would have lots of questions. He then turned to look at the crowd, people were beginning to stir, all eyes still on Merlin. He chuckled; he had one last act as he looked at a shaking Merlin with his hand vice like in Leon's grip, he shouted once more, "The King is Dead! Long live the King." This time the crowd responded and began to roar, "The King is dead, Long live the King! The King is dead! Long live the King!"

No one looked at Arthur or his very confused face, no one saw him try and hold onto a wall for help as he felt dizziness wash over him. No one saw the rightful King of Camelot collapse as his eyes fluttered, falling to the cold hard stone street.

Chapter Text

Merlin was still holding Leon's hand, looking up at the balcony he saw his cousins now staring down in utter shock, still trying to make sense of what had just happened. The new King felt a tug on his arm, "Ambrosius, we need to go inside, we must meet the council." Then a softer "M-bro, I've got you."

The warlock swung round to look at Leon and nodded, whispering "Thank you Curls."
As they were about to depart, Merlin spotted Michael, "ah Michael isn't it? Was anyone hurt?"
"No Sire, not that I know of."
"Can you go check round and make sure. I will not have injured people due to what has happened. Return to me in an hour."

Michael nodded and Leon whispered into his brother's ear, "I'm sure everyone is fine, the Dragon wouldn't injure anyone, he's bound to you." Merlin gritted out, "Yes so bound that he murdered my Grandfather. Believe you me there will be words later, but I guess we had better go inside and calm everyone down. Heaven knows what Henry and Thomas think or Lady Hunith."
Leon patted him on a shoulder, "They will think you'll be a great King, now come on!"
As they were arriving at the Great Hall, Merlin and Leon were stopped by the Earl of Adare, odd Leon thought, I could have sworn we bade him farewell.

"My Earl Adare, we thought you had left."
"The King.." The Earl went quiet.

Leon took pity on the man, "We are soon to meet the council my Lord, perhaps you would like to discuss this in private?"

The Earl smiled and turned to Merlin, "With your majesty's permission of course."
Merlin knew from the smile and the energy surrounding the Earl that he was no ordinary man, "Yes of course, we would be glad of your council. I am afraid though I will have all my council beating the door down shortly."

"I am sure you know a way to help. If only one could stop time."
Both Leon and Merlin's eyes shot up, Leon was first to speak, "Please after you Earl."
The door closed and the Earl outstretched his hand, the door bolted and Merlin knew the words whispered immediately. "A silencing spell Earl?"

"Please Lord Emrys, my name is Aiden, we can speak freely."
"Fine, are you actually the Earl of Adare or is this a disguise?"
"Coming from you Emrys, that is a bit rich."
Merlin quirked an eyebrow, "Who are you then?"

"An old friend of your fathers and a trusted ally of your Grandfathers, I am only sorry we have not met in better circumstances. I mean you no malice."
Merlin gestured for the man to take a seat.
"You knew my father."
"I know your father."

Merlin shook his head, "My father's dead. I saw him die in front of me."
"Indeed and yet he lives. Surely you know that just because your body may die, your spirit lives on."

Leon's eyes shot up again, "Kay he's not correct."
"Come on Emrys, I know that's Leon in disguise, I'm not stupid."

Leon chuckled, "He's good Merlin, very good."
"Fine, it is Leon, now what do you want?" Merlin asked.
"Peace, I will sign a new peace treaty with you and will make you my heir. I have no sons. My lands will become yours."

"And?" Merlin wasn't about to give up easily
"Permission to stay at court and help you. Your father was my oldest friend and I will not see you come to harm. I come in peace. I am sure you've heard all that before and I know of the various betrayals you witnessed in Camelot but I am not a Pendragon."

Earl Aiden looked at Leon and then Merlin, "Neither of you seem convinced, I can see why. I can only prove this through my actions. First, I have a message from your Grandfather."
"You knew, you knew what was going to happen" Merlin choked out. He did not want to cry in front of a stranger but he had just lost his Grandfather, one of the last links to his father.
Aiden nodded, "I did". He passed a sealed letter to Merlin, "It's from your Grandfather. I haven't read it. I can leave while you read it."

Suddenly Merlin thought, No, he can stay. "If you know my Grandfather as you say you do I'm sure he will mention you." Merlin tore the letter open and stared at the words before giving it to Leon, "I can't read this. Please you do it."

Leon took the letter and coughed, "Dear Merlin and Leon, Firstly please do not be alarmed or blame the Dragon. He did as he was asked."

The Duke looked at his brother before continuing "When you came back Merlin I knew that the world would be off balance and I also knew I had to protect you and Leon from being revealed. Once I heard more about Camelot's future plans I could not risk you being revealed or the witches killing Arthur. Remember, Arthur has a few months left before they plan to sacrifice him and seal their spell.
When you came back you looked so pale Merlin and you losing your magic was such a blow to you. I had to do something so I sought out the Dragon. I might not have the Dragon Lord power but I was able to call him by saying you were in more trouble than we realized. I asked him what needed to be done and we agreed not to tell you.

The part about Magic, Hope, Wisdom and Strength is true but it is to purify you and Arthur, and that is for another day, Killgarrah can have that joy of explaining.

Killgarrah however did not want to go against your word, so he sought someone who in effect could over rule your power. "

Leon stopped; he shot a look at Merlin, "Overrule your power? Who?"

Merlin was beginning to shake, "Carry on reading, I think I know."

"Well, ok. It says, it says here, 'There is only one who can overrule you and that is your father. He is not of this world but of the spirit world. You know that spirits can only be contacted in extreme circumstances, however since you destroyed the Cailleach and then broke through the barriers yourself, it is easier to contact the spirit world. Killgarrah contacted your father, through the song of the Dragons and was told by your father, Balinor that the spirit world was becoming freer and only the death of a King would be enough balance to bring you back.'"

"My father."
Aiden interrupted, "Yes your father, my best friend, my brother in arms."

"I can, I can see my father." Merlin put a hand down on the table to steady himself. He could finally speak to the man he never knew.

Leon knew his brother's mind would be focusing on his father, "M-bro, Merlin, you've got to focus, we've got the council in a minute and I think you should hear the rest of this now."
Merlin snapped out of his haze, "Of course, what does it say?"

"Ok. Well, 'I knew that despite you knowing I must die that you would never go through with it, you have such a good heart. I had researched for ages to see if there was any other way, I searched the scrolls. The only way was for me to be killed by Whit Hilt, now you are the true heir of not just Munster and Kerry but Ulster, Strathclyde and the Isle of Man. You will have enough men to drive the Norsemen out and reunite the Isle. Then you can follow your destiny of restoring Arthur, although that cannot be force alone and I know you do not want Camelot to burn at your hands. That's something else I can leave to the Dragon.'"

"I trust this is being read in front of the Earl of Adare. He is an old ally. He may have been trouble as a lad and lead your father astray but he is a good man, I wanted his daughter to marry Leon but then the Dragon told me who my nephew is meant to marry and I daren't mess with prophecies. Besides, I have two other nephews so please marry one of them off to her, she's a lovely girl but I digress. My point Merlin is that Aiden can be trusted, and you will have noticed his magic, that's something else. It is for you, it is not enough to restore you to your former powers, only the act of congress with Arthur can do that, but it will help in the time being."

"You may still doubt Aiden but you should know he is also known to Gaius, if you doubt me I am sure you will not doubt Gaius. But do beware of Agravaine, you know why and it is all true you must be careful of him. He will not be amused by an alliance between Adare and Munster. That leaves me with my final piece of advice; keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Do not fall out with Leon, he is the one who must trust above all others, he has a role on your destiny. And please make sure you restore that Pendragon and destroy those witches once and for all. I haven't fought Uther, Agravaine, Nivemuh all to see those two pieces of filth rule all of Albion."
Love

Your Grandfather

P.s Leon, you've made me very proud.
P.P.S Don't think about trying to break down the walls to speak to your father Merlin, it will cause unimaginable problems. I'm sorry but it is best to let the spirits lie. If you try I will come back and haunt you.

The room feel silent, all three men taking in the former King's words, then there was a knock at the door.

"Sire, it is Henry and I am with Thomas, may we come in?"
Merlin nodded to Leon, "Bring them in will you?"
"Of course Sire."

Merlin rolled his eyes and pulled a face, "Not when we are alone."
Aiden went to leave, he had done his duty, best let the four of them get reacquainted before he returned and hopefully Merlin put him to use. "I'll take my leave for now."

"No, stay. Clearly you're a trusted ally and Thomas and Henry probably need to see a friendly face right now. Besides if they don't trust you I'll soon know."
Aiden smiled, "Clearly your grandfather's offspring with that attitude."

"He's the King now, Earl Aiden." Leon chided him.
"It's fine, I don't want fuss."
"Oh my dear King, I'm afraid your Grandfather loved a bit of fuss, I fear you cannot escape it."
"Fine, but let's get my cousins in first."

Leon got up to the door and let them in. Both men looked at Ambrosius and bowed.
"Your majesty."
"You are my cousins, my family, when we are alone it is Ambrosius please."
"We are not alone Sire."

"Ah yes, I presume you know the Earl of Adare, I hear he is an old family friend."
Thomas nodded, "He is indeed."
"Good, well as a close family friend he is now counted as family so he can stop with the your majesties too."
"Well cousin, the council is outside, there's a lot of chatter and a few are restless." Thomas added
Aiden quick as a flash said, "I'm not surprised. I can even name which ones. There are some Ambrosius who will never be loyal to you, they were never loyal to the late King."

"I know, before my Grandfather passed, he spoke to Leon and me."
Leon choked, not now M-bro, not now!
Henry looked at Thomas who looked back at him, eyes on stalks; neither were sure what to do next. Henry looked over at the Earl Aiden who had his hand in his mouth, biting his nails.

"Er, Leon, Leon's dead. Been dead for months. How do you know Leon?" Thomas asked.

Merlin had his head in his hands, shaking his head. How could he be so stupid he thought? Part of his brain said "They are your cousins they should know the truth anyway." Then the other part said "the King did say trust Leon only and you just let the cat out of the bag so how'd you suppose all of you can keep this secret?"

Henry spoke, voice calm but with grit to it, "We have a council meeting, then you had better explain what is going on. We've had enough lies."

Merlin looked over to Leon who shook his head sadly; Merlin wanted the ground to swallow up in front of him. Both Henry and Thomas now had eyes like daggers at him. Merlin was telling himself, "They probably think you killed your own Grandfather."

Thankfully Aiden spoke, "Henry, Thomas I've known you for years now. Trust me when I say everything happened for a reason. Now show the King some respect and get that bunch of halfwits in here."

The Earl turned to the King, "You do not have to speak much. Let them talk themselves into boredom and I will guide the conversation now and again. As for the Duke, well he should weigh in too, they seem to like him."

Aiden noticed Merlin looked white like a sheet, "Your Grandfather warned me about you lot, but I cannot resist a challenge. Now your majesty you should ask the Duke to call them in."

Merlin simply nodded at Leon and stilled himself. He was not going to let his Grandfather down now. He knew enough from Camelot on how to deal with troublesome council members and he would prove himself in front of his cousins. He would show them they had nothing to fear.

As he rose from his chair, he thought he heard a voice in the distance, "When the King of a Hundred Knights rises, all shall fear his wrath." He shook his head to clear his mind; it was clearly playing tricks on him he thought.

Now standing he was greeted by the council his Grandfather had left behind, assembled in front of him, all eyes looking at him.

Helpfully Leon knelt in front of him, followed by Aiden. One by one the council knelt in front of him. He noticed Henry and Thomas were last to do so and that Leon had sent them a death glare. Great he thought another family row as the shouts of "The King is dead! Long with the King" rung out.

Chapter Text

The council meeting had gone as well as Merlin had expected. He had done as Aiden suggested and let the nobles talk them into boredom, several of them seemed to be pushing for advancement and Merlin could not help but notice that Aiden was writing down notes in the meeting. It was as if he was being examined.

Now the room had cleared and he was left with Leon, his cousins, Aiden and an unholy mess to sort out. The New King turned to Henry, reasoning that he would be more open to listening to him as he had known him better. He also told himself it was better to be honest.

"I'm Merlin, Henry."

Henry stared at him as he took the words in. Merlin? His cousin Merlin, his dead cousin Merlin? Well it made sense if Leon was really there too. Henry could see his brother looking at him to take the lead, there were so many questions.

"How? How are you Merlin? He is dead."

Ok Merlin thought, no shouting yet. "I came back from the dead, I'm a very powerful warlock."

Henry's eyes shot up and he pulled a face. "There's no one powerful enough to come back from the dead."

Leon interrupted, "And yet cousins both Merlin and I have done so." "I can see this is hard to take in but we did it for good reasons."

"What reasons?" Henry asked.

"Well, my father gave himself to the spirit world so I could come back. But with Merlin it was a bit different. He has control over life and death, it's a bit complicated."

"How complicated?" Thomas snapped.

Merlin looked at his cousin, clearly he wasn't taking this so well.

"Well er, it is hard to explain." Leon felt the nerves radiating out of Merlin as he spoke.

"Try." Thomas said. Merlin did not reply instantly, how could he? There was so much to discuss and he did not want to make it worse. He shut his eyes for a second; life could be so hard sometimes. Then it dawned on him that Thomas had been through a lot recently as had everyone and not everyone could be as calm as Leon, well unless of course it involved Merlin's safety, then Leon was the worst culprit for fussing.

"I can see why you do not trust me, I wouldn't trust me. I mean here I am telling you that I am in fact your dead cousin Merlin and Kay here is Leon. This on the same day you've lost your uncle and your brother banished from court. I can only imagine how you feel Thomas but I never meant for it to be like this and I certainly don't want to fall out with either you or Henry."

The room fell silent as each of the men took time to reflect. For Aiden it was an interesting experience watching these four heirs of Garratt, each of them different but the stubbornness was apparent in all of them, that and a level of mistrust. He felt he shouldn't intervene and speak, family needed to sort out matter themselves but he had promise both Balinor and Garratt he would be there to guide the boys and a promise made was a promise kept.

"Thomas, Henry, perhaps I can help. You know me, you trust me. I can confirm that Ambrosius and Kay are indeed Merlin and Leon but they have very good reasons." Aiden raised his hand to stop them from speaking, "now before you speak, perhaps I could give you this." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a letter and gave it to Thomas. "It is a letter from your Uncle. He wrote one to the two of them too. You ought to read it."

"Fine" Thomas said, beckoning Henry to read it with him.

Merlin looked at his cousins thinking, I should have kept quiet, Grandfather was right, they didn't need to know, I've messed this all up. And now they will hate me and could raise an army against me and we will have civil war before you know it.

For Leon the room was too quiet, he knew he had to let his cousins read the letter in their own time but it was frustrating him that one small slip from Merlin had created this level of drama. Garratt had been right all along, he would have known this would happen. The Duke looked over to his baby brother, so much good within him yet so scared, scared of the future. He told himself that it was his purpose in life to always protect him and keep the good within him, which was the true purpose of being a warlock guide he thought.

After what seemed an eternity, Thomas placed the letter down on the table and said "So you are our cousins after all. I have to say I did wonder when you called Kay Leon but Uncle Garratt has confirmed all of it. The only thing is he hasn't said what happened to Gwaine. Before we can trust you, we need to know."

Merlin turned to Leon who nodded at him. Ok he thought, how to tell them that I banished my best friend because he had a one night stand with the man I'm in love with who also happens to be a Prince. He coughed, "He betrayed me, we fell out and we agreed he should leave."

"So he isn't a traitor then, he wasn't trying to steal the crown?" Henry asked.

"No" Leon replied, he was just trying to steal something precious to Merlin.

"What? What could be so precious that you forced him out?" Henry shook his head, minutes ago his uncle was reassuring him from beyond the grave that they could trust Merlin and Leon and now this?

"Arthur." Merlin said quietly.

Thomas' eyes shot up, eyebrows raised, "Arthur? What Arthur the manservant? Arthur Gwaine's manservant? What's he got to do with it?"

"He's the prince." Merlin replied.

"Prince? Prince of where? You're the Prince Merlin!" Thomas bit back.

Merlin sighed, this would not be easy. "He's the Prince of Camelot, the son of Uther Pendragon, he was my master when I was a manservant and he is my first love. He is destined to be the Once and Future Kings and to unite the whole of Albion."

"And you banished Gwaine over him? What did Gwaine do, considering Arthur was his servant?" Thomas inquired.

"He, he um." Merlin couldn't get the words out, the image of Gwaine and Arthur was too much. Gwaine all over him, rutting against him, Gwaine kissing him, touching Arthur, his Arthur.

Leon knew he had to intervene. "He took advantage of him Thomas; Merlin saw a vision when he was trapped in the Lake. Gwaine then took advantage of Merlin only days later. It seems that your brother is quite the scoundrel."

Thomas's face scrunched up in disgust, "You slept with your own cousin! That's disgusting Merlin!"

"He wasn't my cousin then! Well he was but we didn't know!" Merlin cried out. "And I didn't know then about him and Arthur. Do you honestly think I would have gone there had I had know!"

"Either way Merlin, you sent our brother away because he slept with his servant who you have a crush on! That's not good enough!" Thomas turned to Henry, "Come on brother, we're leaving."

Both men rose and Thomas couldn't resist a final barb, "You may think that you've got all the power now you're King but you'll never have our fealty. You think Gwaine was selfish, well you're worse."

Thomas and Henry walked to the door. Merlin was too much in shock to do anything. Just as the men went to open the heavy wooden door, Aiden spoke.

"Not so fast." "Gar doras" He said as he waved his arm in the air. The door bolted shutting the men in. "You may not want to listen to your cousin, the new King and I can see why but your uncle didn't die today just to see his family torn apart. Now get back here."

"We don't take orders from you Aiden." Thomas hit back

"No you do not, you take them from your King." Aiden gestured to Merlin.

"He is no King of ours, he is a traitor, a liar, a fraud, I will not listen to him." Thomas was not going to give up. He looked to Henry who remained quiet, typical he thought, I have to take the lead. But there was no way he would serve under his lying cousin. He had only just got to know Gwaine again and now he was taken from him.

"You don't have to listen to him, just see the world through his eyes. Come, I will show you what it has been like to be Merlin."

"How can we trust you Aiden? After all of this?" Thomas asked.

"You don't have to Thomas, but later when I'm done Merlin can summon the Great Dragon and order him not to lie. He will then tell you the truth, he is compelled to do so. Plus he has some explaining to do about your uncle's death."

Henry placed a hand on Thomas' shoulder. "We should stay brother. When I first met Merlin and Leon I had to tell them a lot about our family. Deep down they are good people."

Thomas turned sharply to Henry, why was it his brother always wanted to see the good in people?

"Fine. But only because you want to Henry."

"Thank you" Merlin said as they sat back down.

Aiden smiled, he hasn't done this sort of spell for a while, he would sleep well tonight, "Ready? Then I'll begin. OH coimeádaithe ama, léiríonn stair Emrys ', a thaispeáint a pian, a cathanna"#

The middle of the room saw a small screen appear, it was like a moving tapestry Leon thought. All sat in silence as they were transported back to Merlin arguing with Arthur in the market. Leon got up and sat next to Merlin, putting an arm round him. King or no King he needed support right know he thought. Merlin sighed and let out a breath as the room saw him and Arthur on the day he arrived in Camelot, then saving him before drinking the poision and Arthur riding to rescue him.

Just as Thomas had been shown the marriage of Uther to the Troll, he knew he had seen enough. No one went to that level of trouble, of hiding themselves; of helping others who would see them burn unless they really were pure of heart. He didn't want to see any more, not for today at least.

"That's enough Aiden. You need not show any more."

"And yet there is much more that has happened and more to come. You wanted to know the truth Thomas."

Thomas nodded; he looked straight at Merlin and into his eyes. He still thought there were some things he wasn't sure on. Like Merlin releasing the Dragon, did he not think it would attack Camelot? But for now, he would make the peace.

"Merlin." Thomas cleared his throat and started again, he kneeled down which was automatically replicated by Henry. "Your Majesty, you've have done so much. It will be an honour to be in your service."

Merlin ran over to Thomas and knelt down to him and Henry. "Thank you, you both, you both never need to bow to me. You're my family. I am just so sorry about what has happened. I can't turn back time but if I could I would."

"We know. We both know." Thomas replied.

The easy calm that had fallen onto the room was interrupt by a knock on the door.

Aiden sighed "It's probably one of the council again, you ought to let them in. Show willing."

Merlin nodded, "Enter."

Michael walked into the room bowing to the new King Ambrosius. "sire, you asked me to report to you about the aftermath of today and whether anyone was injured."

"Ah yes, were any of the public hurt?"

"Only one sire, the Earl's manservant, he collapsed."

Merlin sucked in a breadth, "You mean Arthur. What's happened to him?" Keep calm Merlin thought, King's didn't show emotion.

"He collapsed my Lord, he was taken into a nearby house and a physician treated him."

"Which physician" Leon cut in.

"One from the lower town."

Leon looked at Merlin, he knew his brother wouldn't be thinking properly, "Michael, tell the court physician from me that he is to go and see Arthur immediately and if he can be moved he is to be brought back to the Castle at once."

"Yes Sire." Michael nodded and departed, impressed that Duke Kay was so concerned for the welfare of a mere servant, a servant without a master no less. He would be sure to tell the kitchen staff. He hadn't had time to reflect on his own status now and he wanted to put today behind him. Hopefully he thought he could still be of use.

Merlin was now beginning to shake. "What if, if he dies!"

"Calm brother, calm, we will soon find out what is wrong."

"I want to see him straight away."

Thomas cut in, "It would be unusual for a King to see a servant, especially one that is not his own but nothing about today is usual. It would help gain the people's trust if you were to a visit."

Aiden couldn't resist, "See what happens when you work together as one?" The King should go with one of you, I think all four of you would be a bit much."

"I'll go" Henry offered. "I used to patrol the lower town, the people there recognize me."

"Thank You" Merlin replied. "Aiden the spell?"

"It is ending. All four of you need to be on your guard."

"It wasn't that spell I meant but spells for healing magic."

"Ah I better go with you then." Aiden then realised the second part of his task today. "Before it ends, there is one more thing. Tonight we must see the Dragon and transfer my magic to you. It is only a bandage though across a deep wound."

"I know." Merlin looked at the floor, "That manservant is key to my restoration. If he dies today all will fall."

"He won't sire."

"And how do you know" Merlin replied.

"Hope springs eternal."

#oh keepers of time, show Emrys' history, show his pain, his battles

Chapter Text

The sight of the new King in the lower town complete with Lord Henry and The Earl Adare had been enough to send the whole town into a gossiping frenzy. Aiden had told the King that he should address the gathering crowds outside the small house where Arthur was now resting but firstly there was the small matter of checking on the patient.

Merlin had instantly rushed to be at Arthur's side while firing off a long list of questions to a rather bemused physician and it had taken several minutes for the physician to compose himself enough to be able to respond. Merlin knew from the responses given that this man was a quack (and where on earth was the court physician?) and Arthur needed proper treatment. There were no broken bones but Arthur clearly had a fever and was not responding well and a treatment of a more magical nature would be required.

"Mr. Butler can he be moved? He looks like he needs a good meal and I think the castle would be a better place for him. "

Merlin couldn't help but notice how startled the physician was as he begun to speak, "But your Majesty". Aiden instantly interjected, "But is not a word to be used around Kings. You should remember that."

Mr. Butler bowed down, "Of course, I meant no offence sire."

"And none was taken" Merlin replied. "I simply want to ensure his recovering. Today has been tiring on us all and no one should come to harm because of the events of today."

"Of course, Sire. I believe he can be moved. The fever would appear to have been brought on from a haemorrhage of the brain, not a passing disease. "No Merlin thought it was something else, he knew a brain haemorrhage, it wasn't one. He suddenly wished he had Gaius here or that he had paid more attention before.

"Excellent then he shall be moved, Henry please see to it that Mr. Butler is rewarded for his services." Merlin turned to the quack, "Mr. Butler thank you, Arthur here will now be treated by the court physician when we find him. You may now leave us."

Mr. Butler nodded, grabbing the bag of coins from Henry and walked outside to the loud hum of noise.

"The people wish to see their new King ,Sire." Aiden said

"I know, before we do so you need to cast a sleeping spell on him. Something made him fit and brought on the fever. Gaius always said that a patient sleeping soundly was a good sign."

Aiden nodded, raising his hands and spoke in a soft tone, Arthur jolted upwards, eyes open before closing them and falling back to sleep.

Merlin rose his eyebrow, he had not seen that before, before he could think Henry interrupted, "Do you know what is wrong with him cousin?"

"I don't. I know the basics but I could do with Gaius here. The dragons going to have some explaining to do."

"You think he knows what is wrong?"

"Henry considering he killed my grandfather and then Arthur collapses I am sure he knows full well what is going on!"

Aiden needed to steer Merlin back to task in hand, "That's all very well and as much as I want to see you and the dragon have an argument your majesty there is the small matter of the large crowd outside. Arthur is now sleeping properly and you are going to need to say something"

"Like what Aiden?"

"You know what to say. You're the heir of Garratt Fitzgerald after all."

Merlin smiled, "Thank you. Henry can you do me a favour and clear the outside for me, I need a minute to gather my thoughts?"

"It will be my pleasure cousin."

"Aiden you too please. I just need a minute."

"Of course, but you'll need to be quick your Majesty."

Both men rose, heads bowed which earnt a shake of the head from Merlin before he turned back to the sleeping form of Arthur in front of him.

As soon as they left Merlin looked down at Arthur. He looked like Arthur but Merlin knew this wasn't his Arthur. His Arthur smelt different; his Arthur would know what to do, throwing himself into battle and into harm's way. Merlin felt weak compared to him. How could he, a peasant boy be King?

When it came to magic, Merlin now knew no one could equal him; he was master of all he surveyed, the earth, nature itself bent to his will. No one could defeat him and no one would be able to replace him. But being a king was different, you had to put your realm before yourself, to Merlin that was not a lot different from him always hiding his magic because of the greater good, it was more of the fact that you were the final authority, everything rested with you. Whether it was passing out judgement on an offender or defending the realm from opposing armies, every decision you made would be analysed in detail by the court.

Merlin had felt ready but that was over confidence, now in the cold light of day with his grandfather dead and Arthur gravely ill he didn't know what to do except have yet another discussion with the Dragon.

He sighed, the hum outside was fast becoming a roar and he knew that he little time to sit and reflect on the mess his life had become. Looking again at Arthur, still peaceful, he clasped his right hand and spoke

"Arthur, Arthur it's me, Merlin. I'm sorry. I am so so sorry for what happened to you. I wish I could turn back time but I can't. One day I hope to restore your trust in me. It's just; well I don't know what to do. I'm not meant to be King, you are."

Arthur had not moved. Merlin sighed and continued, "You once said to me that as you were a Prince we couldn't be friends and we both said in another life we would be. Well now I'm the Prince, even worse, I'm the King and you are a servant with no memory. I pray we can be friends and I don't treat you the same way you treat me."

The roar was now deafening. Merlin put Arthur's hand back down on his side and kissed his forehead. "I vow you will get better Arthur and I will restore you to your throne. But for now I must go."

Merlin rose, not looking back and opened the door to the cheers of the crowd. If he had looked back he would have seen a very confused looking Arthur lying in bed unable to move but with an image in his head of a young man with big ears laughing with him.

The new King looked at the crowd in front of him, thankfully Henry cleared the area shouting "Make way, make way for the New King!" Merlin saw people back away in what he thought was at first fear but was in actual fact respect. Now a circle had been formed around him, he looked over to Aiden and Henry who both nodded. Clearing his throat he knew he needed to reassure the people:

"Good people of our lower town. I have just paid a visit to a servant of the castle, he is called Arthur. I am sure some of you know him."

Merlin noticed a few heads nodding and continued, "During the tragic events earlier he collapsed, now doubt from the shock of what had happened. He is as far as we know the only casualty other than the late King, God rest his soul."

"God rest his soul." The crowd agreed.

"I know you are scared. None of you wanted to see your King die in such a manner. He was my Grandfather and even though I knew him for a short time I loved him. He was a good man and a good King."

"I cannot promise that we will not face challenges and threats in the future but I promise you I will work every day and night trying to be the King you all deserve and I vow that my Grandfather's death will not be in vain. I will protect you to the best of my ability and I will work with my cousins, The Duke Kay, The Lords Henry and Thomas and my friend the Earl of Adare to unite our lands and fight the Norse invaders. "

"I also promise you that Arthur in there will receive the best medical care and will be taken back to the castle. No one must come to harm because of the most unfortunate events of day."

A voice shouted out, "What about the Dragon?"

"The Dragon will be dealt with. My father was a Dragon Lord and so am I. I will ensure the Dragon never attacks us ever again. That is a promise I will take to my grave. Now, dear people, I must return to the castle. I am calling a Great Council. But I promise not to forget you, the people. I will hold an open audience tomorrow for you all in the castle so you can air your views. And do not be afraid to speak out. A King cannot protect his people if he does not know what worries them. I bid all you Good Afternoon."

Aiden started the clapping, Merlin turned round to see the gathered peasants clapping loudly, the sound was becoming a crescendo of "Long Live The King!". He smiled and nodded, beckoning Aiden and Henry to follow him.

As they became out of earshot of the rabble, Merlin turned to Aiden, asking "Was that good?"

Aiden clasped a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it. "Absolutely fantastic my Lord. Brilliant. You did everyone proud."

"I agree with the Earl your Majesty. It was a good speech and I saw you meant every word." Henry added.

Merlin beamed, "Thank you Henry, that means a lot."

"My Brother will come round you know. He is a hot head sometimes and he's never done well with change or with family drama. It took a lot for him earlier to calm down and listen to you."

"I hope so. I could do without the drama but Henry he cannot oppose me publicly. He would put me in a difficult position. Any time you or Thomas has a problem you have to speak to me privately and without fear of my status. You are family."

"You're too good your Majesty. I would have him flogged or in the dungeons if he spoke out of turn." Aiden interjected.

"I'm not Uther my Earl. My family can speak openly and freely providing they do so in private. I will not have more political crisis in this realm."

"Spoken as a true King. You're Father and Grandfather would be proud."

The party of three had now arrived at the Castle gates to the sounds of trumpets. "Can one of you get those trumpets stopped? I've had enough for one day. I need to rest for a while. I only want to be disturbed if we are under attack or if Arthur's condition changes. I'm going to need my strength for later."

"What's for later cousin?"

"Only a ritual involving complicated Magic Aiden and a chat with a Dragon, you know nothing too untoward." Merlin barked a laugh. Life was so complicated.

"What are you going to do to him?"

Merlin shook his head, "I don't know. He has a lot of explaining to do. Not just to me but to all of us. I just don't understand it all. Now, both of you get some rest too. "

"You've got the council first your Majesty. I'm sorry to remind you. But it is necessary and you did just tell the people."

Merlin slapped his forehead, "I forgot. I already forgot."

Aiden whispered in his ear, "Don't worry, it's natural. The sooner it is called, the sooner it ends and you can rest before tonight's events."

Merlin nodded, he wasn't focusing and didn't notice as he walked straight into Leon.

"Your Majesty!" Leon said in surprise. "Are you ok?"

Merlin looked up at his brother, closed his eyes and shook his head quickly as if to clear to head. "Yes, erm, sorry Duke Kay."

"It is quite alright. I have tracked down the court physician and he is on his way with some of your personal guard to bring back Arthur."

"Arthur! I just left him in there!" Merlin looked to Leon as if he was about to cry in frustration. He couldn't hug him tightly in public, you were only meant to touch the King briefly but to hell with the formalities. Leon grabbed Merlin on both shoulders. "Look at me. It's fine. It is your first day. I'll sort it."

"Thank you. Could you sort the council meeting too?"

"Already done. Everyone has been called and they are upstairs waiting in the Great Hall. Come your Majesty follow me and meet your council."

Merlin closed the space between them and whispered into his ears, "Always looking after me aren't you? Thank you."

Leon simply smiled and nodded. "We must not keep them waiting your Majesty."

"Yes of course, Earl Aiden, Lord Henry would you go ahead and advise the council that I'll be there shortly. I just need a minute here with the Duke."

"But of course Sire", Aiden the motioned to Henry to join him, leaving the new King and his heir behind.

As soon as they were further in front, Merlin turned to Leon and whispered, "I'm not ready."

"You looked ready earlier, it will be fine."

"Why have you got so much confidence? And don't you dare say Hope springs eternal."

Leon squeezed his arm quickly, "I wouldn't. I have faith in you. I always have. Now tell me how the visit to Arthur went."

Merlin sighed, "He was Arthur but he wasn't. He smelt different."

"Probably because he had unwashed socks."

That got a chuckle from Merlin, "I remember the socks. They always smelt like an animal had crawled in there and died. It wasn't that though. It was more he smelt sad."

"Can someone smell sad?"

"I don't know. Mind you it could be you know something magical."

Now Leon was speaking in very hushed tones, "but you don't have magic. Well not at the moment."

"Yes I know but I think some of it lingers or something. I swear it is the only thing keeping me on my feet today."

"I feel it too, there's something about you, it's like a faint dull energy or something."

"Do you feel ok Duke Kay?"

Typical Merlin Leon thought, always thinking about everyone else.

"Yes, Now tell me, did you speak to him?"

Merlin nodded, "He was asleep, he couldn't hear me, and if he had he would have got a shock. I vowed to restore him to the throne and apologized."

"You have nothing to apologize for. Now are you ready for the council?"

Merlin looked to the end of the hallway where the door was guarded by four men either side. Leon must have been responsible for that he thought. Looking at his brother he still didn't know what he had done to deserve him. He never wanted to let him down or his mother. Mother, he hadn't seen her in hours, it all had been a blur. Merlin would have to sit with her, she'd be worried. And Arthur, he needed to see him again soon. And the Dragon his brain helpfully added. Destiny was not going to leave him anytime soon he realised.

There and then Merlin knew he needed to snap out of his haze. Everyone was relying on him. They didn't always see it but Leon, his cousins, his mother were all looking to him. Even Aiden was to an extent and of course he had his Kingdom to protect and Arthur to restore. He let out a small growl. He was not going to let anyone down now. It was time to seize his destiny. He, Merlin was going to face it head on and if Destiny beat him so be it but he wasn't going to go down without a fight.

"Yes. Time to face Destiny. Whether it likes it or not."

Leon beamed and signalled to the guards to announce their arrival, as they opened the door Merlin was greeted with scores of nobles, knights and merchants. This was more than the average council he thought. He clasped his hands together and crunched his knuckles. He swore he heard a voice say to him "You can do this my Lad" as he walked to the throne surrounded by cries of "Long Live Ambrosius, Long Live The King."

Chapter Text

The second council meeting started similar to the first with Merlin quiet while he let the nobles speak. It seemed that within the past two hours some of the noblemen had been talking to each other and Merlin felt the room was turning against him

As he watched the latest council member speak he noticed in the corner of his eye, Earl Aiden busy scribbling notes, their eyes caught and Merlin beckoned him over. Aiden moved slowly as if not to cause too much disturbance before carefully sliding a note to Leon.

Leon was agitated, these council members where becoming more pompous than those in Camelot and his protective instincts towards his brother were in full flow. Especially after successive speakers mentioned marriage and the succession. It was as if the death of the King had meant nothing to them and now they were jockeying for position. He nodded at Aiden, took the note and opened it.

"Call a break in proceedings. It will disrupt the flow and I'll take them outside. Kay will know what to do."

Leon looked over at Aiden who was now pleading with his eyes. He coughed and rose from his seat next to Merlin and spoke, "My lords, the new king desires a break in this meeting. Please leave us and you'll be called back shortly."

All of the council members looked at each other, thankfully Aiden cut them short, "You heard Duke Kay, members please follow me for some refreshments."

Merlin smiled, Aiden really was a blessed relief. "Thank you dear Earl. Members I require a moment to think through your recommendations. It has been a most tiring day and just hours since the death of my Grandfather, your king. Please follow the Earl."

Moments later once Aiden had closed the door on them and Henry and Thomas had the good sense to leave Merlin too the new King sighed in his chair and let a breath out.

"I don't know what to do Curls, they are driving me mad. Each of them has sat there trying to curry favour with me and some of them even have the audacity to hawk their daughters and sisters around. My grandfather has been dead for hours."

"I'm afraid that is nobles for you. Why do you think Arthur hated council meetings so much? They all want your favour as they don't know you. And you have to admit sire it's been an odd few days if not months for them too. Nothing settles a court like a plan of action and clear boundaries."

Merlin sighed again. "This is not what i wanted to do. I thought earlier I could be King and carry out my Grandfather's wishes. It's just too hard."

"You know what you need to do brother. You need to give them a plan and something to focus on."

"I know" Merlin replied. He suddenly raised his eyebrows, it was as if a thunder bolt had struck him. How had he not realised what he needed to do before? There were risks though but he was the Emrys after all and he had told himself today that he could be King and could leave and he did have something worth fighting for. The other part was the governing of the kingdom, these nobles weren't his men, they were his grandfathers, and they didn't know him. He couldn't sack his council, not on his first day but he did have Aiden and his loyalty already. And he had two cousins of royal blood. If they agreed with him then surely the others could follow. Arthur once remarked that men followed the rising star.

Merlin had also seen the distrust from the older members of council when first Sir Leon was invited to council and then the creation of knights in Camelot not from noble birth. Suddenly the idea was so clear so simple.

"Duke Kay how many knights do we currently have?"

"One hundred but some of them are probably due for retirement. We had been recruiting new ones. Gwaine and I had been overseeing their training."

"And the royal guard? How many?"

"Less, about ten. Henry suggested to your grandfather men were better off in the company of knights due to the preparations to retake Ulster."

Merlin nodded. "I've an idea"

Leon smiled, "Care to share?"

His brother shook his head, "Nah I'd rather see your face along with everyone else's. Can you go and bring them all back in?"

"Of course."

Merlin lent back in his chair, yes he thought, he could do this.

He then stood as the council began making their way back in, he noticed the scowl on Aiden's face immediately. Clearly some of them had carried on their discussions outside.

Merlin motioned for them all to sit and remained standing. He saw all eyes trained on him, unsure what to do, where to look, what to say.

"My dear councillors. Thank you for your advice today. It was, most interesting, I have a few announcements to make."

"First, the governance of this kingdom. My grandfather told me my first duty was to keep these realms safe and secure."

The room nodded.

"One of the first duties therefore of a king is to lay out the succession and who makes decisions in his realms. You clearly all have had received several shocks and surprises and this matter must be out to rest."

The room nodded again, ok Merlin thought here goes nothing,

"It is my decision and my decision only. I have not had discussions on the succession and nor would I welcome them."

That got a few eyebrows shooting up he saw.

"So my council, I can announce to you today that my heir is the Duke of Leinster, my cousin Kay. He will formally be invested as Crown Prince and will be made president of my council. In the event of my death or sickness or injury he shall be the final authority on all matters."

"Second, a King cannot have one heir alone. It is my will that my cousins Thomas and Henry are recognized as my second and third heirs respectively. In respect to their new positions I am proud to make Thomas Earl of Kildare and Henry Earl of Cork. I believe it is customary here for the news to be greeted with applause."

Good lad, Aiden thought as he rose clapping. He looked at the room, some nobles faces where out of joint.

"You may be seated all of you. For there is more for you to know."

I have greatly benefited from the Earl of Adare's advice. He is a true ally and as such I can announce that he will be made my chancellor and run my financial affairs. Furthermore I recognize that marriages deepen alliances and have benefits for this realm. I can announce that I will welcome marriage proposals for both the Earl of Kildare and of Cork. Though I must warn you all that I'm a great believer in courtly love so any decision will be made with their best interests in mind. "

"As for myself, I shall marry but I have no desire at this stage and I caution anyone to try and change my mind. This kingdom has undergone several shocks and the kingship needs stability. We face an unprecedented threat from the Norsemen and with that in mind I will focus on that matter."

"I understand from Duke Kay that some knights are due to retire. Any knight who wishes to do so can do so without any stain in their honour. They will be welcome to stay at court and join my new military council, under the leadership of Duke Kay that will have one focus in mind. The retaking of Ulster and the uniting of the isle of Hibernia. "

Aiden led the clapping, Merlin noticed immediately that some of the councillors had faces like Uther if he had just been told about a sorcerer on the loose.

Undeterred he continued, these councilmen where going to find out who was in charge, he wasn't going to betray his principles for anyone.

"My personal guard and my chambermen will remain under the control of the Earl of Cork but will be expanded and some of our knights will be transferred to my personal guard. These announcements will lead to openings in the ranks of my knights and so it is my will that from today any man who is honest, trustworthy and fights with valour shall be welcomed here to undergo training as a knight. Irrespective of their birth"

The room was silent. Merlin looked over to his brother and then his cousins, the news needed to seep in but he was tiring and he still had the Dragon to deal with.

"Council, I shall explain my reasons now, Gentlemen I have not lived at court, nobility is not dependent on what station you were born to in life but what station you aspire to be. If you are willing to lay down your life for a noble cause you are noble, if you have a pure heart then you are pure enough to join our ranks. A wise man taught me this in my journeys. I want our realm to be a place where people feel safe, where good is rewarded and corruption is not tolerated. I want peace and tolerance for all.

That leads me onto my final declaration. As you know my grandmother had magic and my father was a Dragonlord. I am therefore relaxing the rules on magic and am issuing an open invitation to any magic user who is pure of heart to come to this realm. I care not for other realms that banned magic or for this realm to change its laws to please kingdoms elsewhere. We are our own people first and foremost and I must do what is right for this kingdom. The Norsemen have sorcerers and we must be ready to use everything at our disposal to restore justice and peace to our realms."

Merlin stopped and noticed the smile of Aiden's face and the look of pride on Leon's. "Now council if you will excuse me, I have had a long and tiring day. There will be a feast in a week to celebrate mine and Duke Kay's crowning and then a tourney in which I hope to see some new combats. Council will meet in two days hence to discuss the state of our finances while my new military council will meet in four days. Any of you who wish no longer to serve this realm are free to retire without stain on your record. Now please excuse me."

With the final words ringing in the ears of the now shell shocked council, Merlin rose and walked out of the room with Leon close behind. He didn't turn to look at the council's faces and instead walked without turning around straight to his chambers, shutting the door quickly and running to his chamber pot where he was promptly sick.

"Merlin, M-bro, are you ok?"

Merlin looked up at the concerned face of Leon, "Well apart from being sick and having just told the council to basically get out of my castle I'm fine."

Leon's face switched to one with a wry smile, "I'm sure one or two will stay."

"Just one or two?" Merlin was now matching Leon's smile.

"Perhaps three or four tops, no more."

"You can do a lot with a small number of people Curls. That's what I learnt in Camelot. I saw these endless council meetings and people jockeying for position and favour and I want none of that. I will be no one's pawn."

"Of course not, no one can try and manage you. Hell I can't even get you to eat properly."

"I eat fine, thank you Mum."

Leon slapped his brother on the back, "Your mother and I both think differently."

Merlin went quiet. Mother, with everything that had gone on today he hadn't seen her properly for hours. He had lost his grandfather, become King and all the time she was probably sat somewhere fussing and worrying.

"Where is she? You know, the Lady Hunith?"

"She's fine, don't worry. I said she should come along later for dinner. I don't think a feast will be in order, besides you've got the Dragon to face too."

The mention of Killgarrah snapped Merlin out of his thoughts, "Yes I have. And it's got a lot of explaining to do."

"I know, but you need him sometimes as much as he needs you, and you've got to get some magic in you. You are looking pale."

Merlin snapped at Leon, "I'm looking pale because in case you didn't notice I've lost my grandfather and become King of a country I don't really know in the same day and I've got a bunch of Norsemen waiting to invade."

Well, Leon thought, if it is an argument he wants, he will get one, and sometimes you needed to let off some steam.

"I am sorry Your Majesty." Leon replied in a tone which was the same as Merlin's to Arthur's before, polite but with an inflection on the Majesty. Leon knew Merlin caught the tone of it.

"It has been odd for me too, what with my family being a bunch of lying toads and me finding myself heir to a Kingdom and having a different mother and father than I was brought up with. Still Sire, it could be worse, I could after all have died and be stuck in a lake with a skinny moaning wench for company. All of which had nothing to do with me."

Having got that bile out, Leon felt better and decided to finish Merlin off "But of course, your Excellency, your worries are far more important than mine."

Merlin stood from his crouching position and stared at Leon. "Feel better for that Duke Kay?"

"Much better Sire."

"Good."

"Good" Leon replied.

Merlin smiled. "Hug?"

Leon pounced, pulling Merlin in, his left arm around Merlin with his right hand ruffling Merlin's hair.

"Get off my hair, honestly!"

"Sorry your Majesty."

"I'm sorry too your Grace. It's been a long day. Do you think I have time for a nap before I see any more visitors?"

"You're the King, you can do what you want."

Merlin quirked a brow at this statement, "Can I stop big brother's from fussing over me."

Leon stroked his chin, "Hmm, I don't think any King has that sort of power."

"Maybe I'll be the first?" Merlin was now grinning.

"Doubt it." Came the reply. "I'll let you rest for an hour and fetch Michael."

"Seriously Leon, there's no need, I'm fine. Come back when you need me please."

"Of course. I'll post guards to your door, shout if you need anything." Then Leon said "M-bro it will be ok you know?"

Merlin sighed, "I know. I'm just tired."

"Rest easy your Majesty."

"Thanks."

Merlin moved over to the four poster bed, it looked so inviting. He didn't bother to undress but laid on top of the made bed, not even under the covers and closed his eyes.

Leon left, giving instructions to the guards that the King was not to be disturbed. He would give Merlin two hours to rest, not the one, the poor boy looked so tired and Leon needed some sleep too. He knew Merlin wouldn't be disturbed.

After dreaming of being back in Gauis' chambers Merlin stirred, he thought there was someone on his bed, rubbing his eyes from sleep he opened them fully and wanted to shout but the words wouldn't form any sentences. Right there, right now he was so scared and there was no one to help him.

The figure sat on his bed turned round and spoke

"I always knew there was something about you boy. And now I know. After all this time I had a corrupt sorcerer living right under my nose. And to think that my son trusted you!"

Merlin put his hands over his face and rubbed quickly, hoping the vision would disappear, he took them away but there sat on his bed was Uther, Uther Pendragon the Dead King of Camelot. And he didn't look in the mood for a nice little chat.

Chapter Text

Uther stared at the sorcerer, was he going to sit there all day and not speak? He hadn't come back from the dead just for that idiot to sit there gawping at him.

"Well boy, are you going to speak or sit there staring at me?"

Merlin did not speak or move, just continued to stare at him.

"What's the matter sorcerer, cat got your tongue?" Uther spat out. How dare this boy, this sorcerer who had caused so much trouble just sit there and not respond to him?

"Well then, aren't you going to ask me what I am doing here?" Uther flashed a menacing grin, perhaps that would wake the boy up he thought.

"No? Not even a little eager to find out how I, the dead King of Camelot am now sat on your bed? In this realm? This realm of thieves and liars?"

Merlin suddenly felt a change in the air. He had two choices, sit there and be scared or fight back. Who did Uther think he was appearing like that? And saying his land was full of thieves? No Merlin thought, I am not going to put up with the ghost of Uther Pendragon lecturing me.

"Thieves and Liars? That's rich coming from you. You the King who stole children's innocence and their lives by burning them or their parents! You who lied to your own son about your role in the death of his mother! You who lied about Morgana's lineage!"

"How dare you! Sorcerer! I did what was right for my Kingdom. I do not answer to the likes of you."

"And I don't have to listen to you anymore." Merlin bit back.

"You will listen to me boy, if it is the last thing you do."

"Or what?" Merlin said mockingly, "What are you, a ghost going to do to me? Kill me? I'm not scared of you."

Uther shot him a look, "Could have fooled me boy, you were shaking in fear."

"I was surprised that's all, that you haven't got anything better to do than stalk me."

"I am not here to stalk you, sorcerer."

"It's warlock actually, or your Majesty. And if you aren't here to stalk me what are you doing sat on my bed?"

Uther snorted, "Sorcerer, Warlock, all the same, all evil."

That's it Merlin thought, I am not putting up with this. "The only person in this room who is evil is you. You, Uther, put innocent men women and children to death to ease your guilt. That you, and no one else killed your own wife. That you betrayed your family and your best friend by having a secret love child. A child who you turned away so she turned to evil. You only have yourself to blame for your misfortune. And yet you have got the audacity to come into my chambers and treat me like I am a common thief. Get out."

"Or what Merlin? What are you going to do? You don't even have magic. Pathetic."

"I might not now but I can summon the Dragon or the Earl of Adare to get rid of you."

Uther laughed, "Fine, be my guest, I am not going anywhere. Not until I have completed my task."

"Oh and what's that? "Merlin bit back, "Come back to lecture me? Well I don't need it and I won't listen to it."

Uther glared, insolent knave he thought. "Actually I am here to give you a warning. "

"Oh really?" Merlin said dismissively. "What pray, what has the great Uther Pendragon got to warn me about?"

"My son."

The reference to Arthur sparked Merlin's interest. Despite his many faults, Uther would never put his son in danger if he could help it.

"Go on."

"Oh I thought the mention of my son would capture your interest. What with your unhealthy love for him." Uther replied mockingly.

"It is not unhealthy. Now tell me what the warning is."

Uther stroked his chin; he was going to enjoy the advantage he had over Merlin at this moment in time. "Why should I? Why should I tell a lying cheating Warlock?"

"Because I love your son and I have saved his life more times than you know."

"I know all of the times Merlin. I am dead. I have seen everything. I know everything."

Merlin went red in the face, "And yet you still call me sorcerer, despite everything I have done. I have saved your life too you know."

"Yes and risked it too. Unless of course the Dragon escaped at its own accord?"

"That was a mistake. You've made plenty of them Uther Pendragon."

"My only mistake was employing you boy. You who bewitched my son. I knew there was something about you."

"Get OUT!" Merlin shout, now red with rage. "GET OUT!"

"No." Uther replied.

"Fine, I'm leaving. Sit in this room all night. See if I care." Merlin got out of the bed and started to walk to the door.

"That's it" Uther mocked, "Run away, just like your father."

Merlin stopped, the anger was bubbling over now, he turned run back, arms out and went to grab Uther's neck, The King reacted and grabbed Merlin's arm, throwing him to the floor.

Merlin jumped back up, "Fine. You may for some reason be able to touch me. But since you won't leave I have no choice." The new King shouted at the top of his voice

"Guards, Duke Kay! Guards! Duke Kay!"

"No one can hear you and no guard will see me."

Uther's joy was short lived by the smash of glass and a lizard flying through the broken window.

"Men may not be able to hear or see you Pendragon but I can smell you 10 leagues away."

"Killgarrah." Uther reached for his sword and withdrew it from its sheath. "At last we met again. I should have killed you when I had the chance."

"Indeed you should have Uther, but more fool you. It is too late. And you're dead."

"Not so dead am I Dragon? If I am able to throw your pet Warlock to the floor."

"Be that as it may, you are still dead. Now why are you here? You will answer me."

Uther glared and then shook, insolent beast, it needed to be taught a lesson. He jumped forward, sword raised.

"As if that sword can defeat me."

"Worth trying." Uther now ran forward to stab Killgarrah who darted to the side, sending Uther crashing into the wall. The King glared and picked him up. If he couldn't get the Dragon he could get that pathetic sorcerer.

Moving away from the wall, he looked at the Dragon. "Fine, so I can't kill you. But I can make you suffer." The King calmly turned to Merlin and threw his sword, Merlin jumped and the sword flew into the heavy wooden door.

"No one tries and kills my Warlock. No one." Killgarrah was not going to stand for this, Merlin without magic was not strong enough to defeat the spirit of Uther or whatever it was. There was only one option. He would give up his magic. The dragon snorted and reached deep into his soul. Raising his head he closed his eyes and let out a breadth of fire straight to Merlin.

Merlin knew instinctively that the Dragon wasn't about to burn him to the crisp and remained rooted to his spot, the flames did not feel hot or cold, in fact all he could feel as a strange humming energy.

The flames faded, his eyes flashed gold and Uther suddenly found him flung against the door with vines creeping up on him.

"What is the meaning of this? Sorcerery! I knew you wanted to kill me."

"By rights I should kill you. But you're already dead so I have no idea what you are. Whatever you are I should end you now. But If I did what would that make me? A killer like you."

"Oh don't act so innocent" Uther snarled, "You tried to kill my daughter."

"Your daughter, who then took over Camelot, massacred innocent people and stole Arthur's birthright? That daughter? The one who murdered you?" Merlin bit back.

"Untie me now."

"No. Not until you tell me and Killgarrah why you are here."

"As if I will help traitors like you both. You are in league with each other, you cannot be trusted."

The Dragon growled deeply,"See Merlin, this is why I warned you about Uther all those years ago but you would not listen to me. You kept thinking there was some good in there that he didn't need to die in order for you and Arthur to fulfill your destinies and yet here he is, a ghost, a ghoul, whatever he is trying to kill you."

"Oh like you're a saint, Dragon."

"Far more saintly than an evil ruler like you were Uther."

Merlin rolled his eyes; he was going to get nowhere if these two carried on arguing. Uther was secured against the door; he couldn't get to Merlin now.

"Enough both of you! Now Uther you will tell me why you are here. Or I shall command you to speak."

"I will not."

Now Merlin was really exasperated, "You came into my chambers to tell me a warning about your son, the rightful King of Camelot, Arthur and yet your stubbornness means you will not help your own son."

"My son does not need your help."

"He does. Whether you like it or not, we are two sides of the same coin. Without me he cannot be the King he is destined to be."

"I will not help you so you can bewitch him into falling in love with you so you can rule his kingdom on top of this sorry cesspit for a realm."

Killgarrah silently told him what needed to be done. Merlin paused and shut his eyes. He didn't believe in torture and half of him said he wouldn't be torturing Uther just showing him the truth and that he deserved it. The other half worried that he was pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable.

"Fine then, your Majesty. Since you won't believe me or the Dragon you leave me no choice. You must see the truth, you must listen to reason."

"I will never listen to you or your tricks boy."

"You don't need to."

Killgarrah smiled and nodded, you know the spell my Lord, I'm sorry but you need to do this.

I know Merlin silently replied. He sucked in a breadth and spoke" Ó bhean an loch, OH coimeádaí biotáille, seol chugam Ygraine, an mháthair nó Arthur Pendragon. Féadfaidh sí a thaispeáint an fear seo an fhírinne." #

The temperature in the room dropped, Merlin shivered. A faint blue light was now in the middle of the room, spinning quickly, Merlin felt dizzy as the light spun quicker and quicker, a humming in the background. Then a clap of thunder was heard and suddenly the blue ball turned into a flash of brilliant white light which disappeared to reveal a figure, Ygraine Pendragon, the wife of Uther and mother of Arthur.

"Hello Uther."

The dead King started at the woman in front of him, was it? No it can't be he thought? It's a cheap magic trick.

"Well Uther, are you not going to say anything to me?" The figure asked before rolling her eyes and smiling at Merlin.

"Emrys, while it is good to see you, why have you summoned me from my peace?"

Merlin bowed, "I am sorry, I had too. Uther won't listen to me and he says he has a warning about Arthur. I thought you might be able to make him see sense and tell me what is wrong with Arthur."

Ygraine glared at Uther, "Is this so? Our son is in danger and you won't tell Merlin what is wrong? Merlin, the boy who has risked everything for Arthur? Who loves him? Who protects him despite you killing his kind?"

Uther went to grab his sword, this vision must end he thought then he realized it was still in the wall. "Grabbing your sword to use against your own wife? How could you Uther?" Ygraine cried.

"I did not. It was just."

"It was a reflex. When you don't like something you lash out. Just like you did when I died and you couldn't cope. Most people grieve, you, you wage war and massacre innocent children. How could you? With a new born baby boy to look after?"

"I did what I had to do."

"Just keep telling yourself that. You left our son behind while you waged war. He never grew up knowing a father's love." Ygraine shot back.

"How dare you? I would do anything for that boy. I love him like no other."

"Then Uther, if not for me then for the sake of our son tell us what is going on."

Uther looked at the woman in front him, still as beautiful as ever, he could not be sure thought that it was her.

"If you are my wife, where did we first meet?"

"At the end of a tournament, you won of course and asked me if I had enjoyed it. I said to you that men fighting each other wasn't something to get me excited and if you wanted to impress me you needed to think hard."

"So I…"

"So you bade me farewell and I didn't see you for two weeks, two weeks later you arrived with a great big dead stag and presented it to me as a present."

"And you told me that killing animals didn't impress you either."

Ygraine nodded, "You looked so despondent but vowed to win my favour. In the end the poems, the dresses, the appearances at all hours, you wore me down over several months. I thought you were a good man."

"Were? I am a good man. A good ruler."

"Uther you were a disaster for that realm after I died."

"Only because I missed you so much, my heart was broken."

"As was mine, I died and then found out you bargained my life for that of our sons. And now Arthur doesn't know who he is and the one man who can restore him and protect him, you dismiss as a sorcerer. This is after you consorted with them to father Arthur in the first place."

Ygraine looked at Uther with pity, "I pity you Uther, you won't change and now your Son will never reclaim his birth right. Why won't you realize you were wrong?" A tear left her left eye and dropped to the floor.

Merlin looked at Killgarrah and nodded, "I think we need to leave and let you two speak privately."

Arthur's mother shook her head, "I'm leaving too. I've tried. I am sorry Merlin. Please take good care of my Arthur and please don't disturb me again. I might not know what Uther has seen but I can say that the darkness is approaching and you need to be careful. Trust yourself, Leon and my son only. I am sorry I never got to know you."

There was a clap of thunder outside and a blue light appeared again, a wind swept the room as the temperature dropped once more. Ygraine began to disappear slowly.

Uther shouted, "Wait, Ygraine! I am sorry! Stop this Merlin, bring her back!"

"I cannot, once the dead wish to leave I cannot stop them. Besides why should I help you?"

"Give me one more minute with her and I'll tell you what is wrong with Arthur."

Merlin shook his head, "I'm sorry I don't trust you."

"Arthur! Arthur's remembering! And he is in big danger! The witches, they plan to kill him, they're going to kill him at Salman!"

"Wait stop! What did you say?" The shadowy blue light said.

"He is in danger and he is remembering."

The blue light restored itself to the figure of Ygraine, "Thank you at last Uther for doing something right."

"There is something else I can do. I owe you an apology my love. I am so sorry for what happened. I should never have listened to that witch." Uther said.

"And you owe Merlin an apology, for the death of his King to try and massage your guilt."

Uther let out a breath. "I do. But please tell me you forgive me Ygraine."

"I cannot, maybe I will. It depends on what you do next and whether you ignore your stubborn pride and tell Merlin the whole truth."

"I vow to you my love I will do so."

Ygraine smiled softly, "In that case then Uther, I bid you farewell. Merlin goodbye. Protect Arthur."

Merlin bowed again, "I shall your Majesty."

The former Queen smiled at the warlock and faded into nothing.

Merlin did not want to look over at King Uther who was clearly crying. The Dragon had no such dilemma. "So Uther what is going on? Tell the boy now."

"Fine. Arthur collapsed because he keeps seeing images, images of the past, but they are all burly. His mind is tired from the strain and he thinks he is going mad. He sometimes thinks he can see faces but most of the time the faces are blurred. He saw your ears once though Merlin but that's it. He is slowly going mad."

Merlin's eyebrows shot up, "Killgarrah this means we can tell him!"

"He won't believe you your Majesty. He sees blurry images; no one would believe the truth. Arthur can only be restored by true love's kiss."

Uther sighed, "Yes sadly the beast is right. And it would appear that person is you Merlin, although heavens know why."

"I know, King Uther, I know. What about the danger?"

"First the Norsemen, I have foreseen Arthur collapsing in a pool of blood, much more serious than recent events. It was like the Quisling Beast, he looked dead. Second, Morgause and her sister are advancing in their plans. They have taken over most of Southern England and are expanding their power at an alarming rate. Morgause is using deep dark black magic. The worst kind of sorcerery."

"Uther you know I do not practice black magic." Merlin sighed.

"Let you have power over life and death, or at least you think you do."

The warlock shook his head, "You need to stop thinking about my magic and more about Arthur. How are they going to kill him?"

"Agravaine is coming here. To your castle. To seek a marriage treaty. He will ask for Arthur to be given back and will bring him back to the sisters. Morgause thinks she can summon the Cailleach again and cast Arthur into the abyss."

"And yet she cannot, for the Cailleach is no more."

"She will kill him anyway. You must. Must not let me Son die at the hands of that evil murdering harlot."

Merlin rubbed his right hand over his eyes, this was so difficult. "I'm never going to let Arthur come to harm if I can help it. Surely you know this by now."

"I know that Morgause and her sister will stop at nothing to kill him and take my Kingdom once and for all. They will take yours too you know. They plan on marrying you or Leon and killing you off one by one so they inherit the realm. Imagine Hibernia and Camelot united. Your Grandfather would be turning in his grave." Uther almost sounded like he was chuckling.

"I doubt I would Uther, considering my grandson and your son will be married before the year is out" a voice boomed.

Great, Merlin thought, now I can hear my dead grandfather. He shook his head quickly to clear the voice and focus, closing his eyes. He opened them to see his grandfather standing in front of him.

"No Merlin you aren't seeing things. I'm your second messenger of the day."

King Garratt smiled, "And I bring you even more warnings of danger. Oh and news of something you'd like."

"I'd like not to be seeing the dead."

"That's your own fault" Killgarrah and Garratt said in unison.

"Well I suppose I can go now then?" Uther said.

Garratt shook his head, "No, you are stuck here for a while Uther, you better be nice to me, I can always best you in a fight again."

"Why are you both here? What is going on?" Merlin shouted.

"Well Merlin my lad, the dead are returning. Kind of what happens when you mess with the balance of life and death. Isn't that right Killgarrah?"

The Dragon glared its teeth and nodded, "Indeed, meddling in the affairs of the dead is never easy. As usual Merlin you failed to heed my warnings. And now."

"And now the walls between the living and the dead are breaking down." Garratt said.

"So you'll be seeing a lot more of Uther and of us all."

"The work of sorcerery, it cannot be trusted!" Uther cried.

"No the work of one very powerful Warlock trying to protect your son Uther" Garratt replied.

"Hold on." Merlin said, you left me a note Grandfather, you told me your death would solve everything.

Garratt shook his head, "And I was wrong. For the walls are slowly breaking down and you most act shortly before more of the dead come back."

Just when Merlin's world couldn't get much worse, there was a knock at the door.

"Your Majesty, it is I, Duke Kay."

Great Merlin thought, Leon's going to lecture me something chronic when he finds out what I've done.

"And I bring a guest, the Lady Hunith."

Merlin's heart sank. His mother was going to be so disappointed in him and scared for him too.

"You best come in and don't let anyone else in."

The door opened and Leon dropped the plate of food he had with him on the floor. Hunith frowned at him, what was so surprising; it was only Merlin and the Dragon.

"What on earth? How did those two get here?"

"What two? The King and Killgarrah are here, there's no one else." Hunith said.

Ok, Merlin thought, my brother can see the dead. And my mother can't. What am I going to do?

Trust the Dragon to speak while cackling, "My Dear King, you really have got some explaining to do."

#Oh lady of the lake, oh keeper of spirits, send me Ygraine, the mother or Arthur Pendragon. May she show this man the truth.

Chapter Text

OK, Merlin thought. Ok. My mother is in the same room as my dead Grandfather and Uther who's also dead and not exactly being friendly with me. And the Dragon's here too. Oh and the walls between the dead and the living are breaking down again. And I'm borrowing Killgarrah's magic which doesn't make me feel good.

Merlin was shaken from his stupor by his mother, "Why is this room so cold?" She asked.

Scratching the back of his neck as if to find something to do as he summoned up the courage to tell his mother the truth Merlin stammered, "It's well, erm, because there's ghosts here. Well not ghosts but the dead. Coming back."

Hunith's eyebrows shoot up, "Did you do this?"

Merlin bit his lip, "Not exactly, but I'm part of it."

"Oh yes you are your Majesty" Killgarrah chuckled, earning him a glare from both Merlin and Leon.

Hunith smiled weakly, she knew when Merlin was worried or scared and she knew when he had done something wrong. Growing up he could never really lie to her she saw straight through him and she knew he didn't want to lie to her either.

"You can tell me you know."

Leon went to speak to begin the silencing spell but was stopped in his tracks as Merlin waved his heads and he heard the door lock. "It's done Leon."

"But? You've, You've got your magic back? That's great news!"

"Not quiet, I've borrowed some of Killgarrah's, you see there I was trying to sleep when the next thing I knew King Uther is sat on my bed scowling at me."

Hunith felt her stomach drop, "Uther? Is here?"

Merlin nodded, "Yes mother, oh and my Grandfather too. You can't see them. It seems that only Leon and I have that pleasure."

"Well what do they want?" Hunith asked

"Merlin please tell your mother here that I want what is best for you. And not to worry." Garratt replied before gesturing to Uther, "As for him, heaven knows what he wants is a good slapping."

"As if you'd dare Garratt." Uther snapped back.

Merlin frowned, "Sorry mother, Garratt and Uther are arguing." Garratt then coughed, "Oh and Grandfather says not to worry, he wants what is best for me."

Hunith scrunched her face up, "Oh does he now? Well let's just see about that? He's got himself killed by the Dragon and left you to run a Kingdom while you're pretending to be someone else. You haven't got your own magic but that of the Dragon, the Dragon which caused me so many problems. Oh and Uther, the man who would have killed you without mercy and refused to help our village in its hour of need is in your own words scowling at you! Tell me my Son, how exactly is this doing what is best for you?

Merlin went to reply only for his mother to ssh him. "I haven't finished yet. For years I protected you from these men and their schemes. I sent you to Camelot to Gaius to protect you. You seemed to be getting on so well that I thought you had done the right thing. Now, now I don't know, perhaps you should have stayed with me. Out of the way of these men and their schemes.

Do you remember when I came for help and Uther ignored my pleas for mercy? I said to myself afterwards that I had been foolish, foolish to think men would change. Foolish to think the man who drove my love away would ever change, who made me give up my first born. And now I see you as King, King in a land you don't know and with your Grandfather pulling the strings it seems and Leon, Leon. I just, I just."

Hunith sank to the floor and wept, the emotion washing over her. As if by magic, both Leon and Merlin dropped to their knees to grab her. Both holding her as Merlin also shed a tear.

"Pathetic" Uther bit out. Garratt lunged for him. The Dragon neatly sidestepping the approaching fight which resulted in chairs suddenly flying themselves across the room and one for come crashing into Merlin.

"Who threw that?" Merlin snapped, eyes ablaze with rage.

With no answer forthcoming Merlin was in no mood for excuses. "Both of you go leave me now. My mother is in tears and you two decide to have some form of fight? How dare you? How dare you?"

"How dare I? How dare I? Uther retorted, "I do dare all that man become."

"Oh and how did that work out for you King Uther" Garratt asked, "What with you losing your Kingdom and losing everyone who you ever loved?

"That's enough Grandfather."

"But Merlin" Garratt went to reason.

"Enough" Leon snapped. "ENOUGH ALL OF YOU."

The room fell silent. "This will solve nothing. Nothing at all. Merlin is now King. It is done. We've got to focus on the future. Right now Arthur is asleep after collapsing. We've got the return of two dead Kings it seems and the Dragon's here which means trouble and no one has told me what the hell is going on."

Oh Merlin thought, I haven't seen Leon like this before. It almost suits him.

"Is anyone going to tell me what the devil is going on?" Leon said sternly.

"Being a leader as always Duke Kay. I shall grant you your request. But both Kings need to speak also."

Merlin turned to his mother who had picked herself up and seemed a bit more stable, "My mother is owed an explanation too but she won't be able to hear them."

"My dear boy, I don't want to hear either of them. I will be able to tell from Killgarrah." She gestured to both her sons, "I'm a mother I will be able to tell from both your body languages what is going in."

"Alright" Leon said glaring at the three people he blamed for Merlin's predicament. "Who's going first?"

"I will your Grace." Killgarrah replied, "Though you might not like what I have to say."

After twenty minutes Leon had heard enough and wasn't exactly best pleased with his brother either. Yes some of what had happened to them wasn't Merlin's fault but did he have to be powerful and so involved in everyone's destiny? Couldn't he just for once taken instructions from others?

At least he now knew why there were two dead Kings sitting in his brothers chambers. What no one had managed to work out was when they would be leaving or how.

One thing was clear Merlin would be giving Killgarrah back his magic, once Leon had been told that left to fester in Merlin's soul there was every chance he could become a bitter twisted Dragon Leon had pulled rank based on being the big brother and had insisted that there must be another way. There was of course but that way lead back to Arthur and he still didn't like the idea of Merlin going through that sort of ritual.

Now he found himself babysitting the two Kings while Merlin went to check on Arthur and the Earl of Adare went to organize events for his crowning as Prince again with his mother. Why he needed the crowning didn't know but Merlin and Aiden had been pretty insistent and Leon knew when to pick his battles. He couldn't win on the stuff that mattered like making sure Merlin didn't become a Dragon if he argued on the smaller things. Tonight there would be a small family dinner which didn't thrill Leon either but it was either that or sit here and listen to Garratt and Uther trade barbs. Both were not invited for fear of flying furniture and food everywhere.

At least there would be no late night chats with the Dragon now he thought. Killgarrah had been remarkably free in telling Merlin and Leon what he thought was going on. He almost had looked ill Leon thought. He had even offered to watch over the two Kings while the family ate. The Duke yawned, it had been a remarkable day and with more to come he would be grateful for a good night's sleep, as no doubt Merlin would be.

Merlin stood over the sleeping form of his one true King. Arthur looked so peaceful he thought, so at ease, he certainly wouldn't wake him. Sighing he sat on a chair to the left of Arthur's bed and reached out for an arm to hold.

"I'm so sorry. Sorry that you've ended up like this. And it's only going to get worse. I've now got your dead father in my chambers arguing with my dead Grandfather. And I am borrowing people's magic or I'll die and it seems I've managed to break the walls down between the dead and the living. Oh and Arthur I've managed to get myself crowned King. King! And no I am not King of the idiots either! King! Of my own country. "

The new King shook his head, "I'm sorry you're asleep, besides you wouldn't understand what I am on about, you don't know who I am. And I'm a little worried about you finding out the truth, I can't go through you hating me again."

Automatically the Warlock wiped a tear from his eye, a tear he didn't realize he had been holding in. "Sorry, you said no man was worth my tears, well you are."

A hand grabbed his arm. Merlin jumped as Arthur sat up confused and disorientated. "Where am I? Who are you?"

"I'm, well, I'm the new King, Arthur."

Arthur rubbed his forehead, "The new King? What happened to King Garratt."

"He died, Arthur, a Dragon killed him."

"Oh. Well I am deeply sorry your Majesty for it. Forgive me it is quite a shock. Do you know what happened to me?"

Ok Merlin thought, I'm going to have to give the brief and public version. The private truth that magic fixed him and that Arthur will be involved in more than one magical ceremony probably wouldn't go down well right now.

"You collapsed during the melee. You've been treated by my personal physician. You need to rest but should make a full recovery, especially if I have anything to do with it."

Arthur frowned, "Well, thank you your Majesty, but I a mere servant and not a very good one at that. You are far too kind."

Merlin smiled at him, "Nonsense, I've heard a lot about you. I hear you're an excellent servant and quite a swordsman. Indeed I hear you fought very bravely at the recent tournament. Tell me Arthur is that something you would like to do?"

"What fight Sire? I'll do what I am told to do. But yes, it seems I have a knack for it."

The warlock knew what he was going to offer carried a risk but Arthur was Arthur. The man within him that wanted to fight for truth and justice hadn't escaped him. Merlin needed a reason to keep Arthur around and to protect him from Camelot. Besides he told himself the real Arthur would probably approve, this way there was no mucking out the stables for him."

"Indeed you do and I would like you to join my ranks. I need good men such as yourself. "

Arthur was startled, this King was talking to him but he was a mere criminal, a lowlife.

"Thank you Sire, but I fear you do not know the true me. I've made mistakes in my past."

"Everyone has Arthur. But what matters is where you are going now. You are brave and honourable

I have little doubt on that. So I am pleased to invite you onto my knights training program. You see I have a war coming up and I need new, fresh knights. Some of which will be on my personal guard under the direction of my cousin. So what do you say? Fancy helping me and being on my team?"

Arthur smiled, this could not be happening to him. "Yes, I'd be honoured to accept your Majesty."

Merlin clasped his arm, he desperately wanted to hold Arthur properly but that would no doubt scare him off and raise questions Merlin couldn't answer for now.

"Good man. It is done, you'll be training as soon as you are fit and well. You'll have training in the mornings and in the afternoon you'll be part of my chambers. You shall have no other master but me. If you do this well which I am sure you will, I'll have you knighted. And that's a promise. "

A Knight? Me a Knight? Arthur thought. His brain then said "Say thank you you idiot, this King is putting his neck out for you."

"Arthur?" Merlin said puzzle, "I was expecting a thank you?"

Arthur blushed, "Sorry Sire, I was just thinking I do not know your name."

Merlin stilled, here came a part of his life he didn't not like, lying, "It's Ambrosius, Arthur, Ambrosius." Merlin put his hand out.

"Well King Ambrosius" Arthur said as he shook his hand, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise Arthur, likewise. Now can we get you something to eat? You must be hungry?"

Arthur smiled and nodded, "Yes sire, though I must confess I am worried I will not to be able to eat much myself."

Merlin resisted the temptation to offer to feed him soup, he wouldn't be able to explain that one. "Of course, I'll have the kitchens bring something up for you and find someone to help you eat."

"You're too kind Sire."

"Would you mind doing me a favour Arthur?"

"But of course, Sire, what is it?"

"Please stop calling me Sire, it makes me feel old. I've insisted my family call me by my first name."

"But, Sire, sorry, I cannot do that."

Merlin nodded, too honourable he thought. He would have to remind Arthur of this in the future, that he did give him permission not to call him Sire. "I see Arthur."

"It's just that, well I don't know you your Majesty. I would feel most odd calling you by your first name. Even with your permission."

"Well perhaps you can get to know me properly and then change your mind. Anyway I am sorry but I must depart, it has been a long tiring day. I've lost my Grandfather and gained a Kingdom you see." Merlin then kicked himself, just how insensitive was that?

Arthur smiled weakly, "Not that I am much use being in bed and I am only a servant, but if there is anything I can do."

"Thank you, now I must depart. Anything you need just call for help."

Merlin rose and smiled at his King, maybe, perhaps maybe they could sort something out? He closed the door and issued instructions to the serving boy waiting outside. Arthur would get soup and some pie and a good night's rest.

The new King walked down to his chambers, hoping that Leon hadn't pulled all his hair out listening to Uther and Garratt going at it. At least he knew how to send them back, or so he thought. It wasn't going to be easy and he had to give back Killgarrah's magic tonight and then borrow Aiden's. And train Leon up properly. And train as a Knight, oh and run a Kingdom. His mind was spinning again.

As was Arthur's, as he lay in bed he couldn't believe his luck. Yes the King had died but now this new King Ambrosius seemed nice and wanted him, Arthur on his team. Perhaps he thought he could make it here, here in this strange land. After all he had no other home to go to. And this King was good looking, not in a Gwaine sort of way but still attractive as was that Duke too. Not that he would stand a chance, but hey a boy could dream can't they?

Merlin opened the door to a dozing Leon and two sleeping Kings. Perfect he thought, a moment's peace. He yawned, he needed to bathe and get ready for the feast. He sniffed his shoulder, he did not smell Kingly and then his brain caught up with him and told him that he needed to wake the dead and Leon because bathing in front of those three was pretty much the most embarrassing thing he could think of right now.

He was going to have some fun though, he whispered a spell he had used to wake Arthur before, that amplified everything he said or did. Arthur had got into the habit he had noticed of switching off when Merlin spoke, well not when Merlin spoke extra loudly.

He clapped his hands and said gleefully "Wakey Wakey sleepy heads. Up and at them!"

Leon jumped and fell out of his chair, while the Two Kings shot him evil looks.

"What the devil?" Leon asked.

"Sorry Curls, although you all looked so peaceful we have dinner soon and some of us need to bathe and I really don't want to be naked in front of you three."

"Perish the thought" Uther snorted then eyed him suspiciously

"How is my son?"

"He is well, tired but he will be fine. I've arranged some food for him and he will have guards on his door tonight, he will sleep soundly."

"Good. I will go to him."

"You know he can't see you King Uther."

"Yes I do know boy, but he is my son."

"Boy Uther? That boy as you so charmingly put it is my Grandson and therefore the new King. Show some respect."

Another snort came from Uther.

"It doesn't matter Grandfather. Uther can snort all his likes but I'll be twice the King he'll ever be." Merlin retorted.

Uther was open mouthed, agog that that boy answered him back like that. Far too insolent, that was Arthur's fault he never disciplined that lad.

Garratt bellowed a deep laugh while Leon just smiled, thinking, "good for you Merlin."

"You can go after dinner Uther. Killgarrah offered to watch you both and I just know how much you'll be looking forward to that. Now please all three of you depart my room. Perhaps Leon if you don't need to bathe you could give them a tour?"

"Actually M-bro I kind of pong a bit?

"Oh great, well they can't both stay here, and we can't leave them alone, heaven knows what they'll do. And we can't ask Mother, that wouldn't be fair."

"Ask Aiden then."

Merlin smiled nodding "Great idea!"

"I'm full of them."

"Well go and get him then!"

Merlin turned to the ghosts, "Aiden will make sure you are both well."

Uther rolled his eyes, "That man could barely look after himself let alone two spirits of the dead. Completely useless. I don't know what you saw him in Garratt. Still at least he hated Agravaine."

"Well who doesn't Uther?"

"Those witches. And Nimeuh."

Merlin stilled, Nimeuh, he didn't know Agravaine knew Nimeuh.

"Did I hear you right Sire?"

"Oh Sire is it now boy? You mean the great Emrys didn't know about Agravaine and Nimeuh?"

"No I didn't. And my Grandfather didn't tell me!"

"I didn't know Merlin, this is news to me. So Uther were they just friends?"

"They were in league with each other to take my Kingdom. They were going to kill me after Arthur was born and Agravaine would have been regent. I could not let that happen. I had Agravaine banished and stripped of his lands. Nimeuh became less interested, especially when Arthur had a powerful Guardian in the form of the Dragon."

"I had wondered if Nimeuh had had assistance at some point, I could never work her out." Merlin said.

"You were not meant to" Uther replied. "She is a cold, heartless sorceress."

"You know I killed her don't you?" Merlin offered up.

"Yes but she came back and then Leon got rid of her. I must say despite the use of magic giving that bitch her just deserts is most satisfactory."

"Is that a Thank You King Uther?" Merlin said quietly but with a determination in his voice all could see.

"No. One doesn't apologise to magic users. " Uther said, still with the same coldness as before,

Garratt shook his head, the conversation was going to go round in circles if they weren't careful, back to Agravaine he thought. "Well she's dead. That's it. But Agravaine is alive and is a bitter and twisted soul. You need to watch out for him."

"For once I agree" Uther replied. "That man must die or my Son will forever be in danger."

Merlin nodded, "I know what needs to be done."

"Good" Uther said sternly.

"You're forgetting who is King here Uther, and it is not you." Merlin snapped back. "You are a guest in my castle. No one tells me what to do. None of you know what it is like having this destiny and people like you who kill my kind don't get to influence me."

Uther didn't reply, he had a grudging respect for this Merlin, gone had been the meek boy in front of him, though he knew the meekness would go one day. He had after all berated Arthur before in his son's chambers, Uther once had to force himself not to open the door and have the boy arrested for Treason as he heard him shouting at Arthur. Then once he heard what he had to say he stood quietly outside. No one else would have the balls to tell his son how pig headed he was and that was a good thing. Despite the unseemly attraction there at least Merlin was the one to get through to Arthur when need be.

The quietness of the room was interrupted by Aiden, "I'm here to babysit?"

"Thank the Lord" Merlin whispered.

"Yes you are, please take them away from me, I am being driven mad. And I need to bathe."

"Yes you do, your cousins want to speak with you later. And your mother is driving me mad fussing." Aiden smiled sweetly.

"I hope your family are joining us Aiden."

"Well, if that is what you wish Sire." The Earl replied.

"It is. I have two eligible cousins and you have an eligible daughter. I'm hoping for some romance." Merlin said.

"Of course, now your former majesties please follow me this way. We are going to have a tour of the dungeons."

Garratt smiled and noticed Uther's grimace as they departed leaving Merlin giddy with excitement at the prospect of some peace and quiet. Good he thought, I can wind that man up with my treasures down below.

Chapter Text

Leon was yawning, the day had ended and with his stomach full of wine and good food, he knew he would sleep soundly tonight. The family meal had gone off without a hitch though he noticed Aiden looking a bit tired than usual. The Two Dead Kings had behaved themselves with the Dragon who was also looking tired. If Leon didn't know better he would have though some disease was going around but the chances of a Dragon and a Human both getting sick at the same time with the same ailment was unlikely, even if every day seemed to turn up a new surprise.

The Duke then cast his mind back to Uther and his behaviour earlier. He could hardly claim to be an expert, he had always been Arthur's man not Uther's but he saw something in his eyes he hadn't seen before. Fear he thought, fear of the unknown and for Arthur. He had not been at all surprised when Uther had announced he would watch over Arthur while he was sleeping and had been pleased that Merlin had reacted positively to the request, well it came across more as an order he thought. Despite their conversation earlier there was still much left unsaid between his brother and his former king and he wondered just how long Garratt and Uther would be hanging around for.

As for hanging around, it seemed to Leon that Henry and Thomas had calmed down and were definitely onside. Their behaviour at dinner had been a massive relief to Leon as they warmly embraced him and Merlin. One less problem he thought as he drifted off to sleep.

Merlin had been last to retire, he had gone up to the ramparts to view his new Kingdom. Now on the balcony overlooking the lower town, past the drawbridge and moat he could see his realm clearly. Most of the lights were out and the stars twinkled softly in the sky. He stifled a yawn; everyone looked tired he thought, especially Earl Aiden, though he had still be lucid enough to discuss with Merlin the future of his daughters. Merlin insisted that any marriage between them and one of his cousins would not be forced and both parties would have to consent. His mind was cast back to the mess of Arthur and the Princess Elena's engagement.

Elena he thought, I wonder if she is safe? Killgarrah had explained that Morgana had seized her lands and that she had disappeared. Merlin wished he had his magic to find out if she was still living, for now he had the Dragons but that couldn't last forever, he needed his back and soon. How was he meant to save his Kingdom from attack without it?

The way back to his magic though was fraught with danger; getting Arthur who didn't know him to perform that sort of act on him wasn't going to be easy. He sighed and yawned yet again, it was time to retire. He hoped for some sleep, at least there were no more dead Kings due to make an appearance.

Uther had arrived at Arthur's chambers to find him sleeping. He had managed to persuade this bunch of magic using reprobates that he wouldn't cause trouble and simply wanted to spend time with his son. Honestly! He thought who gave the Fitzgerald's the right to tell him what to do or that insufferable arrogant Dragon?

His mind instantly softened as he look down at the sleeping, peaceful form of his beloved son. Uther knew he had never told Arthur enough times that he loved him and was proud of him. There had been that incident after Morgause summoned his mother and Arthur had reacted so badly Uther feared for his life but that was the exception. He could see Igraine in Arthur, his quiet determination, his never ending desire to stick up for those less fortunate than himself. So many times Uther had had to rein him in for fear of Arthur dashing off on some adventure and killing himself. More so since that boy appeared on the scene.

He shook his head. Merlin. That big eared warlock really had been trouble since day one. Although clearly loyal to Arthur which was commendable, he had changed Arthur. Gone was a spoilt brat and now was a man destined to be King. Uther was glad someone had knocked Arthur's immaturity out of him but it had been replaced with this unshakable bond between a crown Prince and a serving boy. The old King had never worked out why Arthur and Merlin were so strong as a couple, it was incredibly unusual. He had been friends with Gaius but that had had it's limits with clearly defined boundaries.

Arthur around Merlin he thought had no clear boundaries. It was as if Arthur was not just daring him but the court and all of Camelot, saying "This is my best friend. This is my advisor. Try as you might we are unbreakable." Several council members had spoken to Uther quietly about the relationship between his son and his servant but Uther had dismissed them. No one told him how to manage his son.

Now it made sense he thought, Merlin had been a warlock all along. He wouldn't admit it to anyone but he had always suspected that the boy had had magic but could never prove it properly. Even when Merlin had been accused Arthur had defended him to the hilt. Uther did not want a battle of wills with his son over a manservant. A battle he knew deep down he would lose. Arthur would literally rip people's arms off if they so much looked at Merlin funny. He tried to let them get on with it but had to intervene the time that Merlin had accidentally tripped over in a feast and throw a giant pot of soup over one of his council. The noble had demanded Merlin was whipped for his insult. At the mention of the word whip Arthur had suddenly appeared right in front Merlin, arms folded, eyes like daggers and insisted that it was an accident and that Merlin should write a letter of apology and clean Sir Elector's chambers. Of course that had set Elector off into a fit demanding recompense and Uther had had no choice but to declare Merlin would be in the stocks for two days as punishment and there would not be another word said on the matter.

The King had also noticed the soft Thank You from Merlin to Arthur and his son stiffen. It had been clear to Uther all along that Arthur had feelings for Merlin, running off to save his servant and find a flower was not the mark of a Prince who felt a loyalty to his manservant. The whole episode had been most unedifying and had taught Uther that try as he might Arthur was never going to budge when it came to Merlin.

Uther let out a hollow laugh and went to stroke his son's hair but the hair didn't move and he felt nothing. He shook his head; clearly he could only touch magical beings then. He dearly wanted nothing more to hold his beloved Arthur one last time. He sighed, and sat down by the bed. All he could do was talk instead, not that Arthur would hear from.

"Merlin. I could never stop the two of you could I? It was like you were joined at the hip. You'll never know the trouble I had. I had noblemen for years urging me to sack that half-wit and appoint their son instead but there was no way you would have ever accepted that would there? You would have ended up killing the son and then we'd have a giant mess on our hands. I remember when Merlin was sick once. Your mood was foul for days. Even that Gwen woman couldn't snap you out of it."

"I didn't know what to do with you in the end Arthur. You brought home peasants and wanted them as Knights, not once but twice! And then when I fell sick I wake up one day and find out that four men had been made Knights, including that Gwaine creature. And Guinevere's brother. I was convinced you were about to declare your intentions to Guinevere and told Gaius I didn't know how to stop it when I wasn't in control anymore. He gave me some words but that was it."

"And then, and then I was murdered. Arthur. If you can hear me I urge you, when you finally know the truth that you end the rule of those witches once and for all and avenge my death. And as for Merlin, well for heaven's sake if you still insist in your inappropriate relationships please realize that you're in love with him and put a ring on his finger. It is quite unedifying for the Prince let alone the King of Camelot to be unmarried but reliant on a manservant for advice and companionship. I know there was Gwen but to me your heart never seemed in it and hers certainly wasn't."

"So, Arthur what I am telling you is that I give my permission. Not that you deep down would pay attention to what I would say but I give it anyway. If you must make dove eyes in the way that you do with that idiot then for goodness sake marry him and unify your Kingdoms in the process."

"I still do not approve of his magic. It cannot be trusted. It killed your mother and it killed me and even Merlin let out the Dragon though I know why. I won't ever admit it to him but I've seen exactly what he's done all of these years and while I do not agree with his actions I can understand them just about. But you must be careful, his Kingdom if he survives and defeats the Norsemen is going to be much bigger than yours, especially now he's got a claim to Mann and part of Scotia too. You may love him but every man has their own desire for power and while he has saved your life even more times than I have his magic can change him. I've seen it. You'll need to be his anchor, he thankfully has got a guide. I knew there was something with that Leon too, suffice to say if I had known about them both I would have wanted them executed but I can just imagine you jumping onto the fires to save them both. I've never seen two men so loyal to you and watching them now to each other."

"I'm rambling. Forgive me but there's so much I had to say to you that I never got the chance to. I love you so much Arthur. You are my world. I never told you enough times and even after I told you it was my fault you didn't think I was proud of you I still treated you harshly. I had to prepare you for the harshness and reality of this world, especially once I suspected Merlin had magic, I needed you, Camelot needs you to be your own man and not influenced by others. Not that I had complete influence over you. Don't apologise, I'm blaming Merlin for it."

Uther didn't cry, he wasn't that sort of man but he knew his emotions were flooding out. His son, his only son was lying in front of him after collapsing. And worse he had been wiped from memory, from history and he didn't even know who he was himself. Now he had to rely on his former manservant who had turned out to be a powerful Warlock and King in his own right and his former first Knight who was said King's brother, heir, guide and a Duke to boot. The future would not be easy.

"I wish I could hold you, for one last time. I am so sorry I couldn't protect you. I hope one day you can forgive me."

Uther could have sworn Arthur stirred in his sleep as if he was silently acknowledging his father but he quickly dismissed it.

"I don't know how long I am for this realm Son, it is most odd being dead and being in a rival's Kingdom. Even if the King now is your manservant. I wish I was around to see your reaction to that news when you find out. "

Suddenly Uther knew his night was not over. "I'm sorry Arthur, I must go, I will be back."

He departed the room and walked down the chambers to Merlin's room. Opening the door he walked over to the bed and sat on the end of it and said loudly "It's time to talk."

Merlin had been having a nice normal dream of him going hunting with Arthur and Leon, nothing difficult, just normality despite him not liking hunting. His dream was disturbed by a familiar booming voice and he bolted up in bed, knowing immediately who had come to pay him a visit.

"What is it? Can't I sleep in peace." He demanded.

"I cannot have peace so why should you?" Uther replied.

"It is not my fault you died Uther. I saved your sorry behind more times than I care to remember."

"I know." Uther feel silent, it pained him to even contemplate saying these words but he knew what needed to be done. "And I'm grateful. Thank You."

Merlin's eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. "Sorry. You're? You're grateful?"

Uther nodded, "Yes. Despite the magic you have been loyal to the Kingdom and I know it was because of Arthur. I have no illusions on that subject but you did save my Kingdom and myself more than once. Even I can see that."

Merlin looked at him suspiciously, "I'm not sure I'm awake and this isn't part of the dream."

"I can barely believe this is happening myself. But that's all your getting a Thank You."

Merlin stared directly at the dead King, "Well thanks I guess. Thank you. Can I sleep now?"

"No. There is something I need to talk to you about. It is Arthur." Uther said flatly, betraying no emotion in his voice.

"I guessed as much. What is it?"

"I've just seen him. I never wanted him to end up like this. So I want you to promise me something, not just to me but to Arthur and his mother too."

"What do you want me to promise?"

"That you're restore Arthur to his rightful throne."

Merlin was now getting annoyed, he had told Uther earlier that day that he would do so, "Did you not listen to me earlier, of course I will."

"I know, but I want you to promise me something more. That you do not destroy Camelot in the process. Arthur could never forgive himself if there were thousands of deaths at his hands and neither would you."

"I have no intention of burning down Camelot but you know better than anyone Uther that war comes at a price." Merlin replied.

"Then use other means at your disposal." Uther said sweetly.

Merlin was now wide eyed, "I'm sorry. Did you just tell me to use magic? You? Uther? The magic hater?"

"Merlin." Uther replied softly, "I do not condone magic use. I did though ask Gaius to save Morgana using magic did I not? And I know that was you."

"Yes and look how well that turned. She took over Camelot, we beat her back and then she returns stronger than ever." Merlin bit back, he could not believe he was having this discussion.

"And yet you saved her. After killing her to stop the first immortal army. Merlin you're a contradiction yourself, you've killed before and will kill again and yet you abhor violence."

Merlin wished he could send Uther back to whatever hole he came from but without his own magic he couldn't. "You cannot compare yourself to me. I am nothing like you."

Uther knew he had the opening, his trump card. "We have one thing in common. We both love Arthur. And love makes us do strange things. I just want to make sure Arthur doesn't become King only to regret the methods."

"Whether I use magic or not or whether I invade is none of your business now. I'll do what I think is right."

"You are not perfect on this topic, you let the Dragon lose. Yes I know why, please spare me the lecture but you did it anyway and you lied to Arthur more than once."

"It is immaterial Uther. I do not have my own magic. I am surviving on others and that cannot sustain me forever. So please, I'd like to sleep."

"I know. But invading Camelot in the future, especially now it has grown will lead to a long and bloody war which will destablise you and Arthur. He will see you as a conquering King and him beholden to you."

"Rubbish!" Merlin shouted.

"Is it really? When he found out about your magic he accused you of bewitching him. He is proud, I should know. You're a King now Merlin, you invade to put him back on the throne after thousands die and he will slowly come to resent you."

"I thought that's what you wanted. For him to hate me?" Merlin shot back.

"I do not approve of your relationships but I do not want to see my Son killed after he argues with you and causes a civil war. I do not want two Kings at loggerheads. I want my line to carry on."

"Well what do you suppose I do? I can't just walk into Camelot and say "Hello Witches remember me? Well I'd like Arthur to be King now so if you wouldn't mind leaving?" Merlin said sarcastically.

"You've got the same sarcastic tone as my Son. All I ask is that you vow not to me but for my son's own sake to keep causalities to a minimum. There has been enough death and destruction already." Uther said calmly.

Merlin looked at his eyes, they seemed almost pleading. Merlin tried to dismiss it but Uther did have a point, raising an army and laying siege to Camelot would cost men and increase civilian causalities but engaging both Morgause and Morgana at once would be risky. He knew he was more powerful than either but together they would be a strong match and he couldn't beta both and defend Arthur at the same time. "I do not need to invade. If Arthur kisses his true love the spell will break." It was as simple as that Merlin thought

"Yes and then what? Do you think the witches won't fight back and attack you or Arthur? If they kill him it's all over." Uther was now frustrated, Merlin wasn't getting it.

"I can defend Arthur against magical attacks. I have been doing that with no thanks to you." Merlin shot back.

'Yes and yet he lies in bed after collapsing in a foreign kingdom with no memory of who he is or what he was. You cannot do everything yourself Merlin."

"Hold on, you want me to use magic and now you're telling me I cannot do everything? You really are exasperating aren't you?" Merlin was now red in the cheeks.

"Being a King mean contradictions sometimes. You'll do well to remember that. I really thought you were more cleaver than Arthur made out. I never believed all that 'mental affliction' nonsense. You will get your magic back and you are not the only one with it. You, Leon, and that Gwaine all have it plus you have that bloody Dragon doing your bidding mostly. I know you can be devious, just think about what I am really telling you Merlin. There are ways to destroy the witches once and for all without mass death and destruction. You have that power. Be devious."

Merlin then realized what this discussion was actually getting at. "You do realize that what you're suggesting takes months of work and we don't have much time? It requires patience and it could easily go very wrong. My Grandfather's told me the same thing but it is very risky."

Uther nodded, "It is. And for a mere sorcerer or an idiot, it would not be achieved. I cannot believe I am admitting this and I won't do it again but you, you Merlin, you can do almost anything if you put your mind to it. And you'll have help. Leon isn't an idiot and neither is my Son. You must do this for Arthur and for Camelot. I know you, a normal war is nothing you want."

"And yet I face that now with the Norsemen and their sorcerers when I don't have my magic." Merlin said shaking his head.

"You're still a Dragon Lord. If you're telling me you're going to lose against the Norsemen then you're not the man I thought you were. I must return to Arthur. Keep him safe."

"I will."

"See that you do, or I'll be back."

Merlin rolled his eyes, "You're stuck here. I cannot send you back, I don't have that power."

"I know. I bid you goodnight."

Uther rose from the bed and walked to the door, not looking back. He quickly walked back to Arthur's chambers and smiled at his sleeping son. "I hope that servant of yours finally takes some advice to heart. I've done all I can Arthur. I just wish I could do more. I miss you and your Mother more than you could know."

He sat back down on the chair and closed his eyes, not knowing if spirits really slept.

Merlin had thought of calling for Leon but it could wait, they were all tired. He closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep with the conversation he had had with Uther replaying in his head. The temperature dropped in the room and he knew the meaning behind it. He could not nor would not interfere; it was for the best he thought.

Uther's eyes lifted after a few moments, not able to sleep then his mind said as he saw a small faint blue light in the room. He jumped out of his chair; he had seen that light before.

"Who is it?"

"Uther, it's time to go back." The light replied.

"But Arthur, I want to stay with him. And the walls are breaking down between the worlds."

"Yes they are." The light replied, "But for you your time has come. You are at peace. You've done what you should have done years ago; speak to both Merlin and our Son. You've made your peace and I forgive you. Now join me, we've missed out on so much together."

Uther nodded, looking over to his son he said, "Goodbye Arthur. I love you." Then with a determination in his steps he walked into the blue light and disappeared.

Arthur had been dreaming, he was with the new King Ambrosius and with Duke Kay, they were hunting but Ambrosius was dirty and wearing old ragged clothes while he was dressed smartly. He woke sharply shivering, the room was so cold. He rubbed his arms but it was no good, the room was still cold. He didn't want to wake people but the King did say he could call at any time and it was freezing.

He got out of bed, his legs still aching and threw a tunic over his head and then a cloak, he was only going to peer outside he thought, he knew he had guards so it wasn't as if he needed to be fully dressed. He walked to the door and opened it but there was no sign of any guards. Odd he thought, the King had been insistent about that. Perhaps they were further down the hall?

Arthur walked slowly down the hall until he found two guards outside a room playing backgammon. "Excuse me. I'm sorry but my guards aren't at their station and my room, it is so cold, I need a fire lit or some blankets please?"

One of the guards took one look at him and said "Oh and you are?"

"I'm Arthur. I'm, well I guess I'm the guest of the Kings I suppose."

The guard rolled his eyes, "You suppose? Either you are or you aren't. Are you a noble Sire?"

Arthur shook his head, "No I am not. I fell earlier in the town, the King arranged for me to be treated, I was the Earl Gwaine's manservant and now I am going to be the King's."

The guard laughed, "Here look at that Michael, he's going to be the King's new manservant. How fancy for him."

Arthur shuffled his feet, this was not what he was expecting, so far everyone had been so friendly. "Yes I will be so is it possible to find someone who can help me with the fire?"

"What's it worth?" The second guard replied.

"Erm? Well, I have no money. Not yet. I guess I can owe you a favour?' Arthur was now feeling a bit uncomfortable, normally his politeness worked on people.

"A favour? Doesn't sound enough to me? The first guard replied mockingly, "What do you think Michael, is that enough?"

"No, certainly not for someone with such a fancy promotion."

Arthur took a step back, "Well, look, I'm sorry to have troubled you both."

"So you should be, disturbing us when we are defending the King's majesty, who are you but a lowly servant?" Michael replied.

All three men got a shock as the door swung open to the sight of a very angry and glaring King. "That lowly servant as you eloquently put it is my manservant, Arthur. And he is going to be training as a Knight. "Merlin let the words hang before he put the fear of God into these two, "A Knight of my realms and under my protection." He said softly.

"Sorry Sire." The first guard replied. "It is our mistake."

"Yes it was" Merlin replied "and I will not be a King of a realm where my troops treat people with such a lack of respect, servant, noble, guard or Knight. Is that clear?"

Both men nodded.

"Good. Well I am awake too so Arthur here will come and sit in my chambers which are warmer. The two of you should focus more on defending my safety for the rest of the evening. "

"Yes sire" both guards replied in unison.

"Good. Now I bid you goodnight"

"Good night your Majesty." Both men had the good grace Merlin thought of looking crestfallen, offending the King on his first day probably wasn't a good idea and they knew it.

He motioned for Arthur to walk in and then slammed the door.

"Sorry about that Arthur. Clearly on top of everything else I have got some staffing issues to deal with. Please take a seat."

"Er, thank you. I was just so cold Sire." Arthur replied.

"Arthur I believe I told you when it's the two of us in private not to call me Sire?" Merlin smiled.

"Sorry, it's just not what I'm used to."

"Not to worry. Now are you thirsty? Hungry?" Merlin looked round and then realised he had nothing to offer him and he hardly wanted to go to the goons outside.

"A drink? Something warm? If that's alright with you?"

Merlin nodded, "But of course, excuse me there's some whiskey in the antechamber. I'll only be a minute. Make yourself warm by the fire please."

Merlin rose and walked quickly to the antechamber, Whiskey, honestly why did he say that, he had conjured wine enough times before but Whiskey only once and he was relying on someone else's magic. He shut the door and bolted it for good measure, he didn't think now was the time to reveal his magic to Arthur.

He looked at the empty bottle in front of him and reached deep into the Dragon's magic. His eyes flashed gold, he knew they had and the bottle filled with Whiskey. He smiled to himself, success and now he could talk to Arthur some more. He wasn't going to sleep and he wanted to know about the room being cold he suspect it had something to do with Uther.

Merlin picked up the bottle and two glasses and walked to the door, opening it and walking back to Arthur who hadn't moved out of his seat. He put the bottle and glasses down on the table and motioned to Arthur to take a glass. Merlin wasn't surprised when Arthur stood up and began pouring them both a dram.

"You don't need to do that Arthur."

"I do, if I am going to be on your staff I am doing the job properly Ambrosius."

Merlin smiled, "Of course you would." He rose his glass, "To your good health Arthur."

"And yours, your Majesty. Sorry sire. Sorry Ambrosius." Arthur looked crestfallen he was trying damn it to do what the King wanted.

Merlin saw his uneasiness instantly. "It is fine Arthur, it really is. I just want you to feel comfortable around me. Remember I am new to all of this too. I haven't been at court long. It is easier for me if someone treats me as me and not as the King."

"If I make speak freely?" Arthur ventured.

"Of course. I want you to." Merlin replied.

Arthur coughed; he was still unsure whether to say this but the King had just asked for someone to treat him normally. "You are the King. You cannot escape that even if you want to. No one can escape their destiny." As soon as he spoke he looked down at the table, avoiding eye contact, this had been a bad idea he thought.

Merlin looked at this Arthur in front of him, the defiance was there he could see that but the confidence was more hidden, it wasn't the same Arthur no matter how much he wanted it to be, he needed to bring it out.

"Quite right. And I know my destiny, believe you me, I've known it for a long time."

"But you said you weren't at court long. Sorry excuse me."

"Arthur." Merlin said calmly. "Stop apologizing. It is becoming annoying. Look what I mean to say is I haven't been at this court for long but I have known for a while what I had to do. It is not easy and I want people to treat me as me. Not as a King."

"Is that why you bit the guards' heads off?"

"Slightly but mainly because they were rude to you. I meant what I said no one should be treated like that."

"Thank you. But you know that it is unusual for a King or Prince to want people to be treated equally?"

"I'm not your normal King, Arthur. Believe you me."

Arthur smiled, he was becoming more relaxed, the whiskey had helped but he didn't want to drink much, not unless the King insisted. Embarrassing yourself in front of your new master was not the way to go. "No I guess you aren't. Where are you from?"

Merlin had expected this question and still didn't have a good answer. "I'm not from here; I'm from the land of Albion, the same land you are from."

"I don't know where I'm from. I remember my life. Not all of it. Sometimes I feel Ambrosius that there's part of a puzzle missing. I know my name is Arthur. I know I am good with a sword, but I don't know what I did wrong and why Queen Morgana banished me. I can't remember my parents, whether I had brothers or sisters. I feel, I feel as if there's a fog, clouding my brain. And then I get these dreams, these vivid dreams." Arthur fell silent; feeling like an idiot the King surely would call him.

"Go on Arthur."

"Oh, right, well these dreams, I'm not me, I mean I am me but a different me, earlier I dreamt that I was hunting with you and Duke Kay but you were a bit dirty and I was dressed, well as a Knight." Arthur stopped talking, this was ridiculous, and he was telling royalty his dreams for heaven's sake.

"I am sorry Sire, I am speaking rubbish, I apologise." He added hoping the new King wouldn't get angry, although he seemed like a decent man he had just bitten two guards' heads off which implied he had steel to him.

"Nonsense Arthur, it is fine. Look I don't mind really, I don't and this is going to sound odd but I don't have many friends. I have my cousins but I don't really know them that well. I need, well I need people to talk to."

Arthur thought for a moment that the King was blushing but dismissed it, Kings didn't blush.

"Well, you can talk to me. I mean I'm sorry you can do whatever you want. You are King after all but you can trust me." Arthur said quickly hoping it was the right thing to say. This King really was odd, he was a bit like Gwaine not wanting the titles but there was something else, something he couldn't put his finger on. He felt that he knew him, that they could become friends, which was stupid because a King couldn't be friends with his manservant or his Knights really but here the King was almost asking him to become friends.

Merlin looked at Arthur and was reminded of himself and his first few weeks with Arthur. Although the start in the market had not gone well the first few weeks he was more respectful than he later become, not that Arthur didn't need respect but what he needed more was a good kick up the backside now and again. Merlin thought at some time in the future he would need that too and despite having the best brother in the world in Leon, Leon would still be over protective and he needed someone to see him as him and not as the King or a warlock or as a baby brother.

"You've not said anything?" Arthur said quietly.

"I was thinking about what you just said. I think you and I will get on well you know Arthur."

"I hope so, I need to settle and you've been very kind. You sort of have my future in your hands." Arthur replied.

"Yes I suppose I do. Well Arthur, pour yourself another drink. Neither of us will be able to sleep I reckon for a while so we may as well have a dram or two." Merlin replied. For some reason he didn't feel as lightheaded as normal when he touched alcohol and he wanted to find out more about Arthur and his cold room. Not to mention his dreams. Part of him felt selfish for keeping Arthur awake but he wanted to spend time with him. This Arthur was better than no Arthur at all.

When morning came and Leon opened the door he wasn't that surprised to find Merlin and Arthur both slumped in chairs, passed out and a bottle lying on the floor and the smell of Whiskey in the air.

Chapter Text

The week running up to the coronation or as Merlin had described it, a chance of people to gawp at me while I fall over and crash into the throne was for Leon a remarkably calm and peaceful event. Life had almost settled into a something of a routine.

The Dukes day started off with breakfast with Merlin and Arthur. It had not taken him by surprise how easy it was for Merlin and Arthur to have bonded, albeit in the strangest of circumstances. Merlin wouldn't let Arthur be a normal servant insisting he didn't want to be seen as "just another King" while Arthur had according to Merlin taken an unhealthy interest in trying to become to best servant ever. When he wasn't offering to clean Merlin's armour or launder his clothes, Arthur was asking for tips from Leon, Henry or Thomas.

Henry had remarked one evening that Arthur was the most diligent trainee he had ever worked with which had brought a smile from Merlin and a nod from Leon. King or no King Arthur's bravery and hardworking nature was clear for all to see. And had attracted the attention of several ladies much to Merlin's chagrin and Leon's amusement, cumulating in Merlin threatening to rename The Duke of Leinster as "Duke of all Clotpoles" or turning Leon into a toad if he didn't give it a break with the whole " Arthur's so dashing, oh look, there's five ladies watching him today."

Of course if one of the women had got close to kissing Arthur, Leon would rather eat his own head than see Merlin upset and destiny take a turn for the worse but for the moment it was harmless fun.

As Leon was walking to the daily practice he noticed Merlin sitting in a canopy waiting for the knights to start. Merlin didn't usually come and watch the Knight's practice having been quickly consumed by paperwork and affairs of state so Leon walked straight over to see his little brother. Recently things had been off, if Leon admitted it was actually bloody awkward. Merlin seemed to want him to speak up in council meetings but Leon felt he couldn't. Leon felt Merlin should spend time with him but Merlin seemed very focused on Arthur.

"Your majesty." Leon offered, they were in public after all.

"Duke Kay"

"Mind if I sit with you for a moment Sire?"

Merlin smiled, "Not at all, not at all". No one would have noticed the quick flash of gold in his eyes except for Leon.

"You're ok to talk now Curls, these spells are coming in handy."

"Talking of which, how are you feeling, what with having the Dragons magic?"

"I'm fine. I mean it is odd, the magic still responds to me but I can feel his bitterness and loneliness at the same time. I guess I never thought about him being lonely. I wish I could do more to help there."

" Isn't there a Dragons egg under the castle?" Leon inquired.

" Yes. And I don't know what to do with it. I mean I could hatch it. I am a Dragonlord after all but I've got enough on my plate without a baby Dragon to deal with." Merlin yawned, he was grateful for Leon to have some interest now but why couldn't he be interested like this every day?

Suddenly Leon's face turned concerned, " Yawning again? Not up late I hope? I left you to sleep!"

Merlin grimaced, "Not too late, just more paperwork. Raising more money to pay for the army we need is harder than it looks. I mean I can't just raise taxes; the people need money for themselves. What King would I be if I left my people to starve because they can't feed themselves?"

Leon sighed, "You'd never let people starve, it's not in your nature but being up all night won't help the people either will it? And besides I thought you could, you know magic up gold?". Leon was thinking to himself, why was it easier now to talk to Merlin?

"I could, when I had my own magic but the Dragons magic is different, it's more, we'll a bit less earthy and more willing to fight. And I haven't asked him about it, he's still scouting out overseas and trying to find out what's going on in Camelot."

Leon had an idea, a good one he thought. "What about Aiden's magic and mine, if we combined with yours? Would that be enough?"

"Maybe, I don't know. It is worth a shot. Leon I am tired. I nearly fell asleep yesterday and I can't stop time either now so it's not like I can just fall asleep and no one notices. I used to love doing that you know in Camelot."

Leon would have cuffed him round the head if they weren't in public, "That's how you did all your chores isn't it?"

Merlin nodded, falling back into their easy routine, "Yep. I mean come on I had a lot of chores, far too many for one servant."

"Yet you don't give Arthur half the amount do you?"

"No. Imagine when he does come back to us properly, he's going to have my head if I make him muck out the stables"

"He's going to be grateful you've saved him M-bro. Mind you I can see your point!"

Before Leon could speak further they were interrupted by Arthur bounding up to them "Good Morning your majesty, your Grace."

"Good Morning Arthur." Both replied.

"I'm sorry to interrupt but I wanted to tell the King that all my chores are complete and unless he had more to ask permission to stay out on the practice field all day?"

Merlin rolled his eyes at Arthur's politeness. God he thought, he's so eager to please, it's like looking after a puppy. Quickly he snapped back as Arthur was looking at his feet wondering if he spoke out of turn. He had an idea.

"Of course, Arthur. No problem at all. I suggest you stay near Henry today."

"Yes sire."

As Arthur was walking off Merlin thought he would pounce," Arthur, come back please?"

"Yes Sire?"

"I have a better idea than you staying close to Henry. Why don't you join me for my council meeting this afternoon? Kay will be there and in the meantime, Kay here and I are going to go fishing." Merlin had had the flash of inspiration that getting out of the castle and with Leon would be a good idea, finally they could talk. And he could hardly leave Arthur behind could he? Not when he had to protect him.

Leon's eyes widened, "We are, yes of course we are. Um Arthur you'd be most welcome to join us."

Arthur, head bowed mumbled a reply.

Merlin smirked, so damn polite he thought, "What was that Arthur, I couldn't hear you?"

"It would be an honour and a privilege your majesty."

"Did you hear that Duke Kay, an honour and a privilege. Well Arthur why don't you go back inside and fetch the equipment and meet his Grace and I in half an hour or so?"

Arthur nodded and departed, trying to keep the smile off his face as soon as he had disappeared

Leon turned round to Merlin and said "What was that about? We've got training Merlin and you've got paperwork to do!"

Merlin waved his arms in the air, honestly Leon could be so frustrating at times. "Weren't you just a few minutes ago telling me to take it easy? This is me taking it easy. I'm hardly going to go hunting am I and I need to talk to you properly. Arthur's not going to earwig and besides he can always be the one in the river while we are at the bank. I just need a morning off Curls and I need to talk to you properly."

"But you can here."

"Yes but not when we've got guards outside or Arthur fussing around me or Aiden popping in or Henry and Thomas not to mention the ghost of my grandfather which still hasn't departed and had taken it upon himself to whisper in my ear at every council meeting his opinions of his former nobles. When I'm trying to do the paperwork there's Garratt telling me how he would have done it or encouraging me to hire more mercenaries. It's quite maddening. I should just be grateful Uther has decided to leave me in peace!"

Leon knew he wasn't going to win this debate, "Ok ok. I see your point. What do you want to talk about?"

Merlin wasn't about to say 'About the fact that you and I are drifting apart and I have no idea why. "Well, kind of about the Kingdom and stuff but particularly the reclaiming of Ulster. And marriage. And magic. These silencing spells don't last for ever if you keep getting interruptions."

"Ok, well I can see why you might not want to talk about all of that now. There's a few things I need to talk to you about too." Leon thought it was better to be honest after all.

"Good. It's settled. Is nice to see you respecting your King!" Merlin said cheekily with a big grin, he felt forced to.

"Watch it your majesty, I am the older brother you know, you have to do as I say."

Merlin shook his head, Leon was clearly his best so he should too, "Nobles nowadays, got no respect for their Kings."

Leon barked a laugh, "If Arthur could hear you now talking about respect! Right well as we are going fishing I better tell the knights to organize a practice tourney to keep them occupied hadn't I?"

"Run along then Your Grace."

Leon shook his head, "See now where you get your cheekiness from, it's lack of sleep isn't it. I'm going to make sure you rest well tonight."

After quickly arranging a tourney for the knights to be overseen by Thomas and Henry, Leon arrived back to Merlin's canopy to find him rather fast asleep. He was in a good mind not to wake him but Merlin had insisted he wanted to speak to him and getting away from the Castle wasn't such a bad idea for the morning. The nerves of tomorrow's crowning ceremony were getting to both of them. For Leon's part he didn't quite see why, he had been through some of the recess before but this time it felt different, more real, like a confirmation that this was his life now, heir to the throne and destined to help Merlin in any way possible.

The Duke put a hand onto Merlin's shoulder, softly speaking, " Your Majesty, it's time to wake up."

Merlin lifted his right eye and stretched before shaking his head as if to clear his mind from sleep. "Ah yes, erm thank you."

"Not at all, Arthur should be here any minute and the Knights have been taken care of."

Arthur arrived as if he had heard his name, followed by two squires, three horses and several bags. He looked like he had brought enough stuff for a week long camping trip Merlin thought not a morning off.

"Your Majesty, your Grace, sorry I am late."

"You're not late Arthur, and please tell me, why have you brought so much equipment with you?"

Arthur reddened and looked to the grass, shuffling his feet, " well, Er, well I thought you might need something Sire and I wasn't sure how long we'd be gone for. So I thought we should be well prepared."

"Prepared for what? Being stuck in a snowstorm for a week?" Merlin retorted and was given a small shove in his side by Leon. He quickly turned to his older brother who was shooting him a glare which Merlin thought was "Don't treat him like he's an idiot, this isn't a game" and it quickly became Merlin's turn to redden and look at the grass instead.

"What his majesty is trying to say Arthur is that we are most grateful but you really didn't need to go to so much trouble." Leon said.

"Oh er, it was no trouble Sire"

Merlin was tempted to snort but knew better of it. What was Leon's problem? He was just having a bit of fun with Arthur. It was harmless really. And it wasn't like Arthur had never scolded him or got sarcastic when he was the servant.

"I'm sure it wasn't. Now I think the King and I will ride out now, won't we Ambrosius?"

Merlin nodded. The ride was going to be a boring, quiet affair. He grimaced at the thought.

After riding for an hour, Merlin spotted the river his grandfather had told him about. It was magnificent, no more than a house wide but as clear as the sky above them. And stocked full of Salmon. His plan had been for Arthur to fish while Leon and he spoke further up the river bank, away from everyone and able to be truly honest with each other. Even with the magical spells hiding conversations Merlin had still felt uneasy and something within him wanted to get out to nature. His magic had always been rooted in the earth and it hadn't been long ago since he had been restored by the river fairies after the attack by the Dorcha. He shook his head, a few months ago that was but it felt a world away.

It was thoughts of his former world and life in Camelot that have driven him to taking him and Leon away from Castle Desmond. There was so much to discuss. He had told himself before he was fine; to almost suck it up and get on with his destiny but then small things would happen, like the way Arthur smiled at him when he brought him breakfast or the way his council members would defer to him without question when he felt distinctly off kilter. The ridiculous thing about that was he had made Arthur his manservant and he had told his council a week ago to politely reign themselves in or retire gracefully. He was going to need people to challenge him and so far in his first week of being King all he had got was the ghost of Uther Pendragon snarling at him until he left, his grandfather whispering in is ear " that's not how I would have done it" or " that one's a right snake, tried it on with your grandmother you know" or worse still Leon, Henry and Thomas bowing every two minutes and never thinking of challenging him.

His mind wondered onto Leon. There he was basically telling him off for having two minutes of fun at Arthur's expense earlier but when it really mattered on things like, "I need three thousand more men at least" or "I have no idea what I'm doing and think you should be King instead" Leon was remarkably quiet and never once spoke out of turn. What was the point in a warlock guide and older brother if he wasn't there when he needed him? He shook his head, that was unfair and he knew it. Leon had been there plenty for him, even before they knew of their blood connection. He had even ended up half dead with him, stuck in a lake.

The kings thoughts were snapped back into reality by his brother, "I think we're here are we not? Arthur could you go down and find a good spot? We will deal with the horses. As soon as Arthur was out of earshot Leon whispered, "What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing" Merlin said quietly

"Nothing? You haven't said two words on the ride here."

"We'll I daren't your grace in case I offended yours or Arthur's sensibilities. Heaven forbid if I did."

Leon was now reddening, what had got into Merlin today?

He wasn't going to stand for it, King or no King.

"You were being a Prat."

Merlin's left eye twitched, "What did you say?"

"I said you were a Prat. A royal one" Leon said slowly, with added bile to the word Prat.

Merlin was now red too, "How dare you? How dare you?"

"How dare I? How dare I? More like how dare you. How dare you treat people the very way you objected to being treated yourself?"

Merlin rolled his eyes, "It was a joke some extra equipment. Get the pole out of your backside your Grace."

"I would do your Majesty but all the poles in the Kingdom seem to have ended up in your rear if your recent displays of arrogance have been anything to come by" Leon snapped back.

The King went to open his mouth but no words came out. Instead he sat on a log and glared at his brother. Arrogant? Him? He was as far from arrogant as you could be.

Leon wasn't about to give up, "What's the matter, cat got your tongue?"

"Sorry I thought you wanted me to be quiet, after all every time I open my mouth I'm arrogant so I thought it was for the best. What with you being the older brother and all, patronizing me all the time has become second nature to you!"

"Well if you weren't so bloody stupid MERLIN I wouldn't have to be." Leon shouted and instantly snapped his head down to where Arthur was he didn't look like he had heard, too busy still finding the best place to fish.

"I am not stupid." Merlin said very quietly and rose without looking at Leon and walked down towards where Arthur was. Leon for his part didn't move, he was still half shaking with anger at Merlin and half mentally kicking himself for being stupid himself. Clearly Merlin had issues with him as much as he did at the moment and some time out wouldn't hurt. He decided instead to busy himself with unloading the horses. Merlin had been right, Arthur had packed far too much stuff but he wasn't about to admit that now.

He had no idea what had gotten his little brother into such a flap but he knew his own feelings myself. Despite seeing Merlin every day for dinner and spending time with him, their relationship had oddly become strained, first through the continued lying about who they truly were and secondly because Merlin was either spending time with Arthur or in council meetings. It wasn't jealously Leon was feeling, more that he wasn't sure what his role was. He could see in council meetings Merlin was looking at him a lot and half the time he wanted to speak but Garratt and Aiden had both counselled against it saying that Kings needed to be in control and new kings needed to exert their authority. Merlin had done so spectacularly by awarding his family new titles, reforming who could become a Knight and basically telling anyone who didn't like it to sod off but at the same time had made it difficult for Leon to speak out.

Especially as one he was seen as a council, not as a brother by most and two because he wasn't used to it.

Leon had only been at council meetings in Camelot at Arthurs' insistence or deputised for him much to Uther's annoyance when Arthur had skipped off on his latest adventure with Merlin. That was another thing too, Arthur and Merlin, Merlin and Arthur destined to be together, to be two kings ruling over two united islands. He was going to have to get used to taking a back seat in Merlin's life and it was already happening. There they were having a fight and where did Merlin go? Off to be with Arthur, and why was he even here anyway? They were meant to be going to talk freely but how could they with Arthur there?

Merlin stormed down to where Arthur was now sat on a log by the river shore. How dare Leon of all people speak to him like this? Leon was meant to be his brother, his guide, his mentor and his right arm. Looking at Arthur he never felt more alone than he did now, Leon turning against him, Gwaine leaving, his mother worrying and the one man, the one person he wanted more than anything to talk to didn't know who he truly was. He'd given anything for a "Merlin you idiot"

Arthur of course had kept his head down at the first indicated of raised voices. He didn't like arguments at the best of the time and from what limited memories he had, arguments between nobles didn't go well. Gwaine had been exiled and now he had to rely on this new Kings favour or he'd find himself in trouble. The New King who confused him and inspired him in equal measure. Kings weren't supposed to get their servants drunk or let them talk back but in the past week or so Ambrosius had more than once told Arthur to speak his mind and had more than once stayed up with him as he went through yet more council papers.

He was a good man, Arthur knew this and yet he couldn't help but think there was something missing. He looked like a king, acted like a king most of the times and certainly his family and the court treated him like a king but to Arthur, Ambrosius didn't seem like a king and sometimes more like a friend. Not that he'd dare venture that in public, he was always wary about showing too much in the way of feelings, look what happened with Gwaine his brain said. You misread his intentions to the point that you threw yourself at him when all he was doing was showing you some kindness, don't do that here or you'll end up back in Camelot with the scary queen Morgana.

Arthur looked up from the river to see the king openly staring at him. Shit he thought, did I just say that out loud? The smile from the king implied he hadn't and was safe for now.

"Er Sire may I help you?"

"First it's Ambrosius and secondly, no I'm fine Arthur."

Arthur thought he was on a level where he could venture an opinion now, he had after all been told to more than once.

"Well excuse me for saying so but you don't look fine if your little exchange with his Grace was anything to go by"

I'll be fine." Merlin replied before raising his voice and shouting loudly. "It's not me you have to worry about Arthur but his most gracious Lordship up there, you know the honourable, the good Duke Kay." Each word had been said with additional bile to the previous and Arthur thought that Kay couldn't fail but hear them. Especially when he saw his face, cheeks red and his hair almost sticking on ends.

"I'm sure he's got a good word to say about you too sire."

Merlin snorted. "You'd never know it Arthur considering his utter PRATISNESS"

Ok Arthur thought, most of the forest heard that one, it wasn't his place to interfere but it was his place surely to help calm the King down.

"Funny, I remember being called a prat you know. Perhaps I'm in good company then."

"I wouldn't put you in the same company as that TOAD Arthur." Then Merlin stopped, did Arthur just say he remembered being called a prat? No that can't be he thought.

"What did you say Arthur?"

"That I've been called a prat before."

"When I don't recall using such language to you."

Did Arthur venture the truth? What was the truth anyway? That he thought he was going slowly mad? That he had dreams of castles and him eating at a feast but with bodies with no faces? That the words prat and clotpole could be heard in his dreams? That he knew how to hunt and fish well without remembering who taught him?"

Merlin waved an hand at Arthur's face, "Arthur? Hello? Anyone there?"

Arthur shook his head instantly and smiled, "Sorry, I was lost in thought there."

What had Arthur been thinking? Merlin thought. Had he remembered something? He had to know.

"It's ok. Happens to us all, my mother often accused me of daydreaming. "

"You seem the type sire" Arthur nudged him partly to distract him away from asking about his memories.

"Watch it. I could have you in the stocks you know" Merlin said playfully.

Arthur blushed. The thought of Ambrosius ordering him into the stocks and then taking him from behind sent a wave of anticipation to his groin. He hoped it wasn't showing. Time to divert the King onto Kay.

"Sounds like you want to put the Duke in them and not me"

"Spot on, Arthur. An excellent idea." Arthur almost shivered at the smile the King shot to him.

An uneasy silence fell between them with neither wanting to push the other into revealing more until Arthur's brain clearly lost control of his mouth and he blurted out, "My mother never accused me of daydreaming. I don't have one."

Merlin looked at him intently, what else was Arthur going to reveal? His mind told him that if there was a speck of the old Arthur in there it would take some coaxing out so an arm round him probably wouldn't go a miss.

Arthur didn't move as an arm went over his shoulder and he leant into it before blushing, "Sorry"

"Nothing to be sorry now. I offered the hug; now tell me about your mother."

A gruff cough and then, "Not much to tell. I never knew her. I don't know who my father is too but I have this feeling, this sensation that somehow he is out there, that I know him, I just can't remember his face."

Merlin had no idea how to tell Arthur that no his father wasn't out there and had been killed by his secret half-sister. Not to mention the fact that he came back to said goodbye and Arthur would never know of their discussion.

"I never knew mine either. I met him once briefly and then he died. It was horrible." Merlin sighed remembering the pain he felt as Balinor laid in his arms, especially when Arthur said "No man is worth your tears." Well that man had been.

"Did you know your mother?" Arthur offered.

"Yes, she's still alive."

"Oh where is she then? She's not at court?"

Damn Merlin thought how to explain this one? All he could do was lie and Arthur had had enough lies already.

"It's ok Ambrosius, you don't have to tell me"

"I want to believe you me I do Arthur, it's just, it's just."

"You have a lot of secrets. I can tell. I have none you see, no real memories, nothing to hide. So I can tell when a man has."

Merlin offered a small smile, "Very perceptive. Yes I do, and I wish I could share them all with you but you probably wouldn't believe me. No one would."

"Try" Arthur said rather harshly and where had that come from he thought? He was trying to be nice to the King and calm him down not speak out of turn. He quickly coughed and said "You can try and tell me if you wish, sire"

Merlin looked at him, eyebrow raised. He could have sworn he just heard the old Arthur's voice in there.

"It's very difficult to explain. I will do though when the time is right. You have to trust me Arthur."

"I do." He said gruffly.

Arthur looked at his king, the urge to kiss him was overwhelming and not something he welcomed, he did not want to make a fool of himself. He wanted to look away but couldn't. His eyes were fixed on the man in front of him. The man with many secrets and with flowing golden hair, a brilliant smile and dark, deep blue eyes. Eyes which spoke of sadness but also of love and adventure too. Arthur found himself powerless, transfixed by this beautiful man in front of him. He leant in and noticed the king didn't flinch away and instead licked him plump red lips, tongue darting quickly back in.

His heart racing, blood pumping through his veins he smiled and closed the distance between them, planting the smallest of kisses to the King's lips. Instincts he put an arm round the king to pull him in and saw no resistance. He then slowly pushed his tongue out and licked the lips, these plump lips, straight from the gods and pleaded for entrance.

Merlin's senses were in overdrive, Arthur's kissing me! Arthur's kissing me! Yes you idiot his brain said so don't' you think you ought to open your mouth? Merlin smiled as he slowly let Arthur into his new domain.

Arthur now was rock hard, now he had entrance he wanted to taste, to feel everything, his tongue moved round the kings mouth slowly, wanting to taste, wanting to map everything out. Then his tongue met the King's and slowly they moved together emitting a deep groan from the King and a very unmanly whimper from Arthur.

Now Arthur moved to straddle his King, arms wrapped around him, allowing better access to this delicious mouth, the taste of which was oddly familiar to him, then again a lot about Ambrosius was and he had no idea why. He just felt right, that this was right. Arthur could have stayed like that all day, mapping, exploring and wanting to touch. The touching would be even better he thought, he moved his right arm away from the back of Ambrosius head and onto his chest, slowly palming him and noticing the hardness of his King. If only he could taste, to touch the king right there right now.

Merlin didn't want to move, he couldn't. Not when he had Arthur clamped to him, to when Arthur was conquering him, tearing down his defences and leaving him so exposed. He knew Arthur wanted more and wanted to give him more but with Leon's foul mood who knows what would happen, he went to move away from Arthur, saying "Sorry I need some air."

And was promptly met by a booming voice, "More like the two of you need a bedroom!"

Chapter Text

Arthur jumped out of his comfortable lap and stared up to see a dragon, no not any old dragon but THE Dragon, the killer Dragon flying straight towards them. He was thankful he had brought a sword with him and quickly unsheathed it.
The dragon landed tutting as he spoke, "Some things never change do they?"
"What do you want Killgarrah?" Merlin said angrily.
"Tetchy my lord. Perhaps Arthur later you could find some activity to relieve his majesty of his tension?"
Arthur blushed a deep red and looked at Merlin who was also red but it seemed more of an anger.
"You're not meant to be back for at least three more days. What's going on?"
"I could ask the same of you. Don't you have a kingdom to run and a crowning ceremony to prepare for? And why is his Grace up there chopping down trees with a murderous scowl that look it could kill even me at a moment’s notice?" The Dragon was almost beaming Merlin thought.
"His Grace has some thinking to do"
"Well now young king, so do you."

The dragon then blew a faint mist out of his mouth directed at Arthur which knocked him out.
"Now you have the same look of murderous intent as your brother up there." The dragon barked a laugh.
"You've just made Arthur collapse so excuse me if I look like I want to kill you." Merlin shouted.
"It's for your own good."
"Oh is it now?" Merlin said sarcastically. "For my own good, well lucky me. Lucky old Merlin. There I was thinking I was the king and people should respect me but no, if it’s not Leon with A POLE UP HIS ARSE, it's my dead grandfather hounding me or you. You stupid fucking beast with all the prophesies and all your words of wisdom. Well wise dragon you've been a fat lot of help over these past years what with me dying, failing to tell me I had a Father, killing people I didn't want to, lying to Arthur oh and not to mention ending up king in a land I don't know." Merlin hand clapped slowly, " No seriously, well done all Great Dragon and thank you for flying to see me again."
Killgarrah shook his head, "I don't know what's got into you Merlin. But you need to stop it. Whatever you need to do, do it."
"Sounds like he needs a good shag to me" a voice said from the dragon.
I know that voice Merlin thought, great that's all I need.
"Gwaine." The words almost brought up vomit.

Gwaine jumped off the dragon, "Reporting for duty sire."
Merlin shook his head." You're banished Gwaine."
"Oh yes, about that"
No one had noticed Leon creep up on the other side of the dragon.
"There's no about that Gwaine. You heard Merlin, you're not welcome here now leave before I run you through" Leon barked.
Gwaine looked at the dragon, "See I told you. They don't want me"
"Be that as it may they need you. And they will want you once you tell them the truth"
"What truth?" Merlin said quickly.
"About Arthur, well me and Arthur"
Leon was now standing beside Merlin; despite their arguement brothers all supported each other first. It was an unspoken rule of theirs.
"Come to admit what you did Gwaine? Save it we aren't interested"
Merlin could feel magic rising within him, bubbling, "No wait, wait Leon. I want him to say it. I want him to tell me what he did, how his hands ran over Arthur, how he took advantage. And for him to know that Arthur just kissed me so it doesn't matter about his own evil designs anymore."
"I'm many things Merlin but evil isn't one of them. It's no use Dragon, let’s get out of here"
"Yes go, both of you get out of my sight" Merlin shouted.
"No" Killgarrah replied.
"No?" Merlin said quietly before raising his voice to an almighty boom, "No? You DON'T get to tell me NO." Leon saw the birds fly out of the tree at that one; blimey Merlin was in a mood today he thought. Maybe he shouldn't have reacted and found out why instead. He put an arm on Merlin's shoulder, softly whispering "calm down."
Merlin was very tempted to bite back a retort to Leon but instead his body responded with calm, his mind saying, "Leon's right, he grounds you, he's safe". Even the Dragon’s magic within him began to calm down.
"Fine. But don't think you're out of the woods yet either" he said quietly, hoping to come across as hard and kingly but his mouth betrayed him as he let out a small smile.
"Wouldn't dream of it M-bro, mind you if you carry on and there won't be any woods left, that voice could flatten trees" Leon whispered back.
Gwaine coughed, "Ahem.” Earning a glare from both brothers.

The dragon was looking at the floor." Well are you going to desk or not Killgarrah" Merlin sighed.
"Now that you have given permission yes, my lord"
Wow Merlin thought, that voice did work. He was trying to channel his grandfather and Uther at the same time and was actually quite proud of the result. He would make sure to use it again.
"I didn't know you ever sought it Dragon"
"When my Dragonlord speaks in such a tone, I can do nothing but obey his commands; indeed all of nature will obey your commands Emrys"
"You've never called me by that name"
"And yet it is your name"
"Only by the Druids and I don't like it. It makes me sound like I'm their chief or something"
"Well dear Emrys that is what you are now and why I am here. I've found you some allies. And the truth about Gwaine. Take a seat, indeed you may want to conjure some wine. It's going to take some time"
Merlin looked over at Arthur worried, "We haven't got time, and he could wake up"
"Oh the Pendragon is asleep, he is fine. He will wake when you kiss him." Merlin could have sworn he heard a smirk in the dragon’s voice.
"Great “ Gwaine said from besides the dragon, “Then maybe they'll shag and his gracious majesty here will stop being so crabby."
"Gwaine" Leon said in a threatening tone.
"Sorry." Gwaine scratched the back of his head. "So I guess as I'm not out of the woods yet I had better explain myself"
"You had" Merlin said sternly.
"Ok I’m not sure where to begin exactly." Gwaine said softly
"How about you start with the part where you debauched my brother’s true love?" Leon snapped back. Despite his arguments with Merlin and his own anger towards his brother for his recent behaviour, they came as a team first and foremost. No one could upset his brother the way Gwaine had and not expect retribution.
"I will, funny though there you are playing happy families and yet I could have sworn you two were having an arguement before we arrived."
"We were" Merlin said without emotion "And be in no doubt we will be coming back to it shortly but for the time being since you’ve interrupted us you better have a good explanation for breaking my laws."

Gwaine shuffled his feet and looked to the dragon for help, pleading.
"Oh for heaven’s sake young warlock. Gwaine didn’t debauch Arthur. Arthur made a pass at him. A pass which I might add was brushed off instantly. Any kissing was done in Arthurs mind only and that’s what you saw." Humans could always dance around issues Killgarrah thought. Far better to get it all out there.
"No, that can’t be. Freya. Freya showed me."
"Freya should you want she wanted you to see. She wanted you to think that Arthur and Gwaine were something more."
Merlin was confused, it was obvious to Leon that his brother was trying to process this news and couldn’t make sense of it.
"Why? I thought she and Merlin had been in love. He saved her. Why would she repay him like that?" Leon asked the dragon.
"Love does funny things to us all. She wanted Merlin for herself. Once she knew of his true love and destiny she tried to stop it."
"That bitch." Merlin said coldly. "I'll snap her in half. I'll break her like be broken all before me." Leon did not, did not like the sound of that one bit.
"Merlin calm down." He said hoping to soothe his increasingly troubled brother.
"Calm down? That whore thought she could lie to me? To entrap me? Just wait till I get my magic back. I'll tear her from limb to limb."
"We'll I don't want you to get your magic back Merlin if you're going to out for revenge, not when there's a kingdom to run." Leon shook his head. "This isn't like you. You don't usually swear and I've not seen you this angry in a long run. All week you've slowly been getting worse and today, well today frankly I'm a bit scared of you."
"You and me both cousin" Gwaine said.
"Oh you can shut up for a start. I haven't finished with you." Merlin threw an arm out and sent Gwaine flying across the clearing.
Leon knew there and then something was wrong. Merlin didn’t attack the people he loved, yes he had felt Gwaine betrayed him but he didn't go all out and injure people like that.
" MERLIN! Stop this now! What's got into you?" He roared
Merlin stilled. Was that Gwaine lying over there? And Leon was very red in the face.
" I, I don't know. I feel, I feel this rage. This anger"

"I'm afraid that's what it is like to be me. I did warn you that my magic was different than yours Merlin. Being trapped in a cave for decades does make you rather angry. Your hurt at Leon for not being there for you, mixed with the betrayal of Freya, Gwaine’s continuing behaviour and you're own situation make for a powerful mix of emotions. I suggest my magic comes out of you the sooner the better. You may be my kin but you are no dragon."
Killgarrah noticed Leon nodding before grabbing Merlin into a powerful, tight hug. "Merlin, I know you're in there. Come on, it's me, Leon. Calm down."
"I'm sorry" Merlin whispered. "Gwaine, is he alright?"
"No broken bones" came the cheeky reply. Merlin lept out of Leon's arms and rushed over to Gwaine with such a force they toppled over together, Merlin landing straight on top of Gwaine who waggled his eyes brows and said "Cousins don't jump each other Merlin, not that I'm complaining. I remember the last time you know"
"Gwaine!" Leon admonished. "Merlin get off of him right now!"
"Sorry" Merlin said.
"What for? For attacking Gwaine? For snapping at me all day? Or for jumping your cousin right now?"
"All of it" Merlin said sheepishly as he got off Gwaine and averted his eyes away from Leon before his brain engaged him and reminded him that Leon had been snappy too and he had a right to be annoyed.
"You should be sorry too you know Leon. You've been next to useless all week. You're meant to be my guide and advisor. Well fat lot of good you've been to me. Every time I look for your comment in council you just murmur and agree with me like the rest of the bootlickers."
"Merlin" Leon said exasperated, "You've made a council of bootlickers. You basically told anyone who didn't like your new rules to politely bugger off. And both Aiden and your grandfather told me not to challenge you in council."
"Well you could do it privately."
"You're always with Arthur!" Leon said, before wanting to retract that statement.
"Oh jealously" Gwaine chimed in "Very unbecoming of you, Your Grace."
"You might not have debauched Arthur but you certainly had no qualms deflowering my brother did you? And wasn't that partly in jealously? I mean you must have known!"
"Known what?" Merlin said
"That you and Arthur were in love with each other. Gwaine was meant to be your best friend. I knew it. Gaius knew it. It's just a good job Morgana or Uther never knew it"

"Uther did know Leon. He told me." Merlin said
Leon's eyes shot up at that piece of news. "When? You never said."
"Well you've been avoiding me."
"I've been having dinner with you every night."
"And barely speaking to me during it! You say I've been spending all my time either Arthur, well at least he treats me normally. You, Henry, Thomas, all of you have taken leave of your senses and are acting like I'm this big scary king who cannot be challenged."
"M-bro." Leon sighed. "You ARE a big scary king that cannot be challenged. Why don't you see that? You’re the grandchild of Garratt and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the son of a known Dragonlord and it turns out you've got a claim on even more land over the sea. You're expanding the knights and your own guard and you've allied yourself with the only noble powerful to stop you. Not to mention you've offered your cousins out for marriage. Everyone is jockeying for favour with you. Can you not see that?"
Merlin knew that all but didn't know why Leon was scared of him. It didn’t make sense.
"I know but why are you, my brother of all people avoiding me and calling me scary?"
"Well you switch from being nice cuddly Merlin into Emrys the Dragonlord at a moment’s notice. In case you didn't realise you've got quiet the powerful voice when you need it. You've come back from the dead, you killed the Gatekeeper to the spirit world and you've destined to be the most powerful sorcerer off all time. And today you’ve been snapping at me, wanted to tear your former girlfriend from limb to limb and sent your cousin flying. So excuse me for being slightly scared sometimes."
Merlin let out a breadth, "You, you're scared of me. My own brother scared of me." A tear left his eye.
Leon put a hand on this shoulder. "I'm scared of what you can become, of what's happening to you. You don't sleep, you barely eat and you've got that beast's magic poisoning you."
"I have a name your Grace, you'd do well to use it" Killgarrah retorted.
Leon rose and waved a finger at the dragon, "You're to blame for this. You and your bloody prophecy, you never tell us the whole truth do you. It's all a fucking game to you and I've had enough! You're going to give me straight answers for once in your dammed life or heaven help me. Don't think I can't harm you. I destroyed Nimeuh for hurting Merlin. My magic will get you too"
"Now who's swearing and getting angry?" Merlin said.
Leon sighed and sat down, he didn’t care that the forest floor was wet. Merlin sat beside him. Their elbows touched but neither spoke, both looking over to the sleeping form of Arthur and wondering what on earth he will make of all of this.

"What we need is some mead" Gwaine said disrupting the peace. "Mead will calm you both down and then you two are going to talk to each other properly before the princess wakes up." And then you're going to listen to what the dragon and I found out. As for Killgarrah, order him to speak the truth. But first, we need a drink don't you think?" He grinned as he waved his arm and a table appeared complete with three chairs, a jar and three goblets.
"How'd you do that? You're magic wasn't that strong when you left." Merlin said.
"What do you think I've been doing since the mother of all hissy fits you had the other week?" Gwaine said playfully.
"I'm sorry."
"I know. Now drink. And then you and your brother had better kiss and make up."
As each man drank their mead, their thoughts all converged on the same point, where did they go from here? Each looked at the other to go first and then Gwaine realised that Merlin could be stubborn when he wanted to be and Leon probably had the same streak and he needed to play peacemaker for once.
"Ok your majesty, you go first.
"Fine." Merlin turned to Leon. "I still don't see why you're scared of me. You're my guide, my anchor, do you really think I'd ever hurt you? I'd rather die than see you hurt. You must know that. Even before I knew we were brothers in blood, I've seen you as my older brother. When Lancelot left the first time it made me realise how lonely I was. Yes I had Arthur but he was still in his first prat phase and Gwen and Morgana, well they were guys. I need friends, men my own age and the knights just seemed scary. You were the one though, it was you Leon you spoke to me, who brought me to the tavern, who showed the knights that I could be trusted. That I could be just as loyal to Arthur."
Leon smiled, "You showed them yourself M-bro with your actions. I was so proud of you for the way you changed Arthur, brought him out of his shell and for the way you taught us younger knights to behave, to treat everyone no matter of class or rank with respect."
"So why are you so scared of me changing the rules here then?"
"I'm not, it isn't that and you know it. I support you; it's the right thing to do. It's more that I've felt I can't challenge you. Certainly not on public and in private, well recently in case you didn't notice you've been a little snappy too."
The riverbank feel silent as both men took a breather, "Well your Majesty, what have you got to say to his Grace then?"
Merlin rolled his eyes; of course Gwaine was getting a kick out of this he thought. "I've been snappy because I've needed my big brother and you've not been there for me. Not properly. You've told me off today for joking at Arthur's expense but it is the big things I need you for. Like where do we get more money from without starving people to death? Where can we get more troops and how the hell do I protect everyone against rumoured powerful sorcerers like Loki when I'm nearly running on empty and don't have my own magic?"

"For a start, you could eat more. And tell me that you want my advice and for me to speak honestly."
"You could take some of your own advice you know and stop hiding your thoughts from me." Merlin replied.
It hit Leon there and then; he didn’t have his own thoughts. “I've not been hiding my thoughts, it is, well I just, er I don't know all the answers." He said quietly
"I don't expect you to Curls, just that you are always truthful to me. I don't have them either in case you didn't guess but I need to know what you are thinking. Leon, you're the most truthful, honest and humble man I know. I trust you above all others."
"Hey" Gwaine said, clutching a hand over his heart, "That hurts you know. It stings, here, right here"
"Gwaine you did debauch me. And you had magic and didn’t tell me nor did you tell me your true background. You said you were the son of a Knight of Carleon, not the great nephew of a king."
“First I recall you kissing me Merlin and you didn't sit there meekly that night did you? Second you didn't tell me you had magic either. And third I followed you into the perilous lands without a moment’s hesitation. That tells you all you need to know." Gwaine said and then for added effect, “I may act the drunken fool sometimes but I went teetotal when I thought I had lost you both. I vowed to become the man you thought I could become. It broke my heart thinking I had killed you Leon. And Merlin I missed you desperately, you're my best friend."
"I know. You're mine too." Merlin offered and looked at Leon, "Leon we need to stop about who debauched who, it's not helping. I know you want me as a maiden locked up in a tower but I'm a big boy. I can take it."
Leon blushed at the choice of words, Gwaine bellowed a laugh, "Not a word my Earl or I'll turn you into a toad"

Chapter Text

Gwaine had thought how this conversation would go and the best form of defence he had was mockery, he had replied with "No not at all your majesty."

"Instead of mocking why don't you tell your KING what you've been up to?" Merlin said sweetly

OK, Gwaine thought, maybe this wasn't the right way to go but it is a bit hard to talk to someone that basically threw you out of your home and refused to talk to you. Especially when it's Merlin and he is your best friend, oh and he happens to be family to boot.

"Well after you threw me out of my own home I wasn't sure where to go. Dear old dragon here was waiting for me once I ended up in the forest. He took one look at me and told me to climb onboard. Strangely I did and before I knew it I ended up in Gwynedd, Carleon's kingdom"

Merlin was in no mood for games, "Where you told me you came from, you know when you were lying"

"Er, about that, it's partly true, when I left here I ended up traveling around and was in his service for a bit. Until well, let's say I was asked to leave."

Merlin ignored the grin on Gwaine's face, "What did you do?"

Gwaine put his hand on his heart, slowly he thought he could break down Merlin's ice cold exterior if he tried hard enough." Me? Do anything? A humble knight such as I?"

"Yes. You. What was it? Did you drink them out of house and home?"

"No it wasn't the drink fair cousin."

Merlin put a palm over his face and rubbed it before rolling his eyes. "Who did you sleep with?"

"Oh no one, just a maiden. Well that's what she told me." Gwaine had the decency to grimace.

" Who. Was. She" Merlin said slowly.

"His niece, Aurora, lovely girl, great bossom"

"GWAINE! HONESTLY!" Merlin rebuked him with a fondness he wanted to convey as anger but really Gwaine was always going to get into trouble. If he got annoyed at every time it happened he'd have no hair left.

"I didn't know, she was visiting. I'd never seen her before in my life, honest Merlin. Of course Carleon and Annis found out and I was asked to leave. I then ended up in Strathclyde for a bit and then met you."

" Strathclyde?" Leon inquired. "Doesn't Merlin have a claim their now too?"

Gwaine beamed and nodded, "I'm coming to that but first back to Carleon, well Annis as the king is dead"

Merlin knew the answer, "Don't tell me, Morgana and Morgause?"

"Sort of. A Norse assassin. Annis was not best pleased to see me but old scally here managed to calm her down. Turns out Carleon used to be an ally of your grandfather and fought once with your father. When Uther went crazy over the magic Carleon dumped your family, fearing he'd be sucked into a war on his borders otherwise."

Gwaine went quiet for a second to allow his cousins to process this before continuing, "I didn't know this when I went there. I entered his service after a tournament. I told Carleon I didn't like my great uncle and he accepted this and welcomed me at first"

"Ok" Merlin said. "So you meet his wife, The Queen."

"Yes. She was of course angry over the death of her husband and when she was told that we were facing a threat from the Norsemen too she was interested. What swung her interest though was when the scales told her that the Norsemen were in league with Morgana. That then sent her right off over the betrayal and lies of the Pendragons. Uther you see waited until they broke their alliance with our family and then invaded them anyway saying they were harbouring magic users. Their only son was killed by Uther."

Killgarrah waited but had had enough." I am not 'scales' or ' dear old dragon' Earl Gwaine.

Gwaine just smiled, "Feel free to chime in by the way" and earnt a curt nod from the dragon. He then clapped his hands, "So your Majesty, your Grace, I've got us a brand new ally. Queen Annis in exchange for a payment of ten thousand gold coins and fifty knights to help train her border towns to fight will send us three thousand men to help drive out the Norsemen. Oh and her niece is available for marriage if we are interested."

Merlin put his hands over his mouth and then rubbed his eyes. Silence fell as he shot a look over at Leon and got the same face back. He then raised an eyebrow at his brother as if to say you talk to him, I'm too angry and was grateful when the Duke spoke. Merlin noted this was after Leon had downed the rest of his mead.

"Let me get this straight," Leon said softly as he spoke, betraying no emotion, "You flew off on the dragon to another Kingdom. A kingdom which betrayed our family. You agreed an alliance with them and a prospective marriage to boot. Oh and found yourself a wife. This is all without mine or the Kings permission or knowledge?"

"Yes" Gwaine looked at both of them and then added, "I thought you'd both be pleased. Pleased that I was taking some leadership"

Merlin snorted.

"There's leadership and there's naivety. Have you lost your mind Gwaine? We don't have that sort of money. And you want us to give up fifty of our knights? To help train people who betrayed us. What happens if they turn against us again? Oh and by the way their border is with Camelot. You're basically asking for Morgana and Morgause to act against us. It's bad enough that Arthur lives here under our protection and our king is a Dragonlord. How long do you think it is before they start piecing stuff together and they work out who the new King really is? And who I am? Are you a total idiot?" Leon was now shaking, shaking with anger. How could Gwaine be so stupid? And to act without any royal authority?

"Oh come on Leon." Gwaine threw his hands in the air and saw there was going to be no good response so he switched to Merlin." I thought I was doing right by you Sire"

Merlin sighed, now he knew how Arthur felt, did he have to do everything himself? And he wondered why Leon was annoyed with him.

"Gwaine you might have mistaken our friendship for something else. I am the King not you. You do not, cannot go against me in such a fashion."

"I thought you wanted help? For people to step up? You just bit Leon's head off for not helping,"

Another sigh, "There's a difference between helping and deciding my alliances and my policies. I don't know this Annis! For all I know she hates magic users! She's already turned against our family once. What possessed you to agree to handover coinage, coinage which then be used against us at a later date? Not to mention helping to pass on our military secrets and a marriage for yourself to boot."

"Well surely a marriage would be a good thing? Get loyalty." Gwaine offered. He really didn't see what the problem was.

Merlin rolled his eyes, "And since when have nobles, indeed kings been loyal? My grandfather banished my father. Leon's father hid from him. You left your family. You were then thrown out of another kingdom. My family left me destitute. My mother lied to Leon. Not to mention Uther slept with his best friend's wife and sent him to his death. Oh and lied to his son about how he was born, betrayed his wife and my grandparents and Carleon it seems. And finally Morgana turns bad kills her own father and destroys her brother. Her brother who's loved her from the start. You said yourself once you didn't trust kings so pardon us for being annoyed at you"

The King shook his head and rose from his chair, "And you can't go round agreeing marriages for yourself! I have to control the succession. Your second in line to the throne you idiot! Its a good job Leon and I are probably immortal or you'd be King you total nincompoop!"

Gwaine's eyebrows rose, Leon looked aghast. Killgarrah chuckled.

Merlin then realised what he said and wasn't pleased with himself when Gwaine asked, "Are you really both immortal?"

Leon sighed, "Probably. Well maybe. It's likely. Look it's complicated. I drunk from the cup of life if you remember? And Merlin here came back from the dead without a life being exchanged. He's born of powerful magic and I'm his guide so I guess I'm stuck with him and he's stuck with me."

"Wow." Gwaine said

"Wow indeed Earl Gwaine." The Dragon interjected.

Silence fell yet again. Merlin was getting a bit sick of these silences but then didn't welcome the fact it was Gwaine was looking like he was going to speak again. "We need more mead Gwaine, make yourself useful." Before taking a large gulp and glaring at both men, thankfully they both had the sense that he needed silence to collect his thoughts together. Getting Gwaine to do the mead had also allowed him to stop him from talking and now it was his turn.

Taking another gulp, Merlin sat back down in his chair and pinched his nose. "Gwaine I'm sure you were doing your best but you cannot, under any circumstances put me in this position again. Let's hope Annis and I get on well. As for the marriage I do not agree to it, I said Henry and Thomas could marry, not you. I've banished you, I can't very well bring you back right now and you marrying into a rival kingdom will destablise things. And I don't believe you love her."

"You're right, I don't. I didn't say I wanted to marry her did I? I thought she might be alright for you know?"

"I'm NOT marrying her!" Merlin shouted.

"No, not you, for well, for Leon"

Merlin shook his head, "Leon's not marrying her either. I know who Leon is marrying. She's the perfect women for him and they will love each other fiercely. I may moan about prophecy sometimes but this is one I like."

Killgarrah couldn't resist, "And yet you were shouting and sweating at me earlier over prophesises."

"Yes because you don't always explain them well!"

"Children, children" Gwaine said using his hands to display an action to calm down. "Come on now"

Merlin shot Leon a look, "I can't believe he thinks he can get away with this"

"Well he treated Arthur the same. And you treated Arthur like it too and took the mickey out of him. So what'd you expect? Besides M-bro you want us to treat you normally."

At the reference to Arthur, Merlin had stilled which was picked up by both men. "Merlin. You've gone still again at Arthur's name"

"I know Curls. It's just. Well he's going to wake up soon. And we've kissed and I've got to wake him with one apparently. Then he's going to remember. And I don't want that fight right now. Besides Gwaine here said something about Strathclyde so I want to know what he's been doing there too."

Learning over to Gwaine he said, "Let's hope for your sake you've not offered out any more coins or marriages"

Gwaine scratched the back of his head, "Erm no, not quiet. I did kind of end up agreeing to pay off their debts in exchange for Merlin being crowned King!"

Leon and Merlin both shouted at once, "Oh for pity's sake GWAINE!"

"It's not my fault. They went a bit mad over you Merlin, said you were the Emrys, the chosen one, they didn't stop, they have lots of druids living there. They offered me the kingdom at first and I said no." Gwaine was beginning to panic, the faces on his cousins were not the ones he was hoping for.

"Right, start from the beginning Gwaine." Merlin said and then shouted at the Dragon, "I'm ordering you to tell the truth too. No secrets"

Both the Earl and the Dragon gave a small nod.

"Killgarrah told me to go there, he said that it was an ancient land and one you had a claim over. He said that you needed to claim your lands if you had any hope of defeating the Norsemen and restoring Arthur."

Merlin bit his lip, it was that or begin shouting, "Is this true? Why didn't you tell me?"

"It wasn't for you to know at that time. Besides your grandfather told you there was a claim, I expected him to fill you in more"

"He has. I've had the claim researched and it looks true. I do have a claim on the lands and the King is very old and with no heir. It's also on a trade route and they welcome druids."

"Well there you are then, no harm done" Gwaine said smiling.

This earnt a shake of the head from Merlin, "Yes but how do you suppose I'm to defend the lands when it's over the sea and I can't even defend all our current ones? Not to mention my treasury has been depleted and you've made a deal with a Queen I don't know. I don't have endless troops, my magic isn't with me and last time I checked there's no magic pot of gold around. "

"Actually young King there is" the dragon had been waiting to share that snippet with Merlin all morning.

"What are you talking about?" Leon cut in.

"There is more than one kingdom on this Isle, remember that. And more than one source of magic"

"Very cryptic Dragon, I want answers." Merlin said sternly.

"I was about to go further but you cut me off. People now day have no patience." Merlin swore he heard the dragon tutting as he spoke," Before I was rudely interrupted I was about to say that there is the Kingdom of the Leprechauns and they have gold. Plenty of it."

"Be that as it is and my grandfather never told me about them, why would they give me the gold?" Merlin inquired.

"Because you're magic like they are. They will recognize you as Emrys and will wilfully help you."

"Well why hasn't anyone mentioned them before?" Leon demanded, he didn't just trust the word of Killgarrah.

" Your great uncle fell out with them, they withdrew their support after he supported the ban on magic. Now, with Merlin as King, not to mention the task ahead of you to defeat Morgana and Morgause they will help"

"Why not the witches instead of me?" Merlin wasn't sure about these leprechauns. Gaius had never mentioned them. Were they fairies? Sidhe? Did they have an agenda?

"They hate witches. They only hate trolls more than witches. Trolls steal their gold. They are quite a sexist bunch you see and think women shouldn't touch things too powerful for them." Killgarrah replied

"Sexist magical troll hating beings" Leon said wondrously.

"That's an accurate description. Whatever you do don't call them trolls; they are a similar height sometimes. It would be like calling a dragon a wyvern."

"Is that not the done thing then? Getting a dragon confused with a wyvern?"

"No Leon it isn't! You'd send a dragon into a right fit if you did that!" Merlin said and looked at Killgarrah, "You should have told me sooner"

"Perhaps"

"No perhaps about it. Don't hide stuff from me like that, you promised you wouldn't. And if there's anything else I should know tell me now. That's an order for you too Gwaine."

"Erm, that's about it all. Annis wants to meet you and your new kingdom owes ten thousand coins and needs some men to beat back the Norsemen but that's about it. Good whiskey there though." Gwaine offered

"And what about you Killgarrah? Any more alliances? Magical beasts I should know about? Prophesises? Events? Happenings?" Merlin said with a tone Leon knew was dripping with sarcasm.

"The Norsemen have an alliance with trolls, hence my confidence in the leprechauns' assistance. Morgana and Morgause have lifted the ban on magic so you're going to need to act on that quicker than you thought. Oh and there's a dwarf who lives by the bridge to the Perilous Lands who says he knows you and wants to help out. He asked me to fly him over tomorrow after your crowning."

Merlin smiled. "First bit of good news all day. Leon you'll love him. Gwaine's met him already. He's going to be a great help. Don't suppose he's got any family or friends Killgarrah?"

"Actually he does Merlin, he's got about fifty friends or relatives. A lot live near a mine. A diamond mine, it's not working at the moment, it closed, very sad, fell into disrepair and the old King didn't have the money to pay for the upkeep. You'll never guess where it is, it's in"

"Strathclyde?" Merlin offered

"Got it in one Merlin"

Merlin couldn't help but turn his lips up into a smile. "You cheeky beast. You knew didn't you about the diamonds and I bet my grandfather did too. I wondered why I was being encouraged to pay for those Flemish archers and then Gwaine on top with his alliances. Just how much money is there coming from the leprechauns if its paying for a new diamond mine, five thousand archers, Annis' men and a debt of a kingdom?"

"More than enough Merlin. And did I mention that leprechauns hold diamonds scared?"

"No you didn't" Merlin said accusingly.

"Oh really, must have skipped my mind"

Leon was pleased with this turn of events, the wily old dragon had been at it again. Flipping beast. But having had his head bitten off for not offering advice he wasn't about to have a repeat performance.

"Merlin, are you happy then?" Leon was grateful for small smile back to him from Merlin and a whispered thank you.

"Not completely. Gwaine, Killgarrah I appreciate the help but I have to make decisions myself, for myself and for my kingdom. I cannot be bounced into things like this ever again. It is completely unacceptable. You've expanded my kingdom and now got me involved in another fight with the Norsemen and I must remind you that we think they've got strong magic users and at the moment we are bit weak on that front?"

"Not to mention Queen Annis seems to be expecting a marriage offer to her niece. Camelot is hardly going to welcome that news and could start interfering. And I am not ready for that just yet. I wanted to take back Ulster, then consolidate, keep Arthur safe, get my magic back and then take them on once I was sure we would win. I cannot, will not risk my kingdom. I know exactly how I'm going to defeat them."

Leon wanted to speak but Merlin put his hand out and continued, "Leon I vow today you will know everything I am thinking. But for now, thanks to these latest revelations we are going to be late for our council meeting and I didn't think that's a good idea. Now I have to go and wake Arthur up and deal with that madness too."

He shook his head at Killgarrah and Gwaine, "Just one more day, that's all I needed, but no"

As he began to walk over to Arthur Killgarrah boomed, " Merlin in the interests of honesty, if you're expecting Arthur to wake up and remember everything you're wrong"

Merlin stood still in his tracks. Did he just hear the dragon right? No, surely not. Arthur and he had kissed, that would break the spell.

"I see you are confused. Let me assist before you accuse me of not being helpful. Arthur and you kissed. But he kissed Ambrosius not Merlin and it was lust not love. He will remember when he is kissed by his true love. The spell is very clever. For Arthur to truly remember he must remember being kissed by Merlin and be in love with Merlin.

The King could feel a headache coming on. "So all of this is for nothing?" He cried.

"No. Be in no doubt Arthur will remember. He already slowly is. I told you this Merlin. You just need to show some patience. As sure as the moon follows the sun, Arthur loves you. He just needs to remember why."

Leon knew Merlin was going to be in no fit state to ask more questions, he had to help." How is he meant to remember?"

"For a start he needs to see magic isn't evil. Remember he thinks it is. And he needs to feel confident enough that his memories mean something. That will help a great deal. As will something I'll be getting shortly."

"What's that?" Leon asked.

"Something that Arthur owned, that will help him remember. Merlin made it for him. His mother's coat of arms. Arrange for Arthur to find it somewhere and it will trigger something within the depth of his brain."

"You should have told us Killgarrah, Merlin's got to see him wake now and not get his Arthur back"

"I only found out myself days ago from Gaius. I paid him a visit as I was concerned about the impact of the spell on Arthur's brain. He had done some research and said the brain was a complicated organ and to warn you of this problem"

"Please tell me Gaius is alright." Merlin said as he was now over the form of Arthur. So peaceful he thought.

"He's fine Merlin and in good spirits, well he misses you and worries, he's been left alone by the witches as have the rest of the knights. They've not wanted to disturb the peace yet."

" Well that's a blessing" Leon said as he walked over to Merlin and put an arm on his shoulder. "It will be ok. And we can talk later, tonight"

With no response coming from Merlin it was down to Leon's ask, "Ok if Arthur isn't being woken by true loves first kiss like you said he would be how does he wake?"

"Easy. Throw some water over him."

Before the words, ' Gwaine don't you dare' even came out of Leon's mouth, he found himself, Merlin and Arthur covered in water.

Arthur shot up, where was he? And the King and the Duke where standing over him. And wasn't that the Earl over there and goodness me! The Dragon!

"What's going on? Where am I?" He said groggily.

"Arthur, you're still in the forest, I'm afraid you fell again and gave us a bit of a shock. The dragon said to try water" Kay replied.

"The dragon is here? And Gwaine, sorry Earl Gwaine. But he was exiled?"

"And he's about to be again Arthur. He's not forgiven yet and has got important work to do." The King spoke sternly and moved over to the Earl. " Help him onto his horse your Grace while I deal with these two."

"Of course sire" Leon responded automatically and offered a hand to Arthur.

Once Merlin had seen Arthur loaded safely and out of earshot he spoke to Gwaine and Killgarrah

"Tell Annis I want to meet three days hence. Tell my new people I will help them. And Killgarrah I want you back tomorrow with Grettir and then you and I can meet the Leprechauns."

Merlin knew Gwaine was looking for a reprieve, to come back. "Sorry you can't come back. Yes I was wrong but you've caused a big mess and you've got to go and clear it all up. If the leprechauns do ally with us I'll get you some gold quickly. You're in charge in Strathclyde, fix the mine. Any raids or battles you tell me instantly. Anything a miss you tell me instantly."

Merlin then waved his hand and paper appeared, he wrote using his eyes before handing the paper to Gwaine. "Gwaine give the druids you meet this, it's a letter asking them for assistance and to protect you." Merlin then hugged him briefly, "And for goodness sake don't get drunk and sleep with the daughter of one of the dwarfs or something. I'll miss you, I did miss you."

"I know. And I'm sorry. Stay out of trouble." Gwaine put his arm out and was delighted when Merlin shook his hand. "Trouble? Me? You're the one creating it for me!"

Gwaine chuckled, "Ah well life would be boring without me"

"Yes it would. And at any time you're in danger you tell the Dragon, get a message to me, I don't care how. You hear me? You're still my best mate despite this latest fiasco. Now I best go, I've got a crowning tomorrow."

Gwaine bowed, "Yes Your Majesty". "Well come scaly we best be off" and hopped onto the Dragon.

The Dragon groaned, "Merlin please take him with you."

"It's punishment. Now I mean it for you too. Any danger you tell me."

"Until tomorrow my liege"

As Merlin saw them flew off he thought I do hope they know what they are doing before switching to more pressing matters, like a council meeting, his crowning, his need to make Arthur remember him, telling Leon his plan to defeat Morgana oh and meet some leprechauns and sign the odd treaty. He barked a small laugh, between destiny and his grandfather he had well and truly been stitched up.

Chapter Text

For Merlin the ride back to Castle Desmond was full of one thought. Arthur. Despite him knowing he was being crowned the next day and was about to sign alliances that would shape not just his own Kingdom's destiny but that both of Hibernia and Albion, the young King could not help but think of the man that his heart cried out for.

Merlin had not been pleased by the Dragon's revelation that one kiss would not make Arthur remember his former life but he had been assured that slowly Arthur would remember. How long that process took was not something he knew he had control over. It would help though if he had had his own magic and not that of the Dragons keeping him alive. Still, it was clear; Arthur and he had to join as one for his magic to fully return. Two sides of the same coin and all that. Merlin had ridden in silence, not wanting to interrupt the bond that had been growing on the ride home between Arthur and Leon. He smiled to himself, Leon may be loyal to him but he had been Arthur's first and it was clear that Leon, even under his disguise relished to chance to bond with Arthur.

The nice thing for Merlin was he wasn't jealous in the least, in fact he welcomed Leon and Arthur talking about previous battles the Good Duke had fought before. The more Arthur and Leon spoke, the better the chance Arthur would still trust them both when his memories returned. Leon was also being quite brazen in talking about events that Arthur had been involved in. Bless my brother, Merlin thought; he's trying to get Arthur to remember in his own way.

The Castle was looming in the distance; one of the first things Merlin was going to do was remind his spirit of a Grandfather who was in charge round here. Oh and speak to his mother. He had been neglecting Hunith, he saw her most days but it was hard to spend much time with her. The court didn't know what to make of the woman who had been Balinor's lover but not his wife. Some welcomed her, others ignored her. Merlin wished he could make her a full noble with her own household but he knew deep down, she was always going to be a lady with simple tastes. He just wanted what was best for her. His brain helpfully said that is exactly what Leon wants for you so stop giving him a hard time.

Leon looked over to his brother deep in thought, at first he was worried that Merlin was retreating into his shell again but he met his eyes and was rewarded with a blinding smile. Clearly their earlier feud had ended and they were back on an even keel, well if it could be even. When one brother was a powerful warlock and now a King and the other is a Duke with some kind of magical power , but still the big brother, it was hard to define.

"Your Majesty, we're almost home."

"It's Ambrosius Kay when it's just us. The same goes for you too Arthur."

Merlin saw both men nod, "Good, now first on the agenda is the council meeting, then a bath. Tonight Arthur, Kay and I dine alone. I need a clear head for the crowning tomorrow."

Merlin could have sworn Arthur looked slightly disheartened at this news. "I'll need you to run my bath Arthur and help me if that's alright."

Arthur started to blush as did Leon.

'Oh and Arthur, I did enjoy hearing you and Kay talk about Kay's adventures. It is important in your Knights training to understand how battles have been won and lost before. There is much history can tell us. I'd like you tonight while we're dining to read up on some of the great battles in the land over the sea, in Albion. Particularly involving Camelot, where you're from."

Camelot. Arthur thought, I haven't thought about it much. "Why of course Sire. Is there any particular battles you want me to study?"

Merlin smiled, this was going well. "Yes particularly the battle involving King Bruta and how he united the land. How Cornelius Sigan was defeated who was a powerful magic user but used his gifts for evil, not good. Oh and how the late Uther Pendragon became King."

"I will read as you requested. I have to say I don't remember those names. Sometimes I feel I have memory loss. I know I'm from Camelot but I don't remember much. I fear I was a bad person, I was a prisoner."

Merlin nearly chocked as he said, "You were never a bad person Arthur and you never will be. "

Arthur had no idea how the King would know such a thing but didn't want to contradict him; it wasn't every day you got praise from a King. The mention of Sigan and magic bothered him though, he thought magic was still frowned upon.

"I have one question Sire. You said I should read about Sigan and he used magic for evil. Are you saying magic can be used for good? No please, don't answer that I've spoken out of turn. Magic killed King Garratt. I'm sorry Sire." Arthur couldn't bring himself to look at the King, how stupid had he had been?

"Arthur." Merlin replied gently. "Magic can be used for good or for evil. My grandmother was magic. You forget that I have relaxed the laws on magic and I mean it. Anyone who is pure of heart is welcome. Anyone evil is not. You have nothing to fear in learning how an evil sorcerer was defeated. But not all sorcerers are evil."

"As you say, my Lord. I'm afraid I don't know of any good sorcerers. I doubt I ever will."

The look of hurt on Merlin's face was enough for Leon to want to jump off his horse and hug the life out of his brother. He looked at the stunned face and thought he had to intervene.

"Arthur. I think what my cousin is trying to say is that you need to learn about good and evil if you want to become a Knight. Magic can be both."

"How do you know? I'm sorry but I'm probably not good at this. I don't have either of your educations. I should shut up now." Arthur replied, embarrassed. Why was his mouth working faster than his brain?

"Nonsense." Leon replied. "The King here has been well travelled as have I but you are clearly intelligent Arthur, you've just misplaced some of your past. To know if someone is good or evil isn't just about reading a book but seeing into a person's soul, their heart. You have a good heart."

"I'm a criminal. I did something wrong. I was banished."

"You did nothing wrong!" Merlin screamed out. He couldn't handle this, seeing Arthur blaming himself, being afraid of himself. Feeling sorry for himself.

Leon shoot his brother a look as if to say, calm down, I'll handle this.

"What I think the King meant Arthur is that you don't know all of your past so you've got to stop thinking you are a bad person. Look, you're on the way to becoming a Knight. You saved the Earl Gwaine's life."

"Only for him to become a traitor. I shouldn't have, I failed you both." Arthur said.

Whether his brother would agree with him or not, Leon saw a way to help Arthur remember. "You did not fail either of us. Don't ever say that. And the Earl, well things might not be what they seemed. We ran into him while you were knocked out. You may see him again in the future. You'll just have to trust us."

What did Arthur do to deserve such faith, such good people he said to himself. "I will your Grace. I must confess I don't know what I've done to provoke such faith in me. I've only tried to do what I thought was right."

"And that's it Arthur. That's all any of us can do. Trust in ourselves and our friends and family. You may see yourself as just a servant, a former criminal but you aren't to us. I can speak for the King and I when we both say it is our pleasure to know you. Isn't that right Your Majesty?"

Merlin smiled. "Indeed it is. Arthur there's more to you than you know. Just trust us and it will work out for the best. I promise."

At that moment Arthur felt an instinct, almost an animal need to believe the King. In fact he did believe the King. This King with shining eyes and long hair, this King who, gods he had kissed earlier and was that going to happen again? And the Duke, loyal to the King but also friendly to him. It was as if he had known them all his life he felt. Which he couldn't have done.

Leon knew the conversation needed to end, they were almost at the gates now and there were trumpets going off again.

"Trumpets again Duke Kay? Must we live in a time of Jubilee?" Merlin asked

"The people are happy to see you Sire. It's not every day there's a crowning and a tourney you know."

"Oh yes. The tourney. I can't wait." Merlin replied quietly and he just knew Leon was smirking inside. On top of the Leprechauns and Annis and a bloody diamond mine and Gwaine he had to defeat Leon on the tourney field armed with his wits and the Dragons moody magic. And now he had to put a silly grin on his face and wave to his people as he paraded himself through again.

His Grandfather was going to get a talking to. He told himself he was going to enjoy it. A lot.

Merlin was greeted by his cousins and went straight to the council meeting. He was pleased to see that most of his nobles had stayed, no doubt thanks for Aiden's influence. The man was proving to be a godsend.

The new Kings pleasure was quickly dissolved when the topic of magic had come up. One of his council said that Magic was an instrument of danger and could threaten the Kingdom. As Merlin was hearing the continuing argument he realised he would never get magic accepted unless he told the truth. He looked over at Leon who was listening intently and chewed his lip. He hoped this was going to work.

Merlin whispered words, words he had learnt a long time ago and with a nod knew he had succeeded.

"Leon, I'm going to tell them all I'm magic."

Leon's eyes were out on stalks, looking around at the room. Had Merlin lost his mind?"But but…..'

He doesn't realise Merlin thought. "Oh I've stopped time. I don't know how long for though, it is the Dragons magic after all. He told me before he could do it but that there were often consequences. Look, I need to tell them all about my magic or at least the part about me being a Dragonlord."

"Are you quiet sure? What about the other Kingdoms? I mean Morgana, what happens if she found out?" Leon asked.

"I know. I know. But I can't lie. It's bad enough no one really knows who you and I are and we've got Arthur to consider but if I'm about to sign alliances I can hardly lie can I? Especially if I have to use magic to defend my Kingdom? Or call Killgarrah for help."

Leon ran a hand through his hair, "There is a risk. If you want to do this then I'll support you. I suggest you tell them about the Dragon. I mean that won't come as a surprise, you're Balinor's son after all so it would make sense. You might be even able to get that past Morgana without provoking a war but she's hardly going to be pleased is she? You may find war comes closer than you think."

"I don't want war with Camelot Leon. I just want to defend my people and get Arthur back on the throne. If that means an alliance with Annis then so be it. I need to be honest though don't I?" Merlin replied.

His brother knew what the real reason was behind this outbreak of honesty. Leon thought Merlin was upset that Arthur still didn't know the truth and so was

now determined to be truthful as possible with everyone else. Almost as if not lying about something else made up for the rest of the lies. The Duke conceded that Merlin did have a point though, allies should be truthful with each other and Merlin also needed to be truthful with his court.

"Leon?" Merlin said in a small, quiet voice.

"I'll support you. But you need to be aware that there's only so much some of the old guard can take and you could find yourself with less support. And you need to consider that the Norsemen might strike earlier if they think you are a Dragonlord. "

"I know. But I can't lie."

"Go ahead then, you said the spell won't last long."

Merlin flashed his eyes and the conversation returned back to magic. Leon nodded at him and he rose, looking over at Aiden, hoping he would speak in support first.

"Council, I understand your concerns about magic. It can be used for good or for evil. But it is dependent on the magic user themselves. Some are evil, some are pure of heart. As you may know my Grandmother Elizabeth had magic, my father Balinor was a Dragonlord. So am I."

"We know." Aiden replied.

The room fell silent, Merlin wasn't sure if he heard that correctly.

"Sorry can you say that again?"

This time it was Henry who spoke. "All of this council knows Sire that you are a Dragonlord. It was obvious that you would be. Especially once you relaxed the rules on magic. We are all still here are we not? We support you but like you say magic can be used for good or evil."

"Are you implying I'm evil Cousin?" Merlin had not been expecting the conversation to go down this route.

"Not at all, Sire. None of us believe you are. Already you've shown yourself to be kind. But all we are asking is that you tread carefully. We know you were not at fault for your Grandfathers death. You see while you were gone this morning, each of us has been paid a visit by the late King. Well he left us all letters, he's set a few things straight and said he was wrong to have banned Magic and that your reforms on this and on the topic of the Knights were the right thing to do."

Merlin felt another headache coming on. His meddling dead Grandfather had been at it again, this time going to his council behind his back and telling them he was a Dragon Lord. What next? Telling them he was the Emrys? He was going to have to stop and let Merlin be the King he thought he should be or he was going to have to go.

Suddenly he realised all the council were looking at him, waiting for him to respond. "My grandfather seems unable to let go it seems. Well, I am grateful for the support. I have something else I need to raise, namely that we have been in discussions with Queen Annis and I will be meeting in three days with the view to formally sign a peace treaty. I am willing to make peace with any Kingdom if they are going to be a true and fair ally. Furthermore, I understand I have claim to the lands of Strathclyde and I intend to pursue them. This Kingdom will be a beacon of hope in trouble times. We will protect the weak and the defenceless or die trying."

As Merlin spoke, Leon had thought he couldn't have been more proud of his brother and the man he was becoming. He noticed the small smiles on his cousins and on Aiden. In fact the rest of the council seem to take this news remarkably well.

Aiden rose, applauding and before Merlin knew all his council bar one were clapping.

He looked over to Sir Edward who remained seated. No words needed to be explained. Merlin was one council member down. The King then motioned for everyone else to be seated.

"Thank you my Lord Aiden for that support. Now I call this council to a close."

As everyone rose, Merlin went over to the still seated Sir Edward. He could feel he emotions of the other man bouncing off of him. He waited until the room had cleared before he spoke.

"Sir Edward. You have something to say? You may speak freely."

"Thank you your Majesty. Firstly I have always been a loyal servant to the Crown and to your Grandfather. I have served in many battles."

Merlin nodded, "I know Sir. I know. And yet?"

"And yet, Sire, I cannot serve on your council anymore. These changes, these are too much for me to bear. It's been a trying few months and I'm too old for this. I am from a different time than you."

"I know. I am only trying to do what I think is right for the Kingdom."

"That is your prerogative my Liege, but you cannot expect everyone to agree with you. You've been King for all of five minutes and already you are making great changes. You need to understand there are ramifications. You'll invite an attack by the Norsemen."

"I know. I do not want a siege of Ulster. I do not want my men going hungry or us starving our fellow Irishmen to death. So, I will meet them on the battlefield and I had hoped you would serve me Sir Edward."

The Knight shook his head, "You seem to have a way of persuading people. There's something about you. I will fight on the battle, not for you but for the Kingdom. I cannot live with my concsciene should we lose to the Norsemen and I had done nothing to stop it. But after, after we've won I will be leaving court."

Merlin smiled, he suddenly thought of a good replacement for Edward. "As you wish, my grandfather said you were a faithful Knight. I know you are doing this more for him and I and I did say anyone could retire at the start of me reign with my blessing"

"I suspect I won't be the only one. The rest of my age group may be supporting you publicly but that's down to loyalty to your grandfather's and his influence. You should know in his letters he is saying that you're about to come into great wealth and will be able to compensate people well for their loyalty."

The King shook his head, "Well thank you for that information Sir Edward. You may now leave me. Could you see if my manservant Arthur is around?"

The Knight rose, as his strong footsteps faded away Merlin was left alone in the Hall, looking around he saw a room still full of lies and secrets but at least there was one less lie today. As Merlin looked at the banners of his families coat of arms float down from the ceiling he remembered he needed to show Arthur his mother's coat of arms, but that was for tomorrow. For now he needed a moment not being King while he digested what had just happened and what better way than some Arthur time?

A knock on the door and Arthur entered.

"Sire, you sent for me?"

"I did. I needed a few minutes just not being King and so, well, I wanted to see you."

Arthur still didn't know how to respond to the King, the King he had kissed. Was this the Kings way of saying he wanted him?

"Erm Sire. About earlier today. I er, well, I understand, understand that you're the King. But I am happy to serve you, you know, privately if you so wish."

Hold on Merlin thought, was Arthur offering himself out of some loyalty issue? He had thought he had felt the same way. Surely he did? But Merlin was a King and he knew that usually King's got what they always wanted. He couldn't be that sort of King though. Arthur had never suggested that Merlin provided that sort of service to him. In fact one time Arthur had made Gwaine run outside for hours when he had implied that Arthur had finally taken advantage or otherwise known as the time Gwaine said, "Merlin, you're walking funny today" before looking Arthur up and down and wagging his eyebrows.

"Sire? You haven't replied?"

"Arthur. I don't want you that way. I am a King yes but I'll never ask someone to submit themselves to me if they weren't willing. I like you. You make my life easier and I never want you to think you have to do anything you don't want to do."

Arthur allowed himself a small smile, "Well, thank you. I like you too. I think. Well, look I haven't, not with a man I don't think. Although, there is something you should know. I once made a bit of a pass at the Earl Gwaine, I misread what he wanted. It was awful. But I thought you should know, you know."

"He said something similar to me, I just wasn't sure. Look Arthur I appreciate your honesty but I haven't been totally honest with you nor can I be right now. There are some things you don't know, in fact a lot of people don't know and I believe it is for their own good. And for this Kingdom and others. I don't want things to develop further knowing that I cannot be fully honest with you. I wish I could be."

"If you can't be honest with me then perhaps it is best we stop now before someone get hurts. I'd like to stay at the castle if I may?" Arthur was trying to keep himself together. Yes he had only known Ambrosius for a short while but he had felt a connection, that they could become close. He couldn't be with someone with secrets, especially when the King implied he knew more about him than he was letting on.

Merlin had no such composure, a very small tear left his eye. All his progress, his work being undone. If Arthur never loved him, never grew to accept him then he'd never get his magic back. And without it he'd be trapped, trapped living a lie. He rose from his seat and was now directly facing Arthur who had his arms folded. "You have to believe me Arthur; I don't want to hurt you. I like you. But I can't lie to you too."

"Then tell me the truth Ambrosius, tell me."

Merlin shook his head, "I can't. Really I can't. You're not ready and I don't think you'd believe me anyway. "

"You know about my past don't you? And why I can't remember. I get these dreams, these nightmares and yet you won't help me." Arthur said bitterly. "I don't want to stay actually. Tomorrow I wish to leave. I was only under the Earl's protection as such as I was told to leave Camelot and never return.

"But, but where will you go?" Merlin said, voice breaking.

"That's none of your business Sire. And your voice may be breaking but how do you think I feel? I'm in a strange land with no family or real friends and then I meet you. A King who treats people like they are humans, a King who welcomes me with open arms. A King who kissed me. A King, who I thought, stupidly might begin to love me the way I think I may end up loving him."

"Arthur my feelings for you, well, there's more than you know!" Merlin was sure any minute Leon or someone else was going to burst through the door at hearing this commotion.

"Then tell me! Tell me what you know about me! Tell me what you're hiding. Give me something!"

"Arthur, I would give you my world if I thought it would help. You've already got my heart. Can't you see that? Can't you see the way I've been looking at you? I've made you my manservant but I don't order you about. I've put you on the Knights training. I was, after battle going to put you on my council to replace Sir Edward. Can't you see that I care for you? That I am falling in love with you?"

Merlin now had tears streaming down his eyes and saw Arthur did too. He walked slowly towards him, as if approaching a wounded but angry beast. Arthur didn't step back, just stared with his arms folded at the King. He took another step forward and was now in Arthur's personal space. Any minute, any minute Merlin thought, Arthur's going to thump me. The two, King and Servant, Warlock and True Prince stood eyes boring into each other souls.

"Ambrosius." Arthur said slowly.

"Arthur." Came the reply.

"You know my past. Do you know why I have these nightmares?"

"Yes."

Arthur sighed and uncrossed his arms. "Do you know how to stop them?"

"Yes but it won't be overnight."

"Do you know why I was in prison in Camelot?"

"Yes and I wish more than anything I could tell you."

"You can." Arthur gritted out. Why was the King making this so hard? Surely if he felt the same way he would tell him? And how comes he knew in the first place when he had only been King for a short while.

"How do you know? About me? You've not been in the Kingdom long. You've never met Queen Morgana, you only knew Gwaine for days."

Merlin placed a hand on Arthur's shoulder. "Arthur, I know all about you, your past and your future. I know the man you can become, will become. "

The former prince laid a hand on the King's shoulder, matching, both now looking at each other to see who would make the first move.

"There's something about you. Like I know you, indeed like I've known you all my life despite it only being a week." Arthur's brow then furrowed. His mind cleared, he gripped the King's other shoulder and locked his gaze. "You, you knew me before. Somehow, somehow you knew me already. How? Why? Were we lovers already?"

"Not exactly Arthur. But yes I knew you before. But please, please don't ask me how. Not yet."

"Tell me why I should believe you."

"Your life, it is in danger. I have to protect you. "

"Who from? I'm just a servant."

"You have never been just a servant to me. Arthur, know this, I love you. I've loved you for a long time and I never admitted it to myself. I think you loved me back. But it's complicated."

Arthur knew the King wasn't going to budge, so it was either say goodbye, goodbye to this man he felt connected too, or go, leave and never know what Ambrosius knew about him. He went to step back but his body refused, as if he was fixed, fixed to this spot.

"Tell me something, give me something to show that I can trust you."

Merlin didn't respond. He knew he couldn't, Arthur wouldn't believe him, or worse he told people. Told everyone the truth how Merlin was a fraud and before they knew it Morgana and Morgause would pounce. Arthur was as stubborn as ever Merlin realised and he wouldn't change.

"So I can't trust you. And if I can't trust you then we have no future. I should go." Arthur took his arms away from Merlin only for the King to grab his left arm.

"Arthur, wait. Please, please wait." Merlin then grabbed the back of Arthur's head and pulled him in, now their noses were touching each other. Both men breathing heavily. "Trust me." Merlin whispered.

"I, give me something to trust in and I will."

"I have powerful magic, I've lost it but it will come back to me, I hope. And when it does."

"When it does, you'll tell me what's been going on?"

"When it returns Arthur you will know everything. I promise you. And I will tell you something else, Arthur your mother died in childbirth, you never knew her. I didn't either, I vow to you. But I do have a present coming for you. It is her coat of arms."

"A coat of arms? She was a noblewoman?"

"Yes. Now please, I can't tell you anything else yet. I hope it's enough."

Arthur smiled, "Thank you, it is enough for now. Just. But I want you to tell me everything from here on in. Anything happens that involves me I want to know about it."

"That's going to be difficult, everything involves you."

"So I've figured. "

Arthur leant in; Merlin moved his head to the side and now held Arthur's head as they slowly kissed.

The kiss became frantic, hectic, there was too much, too much that both men wanted to do. Arthur relished kissing the King, craved it. He wanted the King all over again, lies or no lies, truth or no truth, there was just something about him and boy could he kiss. The King was taking the lead this time, exploring, mapping out Arthur's mouth and he loved it, heat pooling to his groin. He was hard and pressed himself against the King, growling when he saw he was too.

Merlin was now pushing into him, walking at the same time to push him against the wall, Arthur now running his hands through Merlin's hair.

Arthur felt the cold of the wall slam into him as Merlin pushed up against him, rutting. Growling. "This Arthur, this is how you can trust me. You, you can have anything. Anything."

"I want you. I want you to." The words couldn't escape Arthur as he felt a hand on his groin and then warm, deft fingers unlace his britches. The coolness slammed against him and then he felt, the warmth, of another man on him. His head tipped back, eyes rolling in his head as he felt a tongue swirling around his head before small, sweet kissing, almost as if Ambrosius was worshipping him. He looked down and couldn't believe the King was doing this to him, for him, to show he could trust him. That he loved him. He had never felt like this before, never before had he felt such energy.

Arthur knew he couldn't last long, "Sire" he panted. "Won't, last long." The King put a hand against him to steady him and then hummed. The unmistakable blood rush came and then Arthur shuddered before becoming unsteady on his feet.

The King licked his lips and looked up at his disheveled servant. Hopefully now he had proved his trust, his loyalty, indeed his love. Arthur had a goofy smile on his face, one of contentment. Merlin saw his legs were giving out and he caught Arthur's arm as he sank to the floor, catching him fully and pulling him into a hug.

"See Arthur, I mean it."

"I know, that was, well, it was, wow."

Arthur looked at the King and could see the outline of his own erection. "I should Sire, you know. If you wanted to, erm, do something, I, I don't mind."

"Gods Arthur. I, well I do but you don't look ready for that, in fact you look a bit ill."

"I'm fine, just worn out." Arthur said, words slurring as his eyes closed. He could hear the King shouting for help but he couldn't open his eyes, a vision, no a dream was coming already. As he fell asleep he could have sworn he saw the King change his face. A face he knew. A face with shorter hair and more pronounced cheekbones, of blue eyes, a wide smile and ears. Those ears.

Chapter Text

It had been Thomas rather than Leon who had arrived first when Merlin shouted for help. The Earl took one look at the collapsed form of Arthur and had said "I won't ask." And had then picked the servant up and carried him into the King's antechambers. Merlin checked Arthur for a fever and found nothing; he looked to all intents and purposes and seemed to be in no great danger. After asking Thomas to fetch a servant Merlin quickly threw a spell over Arthur to check and was relieved there was no lasting damage.

Thomas had returned with water for Arthur and some food for when he woke and had then plucked up the courage to ask Merlin for dinner. Of course Merlin had at first thought back to Leon and their promised discussion, not to mention the argument that was coming with his grandfather but there was something within Thomas' request that made him think he should do it.

After a bath and a quick chat with his mother, which left Merlin feeling even more guilty, he made his way Thomas's chambers. It was tradition the night before a crowning for there to be no feast and for the King to dine in his chambers, however with the sleeping form of Arthur in there, Merlin thought tradition could cope with this small change.

As he arrived he was surprised to see no one else apart from Thomas. "Er, is there no one joining us?"

"No cousin. Henry is in the tavern with some of the new Knights. The Duke is watching on Arthur and the Earl of Adare is currently playing cards with your Grandfather. Well, you know his sprit form. Apparently my uncle is expecting an argument with you later tonight."

"He's going to get one", Merlin replied sternly.

"Why?"

Merlin waved his hand to lock to the door and cast the familiar quieting spell before continuing, "My Grandfather has been meddling. I sometimes wonder who the King is here."

"He means well, it is his way of helping you." Thomas said as he offered Merlin a goblet of wine which Merlin gulped down, he needed a drink today.

"It is not helping. He's pushing me down a path he thinks is right but how do I know it is?"

"Do you want my honest opinion Merlin?" Thomas asked.

Merlin looked at his cousin. If he was truthful about it he hadn't bonded as much with Thomas as he had with Henry and he wasn't sure why.

"Yes, please. No one is honest with me."

"Not even Leon?"

"Well, he is but even then he doesn't contradict me when I need it."

Thomas saw an opening. "Well Merlin you don't exactly give anyone a chance to argue. You have basically told anyone who doesn't agree with you to

politely sod off. And you haven't been fully honest with everyone have you? You didn't tell Henry and me who you were until you blurted it out. So can you blame me and others for keeping quiet? Garratt's tried to help and you're going to bite his head off later."

Oh, Merlin thought. I haven't thought about it like that.

After a few minutes of silence, Thomas had had enough. "Merlin are you going to speak or are you just going stare into space?"

"You call me Merlin."

"Well it's your name isn't it?"

"Yes but Thomas, everyone is 'Sire' or 'Your Majesty', even Leon does it sometimes when we are alone.

"I am not Leon. You wanted to be called Merlin so I'm calling you Merlin. See this is what I'm talking about. You are completely contradictory."

Merlin snapped, what was this? Pick on Merlin hour? "That's unfair Thomas. All I'm saying is that it is nice. Sorry I'm not always good at expressing my feelings, I kind of had to keep quiet in Camelot."

"I know. Now you have the chance to change things. Just make sure you change the right things." Thomas replied.

"What do you mean? Are there things I'm changing I shouldn't be?" Merlin wanted to know more. He was part annoyed that Thomas was bringing this up now but part pleased someone was finally speaking their mind.

"I support your relaxation on magic, your alliance with Annis and your claims on other lands. I just question your motivates. Are you doing it because you want to or because you feel forced to? Or for someone else?"

Perceptive, Merlin thought. "I'm doing it for the right reasons. It's true I didn't seek the alliance, Gwaine did it, and the claims to Strathclyde didn't start with me either. But the magic, I can't live a lie. I have the opportunity to show magic can be for good."

"It wasn't Gwaine who did those things Merlin, it was your Grandfather I think. Before you and Leon arrived first time round Henry and I noticed Garratt behaving a bit oddly. He had always been pretty open with us about his plans and his thoughts, suddenly he went quiet. You know from Henry his feelings, hence why he told the two of you some of what he knew. But I am convinced he knew you were coming and he knew what was going on. He stopped us going down to the vaults so much, as if there were things we weren't allowed to see."

"Really? Well that would explain some of it. I mean I have never met Queen Annis and suddenly she wants an alliance. Not to mention the Leprechauns I have to meet to fund the forthcoming battles, oh and the sodding Diamond mine."

As Merlin had been responding well so far, Thomas thought he could push his luck.

"I followed him, the King. Out of the castle into a clearing. I saw him talking with the Dragon, you know the one that killed him."

Merlin shook his head, why was he not surprised? "When?"

"About six months ago now. The Dragon said that the prophesies were going to plan and that the great trial would soon begin. I had no idea what this meant and in the morn I went down to the vaults and found them out of bounds."

"That bloody Dragon!" "Honestly cousin, between him and my grandfather it feels as if I have no say in my future at all!"

"I can see why you think that Merlin and I don't have the answer for you. But I have to say you need to be careful with both of you but I'm sure you know this. My Uncle has always been a bit shifty at the best of times and I suspect he's been planning all of this for a while. One thing though, don't do anything you don't want to do or because of guilt."

"Guilt?"

"Yes, guilt. It's clear you feel guilty over what happened to Arthur and everything that has gone on. Look we haven't been close and that is both our faults but even I can see how much it pains you to have to live this lie. I think you do not want to lie about being a Dragonlord is because you don't want to keep lying."

Merlin let out a breadth, "What would you have me do?"

Thomas rolled his eyes, honestly this was frustrating. "It isn't for me to tell you what to do but it is for me to question you motives and ask you, what is your plan? How do you expect to put Arthur back on the throne when he doesn't know who he is? And how do you expect to get Gwaine back at court?"

"I'm going to destroy Morgana and Morgause once and for all and in a way they won't see coming. As for Gwaine, I don't know. I wish I did."

"I miss him Merlin, Henry and I both do. We lost him once and then he went again."

Merlin incredibly guilty just then, ironic considering Thomas told him not to do something out of guilt. " I miss him too, every day."

"Do you?"

Merlin nodded, "Yes. He was, still is my best friend."

"Oh I thought Arthur was?"

"Arthur and me is complicated. Very complicated."

Thomas smiled, finally he was getting there with his cousin. Just one more push.

"You mean you were lovers?"

"No, well not exactly. We were on reflection far closer than a manservant and Prince should be but neither of us realized it. There was gossip of course and your brother once alluded to it which earnt him several laps of the training field." Merlin ran his hand through his hair. "I could do with a top up."

After their cups were refilled, Merlin continued to tell Thomas about him and Arthur, leaving nothing secret he told to a shocked Earl what had happened in the forest and what had happened since Arthur's arrival. Thomas had asked questions but Merlin was grateful he didn't push further until it came to Gwaine.

"If Gwaine is your best friend, what about Leon? And when can Gwaine come back?"

"Leon and me is odd. He was the first Knight that noticed me really, he spoke to me more than anyone else. There was another, Lancelot but he couldn't stay around. At the start in Camelot I had no friends except for Gwen oh and Morgana."

"Morgana? As in Queen Morgana?"

"The very same. She was I think a friend but then she turned to the darkness." Merlin gulped some more wine and looked to the table, diverting his eyes. Thomas sensed not to continue down this path and move back to Leon.

"So Leon? He befriended you?"

"Yes. Arthur was always there but I couldn't always confide in him. Especially about his own behaviour towards me. Sometimes he was too much of a Prat. I just blurted this out to Leon one day and he laughed and promised he wouldn't say anything. Then it went from there. He was a bit lonely too. Knights in Camelot will die for each other but a lot of them are trying to be someone their family expects them to be. The old guard were always trying to get one over on each other or impress Arthur.

Arthur of course wasn't that impressed with people trying to suck up to him. He used to be before I came along. So some of the knights got jealous of me, which is how the rumours started. Arthur once found Sir Bors threatening me and nearly beat him into a pulp. It made it worse until Leon found out and had a word with some of them. Leon involving himself then sent Arthur jealous which lead to something else a few years later when Arthur had somehow got it into his head that Leon and I were, when actually it was someone else."

Merlin shut his mouth before it ran away with himself.

"Someone else? Ah you mean Gwaine and you?"

"Yes. And then I thought Gwaine and Arthur had got together which sent me into a jealous rage which lead to his banishment."

"Oh" Thomas said. He didn't know whether to be angry, sad or pleased that Merlin had been so open with him.

"Oh indeed Thomas", Merlin said.

Silence fell as both men looked at each other, for Merlin he hoped being this honest would improve his relationship with his cousin. For Thomas yes he was pleased he knew more about Merlin more but some of it was a lot to take in.

Merlin cleared his throat, "You haven't said anything. You're annoyed with me aren't you?"

"Not exactly Merlin. I appreciate your honesty and it would wrong of me to say otherwise but it is a lot to take in."

"That's the thing with me Thomas, there's always a lot to take in. I'm not normal."

Thomas did not like how that had come out of his cousin. "No you aren't normal. But that's a good thing. Who wants to be normal? I don't." He took the final gulp of his wine. "It is getting late Merlin and I think you need to have a word with your Grandfather and I'm sure Leon is wanting to see you."

"Oh, ok, you want me to leave."

Thomas felt like banging his head on the table, he hadn't thought his choice of words through. "No, well you need to because you have stuff to do but not

because I don't like you Merlin. I think you and I are going to get on better now. I'd like to come with you when you met Annis. You can't take Leon, you need your heir here just in case. And I am a bit more worldly wise than my dear brother is."

Merlin beamed, "Great. Leon will flip out but he can't expect to mother hen me all the time." He then looked at his cousin. "I'm sorry about over reacting, I'm not used to having cousins."

"Well you had better get used to it as we aren't going anywhere. Now, go and sort out our interfering old King. I do wish I could see and hear it though."

"So do I. I mean Leprechauns? What next? Elves?"

"I saw one once Merlin. Odd creatures."

Merlin had a brainwave. "Come with me when I meet them, the four of us should go. They won't attack me, I'm the Emrys remember?"

"You've got yourself a deal. Now get out of here your Majesty." Thomas said grinning.

As Merlin was walking back to his chambers, with a smile on his face he thought how lucky he was now having a family. An odd family but a family still the same and one that accepted him despite his issues. He always knew his mother had loved him but apart from Will there had been no one really until he went to live with Gaius. Even then he felt lonely, Gaius was everything he could ask for but he couldn't confide in him with everything, then at first Lancelot then Leon then Gwaine came on the scene and before he knew it he had friends. That weren't Arthur. And now he had family too. How Arthur was going to react to all of this was beyond him but for now he had a meddlesome Grandfather to deal with and he was going to cop it.

Merlin opened the door to find Leon sat waiting patiently for him. "Ah there you are! Good evening with Thomas?". At first Merlin thought Leon looked like he was going to be jealous but that thought quickly left him as he filled his brother in about their bonding and then the latest meddling from Garratt. Leon ruffled his head, "See you can get anyone to like you."

"Can't get everyone to obey me though can I? Have you see my grandfather lurking around?"

"No, but I have seen Arthur."

"Oh he is alright? Awake? Talking?"

"No, he's sound asleep. He looked, well a bit disheveled."

The familiar click of the door and Merlin's soft words confirmed Leon's thoughts even before his brother spoke. "Well, tell me what happened."

Merlin cocked an eyebrow at him. "Not the details! I am sensitive you know! But, have you got your magic back yet?"

His brother laughed, "Nice roundabout way of asking me there Leon. No, I don't have my magic back. It didn't get that far. He is remembering though, slowly. He asked me what I knew about him and he could tell I was hiding something."

"Oh, what did you do?"

"I told him I couldn't tell him everything but that he wasn't evil, that I did have magic and that his mother was a noblewoman."

Leon was slightly surprised by this, why hadn't Merlin revealed more?

Merlin bit his lip, "you think I did the wrong thing didn't you?"

"Not at all. And you want honesty from me don't you? Just like you asked from Thomas. Well my view is this M-bro, why didn't you tell him more? Lying won't help you."

"Because of Gaius. What he said, that the brain was a strange organ and to take it slowly."

"A fair point. If it was Gaius telling you that in person but it wasn't. Was it? It was the Dragon who cannot be trusted."

"He cannot outright lie to me." Merlin went deep into thought for a few minutes, tapping his left fingers on the table. "Got it" before explaining to Leon how they could check with Gaius, it was so simple Merlin thought and now he had something else to look forward to. He missed his mentor so much. One of the first things Merlin had done was cast a protection spell over Gaius. He knew he could hardly disappear from Camelot without creating suspicion but at the same time Merlin had an overwhelming desire to ensure his safety.

Fresh from explaining Merlin then said, "Well if Garratt isn't coming at his own free will I suppose we will have to summon him." He stepped away from the wooden table and began to raise his hand before jumping out of his skin as he felt someone touch his neck.

"BOO!"

"Must you creep up on me like that Grandfather?" Merlin bit out.

"I have to be kept entertained. Now Grandson what did you want with me?"

Merlin shook his head as he looked at his grinning Grandfather, why was the man so damn happy, he was going to wipe the grin off his face. "You know why."

"I'm afraid I don't. There I was resting, all peaceful and suddenly I can hear you talking about me. What have I done wrong this time?'

Merlin rolled his eyes, "Are you seriously telling me you don't know? Let me see. Queen Annis. Leprechauns. A diamond mine, Dwarfs. Expanding the Kingdom. Bribing my councilors. Cooking something up with the Dragon. Knowing this was all going to happen months ago. This is on top of ignoring me for twenty five years, leaving my mother destitute oh and banishing my father because he had magic. Is that enough your Majesty or would you like more?" Merlin was now snarling.

"You need to calm down Grandson."

"CALM DOWN?" Merlin boomed, a window smashed into pieces, glass shattering all over the floor. The Fire suddenly went from embers to a roaring blaze. Leon looked at his brother, who's hair was now sticking up in all directions, eyes burning golden and without any fear in his voice as he spoke. "You don't get to tell me to calm down."

Garratt had the sense to take a step back from his Grandson. He had not expected this level of anger, especially as he had only done these things for Merlin's sake. He reassured himself that once Merlin let him explain he would calm down and forgive him, that's what families did. Still he wasn't used to being spoken to in such a manner.

"No one has dared speak to me in that tone in my life Merlin."

"That's because no one really knew what a great big supercilious, overbearing, lying, cheating, manipulative, cold, calculating BASTARD you actually were."

The fire shot up further, scorching the fire place before settling down. The chairs were now knocked over with the table itself having moved to the other side of the room. Even the blankets came off the bed.

"Merlin, keep it down. You'll wake Arthur. It's a wonder he's not awake already."

"I am. " Came a voice as the door to the antechamber opened. Arthur stood there arms folded. Merlin thought he looked no different from being in Camelot and had seen that pose hundreds of times before. "Your Majesty, one of us has to clean this up tomorrow and I am a bit tired. After." Arthur blushed. He knew Kay and the King were close but he didn't want his business known to all.

"Arthur." Merlin said

"You look like the two of you have been having a fight. Perhaps I should leave? And why were you shouting by yourself? I couldn't hear the Duke arguing back? And why do I feel you aren't telling me everything?" Merlin didn't answer.

Arthur could feel the emotions rushing within him, Ambroisus was retreating into his shell again. He could see it. This man, this man with hair sticking up all over the place, hair which made Arthur's heart beat a little faster was hiding the truth from him again.

"You told me, you promised me after today you would be more truthful with me and yet neither of you will look at me. Honestly, I thought, well never mind. I'll bid you a good night my Lords."

"Arthur. Wait. Please"

Arthur raised an eyebrow, "are you going to tell me the truth?"

"Yes, but it will sound strange." Merlin replied.

"Everything about this Kingdom is strange."

Garratt of course had taken a seat to watch this spectacle, one minute there was Merlin ripping into him with the force of a pack of bloodhounds and then minutes later the Pendragon golden boy showed up and Merlin suddenly changes. He bet though that Arthur had also in his time gone funny at the sight of Merlin, indeed he had had hours of joy winding up Uther over it.

Merlin looked over to Leon and shrugged, may as well tell the truth he thought. "Yes, it is Arthur. I was arguing with my dead Grandfather, the King. He is back as a spirit. I can see him so can Kay here. Because we both have magic, although of a different kind."

"What Kind? No, don't answer that yet. Why are you arguing with him? And how is he here when he's dead."

"He? I do have a name you know!"

Merlin spun round and glared, "Shut up! Arthur can't hear you!"

Arthur was agog, "you're speaking to him now? He's still here? How?"

Merlin ran a hand from his hair, "I don't know." Before gesturing to Leon, "We both don't know. Not fully. He's here I suppose for advice though fat lot of good that's been. Mostly my beloved Grandfather has been bribing the council to stay with me, arranging alliances behind my back and dealing with magical beings. Oh and slowly forcing me into a war that I didn't want and we aren't ready for."

Arthur chuckled, "I can see I am going to regret all of this aren't I?"

Leon saw instantly how crestfallen Merlin looked, as if the man he had become was now disappearing back into being a skinny, quiet lonely lad. "Sire? Arthur didn't mean it like that I am sure."

Mean it like what? Arthur thought. Oh shit. He means. "No, I didn't, I don't regret what happened earlier. Sorry. I'm not very good at this, you know, feelings and stuff. I was trying to lighten the mood by making a joke."

Merlin shook his head but there was no malice to it, "I should have known you'd be no different now than you were before. It' fine but for a moment, I thought."

Arthur bounded over to him, heaven knows what he was doing he thought as he clasped the king's face and kissed him. In front of the Duke and a ghost too! He could be put in the stocks or flogged? Both of which his mind told him he wouldn't mind if it was the King doing it. As he deepened the kiss, not daring to look over at Duke Kay, the taste of Ambroisus felt familiar on his tongue and the noises he was making definitely sounded familiar. He felt that his hair was different, longer and that his ears were bigger too, how could someone have bigger ears than they actually had? And now his head was spinning, great Arthur thought, my head hurts yet again as he stumbled into the King and closed his eyes, heavy lidded.

"Kay get over here and help me!" Merlin cried.

Leon ran over and together they lifted Arthur back into the antechambers and his bed. Once they knew he was settled, the Duke spoke.

"Is this what happened earlier then?"

Merlin nodded, "Yep exactly the same. At least we know it is temporary but I wish I knew what was going on."

"I do. If you ask nicely." Garratt said mockingly.

"Why does that not surprise me?" Leon growled.

"Oh tetchy Nephew. Runs in the family I see."

"Are you going to tell us or make unhelpful comments?" Merlin shouted, not caring if Arthur woke up right now and witness a fight.

Garratt shook his head, "There's no pleasing some people is there? He is asleep nothing more. When he kisses you he begins to remember. His brain becomes flooded with images and it overloads itself. Hence why he collapses. It's the same reason as why he collapsed when I died. His subconscious recongised the Dragon."

"So he is remembering? The Dragon was right for us to go slow?" Merlin said.

"Yes, he was. And I can tell you something else as you'll only find a way to shout at me and blame me otherwise. If you continue down this path Arthur is going to remember the oddest parts. Only something huge, like an event will bring his memory back fully. And when that happens….."

Merlin bit his lip, did he want to know the answer? Well he couldn't blame his grandfather for being more open. "And when it happens? What?"

"When Arthur remembers who he is, who you are, who Kay is, it is going to make our little argument earlier look like a picnic. Which is why I've been preparing for it by protecting the Kingdom or as you call it meddling."

It dawned on Leon there and then that Garratt had clearly known what was coming and had tried to help Merlin the best he could. "You've known all along haven't you? About everything? Thomas said he saw you talking to the Dragon months ago."

"My dear nephew. I've known about the two of you since you were born. You knew this already. What I haven't told you is that I knew about this mess of a situation a week after my Grandson decided to release the Great Dragon."

Merlin bit out a shallow laugh, why was it everything always followed back to that bloody Dragon?

Chapter Text

Merlin woke to the sound of trumpets yet again. He shot up in bed. Crowning day. Damn he thought! He had to sit through a parade and a ceremony he didn’t want before a feast he didn’t need and then hopefully meeting Killgarrah and Grettir in the evening. Add in the tourney and another feast and then in two days’ time on a Dragon to meet Queen Annis and his brain was already hurting. That’s without the love of his life in the next room. Oh and his ghost of a Grandfather.

He sighed, pulling back the blankets and drapes and moved off the bed. First on the agenda was to check on Arthur, breakfast and then a long walk. His crowning wasn’t until the afternoon and he needed to understand in his own mind everything that had happened to him and to get himself ready for what was coming next. Rather than be the back room boy he thought he would be, silently guiding Arthur until he was ready to know the truth, he was going to be front and center, the King and Arthur was going to learn the truth the hard way.

As he walked over the antechamber door, he knocked briefly and was reassured to hear a hello in exchange before the door opened and Arthur was standing there. Had he been behind the door? Merlin thought. Still it didn’t matter. Arthur looked normal, calm and still gorgeous.

“Hello.” Arthur said smiling.

“Hello” Merlin replied. “Mind if I come in?”

Arthur rolled his eyes, “Aren’t I meant to be the one coming into your chambers? Anything I can get for you?”

Merlin’s stomach growled, he starched it absently.

“Breakfast then, I’ll just go and get it Sire.”

“Thank you.”

Suddenly the room felt cooler as Arthur stared openly at Merlin. “Oh you can thank me when I return by giving me some answers. I had some dreams you see, and I think you know what they mean.” Arthur then turned on his heels and marched out the room, leaving Merlin speechless.

How did Arthur do that? Merlin thought. Firstly making him warm and liked, reeling him in and then smacking him down. It was a talent to be sure. He kept himself together. Kings do not show emotion in public. Yes he was going to be different but his people, his council needed to respect him. And he wasn’t going to cry in front of Arthur either. He would never hear the end of it.

As Arthur had left the kitchen, his mind was filling up with questions to ask the King. What exactly did these dreams, these visions mean? Especially the recent ones where the King actually turned into someone different, was it a spell? A trick of the light? So many questions and not enough answers.

Arthur had thought that being told his mother had been a noble had been enough, it wasn’t. It wasn’t nearly enough as it lead to more questions. Who was his father? Did he have brothers, sisters? And above all why was he attracted so much to a man who he had only just met but felt like he had known for half of his life. Especially when he had no memory of before his imprisonment. Ambroisus seemed to know an awful lot about him already and wasn’t it fair if they were to have some form of relationship that Arthur at least knew some more about the King? What was he hiding?

The manservant returned to the King’s chambers to find the King pacing up and down. “Really Sire, wearing out the rug isn’t going to help is it?”

“How long have you been standing there?” Merlin asked.

“Not long, but long enough to know you are nervous.”

Merlin stopped pacing, stared at Arthur and slammed his fist down on the nearest table. “Well, Arthur, I am being crowned King today in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Everyone has Sire, hence the trumpets.” Merlin had to hand it to Arthur he was being just as obnoxious as he was when he was a servant and Arthur was throwing a strop.

“Well?” Merlin bit out.

“Well, Sire. I have your breakfast, I suggest you let me put it down on the table and then serve you, clearly you get grouchy when you’re hungry, which I suspect is most of the time considering there’s nothing of you.” Arthur said sweetly.

Merlin snorted, “The food isn’t making me grouchy.”

Arthur shrugged and moved the tray of food onto the table, beckoning the King to take a seat, then with a flourish neither thought he would possess, Arthur whipped out a napkin for his master and laid it over his lap. “Would the King like me to pour some water?”

The King, Merlin thought would very much like to empty the jug of water all over Arthur and then cast a spell that meant you couldn’t be dry all day. Instead, Merlin replied with “Well get on with it then Arthur. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can ask your questions and then we can all move on with our lives.” Before instantly regretting it.

Arthur poured the water while pouting. “Oh I am sorry Sire, sorry that your servant, nay your friend here who doesn’t know his memory and who you sucked to within an inch of his life last night dares to ask who he actually is or what he’s doing in a castle with an idiot like you!” Arthur was now red in the face, breathing heavily.

Merlin looked at him and instantly felt pity for the other man. It wasn’t his fault and he was clearly dealing with things the best he could. Arthur had never been easy to talk with when it came to feelings and emotions and often bottled them up to the last minute so it didn’t surprise Merlin that this version displayed some of the same characteristics.

“Arthur?”

“Yes Sire?”

“Stop calling me Sire for a start and sit down.”

“No, I should leave.” Arthur said. He was feeling far too embarrassed at showing his emotions and to a King to all people.

“No you should stay.”

“With respect Sire, I overreacted, I will take my leave.”

“Arthur, stay.”

“I’ll see you this afternoon Sire.”

Merlin now was beginning to lose his temper; he flung his goblet at the wall. “Oh for once in your goddam life will you do as you’re told!”

Arthur was now running out of the chambers. “Great” Merlin thought, just “great” before leaping out of his chair and following him. He knew it wouldn’t be hard to find Arthur, his body was almost attuned to him. He could see the familiar mop of golden hair in front of him now and he raced up to him. Arthur turned and before he could move, Merlin had grabbed his wrist. Arthur wanted to struggle, his mind screaming leave, leave but he couldn’t. It was as if he was fixed on this spot, with the King breathing heavily against him.

“I’m sorry Arthur. Sorry for this morning.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry a bit too, for you know being rude. I wasn’t being a very good servant.”

Merlin smiled. If this had happened in Camelot the two of them wouldn’t have spoken for at least a day. By the evening of day two half the castle would be in uproar due to Arthur viciously beating his knights to a pulp in training while Merlin tended to their wounds and then defied the Prince by going to the tavern with them. Normally an emissary in the form of Gwen or Leon was dispatched by either side and peace would be found. Now, it was almost because their roles were reversed that they could be different. Merlin didn’t have an overbearing father and yes while he had responsibilities to his Kingdom he had enough confidence to know he was doing the right thing.

The warlock realized he hadn’t responded to Arthur and saw him looking at him. “Well we are both sorry then.” He said smiling.

“Should we kiss and make up?” Arthur said before looking down at his feet embarrassed.

Merlin grabbed his arm, “I think so, not out here though. There’s enough gossip about me already.”

Arthur nodded and smiled, he was alright with whatever was going on between them to be private too.

As the men were walking back to Merlin’s chambers they couldn’t stop bumping into each other and touching. Merlin could feel the energy radiating off of Arthur and knew exactly what he wanted. Whether today would be the day he would offer it was another matter. Yes there was time but was it wise when he had a crowning ceremony?

He walked into his chamber first. “Now where were we?”

“I was about to serve you breakfast.” Arthur said

“Good, but we can serve each other. There is far too much food just for me and you had some questions for me.”

Arthur mumbled something.

“Arthur I couldn’t hear you?”

“Oh sorry. I said it’s ok not to answer the questions, I overstepped the boundaries this morning.”

Merlin laughed, “Oh believe you me, I’ve done that enough times in my old life. It is fine. Seriously Arthur there is way too much food. I didn’t ask you to order this all.”

“Will you kill me if I tell you something?” Arthur asked

“Never.”

“Good. I know you didn’t ask for this much but I had orders.”

Merlin took a deep, slow breadth in. “Don’t tell me, Kay?”

“Yes, he was very insistent and I could hardly refuse him could I?”

“No you can’t. I’ll have a word with him.”

“Don’t, please. I don’t want to get into trouble.”

“Arthur moments ago you were biting my head off and now you’re worried about what Kay will do?”

A flush went up Arthur’s neck. “It’s different with you, well I thought it was. You know because of the stuff. But Kay. He is a Duke….”

Merlin laughed, “And I am the King! I outrank him. Despite him thinking being the older brother means he is in charge.”

Silence fell as both men digested those words. Merlin coughed wanting to speak, ”What I meant to say was…”

Arthur raised a hand, “Please, sire. No more lies remember. I’m a big boy I can take it.”

Merlin started having a coughing fit and wished he hadn’t thrown his goblet across the room. Bless Arthur he thought as the manservant filled up his goblet and gave it to Merlin to drink. “Here, have some water.”

“Thanks.”

“So Kay is your older brother. How comes you’re the King then?”

“Same mother, different fathers.”

“You tell people he is your cousin.”

“He is. Technically he is both. Look it is a bit confusing but Kay is both my brother and my cousin. Our family, well, let’s just say there’s been a bit of bed hopping.

“What about Gwaine, Thomas and Henry? Sorry do you mind me using their first names?”

“Not when it is just us no of course not. They are definitely my cousins and Kay’s too.”

Arthur wanted to push now there was an opening. “You said you had the same mother? Where is she? Is she alive? No sorry, don’t answer that if you don’t want to.”

Merlin put a hand on Arthur’s wrist. “It’s fine. She’s alive, she is here, she is Lady Hunith.”

“Oh. And your father was Balinor did you know him?”

Merlin shook his head. “I met him once briefly. He died. It was…” Suddenly Merlin choked up.

Arthur noticed the change in tone and the clear struggle the King had. “I’m sorry, I am pushing too much.”

Merlin took a gulp of water, “No it is fine, just a painful memory. You think it will ease over time but it doesn’t.”

“What about my parents? What happened to them? Do you know?”

Merlin had dreaded this question but had resolved himself to be truthful. Truthful as in answering Arthur’s questions. He did not want to over tax his mind though so he told himself not to be too open or forthcoming.

“Yes, mostly. Your mother died just after you were born. I never knew her.”

“You said she was a noblewoman though? And my father? Was he noble too?”

“She was a noblewoman but she died before I was born.”

Arthur went quiet for a minute while he was digesting this information.

“So I am older than you then?”

“Not by much, a year, but yes.”

“And my father, you didn’t answer.”

Merlin stared at him, thinking please don’t ask me about your father. It was natural though, of course Arthur was going to at some stage. What did Merlin say? He could hardly start with “Actually your father was King Uther Pendragon of Camelot, he has butchered thousands of innocent people in a war against magic to ease his conscience. Oh and fathered a love child, your half-sister who turned to the dark side, murdered him, made you forget who you are and is now basically my mortal enemy.”

“Please, Ambroisus, I need something. Please.” Merlin wanted to pull his eyes away from Arthur, he could see the hurt in Arthur’s face, too raw, too much.

“He was a nobleman Arthur.”

“Thank you, so that mean’s I am a nobleman too.”

“Not quite, you are from nobility for definite but you have no lands or power. They were taken from you.”

“And I ended up in prison. But I am still a noble. Is that why you have put me on the Knights training course?”

Smart, Merlin thought. “Yes, I didn’t agree with what happened to you. In fact I will do my upmost to right the wrongs against you. You being a servant, well I couldn’t do that to you, you belong as a Knight, as a leader.”

Oh, Arthur thought. I didn’t see that coming. “Why am I a servant then to you too? If you couldn’t see me as one?”

“Honestly?”

Arthur nodded.

“To protect you.”

Arthur was wide eyed, protect him? From who? Who could possibly want to harm him? Then it dawned on him. He had been a prisoner, he had committed a crime.

“You, you’re protecting my life aren’t you? Look I know I was a prisoner for some kind of crime. You’re making sure I survive aren’t you?”

“Yes. And I will continue to do so.” Merlin replied.

“Why?” Arthur wondered aloud.

“Why? Because I want to. I told you I didn’t agree with you losing your lands. I want to help.”

Arthur shook his head, “But you’re involved in something in another land. What business is it of yours to defend me? Why go to all this trouble? What happens if someone tries to hunt me down?”

“I’ll stop them.”

“I still don’t understand why, why you have this faith in me?” Arthur said. Merlin went to replied but Arthur shushed him, “I need, I need to think.”

So many thoughts were running through Arthur’s mind. His parents were both nobles, his mother died in child birth. His lands were stripped from him. Someone was after him and this King was protecting him. Why? Why did he feel this attraction to this King? It spoke on a primeval level to him, need and lust as well as, well love.”

Merlin wanted to retort with , “Careful your brain might hurt” before stopping himself and realizing that this was a slightly different Arthur.

“Ok, you told me before that you knew me, before what happened to me. Just how well did you know me? Were we lovers? That’s it we were lovers, weren’t we!”

“Not exactly Arthur. We were friends. Best friends I think though you’d never admit to it and I was hardly going to let you wind me up if I made that sort of declaration. But we both knew it deep down.”

“Oh so not lovers.” Arthur said quietly.

“You sound disappointed Arthur.”

“I am. I mean, well, so far it’s been great and there’s a connection. Surely something happened before?”

Merlin shook his head, this was becoming too painful. “No, it couldn’t have happened and even now, it is complicated. We both had other things in our lives and reasons why. Besides although we were best friends we never really talked about our feelings. It was more glances, smiles, body language. It was enough.”

At that moment Arthur wanted to travel in time back to meet his old self and beat him over the head. Clearly the King had feelings for him and he knew deep down this attraction had been there before. So why had they never got there before?

“It’s because of me isn’t it? We weren’t lovers because of me.”

“It is because of both of us, our secrets, our families, our pasts.”

Arthur was about to guess one of them, he was sure of it, it had been staring itself in his face this whole time. “Before, when we knew each other. I didn’t know about your family did I? No one did. You weren’t a nobleman.”

Merlin smiled weakly, at least they had got away from Arthur asking who his father was, that would have been all kinds of awkward but this was bad enough. “Correct, remember the court here didn’t know about me to recently. I am kind of the secret Prince you see.”

Arthur bit his lip, he could be wrong but suddenly things made more sense. “I think I know why. Magic. You said you have magic. Just how powerful are you?”

Merlin was shaking, he couldn’t help it. Last time him and Arthur had a conversation about magic it hadn’t gone well.“Do you want the truth?”

“Yes.”

“No one knows. I don’t even know.”

Arthur’s eyebrows shot up, “that’s ridiculous, of course you must know.”

“I honestly don’t Arthur. I am the Emrys, I am rumoured to be the most powerful warlock in the history of creation. I can stop time. I can call down thunder and lightning. I can pretty much do anything.”

“Can you make me remember?” Arthur said hopefully.

“That’s what I am trying to do. That’s why I want you to read those books, that’s why I have you on the Knights training. All of this will help you. You have to believe me, trust me that I want what’s best for you.”

“If that is the case, why were you so nervous just now?”

“Last time, before when you found out about my powers. We…..”

Arthur saw the sadness in the Kings eyes. Well this was a revelation he thought. “We argued didn’t we? Over your powers.”

Merlin nodded.

“Why?”

Merlin couldn’t respond, his mouth had gone dry. The memories of that day were still too painful.

Arthur knew he couldn’t ask anymore. The King can gone far beyond he had suspected he would and he did have to be crowned today. Arthur was content, content that slowly but surely his questions were being asked. He didn’t like to see Ambrosius upset and he could guess the reason why. Him. Clearly last time he hadn’t taken the news of the magic very well. Why though? He didn’t have a problem with it? The questions could keep though.

“Don’t answer it Sire.”

“I want to Arthur, but it is hard, not today. Please believe me.” Ambrosius sounded broken. Arthur knew of only one remedy. He walked over to the King and kissed him fully on the lips, cupping a hand round the back of his head. Merlin relaxed into the kiss before quickly realizing what came next. “Arthur don’t, when this happens you collapse.”

“I feel fine. I’d like to kiss you again.”

Merlin smiled.

Arthur pounced.

It was an odd sensation Merlin thought having your lap full of Pendragon. Especially when said Pendragon was enthusiastically mapping your mouth out like it was his latest conquest. Typical he thought that Arthur would want to take the lead. Sparks were beginning to fly and Merlin felt a surge of energy to his groin. He rutted slightly against Arthur and saw he felt the same. Breaking the kiss he smiled, grabbing Arthurs hand as Arthur lead him to the bed before Arthur jumped onto him and began sucking his neck.

Skin, so much skin Arthur thought, the taste, the texture it was intoxicating. He needed this, wanted this so bad and he knew the King did too. This King who was doing his best to help him and wasn’t that sexy? His mind told him he hadn’t collapsed yet which he felt gave his body permission to try all new sorts of things. He bit on the neck hard, drawing blood before sucking it gently, marking the body.

He moved back, now sitting on top of his prize and smiled, the King below him looked so wanton, so needy. Arthur pulled at the tunic. “Off” he growled and the King obliged throwing it to the floor. Arthur grinned wickedly as he took in the sight before him. Lean, tight muscle and a soft covering of hair down to the Kings waist. He looked at the trousers and moved down, ripping the laces apart with his teeth, hungry to gain access to more of Ambroisus.

Merlin couldn’t believe what was happening, Arthur was still awake, still breathing and was acting like a man possessed. Not that he minded in the least. A bolt of pleasure swept through him as his aching cock was released to the cool air and before he knew it, Arthur was licking him. Slowly, almost worshipping him. He was glad he didn’t have his own magic as he suspected he would have sent things flying. As Arthur continued to drive him wild he felt the Dragons magic surge within him. Fire shot up in the fireplace earning a smirk from Arthur.

“Do that yourself Sire? Are you that hot for me?”

“Yes, yes, now just do it.” Merlin said, panting.

“Do what Sire?”

Merlin closed his eyes, typical, Arthur was going to taunt him.

“Anything, anything, Arthur, just….”

“Anything?”

“Have you got too much earwax in your ears? Anything!”

Ears, Arthur thought. Those ears, He growled, moving up until his was almost suffocating the King before launching an attack on the right ear. It definitely felt bigger as he stroked it before nibbling on the ear lobe. Ambrosius was highly responsive to this and wiggled, almost mewing like a cat.

“Like that do you Sire?”

“Mpph” Came the reply

“These ears, I can’t get enough of them.”

If only you knew Merlin thought.

“Anything else you can’t get enough of?”

Arthur growled again, kissing Merlin down his face, down his neck, onto his chest.

“This chest, smooth but with muscle, your neck, your eyes.” More kissing followed, moving down Merlin’s body. “Your cock, it’s so, long, thick, surprising.”

Merlin shot him a look, “surprising? Oh thanks very much Arthur!”

“No not like that, surprising that it has lasted so long. I thought I was sending you wild.”

“You are sending me wild but I’m a big boy, I can take it.”

“Can you now?” Arthur smirked.

“Oh will you just get on with it.”

“Or what Sire?” Arthur said mockingly. He loved this, seeing the King come undone before him. He was still dressed.

“Or I’ll turn you into a toad. Now get undressed and for the love of all that is holy get on with it!”

“Your wish is my command.”

Arthur regretted not taking his clothes off sooner, the feel of skin on skin was intoxicating, he could feel more heating pooling towards his groin, he wanted the King so badly.

“I want to, to be inside you. I need you, Need to feel it. Feel you.”

“Yes, yes, Arthur. Anything.” Merlin used his left hand, scrabbling to open the small chest of draws by his side but failing. Arthur grabbed his hand. “I’ll get it.”

Arthur poured the oil over his fingers, and then stopped. Had he done this before? What if he was no good?

“Arthur, why have you stopped?” Merlin was scared. Had Arthur remembered something about his past.

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“Could have fooled me.” Merlin said smiling.

“It’s just, well, I don’t know if I’ve done this before. What happens if I can’t do it right? Or I hurt you?”

“You won’t hurt me and it’s easy. Just use your fingers to relax me. It’s not like either of us will last much longer. Don’t worry.”

Arthur hadn’t moved so Merlin rose and smashed their lips together. Arthur instantly relaxed.

“Sorry, it’s just. You. And me.”

“If you don’t want to Arthur, I’ll understand.” Merlin said quietly. He wanted this badly but not at the expense of Arthur feeling bad over it.

“No, no I do, more than anything.”

“Good.”

Minutes later Merlin was scrabbling for the bed sheets, desperate to cling onto anything as Arthur entered him. They stayed locked, looking into each other’s eyes before Merlin nodded and Arthur began to move, slowly, so slowly, adjusting, taking his time. Merlin was sweating and the Dragon’s magic wasn’t helping as Arthur moved within him, deeper, deepening the connection and Merlin heard a thunder clap. Arthur began to thrust, eyes still locked on Merlin but using his powerful body to plunder him. As he quickened the pace Merlin saw a flash of lightening out of the window and knew that he was the cause of it. It was still the morning but the sky to him looked black. Arthur didn’t notice it, lost in the King, this body, this face, those ears.

He clamped onto an ear lobe again, sucking it as he slammed into the King, eyes closed. Arthur could feel the hairs on arms standing up, his brow sweating, his ears ringing. Spots began to fall against his eyes, the sound of swords clashing in his ears. He opened his eyes to see a jug fly across the room, the King panting, sweating looking as if he was about to break. He could feel Ambrosius tightening against him and his own blood rushing, pushing further and further. He slammed into the King, again and again, pushing deeper and deeper, his mind now was a flood of images, of red, of a Dragon, of a sword, of a man with big ears. The thunder now was deafening and had been joined by hail stones. He looked down at the King, this man he knew he loved and he swore his face was changing, he closed his eyes, trying to clear his mind as the inevitable heat polled and he felt his orgasm climaxing, he was dripping, dripping in sweat but he didn’t care as he heard a strangled moan of Arthur and he slammed once more and pushed himself over the edge and collapsed onto the King. The King with glowing golden eyes. He looked up to find the fire raging, the table over turned and a storm outside the window. He looked back at the King, eyes still golden and smiled, kissing him deeply before his mind went blank.

Chapter Text

Merlin felt Arthur collapse on top of him, eyes closed, almost dead to the world except for the heavy breathing. He wanted to move but felt he couldn’t for a minute. Everything had happened so quickly, he hadn’t expected to have just slept with Arthur but he had wanted too. Merlin had felt an urge, a primal need to join with Arthur and put it down to his magic wanting to reunite with him. Which it certainly was. Merlin could feel the energy practically bouncing off of him and his magic now bubbling under the surface, taking over from the Dragons.

The images of what had just happened were playing over in his head, Merlin wasn’t sure what Arthur had seen. Had he seen golden eyes? The warlock had heard a storm over his head but the room was now silent, apart from the heavy snoring of Arthur, he couldn’t wait to remind Arthur about that little delight. Merlin then realized something, Arthur, his mind clearing from the haze of his post coital glow. Arthur had made love to him, surely he would now remember? And what a day to remember, his crowning. He sighed, Merlin really knew how to pick his moments.

He looked over to Arthur, Arthur with his arm over him, protective. Merlin tried to lift Arthur off of him but resorted to a quick spell, now with Arthur off of him, he was about to rise from his bed when there was a loud banging at the door. Great, just what he needed.

“Sire! Sire!” Came the unmistakable sound of Leon. Merlin went red, the last person he wanted to see right now was his brother.

“Come back later!” He shouted out.

“Sire! It is really urgent! I insist!” Leon shouted back.

What could be so urgent Merlin thought that he needed to embarrass himself?

“Come. Back. Later!”

Leon didn’t like the sound of that response? Was Merlin in danger? Why was he not wanting to see him? Had he not looked out of the window yet?

There was only one thing for it, he would barge in. Leon stepped back and run back into the door but it wouldn’t budge.

Merlin jumped. Was Leon trying to break in? What had got into him?

Leon sighed, “Open up!”

“I am busy!”

Leon shook his head, this wasn’t good. He stepped back and decided to try again, he muttered under his breadth that the door needed to bloody well open, this time he ran towards it and the door opened without him even barging into it, with him then crashing straight onto the floor. He looked under to see a disheveled Merlin looking oddly at him, dressed in but a cape and wide eyed.

“What on earth was that about?” Merlin enquired.

“You wouldn’t open the door! Care to help me up?”

Merlin smirked, “I should leave you down there. Interrupting the King! What a complete cheek!”

Leon spluttered, “I thought there was something wrong! I had to save you!”

Merlin started giggling, “Save me from what exactly?” He offered an arm out and helped pulled his brother up. “It’s not like we are under attack!”

“Actually, we might be! There’s an army approaching!”

“WHAT?” Merlin shouted.

Leon grabbed his arm, “there is an army approaching but they look, well different.”

“Different? How? Don’t tell me it’s a bunch of sorcerers?” Merlin asked.

Leon shook his head, “I don’t think so, for a start they are very short.”

“Short?”

“Yes, short. I think they might be Leprechauns. I don’t know. I just came to get you and then you wouldn’t open the door and I got worried. I’m glad you opened it, even if I fell on the floor. Now we have to go!”

Merlin sucked in a breadth. “I didn’t open the door. You must of.”

“No, I was about to try barging in and then I fell through.”

“Well I didn’t open it.”

“Neither did I.”

Merlin waved his hand and then spoke. “Yes you did. Did you say anything? Anything at all? Like you wanted to the door to open?”

Leon bit his lip. Could it be? “I did actually, I wanted it to open.”

Merlin laughed. “You did magic! You did it! You thought I was in trouble didn’t you and you wanted to save me! That’s so funny!”

“Well I thought you were!”

“I wasn’t. Honestly Curls. I am fine.”

“Why didn’t you open the door then? Have you not looked outside?” Leon wondered what on earth Merlin had been doing if he wasn’t watching the chaos outside.

Leon saw Merlin blushed, then he noticed it. How could he not have seen it before? He raised a hand to Merlin’s neck. Leon could feel the blood rush to his cheeks, his brother, his little brother!

“Merlin you have a love bite.” He chocked out.

He knows! He knows! Merlin thought as he looked at the floor, not wanting to catch Leon’s eyes. He wanted the ground to open in front of him because he could then jump into said hole, cover it using his magic and never be heard of again. But his mother would cry his mind said and of course Leon would jump in the hole to try and pull him out. And then they’d be stuck in a hole, with Arthur mocking him as the most incompetent sorcerer ever.

“Merlin are you not going to say anything? This isn’t exactly something I want to know about either you know!”

Still looking at the floor, Merlin mumbled a reply, “Arthur. Arthur is in the bed. So keep it down!” He rolled his eyes as he heard Leon beginning to cough.

“Well you did bring the love bite up Leon. Let’s change the subject, we need to go outside and see what’s going on?” Merlin walked over to his dressing screen to get ready.

“Oh no you don’t. Firstly has he remembered and second, your magic?”

Behind the screen Merlin felt he could be a bit more honest. “He hasn’t woken up yet, I think he will be out for a while. And yes, my magic is back. Now I just need to meet the Dragon and get rid of his.”

Merlin could almost sense Leon being conflicted between the news Merlin had his magic back and the news that his baby brother had well, grown up so to speak. “Is this going to be weird Leon? I’d rather it wasn’t. When Arthur remembers I’m going to need your support. Not you wanting to strangle him.”

Leon desperately wanted something to fiddle with to take his mind off this conversation and the thoughts running in his head. “We will be fine, just don’t you know, be careful.”

Merlin walked back out in black trousers and a black tunic, motioning to Leon, “Help me get the cape on properly will you? We’ve got the crowning in a few hours.”

“And now we have guests.” Leon replied as he fastened the cape together. “There, fit for a King.” Merlin widened his eyes at the choice of words. Leon spluttered again, “What I meant was…”

“It’s fine” the king replied as he put an arm on the Duke’s shoulder. “Now, these guests. They aren’t meant to be here. I’m meant to meeting them in secret. What the hell are they playing at.”

“I don’t know Merlin but we better go and find out before there’s total chaos. The lower town is already abuzz about a freak storm that disappeared as soon as it came earlier. Don’t suppose that was you was it?”

Merlin nodded.

“Please tell me that won’t happen every time, you know, you and Arthur….”

The King barked a laugh, “I hope not, I don’t want to be broadcasting that sort of thing to all and sundry.”

Leon nodded, “Good, good then. Look we better go. Is Arthur going to be alright?”

Merlin bit his lip. How did he know? He didn’t even know if Arthur fully remembered, he had be agitating for more information about his past and the Dragon did say that a major act would help him remember. What was he going to say to Arthur when he did wake?

His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Henry, “Sire, the Leprechauns are here, they are demanding an audience with the King. Thomas is refusing to let them in without your leave. We weren’t warned of their arrival.”

“Neither was I. It seems that they have invited themselves. “ Merlin replied.

“Well they are here, I suggest we go and meet them Merlin.” Leon replied.

Henry shot them both an odd look, “Oh Henry it’s fine, using the spell as usual. Oh and I have my magic back. Thought you and Thomas should know.”

Henry smiled, “That’s great news, really it is. Perhaps you can send your grandfather back now?”

“why what’s he done now?” Merlin asked.

“He’s the one responsible for our guests. They claim they were invited by Garratt Fitzgerald to a feast. To celebrate the crowning of the new King.”

Merlin shook his head, putting his hands over the back of his neck and sighed. “He’s never going to let me do this job is he? He’s always going to be there.”

Both Henry and Leon nodded. “I’m afraid so Merlin.” Leon said.

“We best be going, Thomas was giving them daggers. It could turn nasty.” Henry offered.

“Fine, fine. But he’s going to hear from me. I am meant to be crowned King today and now I have unexpected guests. Oh and a dwarf visiting me later to sort out that bloody diamond mind I suddenly own.

Leon knew his brother needed cheering up. A grumpy King would not be a good idea today. “Could be worse M-bro?”

“How? How could it be worse Leon? I am going to be King! I have my Grandfather’s ghost trying to run the Kingdom, I have to suffer that bloody Dragon too! How could it be worse?”

“You could be in the stocks in Camelot.”

Merlin snorted.

“I’m right aren’t I?” Leon said grinning.

“Yes, yes, fine. And Henry before you ask no I am not telling you what happened.”

“It’s ok Henry, I will do at the feast later.” Leon offered.

“Duke Kay, in the name of the King, you shall do no such thing.” Merlin said trying to sound cold and detached but failing.

“King Ambrosius, in the name of your Older Brother I will do such thing.”

“Brothers.” Merlin said.

“Speaking of which, we had better go and check on mine and make sure war hasn’t broken out.” Henry said as they left the sleeping form of Arthur behind and made their way to the balcony.

When they arrived Merlin’s eyes nearly fell out of their sockets and Leon grabbed his arm instinctively, there were hundreds, no thousands of short men and women in front of the castle. Taking one look at them he knew he would have to ride out and address them. A short argument ensured when Leon insisted he should go instead but Merlin finally found a use for being King and pulled rank. Especially when the sounds of Thomas arguing with them were clearly being heard across the lower town.

Merlin was grateful for all the times Arthur had dragged him along hunting and for the battle in Ealdor. Wearing chainmail still made him think he was looking ridiculous; however he had to admit he did look like a King and he was determined to act like a King. Uninvited guests, whether they were going to be allies or not would learn not to push him about.

“What are you going to say to them?” Leon said as they began to ride through the lower town.

“I’m going to ask them what they think they are doing, but as it looks like my Grandfather has been meddling again, I have little choice but to listen to what they have to say.”

“You could invite them to your crowning cousin.” Henry offered.

“Hold on.” Leon said, “Let’s not be hasty. We don’t know anything about them.”

“Your grace, you forget that I have lived here longer, we were allies in the past. Besides they are under threat too. We all are.” Henry added.

Before Leon could speak, Merlin interrupted, “Good points both of you. I will address their King. Henry I want you to make sure Thomas doesn’t say anything else. Your Grace I want you to be all goodness and light. You understand?”

Merlin was relieved when both men nodded and the rest of the short ride was in silence. The quiet allowed Merlin to compose his thoughts and recognize the lower townsfolk who had come out to greet their King. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to all eyes being on him. Although he had been told of his destiny time and time again he thought it was to be beside Arthur, not as a leader of men himself.

As Thomas came into view, he walked down the steps from the castle front gate to greet them. “Cousin, sorry about this, there’s rather a lot of them. I naturally refused for them to have access. We had no clue of their arrival.”

“Relax Thomas, neither did I. Though we suspect someone else invited them.”

“Well, they are demanding to see you Sire.”

Merlin offered a small smile. “Let’s not keep them waiting then.” Turning to the assembled Knights who had followed him despite his insistence that he was perfectly fine and capable he said, “These guests are unannounced to us but we are to treat them with every dignity and respect. Do not raise your voice or your sword unless one of my cousins or I instruct you to. “

As every assembled Knight nodded, Leon smiled, Merlin was getting the hang of this, he knew it.

“Right, Your Grace, let’s go and meet our guests.”

As the gates opened Merlin was pleased that the Leprechauns didn’t look like they were about to try and storm the castle. In fact they were openly staring at him and then the voices in his head started. “Emrys, Emrys.” The calling he was used to from the Druids was returning, he looked around and saw all eyes on him, it was almost as if they were all chanting at once. Then suddenly a voice boomed, “That’s enough” and Merlin found himself in front of the Leprechaun King. The small King was stumpy with a red face and a short cut jacket. Merlin noticed each side had seven buttons.

Merlin had the sense to dismount from his horse, walk over to the King and offer his hand which was readily accepted. “King Ambrosius, it is a pleasure.” The short King said.

“And you might be?”

“Greenie O’Taters, the Luricawane of Kerry. Otherwise known as King of the Leprechauns. Let me introduce you to my Queen, Plucky O’Taters.”

Merlin was glad Gwaine wasn’t here, he’d be smirking inappropriately.

“How would you like to be addressed, as you have more than one name?” Leon said, he didn’t want to cause offence.

“I am not the only one, you must be Duke Kay. I have heard a lot about you.” The King added sweetly.

“Indeed, forgive me you did not answer the question.”

“Yes it is hard when you are known by more than one name. Luricawane is fine.”

“Thank You, Luricawane, I wouldn’t want to insult you.” Leon added

“No, that was just your cousin here, the Earl of Kildare there.” The Luricawane said sharply.

Thomas did have the good grace Merlin thought to look embarrassed almost. “Yes, sorry about that, it was just most unexpected and there are rather a lot of you. You could have sent some forewarning.”

“We were invited” The Queen suddenly spoke. “Unless we are not welcome and the Fitzgerald heart is still cold. We had hoped that we could have a new peace, we thought Hope may spring eternal.”

Merlin and Leon shot each other a look, by now they could read each other’s expressions and both were saying “Yes she did just say Hope may spring eternal.”

“Hope may spring eternal my Lady. Forgive my cousin, he is just protecting the Kingdom and I. We have been under attack and I am sure you appreciate the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. It is also my crowning today.”

“Yes we know, hence why we are here. We were invited.” The Luricawane implied. Gerry didn’t want his wife wrecking things already; this wasn’t any old Fitzgerald but the Emrys. He knew it, Emrys clearly knew it too.

Merlin had two choices, admit the castle wasn’t prepared and be embarrassed and have to explain his grandfather’s meddling and look weak or act like he could handle thousands of Leprechauns camped outside. He knew which path to take.

“Well you are all most welcome. I am afraid our hall will not be able to handle all of you for the crowning but I insist that you, your council and Knights are my guests. It will be my pleasure. We will cater for all your people. I ask for one thing.”

“What’s that King Ambrosius?”

“Forgive me, but as we are not formal allies yet. I cannot permit armed men within our castle walls. We are at war and while we hope you shall become our ally, until any treaty is signed our duty is to our people.” Merlin noticed Leon nodding calmly. “Do you consent?”

Silence fell as the King and Queen looked at each other. They clearly weren’t expecting the request Leon thought and it was clear they were a bit put out. However Merlin had done the right thing he thought. Yes he and the Knights were miles taller than these small men but that didn’t matter with the numbers involved. It was almost as if the whole Kingdom of Leprechauns had decamped outside the castle.

Oh. Oh he thought. That was it. They weren’t trying to invade. He looked closely at the King, he could see bags under his eyes. Then he looked further afield and didn’t see an army but refugees. He had to tell Merlin.

“Sire, while our guests are debating your request, may I have a private word?” Leon asked.

Merlin turned to him but seeing the pleading eyes of Leon had no choice to agree. “Of course Your Grace. Excuse me, we shall return in a moment.”

As soon as they were out of earshot, Merlin grabbed his arm. “What on earth was that about? And in front of them?”

“They aren’t invaders.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do. I looked at them closely, they are tired. They were tetchy. They mentioned Hope, they mentioned being called by more than one name. I think they know who you and I are.”

“I heard them.” Merlin whispered. “I heard them in my head, they called me Emrys. They all did.”

“That proves it. They aren’t here for a fight. If they know you’re the Emrys then they wouldn’t come in knowing your power would they, not if they wanted to invade?”

“So why are they here then?”

“Well clearly Garratt invited them but they are refugees. Look the whole Kingdom seems to be outside. Doesn’t that strike you as odd? When in Camelot did a whole other Kingdom arrive? There’s thousands of them.”

Merlin took a moment to consider this information. “You’re right. It must be the Norsemen. This changes a lot, they were meant to have gold with them to pay for the soldiers and get that Diamond mine going.”

Leon grabbed his arm. “Look over and take a closer look. I can see chests. I think it is here with them.”

“Right, well we better find out.”

Both men walked back at a brisk pace to find Henry trying unsuccessfully to engage the King and Queen in small talk while Thomas scowled.

“Ah so you returned.” Greenie said.

“Indeed, forgive me, the Duke had to give me some urgent advice. Would you care to walk with me your Majesty, we have much to discuss, just the two of us?” Merlin said.

The Leprechaun studied him closely and nodded.

“Good, Duke Kay will look after the rest of your party. Please Kay show our guests into the castle. Thomas, Henry, please organize provisions and shelter with the Knights for the rest.”

Neither Henry or Thomas knew what had got into Merlin but both weren’t about to contradict him in public. It wasn’t the done thing.

“Yes Sire.”

Merlin couldn’t exactly put an arm round the Leprechaun like he saw Uther do with other Kings so he settled with walking in step with the King and whispering, “We will speak privately in the hall. I know why you are really here.”

Thankfully when he looked at the King he didn’t see any anger to the realization. Then he looked again and saw a sadness and an anger he recognized. A beaten man, down but not out.

Once Merlin had managed to get the Leprechaun King into the Great Hall and away from prying eyes, he noticed the other King relax, waves of negativity were leaving him. Merlin knew thought that he was going to have to make the running here and draw the Luricawane out of his shell.

“Do you want to tell me the real reason why you are here? Merlin enquired.

The Luricawane sratched his forehead. “I think I have no choice. We aren’t here just for your crowning though we were invited.”

Merlin nodded, “I’m sure you were and you are welcome. I do need to know your intents though.”

The warlock could fell the Leprechaun bristle at that comment. “Our intent? What about yours King Ambrosius or should I say Lord Emrys?” Merlin shook his head, surely the Leprechaun knew he wasn’t in a position of strength here. Why were nobles so stubborn?

“Is that why you’re here, because I am the Emrys? What are you expecting me to do?”

The Luricawane didn’t respond. He just stared at Merlin seemingly not wanting to tell the truth. Merlin suspected it was because to speak of his troubles openly was to confirm them.

“You do not have to tell me, nor do I have to tell you my realms secrets. However if you’re hoping to be my ally as I suspect you are, then you need to tell me. I cannot be expected to put my realm at further risk without knowing what I am letting my people in for.”

With no response Merlin decided to change tact. “I think it is for the best if you reflect on what I said. Stay for the crowning and feast and we will discuss this matter tomorrow.”

Merlin saw a small smile form, “You are most wise and do your father proud. I will consult my Queen on what to do next and yes we would like to stay for the crowning. It’s not every day you see a magical Fitzgerald on the throne.”

“I’ll show you to your chambers. My servants are yours for the day. Whatever you need is fine. Now please excuse me, I have a crowning to get ready for.” Merlin thought he had done as well as he could expect to do so. Yes it was becoming obvious that the Leprechauns weren’t just here for a hello and quick visit but he also knew a King couldn’t just give away his secrets to another, no matter what the trials his people were facing. As they walked out together a selfish part of Merlin thought he had enough to do today already and could do without a long council meeting to discuss a formal alliance. The Leprechauns could stay, it wasn’t as if him and his Knights couldn’t defeat them.

Chapter Text

As they left the chambers Merlin wasn't surprised to find Leon lurking around the corner and knew he was just trying to look out for him. The offer to get ready together for the crowning was well received and for Merlin it was an opportunity to bounce some ideas off of his most trusted advisor and if it was also for Merlin a chance to calm his nerves then so be it. Leon didn't need to know that.

With Arthur still asleep in his own chambers, the decision was made to get ready in Leon's, giving Merlin an opportunity to do some paperwork while Leon was bathing. And an opportunity for Merlin to sign into law something he thought was going to be key to protecting his Kingdom in future. He was sure Leon was going to agree, well maybe after he calmed down. Still it was a good idea making. He knew it.

Paperwork out of the way and Leon still relaxing it seem, Merlin was at a loose end which meant his mind going over events of the past twenty four hours. As usual events happened at a breakneck speed and he needed sometimes just to sit down and catch up. Arthur was still on his mind. There was no way Merlin concluded that Arthur hadn't seen his eyes go golden and Merlin found that he didn't mind. This time was going to be different he told himself. There would be no half-truths, no hiding and no going back. He was a warlock, a powerful one and he was going to protect his Kingdom until his dying breath and protect the man he loved just as fiercely. Arthur could shout, he could scream, he could lash out, he could disown Merlin but Merlin knew he would never give up on Arthur. He would never stop loving him.

With this new found clarity in mind, Merlin moved onto the next stage of the thoughts forming in his head. If Arthur could accept him then his Kingdom was going to find itself at war with Camelot and quickly. Arthur was not going to sit around and wait for an attack, he would want to reclaim his Kingdom immediately. Merlin knew this meant Arthur expecting him to put his Kingdom at his disposal and the King found himself thinking he wasn't going to let that happen. He would do anything for Arthur, anything but he wasn't going to see hundreds if not thousands of his own people slaughtered at the hands of Morgana and Morgause. He was going to do it his way. He whispered "My way" as the door to the bathroom swung open and Merlin saw a smiling but dripping wet Leon.

"What did you just say?"

"Nothing."

Leon threw a hand out, "Come on, out with it."

"If you must know, I said. My Way. I am going to do things my way."

Leon grinned, "It's about time. You keep saying this sort of thing but I did wonder whether you truly meant it. Only you can lead Merlin."

"I know that now. I'm not sure if everyone is going to like that."

Leon scrunched his face up, "Well you already made it clear who is in charge to the council. So this is either about Garratt or Arthur isn't it?"

Brothers could be so perceptive Merlin thought. "Yes, both. Garratt is going to learn today just exactly who is in charge and as for Arthur."

"Arthur can wait Merlin. This is your day. Yes Arthur is important and you know I would gladly die to serve him but you've got to do what is best for you and the Kingdom, not out of trying to make Arthur love you." Before Merlin could speak, Leon added, "Not that he doesn't love you. It's just going to be hard work for you. Even if he accepts your magic he is going to be restless and want to order you around, it will be a big shock to see you as an equal."

Merlin nodded, "I know. I always knew he saw me as more than a servant but I am worried how's he going to react and there's you too you know. My brother and my heir."

"I'm not important here M-bro."

"You are to me Curls." Merlin then thought, sod it. "Leon you'll find out soon enough so you may as well know now. I'm making you a Grand Duke, you must have preeminence in the Kingdom, especially to counteract my Grandfather's meddling and Arthur's."

"Arthur hasn't meddled yet Merlin?"

"No but as you say, he's not going to react well is he? I'm worried I will be pushed around by him. I tell myself I won't be and he's going to accept me as I am, but, well, I do love him. You need to stop me and the realm needs to have confidence in your abilities."

"I could say the same about you Merlin." Leon said softly.

"I know. I do have faith, I feel better for my magic to be back with me."

"Glad to hear it. Now the Dragon's magic can go, I don't like his influence. Now, your Majesty you had better get ready, you can't be late to your own crowning and feast."

Merlin rolled his eyes, "Thank you for stating the obvious."

"Well you did want me to speak out. So here I am."

Both men laughed and smiled at each other, basking in a shared brotherly love and affection. "I best get ready then brother." Merlin said as he walked past his brother and closed the door.

It had warmed Leon immensely to see Merlin smiling and happy, he knew that despite outward appearances, life was not going to get any easier for either of them. The deep bond they had was going to be severely tested at some point and so you had to take these moments when you found them. One thing was certain, his loyalty was to Merlin now and not Arthur. It did make Leon feel slightly uncomfortable and he hoped it would never be spilt but blood was thicker than water and his relationship with Merlin was different. Arthur had always been a bit more distant and at the time Leon thought nothing of it, he was Arthur's closet knight and Arthur just didn't do emotions.

Then Merlin came, bounding into Arthur's life and Arthur had changed. Slow at first and then he grew into a different man, that's when Leon realized as he began to hang around Merlin more, as if to see if some of his magic could rub off on him too and that was before he knew Merlin's secrets. Both had bonded over Arthur and what he couldn't give. Arthur couldn't give Leon the open trust and affection he had given Merlin, despite Arthur insisting to Leon that Merlin was a half-wit who shouldn't be listened to. And for Merlin Arthur couldn't give him the honesty he wanted and the time he wanted. Leon could and Leon picked up on it, taking Merlin under his wing and carving a place for him.

When Lancelot had died, Leon had sat with Merlin for hours, simply being in his company. He had been annoyed at Arthur for not noticing Merlin's clear distress but then he realized that Merlin had got used to hiding his emotions and Leon was seeing the real Merlin. The one Arthur either didn't see or didn't want to see. It wasn't just Lancelot, there had been the fiasco over the birthday and several other occasions where Arthur's pigheadedness met Merlin's stubbornness head on and half of Camelot was abuzz with gossip as Arthur quickly fell to pieces without Merlin by his side and reverted back to type. Leon swore blind that even Uther noticed how quickly Arthur's mood changed when Merlin wasn't around. How Arthur's mood was going to be after he woke up was something he didn't want to think about too much.

Once Merlin had sorted himself out, Leon presented him with a big parcel. Merlin quirked an eyebrow and then blushed. "I didn't know there were gifts. I haven't got you anything."

"Merlin you just made me a Grand Duke. I think that's enough for now don't you?" Leon said chuckling. "Now open your present."

Unwrapping it carefully Merlin saw it was his staff, that he took from the Sidhe but it looked different, almost more powerful.

"How did you?"

"The Dragon has some uses and it has been enhanced. It now has my protection."

"You're protection?"

"Yes, I've been reading up you see and I consulted the archives; in fact it was you, well you in the future who told me what to do so to speak. You wrote it down. I didn't think I'd have that sort of power but turns out I do. We did know I was your guide after all. Now if you are in danger the orb will glow a bright blue so you know danger is coming. And that isn't all?"

"It's not, what else have you got me?"

"It's not from me, it's from our mother. She wanted to give it to you herself, she's going to be along in a moment."

As if by magic Merlin thought, or good planning by Leon, Hunith knocked at the door.

Opening it Merlin was crushed in a hug and then the tears started.

"My boy, my darling boy. Look at you."

"Mother." Merlin said simply as he relaxed and hugged back. "I'm sorry I haven't had much time."

"Nonsense, you're the King, you're becoming the man I always knew you could be. I am so proud of you. Of you both."

"Well come in, I hear you have something for me?"

Minutes later Merlin was in floods of tears as Hunith presented him with a ring. "It was your father's. The only thing I had left of him. It has magic. It is from your family, it is the Ring of Eluned the Fortunate."

Trying to choke back the sobs, Merlin said as he felt the ring. "I know, I can feel it. Can you Leon?"

"I feel an energy, is that what you mean?"

"Yes, it's beautiful, but I can't keep it, it's your last link to him mother."

"Merlin, you are my link to him. You are so much like him. You have more strength than you realize and a love and hope in your heart. Just like him. He wasn't as always in a cave."

"You never, you never speak of him. I know it is hard for you."

Hunith smiled sweetly, "It is but I had to give this to you. You're his heir after all." Hunith then turned to Leon, "I have something for you too. I have to admit I sort of collected things from the men in my life and now, well I have two sons. So." Hunith handed over a small wrapped dagger. "Your father, he left this behind, I want you to keep it."

Leon studied it closely, it was outstanding. A ruby was set at the top, glistening in the sunlight from the windows. As he held the blade it felt sturdy, safe, secure in his hand as if it was made for him.

"It's called Nuadu's Cainnel, that's all I know about it. He left it and told me to sell it if I needed the money. I never could. I always, well, deep down thought I might find my son again."

"It's beautiful, Thank You."

Hunith cleared her throat. "I can never make it up to you, all the lies and secrets but I tried to do what I thought was right."

Merlin took a step back, he didn't want to intrude, "I'll, I have some paperwork I need to dispatch." He said quickly as he moved away and to the door.

Leon mouthed a Thank You to him on the way out. He needed this, a moment with his mother. He would never forget his parents but this woman had given birth to him and tried to protect him the way she could. Leon would never agree with her methods but Hunith had been in an impossible situation. The next few moments gave both Hunith and Leon the peace they were looking for.

And gave Merlin just enough time to bark an order to his Grandfather that he could come and watch but there was to be no funny business and that they were still going to be having a conversation at Merlin's earliest convenience. Merlin also ran to check on Arthur and saw him still fast asleep and thankfully still breathing, in a way Arthur passed out was for Merlin a small blessing and one less thing to worry about today.

Merlin then saw the Leprechaun King sitting on a window ledge, the man looked broken. "I, sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt." He said.

"It is your Kingdom, you have the right to go where you please. Forgive me, I just need some peace and quiet, to reflect."

Merlin right over and sat down next to him. "It's perfectly alright. I'm learning all King's needed some thinking time. The weight we have on our shoulders is one few can truly understand."

"You seem to understand it well young Ambrosius."

"I'm trying. I wasn't always a noble but I guess you know that." Merlin then quickly wanted to slap himself for revealing too much in public.

The Leprechaun nodded, "No one can hear us, you aren't the only magic user and yes I can see who you truly are but your secret is safe with me. What happened to the Pendragon is an outrage, irrespective of the sins of the father."

"I take it you and Uther fell out?"

"Uther hunted my kind like dogs. He wanted our wealth for his own power."

"Forgive me, but it looks like he hasn't been the only one."

"Indeed. We were a solitarily people, my title is more for honour. However Uther hunting us made us band together for protection and then made us an easier target for the Norsemen but it is not them we fear. We can evade Loki if he wasn't allied."

"Morgana and Morgause."

"Are growing in power, combined we could not withstand the attack. One of them, I suspect Morgause gave Loki the spell needed, he is powerful but not so powerful to bring us out of our hiding places. We only escape when one of us managed to stab Loki and the spell broke. He survived though and we gave a great cost just to survive."

"What sort of cost?"

"Our Kingdom, it relies on magic but we had to divert our energies to saving our lives. Our Kingdom is lost. All we have is what you saw and our gold. Which is now yours."

Merlin shook his head, "I can't just take your gold."

"You're not taking it, it is a coronation gift and a payment for protection. You are our last hope."

Merlin saw a flicker of hope in the Leprechauns eyes, was he expected to protect everyone?

"Well how about I use it to help fund our troops and for something else but you get it back in a year?"

"You mean for the diamond mine?"

"How'd you know about that?"

The Leprechaun nudged Merlin, "Your grandfather. Anyway that's for another day. You're being crowned. You know who has to crown you don't you?"

Merlin smacked his forehead. "I hadn't thought of that."

"It's your brother, that's the tradition. The next in line has to do it, then you crown him."

Merlin had a sigh of relief, "I thought for a moment you were going to tell me it was the Dragon or something."

"No, although I am looking forward to seeing him."

"He should be here later with Grettir."

"A good man, well for a dwarf." The Luricawane said chuckling.

"I'm not going to have to separate you two am I?" Merlin said smiling.

"No, not at all. We hate the same thing. Trolls. And Witches. Merlin, you need to be careful, Morgause is not stupid. If she picks up on the legend of Emrys which I can't believe she hasn't done yet and then sees us in alliance, she may start getting very interested in you."

Merlin nodded, "I know, but I am planning for that, in fact for everything."

Before he could elaborate he was interrupted by Aiden. "Sire, Luricawane, Duke Kay says he will be shortly to collect you. It's time."

"Aiden, you're a sight for sore eyes. I do hope we can catch up later."

"Count on it. Now, your Majesty we shall leave you in peace, come on Luricawane."

Merlin closed his eyes for second but should have known Leon would be standing there. "Ready Sire?"

"As I'll ever be."

Leon knew no one was there, everyone was waiting for the King, he could speak freely. "Good luck brother. I am so proud of you." Before he grabbed Merlin and hugged him, deciding against ruffling his hair. King's couldn't have their hair sticking up just before their crowning ceremony.

"Thanks Leon. Is everyone ready?"

"Everyone, mother is in the second row and I'm well, I'm right there by your side."

Merlin could have said that one of the most important people in his life, possibly the most was currently passed out and in his bed but he didn't have the heart to point that out to Leon. He'd only worry. The King decided to offer a smile instead, "Of course you'll be by my side, where else would you be?"

"Probably bored somewhere. Come on, King or no King you can't be late." Leon then bowed, which led to Merlin rolling his eyes and threatening to turn him into a toad if he carried on with that. Leon then pointed out that they did have to behave today and Merlin nodded.

They walked to the Great Hall in silence, shooting small glances to each other before they were met with a beaming Henry. "I've been tasked with announcing your entrance. Ready?"

Both men nodded.

"Good luck Sire."

Henry opened the door and Merlin nearly fainted at the sight. The Hall had been transformed, banners flew down, as if the room had been divided into four. Each depicted a King in a scene, fighting a Dragon, on a throne, with a gaggle of Knights and surrounded by gold. Merlin also noticed the flowers, thank goodness he wasn't too allergic to flowers. Each window was covered in shamrocks and daffodils along the frame while the throne was guarded either side by two rosemary bushes. Where the flowers came from was beyond Merlin's thoughts right now but he suspect there was either magic or a legend behind them.

The warlock was now walking slowly up the hall, smiling to his guests as he recognized them. It was difficult he thought considering he didn't know who half these people were. People who didn't know his real name, his lie he was living to protect his kingdom. People who wanted to celebrate his crowning, him of all people becoming King. The whole thing could have been overwhelming were it not for the solid presence of Leon walking one pace behind him.

Leon thought Merlin was doing incredibly well. He was glancing and smiling at the right people whether he knew it or not. He was calm and confident, adopting a graceful place. Leon was desperately hoping Merlin wasn't going to walk into the bushes that were rapidly coming into view, as he stared at them he could have sworn they moved slightly. But no one mentioned it so he dismissed it as a trick of the light. Later that evening Merlin would tell him that yes he had seen it and yes he was very grateful as he was going to topple over into them if he wasn't careful.

Merlin was now in front of the throne. It looked different, almost peaceful. When he had seen his Grandfather on it, the dark oak almost looked like it was sucking the soul of him, now it looked welcoming. He stopped for a second, took in a breath and turned, sitting down.

Now faced with the crowd which seemed even larger from his new angle, Merlin noticed his Grandfather standing in the corner. Garratt nodded, as if saying, this is now yours Merlin. Merlin wished he could say something but now Leon was speaking (and when had he had the chance to practice Merlin wondered?) and before he knew it he was ready to take the oath.

"Do you Ambrosius Fitzgerald, Grandson of Garratt and Elizabeth Fitzgerald solemnly swear to uphold the laws of Munster, Kerry, Ulster and Strathclyde?"

"I do."

"Do you solemnly swear to fight injustice?"

"I do."

"Do you solemnly swear to uphold the Knights code as laid down by our forefathers?"

"I do."

Leon wanted to beam but thought it might not be appropriate. "Then as the current named heir of Garratt Fitzgerald and the premier peer of this realm, it is my pleasure to crown you King of Munster, Kerry, Ulster, Strathclyde, Marquess of Waterford, Lord of the Aran Isles and defender of these realms."

Merlin felt the crown being laid on his head, now there was no turning back. Leon then gave him his Sidhe staff, how he managed that one was a question Merlin would be asking later but he was grateful as he thought his legs were going to give way. Especially as he stood and then Leon began a rousing shout of Long Live King Ambrosius! Long Live the King!

Once the racket had died down, Merlin noticed his grandfather had disappeared. Had he gone for good he thought? He had no time to think as he knew he now need to invest Leon and he wasn't the only one.

"Thank You Duke Kay. My people I am honored to be your King. I promise to govern you fairly and to respect this land. I have one aim, to restore our Kingdom of Ulster and to protect this Kingdom from the threat we face. Now it will be my pleasure to invest all my Knights into my new order, the order of the Red. Starting with Duke Kay."

Leon moved from the side of Merlin to bend down on one knee in front of him. Merlin was grateful for the sword he had been made to wear. He pulled it out and place it on Leon's right shoulder.

"Duke Kay, do you swear to uphold the Knights code as laid down by our forefathers?"

"I do."

"Good, then it is our pleasure to name you Grand Duke of Leinster and Marquess of Offaly. Arise, Crown Prince Kay of Our realms and Lord President of Our council."

The round of applause told Merlin his decision had been well received. Leon would never admit it but already people were looking up to him. Leon rose to a smiling Merlin and quickly moved back to his side.

"Next I call the Lords Thomas and Henry."

Both men stepped forward. "Lord Thomas, Lord Henry, you have shown loyalty and dedication to us. I already informed my council you were to be named as Earl of Kildare and Earl of Cork. It is our pleasure to now ennoble you further. "Merlin placed the sword on Thomas. "Arise Thomas, Marquess of Kilkenny, Earl of Kildare and head of our Knights.

Moving onto Henry he placed the sword down again. "Arise Henry, Marquess of Tralee, Earl of Cork and captain of Our Royal Guard."

The brothers rose, smiling but also shocked at the unexpected honor.

"Will all my knights step forward please?" Merlin saw some of the older nobles surprised at this request but he wanted these men, these men ready and willing to die for him to have their moment. Arthur had told them that for a Knight taking the oath was the most solemn thing they could do. Merlin reasoned that as a new King he should expect them to take it again. Plus why should be the only one up here?

"Step forward five at a time please gentlemen. Then you shall place your hand over your chest and say our oath."

When Merlin got to the last five he began to regret having this idea, his hand was killing him from re knighting all of his men, however the smiles on their faces was worth it and it gave Merlin a chance to briefly glimpse into their souls, all were pure and good he saw. With the last batch re knighted, he ordered them all to retake their positions before speaking.

"Our Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of these realms. I am deeply touched by your support shown not just to me but to our Knights. These men of valor and dedication have taken a solemn vow today which I know you will help them uphold. Join with me in applauding their bravery."

The roar and applause that came was deafening. Merlin knew there and then that he had done the right thing in making the crowning more than just about him becoming King; it was now a celebration for them all. Once the cheering had died down and each of his Knights had come up to thank him and shake his hand, Aiden had announced that the party would now be welcomed to the lower town to see dancers and minstrels while the Hall was being set up for the feast.

Merlin was now left with his mother, the Leprechaun King and Queen and Thomas, Henry and Leon.

"Well done Merlin" The Luricawane said. "It was an honor watching the ceremony and it is an honor knowing you already."

"Thank you. You're welcome to join the celebrations with the rest of your party do you? Or if you want you can come with me."

"Why? Where are you going?" the Luricawane replied.

"My family and I are going to the lower town ourselves. But not to watch the dancing. No, I will not have my people unable to celebrate themselves. I know a lot of them will be watching the entertainment or in a tavern but today is a day to share the joy. And I intend to."

"How?" came the question from Leon.

"We are going to hand out food and all to the poor. We cannot give away all our money or we won't be able to run the Kingdom but I see no reason why all our people cannot join in today. I've already instructed the tavern owners to send me the bill, within reason for tonight and I've ordered a lot of food."

Leon laughed, " I suppose all those late nights weren't just organizing the armies where they?"

"No." Merlin then frowned as if to change the tone. "All of you should know by now that I am not going to be a normal King. If I am to do this then I shall be a force for good. I want all our people to feel part of this realm. United we stand, divided we fall."

"Well said cousin." Thomas replied. Merlin noticed Hunith was shedding a small tear of pride.

"Well Lord Emrys, it shall be our pleasure to help you. Our gold was coming to you already. We can give a small amount out to the sick to help with the cost of potions." The Leprechaun Queen said. "Oh and by the way, my husband and I have spoken and we agree to your requests for us to disarm. We understand why and would do the same, wouldn't we Gerry?" The look she gave the Luricawane brooked no agreement. "Quite right my dear" came the reply.

"I'm delighted. Now, let's not keep our people waiting." Merlin replied as he led the party out.

Each of the party looked at the new King with pride. If this was day one of his rule then the future boded well for the Kingdoms. Perhaps Hope did spring eternal after all.

Chapter Text

Merlin was grateful to get to the feast after touring the lower town and being inundated with requests for help. He had had to announce that he would have an open court every week where the peasants could seek an audience with him. The announcement had led to even more cheering and that was before the feast started.

Now the King sat in his Great Hall, master of the room and he felt odd. He hadn't seen his grandfather since the crowning and Arthur was still passed out when he snatched a brief moment to check up on him. He also had to contend with all of his nobles wanting to wish him well and his first marriage proposals coming for Thomas and Henry. Despite telling his court they would only be allowed to marry for love that hadn't stop men falling over themselves offering their daughters. However, the one man he wanted to offer his daughter, the Earl of Adare hadn't yet. He hoped that the Lady Emily hadn't been too keen on Leon because there was no way Merlin was going to let Leon marry her, not when he had seen the love of his life while he had been trapped in the Lake.

Thankfully the nobles stopped as the announcement came that Lady Emily was ready to begin singing. Merlin was instantly taken back to that first feast in Camelot when Lady Helen had performed only to have been a witch wanting to kill Arthur in revenge for her son's death at the hand of Uther. He shook his head, now he was a King instead. Thankfully any magic in Aiden's family was good and pure, Merlin was sure that since his magic returned to him he was more powerful than ever, he could now see the auras of men. He knew exactly who had a blackened heart and who could betray him.

As Lady Emily began to sing, Merlin relaxed, there was no spell behind those beautiful words. Just words, singing a soft song about love and loyalty. He spied Thomas out of the corner of his eye listening intently; perhaps there was something there after all. Leon to the right of him was sipping at his wine, he looked over to where Henry was sat, next to Leon and noticed that the seat was empty. Odd he thought, maybe he went out for some air. As Merlin took another sip of wine he thought that air would be good for him too but he could hardly get up during the performance, he would just have to be more careful.

After the third song from Lady Emily, Merlin saw Henry slip back in during the break in performance. He looked worried. Merlin wasn't surprised when he came up to his side and whispered into his ear that he needed to speak to him urgently outside.

"Are you sure Henry? I can hardly leave the feast."

"Call a break. Say that Lady Emily was so good that she must rest for half an hour and get refreshments, flatter her on her voice. You're the King now!"

"Fine. What's it about?"

"There's two visitors here to see you."

That got Merlin's attention instantly and with the break in proceedings called he slipped outside with Henry.

"What was that about?"

"I'm sorry but I thought you would want to know this. We have two visitors at the gate demanding to speak to you."

Merlin wanted to snap but it wasn't Henry's fault his mind said. "Who is it this time?"

"A Princess, Princess Mithian."

"I can't say I have heard of her." Then he remembered. "She's the daughter of King, King Odor of Nemeth. Their Kingdom borders Camelot. Is Odor here too?"

"No, a dwarf is, called Grettir is with the Princess. Says he helped rescued her. He told me in confidence that the Great Dragon had rescued them."

Merlin shook his head, "I knew that was coming. Does that bloody beast think I can take in everyone?"

"Well, what do you want me to do with them?" Henry asked.

"She's a Princess. Give her a room that is fitting for her, arrange for food for her and make her rest. As for Grettir tell him that Magic is waiting for him. Make sure you whisper it to him. He will know what it means. As soon as he is ready tell him I will come and see him. I can probably escape in an hour. I am the King after all, there must be some benefit."

"You mind if I escort them?"

"Of course not. I'll tell anyone that asks that you had a headache. I can get out by saying I have a tournament tomorrow, which I do, on top of this latest event."

"You had better get back inside your Majesty." Henry said which earned a roll of the eyes from Merlin and a clasp of his shoulder. "I had better, Kay will send out a search party."

Merlin turned and slipped back into the chamber. Of course a few eyes had seen him but thankfully with the jugglers performing and people being loud and drinking during the interval, not too many noticed. Leon's eyes were tracking him and Merlin knew he would have to fill him in. He found he didn't mind either. Leon was only trying to help and if Mithian was who he thought she was, then who wouldn't be charmed by her?

After Lady Emily had finished her performance, Merlin made a small speech and bid his guest good night for the evening. He gave them instructions that they were to celebrate for as long as they wanted. Of course Leon followed him immediately; Merlin decided he wasn't going to be able to shake him as they walked together. Henry had come back in giving Merlin a note as to where to meet Grettir and now Merlin found himself on the castle ramparts overlooking his Kingdom.

Grettir particularly ran to him and Merlin immediately bent down and hugged him. "Grettir it is good to see you."

"you too Magic,". Grettir pulled away and offered a hand to Leon.

"Grettir this is Leon, currently known as Duke Kay of Leinster."

Leon shook the offered hand, "Nice to meet you Grettir."

"Likewise Wisdom. I take it Courage is unavailable?"

"he's asleep" Merlin said.

"Does he know who he is yet?" Grettir asked.

That earned a shake of the head from Merlin. "I don't know. He is remembering some parts and I had hoped he would have woken today but you can never tell. When he does remember, well…"

Grettir smiled. "He may be a Pendragon but he is still your friend. You'll be fine."

Merlin scrunched his face up, "I hope so, but for now let's talk about you. Why are you with Princess Mithian and how did you call the Dragon to save you?"

"I didn't call him. He arrived and got me. He wasn't alone, he was with your cousin, Strength or as you know him, Gwaine. Gwaine and I found Mithian in a forest, we beat off several men. His magic was very useful as was mine and we managed to escape. Then Killgarrah arrived and we flew to Strathclyde first, Gwaine had work to do then we got here. Simple really."

"If you know that Gwaine has magic I take it you know about Leon here."

"Sire, it is Kay, we are in public remember."

"Leon, if you think I can't do a silencing spell without speaking now then you seriously don't know my magical talents. You don't need to worry ever again about casting." Merlin said mockingly.

"Fine. I was only looking out for you." Leon said.

"I know." Merlin smiled softly.

"As much as it is touching to see you two bonding, don't you want to know why Mithian and I are here?" Grettir asked.

"You just told us." Leon replied.

"For one who is Wise you are a bit dim sometimes. I said how we got here. I did not say why. I also want to know what you two are still doing here and why you haven't reclaimed the rest of your Kingdom yet. You do not have much time. Camelot is gaining in strength and there isn't many who can resist her now. Queen Annis is under threat; even Bayard and Odin are on a losing battle against the power Morgana now possesses."

"We know." Merlin said. "I'm meant to be signing a treaty with Annis. And of course I have Strathclyde to think about and the Diamond mine. Not to mention the Leprechauns I am now allied to. I bet you didn't miss the thousands of them camped outside."

"Well it's a good job Merlin that my people and I like them. Do not fear where Morgana is dark, you are the light. You have nothing to fear if you trust yourself and your brother here."

Merlin smiled, "Thank you old friend. It is good to see you and I am glad you are in one piece. You must rest though."

Grettir nodded, "Yes I want to see you win your tournament tomorrow."

Leon shot him a quizzical look, "You are well informed Grettir."

"Well your Uncle Garratt has been keeping me up to date. And I have the gift of sight as Merlin well knows. None of this is difficult for me Leon. You have nothing to fear from me. I only want to help."

"You have to excuse me, after Merlin's Grandmother was revealed to have been possessed by Nimeuh and then we both ended up dying and being stuck in a lake. Not to mention what happened to poor Arthur I am not exactly trusting of people." Leon said. He knew Grettir was probably just here to be helpful but that didn't stop Leon wanting to be careful, he had to be the protective older brother here.

"I know. Gwaine told me you would be over protective of Merlin and you would want to make sure everything was in order."

At the mention of his cousin Merlin decided to interrupt, "How is he?"

"He is well. He misses you but he is different from when I last saw him, more grown up. Wiser. I think he will do you proud Merlin." Grettir yawned, "You'll have to excuse me, and it was a long journey. I need to rest."

"Of course." Leon replied.

"I bid you both good night then." Grettir said, leaving the brothers behind.

Merlin was now peering over the ramparts looking at the town below; he could see the fires from the Leprechaun camp soft in the distance. Looking up on the dark clear side he fixated onto a star, was his father up there looking down on him? Was he proud? Would he be proud of what he would do to protect his kingdom? He would give his right arm to talk to him, to ask him what he should do, to ask what he would have done.

Leon saw how Merlin was becoming all reflective and quiet and settled in to standing by him, looking out over to Merlin's Kingdom, no their Kingdom. Merlin had made to abundantly clear to the world that short of making Leon his Queen he had made him joint ruler in all but name. It was a massive honor to become a Grand Duke and a Crown Prince. Yes he had been technically Crown Prince under Garratt but now it felt different, real. Merlin had basically pointed at him and said "that's my man" and Leon couldn't have felt more proud of them both.

The Duke then thought of the various visitors that had arrived. The Leprechauns were clearly nervous and he knew what it was like to think you've lost everything. When Morgana had seized control and he had been forced to watch innocent civilians suffer because he had refused to break his oath and swear loyalty to her he thought at one point that all hope had been lost. Then Arthur had arrived with Merlin and several new knights in tow and somehow against all odds they won. Of course he now knew that Merlin had saved the day with Lancelot and he was pretty confident that Merlin was going to save the day all over again, with him right there by his side.

"By your side." He whispered.

"What did you say?" Merlin said

"By your side. I was just thinking of the Leprechauns and how nervous and scared they looked, then I thought back to how Morgana took control of Camelot and you and Arthur returned. You saved the day with Lancelot by your side and now, I'm at your side as you save the day again."

"Oh thanks I guess. I do miss him you know."

"I do too. All of them. But you know we will see them again one day don't you?"

"I hope so. At the rate it's going Leon they will appear here any day now. I mean I may as well announce the castle's to be expanded to make room for everyone." Merlin let out a bitter laugh.

"People come here because they clearly believe we can help them Merlin. You should be flattered."

"They don't know me. They don't know what I can do, what I can become."

"Merlin. You can become anything you want when you put your mind to it but we both know I won't let you do anything stupid. "

"I know. You can't blame me for worrying though." Merlin yawned.

"I don't, If you didn't worry that would be odd. There's nothing wrong with the odd moment of reflection. Now you're tired. You need to sleep; you won't beat me tomorrow if you're asleep standing up."

"I can't sleep in my room. Arthur is in there. And we have no spare room, not with all the visitors and the Leprechauns."

"Sleep with me." Leon replied before realizing how that sounded and started laughing.

"You know I levitate when I'm nervous don't you?" Merlin said smiling.

"It's fine, just don't snore."

"I don't. There's one more thing I need to do."

"No you need to go to bed."

"Oh fine, I'll just have the Dragon's magic with me for another day then." Merlin said grinning, he knew what the response would be.

"You'll do no such thing. We will ride out now, meet him, get rid of it and then you're sleeping."

An hour later Merlin and Leon were in a clearing as the Dragon arrived.

"Congratulations your majesty on being crowned." The Dragon said smiling.

"Thank you and thank you for getting Grettir and Mithian to safety."

"They are part of your story young King. I never tangle with destiny when I can help it and that brings me to some news I have for you. The Norsemen plan to attack you soon as you know. However what you don't know is that there is a second army waiting to set sail and join them. You must act now, what happened to the Leprechauns is a warning to all Kingdoms."

"As is Mithian it seems." Leon added.

"Very wise. The great battle for Albion and Hibernia is beginning and both of you will be at the center of it."

"And what about Arthur?" Merlin asked.

"You and the Pendragon are destined to be together but it will not be easy. You know of the prophesies of the Ass and the Lion. You need to be careful Merlin because there are people who will seek to exploit the tensions on your relationship with him. A half cannot survive on its own, it must be made whole or it will die."

Leon did not like the sound of that. "Are you saying Merlin or Arthur are at risk of dying."

"You are both immortal, you think it and I do too. However for Arthur it is his fate to repeat his mistakes over and over until he fixes them. I cannot see every single future but I know that Arthur is at risk if he does not accept Merlin completely and I don't just mean his magic."

"You mean my land, my titles, my Kingdom don't you" Merlin asked.

"In some ways yes. The Pendragon has been used to being first amongst equals, he sees himself as the leader. Now he will have someone he cares about more powerful than him in every sense."

Merlin shook his head, why did he and Arthur have to be so complicated? "I didn't ask for this power. I didn't ask to be King. I could give it all to Leon if it helped."

Before Leon could refuse, Killgarrah cut in, "That is not necessary, just be prepared for Arthur to be stubborn and difficult. Now if you wouldn't mind, I could do with having the rest of my magic back. Some of us have been flying around all day and some of us have a tournament tomorrow. I must confess I wish I was there to see you trying and win a sword fight Merlin."

"He's going to be fine Killgarrah." Leon turned to Merlin, "He's right, time to give his magic up Merlin."

Merlin nodded and then began to speak "Ó Dragon, a chur ar ais a bhfuil mise, do dhroim draíochta a ghlacadh. Tóg ais do draíocht. Dragon draíochta begone, saoire dom, ar ais chuig dhuit Dragon#" A blue orb came out from Merlin's mouth and moved slowly over to the Dragon. It stopped, Merlin could feel a humming before the ball vanished.

"Is it done?" Leon asked.

"I think so." Merlin looked over to Killgarrah. "Is it?"
"Yes young warlock. Now I think it's time for some rest. I shall see you soon."

Once the Dragon was out of earshot Leon said. "I'm glad that's over." Before noticing Merlin was quiet again. "Merlin, the Dragon didn't say anything scary, for once he was helpful. He just confirmed what you suspected and what I definitely thought, that Arthur remembering wasn't going to be easy. Don't worry."

Merlin rubbed his eyes; it had been a long day. "I know. I can't help it. Let's go home." As soon as the words left Merlin's mouth Leon smiled. "I suppose it is home now isn't it?"

"Yes one stuffed to the rafters with refugees and guests. But one that has got some good points too." Merlin said as he was climbing onto his horse.

"Despite your meddling grandfather." Leon offered as soon as he had mounted his horse.

"Yes. I'll deal with him tomorrow. Then the next day we had better meet Annis and sign our treaty. What the Dragon has told us has made me more determined than ever. If we have to fight Morgana so be it. At a minimum we're going to defeat the Norsemen but I will get Arthur back on his throne and Mithian too now."

"I fear that we won't have enough men in time before the Norsemen attack to take back Ulster. Garratt told Gwaine and me all about the defenses before you returned" Leon said as they were beginning to ride back.

"Oh we're not going to attack them. Not traditionally."

"Oh so how then?"

"Ever heard of a Trojan horse Leon?" Merlin asked

"No can't say I have."

"Good job we have an hours ride in front of us then isn't it. I can tell you what I've been thinking and you can either give me the approval I want or not."

Leon was intrigued, what had Merlin come up with? Over the next hour he realized that his brother had stumbled onto a cracking idea and now he couldn't wait to implement it.

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#Oh Dragon, take back what is yours, take your magic back. Dragon magic begone, leave me, return to thee dragon