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A Change Of Destiny

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A Change Of Destiny

 

1

"You would have done well to let the prince die! The lady Morgana is the true heir of Camelot!" The dragon roared at him, and who ever would have thought that after little more than a week in Camelot he would have been conversing with a dragon! Everyone had known all the dragons had been killed during the great purge, but no apparently not. 

"What? How is that - but the prince? I don't..."

"He is dangerous, Merlin!"

"That's not - explain... please."

"Very well young warlock, listen...

Many years ago, before the great purge, even before the king's marriage to Ygraine, she was married to another ... Gorlois an ally of Uther's. Uther was a powerful man and he had long had his eye on the beautiful noble, he loved her and she him, so he contrived to send Gorlois of to fight in his war with Caerleon and to have him killed. I believe they could not wait to slake their lust however and a child was conceived before Gorlois' body was even cold.

To save face, and put an end to rumors of his misdeeds he refused to acknowledge the child as his, even after the mourning period which lasted only the length of time it took for the baby to be born he would not claim her as his own, even now he refuses it. Morgana a child born of the king and queen but a bastard for all that she was born out of wedlock.

The young prince however was not born from Uther's seed... he was born of magic."

Merlin didn't remember much more after that, not walking back to his new room or even if the dragon had added anything more to his story all he knew was his pulse racing, the blood rushing round his head, everything white noise.

How was any of this possible? Arthur... not the king's son but a child born of magic... and Morgana - the true heir. It didn't seem real, and though he had no reason to trust the dragon he also had no reason to question the tale he had told. Although it was possible that maybe the great beast merely wished to stir up trouble, but why fabricate such a tale? Why seek Merlin out for even if the dragon's words were true what had he to do with it?

He had thought that he would be unable to sleep with all that he had heard still running fresh through his mind, but once his head had hit his pillow...

He opened his eyes feeling like mere minutes had passed, preparing to roll over when he registered that his room was bathed in the soft light of predawn, he had slept through the night. Throwing the covers off himself he leapt from his bed searching his room with still sleep blurry eyes looking for a fresh tunic.

He had to talk to Gaius.

Racing down the steps into their main chamber fully washed and dressed five minutes after waking he was pleased to find his guardian already up, stirring something in a pot over the stove (his stomach and nose making vague protests against the thick gruel already). He slid into his usual seat at the table they used for meals, waiting until Gaius had sat down opposite him.

"Gaius... Um is it..." He stirred his porridge aimlessly trying to find the words he needed, "Is it - possible- for someone to be born... not of man, but of magic?"

He knew he had not imagined the way Gaius' face had blanched, which really was all the testament he needed but he still had questions and was still keen to hear Gaius' take on the whole thing for he had long been a friend of the king's.

"Why do you ask, Merlin?" Merlin just looked back with a pleading expression on his face, Gaius took a deep breath, gathering himself before letting it out again, "I really don't know how you heard about it but yes it is possible, though not the kind of magic I would advise anyone to use."

"Why? Is it dangerous?"

"Indeed, the power over life and death must always be kept in balance, it's one of the reasons it was only ever granted to the most powerful of magic users and even then they were trained extensively before they were allowed to even attempt such a thing. For a life to be created or saved the balance demanded repayment... A life for a life, for not even magic can create a life from nothing."

"So... if someone used this - power to create a life... then someone else must pay with their's" Merlin was silent a moment, spooning porridge before letting it plop back into his bowl untouched, while he thought. Then barely above a whisper, thinking aloud more than speaking, "Of course... the queen."

"What?" If possible Gaius' face lost even more colour with the softly spoken words of his ward.

"What?" Merlin looked up at Gaius, unaware that he had spoken aloud his thoughts, only to be met with a scarily high raised brow that demanded without need for words that Merlin had better explain himself. He swallowed heavily, "Um, did you know there's a dragon under the castle?"

"WHAT? Merlin I suggest you explain yourself, immediately!"

Ah, that was maybe an unwise way of broaching the subject but he had always been one to speak or act without thinking things through first, best to get this over with quickly then before he had to wake prince prat.

So Merlin told Gaius all of what had taken place the night before, the tale the dragon had told him and the warning that had been given him of the prince. Gaius listened with a mostly stoic expression, although every now and then a flicker of emotion would cross his face, sorrow, regret, pain, guilt and fear.

"Merlin, you can not tell anyone of this, you must promise me." Gaius waited for him to murmur his assent before continuing, "As for the warning he gave you, that... I do not know what to make of it. The prince is somewhat arrogant but I'm sure he has a good heart, I can not believe he is a danger to this kingdom. You have to understand that though the dragon is a creature of great magic he also has his own agenda, he has been locked up alone for a long time chances are he would do or say anything in the hopes of gaining freedom."

xxXxx

He was still lost in his own thoughts as he placed the prince's breakfast down on the table, before moving to open the curtains and wake the prince. This was his first (official) day as Arthur's manservant, he wasn't sure that being called for last night to carry bucket after bucket for the prince's bath counted as he was pretty sure that Arthur had only done it to assert his authority, and he wasn't really sure of the proper etiquette or even what his duties were beyond bringing breakfast and waking the prat.

He made his way over to the large bed and shook the prince's shoulder, "Arthur," The prince mumbled something indistinct before rolling over, "Arthur." He tried again slightly louder with a rougher shake to be greeted to a mumbled string of curses, he hastily took a step back from the bed as the king rolled over again and glared at him, he tried a shaky smile.

"Christ, you really are an idiot, did you at least fetch my breakfast?"

"Of course, it's on the table." He watched as Arthur dragged himself from his bed, fingers nervously playing with the cuffs of his tunic as he stood there feeling a little like the idiot that Arthur had just accused him of being, but well he really wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now.

"Are you just going to stand there watching me eat or are you going to actually get on with your job?"

"Well I would do if I knew what it was I'm meant to be doing." Merlin replied heatedly, he may be a warlock but he was not a mind reader thank you very much.

"To start with you can strip and make the bed, after that you will pick out my clothes and dress me, then depending on my duties and orders to you you will either accompany me or remain here and clean my chambers, sort and wash my laundry, muck the stables, walk my dogs, polish my boots, scrub and wax..."

The list went on and on and Merlin had tuned out, instead his mind was buzzing, how on earth was one person supposed to be able to accomplish so many tasks in the space of a day, when was he supposed to have time to eat? Was he even allowed time to eat more importantly, and what was that about dressing him surely the prat was capable of dressing himself... and why had he saved his life in the first place? He could not believe this was supposed to be seen as some sort of reward, it wasn't as though the pay he would receive accounted for the amount of work he would be forced to do, it may aswell have been slave labour.

"Arthur, you can't..."

"How dare you address me as such! You may address me as sire or my lord, you will me show due respect or I'll have you flogged."

"What?" He couldn't believe how badly this was going, perhaps he was still sleeping and this was merely a nightmare and any minute now he would awake to find that being 'gifted' this position was but a bad dream. He was starting to find it easier to believe the great dragon's words now, this prince would surely not make a great king (or even a good one) if he acted continuously as though he truly were better than all those around him. Catching sight of the murderous glint in the prince's eyes he quickly added, "My lord." In the hopes of appeasing him.

Not that he thought it worked all that well, the prince did however return his attention to his breakfast so that was something he supposed.

~~X~~

"This new comer seems to have made quite the impression on you Gwen," Morgana teased good naturedly, while Gwen was busy twisting her hair up in curls, sitting before the mirror watching her maidservants reflection she did not fail to notice the blush that spread across her friends cheeks.

"No, my lady, that is well he's made quite an impression on everyone, really, don't you think and well Merlin really is very nice. He's very friendly, maybe a little odd but in a good way... I mean."

"Gwen, calm down I was merely teasing you, though I'm more curious than before to meet this Merlin. Who knows how long he's likely to survive if he has to put up with Arthur."

"Oh, well I don't think he'll let the prince bully him, he has already stood up to him before. Actually I am a little worried, Arthur can be quite cruel you don't think..."

"Relax Gwen, how about you go and visit the prince to deliver a message for me. Tell him I wish for him to accompany me on a ride this afternoon, that way we can insure he doesn't kill the poor boy on his first day."

"Of course Morgana." Gwen beamed at her reflection and with the last ringlet pinned perfectly in place Gwen curtsied a little before leaving the room to hopefully deliver the message before Arthur had left his chambers.

Morgana was more than a little curious to meet this Merlin and wished she had paid slightly more attention to him during the feast the night before, when he had saved Arthur's life and been rewarded for his troubles. She snorted to herself, only Uther would see forced servitude as a reward, so what if the boy was a peasant, most others would have offered him some sort of financial reward, maybe even land or a title but no the great king of Camelot rewarded you with work, and not even well paid work at that.

It wasn't just that this peasant, who had seemingly come from nowhere, had saved Arthur's life it was also that he had stood up to the prince in front of a whole crowd and not only once but twice. That he did it the first time to save someone he didn't even know from humiliation and fear spoke volumes about this boys character, he may not be noble born but it was clear he held only noble intentions.

It was also clear that he had done enough to capture the attention of her friend, who before now had shown little interest in any man, and though Gwen was friendly to all she only ever rambled when she was nervous (something she hadn't done in Morgana's presence for many years, the two of them sharing a bond that was more akin to that of sisters than maid and mistress). Yes he would certainly add some spice to the monotony of life in Camelot, it was going to be fun of that she was sure, as long as they could keep Arthur from making the poor boys life too unpleasant, something which was probably an impossibility.

~~X~~

She could hardly tear her eyes away from the two figures as they made their way down the courtyard steps, arguing heatedly if she were to guess. Eyes fixed solely on the dark haired boy who instead of walking the acceptable two steps behind his master was keeping pace, even from this distance she could spot the dark look on his face, flicking her eyes to Arthur she was amused to find that his face was as dark as a thundercloud, oh this was going to be so much fun.

She waited until they were within hailing distance, "Arthur, so glad you could finally join us. I took the liberty of having the stable hands prepare your horses for you when it became apparent you weren't going to arrive on time." She teased and was instantly rewarded with his face darkening further.

"Well perhaps if I wasn't lumbered with such an incompetent fool I would have arrived on time!" He snapped in reply, pausing briefly to stroke his horses mane before mounting, she still watched Merlin from the corner of her eye as he looked on his horse with vague apprehension before he too went to pet his horse whispering softly in its ear. It was odd really how the pair both seemed slightly more relaxed than before, she knew well that horses picked up on their riders emotions so it was a good thing if a little strange that they should suddenly seem so comfortable with one another after a whispered word and a short pet (even if she had chosen the most timid of mares for him to ride).

"Well since you have cost us a good hour I suggest we leave before there is no point in going at all." With that she pushed her heels into her horses flank and led the way out of the city gates.

She glanced over her shoulder yet again, and could not help the small pang of sorrow that pierced her watching Gwen and Merlin talk and laugh freely, happily, as they rode along behind her and Arthur. She wished that she could make friends so easily, but she was barely allowed to talk to anyone, she was more like a precious trinket to Uther and not a young woman who wished to be able to enjoy her life. Other than a handful of people (most of whom were like family) she was just expected to sit and look pretty, although she supposed she should be grateful that Uther at least seemed to have no intention of marrying her off, she didn't think she would be able to handle being paraded like cattle at market.

With thoughts of marriage and nobility and the stupidity of all these rules she found her gaze once again drawn to the dark haired youth, what was it about him that tugged at her consciousness, did he feel it too? Shaking her head of such things she turned to Arthur, at least he had lost the thundercloud she assumed he needed the break from the castle's stifling walls just as much as she did.

"So Arthur, how are you enjoying your new friend? I hope your not being too hard on him, he did save your life."

"Yes, thank you for that Morgana I'm well aware, it does not however mean I should have to endure endless disrespect and insubordination. He'd argue that the sky was green if only to contradict me, honestly I don't know what father was thinking."

"Well I hear he's Gaius' ward, so you'd best not treat him terribly or else I'm sure Gaius would have words with Uther, we both know how the king feels about servants... but he does however respect Gaius, it was him who got Merlin released from the dungeons after all."

"Again I'm aware of that Morgana, I do know what goes on in my own kingdom. I'm not promising anything but I suppose I can at least give him the week to prove himself capable, if not then he'll have to go."

Morgana smiled the fact that Arthur was even willing to give Merlin a chance (despite their constant arguing and his supposed inability to do his job) told her that there was more than a glimmer of hope for Merlin maintaining his position, she might send Gwen to assist him later in learning the most important things to make his job easier. She also thought that perhaps she would go down to Gaius' herself this evening to collect her sleeping draught, she was merely curious that was why, it had nothing to do with the odd pull she felt towards him.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Change of Destiny

2

 

The knock on the door caused him to jump, heart pounding though he wasn't sure why he had been so surprised by this it was the physicians chambers and he knew that they could expect people at all times of day or night, but even before he got up to answer the door he could feel his magic fluttering and that odd pull he had first experienced this afternoon when they had gone riding with-

"Morgana."

"Good evening Merlin, I hope I'm not interrupting..."

"No," He exclaimed, probably a little too heatedly if the smile on Morgana's face was anything to go by, he could feel the blush starting on his cheeks, he cleared his throat "Um no, do you want to come in, are you okay?"

Morgana laughed a little, a happy tinkling sound that caused his mind to falter, "I'm fine, really, only well I dismissed Gwen early and forgot that I needed a new bottle of sleeping tonic."

Merlin watched as she glanced around the chaotic clutter of the chambers, her gaze lingering on the little table with his half finished dinner he had abandoned for the door, he shuffled nervously before reaching out to move his plate.

"You were eating, I'm sorry I can come back. Is Gaius not here?"

"It's fine I can finish it later, um Gaius is in the lower town an emergency, think it was something about an idiot drunk picking a fight with a wall." He grinned over at her, waiting until she had sat down before doing the same, idly picking at the remains on his plate, once again welcoming the warmth that accompanied her laughter.

"Well rather him than me." She giggled and for a moment Merlin wasn't sure which him she was referring to, "It must take a special kind of drunk to think a fight with a wall is at all fair."

"Hmm, I don't have to be a warrior or a trained physician to know who lost that one."

He couldn't keep the smile off his face, she may have been a lady of the court, Uther's ward (a princess his mind unhelpfully supplied) but she did not act like it instead treating him like an equal... a friend. It was very easy to sit here talking to her, though his magic still fluttered restlessly beneath his skin still it wasn't an altogether unpleasant sensation.

When a grumbling Gaius returned over an hour later he and Morgana were still sat at the small table laughing over a story Morgana had told him of a younger Arthur stalking of the training field having just discovered he had been bested by a girl, by Morgana of all girls. Merlin's laughter stopped abruptly at the disapproving eyebrow he was being subjected to and he quickly grabbed his plate and leapt to his feet, almost tripping over his own stool in his haste to appear busy (why though it's not like they were doing anything wrong, just talking, even if his blush would beg to differ).

"My dear Morgana, is everything alright? Your not unwell are you?"

"No thank you Gaius I'm fine, Merlin was keeping me company while I waited, I've run out of my sleeping draught and Gwen had already left."

"Oh let me just fetch it for you." He shuffled over to the shelves which were spilling there contents over so that rolls of parchment trailed along the floor, small bottles hidden beneath bundles of herbs, all the while they could hear him mumbling to himself as he sifted through the clutter in his quest for the right tonic, "Ah here we are my dear, your draught, let me know when you're running low."

"Thank you Gaius." Morgana gave the old physician a small kiss on his cheek and flashed Merlin a warm smile and a moment later she was gone, seeming to take all the previous warmth of the room with her. 

Merlin swallowed hard and purposely kept his gaze from the old physicians questioning looks as he quickly made his way to his own room.

~~x~~

The night was dark, the moon hidden behind heavy clouds, atop the hill to the west of the citadel the light from a thousand torches broke through the darkness like the worst kind of omen. The castle slept on unaware of the army massing, unaware of their single minded determination as they marched onwards towards Camelot's thick walls.

A voice smooth like velvet uttering a string of unintelligible words, soft as a prayer this was no prayer however but a curse as a loud booming of rocks split the quiet of the night, the warning bells ringing out urgently, more masonry being pulled by unseen forces from its foundations, a quaking tearing through the lower town. The screams of the people inside cut off abruptly.

Everywhere was chaos, the knights met with a vicious clash the opposing army and cold sweat dripped from their brows all that was known and felt was fear and confusion as buildings continued to collapse around them, it would be a miracle indeed if there were any left to great the dawn.

She was there, had been helping with injuries and fighting off any who came near (closing the eyes of a Camelot knight and sending a prayer with his spirit) a strong hand gripping her arm and pulling her to her feet, snarling words in her face, she could see he was talking but could not hear what was said as another crash split the night. Then her breath stopping in her throat, a familiar warm pull causing her eyes to snap up, looking over the shoulder of the man who held her so tightly.

No! She couldn't, wouldn't, let him risk himself, no, no, no. 

His blue eyes hard and determined, not even carrying a weapon her attacker sneered at her dark haired friend before readying his sword, she could hear nothing but his cruel, malicious laughter, as he turned his attention to Merlin, never once weakening his hold on her she could do nothing but scream at him, at Merlin, kick at her captor in a futile bid to free herself as the sword was raised and she squeezed her eyes shut tight...

"NO!" Morgana woke with a scream, tears and sweat running down her face as her whole body shook, "No, no, no. Please, please not... no." She curled into herself, pulling her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms tightly around them as she buried her head in the ring of them letting the sobs wrack her frame, she didn't even attempt to still her shaking.

She did not hear Guinevere enter the room but she felt her friends presence as she settled next to her and pulled her into a warm embrace, could feel Gwen's gentle hands stroking through her hair in an attempt to comfort her.

"Ssh, it's okay, it was just a nightmare Morgana, it wasn't real, ssh."

She wasn't sure for how long she stayed like that before she started coming back to herself, awareness of what was around her settling in her mind, she was safe in her room with Gwen at her side and though she now knew that it had been a dream it didn't ease the fear she felt and though she knew that it was irrational (not to mention improper at this time of night) she wanted nothing more than to see Merlin, to know that he was here and safe to she needed to reassure herself that he was alive before she would even be able to think about sleep.

"Gwen," She started shakily lifting her tear stained face to her friend and attempting a shaky watery smile, she knew how weak the effort was but was pleased to see Gwen smile in return.

"It was only a dream Morgana, here let me get you a drink." She let Gwen go as she tried to think of a way to see Merlin, she wasn't sure she wanted Gwen to know her firend would probably find it odd, not only that but she knew her friend had a crush on the young man and she didn't want Gwen to think... well, she wasn't even sure what she thought herself beyond feeling an urgency to see him.

She took the goblet of water Gwen handed her and let her friend continue her fussing for a while, until feigning a yawn she assured that she would be alright and thought that she was now ready to go back to sleep. She still waited a long time after Gwen had left before sneaking from her room, peering furtively around the door to ensure the way was clear and continuing her journey to the physicians chambers.

Chapter Text

3

 

He woke with a start, the sky outside still dark, he could hear soft footsteps coming through from the room beyond and slowly got out of bed with a mind to find out who was in their chambers so late. As he made his way to the door he heard the soft footfalls grow louder and by the time he reached his door and pulled it open he came face to face to the visitor, hand still raised to knock on his door.

"Morgana." He didn't have too much time to be shocked by her late night visit for as soon as he saw her face he could tell something was wrong, "What's happened, are you alright?" He moved away from his door, allowing her entrance to his room and shut it softly behind them, damn propriety he did not wish to disturb Gaius.

Morgana had sat on the edge of his bed, looking so lost that he could not stop himself from sitting next to her, too close, so close that his thigh was pressing against hers and it occurred to him that he was sitting with the kings ward (in his bed!) both only dressed in their nightwear. However he forgot all about that when she grabbed his hand in hers, her thumb tracing patterns on the back of his knuckles, and she breathed out a sigh.

"Oh Merlin," She almost sobbed out, "It was so horrible, and it was just so real... I had to make sure- had to see for myself..."

"Ssh calm down, I don't understand. What was real, what... did you have a bad dream?"

She nodded and scared green eyes looked up at him pleadingly, although for what he wasn't sure as he still didn't really understand what was going on. He knew that she suffered from terrible nightmares though as he had a few times delivered her sleeping draught, that was when she didn't come for it herself. He slipped his hand free and instead wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer he pressed a tender kiss to her crown.

"It's okay Morgana, you're safe... ssh it was just a dream." 

"But it was so real, I could hear the screams and smell the blood like I was there, and then - a knight he grabbed me and then... you were... and he was laughing and..."

With that she broke into renewed tears, clutching desperately at his nightshirt as she buried her head in the crook of his neck, he could do no more than utter soft soothing sounds, rubbing her back and repeatedly telling her it was okay. He wondered if she believed it any more than he did, he knew how realistic some dreams could be but for her nightmares to effect her almost on a nightly basis even with Gaius' tonic to aid dreamless sleep made him think that there was more to this maybe than just simple nightmare's.

Eventually her sobs subsided and she pulled away from him slightly, though they were still holding each other in a warm embrace, and he offered her a small smile, gently brushing her hair from her face.

"Feel any better?" He asked in a quiet whisper, almost as if a spell had been weaved and he feared the slightest sound would shatter it.

"Yes, thank you Merlin." The reply was just as quiet, he wondered if she could feel it too the soft warmth of magic.

The pull he always felt whenever he was around this amazing, kind, feisty, and absolutely stunning woman was so strong he felt as though he were being consumed, swallowed up by the intensity of her gaze. He knows that he should not give into it, but he also knows that he can't resist and not a moment later (even he is unsure who closed the meager distance between them) their lips are pressing together.

It's soft and gentle and his whole being is alight with awareness of this simple act, his magic is jumping across his skin causing his whole body to tingle, although that could be the kiss causing it he wouldn't know having no experience in kissing prior to this. He tilts his head slightly to find a better angle and gives a small gasp when he feels her tongue running along the seam of his own lips. He brings his other hand up to cradle the back of her head and pull her closer.

MoreMoreMore his whole being is screaming at him, but mother's a small faint voice in the back of his head, that sounds a little like his mother, chastising him how can he be doing this when not even five minutes ago Morgana was crying into his shirt, she came here to be comforted, reassured and now he is taking advantage of her vulnerability.

As soon as the thought registers in his mind he wrenches away, gasping for breath and notes how good Morgana looks like this, lips kiss swollen and eyes dark her lips parted and chest heaving as she tries to calm her breathing.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

"Do not apologize to me for that Merlin, please, I wanted it to- I do want it."

"We can't, at least not now." Morgana nods like she agrees but her dark determined eyes say the complete opposite but he decides to let it go for now and just enjoy this moment, still so close, his fingers idly playing through her long tresses of silky smooth hair, just breathing each other in. They stay sat like that for a long time.

Too long because by the time Merlin is following her to the main door of the physicians chambers a distressed Gwen comes bursting in creating enough noise to rouse even Gaius.

"Merlin! Morgana's miss..." Gwen cries before stopping short at the sight of her mistress.

"What's all this noise, Merlin what's going on?" The old physician sits up in his bed leaning on his elbows, he seems to be taking in the scene before him, "My lady, Gwen, is everything alright?"

"Everything's fine Gaius, go back to sleep." Merlin tells him and knows he will probably be scolded for talking to him like that later, but really Gaius getting involved is the last thing he needs right now. He doesn't even look at Gaius and already he can feel the weight of the disapproving eyebrow at his back.

"Yes, It's fine thank you Gaius, Gwen and I were just leaving, I only came for some more tonic and Merlin has seen to it so thank you both. Come on Gwen we may aswell try to get some sleep."

"My lady."  Merlin gave a small bow, "Gwen, see you in the morning."

He turned around slowly to find that yes Gaius was still giving him the eyebrow, he huffed a sigh and started heading back to his own room, "Not now Gaius, please, I need some sleep. No doubt Arthur has a million things for me to do tomorrow." He saw Gaius sigh out the corner of his eye but luckily the physician let him go.

Chapter Text

4

 

Merlin had not thought much on the dragons warnings about the prince for all that he had moaned about him in the beginning he had been his servant for long enough now to know that despite his prattish attitude and tendency to throw random objects Arthur was a good man. He had been his servant for almost six months now and though they still had their moments when they wanted to murder (or at least maim) each other, they mostly got along rather well.

Right now he was in the prince's chambers securing his armor, he could tell that Arthur was nervous, he already knew the prince did not wish to fight in this dual but he had already picked up the gauntlet, in front of the whole court, and Geoffrey had been unable to find any clause that could put an end to this fight.

"Just... I don't know, pretend it is not a woman you face, she is pretty handy with a sword after all she killed five guards getting in last night."

"I know Merlin, I just- I'm not sure I can overlook the fact, there is no honor in beating a woman."

"Arthur, she could kill you."

"Yes thank you Merlin, I'm well aware of that."

He handed over the prince's sword and dutifully followed him from his chambers and down to the tournament stands, where he watched Arthur in trepidation for what was to come. He knew there was no way this would be a fair fight, Arthur was all about honor and despite that the women he was facing was greatly skilled it did not alter the fact that she was a woman. He knew that Arthur would act all chivalrous and not fight to his full capabilities.

He also did not know anything about this woman, Gaius had been unable to shed any light as to where she had come from either, he kept asking himself why, why did this woman challenge Arthur, why was she here, now.

He knew he could not use his magic to interfere not with the king so close by, though he wasn't sure if that would stop him if it really did seem like Arthur's life was in danger, luckily he didn't have to worry too long about that as the fight was over pretty quickly, with the woman sparing Arthur's life.

All in all he was relieved it had ended without bloodshed even though he knew the prince would have to endure a long lecture from his father, Merlin had been present for too many of the prince's dressing downs, it was another of the things that had helped thaw his attitude to the blonde prat.

xxXxx

The evening found him standing in Arthur's chambers, trying hard to hold in the laugh that wanted to bubble out of him at the look on a very disgruntled royal prats horse manure covered face, he quickly made his way down from the chambers and through the courtyard, stopping via the stables to collect their horses before leaving through the city gates to meet the prince.

They had been riding for a long time before they arrived at a fork in the road and stopped, looking down both paths for any clue as to which way they were to go now, "So which way is it?" He asked.

"I don't know, she said the way would become known to me, although I don't know what she meant by that..." Just then Arthur's horse started shifting restlessly before heading off down the right hand path, "Well I guess now we know which way."

"We're following a horse... Great, why not."

The forest around them slowly gave way to more open ground and they could see ruins off in the distance looking little more than a grey blur mixed strongly with green, but he figured this had to be where they were headed, hopefully they would make it before nightfall he didn't want to think how much trouble they would be in upon their return even without adding extra days to their journey. Neither of them should be here and the king would probably have him flogged.

Entering the ruins he only caught a brief glimpse of Morgause before a thick impenetrable fog descended to wrap him in it's embrace.

"Arthur! Arthur..." It was useless, the fog seemed to suck all the sound from the world, he could not see anything, nor hear anything. He knew what this kind of fog could only mean magic but he had no way of dispersing it, nothing he had read about could help with this and he wished he had had more time to study his spell book. What was he supposed to do, everything suggested magic was at work but he didn't know how to clear the fog, also he had no way of knowing where Arthur was and what sort of danger he might be in... but hopefully, well Morgause had spared him in their dual, surely if she just wanted Arthur dead she would have killed him when she first had the chance- so hopefully...

He gathered his magic feeling it spread and grow and pushed out concentrating silently on clearing the fog, he could feel his energy draining and the fog was as impenetrable as ever, he slumped letting go of his hold on the magic, defeated.

Then suddenly the air started to clear, he had no idea how much time had passed but he was relieved to make out the figure of the prince heading back towards him through the clearing fog.

"Arthur! Are you alright? What happened?" 

Arthur had an unreadable look on his face, one Merlin had never seen before, he realized that he was unlikely to get any answers. The prince seemed to be radiating anger, his hands clenched into fists, the ride back to Camelot was sure to be a long one with this stony faced and silent prince.

**X**

(What happened in the fog) 

They had barely stepped foot inside the ruins before a thick impenetrable fog had swept over them, except that it wasn't. Arthur had the feeling that it was supposed to be but he could still see Morgause stood by the remains of an ancient stone table, although glancing behind him he could see nothing through the fog and he spared a brief thought for his servant, was the other boy okay although hopefully it would be enough to keep him from whatever trouble this was.

"Arthur you came, I'm so glad, come I have much to show you." He looked back towards the blonde woman sizing her up though he didn't get the feeling of ill intentions, her voice had been soft and he felt something deep within that compelled him to listen and slowly made his way to her.

"I promised I would, what is it that you want with me?"

"I have already told you, I wish to show you something... something that is vitally important, no-one else can know what I've told you here today." With that the blonde woman waved a hand, her eyes glowing gold and- 

It started as a weak shimmering, a mere outline of shape which slowly solidified into that of a beautiful blonde woman, blue eyes (so very like his own) that shone with love, dressed in a fine silken gown. Even without her eyes that were a mirror of his own there was something so overwhelmingly familiar about her, and despite the obvious use of magic he felt no fear, only a warm contentment.

"Oh, my darling boy!" The apparition breathed, taking a step closer he could feel his eyes pricking.

"Mother...?"

"Arthur... I am so proud of you, but I need to tell you-"

"What, tell me, please?"

"Uther is not who he claims to be, a long time ago before you were born he made a deal with Nimueh, a high priestess. He wanted an heir, even though we had Morgana... He was- not an easy man, my first child Morgause... he wished to be rid of her, so there could be no danger to his heir assuming the throne. I had her smuggled to the isle of the blessed and a loyal friend informed Uther of her death."

"What- what are you saying...? What happened?"

"I'm sorry Arthur... you were born of no man, you are my son and mine alone but for the magic and my sacrifice to give you life. Uther knew that for a life to be created another would be needed to pay the balance... that was my sacrifice and though I did not know about his deal at the time, seeing you here I know that I would have willingly given my life for you to live- live well Arthur."

"Wha- Mother... no, please... wait" He knew it was futile for her shape, even now as he embraced his mother for the first time, was beginning to waver become less solid and warm in his arms...

"I love you my son... " With those words echoing around his head she was gone... his mother, he felt the first tear slip through his closed eyelid and opened his eyes to see Morgause still opposite her own eyes filled with pain and remorse- his sister.

"Bring her back, please!"

"I'm sorry I cannot." He knew she was telling the truth and in a few short strides she had rounded the table and wrapped her own warm arms around him, he hid his head in her hair and let the tears flow.

He couldn't stop thinking on all that he had heard... God, his mother had been sacrificed for him... and Uther- Uther knew, he had caused his mother's death and she was right...he was no son of Uther's and frankly he was relieved about that now. He had always worked so hard trying to please and impress his father, nothing he had ever done had been good enough, so yes this- this was a relief, he did not wish to be the son of a man who would murder children and sacrifice his wife... he was a lying hypocrite and Arthur would make him regret the day he had ever made such a deal in the first place!

"My brother, Camelot has need of a new king, I think it is well past time. Enough have died at Uther's hands, if we work together I can teach you much and we can bring Camelot to it's knees before you raise it above all other kingdoms under the reign of a new king. We can make our mother proud... we will not let her sacrifice be in vain!"

"Yes- yes, you are right that man" He spat the word, anger making his body quake and he curled his hands into fists against his sisters back, "Needs to be stopped! I will not rest until he is gone from Camelot, I will kill him myself as soon as I return." He vowed.

"That may not be the wisest course of action, my brother, if it was known that he died at your hands then there may be those unwilling to bow..."

"I don't care! He will die and the people will yield, I am the sole heir..."

"But what of Morgana, the people know the rumors if there is any chance of the people turning on you-"

"I will ensure that does not happen, the king has no love for his people, and all these years that he has spent hunting down sorcerers while turning to sorcerery for his own ends, the people will rejoice at his death."

"Very well I will come to you in four days time, to help ensure your people's loyalty. I will aide you in the dark days ahead."

 

Chapter Text

5

 

Merlin ran as fast as his legs could go, all the way back to Camelot Arthur had been closed off and had barely looked at him, never mind spoken to him, but as soon as the castle had come into sight the prince had increased his horse riding as though they had a bloody dragon at their back, it was all Merlin could do to try and keep up. By the time he had reached the courtyard Arthur was already out of sight, Merlin had leaped from his horse, handing the reins of to a still startled stable boy and then began his mad dash in search of the prince.

It was the shouting and clashing of swords that brought him up short outside the door to the council chambers and without thinking he threw all his weight at the door only to be grabbed by a knight (sir Leon, he thinks it might be) and thrown back a little way, but Merlin is nothing if not determined. He may not know what happened with Morgause but he can tell from the sounds coming from within the room that unless some-one tries to stop them one of the men in the room will be killed, so he throws himself at the door again and once again is thrown back. 

"The king has ordered that no-one is to enter." The knight informs him (yep, definitely sir Leon.)

"They're going to kill each other!" Merlin yells, can Leon not hear the clash of metal? Leon pales ever so slightly at his words and doesn't stop him from trying to gain entry.

The scene before him is as he feared- Uther is unarmed, collapsed back onto a chair, Arthur standing over him, sword raised to deliver a mortal blow-

"Arthur! NO!" - The words are barely out of his mouth when he sees the sword plunge mercilessly into flesh, Uther's eyes widening before dimming- Arthur giving the sword another vicious thrust further in despite that the light has left the kings eyes, before pulling the blade free- blood dripping from its length onto the cold stone floor. Arthur slumps a little, he doesn't seem to be aware of anything.

Merlin is stood there looking on in open mouthed horror barely able to get his head around what he has just witnessed, he can see Leon stood equally as frozen in shock and horror out of the corner of his eye, and can't help but wonder what on earth will happen now...

The king is dead by his son's own hand, he's not sure what rules apply in situations like this but is pretty sure that crowns often tend to pass with blood shed, just another reason he does not envy royalty there status- who would want to live there lives fearing everyone including your own family.

"The king is dead- he was a liar and a hypocrite and he did not deserve his title. Leon have some-one clear up this mess and send for Gaius to take the body, also inform the council I wish to see them in an hour."

"Yes, sire." Leon gave a small bow before running from the room to fulfill his prince's, king's, wishes.

"Merlin you may leave me, I will not require you further today, oh and don't speak of this to anyone until all official announcements have been made, understand?"

"Yes sire." He bobbed his head, internally grateful to get the hell out of there and more importantly away from Arthur. He doesn't know this Arthur all he does know is that this Arthur terrifies him.

He pushes his legs hard, putting as much distance between himself and the council chambers as possible, paying no heed to where he is going, it doesn't matter where just so long as it is away.

~~x~~

Morgana was bored out of her mind, she and Guinevere had greatly missed Merlin and Arthur's company these past days, not that either would willingly admit that to the prince, she had also been worried for them, again something she would not admit- at least not to the prat anyway. She had witnessed Merlin's return, but he had been alone, this had sent her heart rocketing 'had something happened to Arthur?', and she had been determined to accost Merlin and find out what was going on, only neither boys had been in Arthur's chambers, nor had he been in his own chambers and so now she was wandering aimlessly round the castle (she had sent Gwen to check the kitchens)with her mind whirling with thoughts and worry.

As she had not been paying attention it should have come as no surprise when she walked right into some-one, what did surprise her though was the force with which she had collided with whatever- rubbing a bruised elbow and sitting up she noticed that what she had collided with was in fact Merlin who was also sprawled on the floor as a result of their crash. He was breathing hard as though he had been running and thinking of the force in which they'd hit each other it was a good guess that he had been running.

"Merlin! Are you okay, what's happened? Where's Arthur, is he okay?"

Merlin looked up at her, even from here she could see fear and guilt and a number of other emotions swirling in the depths of his bright blue eyes it did little to put her mind at ease, especially when she noticed a tear break free and make its way down his face before he harshly brushed it away.

"Merlin? Merlin, please... what's wrong?"

"I'm so sorry Morgana. I- I tried to stop him..."

"What happened? Tell me, please?" She begged, she didn't like this Merlin's whole demeanour was putting her on edge, she had a bad feeling swirling in her gut, sure that whatever she was about to be told was going to change her whole life as she knew it.

"Uther's dead- I'm sorry, really I tried, Morgana, it-I, was too late. I couldn't stop him."

"What- no, no, it's not- he can't... How?" Tears were now flowing freely down her own face, she didn't want to believe it but knew that for Merlin to be in such a state and to tell her such a thing then it must be true, but she didn't understand- she had had breakfast with him only a few short hours ago and he had been fine then so... "How?"

"Ar-Arthur..."

He didn't say anything more, instead pulling her into his arms, letting her cry out her grief on his shoulder. It didn't make sense and she would ask him for more answers later but right now it seemed as though her mind had shut down with grief. Uther may not have been the kindest or gentlest of king's but he was her father and he had shown her nothing but love, and now- now he was gone, and apparently Arthur was somehow involved, which made no sense either- Arthur had always wished to please his father, to make him proud, to prove that he himself would make a good king so why would he- what? What exactly happened?

She realised that merlin was talking to her softly yet urgently, though she hadn't heard a word, "Wh- what?"

"We have to go, we can't be found here Morgana, please I don't know what Arthur would do. He told me not to say anything, please, come on."

 "Where?"

He shook his head as though he didn't know either but didn't waste any time in pulling her to her feet and holding her hand used it to tug her down the corridors making their way through the castle towards her own chambers, she hoped that Gwen would be there waiting, she needed something normal and constant right now and although she was very fond of Merlin the state he was in himself was only heightening her anxiety.

 

Chapter Text

 

6

 

Gwen was over by the bed, smoothing out the fresh linens, she barely looked up as they entered the room but as soon as they were through the door Morgana ran and embraced her friend. Gwen after a shocked pause brought her own arms to wrap around her murmuring soothing nonsense before her eyes lifted and met his. 

"Merlin, what's happened, what's wrong with Morgana?" He winced at the anger in Gwen's voice, she almost sounded accusatory and though logically he knew her current state was not his fault it didn't stop him from feeling guilty, that perhaps he could have done more to stop Arthur, to save Morgana's father. Thinking about Arthur brought it's own load of conflicting emotions though.

He was finding it hard to believe what had happened, that Arthur could do such a thing without even considering the consequences of his actions. Not only that but witnessing Morgana's hurt was increasing his anger towards the prince. How dare he do such a thing! He realised he was shaking, and a warmth behind his eyes told him that any second now he was about to lose control in his anger. He couldn't risk that, couldn't risk hurting his friends or scaring them especially not now with the state Morgana was in. He fought hard to clamp down on his magic, feeling it reluctantly being drawn back into him.

"I-I." He wiped his sleeve across his eyes and drew in a deep breath as he straightened turning to face the door, "I have to go. I'm sorry."

"Merlin-" Gwen called out to him but he had already started pulling the door closed behind him and he did not acknowledge her.

He moved quickly, heading back to his own chambers, hoping that Gaius would be there. They needed to talk about what had happened and what the future would bring now that Arthur was to take the crown. He couldn't let that happen, no matter Uther's faults or whatever Arthur had discovered they could not let him take the throne, it would put the lives of others in danger. None more so than Morgana's and Merlin would die before he would let anything happen to her.

Gaius was not in their chambers when he pushed open the door though looking around he found the body of the late king on the patients cot with a blanket covering him. He remembered Arthur's words of a council meeting and assumed that Gaius was attending. He sat heavily on the bench at the table, his back to the body.

He wasn't sure how long he had been sat there when he heard the sound of people approaching, their heavy footfalls telling him that it was not Gaius, it didn't matter then who it was and he barely looked up as the door was pushed open. On seeing the uniform of Camelot's guards though he jerked his head round to fully take in the two men who were standing stiffly in the threshold.

"You are Merlin, manservant to the prince?" One of the men asked, a little needlessly in his opinion everyone in Camelot knew who he was so he merely nodded, eyeing them warily. "You are under arrest for treason."

He jumped to his feet as the other man approached him, his eyes bulging as he drew out a set of shackles, snapping them onto his wrists. Treason? What had he done, had Arthur found out he had told Morgana, it was hardly treason... or maybe it was he didn't know. He didn't know what to think about any of this.

He felt strong hands gripping biceps and pulling him to the door, nearly causing him to trip over. Through the castle and courtyard he was dragged along, feeling the stares of others on him as he was led to the dungeons. He was pushed into the first cell they reached, his shackles being secured to a short chain in the far wall.

After the guards had left he slumped dejectedly down the wall and discovered that if he wished to sit then he would have to keep his arms twisted overhead, not the most comfortable of positions, and yes he could easily use magic to remove the shackles he couldn't, he couldn't risk anyone finding out at least not until he had learned more about what was going on exactly.

He was pulled from his musings by the sound of clinking chains and footsteps, lifting his head and peering towards the bars of his cell he waited for their approach. He was even more shocked to see the man chained between the two guards, a bruise colouring most of his face that Merlin could see.

"Leon!" He called incredulously, and met the knights steady gaze only for a moment and then he was gone. He could hear the sounds of a cell being opened and more clinking chains before the guards passed by his cell again, though no longer with their prisoner. "Leon!" He called again, trying not to shout too loud, he did not want to draw attention to himself but he had to find out what was going on.

His call was met with silence and he wasn't entirely convinced that it was due to the other man being unable to hear him. He wished he could get out of here but only to discover what had happened in the few short hours he had been away from Arthur, he hated all this uncertainty, not knowing, it was driving him mad. Hopefully Gaius would come and visit him soon. He let his head fell back against the wall, welcoming the sharp pain it created as his head met stone and closed his eyes to wait.

 

~~x~~

 

 Morgana entered the council chambers in a swish of silk, it had taken Gwen almost an hour to calm her down but they had both decided the best thing to do was feign ignorance over Uther's death until it had been announced. They had learned of the council meeting from Leon and thought the best way to get answers was to attend. Most of the council were already gathered, Arthur was sitting in her father's chair at the head of the table and it took all she had not to throw herself at him in a rage.

He had killed her father, and now he sat in her father's seat as though nothing had happened, as though he was not the murderer he was. She narrowed her eyes slightly as she took her seat. She would hear what he had to say.

"Thank you for all coming at such short notice. I am afraid I have some very distressing news however... The king, my - father, is dead."

She did not fail to notice the slight pause before Arthur had pushed out the word 'father' and wondered what significance that held. She also noticed the collective gasp that went up at Arthur's words it had been a shock to everyone but Gaius apparently. She schooled her face into a mask of grief, which really wasn't hard considering Arthur's words had brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"Wha- How?" She asked, curious as to his version of events.

"I'm sorry, Morgana, I know he was always a father to you. The king was murdered, the traitors responsible are even now being placed under arrest and it pains me to say that they were members of this court, of the royal household, and I'm sorry that I did not see sooner what they truly were."

"You know who did this heinous act, my lord?" One of the council asked, she couldn't remember his name they were all the same to her, same boring personality's, same grey hair and beards. It did not matter, but who was being punished for this crime? Perhaps Merlin had got it wrong and it was some other unknown person who was responsible.

"Indeed I do. I'm afraid to say that Sir Leon and my own manservant have been conspiring against the crown, though for what purpose I do not know... yet, however they will be questioned as soon as we are finished here."

"You're lying!" Oh she hadn't meant to say that aloud, Arthur's glare was now fixed on her.

"You were not there, Morgana. I assure you I know what I saw, I do not doubt either of their's guilt."

"Why would they? I know Merlin, he would not harm a fly. And Leon has always been loyal to Uther, to Camelot, it makes no sense."

"Treason rarely makes sense except to those who are guilty of it."

"Gaius, you can't believe this." She implored the old man, begging him with her eyes to stand by her on this. The only sentence for treason was death, they could not let Merlin or Leon die.

"I'm sorry, my lady, but it seems Arthur witnessed the crime." She watched the old mans face, as tears of frustration clouded her vision, she got the feeling he was trying to communicate through his look alone, but whatever he was trying to convey was lost on her. She pushed her chair back angrily and stood to her full height, turning and facing Arthur.

"I'm going to the dungeons, to see Merlin and you can't stop me." Turning on her heel she stalked away, Gwen a step behind her. she heard one of the old lord's imploring Arthur to stop her, that it could be dangerous, she also heard Arthur's words before the door shut behind her, 'No let her go for now.'

She and Gwen quickened their pace as they hurried through the castle to the dungeons.

"I don't believe a word of it, no-one will ever believe that Merlin and Leon did this. I may not know Leon very well but I know he was loyal to Uther."

"Yes, Leon's a good man, he would never commit treason." Gwen must have noticed her questioning glance as she hastened to clarify, "My mother was a maid in Leon's father's service, I spent a lot of time there growing up and I know Leon well, he is a good man."

"Come on we need to talk to them, I for one did not like the sound of this questioning they are to be subjected to." Entering the dungeons she turned to the guards stationed there, "You're dismissed, go wait in the upper corridor."

After a brief uneasy hesitation, where she could see that they did not wish to follow her orders, they reluctantly left and she breathed a sigh of relief.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

7

 

Merlin's was the first cell they came to, he was sitting with his knees up, his chained wrists shackled above his head, other than that though he looked fine, there was no evidence that he had been questioned or mistreated. She knelt on the floor as close to the bars as she could get, ignoring the filth that would ruin her dress, and felt a tear slide down her cheek. His big blue eye's looked back at her and she wished these bars were not in her way so that she could go to him and wrap him in her arms. 

"I'm going to find Leon, my lady." Gwen told her, probably with a curtsy, though she didn't turn round or even acknowledge her friend instead just fighting the waves of sorrow and anger.

She wanted to scream, to rail at the world and how unfair it was. She felt like tearing her hair out and crying in frustration, but she swallowed it all down because those things would not help, not in the least. Her world was crumbling, the man she had come to see as her brother was a murderer, not only was he a murderer but he had locked up innocents in a bid for others not to know of his guilt. The worst thing was, there was no remorse, she had seen the challenge in his eyes the defiance to prove what she was saying and knew that she had no evidence, how could he do this to her... to Merlin?

"Morgana, you have to leave, it isn't safe for you in Camelot anymore."

"What? No Merlin, I'm not leaving, we'll find a way to get you and Leon out of here."

"No! Look, I'll be fine, alright and I'll be even better when I know you're far from here. Go to my mother, take Gwen with you but you cannot stay!"

What was he talking about, why couldn't she stay here. Yes obviously Arthur had lost his mind but this was her home, not only that but what would happen to all the people she loved, and all the people of Camelot, if she just ran away and left them with Arthur? 

"No, Merlin, I don't know what has happened to Arthur but I can't leave, I won't!"

She heard Merlin sigh but she could see the small smile he was trying to hide, it seemed he knew she would not give in, she felt an answering smile pull at her lips. If he was still smiling then she could only hope that things would get better despite Arthur's plans. Perhaps once her brother had slept on it he may come to his senses.

They were still smiling softly at each other when they heard the sounds of approaching feet, the clink of chainmail. She whipped her head around peering out to the dungeon entrance and saw two guards approaching with Arthur and the dungeon master. She quickly scrambled to her feet, shooting Merlin a quick panicked glance, not that he could yet see who had just entered but the dungeon master was notorious for drawing out confession times.

"What's he doing here?" She demanded of Arthur hoping that her voice didn't give away how scared she was.

"I told you at the meeting Morgana, the prisoners are to be questioned as to their motives. Although you, and your maid, seem perhaps a little too friendly with people who murdered my father, maybe they were carrying out your order's..."

She opened and closed her mouth, but nothing came out, she felt sick, could feel bile clawing at her throat and blinked a tear from her eye no longer daring to meet Merlin's gaze. What could she do, how could they get their friends out, and the truthful answer was they couldn't at least not now, not until questioning was over and who knew how long that would be or what state it would leave her friend in.

"I suggest you and your maid leave now, Morgana. Guards, open the cell!"

"No!" Morgana stood in front of the door, trying to block their access, and felt Gwen come and stand at her side, she subtly reached for her friends hand and squeezed it in a vice grip. It was too late she already knew, they both did. At a nod from Arthur the guards each grabbed her and Gwen, pulling them away from the door, and in the back ground above her own hoarse yells she could make out Merlin shouting for them to stop. 

"Put them in the cell for nobles until the interrogation is complete." Arthur ordered and her and Gwen were dragged away to the largest, cleanest cell.

 

xxXxx

 

Merlin was glad at least Morgana was not here, though it was little comfort knowing that she was locked in the dungeons aswell. He was trying to think if there was any way out without using his magic, and barely even noticed when his feet stumbled as the guards dragged him along to the torture chambers. Whatever happened he could not leave Morgana, Gwen, Gaius or even Leon and if he escaped now using his powers then he would never be able to get to the others on time, maybe Leon and perhaps even Morgana and Gwen but there was no way he would ever make it to Gaius.

The guards released him from his shackles and he automatically rubbed at the irritated skin of his wrists, before he was pushed down into a chair and his hands were instead shackled to the armrests. The hulking form of the dungeon master squatted down in front of him and he turned his head away, looking instead to Arthur who was leaning casually against the wall, not at all wanting to see what was in store for him.

He felt his fingers being splayed out and cool rough metal scraping his skin and couldn't help but jerk his head down to look. Oh. He felt the blood drain from his face, and squeezed his eyes shut as the screws were tightened to enough to keep the device in place. 

"So Merlin, why did you murder my father?"

Instead of the nervous panic which had begun to take over, he felt his anger flare. That's what this was? That's what all this was about?

"I didn't and you know it!" He shouted out, and then felt the metal encasing his fingers tighten, not enough yet to break bone but enough that it hurt. He gasped and between one breath and another it was suddenly Arthur's face before him. A cold cruel look he had never seen before gracing the blonde's face.

"First Merlin, you will confess, as will Leon." Arthur's voice dropped low, so only the two of them could hear what was said next, "Then Merlin, I'm going to burn my sister as the witch that she is, though I might just keep you alive long enough to listen to her screams."

...

He finally cried out in pain when he felt the first bone break, though he couldn't tell from which finger the pain came from as by now his hands were nothing more than agonized swollen lumps of meat at the ends of his arms, but that first break was agony, even more so for the drawn out anticipation. As much as he hated to admit it, especially under these circumstances, but the dungeon master clearly deserved his reputation for drawing out punishments.

"That's enough of that, secure him to the post, I think fifteen lashes ought to loosen his tongue, hmm."

"You're a ... sick ... bas ... bastard!" 

"That's no way to talk to your king Merlin."

His arms were pulled overhead, his wrists and hands flaring with pain as he was secured to the whipping post, he felt the sharp point of a blade brush the skin of hie lower back for just a moment before his tunic was split and then torn apart, exposing his skin to the frigid air. He shivered involuntarily, closing his eyes and biting his bottom lip, until he felt something nudge his cheek, though even after opening his eyes he wasn't sure what it was he was looking at.

He heard the heavy sigh of the dungeon master before the mans deep voice uttered a single command, "Open!" Looking at the wooden board held in the mans hand he realised it was actually in his best interests to obey.

He opened his mouth and felt the wood slide into place, stretching his lips and causing saliva to dribble down his chin, he kept it held between his teeth though. It really wasn't in his best interests to end up biting his tongue off.

The first lash burned a line of fire down his back, though it wasn't as bad as he feared his body still attempted to twist away from the source despite being firmly chained in place. Another plus of his mouth being restricted was that his cries were at least muffled.

...

By the tenth lash his legs had give out, his whole weight dangling limply from bloody manacles. His back was burning, each trickle of blood into one of the other wounds stung like nothing he had ever known.

His vision was swimming, black dots dancing around the edges and gold sparks flaring bright. He could feel his magic writhing to be released, to end his bodies torment, and all of his remaining faculties were spent concentrating on keeping it in, tamping it down.

"Fifteen!"

"Alright. release him. It's time we made a start on questioning Leon, you know what to do with him. I'll meet you back here with the other prisoner shortly."

He heard people moving but wasn't paying attention on what was going on around him, instead just trying to get his feet back under himself before he was released and left to crumple to the ground, he was innocent and whatever was next he would face with as much dignity as he could.

He was led to a small dark room, only a small barred window in the heavy wooden door letting in the faintest glimmer of light. There was pain in his hands again, angry and all encompassing as his arms were once again raised above his head. He felt his thumbs pull from their sockets as his weight pulled them, and he let out a pitiful whimper. He was slowly loosing his fight with consciousness, almost welcoming the oncoming oblivion when freezing cold water met the searing burning of his torn back, making him jerk, shooting tendrils of pain racing along his body.

The heavy wooden door shut with a bang and he was left blissfully alone, his toes barely scraping the floor, his arms both numb and yet the only thing he could feel. 

He knew he didn't have much time to get the others out, but he could hardly rescue Leon while he was with the king, he would need to wait a little longer, besides he wasn't sure at the moment that he was capable of doing anything much.

Just before he blacked out there was a brief flash of gold in his eyes and his body crumpled unceremoniously to the rank floor.

Chapter Text

 

8

 

xxXxx

Merlin came to slowly his eyes blinking open as he groaned in pain, it took a minute for his muddled mind to remember where he was and what had happened but once he had he tentatively curled his hands into fists. Well that was something at least, he had apparently been unconscious long enough for his magic to work on his injuries though his whole body still ached with the memories.

Realising that his injuries where all but healed he slowly pulled himself to his feet and looked around the dark room he was in, no matter how hard he strained his eyes he could make out nothing in the blackness.

"Leoht." He murmured into his hand and a glowing orb appeared, as he blinked to readjust his eyes after the sudden brightness he could finally make out the door, stumbling over to it he put his ear up against the thick wood straining to hear any noise beyond. On hearing nothing he held his hand to the lock and with a muttered, "tospringe" the lock clicked open almost deafening in the silence.

Great he was out, now he just needed to find the others, it was when he was halfway down the dank corridor that he heard it, the sound of screams but these screams were high pitched and very definitely female.

"Morgana," He breathed on a whisper before picking up his pace.

 

~~X~~

Morgana had no idea how long she and Gwen had been locked in this cell but it was long enough that the screams they could hear had changed and it was obvious to her that it could only mean they had finished their 'questioning' of Merlin and moved on to Leon.

She was tired, she had spent the whole time they had been locked in here pacing and nervously chewing at her fingernails along with the occasional angry outbreak of yelling and kicking futilely against the door while Gwen sat huddled on the floor watching her nervously after all her attempts to calm her down had been unsuccessful. She felt guilty actually after a while of Gwen's soothing voice she had lost her temper with her beloved friend and screamed st her even though she knew none of this was the others fault, it was just that she hated feeling so... so... helpless.

It was only when the last scream cut off abruptly into silence that she let herself slump to the floor, emotionally exhausted, she buried her head in her hands and tried not to let the anguish and pain consume her.

What seemed like only minutes later she heard the sound of approaching footsteps, causing her to leap to her feet facing the door, when the door opened she was met with the cold uncaring eyes of her brother, and for the first time in his presence she felt genuine fear grip her heart.

"Restrain them." Arthur ordered.

"What? Arthur? How dare you, unhand me now!" Morgana shouted, she looked over to Arthur and once again felt that shiver of fear, there was something about his eyes the cruelty in them, the hatred.

Arthur stepped close to her, the guard respectfully turning away but keeping the tight hold on her wrists. Her brothers breath washed over her face, and she couldn't help thinking that it should be rancid an imitation of his soul not sweet like honeyed wine, still she turned her face away.

"You will not prevent me from taking what is mine." His voice was barely a whisper as it brushed against her ear. His hand came up and gripped her chin forcing her to look at him, the wicked smile gracing his face.

"Start with her maid." He grinned, though there was nothing friendly or warm about it.

She turned towards Gwen, ready to shout and rail against those men holding them when the guard gripping Gwen suddenly raised a fist and brought it crashing into her friends face, she watched, horror-struck as her friend's knee's buckled under the force of it, had it not been for the grip the guard still had on her Morgana was in no doubt that her friend would have crumpled to the floor.

It was only when the guard raised his fist again, Arthur's eyes never leaving Morgana's face with that sadistic smile still in place, that Morgana finally found her voice and adrenaline flooded her system.

"NNNoooOOOO!" She screamed, kicking at the man holding her and wrenching her whole body in an effort to get away. Her head was starting to pound with the blood and adrenaline pumping round, the pressure building up until she felt as though her whole body was going to combust with the heat rushing through it. Her eyes were stinging whether from tears or something else she didn't know, just carried on screaming and kicking, her vision blurred so much that she could no longer see the blows raining down on her friend.

Until finally all the pent up emotion, the building pressure, exploded outwards in a shockwave of power. 

 

xxXxx

When Merlin finally skidded to a halt at an open cell door, the largest cell which was often reserved for nobles who had committed crimes, his jaw dropped open in shock. There just beyond the door stood a shaking and terrified Morgana, Gwen was on the floor, whether unconscious or not he couldn't tell, and slumped up against the walls were four guards and Arthur all of which were clearly unconscious.

Looking to the terrified young woman it didn't take a moment for it to click in his ind what had happened, it was obvious. Morgana's long dormant magic must have awoken, but there was no time for that not now anyway. dashing into the room he gently picked up Gwen from the floor and as he passed Morgana on the way to the door he brushed gentle fingers against her wrist, pulling her from her shock and fear, her wide eyes meeting his before she looked away and quietly followed him from the room.

"Grab the keys Morgana." He requested, knowing he could use magic to open and lock doors but not feeling this would be the best time to reveal himself to her, he waited patiently as she grabbed the keys from Arthur's belt and locked the door behind them. It wouldn't stop Arthur but it would certainly help to slow him down for a while. 

He placed Gwen on the floor outside the cells and turned to Morgana, who still in a state of shock had yet to speak. "I need to go and find Leon, will you be alright? I won't be long." He didn't want to leave her in this state especially not with only an unconscious Gwen for company but they could not leave Leon to the sadistic whims of the 'king'. He received a barely perceptible nod from her before he turned back and made his way back into the darkest reaches of the dungeons. 

 

Chapter Text

 

xxXxx

 

Goddess, he loved having magic, without it there is no way he would even be capable of standing now, never mind running. He ran as fast as the winding corridors of the dungeons allowed, occasionally skidding as he came upon a corner only just managing to prevent himself from crashing into the walls, but he kept going, fear lending him speed. Until finally he skidded to a stop outside the familiar door from earlier, ah the 'interrogation' room.

"Tospringe." He murmured, eyes flashing, and he opened the door easily. The metallic scent of blood hit his nostrils immediately, making his stomach twist unpleasantly along with the thought that some of that's mine. He allowed himself a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dimness inside, and slowly made his way forward, his nose wrinkling in distaste as he caught sight of sir Leon bound similarly to how he himself had been not too long ago. He registered the tensing of the others muscles and realised that with the blindfold Leon probably assumed it was the king or torturer returning.

"Leon," He whispered, the knights head whipping round trying to locate the soft voice, "It's me Merlin, I'm going to get you out, okay?" He waited for Leon's nod before approaching any closer and gently, but pointlessly, rattled the chains around the others wrists. This was mainly so Leon would believe Merlin had the key, his eyes turning brilliant gold and the chains fell heavily into his hands. He dropped them quickly with a look of disgust and automatically held onto sir Leon's arms as he swayed a little on his feet.

Still he couldn't help the thought that Leon was lucky he was so tall, he at least had already had his feet on the floor. When the other man seemed a little steadier Merlin lifted his arms to quickly remove the blindfold.

"Are you alright?" He shook his head at the seemingly stupid question and rushed to clarify, "To walk, are you alright to walk?"

Leon nodded slowly testing his footing, "Yes, but perhaps I might need a hand."

Merlin nodded and slid one of Leon's arms across his shoulders, his other went to the mans waist, holding him steady. "Alright, we need to get the girls. Come on." He gently led Leon from the room, into the twisting maze of the castle's dungeons.

 

~~X~~

 

 

Morgana looked up, masking the fear that she felt, as she heard the sound of approaching footsteps she hoped it wasn't guards or worse Arthur, even though she knew that was unlikely. The king was right now locked within his own cells and probably wasn't likely to be discovered until the guard shift changed.

She couldn't stop the sigh of relief that escaped her lips, though, upon seeing Merlin and Leon rounding the corner, the latter leaning forward slightly as Merlin supported him. She squinted her eyes, she knew Merlin was stronger than he looked and that he had an inner determination that could rival the strength of steel but still, someone who had spent so long at the hands of that monster really should not be capable of such a feat. In fact he didn't seem to have a mark on him, unlike Leon and Gwen. Well it was something she could think on later, when they were far away from here.

"Morgana, can you manage Gwen?" Merlin asked her, not even giving her a chance to respond, "We're going to need some weapons." 

She looked up at him in disbelief, arching an eyebrow, and glancing pointedly at Leon. With her carrying Gwen and Merlin supporting Leon how the hell were they supposed to even use weapons if they did have them.

"What?" He arched an eyebrow of his own, "We're going to need them when we get to the upper levels, there'll be guards and knights."

He was speaking as though he thought her mind was addled, and she had never believed that she would one day maybe agree with Arthur, even now she couldn't quite believe it but well perhaps Arthur was right in regards to Merlin's idiocy.

"Merlin," She spoke slowly, as though to a small child incapable of understanding, "There are hidden tunnels leading right out to the border of the forest, we don't need to go through the citadel at all."

She noticed a slight dimming of his eyes before he nodded and settled Leon more firmly against his side and motioned her to lead the way, falling into step just slightly behind her.

She followed the twisting corridors occasionally taking a right or left, descending further stairs, going deeper until stone floors gave way to soft earth. Then finally after what seemed an eternity they were out of the hidden grate and in the fresh air. She breathed in deeply gently helping Gwen, who had come around a little way back but was still dizzy and disoriented, to the ground, noticing Merlin do the same with Leon.

They would not be able to rest for long but it was obvious that they all needed the respite no matter how brief. Gwen was still fuzzy, her eyes slightly glazed as she stared at nothing, no doubt suffering a concussion. Leon was swaying slightly where he sat, his arms cradling his ribs.

She looked up in alarm as she saw Merlin turn back towards the grate. "Where are you going?"

He turned to look at her, fidgeting a little but his voice was confident when he spoke, "I'm going to get Gaius." He turned away once again and her eyes filled with tears.

"It's too dangerous, you can't." She hated the pleading in her voice but how could he go back in there? It was suicide, surely. He had looked back at her biting his lip, a frown forming on his brow, then smoothing out into a look of concern no doubt due to her tears that she had been unable to hide.

He dropped to his knees beside her, and she closed her eyes as she felt his soft fingers gently caressing her cheek, wiping away her tears. His voice when he spoke was full of despair, begging her to understand, and she half wished she didn't understand but she did. "I can't leave him." 

She opened her eyes and met his, green on blue, and she nodded briefly offering him a shaky smile to let him know that she understood.

He pressed a soft chaste kiss to her lips, her eyes automatically fluttering closed. "Head into the trees and cover your tracks, meet me... at the old ruins" Another feather light press of his lips and when she opened her eyes he had gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

xxXxx

 

He went unnoticed through the citadel and once again rejoiced in his magic as he made his way to the quarters he shared with Gaius, hoping that no-one had yet discovered the king and his men locked in the cells. His heart was beating erratically from fear and adrenaline, and he hoped that sometime soon he would be able to eat and sleep but that would all have to be later. He paused outside the door, listening intently in hopes of determining if Gaius was there.

Hearing nothing he steeled himself for what he may find and pushed open the door, releasing a relieved breath when he spotted Gaius dozing in a chair by the fire. He quickly rushed over to the older man and reached out a gentle hand to shake him.

"Gaius."  

Gaius' eyes peered at him blearily for a moment, no doubt still caught up in sleep, before bolting upright and clutching Merlin's arm.

"My boy, I'm so happy to see you."

"Me too, but we haven't any time Gaius, we need to leave-now." He moved away from his father, rushing around the room throwing a few things into a pack, bandages, medicines, herbs, food, only the essentials before heading back to Gaius. "Come on, the others are waiting for us we need to be quick."

"What happened to the king?" Gaius asked as they slipped quietly down the stairs to the courtyard. They had just reached the bottom of the stairs when the alarm bells started ringing.

He stuck his head around the door, eyeing the courtyard for knights and guards, and sent a wind whipping through, blowing out the torches. He grabbed onto Gaius' sleeve and pulled him out, both of them keeping low, and using magic to distract any who came too close to discovering them.

They headed towards one of the small side gates in the city walls, knowing there would be no way to make it through the main gate undiscovered, especially with the citadel on high alert. There were only a couple of guards and Merlin easily sent them chasing phantom noises until they were lost from sight, after that it was easy to sneak through the gate, making sure to relock it after, and made their way to the trees.

 

~~X~~

 

She tightened her hold on Leon, Gwen struggling to support the knights other side, she knew that really he wouldn't be able to keep going for much longer, not knowing how severe the knights injuries were but he had started to flag a while back and she couldn't think how long it would take them to reach the ruins.

In the distance she could hear the ominous clanging of Camelot's warning bells and her breath hitched as her chest constricted, what if Merlin had been caught, she never should have let him go... screaming, Merlin screaming, her mind taunted her with the echoes of his yells, why had she let him go knowing he himself was injured, now if anything happened to him it would be her fault.

Blinking away tears she once again shifted her grip, the three of them stumbling through the dark trees, ever onward, there was no going back, never again, not for any of them.

Chapter Text

 

 

~~X~~

 

She was scared, terrified really, they had had to stop, even knowing they couldn't really afford to but Leon was unable to go on any further and she and Gwen were both struggling now that the fear and adrenaline had abated slightly. It didn't help that they didn't seem to have made it very far from the cities walls either, being close enough that they could still hear the resounding clang of the bells.

Gwen was breathing deeply beside her, head in Morgana's lap, sleeping fitfully, Leon laid out beside her, she could see his eyes were open, that he was awake but neither of them spoke.

She was too worried for Merlin, and Leon was too lost in the pain his body was suffering, so neither of them heard it when close by there was a snap of a twig, followed by an all encompassing silence, perhaps if they had been more aware of their surroundings instead of being lost to their own thoughts they may have noticed the moonlight reflecting of metal all around them but as it was they didn't.

They didn't notice anything until the threat was already upon them.

 

xxXxx

 

He peeked over the top of the trees roots watching as a patrol of knights rode out of sight. He exhaled in relief, collapsing back down to Gaius' side.

"They're gone. Come on, we have to go, Morgana and the others will be worrying." He got to his feet, hand extended to help pull Gaius up and they both set off at a quickened pace through the trees.

"Are you sure it's not you whose worrying." Gaius responds with a knowing smile, causing him to blush. He's thankful that its dark enough under the trees that his father won't see it, though its hard to hide the smile that breaks out on his face as he thinks of Morgana.

"Gaius, they are only three and two of them are injured." He says sternly instantly feeling guilty as Gaius' face blanches.

"Well, we had better get moving then." 

With that the two pick up their pace, Gaius moving at a speed Merlin would have thought him incapable of, but the news that there are those injured to be tended to has lit the old mans fierce determination as though he were travelling on a road of hot embers and Merlin hurries more just to keep up.

 

The ruins when they arrive appear deserted and he curses out loud, where could they be? Why aren't they here? Then slowly other figures come forward, too many for it to be their companions, few enough that it is unlikely to be a patrol. They all seem to be wearing hooded robes which does rule out the knights however they could be bandits or anything. He gathers his magic ready at his fingertips and settles into a defensive stance.

"Who are you?" He questions, while he subtly pushes Gaius back behind him, "Where are our friends, what have you done with them?"

"Peace, Emrys, we mean you no harm." A soft voice spoken from beneath the folds of a large hood before tanned hands pull the hood back and Merlin sees a man in his middle years with lightly greying hair. "I am Iseldir, these are my brothers, we are the leaders of the druid clans and only wish to aide you Emrys."

"My name's Merlin, and you still haven't told us where our friends are."

"I am sorry to say that your friends did not make it to here, I would think by now they are back in the dungeons of Camelot."

Merlin's heart seizes at those words. This is all his fault, he never should have left them alone. He should've made sure they were safe before going back for Gaius, even though he knows that had he left Gaius in Camelot when the king was finally freed from the cells it would have been too late. But now Morgana... Gwen and Leon are back there - with Arthur.

This new version of Arthur terrifies him, he doesn't know what will happen to his friends but he must try and help them, needs to. He cannot and will not let anything happen to Morgana, or any other innocent under this cold new king.

"We have to help them!" He is mainly talking to himself and is surprised when he gets a response from the druid.

"Yes, Emrys, but first you must prepare. You will not be able to sneak in to the citadel again and there are those who would help you, should you ask it."

"Okay, so you would help me then?"

"Not only would the druids aide you but also Kilgharrah and his Lord would be willing to lend their aide in this. You must travel over the border into Cenred's land to find the dragonlord Balinor."

Merlin has no idea who Kilgharrah is or this lord, but help would be welcome. It is Gaius' shocked gasp at the last name that pulls him from his musings and he turns to face his father with a questioning look.

"You know this man Gaius?" he asks, Gaius looks as though he's just seen a ghost his face pale and eyes wide in disbelief. "Gaius?"

"It was many years ago now, Merlin." Gaius says evasively and Merlin wonders what it is he is trying to hide then brushes it off as unimportant. All that matters is saving their friends, so he turns back to the druid.

"Okay, so where can I find this Balinor?"

 

Chapter Text

 

Merlin couldn't help but feel slightly nervous as he made his solitary way through the unfamiliar forest. His thoughts were spinning wildly, his heart pounding in his chest, not even paying attention to his surroundings as he once again thought back to what Gaius had told him the night before...

"Merlin, have you never heard the name Balinor?"

"No,"

"Your mother never mentioned him?

"...My mother?"

"She took him in."

"She stood up against Uther?"

"Yes."

"Huh, well she was brave."

"Yes... when Uther discovered where Balinor was, he sent knights to Ealdor to hunt him down. He was forced to flee."

"Why did my mother never tell me any of this?"

"Merlin, I promised her I would never speak of these things..."

"Of what?"

"I've always treated you as my son, but that is not what you are... the man you are going to look for... is... your father."

"...My father?"

"Yes."

He could hardly believe that he was finally going to get to meet his father, his mother's unwillingness to ever talk of his father had left him with nothing but all sorts of assumptions in his mind. He was used to being called a bastard and being belittled because of this to find that his father was still alive and a dragonlord was nothing short of a complete shock to him. In all his imaginings, this fact was something never contemplated... he wondered if this was why the great dragon had chosen to talk to him, did the dragon know?

He supposed that no matter what this Balinor was like, whatever the reason why he had never returned it was at least a relief to know that he was not the product of an attack on his mother, which had often been his worry. At least now he knew, and soon he would get to meet the man who sired him.

He was anxious and nervous, scared and giddy, too many wild emotions taking over, and above all a measure of guilt that he was spending time worrying about something so personal while his friends were once again being held prisoner, but, he rationalised with himself, he was doing this for them.

The sounds of a river reached his ears and he knew he must be close now, all he needed to do was follow the river around to the cave, where apparently Balinor could be found.

His nerves were causing butterflies to tumble in his guts but the giddy child within was bouncing with unabashed joy. He was going to meet his father and his thoughts ran rampant with imaging, what he would be like, what would he look like? Would he be happy to see Merlin?

Upon spotting the cave he halted in his tracks, wishing for the shaking of his hands to abate, and took several deep breaths readying himself for something he had so long dreamed of but never believed, he slowly approached the caves entrance.

"Hello," He called out, not wishing to catch his father of guard, "Hello?... Balinor?"

"Who are you, boy? What are you doing here?" A gruff voice barked out before the man himself exited the cave, and Merlin got his first look at his father.

 

~~x~~

 

"Hello again, sister." The deceptively soft voice brought Morgana to full awakening. Though she was yet to open her eyes as she processed the words spoken.

Sister? It definitely wasn't Arthur's voice and as far as she knew he was her only sibling, even if no-one deigned to admit it.

She cracked her eyes open, blinking until her vision cleared and she could make out the blonde woman before her. She didn't remember the woman's name though she did recognise her as the one who had challenged, and subsequently beaten, Arthur. Although that didn't explain her presence here or why she had referred to her as 'sister'. Whatever the reason, Morgana doubted it was a coincidence.

"Who are you? Why are you here?" 

"Is that really any way to speak to your sister?" The blonde stepped closer, a cold smile on her face, as she traced a finger along Morgana's jaw.

She tried to flinch away from the touch but the cold bite of shackles held her in place. Now would be a really good time to use her magic again, she thought, if only she knew how.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

xxXxx

 

"Who are you, boy? What are you doing here?" A gruff voice barked out before the man himself exited the cave, and Merlin got his first look at his father.

"Erm, are you Balinor?" he asked seeking confirmation that this man before him was indeed his father and therefore the man he had been searching for.

"What's it to you, boy? How did you find me?"

He took this as the confirmation he needed, surely if this man were not Balinor he would have just told him to get lost by now. He took a moment to look at the man before him, trying to see any similarities between them, but the older man was so dirty and disheveled that the only feature Merlin could properly make out were his eyes and as he already knew that he himself had his mothers eyes he was not surprised to find that the other mans were a dark brown and not at all like his bright blue ones.

He still wasn't quite sure what he should feel though and this mans attitude wasn't helping to put him at ease with the situation, he had walked far to find Balinor and he was now tired and hungry and anxious for his friends and the mans gruff attitude was unnerving him, Balinor really didn't appear to be friendly. Still he had come here for a reason and he had to at least try.

"I'm Merlin," At the blank look still adorning his fathers face he felt his stomach sink slightly, "Do you not know who I am? Does my name not mean anything to you?"

"No, why should it?"

He fought down the waves of tears that threatened to fall at hearing this and just managed to sob out brokenly, "I'm... your son."

"Don't be ridiculous boy, I don't have a son!" Balinor returned angrily and Merlin's tears finally spilled over, whether Balinor had just taken pity on him he didn't know but he was surprised at the gentleness in the mans voice when next he spoke. "Your mother, who was she boy?"

"Hunith." He replied simply.

"Hunith?" Balinor looked like he had been stabbed, his face had drained of colour and he staggered back a step clutching at his cloak where it lay over his heart, Merlin rushed forward to help steady him taking a tight grip on the mans arms, "Hunith's boy? ...My boy? I have a son?"

Merlin looked into those deep brown eyes and could only nod, tears were still rolling down his cheeks but he ignored them for now, he was still overcome with too many emotions. One thought running through his head though was that his father hadn't known about him, how was that possible? It didn't matter right now, it meant though that his father had not abandoned him, had not been so dishonourable as to leave his mother whilst she was bearing his babe. It meant there had been a reason, and he intended to find out what.

 

~~x~~

 

She tried to flinch away from the touch but the cold bite of shackles held her in place. Now would be a really good time to use her magic again, she thought, if only she knew how.

"Hush now sister, I thought we may take the opportunity to get to know one another." The blonde woman whispered into her ear, while her fingernail scraped a line down her cheek, causing it to sting even though she knew it hadn't drawn blood.

She twisted her head round to glare at the other woman before spitting in her face, it was not very ladylike and not something she would ever have considered doing, but right now she had nothing else and this woman's mere presence was setting her on edge, she thinks she would have even preferred Arthur's company to this.

No sooner had the saliva left her mouth, a smile pulling at her lips and defiance shining in her eyes, than her head snapped back from the force of the stinging back-handed blow. The woman's eyes were blazing, not just with hate and disgust but with magic. It crawled along her skin like a thousand invisible creatures, making her shudder, a chilled feeling ran up her spine and all at once the uncomfortable sensation changed, heating up until she was screaming, her skin feeling as though it were lit up form within as it continued to crawl sinuously over her trapping her in a never ending cocoon of heat.

Then it was gone and instead there were cold hands wrapped softly around her throat, a softer voice whispering in her ear, though she could not make out the words as she tried to bring herself back from the pain that had consumed her. The hand was gripping tighter, tighter, as the voice at her ear rose softly and she absentmindedly wondered if this woman even had the ability to shout, not that she needed to, the soft whispering was much more cold and disconcerting than any yell ever would be.

The hands around her throat loosened, though this did nothing to ease the pressure that was cutting off her air supply though she couldn't work out how she was still choking, until she caught the blonde's eye and saw the glimmer of magic burning there.

She gasped again, trying to draw air into lungs that felt too small, her back arching as she gasped painfully for a breath that never came. She was going to die here, at the hands of a madwoman she had only just met, she would never see Gwen or Merlin again. A fresh tear rolled down her cheek and she was loosing her grasp on consciousness, dimly she registered the sound of the cell door opening, she had not noticed that her next breath reached her lungs as her eyes rolled up and her mind went blank, her last thought being of Merlin and where he might be now. 

 

xxXxx

 

Merlin and his father, his father! made their way back towards the druid camp, to meet up with the others, and despite the anxiety for his friends he could not help but feel joy at being in his fathers presence, of actually having a father! He had so far discovered the truth behind his fathers absence, and he couldn't help but feel that Uther was actually lucky to already be dead because if he wasn't Merlin himself might just have had to kill the man for tearing his family apart, not that he really believed in vengeance but well, he had grown up with him and his mother suffering for something that was apparently all Uther's fault...

The fact that Uther had started the whole purge because he cost himself his wife's life just so he could have an heir despite the fact he already had a child, and so what if Morgana was conceived out of wedlock she was still daughter to the king and queen of Camelot, it was not her fault that Uther could not contain himself for even the grievance period to end, when he could have morally taken and married Ygraine and therefore saved everyone all this grief.

Though if that had happened he supposed he himself would not actually be here, as Balinor would not have had to flee Camelot and therefore never met his mother. Still the fact that so many had had to die, and for the life of Arthur! who was clearly no better than Uther, was something that still made his skin crawl and his stomach lurch, so many lives lost...

He pulled himself from his thoughts, he needed to keep on track if they were to have any hope of saving Camelot, and although having a dragonlord with them seemed a huge bonus, they would need to actually get the dragon free for it to be of much help so he wasn't really sure how a handful of druids and a couple of sorcerers were actually going to achieve this impossible task, especially since Arthur would no doubt have all the tunnels guarded after their last breakout.

Reaching the ruins where the druids were waiting, Merlin's jaw dropped, there was no longer just a handful of druids, he had no idea who all these other people were or where they had come from. There must be a couple of hundred people, he scanned the crowd trying to locate Iseldir, he potted him sitting at one of the campfires with a group of others and started pushing his way through the crowd, his father following in his wake.

As he made his way through the crowds he became aware that they were drawing a lot of attention as whispers broke out around them, a number of people kneeling with heads bowed and the whisper of 'Emrys' travelling ahead of them so that even before they had reached Iseldir the druid was on his feet making his way towards them.

The druid inclined his head respectfully, "I see you're quest was a success. We have also had some success in gathering your allies." He gestured around the camp, a smile touching his lips at the startled expression on Merlin's face.

"What? Allies? Where did all these people come from? Who are they?" Merlin glanced around again, noticing for the first time that he couldn't spot Gaius anywhere, "Where's Gaius?"

"One question at a time Emrys." Iseldir chuckled, "Your friend is perfectly safe, we have set up a healing area just beyond the trees, Gaius is there, ensuring there are enough supplies. As for your other questions we sent out a missive as soon as we learned of the death of the king to those who have always pledged their allegiance to Emrys, and as you can see a great many answered the call."

Merlin looked around with his head spinning, these people were his allies! How was that possible? He was pretty sure he had never met any of these people before, it seemed being Emrys meant more than he could ever have guessed, it was somewhat humbling that all these people would risk their lives to help him despite that they had never met him, did not know him. Actually it was daunting, what if he failed them?

He felt a hand gripping his shoulder in a comforting manner and startled, turning he found his father smiling softly at him making him smile back, he wasn't alone, they could do this. They could do this, and win, they had to.

 

Chapter Text

 

**X**

 

He pushed open the heavy wooden door, a funny lurching in his stomach almost cost him his balance though he was unsure what had caused it, Morgause was stood infront of Morgana and he couldn't help but register the way her body slackened as she slumped in her chains, causing his breath to catch in his throat.

"Is that really necessary? Don't we need her still?" He asked trying to keep the trepidation out of his voice, he was king goddamnit and not some weak girl! Still he could not rid himself of the unsettled feeling, this was nothing like taking Uther's life.

"No, we do not need her, we need her out of the way. Do not forgot she has a claim to the throne, she is a threat to your crown." Morgause crooned in a voice like velvet,a voice that caused a shiver to travel the length of his spine.

"Is she..." He couldn't bring himself to finish that sentence. It had been so easy to kill Uther, his father, the man had never showed any sign of feelings towards him. Uther had always been cold and hard... but Morgana... she had always been a sister, a friend, a fact that seemed to make this hard for him to stomach. He had always envisioned Morgana at his side during his reign, and here he was planning on murdering her, for nothing. He swallowed down the threatening bile, the taste bitter in his mouth.

"Not yet, brother, I think a public execution for her magic would be most beneficial to your throne." He watched mesmerised as she swayed towards him, hips swaying provocatively.

His breath hitched as she invaded his personal space, one soft hand cupping his cheek in such a gentle manner, he leant into the touch his eyes fluttering closed as he felt the warmth of her breath against his neck, tickling his ear.

"We must remain strong brother."

 

xxXxx

 

Merlin had not had much chance to wrap his head around all the people willing to follow him, their mission was to important to take too long and so it was before dawn that he find himself leading a small group of their company towards Camelot.

Some of the druids had remained behind with Gaius, any injured were to be taken to them for treatment the camp being set up close enough to Camelot, and the main body had been split into smaller groups, some he knew would have already breached the castle walls, an easy enough task when the guards on duty were only on the look out for an army or the fugitives that was he and Gaius.

Balinor had taken only a couple of the Catha with him, they were to enter the castle via the dragons prison. Merlin hadn't even known there was another way in, though he realised now that obviously there had to be as the dragon had clearly not walked down the dungeons hallways to his prison. 

He hoped that all would go well, they had no way of knowing what had been happening within the citadel walls, did not know if the others still lived but one way or another they would stop Morgause and her brother. It didn't provide him any comfort though, the siblings had many more men, trained knights at that, and they also haad magic on their side, but still he was determined.

He watched as the first few of his group made their way through the keeps gates, a grim smile on his face when they were waved through after being briefly questioned. Good but now it was his turn, something that would be slightly more difficult. He wished he knew more magic, cloaking or invisibility or anything that would help him walk through those gates undetected.

He knew his role though, and with a large calming breath, he stood from the bushes he had been watching from, straightening himself up, he stepped forward shoulders back and head held high...

 

"You!" A guard shouted as he unwaveringly approached the gates, "Halt! You are under arrest by order of the king!"

Both guards moved to block his way, pikes at the ready. Merlin lifted his hand, his eyes burning gold, he needed to time this just right...

One of the guards upon seeing the blazing gold of his eyes dropped his weapon and made for the gatehouse to sound the warning bells, the other guard remained lowering his pike into attack position.

The ringing of the bells brought another smile to his face as he pushed out his hand along with a pulse of magic, the guard flying back to collide heavily with the ground. He stepped forward once again, by now the distant sounds of screaming reached his ears and he made his way through the crowds that were thickening as he neared the next set of gates.

Again it was over fairly quickly and the next set of warning bells sounded out joining the din of their brothers, more people panicking, more guards who were easily brushed aside, no spells needed, he spotted the red cloaks of Camelots knights making their way through the chaos and squared his shoulders.

A deafening roar garnered more screaming and his eyes drifted briefly skyward, a genuine smile pulling at his lips as he saw the majestic dragon swooping on the breeze intermittently letting out more deafening roars.

The knights that had only minutes before been heading in his direction all turned on their heel and raced off in different directions, some heading up to the battlements, others heading to the courtyard. 

Merlin's eyes were drawn to the castle where he spotted two familiar fair heads, the siblings were stood on the balcony once frequented by Uther so he could reside over another execution of an innocent, and with that thought his eyes scanned the overcrowded courtyard though from this distance he was still too far to make anything out with the chaos spreading around him.

He pushed forward, shoving terrified people aside as he determinedly made his way through the throngs to get to the courtyard, and there... his breath caught in his throat as the scene before him.

The burning structure of the pyre was not what had caught his eye, rather it was the seemingly small looking figure that was tied to the post who drew his attention. Her normally sparkling green eyes were wide with pain and terror as the fire licked its way up the wood, her screams were broken by intermittent bouts of coughing and her slender frame thrashed in a futile attempt to break free from her bonds.

It would not be long before the flames reached her delicate flesh and it was as if time stood still, he didn't think, couldn't think, his whole being was centered on freeing her. He forgot his own magic in his panic and rage and terror and too many other emotions as he threw himself up the steps to the platform around the pyre, he threw himself without thinking, heedless of the heat kissing his skin, at the rivulets of sweat that ran down his face, as he lowered himself closer to the raging inferno, grasping at the ropes binding her ankles, dimly registering the blistering of his skin on his legs as the flames grew ever nearer.

With the lower ropes done, he stood on shaky legs, the adrenaline chasing away the pain, for now, and making quick work of the ropes at her wrists. He pushed her forcefully away from him as he felt the wood beneath him start to give, and his legs once again prickling with pain as he fell a few inches down, his hands catching onto the stake to pull himself back up. He would have laughed at the irony that the stake had actually saved his life rather than taking it, but right now he needed to check Morgana while he still had the adrenaline pumping through his veins.

Luckily it appeared that he had arrived in time to save her from the flames, though there were a few blisters on the bare skin at her ankles, along with the rope burns, his eyes fell on the bruises around her neck, and they narrowed in rage. Her soot covered face was streaked with broken tear tracks, and she shivered violently, her breaths coming in stuttering gasps, her eyes wide and distant, showing no recognition of her saviour, Merlin knew she had gone into shock and that she needed to be treated, he had to get her away from here, though he didn't like the idea of fleeing and letting Arthur continue with his sadistic reign.

 

His eyes shone gold as the heavens opened dousing the flames of the pyre, and the fires started by the dragon, the magic tingled in his fingertips and he held his hand gently to her throat, a tear escaping as she flinched violently from the touch despite that her eyes were still distant with shock. He pushed all the emotions down and instead focused his magic on the bruising of her throat and any internal damage she may have suffered as a result of the throttling she had clearly suffered.

Arthur would pay for this, of that he would make sure. He flinched violently when a heavy hand came to rest on his shoulder, tightening his grip on the raven haired beauty in his arms he let his eyes travel up to the man who had hold of him, his magic tingling ready at his finger tips.

"Father!" He cried out joyfully, wincing at the pain he had not felt before as the skin on the laft side of his face cracked.

Balinor observed him with such a sorrowful look on his face, hidden under the bushy beard and unruly hair, that Merlin wondered just how bad it was to make his father look at him like that, then his gaze shifted to the woman in Merlin's arms.

"You both need to be looked at Merlin. I will have Kilgharrah take you both back to the camp so Gaius can see to you both."

Merlin shook his head, ignoring the fresh wave of pain and the vague nausea that accompanied the action. "Have him take Morgana, I can't leave yet, there are still things I need to do."

Balinor didn't answer instead gently removing his hold on Morgana to take her into his own arms, holding her steady as he made his way back down to the courtyard, a gutteral yell ringing in his wake. 

As he watched his father carry Morgana away to where the dragon was waiting, his eyes traveled dazedly around at the chaos, everywhere he looked there was evidence of the war being fought, knights flying back under the onslaught of the magic users, people in peasant garb falling under the blows of swords or brought down by a stray arrow or misfired spell, everywhere innocent people were losing there lives due to Arthur and his sister and the rage he had already been feeling grew.

Looking around he couldn't see the two siblings anywhere, cowards! Leaving innocents to fight this battle, to die! If Arthur had been any kind of king he would have been out here leading his men, the Arthur he had known would have been out here doing all he could to protect the innocents of Camelot, he had truly loved this kingdom and its peoples and now, with Morgause's influence he was nowhere in sight.

He was on his feet, a limping run as his protested his orders to move, to keep going, hurling spells at those who attacked him, shoving those who got in his way, as he made his way into the citadel. He knew where the two would be, somewhere safe, somewhere where they could keep an eye on the battle that raged around them.

He spotted a couple of men in the garb of Camelot's knights and readied a spell, halting the words when he spotted the figure supported between the two men.

"Leon!" Merlin called out and the trio halted, heads coming up to look at him.

"Merlin," Leon sounded so joyful, his lolling head coming up to look him over and the knights expression darkened, "What happened?"

"Arthur... Morgana was..." He trailed off as the pain threatened to overwhelm him now that he was inactive, memories bombarding him... of her screams, the way she thrashed to escape the heat... He took a shuddering breath and instead took in the two knights either side of Leon.

He didn't recognise them, though that wasn't unusual since the army was so vast he doubted he even knew half the knights. They both had shiny dark hair, though a couple of shades lighter than his own, and warm brown eyes, brothers he assumed since they were so similar in looks.

"Is Morgana alright?" Questioned the knight on Leon's left, all three of them scrutinising him, the flash of pity in their eyes making him feel slightly self-conscious.

"Yeah, luckily we reached her in time, a few... burns, though nothing serious... and rope burns." He took another deep breath calming himself slightly, though he swayed on his feet. "Do you know the ruins of Elendril? If you head there you will find a treatment area set up. Gaius is there and Morgana has been taken there, I will meet you there."

Leon shook his head, despite that he was clearly suffering from his renewed time spent at the kings pleasure, "No Merlin, we will accompany you. You cannot hope to take on Morgause and the might of Camelot alone, especially in your current state."

"I'm not alone, there are a number of allies fighting out there, I'll be fine."

"We're coming too and you can't stop us." Offered one of the other knights with a wide grin that seemed out of place in such dire circumstances. "Gwaine, this is my brother Lance, we're friends of Leons and if he says you need help then help you'll get. Now lead on... if you can walk." 

Merlin huffed out a breath, there was nothing he could do to dissuade them of their course and really he didn't have the energy or inclination to argue right now, though he protested feebly when Lance came over and slipped under Merlin's arm, allowing him to use him as support.

He looked at each of his newly acquired retinue, already resigning himself to when he would be required to out himself as a being of magic, he only hoped they wouldn't quite literally stab him in the back when the truth came out.

 

Chapter Text

 

**X**

 

He turned to his sister, the chaos outside still ringing in his ears, unable quite yet to get his mind around what was taking place. A dragon! THE dragon! How it had come to be free he did not know, what he did know though was nothing good, Morgana was still alive, he knew, and his people were currently being terrorised by a goddamn dragon! And he was hiding away like a coward, it went against all that he was and all he believed in.

And yet he couldn't help but think that it was all his fault, he had brought this suffering to his people. Outside in the courtyard he couldn't see much through the smoke but knew from the sounds that there were still many sorcerer's out there battling his knights. Where had they all come from? And had that been Merlin who had dived into the pyre to free Morgana? 

"Arthur, I know what you are thinking, but you must stay here. We cannot risk you being killed or harmed in this attack, I will go out and see what I can do in stopping these traitors." Morgause spoke softly, her hand resting on his shoulder as she joined him in looking out the window at the devastated courtyard below.

The roars from the dragon had faded away, though an echo remained in his ears and he knew that when he next closed his eyes to sleep he would once again be visited with the image of the great beast setting flame to his beloved city.

"We must remain strong Arthur, I will return soon." Her grip tightened a little on his shoulder before with a whispered word she vanished in a swirl of wind.

As soon as Morgause had left he let his head drop in despair. What was he doing? Was he really going to allow his sister to face this threat alone, to allow his people to be slaughtered by an army of sorcerer's, allow his knights to sacrifice themselves in his name? What good had his reign brought so far? None, all he had done was harm the kingdom he loved so much, a kingdom he had always sworn to defend to his last breath and yet here he was hiding away like a coward!

He was angry, at himself, at those sorcerer's, at his dead father and even at his sister but mostly his anger was for himself and what he had let himself become, How could he have even thought to murder his own sister for the sake of crown and kingdom, he had been crown prince anyway! Had it really been worth it? Looking around at the chaos, the answer came easily. No, it had not.

It was time he made an effort to atone for his mistakes and he would start by going out there and helping his knights, his people.

Mind made up he turned from the window just as the throne room doors swung open. The sight he was greeted to was definitely an odd one, for though it made sense that these two would seek him out it was clear that neither were in any fit state to confront him. Merlin was being supported by a knight Arthur had never seen before, as was Leon, the pair of them looking rather worse for wear. Merlin was covered in the evidence of his heroics in rescuing Morgana from a lit pyre and Leon was still bleeding and pale from his latest stay in the dungeons.

The sight of them both made him feel sick, his heart started beating a little faster as he took in the hard looks on the faces of all the men and he had to swallow down the rising bile at the nasty looking burn on one side of Merlin's face. He took in a shaky breath, trying his best to compose himself for whatever was to come.

 

xxXxx

 

Merlin let his magic flood through him at the sight of the treacherous king, strength returning to his limbs as he pulled himself up straight, standing tall, his eyes flickering with gold. He stepped out from under Lancelot's arm, back straight and head held high he unflinchingly met Arthur's eyes, and smiled in grim satisfaction as he noticed the widening of Arthur's, the fear that shone bright, the unconscious step back that the king took.

He took a step forward, the others quietly hissing his name in protest. Merlin turned to look back over his shoulder, eyes shining bright with righteous anger and magic and dimly registered the shocked looks and the way they in turn took a step away from him, though Leon's next call of his name was questioning rather than accusatory, he took a little comfort in that. With a deep breath he turned to Arthur once more. 

The time for words was over, he raised his arm, hand splayed out before him ready to throw all that he had at his once friend, when Arthur's low voice cut through the haze of magic and rage.

"I'm sorry." Arthur took in a shuddering breath, " Gods Merlin, I'm so sorry."

The magic faded from his eyes, though the rage still bubbled hot in his veins. Did Arthur really think 'sorry' was good enough for all that he had done, for nearly killing his own sister in the flames?

"Sorry?" Merlin demanded incredulously. "You're sorry? You killed your father! You had Leon and I tortured and y-you... you almost killed Morgana! And you're sorry?!"

"I know I cammot take back what I have done, that I will never be able to rectify my mistakes. I don't deserve forgiveness... but... please I'm begging you, at least call of those sorcerer's. Innocent people are dying!" Arthur pleaded, the tone of his voice betraying the true sorrow he felt, but Merlin in his anger was not prepared to hear it.

He scoffed, "Innocent people? Innocent people have been getting killed in Camelot for the last twenty odd years! And now you are concerned? Don't make me laugh Arthur, you have proven you care for no-one but yourself!"

He pushed his hand forward, magic surging at his fingertips and blasted Arthur back of his feet. The king landing in an undignified sprawl on the floor. Arthur shifted slowly, trying to get to his knees as Merlin stalked towards him, vengeful wrath and indignant anger all coiling into blinding fury.

"It is time to end your destructive and selfish reign." He came to a stop, towering over the supine man at his feet, his rage blinding him to the previous covert movements of the man before him.

His face contorted into a mask of shock and pain as the small blade buried itself into his thigh, his leg giving out from under him and Arthur pulled the blade free, Merlin's hands automatically covering the wound as blood gushed forth.

Arthur raised the dagger once more, murderous intent shining in his eyes, Merlin swallowed hard, trying to gather his thoughts, to push through the pain that was coursing through his being, tried to get a grip on his tenuous magic but already knowing it was too late as the blade came flashing down towards his chest. He shut his eyes, not wanting to witness his own death... waiting in anticipation for the blow to fall...

...

... He flicked an eye open, mouth dropping open in shock.

There was a sword tip poking through Arthur's chest, blood dripping from the end, dripping down onto his own clothes, the king's eyes wide with shock fading as the light of life left them. 

And there just behind Arthur, one trembling hand held to her lips was Gwen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

16

 

«x»

 

Gwen was uncomfortably brought back to consciousness by the sounds of screams and a truly heart stopping animalistic roar that seemed to reverberate through the stonework. Looking around the small cell she was trapped in revealed that she was alone, she had no idea where Morgana or Leon were but it was obvious even to her that they were back in Camelot, once more involuntary guests of the king.

She wondered where her friends were, if they were safe, clearly there was something big going on, the sounds alone were terrifying, and she couldn't even bring herself to imagine what kind of creature was making that noise.

She needed to get out of here, find her friends, find out what was going on, for whatever it was she didn't think it could possibly be worse than being locked in here with no idea whether her friends were still alive.

There was another of those booming roars, this one accompanied by the shaking of the castles foundations and a shower of debris raining down on her. The dust in the air causing her to choke a little.

Covering her mouth and nose with the tattered sleeve of her dress, she shakily made her way over to the barred iron door of her cell, her eyes sweeping along the corridor and finding it deserted, of course if things were truly as dire as they sounded out there then it was only obvious that those guarding the prisoners be pulled away to help, after all nobody cared about the prisoners, it was one less cost for the king if she happened to die here instead of a public execution.

It was while it was still raining down dust that she thought she could pick up the sounds of a disturbance elsewhere in the dungeons, the distant echoing clanging of cell doors slowly getting closer and an interminable jumble of voices. She pressed herself closer to the bars in a vain attempt to get a look at what might be going on.

She took several hasty steps back when she spotted a ragtag band of people using magic, openly, to open cell doors, though she was more than a little confused when she spotted that some of these magic users were actually wearing the uniform of Camelot knights.

When they reached her cell, they didn't even stop to speak to her, they just thrust out a hand with a whisper and her door swung open, the man who opened her door had already moved on before she had even had time to blink.

Ok, she needed to try and find her friends, or at least find out what had happened to them, she also needed a weapon though despite not being sure on who exactly were friends and who were foe, she still needed to be able to defend herself, with that in mind she left the dungeons and made her way, cautiously, to the armoury.

After arming herself with a short sword she cautiously made her way through the castle hallways, although stealth didn't seem to be needed as it seemed that the fighting was mostly outside, she did however spot a couple of Camelot knights with who appeared to be Leon and Merlin? heading into the throne room.

Not knowing what was going on but wanting to keep an eye on her friends now she had found them, she decided to take the long way round and enter in through the servants entrance and hopefully that way avoid any notice.

Entering the throne room, she saw Arthur trying to get up as Merlin stalked towards him, with not even a weapon in hand, she felt her breath hitch at the sight of her friend, covered in burns and looking one breath from collapsing. She slowly edged her way into the room, her eyes widening when Merlin's knees collapsed from under him and she could just take in the glint of a blade as Arthur pulled it from his leg.

She didn't think, didn't stop to process anything, the only thing running through her mind that she needed to protect Merlin, needed to save him. She was moving before she even knew it, sword poised and ready, unconsciously holding her breath, hands steady as she ran the steal blade right through Arthur's chest.

Oh my god! She had stabbed the king! She had stabbed Arthur! She brought one trembling hand to her lips, as she let her grip go from the sword, and she watched in slow motion as Arthur fell forwards, his lifeless body crumbling on top of Merlin.

Chapter Text

 

17

 

Merlin can honestly say he remembers very little after Gwen killed Arthur, a part of him in shock and the rest of him not with his body anyway what with the amount of pain he'd been in at the time.

Now he is lying on a rather comfortable bed in what he thinks must be one of the guest chambers, while a druid works on healing the burns his legs sustained, trying hard not to fidget in agitation.

He knows he's injured and that he needed treatment but he can't stand the fact of lying here idle while he didn't know what was going on.

They had been victorious, that much he knows, but he hasn't heard anything in regards to how Morgana's faring, if she is still at their camp or if she's been moved to the castle to make it easier for the healers to treat the injured here.

He knows nothing concerning Morgause, it seems she escaped from the battle at some point but to where and to what end no-one is sure of, he is sure that it's not likely to be the last they see of her though.

He is very definitely antsy to get out of this room, he wants to find Gwen and Leon, see his father and Giaus, but most of all he needs to know how Morgana is, needs to see with his own eyes whether she is really okay after all she suffered, not just the wounds which are sure to have been healed by now but he wants to know how she is coping with all that has happened. 

It hasn't been easy for any of them, but for her it all must be a hundred times worse.

He wants to be able to hold her in his arms again, and this time never let go.

But for now it seems he will have to be patient a while longer.

 

~~x~~

 

Morgana opens her eyes to unfamiliar surroundings, though it's not difficult to guess where she is. 

She glances around, a hand coming up to rub at her neck in surprise at the lack of pain there, her fingers running over the spot where Morgause's magic had crushed her windpipe, cutting off her air supply. She wonders that it no longer hurts.

In fact she doesn't seem to be hurt at all, her body doesn't scream in protest of each movement, her lungs and throat don't burn from a lack of air.

Her skin no longer blisters and burns from the heat of the pyre... 

She thinks she remembers Merlin's face, blistered with heat, holding her close... eyes golden with magic despite the tears.

"How are you feeling?" A gruff voice broke through her thoughts causing her to jump slightly, looking around she saw a man with long dark greying hair with a rough beard who she had never seen before, though his features seemed familiar.

"Fine, thank you. Do I know you?" She asked curious.

"My name is Balinor, we met very briefly during your escape from the flames but I doubt you remember that." He smiled a kind smile, lips twitching up beneath his beard, and it was the smile that was most familiar, almost like Merlin's. His grin widened, "I'm his father."

"Merlin?" She asked just to be sure, smiling back when he nodded a confirmation. "How is he? Is he okay? Can I see him?"

Balinor chuckled softly, resting a hand on her shoulder, as she tried to rise from the bed, gently pushing her back down. 

"All in good time, Your Majesty, Merlin will be fine. He is currently in with a healer, and you my dear need to rest. You've been through quite an ordeal."

"Healer? What happened? Wait - Your M-Majesty?" She could feel tears pricking her eyes, she was...? So Arthur was... ? And what about Morgause? Even thinking the name sent a shudder of fear through her, but if Arthur was... d-dead... then she was unsure how she felt about that. Arthur had always been so close to her before he had met Morgause, who knew what that witch had done to him.

"Arthur was killed in the battle. I'm sorry for your loss." She glanced over to him and saw that he seemed genuine, he was sorry for her though, not that Arthur had died, she wasn't sure how many would now mourn his passing, after all he had done. "I'm afraid Morgause escaped, Kilgharrah has gone to see if he can find her. If he cannot then no-one can."

Morgana doesn't respond, doesn't know what to say, or think or feel. She feels a bit overwhelmed by all the information she's just been given, like anymore and she'll explode or go mad or something. She doesn't even know what to do with the information she has been given, that Arthur, her brother, is dead. That Morgause, her sister, is alive and no-one knows where she is. That Merlin is hurt, but alive, he's alive. That she is Queen now.

She lets her head fall back to the pillow, turning her face away from Balinor, Merlin's father, and closes her eyes, trying to organise her thoughts. Everything else can come later. For now she needs to be alone. 

It seems Balinor understands this as with a gentle squeeze to her shoulder, he gets up from his seat and quietly leaves the room. She is thankful for his silence as he goes.

 

xxXxx

 

As soon as he was deemed well enough to move, or as soon as the healer left him alone, he jumped from the bed, happy when he only felt a slight lingering pain, and snuck from the room, hugging the walls to avoid being seen.

He quickly realised that avoiding people was not really an option, the whole castle was teeming with people, townsfolk and druids alike, he had barely made it down the next hallway before he was accosted by Gwaine and Lancelot, who he was happy to see were both unharmed after the battle.

"Merlin!" Gwaine called happily, "You look alot better than when we last saw you."

"Thanks, I can't stop though, I need to find... "

 "Morgana, aye, well then last I heard she was being moved to her chambers." Gwaine interrupted him.

"The Lady Morgana is resting ahead of her coronation on the morrow." Lance added with a glare at his brother, probably for lack of protocol.

"Coronation? Tomorrow? Oh," Merlin looked between the two his mind spinning, realistically he had known that Morgana would be taking the throne once they had won back Camelot, only it had seemed surreal and far away and now that it was here he couldn't help the sadness that filled him. As queen her duty would be to make a strong match, political or beneficial to the kingdom in some way, a match that he couldn't be, he was nothing, a farmboy and a peasant. "Right, well do you know where my father is then or Gaius?"

"I believe both are in the council chambers, lending their aid to help the injured." Lancelot told him, "We'll walk with you, I want to check up on Leon in any case."

The three made their way through the bustling hallways, Merlin lost in thought, while Gwaine and Lancelot chatted softly together, neither man wanting to disturb their young companion who had endured so much recently. Merlin, whether he knew it or not, had earned their loyalty in saving Leon.

As they entered through the doors of the council chambers they all took a minute to look around. There were at least fifty people squeezed into the room, some occupying the tops of tables while others were laid out on straw pallets on the floor, and all around these prone moaning pitiful figures were a number of druids, some aiding with magic others with herbs, and over towards the back of the room there was Gaius and over there...

"Father!" Merlin yelled moving as quick as he could through the cramped space.

Balinor had looked up at the sound of his son's voice, a large smile taking over his face at seeing his son, who looked much improved than when Balinor had last gone to check on him, "Son," He greeted meeting Merlin's embrace with enthusiasm, "Aren't you meant to be resting still?"

"I couldn't, not without knowing how everyone else was faring. Have you seen Morgana?"

"Yes son, she is well enough, she needs only rest and peace with which to come to terms with what has happened. Come, I believe now you're up we can hold a small council,." He turned to one of the druid healers and asked them to send out a message to Iseldir and Alator and the other clan leaders for them to join them in the audience chamber off the throne room, where he and his son headed to.

 

~~X~~

 

'The Dragonlord and his son have requested your presence in the audience chamber for council.'

The mental call pulled Morgana from her ruminating, and she decided a council meeting was a very good idea, anything to get her out of this bed and out of her thoughts. She was positive that doing something, even just making plans was much more preferable than sitting here dwelling on burning and betrayal and death, everywhere was death.

Yes, attending a council meeting was a fine idea.

She stretched out her muscles feeling the strain in them, it was a nice feeling though, they were fine, undamaged, stiff and a little sore but nothing she couldn't cope with. She made her way over to her armoire and pulled out a simple (by her standards) purple silk gown, and changed quickly. After a quick glance in her mirror she deemed herself presentable enough and quickly left her chambers, hurrying through the hallways to join the council. It was eagerness to attend the council meeting that had her rushing though, it was her eagerness to see Merlin again and be able to see for herself that he was hale and whole.