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As The World Comes to an End

Chapter Text

The sounds of the people was the first thing Merlin heard upon stepping foot in the kingdom. Of course, there was the background noises of horse feet hitting the road, the carriages that they pulled along with them. Dogs and birds, metal clashing, clothes swaying. But, the most prominent of all, was the people.

 

Merlin stood still, unseeing eyes scanning the entryway, then stepped in, head held high.

 

He bumped into a few people -- though less than most would expect, given his disability -- and dodged the animals in the way.

 

He heard the sound of horns blaring, and followed the noise, stopping with a newly formed crowd, which were gathered around something. The crowd chattered in whispers, as drums were beat upon, and a man was dragged into the center, the chatter slowly dying down.

 

"Let this serve as a lesson to all," a voice broke through over everything, halting all chatter and instantly drawing the crowd's attention upwards, "this man, Thomas James Collins is judged guilty of conspiring to use enchantments...and magic. And, pursuant to the laws of Camelot, I, Uther Pendragon, have decreed that such practises are banned . On penalty of death."

 

Merlin gulped, shaking hands tightening on the straps of his bag, as the cause of this gathered crowd begun to make sense.

 

"I pride myself as a fair and just king, but, for the crime of sorcery, there is but one sentence I can pass."

 

The crowd waited in bated breath.

 

Merlin's heart beat to the beat of the drums as he held his breath.

 

He flinched as he heard the sound of one's head leaving their shoulders.

 

"When I came to this land, this kingdom was mired in chaos, but with the people's help, magic was driven from the realm. So I declare a festival, to celebrate 20 years since the great dragon was captured, and Camelot freed from the evil of sorcery. Let the celebrations begin."

 

The crowd began to disperse.

 

A woman began to whine quite loudly, making everyone turn.

 

"There is only one evil in the land and it is not magic! It is you. With your hatred...and your ignorance... you took my son. " She sucked in a deep breath, and her tone instantly changed, cold and cruel. "I promise you. Before the celebrations are over, you will share my tears. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth...a son for a son!"

 

"Seize her."

 

She squealed, and wind came out of nowhere, blowing everyone to back away as she disappeared completely.

 

Merlin gulped, wondering what fate awaited him in Camelot as he made his way into the castle and used his magic sense and come up to a couple of guards poised in front of a door.

 

"Um, where would I find Gaius the court physician?"

 

 

Water bubbled in a beaker nearby as he knocked on the door, which was open a jar. When no response came, he pushed open the door with a creak, and stepped into the chambers.

 

He smelled a collection of different herbs and spices, and listened for any sound of movement.

 

He heard a creak, and, through his magic's senses, sensed a man, standing on top of a staircase, sorting through books on a shelf.

 

"Gaius?" he called, and cleared his throat when Gaius didn't turn or answer verbally. 

 

Gaius turned, but, in doing so, broke the railing at the stairs, and fell.

 

Merlin, sensing this, slowed down time, and, using his magic to sense a bed nearby, used it to move the bed across the room and underneath the man as he fell onto it.

 

"I--" the man stammered, "what did you just do?!"

 

"Um," Merlin answered intelligently.

 

"Tell me!" The man, Gaius, pushed himself off the bed.

 

"Well, I--I--I have no idea what happened."

 

"If anyone had seen that…"

 

"Oh, no no no, that--that was nothing to do with me, that was--"

 

"I know what it was ! I just want to know where you learned how to do it!"

 

"No, I--"

 

"So how is it you know magic?"

 

"I don't!"

 

"Where did you study?" 

 

Merlin stared at him, or at least in his general direction.

 

"Answer me!"

 

"I--I--I've never studied magic, or been taught."

 

"Are you lying to me, boy?"

 

"Well, what do you want me to say?!"

 

"The truth!"

 

"I was born like this!"

 

"That's impossible! " A beat, then, "Who are you?"

 

"Oh! Erm…" Merlin took off his satchel, and dug inside of it, running his fingers over everything until he found it. "I have this letter." He passed Gaius a small, rolled up paper.

 

"I--I don't have my glasses."

 

"I'm Merlin."

 

"Hunith's son!"

 

"Yes!"

 

"But you're not meant to be here till Wednesday!"

 

"It is...Wednesday."

 

"Ahh...right, then. You'd better put your bag in there."

 

"Err… can you push me in that direction? I can't exactly…"

 

Gaius let out an "oh!" then pushed him gently in the direction of the room.

 

Before Merlin took a step, he turned to Gaius.

 

"You won't say anything about--"

 

"No."

 

Merlin nodded and turned back around.

 

"Although, Merlin," Merlin turned back to him, "I should say thank you. "

 

 

Merlin was sat in his room, staring blankly at the wall as he listened to the muffled sounds of the kingdom.

 

A moment passed, then he stood up, felt around for the window, then pushed it open, listening to the kingdom.

 

People talked, fire cackled, chickens clucked.

 

Merlin smiled, closing his pale blue eyes and just listened.

 

 

MERLIN…. MERLIN?

 

Merlin's eyes snapped open at the strange voice, which seemed like it was right next to his ear, but so far away from it at the same time. He closed his eyes, and tried to focus his magic on sensing the being, though felt nothing. He sat up, and decided that it was a good time as any to get ready for the day.

 

So, there he was, walking down the stairs hesitantly, putting on his jacket as he did so, and listening to the sloppy sounds of porridge being poured into a bowl.

 

"I got you water," Gaius said, "you didn't wash last night."

 

"Sorry."

 

He sat the bowl down on a table with empty space.

 

"Help yourself to breakfast."

 

Merlin sat down at the table, and picked up the spoon, listening to the sluggish movements of the porridge as it slowly dripped back into the bowl.

 

He felt more than heard Gaius slowly walk over to his side, before he pushed a bucket off the table.

 

Merlin, practically seeing the outcome without sight, let his magic work and freeze the bucket and water sloshing out of it in midair.

 

Gaius gasped, and Merlin let the bucket finish its decent onto the stone floor.

 

"How did you do that? Did you...incant a spell in your mind?"

 

Merlin shook his head. "I don't know any spells."

 

"So what did you do? How did you see it?"

 

"I didn't. I just...felt it. It just happens." Merlin snapped his mouth shut, mouth suddenly dry. He sensed around, then zeroed in on the mop leant against the wall, using it to clear up the space.

 

"Well, we better keep you out of trouble. You can help me until I find some paid work for you. Here -- Hollyhock and Feverfew for Lady Percival, and this is for Sir Olwen. He's mostly blind, so warn him not to take it all at once."

 

"Okay," Merlin muttered, grabbing one of the items in each hand to make sure he knew which was which.

 

"And here." Gaius pressed something into his hand, and Merlin instantly recognized it as a sandwich. "Off you go." Gaius took the mop from him, and the boy walked around the table, towards the door. "And Merlin." The boy turned around. "I need hardly tell you that the practice of any form of enchantments will get you killed."

 

 

So that's where Merlin found himself, walking blindly (hardy-har) in the kingdom, which eventually led him to Sir Olwen's room, the man's medicine gripped safely in hand, and Lady Percival's items tucked in his shirt.

 

He knocked on the door he was directed to, and it creaked open.

 

"Um," he said, "I brought you your medicine."

 

He pressed the item into the man's hand, and turned to walk away, then remembered what Gaius had said.

 

"Um, Gaius said not to drink it all--"

 

He heard the bottle being unstoppered, and immediately ceased speaking, wincing.

 

"...I'm sure it's fine," he said, then disappeared.

 

A rooster crowed outside, and Merlin was instantly drawn to a voice outside.

 

" Where's the target?" 

 

Merlin frowned, hearing the mocking tone, one that he had heard many times before in Ealdor.

 

"...There, Sir?" a hesitant voice asked.

 

"It's into the sun," the mocking voice said. What a prat.

 

"Well, it's not that bright."

 

"A bit like you, then!"

 

Men around the prat laughed at that.

 

"I'll put the target down at the other end, shall I, sir?"

 

" Teach him a lesson! " one man encouraged as the man lifted the target up onto his arm, making his way to the other end.

 

"This'll teach him," the prat said, smirk in his words, and, the next moment, Merlin flinched at the sound of a knife being impaled into wood.

 

The man, who must have been a servant, shouted. "Hey, hang on!"

 

"Don't stop!" The prat encouraged.

 

The servant grunted, and moved a little bit down.

 

"Here?,

 

"I told you to keep moving!"

 

Another thunk as another knife hit the wood.

 

"Come on! Run !" The servant kept running, the sound of his feet hitting the ground as he did so, and Merlin flinched at each thunk. "We want some moving- target practice!"

 

The servant tripped, dropping the target, which rolled in front of Merlin, who put his boot on it.

 

"Hey," he said. "Come on, that's enough."

 

" ...What? " The prat asked, sounding scandalized that someone would even suggest such a thing.

 

"You've had your fun, my friend."

 

The prat walked right in front of him, then stopped. "Do I know you?"

 

"Uh, i'm Merlin." He stuck out his hand in the prat's general direction.

 

"So, I don't know you." The prat didn't take his offered hand.

 

"...No."

 

"Yet you called me 'friend'. "

 

Merlin clicked his tongue. "That was my mistake."

 

"Yes, I think so."

 

"Yeah…" He looked up, from where his eyes were pointed at the ground. "I'd never had a friend who could be such an ass."

 

The prat chuckled darkly as Merlin turned to walk away.

 

"Or I one who could be so stupid. " Merlin froze in his tracks, and turned his head to the side. "Tell me, Mer lin, do you know how to walk on your knees?"

 

Merlin clicked his tongue. "No."

 

"Would you like me to help you?"

 

"I wouldn't if I were you."

 

The prat laughed. "Why? What're you going to do to me?"

 

"You have no idea."

 

"Be my guest. Come on. Come on!" He got closer to him. " Come on. "

 

Merlin took a swing at him.

 

He grunted when the prat grabbed his fist midswing, and twisted it behind his back.

 

There was a collective "oooh!" from the crowd.

 

"I'll have you thrown in jail for that," the prat whispered.

 

"Who do you think you are? The King?"

 

"No. I'm his son. Arthur. "

 

And the prat shoved him to the ground, guards being quick to grab him and drag him away.

 

Merlin winced as they dragged him, trying to focus on the turns that they took.

 

He was eventually thrown into a cell, the keys rattling as the door was locked behind him, and the guards disappeared.

 

Merlin leaned his head on the wall, closing his pale eyes as he sighed through his nose, wondering how Gaius would take the news of him being locked up.

 

You weren't even here a day , he thought to himself, then got into a comfortable enough position to fall asleep as any on the hay covered cell floor.

 

 

MERLIN~

 

...MERLIN.

 

Merlin bolted upright, knocking the jacket which he was using as a blanket off his body, scrambling to get up.

 

... MERLIN?

 

Merlin hesitantly walked back to where he was laying, and got down on his knees, pressing his ear to the hay on the floor.

 

"Merlin!"

 

Merlin whipped around, scrambling to stand up as Gaius all but slammed open the cell door.

 

He clicked his tongue, looking around the cell.

 

"You never cease to amaze me! -- The one thing someone like you should do is keep your head down, and what do you do? You behave like an idiot."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"You're lucky. I've, eh," he looked around, "managed to pull a few strings to get you released."

 

Merlin gasped. "Thank you, thank you!" He clasped his hands together. "I won't forget this."

 

"Well," Gaius drawled, "there is a small price to pay."

 

 

"Oh, God," Merlin said, before firmly closing his eyes and mouth, as tomatoes and lettuce and a bunch of other fruits in vegetables came flying at him. His form was scrunched up, placed in the stocks, and it took him a lot of willpower in his small village self not to tell them to not throw their food away.

 

Somewhere, he heard Gaius laughing at him, as he was sure whatever being or beings above were doing.

 

The crowd slowly dispersed, their food all gone, and Merlin took a big breath in.

 

His magic told him someone was approaching, and he instinctively ducked his head, ready for more pelting of vegetables.

 

Instead -- "I'm Guinivere, but most people call me Gwen," a girl, probably around his age, said to his left, and he tilted his head towards her, as much as he could while in the stocks. "I'm the Lady Morgana's maid."

 

"Right," he stuck out his hand as much as he could towards the voice. "Well, i'm Merlin. Although, most people just call me 'idiot'."

 

"No no no," the girl said. "I saw what you did. You're so brave!"

 

"It was stupid."

 

"Well, i'm glad you walked away -- you weren't going to beat him."

 

Merlin huffed. "Oh, I could beat him."

 

"You think? Because you don't look like one of these big muscly kind of fellows."

 

"Thanks." It's not like I know what they or I really look like, anyway.

 

"No, no! -- I'm sure you're stronger than you look! It's just, um, Arthur's one of these big rough, tough, save-the-world kind of man, and, well…"

 

"What?"

 

"You don't look like that."

 

"I have a secret," he whispered. "I'm in disguise."

 

A beat, then Gwen busted out laughing. 

 

"Well, it's great you stood up to him."

 

"You think so?"

 

"Arthur's a bully, and everyone thought you were a real hero."

 

"Oh, yeah?"

 

Gwen hummed, and Merlin listened at the sounds of energetic kids, heading his way.

 

"Oh -- Excuse me, Guinivere. My fans are waiting."

 

The girl ran across, just before a tomato came flying at him, hitting the wood right above his head.

 

 

"Do you want some vegetables with that?" Gaius asked as Merlin sat down in front of a bowl, shaking tomato seeds from his hair. Merlin laughed lightly.

 

"I know you're still angry with me. Your mother asked me to look after you."

 

Merlin nodded. " Yes. "

 

"What did your mother say to you about your gifts?"

 

"Well, that I was.. special. "

 

"You are special, the likes of which i've never seen before."

 

Merlin sat down his spoon and raised a brow. "What do you mean?"

 

" Well, magic requires incantations, spells; it takes years to study, and what I saw you do was... elemental, instinctive."

 

"What's the point, if it can't be used?"

 

" That, I do not know. You are a question that has never been posed before, Merlin."

 

"...Did you ever study magic?"

 

"Uther banned all such work 20 years ago."

 

"Why?"

 

"People used magic for the wrong end at that time. It threw the natural order into chaos. Uther made it his mission to destroy everything from back then -- even the dragons."

 

"What? All of them?"

 

"There was one dragon he chose not to kill; He kept it as an example. He imprisoned it in a cave deep beneath the castle… where no one can free it." Gaius sighed. "Eat up. When you're finished, I need you to take a preparation to Lady Helen, she needs it for her voice."

 

 

He walked through the halls, bottle clasped in hand as he felt along the walls, listening to the footsteps and how close the people were as to not walk into them.

 

When he got the right door, he knocked, and, when there was no response, opened the door and walked into the room.

 

He used his magic to find a table, then walked into the middle of the room to set down the bottle.

 

As he retracted his hand, it bumped into something, knocking it off the table.

 

He clicked his tongue, and crouched down to pick it up. He felt on the floor, and picked up a doll made of -- straw?

 

He ran his hand over the doll, setting it back onto the table, and felt around again, knocking into something thick. He felt along it, realizing there was a cloth over it, and pushed it aside, feeling around the hard object, which turned out to be a book. His eyes narrowed, and he ran his hand over the rough cover, made of leather, beads hanging off of it. He felt the sides, lace sticking out of it, and a thin string keeping the book tied together.

 

A door closed outside the door, and he quickly sat the book down and fumbled with the cloth, settling it back over the book.

 

The door opened, and someone walked in, and Merlin held his breath.

 

"...What are you doing in here?" someone -- Lady Helen -- asked.

 

"I'm --" Merlin stuttered. "Um, I was asked to deliver -- this." He reached back, and clasped his hand around the bottle, thrusting it out to her. He faked a smile at her, then made a quick escape out of the chamber.

 

 

Merlin breathed a sigh of relief once he was outside, walking through the market quickly, headed towards Gaius chambers.

 

He ignored the chatter of the market and the baa's of the sheep and goats, ignored the howl of the wind and dangle of chimes. Ignored the scent of fruits and vegetables, pies, and other assortments of food that would normally make his mouth water is he wasn't distracted.

 

Why would Lady Helen have that doll in her chambers? Why that doll, specifically? What would she use it for? Did she use it on someone already, or was it for a specific person? Did it hold the powers that he thought they did? And what was in that book? Why would she need it?

 

"How's your knee walking coming along?" a pratishly smug voice interrupted the war going on in his head, and he didn't know whether to be thankful of that or not. "Ahh, don't run away! "

 

Merlin paused. "From you?"

 

"Ahh, thank the Gods. I thought you were deaf as well as dumb. "

 

" Blind , actually, and i've told you, you're an ass. " He turned to him. "Just didn't realize you were a royal one. Oh, what're you gonna do? You got your Daddy's men to protect you?"

 

Arthur laughed. "I could take you apart with one blow. "

 

Merlin refrained his flush. "I could take you apart with less than that."

 

"You sure?"

 

Merlin shrugged off his jacket, blushing as Arthur laughed and the men let out "oooooh"s in response.

 

There was a dangling sound, more prominent than the chimes, and a slapping sound as it was smacked into someone's hand.

 

"Here you go, big man," Arthur said, before it was tossed at Merlin, who fumbled with it to the amusement of the other men. It fell to the ground by his feet, and Merlin reached down to get it, as the dangling sound started up again, and then it was being spun in the air, the wind and rattling of the mace -- that's what it was, he was sure -- as it was spun in the air being the focus of Merlin's attention, though it was a forced attention, but it was there, as the Prince got closer towards him. "I must warn you, i've been training to kill since birth."

 

"Wow… and how long have you been training to be a prat?" Merlin sassed.

 

Arthur scoffed. "You can't address me like that."

 

"Sorry. How long have you been training to be a prat, my Lord? "

 

There was a chuckle, then Arthur swung.

 

Merlin ducked, then jumped out of the way, backing up.

 

"Come on then, Merlin!" He swung again, nearly hitting beheading him, and Merlin took another set of steps back. "Come on!"

 

Merlin backed up, tripping over a stand and knocking his head against something, his hands subconsciously going up, and making the mace get caught on the cage that he had just backed into.

 

He pulled on it, freeing it just as Arthur swung down, breaking the table in his wake.

 

Merlin backed up as Arthur swung the mace up, jumping back before it hit him in the stomach, and tripped over an apple stand, landing behind it.

 

Arthur went to jump over it, and Merlin ran to the side, turning back when he heard the Prince land back on the ground. 

 

Arthur hurried towards him, Merlin matching his speed as he went backwards, and tripped over a sack.

 

"You're in trouble now!" Arthur cheered, swinging the mace in the air.

 

Merlin sensed what was near, and two hooks came together, just as Arthur passed, his mace getting wrapped into it.

 

The townspeople laughed, and Merlin backed up quickly, sensing a large and heavy wooden block near as the Prince nearly ran after him, and Merlin pulled with his magic, and it came out, proven by the sound of pain that Merlin heard.

 

Merlin backed up, and fell onto the ground, and he sensed around, finding a rope just as Arthur passed, and he pulled , stringing it out, and he tripped, the mace falling out of his hands.

 

Merlin felt around on the ground, and picked it up, making his way to Arthur, mimicking what he thought was his moves, spinning the mace.

 

"Do you want to give up?" Merlin asked, walking up to him as he walked back.

 

"To you?!"

 

"Do you? Do you want to give up?"

 

Arthur tripped over something, and Merlin snorted.

 

"Merlin!"

 

Merlin felt his stomach drop at the voice, instantly recognizing it as Gaius'.

 

Something hit him at the top of his back, and he turned around with a yelp, which was the wrong move, as he next got hit in the stomach, then over the head, and landed on the ground.

 

Hands pulled him up off the ground, and he struggled to get himself up, worried about another knights in the dungeons of another day in the stocks.

 

"Wait," the Prince said. "Let him go." The hands left, and Merlin released some of the tension from his shoulders, as Arthur walked around him. "He may be an idiot, but he's a brave one." His footsteps paused in front of him. "There's something about you, Merlin," he whispered. "Can't quite put my finger on it."

 

 

"How could you be so foolish!?"

 

Gaius closed the door to his chambers, then hurriedly made his way behind Merlin, the latter feeling the former's glare on his back.

 

"He needed to be taught a lesson," Merlin breathed.

 

"Magic must be studied, mastered, and used for good, not for idiotic pranks! "

 

Merlin whipped around towards him.

 

"What is there to master?! I could move like that before I could talk!"

 

"Then by now you should know how to control yourself!"

 

"I don't want to! If I can't use magic, what have I got?" He breathed in through his nose slowly, whiling the magic that he could feel, raging beneath the surface, beneath the skin, and focused, not letting it lash out. He opened his eyes, though it wouldn't help, and looked where he believed Gaius to be, based off the sound of his voice beforehand. "I'm just a nobody. And I always will be." He swallowed. "If I can't use magic, I might as well die."

 

He made his way to his room, and closed the door behind him, before face planting into his bed, breathing hard and deep, smelling the musty smell of the sheets.

 

Little did he know how false his statement was…

 

 

Gaius opened up his chamber door some time later, something sloshing around in his hands.

 

"Merlin," he said, and the boy turned his face over from trying to suffocate himself with his pillow, listening. "Sit up, take your shirt off."

 

Merlin pushed himself up with a wince, grabbing the neck of his shirt and raising the item above his head, letting it set along his arms.

 

He looked to the side, where the trickle of some liquid being taken out then being put back into the container was, and tried to listen to see if he could decipher what it was by sound alone.

 

"...You don't know why I was born like this, do you?"

 

"...No," Gaius answered, pressing a cloth of something onto his wound, where he had been whacked by the broom.

 

"...I'm not a monster...am I?"

 

Gaius retracted the cloth, and lifted his chin, making sure he could hear him clearly and paying attention.

 

"Don't. Ever. Think. That."

 

"But then why am I like this? Please, I need to know why."

 

"Maybe there's...someone with more knowledge than me."

 

Merlin turned away, dark expression on his face. "If you can't tell me, no one can."

 

A beat, then the clanging sound of bottles being moved and rustled about, before Gaius clasped his hand, setting an open bottle into his palm.

 

"Take this," he instructed. "It will help with the pain."

 

Merlin downed it, then handed the bottle back to Gaius, who eyed him worriedly, then patted his knee before standing up, grabbing the tray of items set to the side, and he left the room, leaving a questioning Merlin in his wake.

 

How false, indeed…

 

 

MERLIN…

 

Merlin pushed himself up with a start, sensing around him for an intruder, before recognizing the voice.

 

MERLIN…

 

The boy threw the covers off, and reached over the side of the bed, hurriedly putting on his shoes.

 

He rushed down the steps of his chambers, trying to stuff his long arms into his coat, and heard a distinctively loud snore, and knew instantly it was the court physician.

 

He eyed where the sound came from, making sure his footsteps were stealthy as he walked, putting his other arm into his jacket, and knocking down a pan as he went.

 

He flinched, scaring himself, and froze, listening with bated breath.

 

There was a sound of rustling, then the snoring started once again.

 

Merlin breathed a sigh of relief, then sensed around, making sure there was nothing to knock over or run into in his wake.

 

 

He took pause at a set of steps, listening -- and got a vision, though not one with pictures, as per usual, but of the movement, recognizing two hands, and looked around, realizing there was a pair of die, hitting a board in time with the slight rattle of the board.

 

He focused on the die, and they went flying off the table. A noise of confusion arrived from the hands -- knights -- and they got up, reaching for the die -- which instantly retreated, again. 

 

This cycle went on, until the knights were far enough not to see Merlin, who listened, making sure they weren't coming back, before bolting, edging around the table and into a side cave behind the chairs and table.

 

There was a set of thick wooden bars, the opening of it propped open, and he made his way down, listening.

 

MERLIN…

 

Merlin listened, then took a left, passed a set of porcelain pillars precariously propped up, and walked through cobwebs, which he paid no mind, listening to an echo of a voice.

 

He walked through what must have been a rusty gate, before he heard a deep chuckle, reverberating around the room, and Merlin paused, focusing, and knew instantly he was in a cave.

 

"Where are you?!" he called, which was shortly followed by a low growl, and a flap of wings, and Merlin backed up into the rock wall.

 

I'M HERE, the voice said. ...HOW SMALL YOU ARE, FOR SUCH A GREAT DESTINY.

 

"Why?" Merlin breathed. "What do you mean? What destiny?"

 

There was a settling of rocks, as if the great beast of a thing were sitting down.

 

YOUR GIFT, MERLIN...WAS GIVEN TO YOU FOR A REASON.

 

Merlin breathed. "So there is a reason."

 

The beast chuckled.

 

ARTHUR IS THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, WHO WILL UNITE THE LAND OF ALBION.

 

"...Right."

 

BUT HE FACES MANY THREATS, FROM FRIEND -- AND FOE -- ALIKE.

 

Merlin shook his head. "I don't see what this has to do with me."

 

EVERYTHING...WITHOUT YOU, ARTHUR WILL NEVER SUCCEED. WITHOUT YOU, THERE WILL BE NO ALBION.

 

"No. No, you've got this wrong."

 

THERE IS NO RIGHT, OR WRONG. ONLY WHAT IS, AND WHAT ISN'T.

 

"But i'm serious! If anyone wants to kill him, they can go ahead. In fact, i'll give them a hand."

 

Another chuckle. NONE OF US CAN CHOOSE OUR DESTINY, MERLIN. ...AND NONE OF US CAN ESCAPE IT.

 

Merlin shook his head. "No. No way. No. No, there must be another Arthur, because this one's an idiot."

 

PERHAPS IT'S YOUR DESTINY TO CHANGE THAT.

 

Chains rattled and wings flapped, and the dragon flew, flew away from Merlin and his many questions.

 

"Wait -- Wait! Stop, I need to know more! "

 

And, then, Merlin was alone.

 

 

Merlin startled awake to a loud "oi!" that had him nearly flop off the top of his bed. 

 

"Have you seen the state of this room!?"

 

"Actually, Gaius --"

 

"I swear, Merlin, if the next words out of your mouth are 'i'm not really seeing anything, at all', or anything of the sort, you're sleeping in the stables."

 

"I--" Merlin shrugged. "It just happens."

 

"By magic?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Yes. Well, you can clear it up with out magic!" A pair of trousers were tossed unceremoniously to Merlin's face. "Then I want you to get me some herbs -- Henbane, Wormwood, and Sorrel. And, deliver this to Morgana--" He passed him a vial, which Merlin fingered along. "Poor girl's been suffering from nightmares." Gaius grunted, then a shirt smacked Merlin in the face.

 

"I know the feeling," Merlin murmured, then got up to get ready.

 

 

That's how he found himself in Morgana's chambers.

 

Merlin instantly paused at the door, feeling an all to familiar force wash over him, that made him wonder if the nightmares were really nightmares .

 

"You know," she said, as Merlin stepped through the doorway, without knocking. "I've been thinking about Arthur. I wouldn't touch him with a lance pole." The footfalls walked away from him, and became fainter as she rounded an area. "Pass me that dress, will you, Gwen?"

 

Merlin's breath hitched, and wondered how he'd get through what was about to unfurl. He panicked, setting down the vial and feeling around for a dress.

 

"I mean," Morgana said, the sounds of rustling fabric as she shrugged out of her current clothes prominent in the room, "the man's a total jester. Just because i'm the King's ward, that doesn't mean I have to accompany him to the feast...does it?"

 

Merlin threw the dress over the side of the curtain, ducking down low so she wouldn't see the top of his head.

 

"Does it?" she repeated.

 

Merlin let out a high-pitched "uh-uhn!" then scouted around, panicking on what to do.

 

"If he wants me to go, then he should invite me. And he hasn't. So, do you know what that means?"

 

He hummed, resting his hand on a chair wondering on where to take it next, as he didn't want Gwen to get in trouble for "leaving".

 

"...Where are you?"

 

Merlin lifted up the dress on the back of the chair, covering his face and body with it, letting out a high-pitched "here!"

 

"It means i'm going by myself." 

 

Merlin sighed, apparently now caught up in the family drama of the castle in one moment, before turning around to leave.

 

"I need some help with this fastening?"

 

Merlin paused, a stone settling deep within his stomach.

 

"...Gwen?"

 

"I am here."

 

Merlin whipped around, some of the tension leaving his body and he mouthed his thanks to her, before nearly sprinting out of the room.

 

 

The bugles started to play as Gaius and Merlin walked in from the side, walking near the food table.

 

Gaius swatted his hand away as it strayed towards what must have been an apple.

 

"Remember, you're here to work."

 

Merlin shook his hand. "Aye."

 

Gaius walked away, his footsteps fading away with the others.

 

"She looks great, doesn't she?"

 

Merlin jumped at Gwen's voice behind him, and whipped around.

 

"Er…" Merlin said.

 

"...Oh! ...Sorry, Merlin, I forgot about the…"

 

He sighed. "I figured as such…"

 

"...I'm sorry."

 

"It's fine, Gwen, it's sometimes much worse -- I mean -- I should stop talking…"

 

"No, no! It's...fine… what I meant about Morgana, some people are just meant to be Queen, though, they don't want to marry each other, of course, they're like siblings, as they both say. And, besides, who would want to marry Arthur?"

 

That was a great question…

 

"Oh, come on, Gwen!" Merlin teased. "I thought you like those big, rough-tough, save-the-world kind of men."

 

"I'm more into ordinary men. Like you! Err -- not like you - -!"

 

Merlin snorted. "Believe me, Gwen, i'm far from ordinary."

 

"That's not what I -- I meant, I like ordinary men, not you, but, like...you…"

 

Merlin waited a beat, and, when it seemed like Gwen was done, nodded, and fiddled with the apple he had just took from the table, making his way towards the front, where Gaius had said to go as the physician's apprentice.

 

 

Trumpets played, and Merlin suspected (correctly) that the king had arrived, as everyone went to stand up, chairs scratching against the floor as they did.

 

"We have enjoyed 20 years of peace and prosperity," King Uther said. "It has brought the kingdom, and myself, many pleasures. But few can compare with the honor of introducing Lady Helen, of Mora!"

 

Applause filled the room, then a hush followed suite.

 

Violins started playing, before a seemingly haunting voice was heard, reverberating around the room. It seemed soft, though the song itself was a language that Merlin could swear he'd heard before.

 

Slowly, nearly silent snores started filling the room, along with wind that seemed to burn every candle, the scent of the smoke of it blowing out rising into the air, along with the familiar persistent stalled odor of cobwebs.

 

Merlin quickly covered his ears, which knocked out one of his only defense against "Helen" -- oh, wait.

 

He sensed around, and knew instantly the reason why the unpleasantness of her chambers was so prominent, as she slowly pulled a dagger from her sleeve, and poised to throw it.

 

Merlin felt around quickly, and sensed a chandelier directly above her head.

 

The chandelier unscrewed itself, and fell on her.

 

Merlin listened with bated breath, and released a sigh when he heard movement of the nobles slowly waking up, tearing off the cobwebs from around them.

 

He tensed, though, when he heard a movement from the middle of the room, and a scream as the knife was thrown from the old woman's hand.

 

Merlin choked on his breath, and slowed down time, rushing to the Prince and pulling him to the side by the shoulders, collapsing to the side with him, just as the dagger embedded itself in the wood right where he was just sitting.

 

He was quick to push himself up, and listen in the direction of the middle of the room, and heard the woman give out a gasp, before dying.

 

"You saved my boy's life," King Uther said. "A debt must be repaid."

 

"Oh," Merlin had to withhold a cringe. "Well --"

 

"Don't be so modest. You shall be rewarded."

 

"No, honestly, you don't have to your Highness --"

 

"No, absolutely, this merits something quite special. You shall be rewarded with a position in the royal household. You shall be Prince Arthur's manservant!"

 

Applause filled the room.

 

"Father!" Arthur exclaimed.

 

"Well," Merlin thought with a sigh, "at least this will make it easier to keep an eye on him...sort of."

 

Oh, how wrong he'd been there, too…

 

 

Later, there was a knock on Merlin's door, as he sat in his chambers, viewing the days' events.

 

"Seems you're a hero," Giaus said.

 

"Hard to believe, isn't it?"

 

" No . I knew it from the moment i'd met you. Well, you'd saved my life, remember?"

 

"But -- that was magic."

 

"And, now, it seems, we've finally found a use for it."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"I saw how you saved Arthur's life."

 

He shook his head. "Ah, no."

 

"Perhaps, that's its purpose."

 

Merlin sighed. " My Destiny. "

 

" Indeed . This book was given to me when I was your age. But, I have a feeling that it'd be of more use to you, than it was to me. Easy to read, the print is embedded into the paper enough to tell what they're trying to say."

 

Merlin felt along the sides, unclasping both of the clasps and flipping it open, thumbing over the prints.

 

He laughed, giddy. "But, this is a book of magic."

 

"Which is why you must keep it hidden."

 

"I will study every word!"

 

There was a knock at the door.

 

"Merlin?" a man called. "Prince Arthur wants you right away!"

 

"Your destiny's calling. You'd better find out what he wants."

 

Merlin smiled, setting down the book onto his bed, and walked out of his room.

 

Destiny...Indeed.