Please read this with the following assumptions:
- This is a fic set somewhere in the future after Merlin's magic is revealed.
- Morgana never turns to the dark side because fuck self-fulfilling prophecies.
- Merlin and Arthur have gotten their heads out of their asses and admitted their feelings toward each other.
King Arthur Pendragon sighed, rolling his eyes fondly at the scene before him. He took a moment to summon up his previous exasperation and all of his kingly sternness at the younger man's antics, but found himself unable to stop the fluttering tenderness that permeated through him.
It was absolutely Merlin's fault, of course.
"Merlin. Stop dallying around. Some of us would like to reach Ealdor before nightfall."
The warlock averted his concentration from the wounded baby fawn on his lap to glare at his king.
"Ssssh, keep your voice down, dollophead. Do you want her to trash around again and keep us here even longer? Hold up, let me try that spell again. I almost get it," said Merlin lowly, brows furrowed and eyes still glittering gold from his so-far abysmal attempt at a particularly intricate healing spell.
It was true that Merlin absolutely sucked at healing spells, apprentice physician and most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the earth notwithstanding.
It was also true that Merlin had the biggest bleeding heart that Arthur had ever known; and thus, resulting in their current, and completely unnecessary in Arthur's kingly opinion, predicament.
But don't tell Merlin that -- or Arthur would have to deal with a pissed off warlock capable of freezing him in place while he ranted all hour long about how little forest creatures did nothing wrong and should be protected.
Yeah, he'd been subjected to Merlin's rants before, and for the love of Camelot, how that little warlock could rant.
And Arthur absolutely loved him, ridiculous rants and all.
It was one week before their official marriage, and they were on a trip to Ealdor, Merlin's home village, to fetch and escort Merlin's mother. Arthur thought it was also a good opportunity to spend some time with Hunith and the love of his life, away from all the kingdom's responsibility. Camelot could survive their one week off before the ceremony.
Naturally, that also attracted the attention of some very interested parties, and thus, what was supposed to be a Merlin and Arthur getaway had become quite a cramped crowd with Morgana, Gwen, Gwaine, Elyan, Leon, Percival, and Gaius of all people joining.
Arthur would have protested harder but between his sister's narrowed eyes, Gwen's hopeful smile, Gwaine's challenging smirk, and Gaius's raised eyebrow--he'd rather choose his battles wisely thank you very much.
And Merlin? Sadly, his love just happened to be the most affectionate creature in all of Camelot and had beamed when he knew all their friends were coming - and just like that the king got vetoed in his own kingdom.
Dear gods, why did he have to be so besotted with this lovable idiot?
Said idiot was now the reason why their trip was halted momentarily.
They'd come across some of the most pathetic cries Arthur had ever heard, and after following those sounds a little bit off the beaten path, they had found a wounded baby deer with its mother close, lifeless.
Merlin had immediately jumped down from his horse, regardless of Arthur's warning that it might be a trap. That idiot never learned from that one night reluctantly spent huddling inside a net because of those damn rabbits - though Arthur would deny it 'till his dying breath that he'd purposefully forget he had a sword to cut them down until much later. Don't look at him, look at the all-powerful sorcerer who refused to use any magic at all--yeah, Merlin was supposed to hide his magic from him at the time but still-- alright ALRIGHT, they were both at fault for enjoying their night in the net a little bit too much.
But apparently, there was no visible sign of attack, although Arthur couldn't fathom why anyone would leave such a good game to rot. He'd ordered all the knights to scour the perimeter while he stayed with his warlock and Gaius. Morgana and Gwen had gone to the nearby river together to refill their waterskins.
It appeared that Gaius was content to sit back and encourage his ward to practice his infamously atrocious healing magic.
"Ic þe þurhhæle þin licsare mid þam sundorcræftas þære ealdaþ æ!" chanted the raven-haired warlock as his eyes flashed bright gold one last time and then he yelped in surprise as the fawn shot up from its prone position - clumsily butting Merlin's head in the process - and then flounced out energetically into the deep forest.
Merlin looked up sheepishly to Gaius's amused eyebrow and Arthur's wondering face.
Gaius sighed, "My boy, when I said try more enunciation, that doesn't mean you put more power to it. Healing spells are meant to be treated delicately, not by bluntly pushing at it with magic."
"I slipped," Merlin pouted, looking downcast. "Umm,, let's forget that ever happened alright? What were you saying about let's not dally, Arthur?"
Gaius and Merlin continued their back and forth about healing magic techniques as the rest of the party gathered and prepared to continue the journey. Arthur smiled as the mutterings of magical phrases mingled around the knights' chatterings about sword techniques, while the three magic users among them - Merlin, Morgana, and Gaius - looked carefree and liberated.
All was as it should be.
The golden age of Albion.
It was almost night time when they arrived in the small village, but thankfully not before the road became too dark for travel. Moreover, as they arrived, it seemed the whole village inhabitants were there to welcome them. The lights of their torches were visible like a beacon from the distance.
It was inevitable. The news that the King of Camelot visiting the little village with his famed court sorcerer and consort-to-be, along with the Ladies of the court and the best knights in the realms, was bound to spread quickly.
There, at the front, stood Hunith - and people respectfully parted way as she rushed forward to the direction of her son who was already dismounting his horse.
As the wayward son and the mother embraced, Arthur and the rest of the entourage also gently touched down amidst the loud welcoming noises of the small crowd, but while everyone clamoured for the renowned red capes of Camelot, wary glances were fleetingly, but noticeably, cast at Merlin, and to a lesser extent, the Lady Morgana. Two most well-known sorcerers who were now in the open in regards to their magic use.
That did not sit well with Arthur.
"Don't let them bother you."
And then Merlin was there, azure eyes shining bright with a rare kind of happiness -and Hunith, after exchanging a hug with Gaius, walked over to them, smiling with the same sweetness she had passed on to her beloved son.
"Your majesty-" Hunith began lowering her body in a curtsy, but Arthur's raised palm stopped her.
"Hunith, we're past the point of formalities, don't you think?"
"Yeah, seriously, mother. Just call him his royal pratness-OWW!"
Hunith had playfully pinched Merlin right in the side where Arthur personally knew he was most sensitive, and it seemed that it was a secret shared with Hunith as well. The blond couldn't help but let out an unkingly cackle at Merlin's dramatic betrayed look.
"Called out by your own mother, Merlin."
"Boys...," Hunith said with a long-suffering sigh, but the beaming smile on her face belied it. "Now if you're done with your silly flirting, Arthur..." The woman offered a tender look to Arthur, her eyes examining the king like a mother checking her son thoroughly for any harm, "It's a pleasure to see you again. Warm, healthy and safe this time."
Arthur smiled warmly back. Hunith always had a tendency to bring out a part of him that yearned for a mother. "The pleasure is all mine. I hope we won't be intruding much until we're due to head back to Camelot."
"Nonsense, everyone is excited to have you all here. Come. And Arthur-" Hunith paused, her eyes twinkling and looking down at the rings on Arthur's and Merlin's fingers knowingly.
"Welcome to our little family."
And she pulled him along with Merlin into a hug.
That brief heartfelt moment was broken by Gwaine's sudden yell.
"MERLIN MATE, IS THAT YOUR MOTHER? MA'AM, YOU WON'T BELIEVE ALL THE THINGS YOUR SON HAS BEEN UP TO."
Merlin covered his face with his hands. "Excuse me while I go shutting up Gwaine." He rolled his eyes at the snickering Arthur and pecked him lightly on the cheek - before blushing as he remembered his mother was watching them, and hurriedly walking away.
"Well," Arthur continued after his snickers subsided, "I can tell you everything myself, of course."
"Obviously it would be silly of me to presume Merlin's been staying out of trouble," Hunith dryly said, eyes twinkling with mischief.
They both looked at each other before bursting out in laughter.
The averted eyes as Morgana walked past, making the lady frown in suspicion. But in a true Morgana's fashion, she quickly shrugged it off and soon she would swap every wary glance with a daring smirk.
But Arthur knew his sister well. It had bothered her more than she let it show, despite her tough exterior.
And thankfully, so did Gwen, for her concern was even more obvious, etched in every line of her face as she kept Morgana close to Hunith and their own party, rather than mingling with the rest of the villagers.
"Ealdor is a small place," Hunith murmured to him with a kind face, reading his own apprehension easily as if she was a druid mind reader. "Rumours travelled fast. The times and laws are changing but some ideas are quite difficult to dislodge."
"Magic," Arthur said with a clenched jaw. "They're still wary of magic."
The mother huffed out a long exhale. "That's always been a given, but I was hoping they'd be more welcoming to the Lady."
"What about Merlin?"
"Thankfully my son is used to it," Hunith replied with a sad smile, before sauntering off to help the others.
They were all helping Hunith and some of the villagers to prepare for dinner and unload supplies for their accommodations when Arthur noticed the absence of a certain dark-haired figure.
"Gwaine! Where's Merlin?"
The knight paused and looked around in growing confusion. "Eh? He hasn't joined us yet? He said he wanted to go by himself earlier but he wouldn't be long." Gwaine's expression turned to concern. "Shall we look for him, Princess?"
There was a thoughtful hum from behind the king, catching their attention. "I think I might have an idea where Merlin has gone," offered the mother.
It would seem that there was a small secluded creek behind the village. The ways around it were covered by thick foliage and shrubbery, which made it relatively hard to find had Hunith not given him a specific set of instructions to what was apparently Merlin's favourite place in the village.
Not to mention, the dying sunset cast long overcast shadows which would have obscured the place in darkness, if not for Merlin's own magic giving clues to where he was.
Just as the young king brushed off a thick set of leaves on the way, his trained hunter eyes spied a tiny, yet bright golden-bluish ball of light, hovering innocently near the upper branches - easily missed if you did not know what you were looking for. However, Arthur had been intimate with Merlin's magic.
The tiny light brought a smile to his face and a sense of déjà vu to his first encounter with a blue orb of magic in a dark cave - and just like that time, the tiny ball seemed to notice his unasked question and gently swayed to the direction of his query.
Arthur traversed yet another winding path before finally, he saw him.
It had been a while since Arthur found out about Merlin's magic but still, the wonders of it would never cease.
The sound of running water gently sang in his ears, coming from the small, yet clear and flowing natural waterway on the forest ground. The air smelt fresh while the atmosphere was soothing and peaceful, but adding an element of incredible surrealness of the scene were the floating magical orbs of various golden and blue shades, showering the area with their gentle light.
And there was his beloved warlock a stone throw away, only his back and his dark hair visible to Arthur in the tender light.
Arthur crept silently like the trained warrior he was, and wrapped his arms around the warm form of his raven-haired betrothed from behind.
"Hey," he whispered to that soft hair, feeling Merlin's own arms wrapping his and the warlock's surprised, yet elated smile blossoming on his face.
"Arthur? How'd you find me?"
"Your mother," murmured the king, laying his chin on Merlin's shoulder. "And your magic isn't exactly subtle. At least not to me. You're like a nosy toad waving a neon sign."
Merlin laughed softly. "Prat."
Arthur raised his head and a challenging eyebrow, meeting Merlin's fond eyes - then he noticed the faint redness around them, visible even amongst the flecks of gold in azure, the usual sign of Merlin offhandedly maintaining a work of magic.
"You alright there?" Arthur swallowed. "You are usually not this quiet, Merlin. The gods know we can never go three steps without hearing your usual prattle."
There was a shadow crossing over the warlock's face, which passed as quickly as it came. On its place, Merlin's cheeky grin grew. "Missing my prattle now, aren't we?"
The blonde huffed incredulously, but undeterred. "Not falling for that, love." He placed a gentle kiss on the side of Merlin's face, just above that wonderfully sharp cheekbone, feeling his warlock shuddering in his embrace. The orbs of lights around them swayed gently too, somehow causing an incredible natural kaleidoscopic pattern around them.
"You promised me that time. No more lies," muttered the king quietly, staring at Merlin's closed-off face. Waiting, just waiting... he'd learned over time that Merlin would clam up harder when being pushed too hard, so he just waited.
Merlin turned over in his arms, facing him fully. Gold-flecked azure eyes measured him up carefully before he sighed.
"Just... some memories I've had of this place," muttered Merlin finally, averting his eyes to the ground. "Silly of me, huh?"
"This place?" Arthur looked around, still amazed at the natural and magical spectacle around them. "I think this is the most remarkable place I've ever seen, Merlin. As of you being silly, that's not exactly news."
That elicited a laugh out of the raven.
"Not this, just...," Merlin, after untangling himself from Arthur's embrace, carelessly waved his arms around. "..Ealdor. It's been a while since we came here, hasn't it?"
He started to pace around and Arthur let him.
Merlin crouched down at the edge of the small stream, his hands gently cupping and caressing a shrub of tiny plant buds there. "I love this place," began the warlock softly. "This used to be a refuge for me... and Will."
The king froze hearing the name of the person who died because of him, so long ago. In fact, it felt like a lifetime ago. William, the peasant from Ealdor, Merlin's childhood mate.. who sort-of hated his guts and admitted he was a sorcerer with his dying breath - a sorcerer who saved them all from Kanen's raid so long ago.
"Your friend, Will...," the warrior began carefully, feeling as if he'd been punched in the gut as he realised the true enormity of what William had done for Merlin. "He wasn't a sorcerer. He protected your secret until the very end." Even from me, those words went unsaid but they hanged in the air between them.
"He always did that...," Merlin said faintly, and Arthur could see from the faraway look that his warlock was in the middle of reminiscing a memory. The king carefully crouched down next to him. "...even when I told him not to."
"He was a good man.."
"The very best," the warlock nodded, expression so earnest and sad that even Arthur could not muster any of his lingering personal misgiving about the departed man. "We used to come here all the time, you see, when it got so bad back in the village. Will was... so different. He was normal but he chose to hang out with a monster like me so they made him out to be a monster too but he always covered me up when my magic got too bad-"
"-Merlin," Arthur's hand firmly grasped one of Merlin's shoulders now, and his other hand gently turned his beloved's face toward him, effectively cutting off the ramble. "You are not a monster. Never say that you're a monster again."
"That was what he used to say too.." muttered the raven with glassy eyes, stuck in memories long past like Arthur had never heard or seen him do before. "It's just what the villagers used to call me because they could detect that I'm magic, even if they didn't know--but Will," Merlin let out a giddy laugh. "Will actually liked my magic. We used to screw around this place-just us, you see, because if my mother knew she would be scared I'd be found out by Cenred's men. He wanted to see dragons - a real dragon - so I'd learned how to conjure a small one out of fire for him. Wonder what he'd think of Kilgharrah and Athuisa..."
The warlock was silent for a moment, and Arthur took that opportunity to sit down on the soft ground and gather the raven-haired man to his side, gently pushing Merlin's head to lay on his shoulder and cradling his fingers through his hair. They stayed in that position for a while, just breathing in each other's presence and with Merlin lost in his reminiscence.
"...then at some point, I thought it wasn't worth it." breathed out Merlin, breaking the peaceful silence around them.
Arthur frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Magic," admitted the warlock softly. "Magic wasn't worth all the jeers and the scorns that Will had to endure on my behalf. I wanted it removed."
Merlin shifted uncomfortably under Arthur's arm, but Arthur did not let go. "I--well, Will and I experimented with the idea, and I had Will's support so my younger self naively thought it was possible. That was before I truly understood my magic, though. We tried a lot of things, but then something terrible happened."
At this point, Arthur was looking at his warlock aghast, horrified, imagining a much younger and innocent Merlin hating a part of himself so bad that he wanted to pull it out. Arthur could not imagine what would happen had Merlin and William succeeded, especially from what he'd understood about Merlin's druidic name, magic was supposed to be Merlin, not only a part of him.
"..the idea was to stop using magic entirely for months, sort of like starving it to death," continued Merlin, shyly and ashamedly playing with the tiny buds on the ground. He had determinedly averted his eyes from Arthur's. "It backfired horribly a week after we started it as I couldn't control the build up and my magic ended up exploding outward, but we were lucky because it happened at this place. Although... one of the trees was cut down as a result and it went down. There was a man passing nearby. Mr. Simmons. He was almost crushed to death. They were right to call me a-"
"-don't you dare finish that sentence, Merlin," growled Arthur.
Merlin just shot him a withering stare. "I was going to say an idiot, but so glad you agree that I'm not one anymore," he brightly added.
"Not funny," the king grumbled, but the air between them had lightened considerably.
Arthur's mind whirled, trying to put it into words what he wanted to say. "Merlin, do you...," he looked at the warlock intently, "have you ever thought.. that your magic isn't worth it again since then?"
"A couple of times." Merlin reluctantly admitted. "But not since I met you." And there was only truth in Merlin's statement. "You've made everything worth it, Arthur."
Later, Arthur would blame his next action on the way the lights danced on Merlin's wonderful face, casting him in such an ethereal aura. And obviously, Arthur would deny being the sappy one in this relationship if anyone ever asked - that title was reserved for Merlin and no, no he absolutely did not count the beautiful flecks of gold in Merlin's eyes or those small adorable freckles that decorated his warlock's face. No, absolutely not. What the hell are you talking about.
Arthur gently pulled in Merlin into a kiss under the starry-like magical lights like the sap he absolutely was.
"Love you, cariad. Magic and all, I love you."
Then Arthur found something tickling his legs coming out from the ground they were sitting on. They both reluctantly broke the kiss to look down.
The tiny buds that Merlin had played with earlier grew into a bush of bright yellow daffodils, popping up from the green grass in a bunch like an ironic mirror of the tiny golden lights they were sitting under. Merlin, the cause of this sappy ridiculousness, let out a giggle - and soon, Arthur was laughing with him too.
"Daffodils," Merlin said among gasps. "A symbol of rebirth and new beginning. Fitting, I suppose."
"You're a bloody sap."
"No, that's you!"
"Nope, pretty sure it's you."
"Shut up, dollophead."
"Hey, that's my word."
"Yes, and it fits you more."
"Ok, whatever you say, king sap."
"...then Merlin levitated his baby food to our fireplace."
"No fuckin' way!"
There were sounds of loud laughter.
"Well, he wanted to help me cook in his own way."
Another round of ruckus and merry laughter among the sounds of fire crackling and people loudly slurping their food.
Arthur pushed the old wooden door open to find a heartwarming sight greeting him. There was Hunith near the fire hearth looking up at the newcomers. A happy and content smile was permanently on her face. Gathered around her were all of Arthur's closest knights and friends, each holding a bowl of stew and looking like they were in the middle of a funny story. Even Morgana and Gwen, who were huddling close together near the fire, looked positively joyful and at ease.
Then, Merlin slowly peeked out his head from behind Arthur, face red and expression reflecting his consternation.
"Mother! What are you telling them?"
Sadly for Merlin, his words only prompted more loud chortling from the knights, with Gwen giggling and Morgana chuckling sympathetically.
"Merls, Merls, Merls," Gwaine said among his snickers. "We've got so many blackmail materials on you now. Hunith, you're the best!"
"Oh, what did I miss? Let's hear it!" Arthur asked a little bit too eagerly, which caused Merlin to nudge him from the back. "Ouch, Merlin! You can't just push your elbow on your king's back!"
"I can, and you're also doing the dishes tonight." grumbled the warlock.
"Ah, look at how domestic they are already," chuckled Leon. Arthur and Merlin simultaneously gave him the evil eye.
"Come here and eat, you two. Arthur, you can tell me more stories of Camelot while I can delight you with stories of Merlin as a baby boy," Hunith invited warmly.
"Mum, no! Oh gods, this is so embarrassing!"
"It is a duty of every mother to embarrass their child, my boy."
"Well, not in front of them, mother.."
"Oh yeah, Arthur should definitely hear about that story when Merlin tried to grow feathers after watching a chicken."
"I personally like when baby Merlin scared the midwife just minutes after being born with his golden eyes," said Morgana with a smirk. "Perhaps there's still hope for you to learn the art of effectively scaring people."
"What, Morgs no! One scary sorcerer among us is enough. Merlin cannot pull off scary."
"Hey! Excuse me, I can pull off scary, thank you very much, Gwen."
"Nope, sorry Merlin, you kind of.... can't."
"Not you too, Elyan."
"My boy, I have two words for you. Leech tanks."
"Shut up, Gaius."
"Oh, oh that one earlier, when baby Merls wanted to summon his toys but ended up summoning a flying Hunith to him."
"That was truly something," laughed Hunith, sending Merlin a warm gaze, but also purposefully ignoring the horrified look her son had tried to send her repeatedly.
"We should continue on that story when Merlin tried to levitate food into the fire to help Hunith cook."
This is gold, Arthur thought, as he eagerly sat down - and forced one spluttering warlock to sit with him. The happy moment held. Sitting here with his beloved warlock, Hunith, his sister, and among his closest friend, Arthur's heart had never been more full. He was filled with a sense of pure bliss and contentment rarely felt since he became king in Camelot, and he could not hold his laughter when Merlin mock-huffed besides him, as he was the object of everyone's teasing.
Even then, Arthur could see a glimpse of delight reflected in Merlin's eyes, of how everyone here would easily joke and tease him about magic. Hunith also glowed in the firelight; she kept sending these fond, happy looks to her son and him. She mouthed a thank you, and Arthur was humbled. This was what Merlin, Hunith and his sister Morgana should have had since the very beginning. A complete and easy acceptance. Something he'd soon hope the rest of his kingdom would have.
That was what he was fighting for. Yes, that was what they were fighting for.
Daffodil flowers begin to pop up when winter ends. They're a symbol of spring and symbolise new beginnings and rebirth. They're a positive, life-affirming symbol, with a bright and joyful yellow colour~
a pic here to illustrate how they might look like Merlin's tiny golden orbs of magic scattered in the dark
Fun fact: Arthur called Merlin "daffodil" once in "Love in the Time of Dragons" episode, which may or may not be the inspiration to explore its meaning further through this story.