Chapter 1: Again
The moment the words left his lips, Merlin knew that life as he knew it was over. That was further cemented by the fact that there was now the tip of a sword braced very carefully in the small of his back.
"You're a sorcerer." The words were quiet. There was none of the shouting or yelling that Merlin had expected. But he didn't make the mistake of assuming that meant Arthur was not angry. Merlin kept very still and answered as succinctly as possible.
The pressure on his back increased.
"And you never thought to tell me?"
Behind Arthur, the knights shifted uneasily. Gwaine's eyes flitted between Merlin's face and Arthur's. Normally, he'd come swinging at Arthur, telling him to lay off and think rationally before passing judgment. But everyone present knew that speaking to the King was out of question. His hold on his sense of reason was tenuous at best, any upset, from anything, would be disastrous.
Merlin didn’t pause in his response to Arthur.
"Everyday. I thought about telling you everyday. But where would that have gotten me? Exactly where I am now. I can't protect you from the dungeons, Arthur, or from the abyss. I needed my head on my shoulders to make sure you were safe."
Arthur flinched at the bluntness of Merlin's words. Images of Merlin's detached head flashed through his mind. Somehow, the thought that Merlin expected unequivocally to die at his hands hurt, and he eased the sword back a bit.
Then he remembered, why Merlin thought he would die in the first place and pushed the sword back to its original place, with slightly more force than before. Merlin, to his credit, said nothing, he just waited for Arthur to say something.
"What makes you think I need your protection." He said the words in the same calm tone, now colored with condescension. "I need nothing from you, sorcerer. Not your help. Not your protection. Not -" Arthur paused minutely, as if he weighing whether he truly meant what he was about to say. He continued. "Not you. I don't need you."
The calm that Merlin had worked so hard to control, finally broke.
"Enough." Arthur shoved Merlin forward with the point of his sword. "I won't be enchanted by the things you say, not anymore."
"Arthur please -"
"Don't. You no longer have the right to say my name. You lost it when you chose evil over the good of Camelot. You covet power more than you coveted my friendship!"
Now Arthur was the one beginning to lose his control, his face losing its color as he realized the true meaning of Merlin's power. The knights took a small step forward, unsure of this turn of events.
"You would choose corruption over your place at my side." He said it with such finality that Merlin closed his eyes, the tears running freely down his face. He didn't turn, afraid of what he would see in Arthur's eyes if he did.
"Never, Ar – My King, never -"
Lancelot's eyes widened. He couldn't possibly mean -?
At Merlin's silence, Arthur repeated his command. Louder this time, his voice echoing through the castle grounds.
"Leave Camelot. You are no longer welcome here. As a sign of the friendship we once shared, I give you this last act of leniency. I will not seek your death, Merlin of Ealdor – if that is truly who you are. Disappear from my sight, and you will keep your life."
Merlin scarcely believed what he was hearing. Arthur refused to hear him out? Refused him a trial. Refused him even the slightest fraction of doubt. The seeds of hurt settled in his heart, but he had a destiny to fulfill.
"I deserve a trial at the least, before I am banished."
"YOU DESERVE NOTHING, LIAR!"
Merlin jumped at Arthur's roar, the hurt blatantly palpable in his voice.
"You will leave at once, or die by my hand. The choice is yours."
The quiet that reigned following Arthur's declaration was tense. Merlin's faith in his King shattered. Gone was the fair, just and compassionate King that had inherited Camelot's throne. In his place stood a man full of fury and hurt by betrayal.
Try as he might, Merlin could not help that the sliver of hurt grew, struck by the finality of his King's judgment. It filled his heart, until he was overcome with it, and without another word, ran towards the side gates of the castle, reserved for supply deliveries. He resisted the urge to look back at the desperate calls from Gwaine and Lancelot, screaming for him to return.
Merlin ran into the forest and with hot tears streaming from his eyes, whispered a plea to the heaven's to protect him.
As if it heard him, the sky split with an earth shattering thunderclap and poured rain down upon Camelot.
Inside the castle walls, Arthur watched the man he had once called his best friend, disappear.
A single thought echoed up to the gods that night, and they were unsure which of the two it belonged to. The Boy-King or the Sorcerer.
He had been betrayed.