A Shield of Golden Light
Merlin pushed himself harder, gasping for breath as he ran. His lungs burned and his muscles screamed as his terror inspired him to run faster than he ever had in his life. Terror all the more overwhelming since it was not for him.
Two days. He had only been gone from Camelot for two days on an errand for Guise to find some rare herbs. Merlin had been hesitant to leave for an extended period of time with all the upheaval in Camelot of late. However, he had to be the one to go, as one of the herbs was an illegal magical plant, which Merlin planned on using to make more wards for Arthur. Not that Arthur knew anything about the extra security Merlin gave him.
In the aftermath of Morgana’s takeover Arthur had become the unofficial regent and ruler of Camelot. Uther had recovered physically enough to play the part of king but emotionally he was a broken shell. All decisions now went through Arthur. For a time he barely paused to eat or sleep unless Merlin forced him to do so. In truth, this was the first time Merlin had been so far from his prince since The Event. Merlin had already been on edge when his magical early warning system, left in place to alert him of any imminent threat to Camelot, was triggered sending him into a panic.
“Arthur. Must get to Arthur,” was the only thought he could manage as he pushed himself harder to get to Camelot and by his prince’s side, where he belonged.
Arthur was exhausted, pushed so far he could barley stand. After weeks of running himself ragged to lead his damaged kingdom for his damaged father, they had been attacked. His brave knights had fought hard and done their training proud but flesh and bone was no match for the magical force bearing down on them. After hard fighting, the gates had been breached, the Citadel lost, and Arthur was beaten. The only thought his weary brain could produce as the robed leader of the enemy stalked forward while he was held immobile and helpless was “Thank God Merlin’s not here. Thank God he’s safe.”
Something was happening in the main courtyard of the castle. Merlin crept around the side and entered in the shadows to get a feel for what was happening before he acted. The brave and loyal knights of Camelot were magically forced to kneel in submission. Twenty men and women were spread around the courtyard holding them under their control. Merlin could feel their magic from the shadows. While they were of varying strengths, their magic gave off a sticky rancid feel of those that practiced the dark arts. The robed leader, the one with the strongest and darkest magic stood in front of Arthur.
All of Merlin’s exhaustion fell away when he saw his prince and friend. Arthur, his brave prat, was defeated and chained to the same kind of pier his father had used to kill so many accused of magic, innocent and guilty alike. Now his son would die the same way.
The leader was just finishing his assuredly pompous and tedious monolog about how he was doing this for revenge against Uther for his crimes against magic and would now feel the pain of those they had burned in the past. Merlin was already in motion as the leader raised his hand ready to set fire to the pier.
With a cry of anger, Merlin flung himself between the sorcerer and the prince. Broga silently cursed as a skinny servant in a neckerchief ruined his moment of glory. He was so close to exacting his revenge on the Pendragons once and for all.
“Who are you who dares defies me?” he bellowed in his most forceful voice. He had brought grown men to their knees; the boy stood no chance.
“Who are you to attack this city?” Rage rushed through him. This boy had the audacity to question him. Broga sneered, ready show the people of Camelot what happened when he was thwarted.
Arthur had been resigned to die. There was no escape and no help coming. He wished the sorcerer would get on with it and stop talking so much, when out of the crowd burst a very familiar gangly form with a voice he’d know anywhere. “No,” Arthur thought in despair, “not Merlin. I don’t want the loyal idiot to die with me.” Though he had given everything he had to defend Camelot, would give his life for his beloved city, he would not give this.
“Merlin! Move you idiot,” he hissed quietly trying to keep their attacker from hearing him. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You don’t need to die, too.”
“No one’s dying today Arthur. You really are a dollop head if you thing I’m leaving you here to face this alone.”
Once again Merlin was throwing himself in harms way to try to protect Arthur. While resigned to his own death, the thought of Merlin joining him terrified him. Yet, everything always went better when Merlin was there. No matter the danger or the odds against them Merlin had always been there at Arthur’s side. When the city was attacked while Merlin was away, Arthur had felt like he was entering battle without his shield arm: incomplete and unprepared. Now that Merlin was here, as much as Arthur didn’t want him to die with him, it felt like he was complete for the first time in days. Maybe there was hope they might survive after all.
Broga sneered at the brave but foolish youth standing before him. He would soon learn to cower like everyone else.
“I am Broga, powerful sorcerer and wielder of magic, conquer of Camelot and executioner of the Pendragon line. You are about to go up in flames with the murderer you defend if you do not get out of my way.”
“Broga. Hmm, never heard of you. You might be a powerful sorcerer, though that’s debatable, but you won’t be executing anyone. You and your followers will leave Camelot now or you will die,” the boy replied.
“You dare try and dictate to me! I have more power that you could ever dream of!” This only earned him a sardonic smirk. “Fine, if you wish to die with the prince, so be it! Tan yn llosgi!”
With that dramatic pronouncement he sent a fireball towards both young men. The fireball hit the dark haired boy and knocked him to the ground. “Now onto the prince.”
“NO!” The agonized cry of denial was ripped from Arthur as he watched Merlin hit with a giant ball of flame and collapse. Merlin was gone. No more jokes to make him smile, no matter how foul a mood he was in. No more cheery grin to wake up to. No more foolish loyalty, no more startling wisdom when he needs it most. No more Merlin. The one person who saw him as a person and not a prince, who he could always count on, who he cared for much more than he should, was gone.
Broga’s spell died on his tongue as he saw the dead boy start to rise to his feet, clearly not dead even though he should be. No one could have survived that. Even another powerful sorcerer would have been killed by that blast. An ordinary servant boy should have been obliterated. Yet he stood before him, straight and tall with only a slight wince of discomfort where he had been struck.
Arthur breathed a sigh of relief as Merlin climbed to his feet. He had no idea, nor did he care, how his friend was still alive but thanked every deity ever worshiped that he was still breathing. His relief quickly morphed into worry as he noticed that something was wrong. Merlin was… well he sort of… glowing.
Merlin rose to his feet, chest aching but trying not to let it show. The blast had smarted a bit but was nothing compared to the one he received from Nimueh. His magic hummed and filled him, dancing on his skin. It had never been hard to call his magic, but now it filled him so full that it seeped from his pores.
Merlin stood firm in front of Arthur keenly aware the danger was not over. No longer afraid of exposure or brimming with anger, he was driven simply by the need to protect. He was so full of his magic and the feelings of peace and power it brought there was no room in him for any other emotion.
Broga stood slack-mouthed in astonishment. The boy was glowing with magic. Golden power emanated from his skin as though there was too much for his body to contain. So much power: he’d never heard of anyone having that much magic before. Yet there he stood, protecting the Pendragon when he should be destroying him.
“Who are you? Where did you get such power?”
“My name’s Merlin. Of course, the druids call me Emrys. I was given this power for the purpose of protecting the Once and Future King and to help him bring a time of peace to all of Albion as is his destiny. So you see, I’m not about to let you kill him.”
“But you can’t be. He can’t be,” Broga stammered in surprise. “He’s a Pendragon! They’ve done nothing but murder our kind. How can you protect him? You should join with us. Together we can bring peace to this land. Uther has killed too many!”
The boy did not look ruffled or tempted by any of this. “Yes, Uther has caused pain, but Arthur is not his father. He shall be a just ruler that will be remembered for generation upon generation. More than this, he is my friend and you shall not touch him!” His voice had started his speech smoothly and calmly but had risen at the end filled with the power of his determination to protect that which mattered most to him.
“If you will not join me than you and everyone here will die!”
The glowing warlock smiled serenely in reply. “Wrong answer.”
Lancelot stared wide-eyed at the scene before him. He had often wondered how Arthur and the rest of Camelot would finally learn of Merlin’s magic. However he never pictured it quite like this. Lancelot once again struggled against the invisible bonds holding him, and all the other knights, motionless. He hated being powerless. It was bad enough that he could do nothing to protect the innocents in the courtyard or defend his prince, but to be helpless when Merlin, his best friend, was in grave danger was painful. He knew Merlin could take care of himself; he was a powerful warlock and if anyone could prevail it would be Merlin. That thought did nothing to ease the clenching of his gut to see his friend do battle against twenty magic users in full view of the Prince and all his court. Lancelot knew Arthur cared for Merlin, that they were friends. Lancelot silently prayed that that friendship would be enough to protect Merlin if, no when, he survived his defense of Camelot. “Survive, Merlin. Please survive.”
Gwaine’s only thought as he watched Merlin light up like a candle was, “I always knew there was something special about him.” His next thought, as he watched the battle commence was, “Damn, Merlin is a total badass!” This was followed by a slight worry that Merlin would beat his level of badassery. He soon decided Merlin completely earned the title of Biggest Badass of Camelot as he watched him take on all twenty sorcerers who were converging on him in the middle of the courtyard.
Merlin stood straight and unafraid as the cloaked figures advanced on him. He reached two arms out towards where the closest knights knelt and with a flick of his wrists summoned several swords and sent them flying faster than could been seen towards oncoming sorcerers. Another flick brushed aside a spell that was hurtling towards him like it was an annoying bug. Merlin then made a pushing gesture towards the sorcerers and sent them all tumbling backwards. Using the pause in the fight as most of them climbed to their feet, Merlin half turned and held a hand out towards Arthur. Gwaine couldn’t hear what Merlin said but there was suddenly a shimmering blue-gold sphere surrounding the Princess protecting him from any wayward spells and weapons.
Merlin turned back to the fight and continued countering spells thrown his way, often sending them back to their casters, which never ended well for them. The enemy was down to nine fighters and the still glowing Merlin was barley breaking a sweat. “Yes,” he mused as he watched Merlin shout gibberish-sounding words and hurl spells at his adversaries, “I’m never getting my title back. Oh well, at least I can say my best friend is the Biggest Badass in Camelot.” Gwaine smirked with pride in his best friend as two more went flying and didn’t get back up again. He could deal with that.
“How can this be happening”? Broga wondered as his last follower fell at the hand of the glowing youth. “This shouldn’t be happening! My plan was perfect! It’s not fair!” His army was losing, but he had one trick left. Something the boy couldn’t stop, couldn’t survive, no matter how much power he had.
“You are a traitor, Boy!” he yelled. “To magic and your kind for protecting a Pendragon! You may have bested my followers, but I am not so easy to destroy!”
“Please,” the boy scoffed at him, “your little fireball stung a bit but you hardly pack as much of a punch as Nimue did and she was not the one who walked away from our last argument. Also, could you be any more cliché?”
Broga’s blood ran cold. “You fought the High Priestess Nimue? And lived?”
“I faced her on the Isle of the Blessed to barter my life for Arthur’s after the whole Questing Beast fiasco. However, she didn’t play fair and tried to take my mother’s life instead. As you may have noticed, I don’t take kindly to people who try to kill the people I love. Yet you came here to kill Arthur, whom I love best, and think you can win. You should run, you pathetic little man, run while you still can.”
“NEVER!” Broga screamed. “Mellt y nefoedd dery ohonynt!”
Arthur’s emotions, already stretched beyond his limits, hurtled out of control as he watched the sorcerer cast his last spell at Merlin. He had been scared for his friend’s life as he watched him fight the army of sorcerers, in awe of Merlin’s power as he watched him defeat them with ease, and fierce pride as Merlin’s words made the last enemy falter. He was trying to ignore the brightly burning joy he felt upon hearing that Merlin “loved him best.” Joy mixed with hope that Merlin might return the feeling he’d been harboring for his gangly best friend. However all other feelings were blown away with the terror he felt as he watched bolts of lightning streak from the hands of his attacker straight toward Merlin.
Merlin was bursting with magical energy. His magic had always been there, a gentle hum at the center of his being, warming him no matter how cold or lonely he was. He had never known a time it was not there ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice to do his bidding. However, since the first hit he took in his battle to protect Arthur, his magic was practically bursting through his skin. Never had he felt so full, so powerful, so magical. It was as if every barrier that kept his magic under control had been breached. He was overwhelmed by the golden power pouring from his inner core, yet at the same time he was completely in control. They sought to harm his home, his friends, his Arthur. His need to protect was so strong it called up magic from deep within. Merlin did not even need to reach for his magic to cast a spell; it was already there, humming in his fingertips, thrumming over every inch of skin.
Merlin watched as Broga cast his last spell and sent lightning crackling through the air towards him. There was no time to duck, not that he would with Arthur behind him. No shield would protect against such a spell. Merlin only felt a curious sense of acceptance and a lack of fear as the bolt hit him.
However, he was not burn to a crisp or obliterated. There was no pain, no agony, no burning, no death. As the lightning reached Merlin it reacted with the golden glow surrounding him. The large bolt broke into hundreds of small sparks that danced across his skin. The magical glow and lightning sparks combined into a sparkling force that swirled around his body.
Lifting a hand Merlin looked at the golden and white blue power encompassing his flesh. Instead of causing pain, the additional lightning made him feel as though every nerve ending was alive, that he was filled to the brim with energy. He felt invincible.
“Broga, you have tried to destroy my destined future with Arthur, the Once and Future King and the peace he shall bring. You have killed innocents for nothing more than vengeance. “With the authority I hold as Emrys and the Last Dragonlord, I command you to go now from this place and never return. To never again lift your hand or your magic to harm another being. Do you accept this?”
Broga had stared dumbly at Merlin and the sparkling lights haloing him. He gave a small jerk now and his face morphed from stunned disbelief to searing hate. “I shall never rest till you and every citizen of this cursed city is dead!”
“So be it.”
Without warning, the golden lightning sparks hovering around Merlin built and came together forming an arch of energy that leapt through the air towards the enemy sorcerer. This time when the lightning hit it left nothing but ashes in its wake.
Silence encompassed the courtyard. Everyone hardly dared to breath now that the magical battle was done. Merlin still stood in the center of the open parade ground in front of the Prince, still bound to a stake ready to be burnt.
The friendly boy that everyone knew and liked was still glowing with forbidden magic. The crackling lightning that had infused his aura was gone, but the soft glow that had surrounded him was now stronger. It was as if Merlin was a small sun and his skin could no longer contain the rays. His extraordinary feats of magic had not left him tired but bursting with energy and power. The question was, what now?
Arthur observed his friend as he stood there like a miniature sun. He did a mental check. He was happy he was still alive. The hint of betrayal that Merlin had lied to him was washed away in the joy that Merlin was still alive. Fear of the power emanating off his servant combined with the worry that Merlin would no longer be the loveable dollop head he knew, that he had been consumed or changed by the magic. However it was love that was at the center of every other emotion. Love for his Merlin. “Ha, take that Morgana,” pleased with his inner awareness. “Emotionally constipated, my ass!”
With limited options on how to proceed, Arthur needed to know the most important thing: was Merlin still Merlin?
“Merlin,” he called softly in a natural tone. “A little help.” Merlin turned to look at him.
“You ok?” he asked with some trepidation in his voice.
“Well, I will be once I’m down from here. Really Merlin what kind of servant are you to leave your master tied to a pole?”
Merlin’s mouth curled up to the side as a grin started to form. “Ungrateful prat. I always knew you were a clotpole!”
At this a full-blown grin stretched across both boys’ faces. “Yep, still Merlin. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Arthur felt invisible hands release him from his bonds and lift him from the platform to set him gently on the ground.
“Good to see your not complete useless.”
“Nice to see you finally noticed.”
“While we will be talking about all this at great length,” he said with underlying seriousness about the coming conversation, “you do realize your still glowing, don’t you Merlin?”
Merlin gave him a mock affronted look. “No, how did I every miss that? Yes, I’m still glowing as you put it. The magic won’t go to rest, there’s just too much of it.”
“Well, couldn’t you do something with it? You know, burn it off?” Arthur suggested. A look of surprise flittered across Merlin’s face at the idea that Arthur was giving permission to perform magic. However it quickly morphed to concern as he noticed the bloody gash on his forehead.
“Yes Merlin, that tends to happen in battle.”
Concern turned to determination. “I can fix that.” His hand rows towards Arthur. “Cael eu gwella.”
The golden halo around Merlin pulsed with power as he finished the spell. A ripple of light emanated from Merlin’s being like ripple in a pond made by a pebble, only on a massive scale, going out from every direction. As the wall of magic spread and washed over Arthur he felt as if he were washed clean from battle grim, rejuvenated by a full night’s sleep. His cuts and bruises eased and disappeared. He had never felt so healthy before. Arthur gazed in wonder at Merlin. The wave of golden light didn’t stop at Arthur but spread across the courtyard and beyond throughout the streets of Camelot. People in the city suddenly found themselves healed, healthy, and whole. From the smallest scrape to life long illnesses, everyone was ‘fixed.’
Merlin gave a satisfied nod, happy with his work. The glow wasn’t as bright now, but still he glimmered. Merlin looked around the courtyard again. This time taking in the damaged walls, the broken gates, the crushed sculptures, and dented armor.
“Yn cael ei adfer.”
Another sphere of light rippled from his body. This time when the magic was done the gates were repaired and in better working order than they had ever been. The walls were solid, the sculptures looked like they had been newly finished, and armor was repaired and shined. Throughout the city leaky roofs were mended, broken tools fixed, and ripped garments returned to former glory.
Arthur stared at his manservant and friend, his other half. Merlin was no longer glowing and finally looked like Merlin again. Relief flooded Arthur.
“Show off,” he smirked.
Merlin smirked right back. “Prat.”
“I think I need to lay down now.” With that Merlin promptly collapsed.
Arthur dove for Merlin’s crumpling body and caught him just before he hit the hard cobblestone of the courtyard. He was enough of an idiot, no need to add a head injury. Scooping him up bridal style he quickly made his way towards the castle where he could get him somewhere safe and have Gaius look at him.
Arthur was swiftly surrounded in an honor guard by his Knights of the Round Table, all of them fiercely loyal to him, and even more so to Merlin. Arthur knew there would be consequences for today’s actions. Explanations would be required and issues hashed out, laws reconsidered. He didn’t even want to think about his father. But all that was pushed aside as he focused on getting Merlin safe and looked after. Worry about the repercussions could wait. Now all that mattered was Merlin.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two: Three Days Ago
Three days ago...
Let's take a look back before moving forward.
Thank you everyone who left comments and kudos!! You are all wonderful and have inspired me to develop the story more and continue writing. Not quite as much action this time, though more will be coming.
Three days ago…
Merlin finished carving the last piece of the protection rune under Arthur’s bed and whispered the spell to activate it with a flash of gold eyes. He pulled himself out from under the bed frame and stretched. That was the last of the ruins for the prince’s chambers. Next on his list were wards but he needed a few more ingredients before that next layer of protective magic could be set to guard his prince.
Ever since they had returned and defeated Morgana and Morgause’s undead army, Merlin had been obsessed with blanketing Arthur in defensive magic. It had been too close. Far too close a call after dozens of near death situations where enemy magic almost killed his prince. His Arthur. Never again.
Merlin had spelled Arthur’s armor to repel offensive spells, his dishes to react to poison, his doors to bar those with evil intent, even his bed and drapery to be fire resistant. Just last night he had finished placing the network of ruins and charms that would alert him of an attack on the city. That had been an ordeal, sneaking out most nights for a month setting everything in place before casting the final enchantment. Everything else had been done under the guise of chores while Arthur ran himself ragged with endless training and council meetings.
Glancing out the window Merlin noticed it was a good hour after mid-day and made his way to the Great Hall. A raised eyebrow in question to the guards inquired if those inside had stopped for lunch. The slight shake of a head in response was no surprise to Merlin. Arthur never paused his hours long meetings unless prompted and the pompous old windbags never seemed to run out of demands or complaints on Camelot’s restoration.
Entering the kitchens with a cheeky grin and a sassy greeting for the staff, Merlin picked up the usual trays for Arthur’s lunch. After a parting call to let Lancelot know it was his turn today, the most powerful warlock in history toted an armful of food back to his prince’s room.
Arthur tried to stifle a sigh as Lord Somebody-or-other complained again at the cost of rebuilding the walls of the lower town. Honestly, he didn’t know how his father dealt with these stubborn bores all the time.
A small, guilty part of him resented Uther for giving up on life and leaving him to rule before he was ready. Another, almost guiltier, part liked how he could make change happen without butting heads with his father over every important decision he wanted to make. Of course, he still had to argue his point with the ministers, councilors, and nobles, but he could eventually compel them into following his will. Things like rebuilding damaged homes for the townspeople and ensuring those whose lives Morgana had destroyed were housed and fed. His father would have ignored them and put all effort into the citadel. If Arthur had learned anything in his years spent listening to Merlin and Gwenevere, it was that the people came first. He would see his city rebuilt and defended by the fiercest knights, the bravest army, the sturdiest walls, and strongest gates, but not at the expense of his people.
It was almost time to put the droning noble in his place. Arthur liked to let them argue themselves out before shutting them down. It made him feel less like a dictator. However, it did take up far too much time. Usually there was a convenient disruption around now to give him a good reason for refusing to listen. Some council meetings were extremely important, when he was meeting with those who knew how to actually run the country and the castle. The steward, the chamberlain, the treasurer, the minister of agriculture, and of course Gaius were invaluable. Nobles who cared little for peasants and too much for their own wealth were not worth his time, but still had to be appeased.
There was a knock on the large doors to the Great Hall and Lancelot entered with his usual respect and dignity.
“Forgive the interruption, Your Highness, but there seems to be a situation that requires your immediate attention. I believe the Captain of the Guard has a report for you.”
“Thank you, Sir Lancelot,” Arthur replied. It was always good to remind the nobles of the knight’s new title. “I’ll be there momentarily. My lords, I’m afraid we must conclude this discussion. The refortifying will continue as scheduled. We’ll adjourn until tomorrow. Good day.” With that he rose and exited before anyone could comment, Lancelot following after in his wake.
“Well timed, Lance, I was at the end of my patience with their arrogance.”
“My pleasure, sire. I believe there is a report waiting for you in your chambers.”
“Would this report happen to be a healthy lunch and my manipulative manservant?”
“Oh don’t ruin his fun, he thinks you have no idea he orchestrates your release from council meetings every day. He’s worried about you. You’ve taken on so much and never seem to take proper rest or nourishment unless he makes you.”
Arthur smirked. “I won’t tell. Sometimes I even enjoy his fussing, though I’ll deny it to his face. Besides, it makes him feel useful and keeps him busy. I don’t want him dwelling on what happened. Morgana was his friend too. She betrayed us all. Plus, he really is quite good at it. Somehow he always has the interruptions timed perfectly.”
“He has always had an impeccable sense of timing. When he wants to.”
“Yet can’t be found to do his chores!”
The teasing air to Lancelot’s grin faded. “He maybe not always be there when you want him, but he’s there when you need him.”
“I know, Lance.” Arthur became more serious as well. “I know I don’t always act like I appreciate him or see all he does, but I know Merlin’s worth. His importance. I’d be lost without him.”
“I think we’d all be lost without Merlin.” The men exchanged slight but sincere smiles.
“That we would. I don’t know how or why, but things always just seem better when Merlin’s there.” Lancelot paused as they reached Arthur’s door. “Are you and the lads joining the ‘briefing’?”
“No, sire,” he replied, “but we’ll see you in the yard in an hour.”
When Arthur entered his room he found a table full of food and a puttering manservant but no Captain of the Guard with a report. Not that he was surprised. Arthur sat down and tucked into the meal.
“Didn’t Capitan Wesson need to see me?” he asked innocently.
“His report is by your elbow. A face-to-face meeting wasn’t required. I can’t blame him for wanting to miss out on seeing you stuff your face. It’s sickening, really.” Arthur felt himself relax and smiled into his goblet. All was well if Merlin was being a cocky little shit. It seemed to be only in times of dire need that he became serious and wise.
“Are you calling me fat again? Would you like to join training this afternoon to see how fit I am? Of course, you’re such a skinny twig I don’t know how you can lift a sword without snapping in two.”
“Yet I’m expected to haul around your armor like a pack horse.”
“Even pack horses have to eat. Come and join me. You’ve brought enough food to feed a army, how much do you think I eat?” Arthur grinned as the good food and familiar banter eased the stress from his hours long meeting.
Merlin sat and started eating, a satisfied smirk on his face. All had gone according to plan. He could see the prince relaxing from an overworked monarch back into his friend. It always seemed to take a few minutes of irreverent banter to get Arthur to loosen up and let go of the stress he constantly carried.
“The pompous windbags still giving you trouble about the lower town.”
“You can’t call the lords of the realm ‘pompous windbags,’ Merlin, though it does seem apt. Yes, they’re still complaining, but nothing that I can’t handle. After all, I deal with you everyday.”
“See, I’m here to keep you on your toes and develop your debating skills. With your dim little brain, you need all the practice you can get.”
“My dim brain! I’m a genius compared to you, idiot.”
Merlin basked to the simple pleasure of good food and a good friend. These were the moments that made everything else worth it. All the secrecy and danger, the heavy burden of their destiny fell away when he got to see Arthur as no others did, as a man, a friend, and not a prince.
Merlin wished he could let the bantering continue but there was the matter of the wards and the missing ingredients he needed to complete them.
“The hospital wing is emptying out slowly but surely. Gaius says the rest are healing well but that he’s running low on several of the herbs, especially those he uses most often.” This was true. “He asked if you could spare me for a few days to go collect more. Replenish his supplies.” Also true. It just happened to coincide with the fact that Merlin also needed petals of the Glimoran, a plant with magical properties that is used in many potions and enchantments, to finish his wards for Arthur.
“He needs you to collect them? Didn’t I give him access to any page or servant he might need for his work in the hospital wing?”
“Yes, they’ve been life savers. We’d never be able to manage without the extra hands, but several of the herbs he needs are hard to find and need special care when harvesting. Gaius can, and has, sent pages out to collect willow’s bark and feverfew, but they won’t be able to help with yarrow and angelica root. It would take far longer to train them than for me to just go get them.” Arthur looked aside, a little guiltily.
“Of course you can go. Whatever Gaius needs. How long do you think you’ll be away picking flowers?” the prince replied, trying to recover his lighter tone.
“Picking flowers!” Merlin cried indignantly, following Arthur’s lead. “I’m not picking flowers for the fun of it. Herbs! Important, medical herbs!”
“Clearly a ruse for skipping out on work for a holiday, you can’t fool me.”
“I deserve a holiday, that’s for sure. Though I’d hardly call trudging through the forest and the mud for a few days to dig up plants a holiday. And I do fool you, all the time. I’m quite crafty.”
“Crafty as a rabid badger in a in a pig pen.”
“What does that even mean, you cabbage head?”
“It makes perfect sense to anyone who isn’t an idiot.” The prince paused for a moment before continuing. “We can manage a few days without you. Getting a few days away will probably be good for you. So go pick plants for Gaius and don’t worry about us here. Just stay safe out there. Knowing you, you’re bound to run into some kind of trouble.”
Merlin forced a smile and nodded. Running into trouble on his own wasn’t his worry. He could definitely handle anything he encountered in the woods, especially on his own when he didn’t have to hide his magic. But this would be no relaxing vacation. No matter what Arthur said, Merlin would worry about his prince without him there to look after him.
“If anyone gets themselves into trouble, it’s you!”
“I’ll be fine, Merlin. Gwen and the knights will mother hen me in your absence. It’s just a few days.
“Yes,” Merlin thought, “just a few days.”
“Relax, Merlin, Arthur will be fine,” Gwen squeezed his shoulder. He had shown up mid-afternoon, just after she had finished settling a conflict between two maids that was solved with a slight shuffling of duties. Ever since Arthur’s return and Morgana’s deposing, Arthur had promoted her to head of household servants. As Morgana’s former lady-in-waiting, she could have, should have, been dismissed, but Arthur instead gave her a position of responsibility and honor. He had offered to make her a lady, but she refused. It would have felt like favoritism. Instead she found she liked managing the castle directly under the steward, an older gentleman who seemed stiff and unyielding at first but gave the impression he knew everything that happened in the castle. Including her work to undermine Morgana during her brief rule. He had given her his respect and important work to throw herself into, for which she was extremely grateful.
“Yes, but you know how he gets. The prat never takes care of himself and attracts more trouble than bees to honey.” Merlin was still fretting about being gone a few days. Honestly, those two fussed over each other more a mother bear over her cubs, but only out of each other’s sight. And thought they were subtle about it. They certainly amused her.
“Nonsense. The knights know the schedule and system for getting him out of meetings. I will personally oversee his meals and insure he eats three times a day. I’ll assign someone to clean up his chambers and look after his clothes. I can’t promise he’ll get enough sleep, but everything else will be taken care of, at least until you get back. We’ll look after him for you, Merlin. I promise.”
With that, Merlin seemed to relax, at least a bit. Her friend carried far too much stress these days. A short break from the castle would do him good.
“I know you will, Gwen. He’s in the best hands. I just… I worry.”
“Like a love-sick fool leaving his beloved for the first time,” she teased gently, giggling as his cheeks turned pink and he sputtered in protest. “Now go get ready for your trip. Pick up some supplies from the kitchen, they’ll have some food ready for you.”
“I don’t know how this place functioned without you! You’re the best, Gwen!” And with that, the gangly manservant was gone, leaving her with a smile on her face. It was only a few days. Everything would be fine.
Chapter 3: Chapter Three: Feelings, Conversations, and Consequences
Arthur has some thought provoking conversations, deals with his feelings, and starts to handle the consequences of his and Merlin's actions.
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Chapter Three: Feelings, Conversations, and Consequences
Arthur hovered by the side of his four-post bed while Gaius finished his examination of Merlin. The physician had insisted on checking Arthur first, even though the cut on his forehead had been healed, before turning his attention to his ward. Besides the cut, Arthur had made it through the battle with only some bruising and exhaustion. Now it was as if the battle had never happened, thanks to Merlin’s first golden explosion.
Regardless, Arthur was no closer to figuring out his emotions than he was when Merlin had finished glowing like a miniature sun. Merlin had magic. Merlin had lied, been lying since he met him. He had saved them all. He was dangerous. He was an idiot. He betrayed Arthur. He was his friend. He broke the law. He was Merlin.
Why hadn’t he trusted Arthur with this secret? Didn’t he know that Arthur wouldn’t, couldn’t, see Merlin come to harm? Why had he risked execution to learn forbidden magic after all the damage they had seem magic do? Or was it because of what they had seen, that he sought out such power? The only thing Arthur knew for sure was he could not let Merlin come to harm, no matter what the law said.
“How is he, Gaius?”
“Merlin will be fine, sire. He just needs rest. He expelled a great deal of power all at once and needs some time to recover.” Gaius looked tired and worn, fear lurking behind his eyes.
“I assume you knew about the magic.”
“Since the day he arrived and saved my life from a terrible fall.”
“He came to Camelot knowing magic?”
“Sire, Merlin was born with magic.”
Arthur’s eyebrows rose. “I thought it was a skill you studied.”
“It takes study and practice to master it. For many it is an inborn trait that takes time and an education to develop. But there are those who are born with an instinctual ability. For Merlin, magic is tied to the essence of his very being. Hunith says he was moving things with magic when he was only a few months old. He didn’t choose magic, Arthur. Magic chose him.”
That certainly gave him some answers and food for thought. However… “Why didn’t he tell me? I understand why he would keep it a secret in the beginning, but now… I mean, he’s… Doesn’t he trust me?”
Gaius smiled at him fondly. “That, sire, you’ll have to ask him. However, I can tell you that you and Camelot are everything to Merlin. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll make a restorative draft for him to help regain his energy once he awakes.”
“Of course, Gaius.”
As the old physician reached the door, he suddenly called out, “Wait! Gaius, you said he was born with it. He didn’t chose it, didn’t seek it out. Is that… did she… Morgana, was she…?” he stuttered, unable to finish the painful thought. If Merlin hadn’t chosen magic, maybe Morgana hadn’t either. If she had unwillingly found herself with magic, terrified of being turned from beloved ward/daughter into an enemy awaiting execution, it was no wonder she had gone mad and turned Morgause.
Gaius seemed to stoop even lower. “No, Morgana did not choose magic. For years she suffered from prophetic nightmares, which turned into uncontrolled bursts of magic that terrified her. When combined with her fear of Uther’s reaction if he ever found out... I wish I could have done something else, anything else for her, to set her on another path than where she ended up.” Guilt and remorse were in every line and wrinkle of his aged face.
“No, Gaius. I should have done something, I should have known. She was like my sister growing up, even before I knew she was my sister. She should have been able to tell me and known I would never let him hurt her. To live in that kind of fear, with no control, how did she manage? I failed her.”
“I’m afraid we all did.”
”Never again, Gaius. I won’t fail again.”
Gwen knocked gently then entered the prince’ room. She pressed a plate of food into Arthur’s hands before guiding him to sit in the chair by the bed where her best friend lay still and pale. She sat on the edge of the mattress and took Merlin’s hand in her own.
“I always knew there was something special about him,” she murmured. “Though I didn’t expect the light show.”
Arthur chuckled. “I thought the same thing the day he arrived, then proceeded to completely ignore anything out of the ordinary about him. Looking back, there are so many hints. I thought I was lucky! So many convenient branches knocking out bandits or well timed rockslides. But it was all him, wasn’t it?”
“Probably. Once he’s awake, I’m sure we can get the full story from him.” She inhaled quickly. “My father! I bet he’s the one who healed my father.”
“My God. He even confessed to it. How could I have been so blind?”
“We all were.” She paused and considered her words. “What are you going to do? About Merlin, your father, the law?”
The prince sighed. “I don’t know. I can’t let him die. I could make a case for banishment, if he would leave, if I could let him go. I’m not sure how to function without him beside me.” He flinched at this, as if that was far more that he had meant to say, to acknowledge. “Not that…I mean…he’s…that’s not…Gwen…” He looked so lost and confused; she had to set a few things straight for him.
“Arthur, it’s alright. I know exactly how co-dependent you two are. Not that you couldn’t survive on your own, you’re both so strong, but you would both be miserable. You’re like two sides of the same coin. I’ve never seen anyone closer than the two of you.” His confused look turned to guilt.
“Gwenevere, you must know, I have never been insincere in my affections for you. I care for you very much.”
“You are an honorable man, Arthur. I know you care, but be honest with yourself. What are the things you like best about me?”
“You’re the most compassionate and beautiful person I know. You are never afraid to give me your opinion and tell me I’m wrong. You see me as a man first rather than a prince. You challenge me; make me think about things from another perspective. I’m a better person having known you.”
Gwen had to blink tears away and catch her breath. “Thank you, Arthur. You have no idea how much that means to me.” She smiled at him and took his hands in hers. She swallowed the lump in her throat, trying to keep her voice from quivering. “You are such an extraordinary man and you will be the best king this land has ever seen. Knowing you, seeing you become the man you are, has been the greatest honor I can imagine. And I care for you, too, so much. But just consider what you just named as my best attributes: challenging, giving uncensored advice, not treating you as a prince, showing you another way of life and point of view. There is someone else in this room that fits that criteria, and he was doing so long before I started.” Almost against his will, Arthur’s eyes glanced to the still figure on the bed behind her. “I’ve never met anyone with more compassion than Merlin. As for beauty, have you seen those cheekbones?”
Arthur gave a watery snort and a shy grin, eyes softening. “It’s a wonder he doesn’t hurt himself.” He sobered. “But Gwen, what you’re suggesting…”
“I’m not suggestion anything. At least, nothing anyone with eyes and has spent half an hour with you two, hasn’t realized years ago. I just want you to be honest with yourself.”
“Wait, what do you mean, anyone with eyes? Who else knows? I didn’t know until recently!”
She giggled, “No one for sure, but there’s been speculation for years. The servants are all rooting for you two, the knights have a betting pool, the nobles mostly ignore it in favor of their own dalliances.”
Arthur started turning red, too, but got himself under control. Tightening his grip on her hands, he said, “Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? I mean I haven’t even talked to Merlin about anything. I don’t even know if he feels the same way!”
“After that demonstration in the courtyard? How can you doubt he loves you?” With that he turned bashful and blushing again.
“You really think…”
“Yes, Arthur, you ridiculous man. Merlin loves you. As do I.”
“Never doubt I love you, too, Gwenevere.”
She took his face in her hands, rubbed one cheek with her thumb, and gently touched her lips to his before resting their foreheads together. For a brief time, they shared a moment of perfect serenity and acceptance.
Reality came crashing back with shouting from the hallway and a thundering knocking at the door.
Arthur turned pale as a ghost. They both recognized that voice.
Lancelot and Gwaine stood guard by Arthur’s door since the prince had carried Merlin in after his collapse. Leon was coordinating soldiers and knights in the aftermath of the attack. They convinced Percival and Elyan to get some rest and take a second shift. The entire inner circle was worried about what those more loyal to Uther would do in response to Merlin’s magic show.
Not long after Gwen had entered, they heard a commotion barreling toward them. As it grew closer, it became clear that the noise was coming from none other than King Uther. For over a month, he had barely moved or spoken without prompting. Now, it seemed neither were an issue as he swept toward them yelling for his son.
“Where is he? Arthur! Get out here with that traitorous manservant of yours. Arthur! Why isn’t he in the dungeon where he belongs? Arthur! Open the door!” Lancelot exchanged glances with Gwaine. It was one thing to bar fellow soldiers and knights; it was another to outright defy their king. Lancelot read the grim determination in his partner’s faces and returned it.
The knights were saved from having to respond to Uther’s demands when the door opened from within enough to reveal the prince’s face.
“Father. It’s good to see you up and about after so long,” Arthur said evenly.
The calmness of his response seemed to bring the king up short. “Yes. Well, I’m feeling much better. Suddenly things just seemed clearer. And it’s a good thing too, since the kingdom has turned to ruin in your care! I’m told we were attacked by an army of sorcerers! That your manservant has betrayed us with magic! I want an explanation. How could you have let this happen and why is the traitor not already dead!”
Arthur’s face grew angrier as Uther spoke. “He is not dead, and will not be executed, because he is the sole reason we are still alive. Merlin single handedly stopped the attack. We were beaten before he arrived. He saved us all! Not only did he defeat the enemy, he healed everyone wounded in the attack. In fact, I imagine he has something to do with the fact you’re standing here now and not lost inside your head as you have been for the last month!” While he had started off restrained, Arthur’s ire grew until he was shouting at his father.
As Arthur defended Merlin, Uther’s face morphed from shocked to outrage to murderous. Lancelot shifted in place to be ready to react to whatever may happen with such explosive tempers raised.
“As for how this happened in the first place, that is a better question for you. Yet again we have been attacked as a direct result of your unrelenting persecution of magic. How many times have we been attack in order to ‘save’ Camelot from your tyranny and unjust persecution? How many times must our city be attacked, our home invaded, because you have killed any and all with magic no matter if they are guilty or innocent? How many good people have you driven to murder in fear and hatred of you and your ban on something they are born with?” He was shaking now; door flung wide open, his words and emotions out of control. “You drove her away, drove her to madness. Your own daughter was terrified that you would kill her for being born with power she could not control!”
Lancelot tensed, unsure how Uther would react. No one had as much as mentioned Morgana in his presence since they released him from his own dungeon. Now, with his mind more alert, there was no hint as to how he would react to such an accusation. From the way the king’s face went deathly pale then furious red in moments and the insane rage that filled his eyes, it was clear that Arthur’s recrimination pushed him past all reason. With a cry like a wounded bear on a rampage, Uther lunged toward his son.
Both knights surged forward to intercept the mad king. Before either of them could touch him, a blinding wall of light materialized in the doorway as Uther was about to pass through it. The light barred his entry and sent him stumbling backward as a loud gong like boom sounded. A guttural roar came from within and Merlin rose from the bed with golden eyes blazing.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four: Merlin is awake and Uther is in trouble
Merlin wakes up to find a mess on his hands. Uther is forced to deal with the consequences of his past sins.
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Chapter Four: Merlin is awake and Uther is in trouble
The alarm sounded. Arthur was in danger. Merlin roared.
Arthur took several steps away from the door after a wall of light had materialized when his father lunged at him. He was furious with his father, but this was the angriest Uther had ever been with him. The rage in his eyes when he had accused him of causing the situation with Morgana had shaken him. Then came the light and the angry bellow from the bed. In a rush, the previously unconscious Merlin was now crouched on the ground with golden eyes.
Arthur rushed to kneel by Merlin, trilled to finally see him awake, vaguely aware of a thud from the hallway. With only mild trepidation, he reached for Merlin’s shoulders and rubbed his thumbs on his collarbones to draw his attention.
“Merlin! I see you’ve finally decided to wake up, lazy bones. It’s about time you stopped shirking your chores.”
Merlin shook his head and blinked a few times, eyes going back to familiar blue. He seemed to come back to full awareness and sent the prince a shaky grin. As he gazed past Arthur to the doorway, however, his expression turned stony. He stood gracefully, placing himself between the prince and their onlookers.
Arthur glanced back to see Lancelot and Gwaine flanking the doorway looking startled and his father pressed against the wall opposite his door. Having Uther, magic, and Merlin in the same space washed away his joy at seeing Merlin awake again. His companion, however, did not seem concern. Instead he was glowering at the king, tense and ready for action.
“Sorry, not to interrupt the happy reunion, but what was that?” Gwaine asked, trying to break the tension.
Merlin only seemed to grow angrier.
“He tried to hurt Arthur.”
Merlin could feel his magic humming again. It was almost as if he hadn’t just expelled enough power to drain him and knock him out. He had never recharged this quickly after using a fraction of what he had today. While Arthur’s warm hands and eager gaze had been a lovely view to come back to, the activation of his protective spells had not been welcomed. How did the lovable prat find himself in danger again, so shortly after the last threat? Upon hearing the warning sound, before coming back to full awareness, he reached out with his magic to pin the threat outside the door to keep Arthur safe. At Gwaine’s question, seeing his quarry, his anger grew. Uther had tried to harm his own son.
“I did not! I would never,” Uther protested. Arthur was looking at him with such betrayal. “Yes, I was angry, but I would never hurt my son! I’m not the one at fault here! What have you done, you traitorous sorcerer? You dare keep me from my son and poison him against me with false accusations! What spell do you have him under? What did you do to the door? Release me at once, you fool!”
Arthur, clearly enchanted, nudged the evil creature’s shoulder and asked, “What was the door thing? Why’d it glow like that?”
Uther snorted. “Clearly he barricaded the door to keep himself from justice. Arthur, get away from him, he’s dangerous.”
“No, it didn’t do anything when Gwen or Gaius passed through,” one of the low born ‘knights’ by the door argued. He gingerly stuck his arm out and waved it through the doorway.
“It’s a protection spell I put up a week or two ago. It stops anyone intending harm and sends out a warning in case you are attacked.”
“You see! He’s just trying to protect himself and prevent the law.”
Merlin looked incredulously at him. “It doesn’t protect me! It only is activated by a direct attack on Arthur! You set it off therefore you were going to hurt him!” The murderous gaze was back.
Rather than defend his father and king, Arthur looked thoughtful. “That’s really quite handy. It definitely would have been useful in the past.”
“Yeah, I wish I’d figured it out before now. But after Morgana, I couldn’t take any more chances with your safety.” The boy had the audacity to look both pleased and contrite at the same time.
The shaggy haired ‘knight’ spoke up again. “Nice! Any other tricks up your sleeves, Merlin?”
Merlin fought back a blush. Talking openly about his magic in front of so many people, the king and his prince included, was both exciting and nerve wracking.
“Well, there’s the door to keep out those intending Arthur harm. A few to keep the bed and curtains from catching fire –you’ve started reading in bed too often for my peace of mind. You’re armor’s been enchanted to repel offensive spells. I set up an early warning system around the outer wall to let me know if trouble is coming, though I can’t bar the city like I can your room, too many people and variables. It’s how I knew to come back early from collecting herbs. Damn, I left the Gilmoran. Now I won’t be able to finish the wards.” Merlin frowned to himself at the idea of leaving the city again. He didn’t think he could bear to leave Arthur even for a few days after the latest ordeal.
He looked around. Arthur looked amazed, impressed even. Gwaine seemed fascinated, Lancelot was proud, and Uther looked like he was going to start convulsing soon.
“Huh. I had wondered about that during the battle. What’s his face- Broggy and his pals were throwing spells right and left. I swore I saw some hit the prince, but Arthur just shrugged them off. At least until the end when they pinned him. What happened?”
Merlin huffed a bit defensively. “Like any shield, if it takes enough hits it’ll loose strength. It was supposed to be just in case something slipped by me, you weren’t supposed to start battles with sorcerers without me.” This was pointed at his prince with a hint of exasperation. And people told him he worried too much.
“Hey, can we get some of that on our armor? That would be seriously handy in most of the fights we get into.”
“Not a bad idea,” Arthur agreed.
Uther felt like his head was going to explode. Not only was Arthur refusing to kill the sorcerer, he was standing there actively planning on how to use it’s magic in the future.
“You foul creature! How dare you openly speak of treason in front of me! You will burn at the stake for this!! Release me and whatever dark hold you have over my son’s mind!”
Icy distain filled the boy’s face as his attention was drawn back to the king. Instead of the invisible bonds loosening around him, they squeezed tighter and lifted him so he was pressed several feet up against the wall. A matching expression was on his son’s face as he looked toward his father.
“You don’t get to talk to him like that. Not after what you’ve done, after what you tired. He may have kept me in the dark about his magic, but he has also been the most loyal and trustworthy friend I’ve ever had. Just because he was born with magic, it doesn’t make him evil. Neither was Morgana born evil; she was driven to acts of madness and vengeance from fear of you and your unreasonable hatred of magic. Why? Why do you hate and fear magic so much? It didn’t used to be against the law. Other kingdoms don’t ban it like we do, and they aren’t regularly attacked in retaliation. So tell me father. Why did you declare war on magic?”
Uther’s mouth went dry as fear gripped him. This was a conversation he never wanted to have with his son. He had hoped that after the confrontation following Arthur’s first encounter with Morgause he would never have to address it again. Almost as if he had read his mind, Merlin smirked.
“Well, Uther? Are you going to answer him? It does seem to be a day for telling the truth. I saved you from it once before, because it would have hurt Arthur deeply to have killed you in his rage. In fact, every time I’ve saved your life it has been for Arthur’s benefit, though none were as painful as that one.”
Uther gulped with dread as Arthur turned wide eyes to his manservant.
“Merlin? What do you mean?” The only time that Arthur could think of that he had threatened to kill his father was when Morgause had shown him the false vision of his mother. The vision that had told him how his father had convinced a priestess to use magic to help with his conception, refused to listen to the cost of such magic, and when his mother died because of it, had blamed all of magic, outlawing it forever.
Merlin turned to him, eyes full of guilt and regret. “I’ve had to lie to you many times over the years: to keep my secret, to keep you save, to protect Camelot. I have hated them all, but the one I regret the most was telling you that the vision you saw, what Morgause showed you, was false. While I do not know for sure if that was truly your mother, I do know she was telling the truth.”
Arthur felt gutted. It had been true. His mother.
“I’m so sorry, Arthur. You would have hated yourself for killing him.” Merlin started to reach out toward him, but hesitated before making contact. Arthur felt wooden. His emotions were screaming, yet he felt nothing. Sound was muffled, yet there was roaring in his ears. Merlin’s lie hurt, but his father’s deception cut much deeper.
“He asked for magic to help her conceive.”
“Yes. He was told that to create life, a life would be required. It is the way of the old religion: a life for a life.”
“He ignored it.”
“Yes.” There was a muffled sound for the hallway, as if someone was trying to talk while gagged. He paid it no mind.
“She died so I could live.” This time Merlin was silent, agony written across his face. “He blamed magic and tried to wipe it out.” Merlin nodded. Arthur turned to Uther.
“Did she know? Did she agree to use magic that would kill her so you could have an heir?” Arthur demanded of his father, angry tears barely held in check. Merlin’s invisible gag disappeared and he spent a moment gasping and sputtering. For a moment it looked like he was going to try to bluster and deny his way out of the accusation. Then, Uther deflated, anger draining away, leaving a whimpering husk of a man.
“I didn’t know it would be her,” the broken king choked out. Tears were now falling down his cheeks. Arthur had never seen his father cry before. “We wanted a child so badly. I sought out Nimueh. She told me someone would die, but I didn’t know it would be my Ygraine. I didn’t know.” Uther seemed to shrink in front of them. No longer the powerful father, just a broken man unable to bear his sins, brought low when forced to face his guilt. He no longer fought the magical hold Merlin had him in, but hung lifelessly and cried.
“You killed my mother and condemned hundreds and hundreds of innocent people to death out of guilt and grief.”
“Yes,” the broken confession was whispered.
“You, Uther Pendragon, are not fit to be king of Camelot.” Arthur was cold and commanding, anger and grief giving way to royal judgment. “You have betrayed and persecuted your own people. You have ruled unjustly. You will repeal the ban on magic and step down as king. You will do this voluntarily or it will be done for you. Is this understood?”
“Yes.” He now seemed more lifeless then when they found him in the dungeon. “Please, son. Forgive me.”
Arthur considered him for a moment. He thought of the executions he’d been forced to watch. He thought of Merlin, by his side despite the constant danger. He thought of his sister, filled with rage and hate due to fear. He thought of the mother he never got to meet. He thought of years of striving to make his father proud yet always falling short. Arthur sighed. He didn’t hate his father, even after this, he had been the only parent he had ever known. But he couldn’t forgive him, not now at least.
Uther withered even more, curling in on himself as Merlin gently lowered him to the ground. As his body collapsed, so did his mind, sinking even further away than before. His daughter’s hate had broken him. His son’s reproach and condemnation destroyed him. Though his body still had breath and a pulse, the man was gone.
Merlin gently took Arthur’s hand and turned him from the door. He turned to Gwaine and Lancelot.
“Take him to his rooms and get Gaius. Then find Leon and see if you can help get things organized. Announcements and meetings will wait.” They nodded, shut the door, and carried the former king away.
Merlin looked at Arthur with concern. He looked exhausted, filled with a bone deep weariness and sadness. Merlin’s free hand came up to rest on the back of Arthur’s neck.
“Merlin,” the prince whispered before melting into him, leaning on him for support. Merlin stroked the golden hair of the bowed head that rested on his shoulder. He held his prince as his shirt became wet with silent tears.
Merlin guided Arthur to the bed, knowing he needed to rest and recover. However, as he tried to pull away, hands grasped him and refused to let go.
“You need to rest, Arthur. No one will disturb you.”
“Don’t leave, Merlin.”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
His grip did not lessen and after a few more tugs, Merlin climbed onto the bed, laying down next to his prince- his king. Arthur curled his body around Merlin’s and slept.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five: Truth Telling
Arthur and Merlin have a heart to heart talk about the past and emotions are shared.
Wow guys, I am so sorry it's taken me so long to update!! I got rather stuck with this chapter but hopefully it turned out alright. Thank you all to everyone who is reading, kudosing, commenting, or bookmarking! You are all amazing!!
Chapter Five: Truth Telling
When Arthur woke up it was to a feeling of warmth and serenity unlike anything eh could remember. The past weeks had been so stressful and busy that he rarely got a full night sleep, even with Merlin’s nagging. When he did sleep he tended to toss and turn all night, the weight of running the kingdom following him to his dreams. But now, as he slowly came back to awareness after the most restorative sleep he can ever remember, he wanted to do nothing more than nestle in the perfect, firm pillow and never move again.
The realization slowly came to him that he was not nuzzling his pillow, but a firm chest. Upon opening his eyes, Arthur realized that said chest was covered with a familiar worn, blue shirt and that a ragged, red handkerchief was brushing his nose. A glance up revealed a snoring manservant, still sound asleep. Arthur jerked back in surprise as all of the events and revelations of the past day crashed down on him.
Collapsing back on the bed, splayed on his back and staring at the ceiling, Arthur let all of the emotions that had overwhelmed him yesterday wash over and around him. The sharp betrayal of Merlin’s lies now seemed dull next to those of his fathers. Sorrow for the mother he never met- always there but sharper now than it’s been for a while, mourning for the sister that had been twisted and driven away, grief for the strong father that he had loved- now a broken mass of guilt. Arthur’s eyes shifted to his bedmate as embarrassment flooded him for clinging to Merlin and sobbing like a baby. Yet there was also joy at having woken up next to him after the best sleep in his life.
Where does he go from here?
Arthur slowly sat up, hoping to slip out of bed without waking Merlin, to order them some food and give himself something to do other than wallow in his emotions. However, this time his motions disturbed the slumbering warlock. Merlin sat up with a brief shout and a tremendous flailing of limbs before falling off the side of the bed to end up in an undignified heap on the floor.
Grinning, Arthur leaned over and poked his fallen friend. Seeing Merlin’s bewildered (charming) look, frightful (adorable) bed hair, and tangle of (lithe) limbs made the prince feel less embarrassed about his emotional melt down the night before.
“Very graceful, Merlin. Are you sure you’re this powerful warlock everyone keeps talking about? You appear to still be an idiot.” Arthur could see the shock and awareness cross Merlin’s face, as he went through a review of events and emotions of the previous day, as Arthur had upon waking. Looking away to give him the some privacy to sort through difficult feelings, Arthur got out of bed and made his way to the door.
“Wait! Where are you going?” came a panicked cry from the floor. He looked back to fine Merlin even more tangled as he reached out to stop the prince from leaving, a desperate and devastated look on his face. Realizing his actions had been taken for rejection, Arthur smiled and gestured at the door.
“I was just going to have some food brought up. I thought, maybe, we could, eat and talk… about … stuff.” Arthur felt his checks start to burn. That was not very smooth.
“Oh, well, good. Yes, that would be good.” Merlin’s cheeks were rosy now too. His stomach seemed to agree, because it gave a loud, demanding gurgle.
“Yes, food seems to be needed. Honestly Merlin, when was the last time you ate?”
“Hmmm. I had some bread and cheese for breakfast the morning before the attack. Seems like forever ago now.”
“No wonder it sounds like your insides are rebelling. We need to get you something to eat immediately.”
“Well, you know, if you are in a hurry, I could… it would be quicker than sending a servant.” Arthur stared blankly at him. “You know…” Merlin wiggled his fingers in the air hesitantly.
“You can do that? Just make food appear?!?” That would have been extremely handy in many situations.
“I can’t just make it out of nothing, but I could bring it up from the kitchens a lot faster than a servant could carry it.” He smirked a little. “How do you think I get all the water for your baths up here by myself all the time. If I did it by hand it would take me half a day to fill the tub and half a day to empty it. You bathe way too often for that.”
“I use magic to warm it up too.”
Arthur hummed. “You know that this means? Since there’s no reason to pretend, you can provide baths every day!”
“That’s right, abusing my skills already,” Merlin said with a grin. His eyes flashed and suddenly the table was covered with delicious smelling food.
“No! I didn’t mean… I don’t want to take advantage. Of course you don’t have to be a servant anymore.” Arthur looked down in shame and guilt. “Power like yours shouldn’t be wasted on trivial comforts for me. You should be given a title and be made a noble.”
Merlin gaped at him in horror. “Don’t you dare! I don’t want a title or nobility or fancy cloths. And yes, this power is for you. Everything I do, it’s for you. Now that I don’t have to be sneaky about it, I plan of showering you with it.” He grinned at Arthur in a very insubordinate way then frowned. “Unless of course that’s too much and it makes you uncomfortable.”
“No, it doesn’t bother me.” Both men sat at the table and started eating. “But what do you mean it’s all for me? Surly you’re meant for a grander purpose then to play my servant.”
Merlin chewed slowly as he considered how to make Arthur understand that HE was Merlin’s ‘grander purpose’ and that there was nothing he would rather do than serve him for the rest of his life.
“I think it’s time I tell you about how the last several years have been from my point of view.”
Arthur smiled at him. It was different from his normal smiles, softer somehow.
“Yes, Merlin. Please do.”
“What exactly did he mean by destiny? That’s not why…”
“No! I certainly didn’t stick by your side all this time because a giant lizard said we have a destiny together and that we’re two sides of the same coin.”
“We’re a coin?”
“Gwen guessed about her father. Earlier, when you were… You even told me that day that you had magic and I called you an idiot.”
“Yes, well it was rather idiotic to charge it and announce it to Uther. I just couldn’t let Gwen pay for my actions.”
“What do you mean Lancelot knew! He’s known this whole time!!! How could you tell him, but not me?”
“Weren’t you listening? I didn’t tell him. He, unlike some people, is clever enough to figure it out on his own.”
“You did WHAT!?!?!”
“It’s not that big a deal.”
“You were going to exchange your life for mine!”
“Yeah, well, it didn’t work.”
“No more trying to die for me. Wait, is this connected with what you said about Nimue packing a punch.”
“Ummm… she may have hit me in the chest with a fire ball and I may have struck her with lighting.
“She must have been so frightened. Nightmares and setting her room on fire in her sleep.”
“I wish I had done more to help. I wish I had told her about myself. Maybe then…”
“It’s not your fault, Merlin. I should have made sure she knew I would have protected her, not turn her over to Uther.”
“It’s not your fault either, Arthur.”
“He was your father and I told you he wasn’t worth your tears. Merlin, I’m so sorry-“
“You couldn’t have known, Arthur.”
“I should have known there was something more to your grief over a man we just met. Wait, so if you inherited being a Dragon Lord from your father, I’m guessing I didn’t kill the dragon like you said I did.”
“How many times did you tell me you were at the tavern when you were really almost dying!”
“To be fair, I did tell you I was dying.”
“Oh, my god!”
“That hypocrite. After all the people he condemned to death for healing magic, he told Gaius to use magic to save her! You should have told me she was my sister when you found out.”
“I should have told you a lot of things.”
Hours later, when Merlin had run out of stories to tell and Arthur looked like he had been hit with a load of bricks, both men sat in silence contemplating their years together. Merlin felt unburdened for the first time in years. No more hiding. No more secrets.
Arthur was overwhelmed but Merlin’s courage and ingenuity. The number of times he owed his life and his kingdom to the other man was staggering. He had always known that Merlin was one of the most important (if not the most important) people in his life, but he had had no idea how true that was. Without Merlin, he was nothing.
Reaching across the table he grasped Merlin’s hand in his.
“Thank you, Merlin. For my life, for Camelot. I am so sorry. For every time you have been injured, for every time I belittled you, for every time you were made to feel afraid for being who you are. I don’t deserve you.”
Merlin gripped Arthur’s hand in his own. He smiled at Arthur as if he were the sun; the center of his universe.
“Everything I’ve done, it’s all for you. Not because of destiny or because of the king you will be, though you will be an amazing king. It’s because you’re… you. You’re Arthur.” Merlin said this with such conviction, such emotion. As if simply because he was Arthur, Merlin would hand him the world. The utter faith and, dare he say love, shinning from Merlin’s eyes took Arthur’s breath away. He clutched the hand he was holding tighter and brought it up to his face, gently resting his lips against work worn knuckles.
Merlin turned his hand to brush Arthur’s cheek. Both men found themselves much closer than they had been. Scant inches were left between their faces. A longing glance, a soft smile, and a slight tug was all it took to close the distance.
Lips touched and two halves were one.