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His Loyalty Is His Doom

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The man bowed his head as he stood, facing Morgana. “My lady,” he said, voice cold as steel as he stood straight once again, face blank of emotion. “I have found the one you seek.”

Morgana’s icy blue eyes brightened as she narrowed them at the man before her. She clasped her hands around the old throne she sat upon tightly, her pale complexion making her knuckles appear white as snow. “You have found Emrys,” she hissed, fixing her gaze on the man as she waited for him to continue.

“My lady,” he said, blinking slowly as he met the royal’s eyes fearlessly. “The one you seek is named Merlin.”

Morgana’s eyes widened, her brows furrowing slightly. Merlin? That idiot manservant was the powerful Emrys? She grit her teeth and breathed deeply, calming herself as she pushed the memories from when she had confided in him away. No wonder the boy had always managed to evade her plans and stop her. How he kept his true identity a secret was certainly puzzling, though Morgana’s anger flared when she reminded herself that he had managed to keep his identity away from her as well.

“Merlin,” she said coldly, her fingers digging into the arms of the throne. She fixated her icy glare at the man once again. “Thank you. You may go now.”

The man ducked his head at her once more before turning on his heel and leaving the abandoned throne room. Morgana was absolutely seething. If Merlin remained by Arthur’s side, her plan to take her place as rightful heir to Camelot would never succeed. Not heeding the words of the Kayleax, Morgana tapped her pale fingers against the throne’s arm, biting her red lips. A smirk forced its way onto her face as she thought of a way to rid herself of her half-brother once and for all, Emrys falling by his master’s side while she would watch. Morgana’s smirk widened as she pulled a cloak around her shoulders, tying it securely around her neck and lifting the hood to hide her face.

“I will make you pay, Merlin.”

Chapter Text

“Merlin!” the king’s voice bellowed and Merlin groaned quietly, ignoring the sympathetic looks thrown his way. He scratched his black hair, balancing the tray in his hands carefully as he reached the door to Arthur’s chambers. He sighed and prepared himself for the insults sure to come his way as he opened the large door, stepping inside and closing it behind him. “You’re late,” Arthur stated, narrowing his eyes at his manservant.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, setting the tray filled with Arthur’s breakfast on the table, moving to the curtains and sliding them open, letting the sun shine into the room. Merlin walked over to the wardrobe, picking out Arthur’s clothes and setting them on the bed, stretching his limbs while Arthur got out of his large bed. He’d been cleaning Gaius’s chambers all night and had barely rested before he was being awoken, knowing he was going to be late. Arthur thankfully dressed himself and Merlin went about tidying the room as Arthur sat at the table, beginning to eat.

Once Arthur was finished with his breakfast, he smirked at Merlin. Merlin frowned, squinting his eyes at the king. “Oh no,” he said, dreading the next thing that would pass Arthur’s lips. “I know that look. You’re going to tell me something I don’t like, aren’t you?”

Arthur’s smirk only widened, which confirmed Merlin’s voiced thoughts. “We’re going hunting, so get everything ready in fifteen minutes.” Merlin felt his jaw drop open before he spoke.

“Fifteen minutes?! Are you bloody mental?! I can’t get everything ready to leave for a hunt in only fifteen minutes!”

Arthur only leaned back in his chair, enjoying his servant’s distress. “I suggest you get to it, then, Merlin. You have fourteen minutes now.”

Merlin growled at him, huffed and went about grabbing clothes from Arthur’s wardrobe. He grumbled insults and complaints under his breath while packing, hurriedly running out of the king’s chambers and down to his own room, collecting merely one other pair of clothes before he was off again, to the armory. He took all of Arthur’s armor into his arms then set it down again, grabbing his friend’s sword and sheath, a dagger and then piled the armor into his arms again. He was about to leave before remembering he should probably grab a crossbow as well and looked around to make sure he was alone. Once certain no one would catch him, he looked at the crossbow and his blue eyes flashed gold. The crossbow floated into the air and made its way safely into his hand before he was off again, this time to the stables to gather his and Arthur’s horses. Merlin set all of the things on the ground, walking over and petting Arthur’s horse fondly, saddling it up quickly. He moved over to his own horse, stroking its hair a few times before saddling it up as well. Merlin then grabbed the bags, attaching them to the saddles before grabbing the armor, making his way out of the stables. He sprinted back up to the king’s chambers, panting and cheeks flushed. He slammed the door open, huffed loudly and walked inside.

“Oi, King Prat, I’ve gotten everything ready, now you just have to—” Merlin abruptly cut himself off, closing his mouth and stood still. He could feel heat spread through his cheeks and he dropped all the equipment onto the floor before scurrying out of the room, shutting the door behind him quickly and loudly.

He’d just seen Arthur and Gwen going at it. Not just kissing, no, that he was used to accidentally walking in on. He’d seen Gwen’s hands up Arthur’s shirt while her dress was hiked up around her torso, Arthur’s large hands gripping her caramel thighs tightly. He swallowed the lump in his throat and cleared it, stiffly walking down the corridor and leaving the castle, going back to the stables and taking the horses’ reins and leading them outside to where he now saw the knights gathering, waiting for the king. He smiled as he walked toward them and waved at Lancelot, who smiled back.

“Merlin,” he said once Merlin reached his side. “How has your morning been?”

Merlin sighed, childishly pouting his lips. “Arthur didn’t tell me we were going hunting! I had fifteen minutes to pack and get the horses ready and get the armor back to His Royal Pratness,” he told Lancelot, who chuckled. None of the knights shot him shocked or dirty looks anymore, all of them were used to Merlin addressing Arthur that way. Some of the other servants and peasants did give him dirty looks, though. He smiled sheepishly and hummed, stroking his horse’s mane, smiling to himself. A few minutes passed by and Arthur appeared, walking down the stairs and looking a bit embarrassed. Gwaine slapped Arthur’s shoulder and smirked.

“You alright, Arthur?” he asked loudly, causing all the knights to look over at him. Arthur made brief eye contact with Merlin, blue eyes meeting blue before he looked away quickly, gaze embarrassed.

“Yes, yes, now—let’s get on with it, then.” He walked over and Merlin kept his gaze away from Arthur as the blond mounted his horse, all the knights following suit. Merlin grumbled and swung onto his horse, grabbing the reins and looking around. He realized with a slight shock that they left without him and he groaned, though he could still see them. He lightly kicked his horse’s ribs and his horse started trotting forward. He kicked her a little harder and she started a gallop. He was soon catching up with the obnoxious knights, rolling his eyes. Merlin was behind Sir Percival, who shot him an amused look over his muscular shoulder.

They trotted around for a bit and Merlin sighed, gaining Arthur’s attention somehow. He swore, sometimes Arthur was just looking for reasons to tell him off.

“Don’t be such a girl, Merlin,” he called back and Merlin rolled his eyes, hurrying his horse along until he was side-by-side with Arthur, who merely cast him a look and then looked forward again. Merlin looked behind them to see that the knights were out of hearing distance, and he pursed his lips while he shot a look at Arthur.

“Sorry about… um, you know,” he mumbled, cheeks tinged pink. Arthur cleared his throat awkwardly, nodding his head.

“It’s fine, Merlin.”

“Are you—” Arthur cut him off quickly.

“It’s fine, leave it.” Merlin raised his eyebrows and nodded, humming to himself. Arthur shot him an annoyed look and stopped his horse, everyone following suit. “We’re going to make camp here. Merlin, I’m sure you can take care of setting everything up while we go hunt.” Arthur smirked at him and Merlin smirked back.

“Anything’s better than hunting,” he said happily, dismounting his horse and grabbing the supplies. He handed Arthur his sword and crossbow before tying everyone’s horses’ reins to a tree securely and beginning to set up camp. Merlin looked around to make sure none of the knights were returning and rested his gaze on the pile of wood. “Forbearnan,” he whispered, eyes flashing gold just as a small fire blazed to life. He smiled to himself and prodded the twigs and logs with a stick before setting it back on the ground. Hearing a twig snap in the distance, Merlin straightened his back and became alert, looking around himself with narrowed eyes. He stood up slowly, eyes scanning the trees around him.

Emrys, a voice sounded in his mind and Merlin’s eyes widened, spinning around and coming face-to-face with a Druid man.

“Emrys,” the man repeated, actually using his vocal cords this time. Merlin calmed his pounding heart and he relaxed.

“Hello,” he replied, waiting for the man to continue speaking. He couldn’t see the Druid’s face well, for it was half hidden by the hood of the dark cloak he was wearing.

“I have come to warn you, Emrys,” the man continued, face neutral. Merlin furrowed his brows, tilting his head to the side.

“Warn me?” At the man’s nod, Merlin stepped forward. “Warn me about what?” he asked, his stomach churning. The Druid opened his mouth to speak but the sound of a cracking twig made both the magic users freeze. Merlin swallowed and spoke in hushed tones. “Please—warn me about what?”

The man sent him a sympathetic look before speaking to him telepathically, She is coming for you. Beware, Emrys, for she will stop at nothing. And then the man turned and fled, disappearing behind the greens mere seconds before Gwaine and Lancelot came into view.

“Merlin!” Lancelot exclaimed, walking forward and smile dropping at Merlin’s expression. “What’s wrong?” he asked, placing a hand on the warlock’s shoulder. Merlin schooled his features and sent the knight a strained smile.

“Nothing, nothing, you just scared me is all,” he said, discreetly shrugging Lancelot’s hand away from his shoulder as he walked back over to the fire. As Lancelot opened his mouth to ask again, Mordred, Percival, Arthur and Elyan came bursting through, cheering and happy that they’d managed to take down a stag. Lancelot sent Merlin a look that he easily read as ‘We will speak about this later’ and Merlin only shrugged, casting his eyes downward and not meeting anyone’s eyes.

After Merlin cooked them a quick dinner and all the knights were lazing about, talking about anything and sitting around the fire, Merlin sat alone, picking at the grass underneath him. He sighed to himself, thinking about the Druid’s words. He was so consumed by his thoughts that he didn’t hear someone making their way toward him until said person sat beside him.

“Merlin,” Arthur said, looking at him intensely. Merlin stiffened a little and glanced at the king. He sent him a weak smile.

“Arthur,” he replied. Arthur sighed and hummed, looking away from him.

“What’s wrong, Merlin?” he said, voice unusually soft. Merlin shrugged his shoulders, swallowing around the lump in his throat.

“Nothing.”

“Don’t lie to me, Merlin.” Arthur hesitantly nudged his shoulder. “Cheer up, will you?” Merlin hummed and smiled, hoping Arthur wouldn’t see past the falseness of it.

“Alright, alright,” he said, forcing some cheer into his voice. “I was just thinking about Ealdor.” The lie rolled off of his tongue smoothly and he inwardly cringed at how simple lying had become to him. Arthur sent him a sympathetic look, patted his shoulder and stood.

“Well, come on,” he said, lifting Merlin by his arm. “Come celebrate with us. I won’t have you dampening the mood with your sullen mug,” he continued, jokingly. Merlin smiled softly, genuinely, appreciating Arthur’s concealed concern and wondering how he’d gotten so lucky to have a friend such as him. Merlin followed him back to where the knights were seated and sat near to them but not completely with them. He saw Lancelot glance at him and knew the knight desperately wished to speak with him. He sighed silently and stood up. At Arthur’s glance, he gestured to the trees around them and then at the fire.

“I’m going to go get more firewood,” he lied, dusting his breeches before beginning to take off into the woods.

“I’ll help you,” Lancelot’s voice sounded and Merlin nodded, not waiting for his friend. Once they were out of hearing distance, Lancelot stopped him with a hand on his forearm. “Merlin,” he said, worry and concern taking control of the tone in his voice. “Tell me what it is that is bothering you,” he continued, sending Merlin his best puppy-faced look. Merlin chewed on his bottom lip and swallowed again, bending down to pick up a few twigs and small branches near them. “Merlin.”

Merlin sighed, shoulders sagging and tense. “A—a Druid found me while you were hunting,” he blurted. Lancelot furrowed his brows, confused.

“I thought the Druids were a peaceful people—” Merlin cut him off.

“Yes, yes, they are. He didn’t do anything to me, but… He said he’d come to warn me.”

“Warn you? About what?” Lancelot stepped closer, forcing Merlin to look at him instead of the slightly wet ground.

“He said ‘she’ is coming for me.” Merlin lowered his eyes, biting his lip again. Lancelot gripped both of his shoulders.

“Merlin—who? Who is ‘she’?”

“I don’t know! He just said she’s coming and that she’d stop at nothing. I don’t know, Lancelot…” he trailed off, worry seeping into his voice. Lancelot wrapped him into a quick and comforting hug before bending down to pick up the slightly heavier branches around them.

“Don’t worry, Merlin,” he said, smiling gently at the warlock. “I won’t let anything happen to you.” Merlin smiled his thanks, and nodded, feeling a little more at ease at telling his friend what was on his mind. They made their way back and Merlin stroked the fire, adding the wood they’d found to the flames and stayed silent as the knights began heading to their bedrolls to sleep. Merlin got into his, which was the nearest to Arthur for he was Arthur’s servant and he stayed awake for a long time, watching the night sky above them.

Chapter Text

Merlin awoke from a restless sleep by a hand shaking his shoulder. “Merlin,” the voice said, tone a bit rough. “Wake up, Merlin!”

Merlin groaned and fluttered his blue eyes open, squinting at the sudden light against his vision. He sat up a little, blinking, and looked at the one who woke him, Arthur. "What?" he asked, rubbing his arm a little, a few scratches from sleeping on the ground shining red against his pale skin.

Arthur rolled his eyes and stood up, gesturing for Merlin to do the same. "We're going back to Camelot, so unless you want to be left behind, you should hurry up." Merlin groaned again, standing up and beginning to gather up the bedrolls while the knights got their horses ready. Merlin was just readying his horse, which was beside Arthur's, when Mordred came to stand next to him. He looked at Mordred's striking blue eyes and felt his stomach churn. He turned away and continued making sure his saddle was secure.

"Merlin," Mordred said, staring at him. Merlin couldn't bring himself to look into the other magic user's eyes and continued with his work. "I overheard you speaking with Sir Lancelot." Merlin froze, hands faltering. He snapped his head toward Mordred and his lips settled into a thin line.

"What?"

Mordred brought his hand up and hesitantly set it on Merlin's shoulder. Merlin recoiled from it as if he'd been burnt and stared at the young knight with wide eyes. Before the younger boy could say anything more, Gwaine came and stood beside Merlin.

"What's going on here?" he asked, voice hard, his jaw set and his eyes gone cold while looking at Mordred. Mordred's face resembled that of a rabbit caught in front of a hunter and Merlin sent his friend a false, cheery smile.

"Nothing, Sir Mordred and I were just speaking of how the hunt had gone," he said, mounting on his horse to avoid more conversation. Mordred visibly gulped and nodded, quickly making his way past the older knight and to his horse. Before Merlin could get his horse to move forward, Gwaine grabbed his ankle and held it firmly in his strong hand. Merlin looked down at the knight.

“Merlin,” he started, his voice flat.

“Gwaine, I told you, it was no—”

Merlin,” he said, voice a bit strained. “I saw you flinch when he touched you—he didn’t threaten you, did he?” Merlin nearly barked out a laugh.

“No—Gods, Mordred? I don’t believe he could threaten a pup.” Though, Merlin’s mind reminded him, He is destined to kill the greatest king Albion has ever known, his very being is a threat. He chose to ignore it for the moment, trying to settle Gwaine’s suspicions so he could have some peace of mind to think about the Druid’s warning. Gwaine sent him a calculating look before nodding. He patted Merlin’s leg and smiled dazzlingly, walking off to mount his own horse, as the others were doing. Arthur had mounted his horse and his horse began trotting away, Merlin immediately following after. He hurried his horse until he was riding beside Arthur, who barely glanced his way, used to having Merlin at his side. The rest of the knights followed, also used to having their king’s manservant next to their king at almost all times. They rode in comfortable silence—not complete silence, of course, for everyone was chattering mindlessly about everything and nothing. Merlin’s thoughts of the Druid were dulling as he beamed at his friends, laughing and taking part in the joyous atmosphere.

Before they realized it, screams and shouts were echoing around them and they were surrounded by armed men, seemingly bandits. Merlin inwardly sighed—could they ever go on a hunt without running into trouble?—and the knights drew their swords, ready to defend themselves. Merlin looked around, trying to estimate the number of armed enemies they were facing when his eye caught someone cloaked walking away swiftly. His brows furrowed and he calmed his horse, eyes drifting quickly around the trees, trying to catch another glimpse. After getting none, he brought his attention back to the knights and saw a bandit making his way toward Arthur, who was already fighting off two at the same time. He jumped off of his horse and shot his arm outward toward the bearded man, eyes flashing gold as the man was catapulted backward, sword flying out of his hands. Merlin rushed forward, ducking under a bandit trying to thrust his blade into him and shot toward the ground, wrapping his hand around the fallen bandit’s sword. He quickly brought it upward, blocking a bandit’s sword as it came down at him. He kicked at the man’s legs, muttering, “Ahatian,” to heat the man’s sword, which he dropped with a yelp and held his hand. Merlin quickly stood up and slammed the hilt of his sword against the man’s head, knocking him out.

“Finally, you’re learning Merlin!” Arthur yelled at him, distracting said warlock. He looked over at Arthur, smiling goofily, when he felt something smash against his head and he fell forward with a cry. “Merlin!” Arthur yelled again, this time his voice laced with worry and panic. Merlin’s sword dropped from his hand and he landed on his hands and knees, vision spotting. His eyes turned golden as he whispered, “Hleap on bæc,” and the person who hit him was thrown backwards and away from him. Luckily, Merlin had pretended to push his legs back, making it look like he’d just kicked the person away from him. His eyelids fluttered and he fell onto the ground, panting, and then his vision went black and darkness surrounded him. He didn’t feel himself being lifted off the ground quickly and carried away—shouts and cries following his departure.

***

When Merlin woke, it was to complete silence and darkness. He tried to sit up, but when he did, a crippling pain shot through his body and he gasped, crying out. He fell back onto the hard ground, writhing. When the pain subsided, he clenched his eyes shut tightly, gasping for breath. Before he could open them, he heard a mocking voice above him.

“It seems you’re awake now… Emrys,” the voice said, velvety and cold. Merlin’s striking blue eyes shot open—No, it can’t be, he thought as his eyes darted around the night, trying to see if the voice really did belong to who he suspected it did. When he caught sight of the woman standing over him, he could feel his heart sink and his stomach drop.

Morgana.