|Square Peg Round Hole
Author: Alice I PM
Something has been bothering Merlin, and Arthur wants to know what it is. On a trip meant to discover what is ailing Merlin, Arthur learns more than he bargained for. Note that all of my stories are Friendship only - NO SLASH!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship/Angst - Arthur & Merlin - Chapters: 23 - Words: 89,814 - Reviews: 551 - Favs: 412 - Follows: 585 - Updated: 02-24-13 - Published: 11-26-09 - id: 5536715
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Square peg Round Hole
The forest seemed to grow silent after Eryl spoke. Arthur stared at the ancient druid trying to see any guile behind those shining eyes, but saw none. Eryl believed that what he had seen was absolute truth, and that frightened Arthur more than the pronouncement that Merlin would die within a year's time.
"Have you ever seen something that did not come to pass?" Arthur wanted to know.
He was completely out of his depth on this and he needed to know what the parameters of the situation were. The first step to achieving that was to gauge how reliable his only source of information was.
Arthur wasn't sure what he was thinking this druid would say to him. Possibly some lengthy explanation of how complicated seeing the future was, or how the future evolved with the natural ebb and flow of time and was as unpredictable as the water running through a brook. He suddenly realized that he expected to hear something that Aenya might have said, and wondered how he had come to think of the druid school teacher as the most reliable word concerning magic. What he did not expect was a simple, clear, decisive answer. He saw no deceit in the vibrant eyes staring back at him. As he looked at this druid before him, he knew that he believed what Eryl said, or at the very least that Eryl believed it.
The threat was real or at least real enough to be addressed seriously. The next step was to determine what direction the threat came from, find it, and eliminate it. "Alright, who is going to kill Merlin?"
Once again Arthur was completely unprepared for Eryl's answer or how it would shake him to his very foundation.
Eryl watched as the color drained from Arthur's face. The emotions that played across the young Prince's features were easy to read. Shock was quickly replaced with disbelief. Arthur actually shook his head whether to deny the pronouncement or shake the image loose from his mind was uncertain. Eryl looked on as that disbelief slowly morphed into fear and shame which confused the seer a little. Fear was perfectly natural, but unless the young man believed that this fate was inevitable, then shame didn't quite fit.
Arthur jumped up rather suddenly and began pacing in a small circle. The strong emotion rolling off of him was nearly palpable. "No, I would never... I've already decided; I won't turn him over to my father. I know I'm committing treason by keeping his secret, but he has done nothing but protect Camelot, even if with magic. My father is wrong. Not all magic is evil. I won't be the cause of Merlin's death. You are wrong seer." Arthur stopped pacing and faced the druid with a furious expression. "You are wrong!"
Arthur's anxiety over this was obvious and the young man was shouting by the time he had finished. Eryl began to understand why shame had crossed Prince Arthur's features. He had already considered releasing Emrys to his fate at the hands of Uther. Eryl decided to use Arthur's fear and shame to good advantage and simply waited for Arthur to come to his own conclusion. The ancient druid could see the struggle within Arthur and felt badly for him, but this was a necessary trial for the young man.
Arthur pulled the note from his pocket and read it through again. It was clear to Eryl that Arthur held the word of Gaius in high esteem. The young man looked at Eryl then back at the note. Once again the Prince moved suddenly and without warning. He stalked over to face Eryl thrusting the parchment out.
"Gaius believes what you have told me. I trust Gaius, but I know myself. I will not turn Merlin over to the King, and I most certainly will not harm him myself. Admit that you made a mistake, druid. I will not allow Merlin to die."
Eryl found the words that Arthur chose to be more than fortuitous, they mirrored exactly what would happen if Arthur did not agree to the incantation.
"Arthur Pendragon, what I have seen will come to pass. Merlin will die in your service sent into danger on your behest and never return, if you choose to do nothing."
Arthur stood mute before the druid obviously trying to process what had been said. He began shaking his head. "No I would not send Merlin into a dangerous situation. He is a servant, not a knight. He has sworn no oath to lay his life down for Camelot. You must be wrong. I would not do such a thing."
Eryl just waited and watched as a vast array of emotions swept over the Prince. He was nearly ready to listen when he dropped to the ground looking lost and scared. "Please tell me that I wont do this. Merlin is no soldier. Magic or not, he can barely hold a sword properly. I would not allow him to face that kind of danger."
"Not intentionally. Your perceptions of your servant have fundamentally changed. You saw him command a power that you can barely fathom, and yet he is still naught but your servant. Without even knowing it, you have changed the way you think about Merlin and that will be his undoing, and yours. You are meant to discover the true nature of magic on your own, when you are ready. The trials that you both have gone through and the ones still laid out before you are what are meant to shape you both into the men you are destined to become. This knowledge that you have threatens all of that."
Arthur grew pensive. "You are speaking of this prophecy aren't you?"
"The future that was meant to be, stands balanced on the brink of disaster. There are many paths that lead to the future, some more treacherous than others. Some, once embarked upon, wipe others out of existence. That is what happened when you discovered that your servant had magic, and not just any magic. You were not meant to learn of this for many years to come."
"I don't see how my knowing about Merlin should change his future so much or mine. You say that I will have eventually known."
"That is true, but by that time you will be King and will have faced many more challenges that you can not yet begin to imagine. You will be a different man than your are today."
"You say that I will send Merlin into danger because I know he has magic. Well now that you have told me this, I will be vigilant and be sure that does not happen. Will that change your vision? I have to believe that it will or else Gaius wouldn't have said that I am the only one who can save him. It means there is a way to save Merlin."
This is precisely what Eryl was waiting for. "Once an idea has taken a home in the mind and in the heart it's growth can not easily be stopped or controlled. Vowing to never send Merlin into danger will not be enough, but there is a way to reverse the path that you have begun to travel; a way to bring the true path back into focus, but only you can make that happen Arthur Pendragon."
The Prince seemed to be considering what he had been told then he nodded to himself and looked at Eryl. "Alright, what must I do?"
The sky had begun to go from the velvety black of night to a deep lustrous blue heralding the approach of dawn. Arthur had to admit to feeling some nervousness at what he would have to do to salvage the situation, but his mind was made up. What ever it was, he would do it to save his young servant; his friend. Fleetingly Arthur thought about that distinction. He realized that he really did consider Merlin a friend, even if he could never admit to that out loud, it didn't change the fact that he looked on the young man as akin to a brother.
Arthur was fairly good at reading people's faces when he put his mind to it and he thought he caught a barest hint of a smile twitch at the ancient seer's lips. "The problem lies in what you know. You must forget that you know about Merlin's magic."
Arthur could not believe what he had just heard. It was preposterous. "I cannot un-see what I have seen. I cannot un-know what I know. I would gladly give my life to save Merlin, but what you ask is not possible."
"There is an incantation from the old religion that can take memory from a willing participant. It is very old and few even know of its existence. I can take the memory of your discovery from you, but you must willingly submit to the spell, and know that there will be a price."
Arthur felt his skin prickle with goose flesh at the suggestion. Not only was he committing treason for harboring a known sorcerer, but now he was contemplating the use of magic on himself. That thought nearly undid him right there. He had always been taught to fear magic and he did fear it. He had always been taught that the users of magic were corrupted by its use, that it was evil, but this warred with his recent experience.
He had spent two days with the druids and seen magic used as easily as people breathed. He saw average folk living simple lives untainted by the magic that was all around them. He had attended a school lesson for children who were learning the mysteries of magic and spoke with a young teacher who likened magic to the workings of the natural world. What's more he believed her. It was hard to accept her explanations of how magic was no different that a flower growing or a woman giving birth to a baby, but somehow her reasoning had stuck with him and seeped into his beliefs. His perceptions of magic had already changed. For better or for worse, Arthur believed that everything he had been taught about magic was wrong, or at the very least skewed by hate and fear.
So why was this suggestion of submitting to an spell so difficult for him to accept? Had he not just wish a hour ago that he had never learned of Merlin's magic because of the position it put him in?
"How would this spell work, and what is this price that must be paid?"
"You would have to understand and agree to losing the memory of your entire trip with Merlin and the days following..."
"What?" Arthur interrupted. "Why can't you just take away the memory of the druid's trying to burn me at the stake? That was when Merlin revealed himself, and to be honest it is not a memory I would mind losing."
"Memories are all interconnected. Not even the greatest of the masters of the old religion could pluck random pieces of memory from someone. If you remember the trip you will remember the hunting accident. If you remember the hunting accident you will remember visiting the druid settlement. That memory is tied to Merlin revealing his magic. Your journey back to Camelot is tied to the memory of the druid settlement and the troubles you encountered that spurned this scouting mission are all connected back to the decision to go on that trip with Merlin in the first place..."
Arthur was shaking his head and had to interrupt again. "But that trip to the druid settlement changed everything for me. It wasn't only the time I spent with the druids. Merlin and I connected on a different level than we ever had before. Through our conversations I learned some difficult truths about myself and my kingdom. This trip changed me as a man, it changed me as a future ruler, and it changed the way I view magic. Would you have me plunged back into the belief that magic and all who use it are evil and corrupted?"
Arthur saw smoldering anger flash across Eryl's eyes followed by true sadness. He had no idea how he knew this, but something in his gut told him that the anger was directed at the druid elders and the sadness was directed at himself.
"It is very unfortunate that you must loose all that you have learned. That was meant to be,.." Arthur couldn't stop himself he had to cut the druid off again.
"Wait, if that was meant to happen then you can't take the memory from me."
Eryl held up a hand to still his protests. "The council of elders are the ones who broke the prophecy and plunged the future into doubt. Their decision to force Em...
...to force Merlin to protect you was where your path diverged from its true course, but to remove your knowledge of Merlin's magic you must also loose your time with the druid settlement and all you discovered about yourself as a man, as the future King, and as a friend to your servant. This is the price that must be paid to put the course of the future back on the right path."
Arthur understood what Eryl was saying and it made sense, but he was having great difficulty with the price. He would abdicate the thrown more easily then to loose the days he spent learning things he would need to know to be an effective and fair ruler.
"How am I to rule my people when I don't understand them? How many of my people live in fear because they have magic and might be discovered? How am I to rule when I willing close my eyes to common place injustices that I have learned of in the past week? The price you ask is too great, seer."
"It is not a price that I ask, it is simply the only way to set the course of the future back on the right path. It is the only way to save Merlin from a brutal death. You will rule with Merlin at your side as a friend and advisor. You will learn those things you have forgotten, with his help. He will grow to be the most powerful warlock to ever live with your help and together you will ensure the unity of all Albion in an era of peace."
Arthur stared hard at Eryl as he spoke. The future he predicted sounded wonderful, but he was still skeptical. He was meant to learn the things he learned and now he would have to re-learn them in some other way. He was unsure that this would come to pass now that the course of events had been changed.
"Can you promise me that this future you speak of will indeed come to pass?"
Eryl's face was unreadable, but there was a spark of something in the druid's eye. "The future is still unwritten. The prophecy can be saved, but you must understand that this task takes a different kind of courage. It is far more harrowing to trust yourself to the unknown than to fight off the fiercest of armies. So I ask you, Arthur Pendragon, understanding all that you will loose and all that you will gain, do you submit to the incantation of your own free will?"
This was the moment of truth, and Arthur believed that Eryl was not exaggerating about this taking a greater courage than fighting the greatest of foes. He was for the first time in his life genuinely frightened. This decision was easily the most difficult one he had ever faced and he had to step away from Eryl for a moment to think.
Merlin was not just his servant. Arthur had come to truly accept that over the last couple of weeks. Merlin was his friend, and if he was honest, the boy really was his best friend. Merlin had facilitated a huge change in him and the way he looked at the world. But this decision couldn't be just about Merlin. He had a responsibility to his kingdom and losing all the knowledge he had gained was not a good thing for his people.
Eryl said that with Merlin at his side he would unite all the land under a peaceful rule that thrived. Could he still do that without Merlin? If Merlin was meant to be the most powerful warlock that ever lived who was he to deny that future, and perhaps it is Merlin's future that sealed his own. Eryl didn't promise that the shining future he described would actually come to pass, but he believed that Eryl would fight to preserve that future. Gaius trusted this seer and Arthur had never had any reason to doubt Gaius. He had been his physician since birth as well as friend and advisor to the young man as he had grown up.
Then Arthur thought of his father. He loved and respected his father, but he was not blind to the King's short-sightedness when it came to magic. Morgause had proven to him that magic was evil by using his memory of his mother against him. His father would cast him aside, he would disown Arthur completely if he knew what his son was contemplating and that thought bored a hole in the young man's heart, but somewhere in that same heart Arthur realized that his decision had already been made.
He turned to face Eryl. With resolution shining in his eyes, Arthur walked over to the ancient druid and sat down in front of the seer.
"I, Arthur Pendragon, Crowned Prince of Camelot, willingly agree to the incantation born of the old religion to erase my memory of the trip to the druid settlement and all the memories associated with that trip."
A/N: Thank you for your patience. This story is almost finished. The next chapter may well be the final one. I just need to figure out the best way to present it. Thank you once again for your support. It means a great deal to any author to know that the work they do is appreciated.