Author: luminare91 PM
Merlin left a few things out when he told his friends about his time in Camelot and about his magic. He knew he needed to tell them, but he wanted time to work out a few details before telling them of his and Arthur's destiny. He might not get as much time as he hoped. Sequel to Dragonlord DiscoveredRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Friendship - Merlin & Arthur - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,241 - Reviews: 37 - Favs: 231 - Follows: 35 - Updated: 10-10-12 - Published: 06-24-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8250611
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: Emrys Discovered
Warnings: Slight violence and mild language. No beta. All mistakes are my own
Pairings: Mostly Merlin/Arthur friendship. Some mentions of Arthur/Gwen romance. No Slash
Spoilers: Through the end of season 4
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the world of Camelot. They belong to BBC.
Series/Previous: Discovered Series; Follows Dragonlord Discovered
Summary: Merlin left a few things out when he told his friends about his time in Camelot and about his magic. He knew he needed to tell them, but he wanted time to work out a few details before telling them of his and Arthur's destiny. He might not get as much time as he hoped.
Author's Note: I wrote a sequel. Who saw that coming?
"How powerful are you, anyway?"
Merlin flinched. He'd been dreading that question ever since his magic had been found out. Though he'd told Arthur, Gwen, and the knights everything about how he'd been using his magic while in Camelot, he hadn't told them that Arthur was the Once and Future King, or that he was Emrys. Arthur had enough pressure on him without all that destiny crap and Merlin still wasn't entirely sure what being Emrys entailed. He'd only just begun to learn about the legends surrounding the name. Before, he'd only thought it was a name and until he knew more about that, he wasn't about to tell his friends that he might possibly be the most powerful warlock ever born. He'd been avoiding the issue ever since.
Gwaine elbowed him in the side. "Did you hear me?"
Making of show of breaking concentration, Merlin looked up from his spell book and blinked. "Sorry, no. What did you say?"
Gwaine rolled his eyes. He'd become a regular fixture in the old storehouse that Merlin was using as a barn for Aithusa and a sort of workshop for himself. Arthur had dragged him out to the outskirts of the castle grounds and practically shoved him into the old stone building. Merlin knew that it was the king's way of accepting him and helping him. The sudden appearance of four trunks over filled with magic books that Gaius confirmed had been confiscated by Uther only confirmed that.
Aithusa loved the place. It was secluded and hidden from the view of the castle, which allowed him to wander around outside. Already the little dragon was sensible enough to know that he couldn't be sighted. Merlin spent a lot of time down at the dragon den, as Arthur had called it. He was thoroughly engrossed in everything he was learning and Aithusa enjoyed the company. It felt good to exercise his powers, to actually use them. His friends were as curious about his powers as he was, and they often came down to watch. Gwaine was there almost as much as he was.
Sighing, Merlin shrugged noncommittally. "I don't know," he said. "I've never actually trained."
"But you've had magic your whole life," Gwaine protested. "You must have some idea."
"I really don't."
Gwaine's eyes narrowed and he leaned toward Merlin. "For someone who's been lying his entire life on pain of death, you're a horrible liar."
Groaning in frustration, Merlin closed his book and set it aside. "What are you getting at?"
"You're not telling us something."
"And what has brought you to that conclusion?" asked Merlin, quirking an eyebrow.
If the gleeful expression on Gwaine's face was any indication, Merlin had just opened a door he was soon going to wish he'd never gone anywhere near.
"There's the fact that you yourself admitted to having bested a priestess, who I'm guessing had to be powerful to hold that position and move life from one person to another the way she did. You defeated an immortal sorcerer, can command a dragon, have defeated not one, but two immortal armies, can see the Lake of Avalon, can bend a mythical crystal that only very powerful people can wield to your will, and I could go on all day." Gwaine paused to smirk at Merlin. "So…how powerful are you?"
"Gwaine, a lot of that has been luck," Merlin protested. "Each and every one of those sorcerers has underestimated me. And it wasn't any magic of mine that defeated the armies. I just destroyed the physical vessel of the spell keeping them alive."
Clicking his tongue loudly, Gwaine shook his head and dropped an arm across Merlin's shoulders. "Merlin, Merlin, Merlin," he sighed. "It's a miracle you kept your head this long. You forget that I have travelled hither, thither, and yon. I've seen magic and I know just how uncommon it is for someone to be able to use elemental magic the way you do. It's all incantations and chanting. But you, you can just wave your hand and conjure a windstorm."
Merlin groaned and dropped his head into his hand. "I can't explain it. I'm an anomaly. Even Gaius admits it. No one has been born with magic the way I have. We don't know what it means."
"I think it means that you're much more powerful than you let on."
It was quickly becoming clear to Merlin that Gwaine was not going to drop this any time soon. Not unless he gave the knight just enough to satisfy him. Making a show of slumping in defeat, as though Gwaine had sufficiently seen through his lies, he sighed.
"Look," he said. "I really don't have any idea just how powerful I am. I may be able to do things that no one else can, but that could simply be because I have a different connection to magic. It's only been since coming to Camelot that I've started training myself. My magic is still growing."
Gwaine chuckled. "You're trying very hard not to admit something."
Merlin threw his hands up. "Damn it, Gwaine. I just don't know. I…I haven't found my limits yet."
"That's good enough for me," the knight grinned, "but I know you're still holding out on me. I'll figure it out eventually, just you watch."
"I'm sure you will, Gwaine," said Merlin, reaching for his book.
The thing was, he was sure that Gwaine would figure it out. The man was one of his closest friends and he knew that Gwaine considered him his closest friend. Gwaine was fiercely protective of Merlin and the warlock knew that. He was also insanely curious. If he thought there was still something Merlin wasn't telling him, he'd go looking. Not for the first time, Merlin wished that he'd just told them everything, the consequences be damned.
Clutching a squirming dragon in his arms, Merlin stood in the middle of Arthur's chambers, surrounded by the Knights of the Round Table, as Merlin referred to them inside his head. This was almost exactly the scene he had pictured when his magic was discovered. Well, he hadn't exactly pictured Aithusa. He also hadn't expected everyone to be taking it so well. Gwaine was laughing silently at Merlin's struggles. Elyan and Percival were both grinning, and even Leon looked amused by the little dragon using Merlin as a climbing post. Only Arthur was unaffected. He'd remained stony faced and thoughtful ever since they had set out from the tomb of Ashkanar.
"I suppose you want to know everything now," said Merlin quietly. He kept his eyes focused on corralling Aithusa.
Arthur shook his head. "No, that'll need to wait a few minutes. I want Gaius and Gwen here as well. I'm sure Gaius will make sure you don't leave anything out and I refuse to keep a secret like this from Guinevere."
"Of course!" Merlin nodded quickly, looking at Arthur for the first time since entering the room. "I wouldn't want you to and I trust Gwen. Just…um…be careful with Gaius. He's been worried about what might happen if someone found out about me. Please don't give him a heart attack."
A strange, almost alarmed look crossed Arthur's face. He nodded before sticking his head out into the hallway and sending the guards off to find Gaius and Gwen. He also told them to inform his uncle that they had been successful and that he did not want to be disturbed. The last thing he wanted was for Agravaine to come bursting in. He didn't think his uncle would be very accepting of Merlin's…gifts.
"How quickly do you think he's grow?" asked Elyan, gesturing toward the dragon now clinging to the back of Merlin's jacket.
"I have no idea," Merlin sighed. "Hopefully Gaius does."
Leon frowned slightly. "Why would Gaius know?"
"He does know everything," said Gwaine.
They all laughed a little at how true the statement was.
After a moment, Merlin's smile became sad. "That and he knew my father before he fled Camelot. Balinor may have talked about the dragonlords."
It was the first time Merlin had admitted out loud that Balinor was his father. He'd hinted at earlier when explaining how he'd come into his power and he'd carried the secret for years. He'd only ever admitted his parentage out loud to Balinor himself. Saying it now, so casually in calm conversation with his friends, brought forth emotions that he'd thought long buried. Aithusa warbled plaintively, seeming to pick up on his dragonlord's tumultuous emotions. Merlin patted Aithusa on the head to soothe him. The dragonling curled up around Merlin's shoulders, still chirping quietly.
"I never knew dragons could be so human," Leon murmured.
Merlin smiled wryly. "They're not and thinking of them that way is not wise. Dragons are intelligent and capable of thought and emotion, but they are not human. They are still beasts and ancient, powerful ones at that. They are governed by impulses we can't understand. They are creatures of Old Magic. It would be just as unwise to treat them as mere humans as it would be to consider them beasts."
Leon nodded in understanding. Behind him, Arthur looked pensive.
The door swung open before the silence that had followed Merlin's declaration could get awkward. Gwen walked in before Merlin could even attempt to hide Aithusa. The dragon looked up curiously when she entered, but Gwen didn't see him. She was obviously taken aback by the sight of all the knights and Merlin gathered in Arthur's quarters like they were.
"Is something wrong…" she trailed off in horror when she saw Aithusa. "What is that?"
Merlin smiled weakly. "A dragon. His name is Aithusa and he's only just hatched. He won't hurt you. He's just a baby and I'm a dragonlord, anyway, so you don't need to worry."
"Shut up, Merlin. You're babbling," Arthur sighed.
Merlin shut up.
Aithusa promptly jumped down from Merlin's shoulders and waddled across the floor, obviously making a show of being as nonthreatening as possible. Merlin shook his head in disbelief. Less than twelve hours old and already manipulating people as well as Kilgharrah. At least this was far more innocent than anything the old dragon had done. Predictably, Gwen melted. Aithusa scampered forward a bit more quickly and pushed his snout against her fingers. He was practically purring.
This, of course, was when Gaius walked in. The old man's eyebrow nearly climbed off his face.
"What is going on here?" he demanded.
Merlin shrugged helplessly. "I found the egg."
Gwaine snorted. "He did a bit more than that. He kicked Borden's arse, saved my skin, summoned a much bigger dragon, and hatched that one."
"Did you now? And how did you accomplish these feats, Merlin?" asked Gaius. They could all hear the underlying tension in the physician's voice and they could all see the fear that hovered in his eyes.
"The usual way, I suppose," Merlin said uncomfortably.
Arthur finally stepped forward and laid a hand on Gaius' shoulder. "We know about Merlin's magic and that he is a dragonlord. I'm not even going to put him in the stocks for it. I have accepted it. He's in no trouble. I Just want answers."
Gaius nodded weakly. "Of course."
"It wasn't my fault," said Merlin quickly. "Gwaine followed me and he accosted me before I could hide the egg!"
"Oi! It's not my fault you're bloody awful at sneaking around!"
"Don't even start," Gaius snapped before Merlin could retort. "I've told you time and again, Merlin, to be careful and do you ever listen? You're lucky you still have your head!"
Looking confused, Gwen stood up, leaving Aithusa to waddle over to Gaius curiously. "I don't understand," she said. "What is going on?"
Merlin sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I think you should all sit down."
Gwen looked worried, but allowed Arthur to usher her into a chair. The other knights hauled chairs and benches into a rough circle around the center of the room. Once they were all settled, Merlin started talking.
By the time he was finished, night had long since fallen. He hadn't even paused save to light the fire and the candles with a word and a flash of his eyes. By that point, his friends hadn't even batted an eyelid at the blatant use of magic. Merlin had talked himself hoarse. He hadn't left anything out, not even his own mistakes, save for the extent of his and Arthur's destiny together. He knew Arthur wasn't ready for that.
"How many times do we owe you our lives?" Gwen whispered after a long moment.
Merlin shrugged. "I've lost count."
"It's a wonder you're still alive," said Leon. "I can't imagine going through all of that alone, especially considering just how much you were risking every day simply by living in Camelot."
"I've had magic all my life," said Merlin. "It's not banned in Cenred's kingdom, but it's certainly not accepted. It's definitely not accepted so close to the border with Camelot. I grew up hearing about horrible magic is and I never had a choice in it. I've literally been keeping secrets from the day I was born. As for being alone…" he smiled sadly. "I had my mum and Will while I lived in Ealdor, then Gaius, Lancelot, even Kilgharrah and the Druids now that I'm living in Camelot. There's always been someone."
"It's not the same, and you know it," Gaius chided gently. Any objection Merlin had metled under the old man's words. "You are not that close to the Druids and I doubt you actually considered Kilgharrah a friend. Of the others that you mentioned, two are dead and one is more than a day's ride away. I can barely comprehend the pressure you are under. You have been doing this alone and you must admit that."
Merlin sighed and nodded. He hated admitting just how difficult his life was because he knew how lucky he was to have any friends at all and to still have his head.
With no warning, Gwen launched herself across the room to throw her arms around Merlin's neck. She was crying softly onto his shoulder. Merlin patted her back awkwardly.
"It really wasn't that bad, Gwen," he said. "Even if you didn't know, you were all still my friends."
"That's not it," she sobbed. "You saved my father and you nearly died to save me!"
"That just happens."
Across from him, Gwaine winced and mouthed, "Bad idea."
Drawing back and glowering, Gwen slapped Merlin's arm. Then she did it again. "Don't talk like that! You shouldn't be risking your life that way!"
"I have to, Gwen," he whispered. "I'm the only one who can do this. It's my destiny."
"You don't have to kill yourself!"
"I'm not exactly trying, but it's dangerous. And I'd rather risk my own life than let innocent people die or let Arthur and the Knights fight something they can't defeat. I just can't do that. I can't stand by and do nothing."
Gwen shook her head tearfully. "I would never ask you to. Just be careful."
It took some doing, but Merlin mustered a weak facsimile of his usual cheeky grin. "I'm always careful."
"Awww, I want a hug, too," Gwaine nearly shouted. He leapt at Merlin, nearly careering into Gwen as she made her way back to her seat next to Arthur, and grabbed him around the neck. Merlin squirmed, trying to get free. Gwaine held on tightly, grinning all the while. When Merlin squirmed again, Gwained pulled him into a legitimate headlock. Merlin was tempted to hang the knight upside down by his ankle with a bit of magic, but he was afraid that might be a bit too much.
"That's enough," ordered Arthur. His voice cut through the laughter that had accompanied Gwaine and Merlin's impromptu wrestling match. Everyone turned to him. He was staring at Merlin like he'd never seen him before. Gwaine slowly let go of Merlin and sat back down.
"What do you want to do now?" asked Merlin, unable to stand the silence. Or the staring.
Arthur shook his head, mouthing wordlessly. A moment passed before he found his voice. "I don't know. I honestly do not know. What I am supposed to say Merlin? The whole bloody city, every person in the room, my own father, you've saved us all and we were none the wiser. And if that isn't enough, you did it all using magic! I honestly have no idea what to do next."
Taking a deep breath, Merlin looked down and said with forcible calm, "I will accept whatever decision you make."
The king looked up sharply. "Yes. You would, wouldn't you?"
Merlin got the impression that Arthur had seen something significant to what Merlin had said. He repeated the words to himself, but he couldn't find anything all that important in his simple statement.
Arthur stood abruptly and began pacing. He didn't even making halfway across the room before rounding on Merlin. "What do you need?"
The question took Merlin completely off guard. "What?"
"You're the one whose life is at stake here and apparently you're the one who knows what the hell is going on in this city. So you tell me, what do you need for this to work?"
Merlin just gaped. This really wasn't how he'd expected things to go when his friends found out he had magic. He was completely thrown for a loop.
"Obviously we need to act as normally as possible," said Gwen briskly when Merlin didn't answer. "I'm not sure Camelot is ready to believe that magic isn't evil, not with everything Morgana has done."
Leon nodded. "I agree. There's been too much proof that magic is everything Uther said it was. The lords especially would have to see concrete evidence that it isn't."
"The townspeople are actually more accepting that you'd think," Merlin interjected. "They do have some contact with the druids, especially outside the city, and many of them remember what it was like before the Purge. Convincing them shouldn't be too difficult."
"Are you saying that you want everyone to know?" asked Elyan.
Merlin shook his head quickly. "No! Only a handful of people know who I am, or that I have magic, and I really think it needs to stay that way. The last thing I need is for Morgana to find out. As it is, she completely underestimates me. Everyone does. Besides, I really don't think that some of the lords would take it well if they knew I had magic. Not without very convincing proof that I'm not evil, as Leon said."
"This is a conversation for another time," said Arthur quietly. "It's late and I think we all need time to come to terms with what we've learned. Act as normal for the next few days, until we can meet again. I don't want anyone, especially my uncle becoming suspicious. I'm sure the knights will be happy to run interference if someone does become suspicious."
The knights all nodded and spoke over themselves in their hurry to assure Merlin that they would do everything they could to watch his back. Gwen did as well. A rush of warmth filled Merlin at the show of support from his friends. His eyes fell on Arthur and the warmth immediately dissipated. The king looked exhausted, like he was absolutely at the end of his rope. His world had been turned upside down. He was clearly past his endurance with this. The knights could see it too. Merlin caught Leon's eye and jerked his head discreetly toward the door. The other man nodded and Merlin rose from his chair. He scooped a sleeping Aithusa off the floor. The dragon grumbled in his sleep and cuddled closer to Merlin.
"I should get Aithusa settled and the last thing I need is for a guard to stop me for wandering around in the middle of the night." The warlock stifled a very real jaw-splitting yawn. "I'm knackered as well. If it's all right with you, I'll turn in."
Arthur nodded dismissively. "Of course. Try to be on time tomorrow."
Merlin grinned cheekily. "I'll do my best, sire, but I wouldn't want to ruin your beauty sleep."
He had to duck the pillow (there were too many witnesses for him to throw something hard) aimed at his head.
Sighing, Merlin leaned back against Aithusa. It seemed like no matter what he did, he ended up backing himself into a corner. He was doing everything he could to figure out what being Emrys entailed, but until he could talk to the druids or maybe Kilgharrah he didn't have much to go off of.
Across the room, Gwaine was poking through some of the magical tools and herbs Merlin had accumulated. They were all fascinated by the magic now that they knew it wasn't evil, Gwaine more than the others because he enjoyed trying to convince Merlin to use his magic to create mead.
"Be careful with that," Merlin warned without looking up. "You don't want to get blown up again."
"Very funny. That only happened once."
"And before that you turned your hair blue and it took me three hours to find a counterspell."
"Point, but this doesn't look so dangerous."
"Neither do I."
Gwaine looked over his shoulder and grinned. "Only to people who don't know you."
"That's the point, you idiot."
"I'm not an idiot," Gwaine protested. "Arthur is."
"No, he's a prat."
"Then who's the idiot?"
"If you ask the prat, I am. If you ask me, at this moment, you are. Don't touch that!"
His warning came too late. Gwaine knocked over a vial Merlin had spent most of the previous evening working on. The vial broke against the floor and the knight was engulfed in smoke. Merlin covered his mouth. He felt his magic rise instinctively and a wind sprang up out of nowhere, ushering the smoke out of the building. Aithusa coughed disapprovingly and ruffled his wings.
Merlin had to laugh when got a clear sight of Gwaine. He'd sprouted feathers.
"Is this what it was supposed to do?"
"Not quite," Merlin chuckled. "There's an incantation as well. It's for a transformation spell."
"And what's the transformation supposed to be?"
"A bird. The spell wasn't specific."
"Can you de-feather me?"
"I'm tempted to let you stay that way as a lesson to you, but I think Arthur would like his knights without feathers. Hand me that book." He pointed to the large tome that had been sitting near the vial. Gwaine grabbed it and tossed it to him.
Merlin rifled through it until he found the spell the contents of the vial had been part of. Glancing up at Gwaine, he concentrated on the words in his mind instead of voicing them out loud. It was something he'd been practicing. Gaius had led him to understand that nonverbally incanting anything but the simplest spells. More complicated spells almost always had to be voiced out loud.
To his pleasure, the spell went off without a hitch. The feathers melted away like they were dust. Merlin grinned. "Not much of an improvement, if you ask me."
Before Gwaine could retort, Merlin doubled over in pain and reflexively clapped his hands over his ears. A familiar screech was echoing through his mind, nothing like the hoarse whisper Mordred's voice had been.
EMRYS! SHOW YOURSELF TO ME! EMRYS!
Merlin squeezed his eyes shut in concentration. This wasn't something he'd found in his books, but his magic reacted instinctively to protect him. Morgana's deranged howling dimmed, but did not wholly fade. Her failure with the Catha must have driven her over the edge.
Slowly, Merlin became aware of Aithusa's concerned crooning and Gwaine's heavy hand on his shoulder.
"What the hell was that, Merlin?" Gwaine asked lowly.
Gwaine's hand tightened on Merlin's shoulder. "Is she here?"
"The lower town. She's headed for the castle. I can hear her screaming in my head."
"You can hear people's thoughts? That's just a little bit creepy."
Merlin glared at him. "Not like that," he snapped. "Morgana's broadcasting her thoughts. It's something the druids use. She's challenging me."
Gwaine abruptly became even more serious. "She knows?"
"No. No, she just knows there's someone protecting the city." Merlin grit his teeth. He could still hear what Morgana was threatening to do if Emrys didn't come forward. If he managed to save Camelot without revealing his magic to the whole bloody city this time, it would be a miracle.
"We have to get down there."
Merlin glanced up at Gwaine. "I had no idea."
"Save the attitude for Morgana. C'mon!"
Gwaine hauled Merlin to his feet. The warlock hesitated for a moment, looking for something to hide his features if he did need to act. He'd brought down books, crystals, herbs, even his staff, everything he needed for his magic. But he hadn't brought any clothing. He didn't exactly have outfits to spare. He cursed fluently in the Old Tongue.
Without any other option, Merlin sprinted out the door after Gwaine.
They were halfway to the castle when Gwaine glanced over his shoulder to make sure he was keeping up. The knight's eyes widened and he slid to a halt so abruptly Merlin nearly plowed into him. Merlin turned back to see what had caused Gwaine to stop. Aithusa was following them.
"Go back," he ordered. "You can't be seen."
The dragon gave Merlin a stubborn look. A strong protective growl emanated from Aithusa's chest. Merlin ran a hand through his hair. He did not have time for this. He drew in a breath to harness his power as a dragonlord. Before he could, a quiet, young, yet achingly ancient voice whispered in Merlin's mind, Friend…Destiny…Help…Emrys.
It didn't get much clearer than that. Gwaine looked between the dragon and dragonlord. Merlin swallowed once. "All right, but stay out of sight until I call for you."
Aithusa dipped his head. He jumped into the air and disappeared into the sky. Merlin spun on his heel and resumed his sprint to the castle without a word to Gwaine. He'd wasted enough time and even if he did reveal his magic, Arthur was on his side. He only hoped that the king could forgive him for neglecting to mention that he was Emrys.
Of all the scenarios Arthur had envisioned that might take place when Morgana finally stormed Camelot. He'd imagined her coming with a rain of fire, with another undead army, even with a dragon. He'd imagined her coming with an army of sorcerers.
He hadn't imagined that the army of sorcerers would just stand there in the middle of the courtyard and do absolutely nothing.
There were about forty or fifty of them, of all ages and dress. Morgana stood at their head. She looked horrible. Her skin was unhealthily pale, her hair tangled and matted. There were dark circles under her eyes, which glinted with madness. She looked nothing like the sister Arthur had once thought her to be long before he knew how true that was.
The knights were gathered around Arthur in a phalanx. The Knights of Round table had taken the front line. They all had their swords drawn and were watching the sorcerers in front of them. Nobody moved, save for Morgana. Her eyes darted over the courtyard, searching for something or someone.
"What do you want this time, Morgana?" demanded Arthur
Her eyes snapped to him. "Emrys," she hissed.
Arthur stared at her. "Who?"
"Your protector," she snapped. "Where is he? Is he still too cowardly to show his face? He'll betray his kin, he'll protect the man that's persecuted his kind, but he will not show himself. I would see this man. I would face him in an equal fight. Let us see if Emrys is as great a man as he thinks when no trickery is involved."
"Do you think she knows?" asked Leon, leaning over to Arthur.
"She probably just knows that someone's been stopping her," Arthur muttered back. "I have no idea who Emrys is. He's probably just someone who happened to get in her way and she's blaming him. I don't think she's knows about Merlin. If she did, she wouldn't hesitate to use it."
"Come out, Emrys! Stop hiding behind your shadows. Face me like the sorcerer you are!" Morgana shrieked.
Behind her, the sorcerers murmured and shifted their weight uneasily. Percival frowned.
"Is something wrong?" Arthur hissed.
The knight nodded once. "I remember something about Emrys. When I was travelling, years ago, I camped with some druids for a time. They told stories Emrys. I don't remember the details, but it was as though he was legend. If she cannot prove this accusation, she may lose many followers."
"We're still outnumbered and against sorcerers!" whispered Elyan. "You've seen what Merlin can do! We are in trouble."
"Not if Merlin saves the day," said Percival.
Arthur shook his head sharply. "No. There's no way he'll be able to face her without outing himself. I'm not about to risk that"
"Do you really think he'll stand by?" asked Leon.
"I can hope," Arthur sighed.
Elyan chuckled. "In vain."
The king pursed his lips and turned his full attention back to Morgana. She was staring around the courtyard, becoming increasingly frantic. The other sorcerers looked uneasy as well. Several were casting Morgana looks that bordered on angry. Others looked as if they wanted nothing more than to leave. Morgana let out a wordless shriek of absolute fury that made the hair on Arthur's arms rise. Her eyes fell on him.
"Very well," she snarled. "If he will not answer my challenge, then perhaps he will save his precious king. Beaducwealm oþ bregue!"
A flickering violet light appeared around her hand as she chanted. She made to thrust out her hand, palm forward as she finished the incantation. But before she could finish the last syllable, a figure came hurtling out of nowhere and plowed into her. A very familiar, white figure.
Arthur cursed. What was the idiot doing?
Screeching angrily, Aithusa beat his wings and soared skyward, away from the crumpled witch. The little dragon swooped low over the heads of the other sorcerers, spitting sparks, as he had been wont to do of late. The Knights of the Round Table exchanged surprised looks.
Morgana staggered to her feet. "Where did that beast come from?"
As if in answer, Merlin chose that moment to come sliding into the courtyard, Gwaine hot on his heals. He glanced from Arthur to Morgana and then to Aithusa. The dragon was circling overhead, warbling in a way which Arthur knew meant that he was in communication with Merlin. The warlock jerked his head discreetly toward the knights and Aithusa soared over to Arthur. He landed in front of the king and spread his wings protectively, growling at Morgana.
Looking as though someone had slapped her in the face, Morgana looked from Merlin to Aithusa and back again.
"How is this possible?" she hissed. "How can you have the loyalty of such a creature?"
Merlin shrugged. "Animals just like me."
"That is no animal! That is a dragon! A creature of magic!"
"Really? I thought it was a featherless bird who just happened to breathe smoke," replied Merlin cheekily.
Morgana snapped. She conjured a ball of fire and hurled it at Merlin.
It was as though time slowed. Arthur could see Merlin's shoulders slump in resignation for just a moment. Then he straightened and his eyes hardened. Without even lifting a hand or uttering a word, Merlin's eyes flashed gold and the flames disappeared.
Silence echoed over the courtyard.
"You?" Morgana whispered in horror. "You have magic?"
Merlin just nodded.
"Longer than I've known you."
"And you didn't tell me? Why? I was afraid. I was terrified. I didn't know what was happening to me and you just stood there and let it happen!"
"I sent you to the Druids."
"You took me away from them!"
"To protect you and them!" Merlin protested. He sounded desperate. "Uther was going to slaughter them. You know that! I didn't have a choice."
"You could have told me! You could have helped me!"
"And I regret everyday that I didn't! But I was afraid, too. You were the king's ward. Uther turned a blind eye to you. If he had ever suspected, he would have done nothing to you. He might have sent you away, but you'd have lived. He'd have murdered me himself for tainting his precious ward."
Morgana sneered. "You're a coward, just as everyone else in this wretched kingdom. I suppose you're working with Emrys. Has he been teaching you? Using you? Tell me where he is!"
"It doesn't have to be this way, Morgana," said Merlin calmly, walking toward her. "What Uther did was horrible, but he's dead and Arthur is not his father. This is getting us nowhere. Innocent people are dying and all you're doing is proving how destructive magic can be."
"The throne is my right!"
"It is not meant for you!"
"I am the firstborn heir!"
Merlin stopped less than an arms-length from the witch. "You are not the Once and Future King, Morgana! The throne is meant for him and him alone. His time has come and by fighting it, you fight destiny. You should know what happens to those that fight the destiny of the Old Religion."
"Is that a threat?"
Merlin shook his head. "Fact. Your own sister sought to conquer Camelot and its true king. Look what happened to her. Her vendetta consumed her and it destroyed her. Any who have set their wills against destiny have been defeated. Nimueh, Sigan, Tauren, Morgause, you, even the Great Dragon. All fell. All were unsuccessful. What makes you think it'll be any different for you?"
"It is my right by blood and magic," Morgana shrieked.
"The throne is the right of the Once and Future King, not the Once and Future Queen. It is not your destiny. All you have accomplished is the further suffering of your people. Do you know how many times I came so close to telling Arthur about my magic, but had to hold my tongue because, once again, you used your own power against him?" Merlin demanded. "You've proven time and again that magic is corrupting and evil when that isn't true. You've let your own anger and hate dictate your actions with no thought to the consequence!"
"ENOUGH!" she bellowed. "I will not be lectured by a blood traitor! By your inaction, you allowed Uther to live and continue killing our people! Now, you allow Arthur to do the same. I will allow it no longer."
A wickedly sharp dagger appeared out of nowhere in Morgana's hand. Before Arthur could shout a warning, she plunged into Merlin's side.
The blade shattered the moment it touched him.
Shrieking, Morgana threw her hands up against the shrapnel that flew in all directions. Merlin didn't even flinch. He just raised an eyebrow.
"Was that supposed to do something?"
Morgana stared at him in dawning horror. "No, no, that's impossible. It was enchanted to slay anything with magic. Not even powerful magic could have stopped it. How…it can't be! You can't be!"
"I think you'll find that I am," he said in a whispered that echoed through the courtyard.
"But, he was an old man!" she protested desperately.
"Have you never heard of a glamour? It was an aging spell. Not that difficult once you work out the kinks."
"Then you, you are Emrys?"
Arthur's jaw dropped, but it all clicked. The hints throughout Merlin's tale of just how powerful he was, the things he accomplished in the dragon den when he was practicing, the fact that he had been born with magic. Everything. It all made sense. But why hadn't Merlin told him?
Across the courtyard, Merlin smirked. "That's what the druids call me."
"You are the one of the prophecy?" said Morgana, clearly disbelieving.
"According to the Great Dragon. I'm inclined to believe him after everything that's happened, especially what with Arthur being the Once and Future king."
If possible, Arthur's mouth hung open further. That, he hadn't seen coming.
Morgana broke into hysterical laughter. "Oh, that's precious. You actually believe that? And what do you think your precious king will do once you've saved Camelot now that your magic is no longer a secret."
Merlin's eyes flickered toward Arthur. "I trust Arthur and I will accept his judgment. I believe he will make the right one."
The king rolled his eyes. Trust Merlin to still be trying to cover his arse. "Don't be such a self-sacrificing idiot, Merlin," he shouted before addressing Morgana. "I've known for more than two months."
Her confident smile slid a bit before she fixed it back on. "Has he told you everything?"
"Apparently not," he deadpanned. "I had no idea about this Emrys, Once and Future King business, but if you're referring to the defeat of the knights of Medhir, then yes. He told me everything. I can't blame him for making that choice, because even I can't say what I would have done if I were in that position. I don't envy Merlin for being the one that had to and I truly believe he felt that he had no choice."
Merlin beamed at Arthur from across the courtyard. It was the last straw for Morgana. She shrieked again and began hurling magic at Merlin. The warlock dodged gracefully without even bothering to even retaliate. The knights ducked to avoid the shower of debris Morgana's spells created. Merlin glanced toward them. His eyes flickered gold and a glimmering shield appeared around them. Arthur leapt forward and slammed his hands against the barrier. It was as he had feared. The idiot was protecting them at the possible cost of his own life.
One of the older knights, a staunch supporter of his father, stepped into Arthur's line of sight. He looked livid. "Sire, what's going on? What did you mean that you knew your servant had magic?"
"Exactly what I said, Sir Ector," Arthur snapped. "It may have escaped your notice, but I am not my father. I do not share his views on magic. Merlin has saved my life countless times. He's had ample opportunity to kill me if he wanted and he didn't. I have seen that magic is not what my father said it was."
"With all due respect, sire, how can you believe that after what Morgana has done and is doing?" asked Agravaine, stepping forward.
Arthur, on edge with fear for his friend, not only in the battle but also in what would come after, rounded on the man. "My sister was afraid and pushed into the arms of a madwoman with a personal grudge. Perhaps if the laws on magic had more lenient she wouldn't have felt the need. If you have questions concerning my decisions, leave them until this city and my friend are no longer in danger."
"Sire, I must protest!"
"Hold your tongue, uncle," hissed Arthur.
Without waiting for a reply from either man, Arthur turned back to the battle.
"Then you give me no choice," Agravaine muttered. Arthur tensed automatically. Reacting instinctively, he spun in time to see his uncle drawing a dagger, not unlike the one that Morgana had been wielding. Horror jolted through him at the realization of what that meant. His uncle was the traitor. Agravaine smirked coldly.
"It's what has to be done," he hissed, just loudly enough for Arthur to hear over the growing noise of the duel between the two magic wielders, but no one else. "You're no better than your father. Morgana is the rightful ruler. You would destroy this kingdom as your father did."
Agravaine leapt at Arthur. The king deftly caught the older man's wrist and twisted it behind his back. Agravaine let out a gasp of pain, dropping the dagger. The movement caught the attention of the other knights. Arthur shoved his uncle at one of the older knights that he trusted.
"Get him out of my sight," he hissed.
"Sire, are you all right?" asked Percival.
"Define all right," he muttered. "I am unharmed. We'll discuss this later."
While he had been distracted, the courtyard had been absolutely devastated. Morgana's followers had scattered, leaving no one but Merlin and the witch herself standing. The ground was pitted, cratered, and blackened as though scorched by fire. One side of the gate was hanging by its hinges. The covered walk on one side of the courtyard was completely demolished. Boulders lay scattered across the ground and fires smoldered here and there.
Merlin was still dodging gracefully, working Morgana into a blind fury. She was practically spitting with anger. A flickering energy blast just barely missed Merlin. Aithusa leapt at the shield Merlin had erected and attacked it viciously to get to Merlin. Elyan, Leon, and Percival grabbed the dragon and pulled him back.
"You're only doing Merlin harm," Percival whispered calmingly. "You don't want to drain his power any more than necessary."
Aithusa cried out plaintively, but stopped struggling against the knights' hands.
"So this is the mighty Emrys!" taunted Morgana. "What's the matter? Afraid that you're no match for me?"
"I'm giving you a chance to end this and walk away before it's too late," said Merlin calmly as he ducked another spell.
"It was too late the day you chose to let me endure this alone!"
Something shifted in Merlin's eyes. "So be it," he whispered, coming to a full halt for the first time since the fight had begun. Morgana took advantage of his mistake to strike. Merlin's hand snapped up. The spell rebounded on Morgana. She barely managed to counter it in time. Merlin swept his hand in front of him. His eyes gleamed pure gold. Vines grew out of the ground, wrapping around Morgana's ankles, holding her fast. They moved up her legs to her torso. She struggled and screamed spells, but the vines only tightened.
Clouds gathered overhead. Thunder rumbled through the air and lightening flashed. Merlin glanced upward. When his gaze turned back to Morgana, a fork of lightening struck the ground not two feet from her.
"Have you wondered what happened to Nimueh?" he asked idly. "She spent most of my first year in Camelot attacking the city. Then she just stopped. She's a priestess of the Old Religion. I'd have thought you would seek her out."
"I did. No one could find her."
"I'm not surprised. I killed her. I summoned lightening and smote her down. I wielded the power of life and death when I was but an untrained novice. What do you think I am capable of now?"
Another fork of lightening struck the ground, closer than before. Morgana struggled to move away.
"Do you still deny that I am Emrys?"
"It's impossible! You would not have been able to hide it for so long."
Merlin smirked. "I'm far smarter than I seem, Morgana, and destiny was on my side." He stalked toward her. "I have walked into the Crystal Cave, seen the future and walked out intact. I have spoken to Talesian and the Fisher King. I am the last Dragonlord. I have seen the Isle of Avalon while my heart yet beats. I have commanded the elements since my birth. I have protected the Once and Future King for near ten years and I will continue to do so until the day I cease to draw breath. I am Emrys!"
The world exploded. Wind whipped around the courtyard. The ground trembled. The sky roiled. Merlin's eyes gleamed a brighter gold and he seemed to radiate power. Letting out a keening cry, Aithusa took to the air and began soaring through the howling wind, directly over Merlin. He twisted and turned gracefully like an acrobat. A deep roar answered Aithusa's cry and Kilgharrah appeared from the clouds. The two great beasts seemed to dance together.
In the midst of it all, Merlin stood tall and immovable. He was glowing from within. His pale skin and sharp features seemed almost elfin. The look on his face was enough to send even the fiercest warriors cowering.
"I am giving you one last chance, Morgana," Merlin hissed, his voice somehow still carrying over the chaotic noise. "Walk away from this. End this vendetta before it consumes us all."
Abruptly, almost as though someone had flipped a switch, the wind died, the sky cleared, and ground stilled. The vines binding Morgana retreated into the ground. The gold faded from Merlin's eyes, but the immutable aura of power that had surrounded him remained. It was oddly fitting to see such a fierce expression on the usually cheerful man's face.
"Walk away," he said again.
Morgana looked around. The other sorcerers were cautiously lowering their shields or peaking out from behind their hiding places. Not one of them looked too keen to support her. She turned to sneer at Merlin.
"This is not the end. It's only the beginning. I'll be back and we will finish this."
Merlin sighed. "So be it. I wish you could see that doesn't have to end in bloodshed."
"That is the only way this can end."
"No it's not. You just can't see that."
Morgana sneered. "Your naivety will be your downfall, Emrys. I will see to that."
Merlin's jaw tightened but he said nothing. With one last daggered look toward Arthur, Morgana spun on her heal and disappeared. The moment she was gone, Aithusa and Kilgharrah dropped out of the sky. The older dragon settled himself in the road just outside the courtyard, thrusting his head through the gate to see what was going on. Aithusa landed a few feet from Merlin. He immediately scampered over to the warlock and butted his head against Merlin's chest.
"I'm fine," Merlin whispered. "Just a bit tired."
"You did well, young warlock," Kilgharrah rumbled. "The witch will attack again, but I believe you will be ready."
Merlin smiled ruefully. "Thanks for the vote of confidence.
"Oi!" Arthur shouted. "If you don't drop this blasted spell this instant, I'll have you in the stocks for the next month!"
Rolling his eyes, Merlin waved his hand toward the knights. The golden shield rippled and disappeared. Aithusa butt his head against Merlin's chest again, warbling something disapproving. Merlin rolled his eyes and scratched behind the dragon's eye ridges. "You're turning into a mother hen," he muttered. "I think Gwen's been around too much."
"Watch your mouth," said Arthur, slapping Merlin lightly upside the head. "That's the future wife you're talking about. When were you planning on telling me about Emrys or the Once and Future king?"
Merlin winced. "When you found out about my magic, your father had just died. You had enough pressure on you just being king. I didn't want to overwhelm you."
"All right, I can admit that you're probably right about that, but why didn't you tell me about Emrys? What does that even mean?"
"Emrys is the greatest warlock who has or ever will walk this earth," said a deep voice. Arthur and Merlin turned to see a tall, older man with steal grey hair and a druid's cloak draped over his shoulders. "He is magic incarnate. The Old Religion shall ever be present so long as he walks the earth. He commands the elements and the essence of magic. With his aid shall the Once and Future King unite all Albion in unprecedented peace and prosperity and they shall bring the balance of magic back into the land. We did not truly believe when the witch called you traitor. She was to give us proof. We see now that you are fulfilling destiny. With all due respect to you, my Lord Emrys, we shall depart until you send for us."
Without another word, the man walked away, followed closely by the other sorcerers.
"Magic incarnate?" Arthur repeated, turning slowly to Merlin. The warlock looked a bit pale, almost as if someone had knocked him over the head.
"I haven't heard that one before."
"But the greatest sorcerer who will ever live, that's not so new?"
"Well, I knew I was powerful. I mean I've done things no one else has, but I didn't really believe…" Merlin trailed off, still looking a bit dumbstruck. "This is why I didn't want to tell you. I had no idea about any of this."
Kilgharrah chuckled, a deep rumbling sound. "You knew, young warlock, in the depths of your soul. You simply would not admit it."
Merlin glared at the dragon. "Well, it's a bit far fetched, if you ask me. I'm a bloody farm boy from Ealdor!"
"You are Emrys," said the dragon. "You have been since birth. You circumstances never changed that."
"To think, I had one of the most figures of druidic culture mucking out my stalls," muttered Arthur.
Merlin rolled his eyes. "I'm your servant, Arthur. It's my job no matter how much I complain. I chose it. Any time I wanted, I could have left. I'm not a legend or anything. I'm just me."
"You happens to be a legend," retorted the king.
"So do you!"
"I'm the king!"
"You're a prat!"
Arthur nearly laughed out loud at how easy it was for them to slip into their banter, even after everything that had happened. It was almost easier now. They were essentially equals. Merlin was more or less the leader of the magical community, if Arthur understood the nature of the prophecies the druid had mentioned.
"What was Aithusa doing in the middle of the fight?" he asked. He'd have this argument with Merlin about his status later.
"He insisted on following and it's a good thing, too," said Merlin. "Gwaine and I would have been too late."
"At least you got here when you did." Arthur frowned. "I am sorry that you had to reveal this to everyone. I know it's not what you wanted."
Merlin just shrugged. "I told you, keeping this a secret is all I know. That doesn't mean I want to be lying to everyone I ever meet for my entire life. This may not be the way I hoped Camelot would find out, but at least it's pretty clear I'm on your side."
"That it is," Arthur declared, clapping a hand on Merlin's shoulder. "I think it's time we went and explained to the council before they decide to revolt. I won't let anything happen to you and if this goes well…I suppose we'll just have to wait and see."
He steered a protesting Merlin toward the castle. Aithusa trotted along behind them, clearly in no hurry to let Merlin out of his sight after that battle, something which Arthur actually rather agreed with. He'd never seen his friend use so much magic and he was a little anxious as to the side effects.
The knights all gave Merlin grateful smiles as they worked to shepherd the stunned lords back into the castle. Gwaine looked smug.
"I told you I'd figure it out, Merlin."
The warlock rolled his eyes. "It wasn't exactly due to your sterling wit or deductive powers, was it?"
The knight just shrugged and turned back to a livid Sir Ector. Gwen came running outside and leapt straight into Merlin's arms, thanking him profusely for saving Arthur…again. The king cuffed Merlin round the head for stealing his woman and took Gwen into his own arms. She went willingly enough, even if she did berate him for striking Merlin.
Kilgharrah watched as they made their way inside, Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights bickering and ribbing each other good naturedly all the while. He grinned to himself. Destiny had chosen wisely when it had chosen these men and women as its instruments.
Author's Note: So that was a long oneshot. I hope you liked it. Maybe now that I've got this plot bunny out of my head, I can work on my other fics. R&R please. The more I hear from you, the more I'm compelled to write!