Merlin Season 6, Episode 1

Long Live the King

"Are you sure this is going to work?" A man dressed all in black paced back and forth as he addressed the darkness of the forest. "And why do you never show yourself to me?"

"I have my reasons! And to answer you first question, yes it will work. Once Arthur returns from Avalon he will be rendered mortal upon the coin's destruction. Then you only need kill him to be rid of him forever. But you must be sure to incite the words I will teach you flawlessly or the spell will not work!"

"I got it," the man grumbled impatiently, "And then Guinevere will be mine." He didn't bother to hide the lust he felt for the queen.

The Adventures of

MERLIN...

When the chants of "Long live the Queen" had died down, Gaius approached the throne. "My lady, I really should be getting back to Gwaine if he has any chance of survival."

"Yes, of course." Gwen stepped down from her throne to talk to Percival. "You never told me why Merlin did not return with you," she inquired of him. He looked uncomfortable. "Walk with me," she asked. When they were alone in a corridor she stopped. "Percival, what is it? Why didn't Merlin return with you?"

"I never actually spoke to him. I saw him performing the burial rites for the King on the lake and then he left. I returned to Gwaine to give him a proper burial and that's when I discovered to my great astonishment that he was still alive! So I rushed him back here."

"Yes, but before you knew Gwaine was in need of immediate attention, why did you not seek out Merlin? I am sure he was in a great deal of pain. He could have used a friend."

Percival nodded. "I suppose I was a little taken aback by what I saw."

Gwen started to have a suspicion as to what Percival might be referring to. But she wanted to be sure. "You mean seeing Arthur…" she cleared her throat. "Seeing Arthur's body?" Percival stayed silent, but shook his head no. "I think I might know what else you saw. Was it something to do with Merlin?" Percival tightened his jaw and nodded. "Percival, Merlin has been a true friend to Camelot. He tried to save Arthur, I know he did. I have recently become aware of Merlin's special talents. I think very soon things will start to change in the world we live in. I hope I can count on your support?"

"Always."

"I am glad to hear it. Now we must find Merlin and bring him home. I am going to have the servants ready him a decent room for when he returns! Camelot owes him our gratitude."

3 months later…

Merlin was walking. A part of him dreaded where he was going. But another part of him was getting more excited by the minute as Avalon Lake came into view. He knew today was going to be the day that he saw Arthur! In no time at all he had reached the lake. He stared out into the blue water and waited. He wasn't sure what he needed to wait for. But he knew he must wait. He turned when he heard a noise from behind him. There stood Arthur. Merlin grinned. "Arthur!" He rushed to his friend's side and gave him a warm embrace. Arthur held onto Merlin tightly. They let go of each other and just stood and grinned for a few moments.

"I've missed you," Merlin said.

"And I you." Arthur cleared his throat and then asked, "So, what has been happening in my kingdom while I was away?"

Merlin looked down at his feet for a moment. He wasn't sure how Arthur would take the news. "Well… Gwen has been declared rightful ruler, like you wanted," he hurried to finish. Arthur nodded his approval. "And, um, well, magic has been allowed back into Camelot." Merlin glanced up cautiously.

Arthur wore a thoughtful expression. "Merlin," he said in a tone that caused Merlin to worry. "I am glad to hear that," he finished cheerfully.

Merlin let out the breath he had been holding. A part of him was still afraid to believe it. "Truly?"

"Yes!" Arthur gave him a hard clap to his back. "You saved the kingdom with magic. More times than I probably even know. I came to realize that magic isn't evil. People are. And I trust Guinevere's judgment."

Merlin smiled even though his back stung. "Well I'm glad to hear that."

Arthur looked at Merlin with an expectant expression.

Merlin was uncertain what he wanted. "What?"

"Aren't you going to show me some of the marvelous things you can do with your magic?"

Merlin looked confused. "Now?" He could tell by Arthur's impatient expression that was exactly what he meant. He began to show Arthur one thing after another. He must have gotten carried away because Arthur began to shake him to try and make him stop. Merlin couldn't understand why. He wasn't doing anything wrong. Hadn't this been Arthur's idea after all? He was just feeling so happy that he didn't want to stop! Arthur seemed happy too, but yet he wouldn't stop shaking him. It was starting to get annoying.

The world around Merlin suddenly blurred out of focus, and Merlin's room came into view as he groggily opened his eyes. He saw Gwen standing before him with a worried expression. Her hand was on his shoulder right where Arthur's had just been as he shook him. Merlin rubbed his eyes trying to get the sleep from them. "I was doing it again?"

Gwen threw up her hands in the air and gestured around the room. "Have a look for yourself!"

Merlin glanced around the room. There were things all around that didn't belong. A waterfall was flowing out of his closet. And… he jumped out of bed when he noticed his curtains were on fire! He hurried to put out the flames with some words of magic. "Sorry," he mumbled.

"Merlin," Gwen began gently, "It has been three months. This has to end. It is becoming dangerous."

"Then move me out of the castle! I don't know why you gave me a royal room in the first place! I don't deserve it. And it's not like I can control what I dream!" He got back into bed and pulled the covers up to his chin. Gwen walked over to him and he turned from her to face the opposite direction. He could feel it as she sat down beside him. She placed a hand on his back and rubbed softly. "I miss him too."

A tear rolled from Merlin's eye. Gwen would never understand. He didn't just miss him. It was his fault that he had died. He rolled back to face her and her hand was jostled from his back to his chest. He could feel the warmth where it lay. He looked into Guinevere's eyes and saw the deep pain that matched his own. Without warning it was as if an invisible force was pulling them towards each other. Their lips met and he was reminded of the only other time they had ever kissed. He had been lying down then too. He sought comfort in her for but a few moments before pulling away. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I don't know what came over me."

Guinevere stood. "Nor I." It seemed like she wasn't sure what else to say so she just turned and left.

Merlin's head was spinning. He couldn't believe what had just happened! He was like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. He needed to do something to end this. Tears filled his eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing," he spoke aloud to himself. "I had this great destiny, to restore magic to the land. To restore Albion. Well, I did that, and now I don't know what my purpose is anymore! But it's clear that it's not here." He started to pack his things.

As soon as Gwen rounded the corner from Merlin's room a hand clasped over her mouth as another hand pulled her firmly against her attacker. "Don't move," he ordered into her ear. "You are coming with me." She did start to struggle so he clamped firmly over her mouth until she slumped into unconsciousness. Then he snuck her out of the castle.

When Gwen awoke she found that her hands were bound tightly behind her back. A man stood before her. He was tall and handsome, with dark features, dressed all in black. The way he stared at her made her uncomfortable. He gave a mock bow. "My lady."

"Who are you? Why have you brought me here?"

"My name is Meleagant, son of… well I suppose none of that is known or matters to you does it? The one downside of allowing commoners to overrun Camelot. As to why you are here, I wanted us to have a little chat, about your late husband, and about a coin that he once possessed that now lies in the hands of his servant Merlin."

"It must be worth a fortune for you to treat your queen in such a way!"

He bent down close to her face. "It's priceless," he breathed in her ear. Then he stood once again. "When I was leaving the castle grounds with you, I noticed Merlin leaving as well, and by the looks of it he didn't plan on returning any time soon. Do you have any idea where he was headed?"

Gwen seemed surprised and disturbed by this news. She shook her head 'no.'

"Why did he leave, I wonder? It was his bedroom that I saw you flee from this morning, was it not?" Meleagant saw the guilty look on Guinevere's face and pressed on. "Did the two of you have a lover's quarrel? I suppose it is time I went to find your young warlock and claim the coin I seek." Meleagant started to leave, then turned and added, "Then we need only wait for your precious Arthur to come here to rescue you."

"What do you mean?" Gwen didn't know why he would say such a thing but she couldn't stop hope from coursing through her that there was truth to his words. "I demand you tell me!"

The man only laughed as he walked away. He returned to the castle and began to track the direction that Merlin had gone. Then he hurried to catch up.

o

"Morning friend," a traveler said as he neared Merlin.

Merlin hardly glanced at the man in dark clothing as he gave a nod in his direction. He wasn't in much of a mood to talk. He had to gain some distance from the castle so he could call Kilgharrah and get advice from his old friend.

"Where do you hail from," the stranger pressed on.

"Camelot."

"Looks like you are going on a long journey."

Merlin noticed the man was slurring his speech and he could pick up the faint hint of whiskey. "Yes. I am moving away from Camelot, actually."

"Can't imagine why anyone would want to leave such a beautiful place!"

"Yeah well I have my reasons. Look, I don't mean to be rude but I am not in the mood for company."

The man held up his hand. "Say no more! I could use a little rest anyway." He swayed unsteadily on his feet. He started to walk towards the grass but instead tripped and slammed into Merlin. Merlin struggled to help the man regain his balance. "You alright," he asked when the man was once again upright.

"Indeed." Then the man collapsed again onto the grass and promptly passed out. Merlin shook his head and continued on his way.

When he was far enough away from the castle he called for Kilgharrah in the ancient dragon tongue. Merlin waited for what seemed much longer than usual. Then he saw a shape in the horizon. As it drew nearer he could see that it was not Kilgharrah. Merlin braced himself for an attack when Aithusa landed in front of him.

"Why have you come," Merlin demanded. "I called for Kilgharrah."

Aithusa did not open her mouth but instead reached out with her mind to Merlin. Kilgharrah asked me to come in his place. He can no longer fly.

Panic rose in Merlin. "Take me to him!"

I am not strong enough to carry a rider. Kilgharrah sent me because he knows what you seek.

"How could he when I don't even know?"

He is very wise. He said that you seek peace. He knows of only one way for you to obtain it.

Merlin marveled at how wise Kilgharrah was indeed. "I am listening."

He said you carry with you a coin that belonged to Arthur. You must destroy it if you are ever to be free of him.

Merlin didn't think there was much left in the world that could shock him. But he hadn't expected this. His hand reached into his trouser pocket and clasped around the coin. His thoughts drifted back to the night Arthur had given it to him.

It was the last fun night they had ever spent together, a few days before Arthur's death. Merlin had just finished taking Arthur for all he had at dice. Merlin had cheated, of course. It had just been too tempting not to! The two of them had left the tavern and were walking back to the castle. Arthur reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin. He twirled it absently through his fingers.

"You were holding out on me," Merlin exclaimed. He swiped for the coin but Arthur pulled his hand out of reach.

"You can't have this one."

"Why not?"

Arthur stopped walking. "It was my mothers."

"Oh."

"She found it on the day she met my father so she always thought of it as her good luck charm. She even had a hole drilled in so she could wear it round her neck, see?" Arthur held up the coin for Merlin to inspect. Sure enough there was a small hole through the top half of it. "She never took it off." Arthur was silent before continuing. "When I was a boy I would catch my father handling it from time to time. I asked him about it one day and he told me the story of my mother. Then he gave it to me. I carry it with me sometimes for luck too, even though I know it's just silly nonsense! I mean, look where it got me tonight! But still, it helps me to feel close to her, you know? I hope to pass it on one day to my son… or daughter."

Merlin wasn't sure what to say. He wasn't used to Arthur being so open with him. He wished he could also be as open.

"You know what?" Arthur said matter-of-factly. "I want you to hold onto it for me."

"What? No, I couldn't!"

"Oh shut up and take it Merlin! I know you will keep it safe. There's no one I would rather entrust it to."

Merlin nodded somberly. "It would be an honor. I will protect it with my life."

Arthur gave Merlin a good natured shove. "You're drunk!"

Merlin laughed. "Maybe a little."

Merlin!

Aithusa's voice brought Merlin back to the present. He had been smiling at the memory but now his face hardened. "I can't do it. I won't."

Kilgharrah said you might react in such a way. He said to tell you that it should be clear by now that Guinevere is not with child so you are no longer bound to your promise.

"This is all I have left of him!" Merlin screamed. "Do you understand?! How can either of you ask me to do this?!"

You must sever all ties.

"First I am to devote my life to him, now I am to erase him from it completely? How is that fair?"

Aithusa did not answer.

"Fine. You tell Kilgharrah that I will do this. But then I am done. I don't want to hear about any more prophecies. I don't want to be a hero. I just want to live out the rest of my life in peace." Aithusa nodded once.

Merlin placed the coin onto the ground. He focused all his love, all his hate, all his pain into this moment. He cried out as he cast the spell that incinerated the coin. He sniffed and wiped his hand across his eyes. Aithusa flew away. Merlin started off in the direction of what was to be 'home' again after so many years; Ealdor.

o

"Merlin…" A voice prodded him. "Merlin!" Merlin reluctantly opened his eyes. Arthur was standing before him. "Great," Merlin muttered and closed his eyes again.

"Do you know how many places I have been looking for you?!" Arthur sounded irritated.

Merlin reopened his eyes and sat up in his bed. "Wow it would take a real brainiac to first try looking in my hometown. Now go away. I thought destroying your coin would ensure I didn't dream about you anymore."

"First of all… you have been dreaming about me? Merlin, that is just weird. And second I hope you aren't referring to my mother's coin. In fact I know you can't be referring to that since I entrusted that to you for safekeeping!" Arthur's expression contradicted his words. "Well?"

"What other coin would I be talking about?"

Anger flared up in Arthur. Then he remembered what the Sidhe had told him. He must help Merlin at all cost. The fate of Camelot depended on it! "It's fine," he gritted through his teeth. "Water under the bridge." He forced a smile.

Merlin stood up to peer at Arthur. "Come to think of it I don't recall having a dream like this before. Must be because I'm back in my village. I don't think I have ever been aware that I was dreaming. That was probably what destroying the coin accomplished! I can probably bend the dream in any way I want!" Merlin's spirits perked a little at the thought of this new discovery.

"Do tell how you want this dream to go," Arthur inquired sarcastically.

"Well…" Merlin sat on the edge of his bed. "I think I am dreaming of you because I have something I need to get off of my chest. It happened this morning." Merlin took a deep breath. "I kissed Gwen."

Arthur's eyes widened. His first instinct was that Merlin must be joking. But Merlin's face… "I'm going to kill you!" He lunged at Merlin. Merlin used his natural abilities to slow Arthur's progression so that he had plenty of time to dodge out of the way. Arthur looked a bit surprised that Merlin had evaded. "Arthur, just calm down. I don't want to fight you!"

Merlin's words didn't calm Arthur in the slightest. He started swinging at Merlin, which thanks to Merlin's abilities he missed every time. But each swing forced Merlin to step backwards and brought them closer to the wall. Merlin realized he was backed against the cabinet so the last punch that he dodged he moved all the way around Arthur to stand behind him. Arthur's fist slammed into the cabinet knocking most of Hunith's dishes to the floor. "That's it," Merlin said. Arthur had turned back to face him. Merlin sent a blast of energy to hit Arthur square in the chest causing him to stumble backwards and send more dishes flying. Arthur regained his footing almost instantly and looked angrier than ever.

Merlin stood in front of the closed entryway door. When Arthur started to charge him again Merlin sidestepped and used his magic to open the door which allowed Arthur to rush outside. Merlin followed out after. He marveled that his mother hadn't woken from all the noise already. He didn't want to chance any more noise or broken furniture!

Merlin started feeling like he ought to teach Arthur a lesson. He looked around and noticed a small water pail on the ground. He used his powers to send it flying towards Arthur and hit him in the head. Merlin made sure it wasn't too hard. Then he sent the pebbles and rocks on the ground trembling under Arthur's feet until Arthur became unsteady. Then Merlin charged as fast and hard as he could and slammed his shoulder into Arthur's chest.

Arthur grabbed his arm around Merlin's neck. Merlin shot a small blast of energy into Arthur's stomach causing them both to stumble. Arthur bent over to catch his breath. He held one hand out to symbolize a truce. "Damn, you do put up a good fight with that magic of yours! So I take it Gwen has forgotten me? Moved on to… you?"

Merlin shook his head furiously. "No, not at all! She didn't even want to kiss me!"

"You forced my wife to kiss you?"

Merlin worried that Arthur was going to try to fight him again. "No-o. It just happened. Because we were both thinking of you."

Arthur gave Merlin a disgusted look.

"Not like that obviously! In the moment it happened my thoughts were only of Gwen actually."

Arthur slapped the back of Merlin's head.

Merlin's voice rose in anger. "We were both just missing you and then took comfort in one another!" His voice softened again. "And I feel so bad for it. It won't ever happen again!"

"Damn straight it better never! But I understand. You are a good friend to have told me. We will deal with it at a later time. For now let us head back."

Merlin shook his head no. "I am never going back. I don't belong there now."

"Because I'm dead?"

Merlin nodded.

"But I'm not dead!" Arthur could see that there was no getting through to Merlin at the moment, and he was exhausted. "Fine. We can discuss it tomorrow. Where should I sleep?"

Merlin looked sad. "I really don't want you here anymore at all. It's too painful, and it will be a danger to my mother just as it was at the castle."

Arthur sighed in submission. He had no idea what Merlin was talking about but he figured he would have a better chance reasoning with him in the morning. "Ouch. The Sidhe were right… you do need saving. The Merlin I knew would never be so cold. I take it you would have me sleep in the stables then?"

"The Sidhe?"

"Yeah, you know the ancient powerful race who live where I have been the last three months. Avalon." Arthur was trying hard to keep all his emotions in check and not process anything just yet. But Merlin wasn't making it easy.

Merlin scowled. "I know what the Sidhe are!" This was feeling less and less like a dream. He spoke slowly, "But… is this real?"

"Yes!"

"How can this be real?"

"I don't know Merlin, why don't you tell me. All the Sidhe said was that I needed to return because you were in great need, and it would have a direct effect on Camelot. I suppose that means you were probably about to do something stupid. No surprise there."

Merlin could still scarcely believe Arthur was really there. But perhaps there was a connection with Kilgharrah's last request. The timing couldn't be a coincidence! Merlin had imagined what it would be like if Arthur ever did return. He always thought he would be overjoyed! But because it didn't yet feel real, he simply put an awkward hand on Arthur's shoulder and gave a few pats. "It's good to have you back." Then Merlin returned inside and readied himself with getting dressed. He needed some answers!

"Where are you going," Arthur called out as he chased after Merlin. Merlin stopped when they had gotten far enough from the village.

"O drakon, e mala soi ftengometh tesd'hup anankes! Erkheo," Merlin yelled up to the sky in an unnatural voice.

Arthur stared at him with an estranged expression. "What was that?"

"I need answers."

"I know the feeling."

Before long Aithusa appeared. Arthur seemed uneasy without a weapon when the dragon landed before them.

Young warlock, Kilgharrah wishes to inform you that it brings him great pain not to answer your call. He requests that you summon me from now on.

"I didn't plan on calling to either of you! But I need some answers. How is it that Arthur is alive?"

That was all your doing. The coin had been forged with the magic that allowed Arthur's birth. The late King Uther knew it was the only thing his mother would be sure to wear at all times, even during Arthur's conception which was necessary for the magic to work. There was an ancient prophecy that said if the coin were to be destroyed while Arthur yet lived the magical connection to Arthur would be severed and he would be as that of any ordinary man. The only way it could be destroyed safely was if Arthur were to die and journey to Avalon, the only place where he could retain the magic within him even during the coin's destruction. By destroying that coin you ensured no one else ever would, thus ensuring Arthur's immortal future. And it was on account of your pain over doing so that Arthur was needed to return now, which Kilgharrah said was also necessary because you are each a half of the same coin. Both halves are needed for the bright future of Albion!

Merlin was overwhelmed with emotion. He hadn't failed Arthur after all! Everything had needed to happen for a reason, and now all would be well! His eyes teared up and he grabbed Arthur into a tight hug.

Arthur pushed Merlin off of him. "Merlin... what is happening," Arthur said in a low voice. His eyes were still on the dragon.

Merlin managed a smile. "Balinor was my father. He passed his gift on to me when he died. Arthur, meet Aithusa, hatched from the baby dragon egg that was stolen by Borden… and me. She also attacked your troops at Camlann, until I ordered her to leave." Merlin turned his attention back to Aithusa. "Which I am assuming by your recent actions that you have turned over a new leaf? I can't imagine Kilgharrah would send you to me otherwise." The dragon nodded. "That's good. We were never your enemy."

I know that now.

"Why do you not speak aloud," Merlin questioned.

I am not able to. Goodbye young warlock. Aithusa took to the sky.

"Who is Kilgharrah," Arthur asked in a tight voice.

Merlin glanced back at his friend. Arthur wore an expression that Merlin had only seen once before, when Arthur had first learned that Merlin possessed magic. It was a look of betrayal. Merlin suddenly no longer felt in the mood to be so open. But he supposed it was better to get it out sooner rather than later. "He is the dragon your father kept a prisoner under the castle… until I freed him."

Arthur stared at Merlin with anger and pain in his eyes. "I understand why you never told me that you are a sorcerer. You feared for your life. You worried if you could trust me. But it seems it was I who had misplaced trust. How many times have you lied to me? You betrayed me and my kingdom. You released the dragon? Do you know how many lives were lost because of you?!"

"Yes," Merlin said with sorrow.

"It was a shock learning about your magic. But this. I don't know if I can ever trust you again!"

"I don't know if you should. I have broken your trust in just about every way. There was always a reason but I'm not sure that matters."

"What matters most now is that we get back to Camelot."

"We?"

"I may not like you very much at the moment. I may never trust you again. But Camelot apparently needs you. So yes, we."

They rode back to Camelot in silence. As they entered the front gates Merlin said, "Gwen moved me into the castle's royal quarters."

"Of course she did."

"Well… I think I had better move back into my old room with Gaius. I don't think Gwen is going to like me much after she finds out all the terrible things that I've done."

"I'm not sure that is true. But I have no intentions of repeating the things you have confided in me. You can trust in that. Some people can be trusted, you know," Arthur added sarcastically.

"Not like me," Merlin answered miserably.

"Exactly."

"Well, at least I succeeded in everything I was meant to do. Even saving your royal pain in the ass. I did what I thought was right. During times when you and your father were persecuting my kind. I trusted Kilgharrah. I didn't know he would attack Camelot, though I feared he might. But it was a deal I struck with him to save you. If that makes me a terrible person then I guess that's what I am, because I would do it again!"

"It's been a long day Merlin."

"I know." Merlin turned from Arthur and walked slowly through the door to the small quarters he used to share with Gaius. Gaius looked surprised and relieved.

"Merlin! I was worried. You just left this morning! With all your belongings!"

"I'm sorry Gaius. I tend to do everything wrong, don't I?"

"Merlin, what's happened?"

Merlin plopped down on the bench. "Arthur, he hates me. Maybe I deserve it. Maybe I should have done things differently. Perhaps if I had confided in him sooner…"

"I know Arthur never hated you," Gaius said with certainty.

"But he does now."

"Why would you say that? How could you know something like that?"

"He told me as much."

Gaius raised an eyebrow. "Merlin, are you saying that Arthur has returned?"

Merlin nodded. He told Gaius everything that had happened. When he was finished he excused himself to his bedroom. It seemed like his head had only just hit the pillow then no sooner was there a pounding on his door.

"Merlin get up!" It was Arthur's voice.

"What is it," Merlin called out.

"What do you think Gwen will say," came the reply.

Merlin puzzled the words before answering. "I'm confused."

"Guinevere, when she sees me! I'm suddenly a little nervous."

Merlin got out of his bed and opened his door. "What are you going on about?!"

Arthur looked uncertain. "I've just said."

"You're nervous about seeing Gwen," Merlin asked.

Arthur crossed his arms over his chest and nodded.

"Fine. I will help you. Though I don't know why you'd come to me," Merlin said. "You made it pretty clear tonight that you can't trust me."

Arthur walked over to the table and sat down at it. "You have kept so many secrets from me."

Something in his voice caused hope to flare in Merlin! "But I never wanted to! I won't again."

"Is that all? The stuff about the dragons? It's not… is it?"

"No."

"Is it the worst?"

"No."

"Tell me."

Merlin tried to swallow the lump in his throat. "I knew what it would do to you if you killed your own father…"

Arthur tried to process what Merlin meant. There had only been one time he had wanted to kill his father. When an image of his mother had told him that his father had used magic to allow her to conceive him, which ended up resulting in her death because magic always needed to have a balance. But then Merlin had convinced him that it had all been a lie… "Do you mean to tell me that was all true? Was that my mother I saw?"

"I believe it was, yes. And yes, it was true."

Arthur sat and silently processed the information. Merlin sat down beside him. "Do you want to hear more," he asked lightly. Arthur nodded.

"There was this girl once, her name was Freya. I loved her. You only knew her as a beast that was attacking Camelot. You stabbed her. She died in my arms at Avalon Lake. Before she died she promised she would repay me. And she did. She found Excalibur from the bottom of the lake and gave it to me to fight off Morgana's undead army! She's still there now. Maybe forever. I miss her." Merlin sniffed.

Arthur stared at Merlin with remorse in his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said.

"It's all right. You didn't know." Silence hung over them until Merlin changed the subject.

"Oh I've got a good one to tell you! Remember that time you woke up at the bandit camp in peasant clothes and weren't sure how you got there? That was me casting magic on you that took away your willpower. It was actually pretty funny! You did whatever I told you to." Merlin glanced quickly at Arthur and noticed his expression had turned dark. "I only did it because you would have gotten yourself killed back in Camelot! You could barely stand up, let alone fight. You would have never left on your own!" Merlin realized he had better change the subject again. He blurted out the next thing that popped into his mind.

"Let's see… I've kissed Gwen one other time before yesterday."

"Merlin! Seriously, what is wrong with you?!"

"It was before you had even noticed her in that way! And she actually was the one who kissed me. She thought I was dying so I'm not sure it really counts."

"All right! I think I have had enough information overload for today! I am going to go find my wife now. And you had best not wait too long to get us our breakfast in the morning!"

Merlin found a smile was threatening to creep onto his face. "Yes sire." They were both surprised when the alarm sounded. Arthur rushed to the royal council room with Merlin close at his heels. Arthur burst through the doors to see all the knights sitting at the round table. They were all clearly shocked to see him. Merlin couldn't help but split into an ear to ear grin at all the looks on their faces.

"What's happening," Arthur asked. All were too stunned to speak.

"It is Guinevere, my Lord," Leon said at last. "She has been kidnapped. There was a note left in her room. It reads: You will find me in the place that the truth was first revealed to Arthur Pendragon concerning his trusted servant Merlin." Merlin and Arthur stared at each other in understanding.

"Whoever did this wanted to be sure it was Merlin or I who went to find Gwen," Arthur said. "Ready a search party. We leave at once!"

Merlin led the way. Their destination was burned into his mind forever. Arthur, Gwaine and Percival followed close behind. When they arrived they could see Gwen tied up on the ground.

"No! It's a trap," she said when she saw them. "Meleagant wants Arthur here so he can destroy some coin in front of him. He says it will kill him permanently this time!"

"I destroyed the coin this morning. Have no fear," Merlin assured her as he tried to loosen her bonds.

Arthur shoved him out of the way. "Let me," he said.

She shook her head. "You don't understand. I saw it but an hour ago! He has not been able to stop boasting."

"And why should I?" Came a voice. Merlin looked towards the source and recognized the traveler he had met on the road earlier that day, and he was holding the coin!

"You switched coins," Merlin breathed.

"Indeed." Meleagant bared his teeth in a grin. He uttered words of magic faster than Merlin could react and suddenly everyone found they weren't able to move. Meleagant smirked once more before he focused his attention to his task at hand. He set the coin onto a rock and started to utter more words of magic.

"No!" Merlin shouted.

Meleagant was so focused on the spell that Merlin was able to break free of the first spell which had been binding him to his spot. Merlin knew even before he sent a blast at Meleagant that he was too late. The spell had already finished. As Meleagant went flying backwards his first spell was fully destroyed and the knights were once again free to move. Arthur reached him first and swung his sword. Meleagant had drawn his own weapon and parried Arthur's blow. They matched blows until Meleagant got the better of Arthur by kicking his feet out from under him. Percival rushed to fill the gap. Meleagant was prepared to dodge the first swing but Gwaine came around from behind Percival and around to the left side of Meleagant. He raised his blade and it rang true, sending Meleagant's head tumbling to the ground.

Merlin glanced to where the coin had lain and noticed with great relief that it was still there! He had stopped Meleagant in time after all! He bent down and picked up the coin. "We have to be sure to keep this safe," he said solemnly. Then to lighten the mood he turned to Arthur and grinned. "See, I didn't destroy it after all! You can trust me!"

Arthur smirked and shook his head. He turned to address his knights. "I think we are done here. Then he bent to pick up Gwen. "Time to get you home." His eyes shone with love.

The sun was just starting to rise as the group made their way through the gates of Camelot. Merlin marveled how much could happen in a day. This time yesterday he had lost all hope. Now the world seemed full of possibility!

Everyone went their separate ways to go find rest.

Merlin lay in his bed, unable to sleep. Something had been nagging at the back of his mind but he couldn't figure out what it was. Gaius came in to check on him. "Why switch coins at all," Merlin voiced his thoughts aloud. He had already filled Gaius in briefly when he got home.

"I'm not sure," Gaius replied.

"How could he have known I would even check for the coin? How did he even know I had the coin?"

"Maybe he didn't know, and perhaps he was just covering all his bases."

"But he did know I had the coin on me in the first place. He also knew Arthur was alive. And why did his spell fail?"

"I don't know," Gaius replied. "I do know that you need rest." Merlin nodded and closed his eyes. He heard Gaius leave. Merlin couldn't stop going over all Aithusa had told him, searching for any clue he might have missed. Merlin's eyes flew open. "It can't be," he exclaimed.

Arthur stayed close beside Gwen all the way to their bedchambers to make sure she wasn't going to collapse. "Really Arthur, I'm fine. I wasn't hurt in the slightest. I might have been a little sleepy… but standing before you now I fear I couldn't close my eyes if I tried!"

"I'm glad to hear that!" Arthur grabbed Gwen and pulled her down onto their bed. He held her close. "Finally," he whispered to her. "Ever since I came back, all I have wanted to do is hold you." They separated a little to look into each other's eyes. Gwen ran a hand through his hair and bent in for a kiss. Arthur started talking when their lips were inches apart. "Now… would you say I'm a better kisser than Merlin?"

Gwen's mind was a bit hazy. "What?"

"Who would you say is a better kisser? Me or… Merlin." The way he said Merlin's name was as if he were a retarded animal that should be put down just to be out of its misery.

Gwen gave a sigh. "He told you."

"Well, of course he told me! Poor guy was a mess over it. You should know better than to seduce a sweet innocent guy like Merlin." Gwen slapped playfully at his chest. "Oh stop," she said. Arthur pulled her into a kiss and at last there were no more need for words.

Until Merlin burst into their room. "Arthur… oh sorry!"

Arthur glared at him. "Get out!"

"Right, yeah. But I think we might have a problem. I just tried to call Aithusa. She didn't come. We need to find Kilgharrah. Though I fear he will only tell us what I already suspect. Aithusa is no friend to Camelot. I don't know if Meleagant was trying to destroy the coin after all. I looked up the words I could remember from his spell and they imply that it had to do with entwining. I think, somehow, Morgana's soul has been bound to this coin as well. Which means she might be able to return, just like you, in the case of a great need. I could be wrong about all of this, but what if Aithusa didn't come when I called because she can't come. Just like Kilgharrah hadn't been able to come. What if Aithusa hurt herself enough on purpose and is somewhere that only Morgana would know where to find her? If she is this supposed 'light of Camelot' then Camelot would need Morgana to return if she is the only one who would be able to help her!"

"You got all that from a dragon not coming when you called? That seems like a bit of a stretch Merlin, even for you."

"I am a Dragonlord. Don't you even remember what that means?!"

Arthur looked at him blankly.

"She has to come when I… oh never mind! I will just go find Kilgharrah on my own. I need to make sure he's OK. Hopefully he can tell me that I'm wrong about all of this!" Merlin stormed from the room.

Arthur gave Gwen an imploring look. He knew what she was about to say but he didn't want her to.

"Go," she instructed gently. He gave a whine of protest but hurried to catch up with Merlin.

The Adventures of

MERLIN...

Next time…

Suddenly Merlin understood. "Arthur, wait! Don't hurt them!" Merlin jumped from his horse and started running towards them. When Aithusa could see that Merlin was on their side she focused her attention back to Morgana. She nudged her gently with her maw.

Morgana stirred. She finally opened her eyes and scampered backwards a few paces on the ground when she saw who was gathered around her. She seemed to relax when she saw Aithusa.