Sorry for being so slow in updating. I have been wallowing in my own self pity with a cold for the past week or so but now I am at home for the Christmas holidays, with nothing but books on Soviet Russia and mugs of pink tea to occupy my time. Time for some Merlin, methinks? Unless they take it off the iPlayer, in which case I shall weep.
Warning. This chapter contains cow tipping. It's a rural tradition. Look upon it as you see morris dancing. Some people see that as grossly inhumane too.
Okay, bovine abuse isn't cool. Don't try this at home. Not even if you own the cow and you get quite drunk and it seems like a good idea. It's not. I know people who've been cow tipping. You don't want to be associated with people who call you "m'lover" and have hair like Boris Johnson.
Chapter 10. In which we are treated to a bit of a holiday and I abandon the plot in favour of demonstrating some of the past times of Southern England.
See the calm, idyllic surroundings of this village? See how the children play and the women natter and the men do a hard day's work, to return to their warm homes at night?
It's suddenly filled with grisly barbarians, armed with weapons that won't be invented for another two hundred years or so. They tear the place apart, looking for some man with apples.
"It's harvest time," the barbarian's ringleader says. Oh dear, we think. That sounds ominous. Are the words 'pay,' 'pounds' and 'human flesh' coming next? His henchmen take two bags of what appears to be grain off the man.
"We only kept back what we need to survive!" he says.
"Survive?" Generic villainous barbarian laughs. "I'll be back in a week's time, and I want it all." At this point, a daft, seemingly brave woman steps forward and shrieks at him.
"You won't be taking any of it! You would let our children starve?"
Barbarian man slaps her, and she falls to the floor. What happened to all these notions of chivalry? He then shoots some villager with a crossbow he shouldn't technically have and then rides away, snarling various evil threats.
We then cut to Camelot market, where Merlin is lurking without any real intent. He spots a woman he knows trudging through the streets.
"Merlin!" she cries. Our favourite warlock sees her black eye and demands to know what's going on.
It seems that Arthur's daft romantic notions of saving the world are contagious.
Merlin's mother makes an emotive plea to Uther, who obviously take no action. We can be pleased about this though. As he explains, sending troops into someone else's kingdom is a bit of a diplomatic incident. Also, if he did that, Merlin wouldn't be able to be the heroic prat he wants to be.
Of course, when Ether puts his mother's request for assistance in fighting away the barbarians down, Merlin gets quite cross. Who can blame him? No one would be terribly pleased if the ruler you're supposed to respect denies you protection for your home.
He's not the only one to be disappointed by the decision.
"I'm sorry," Arthur tells him as they stand on the battlements. "If it were up to me, we'd be on our way there now."
"You did your best," Merlin says kindly. "You got us an audience with the king, so thank you."
"I wish Camelot was able to help people, regardless of how far away they lived."
And for that reason, the warlock thinks, you'll make a smashing king.
"I'm going back home," he tells the prince.
"Of course." It's now or never. Merlin could confess his undying love and make it out alive. Will he do it? Will he?
"It's been a honour serving you." No, is the short answer.
"You'll be coming back," Arthur says, surprised.
"She's my mother. I've got to look after her, before anyone else." Even you, with your gorgeous princely face, he thinks sadly. "You understand?"
"I'd do exactly the same," Arthur tells him, gazing over Camelot with an almost poetic air. "Well, you've been terrible." This makes Merlin smile. There's nothing like being airily put down by the man you love. "I mean it. You're the worst servant I've ever had."
"Well, cheers," he says brightly. It's time to make a dignified exit. Time to stroll across the castle walls, and back to whence he came.
"Merlin," Arthur calls out. What he wants to hear is 'we'll always have Camelot,' or some sort of awful play on lines from Ye Olde Casablanca, but the warlock doesn't get his wish. "Good luck."
It's not much, but it's enough.
Gwen helps Merlin to pack. On account of his mother being busy, she feels like he needs a guiding female presence to ensure he doesn't forget something stupid socks or a weapon.
"How does this one feel?" she says, holding out a great monster of a sword.
"Don't hold it like that, cretin. Like this."
"Yes," he says, swishing it around. "It feels good. It's shiny."
"Good," she tells him in exasperated tones. "I've packed you some armour too."
"I won't be able to carry all that," Merlin says.
"You won't have to." Enter Morgana, all dressed up in her fashionable fighting clothes. She's even got a lovely shiny necklace to go with it. "We're coming with you."
"What do you mean?" he asks.
"Frankly you're a shite fighter and you need all the help you can get," Gwen tells him. "Morgs can fight just as well as a knight, and I can mend things and I'm really good at fighting on urban terrain, which is something I'm guessing Arthur doesn't teach."
"You can't do this," Merlin blusters. "I mean, why?"
"If it were one of us, you'd help," Gwen says kindly. "We're just returning the metaphorical favour."
Gaius is doing his bit too, by staying in Camelot and providing food.
"Take care of the wine," he tells the warlock. "I know what you're like. One swig of that and you're over like a pansy."
"Not true," he protests, but in vain.
"And don't let Gwen spike it. Keep an eye on Morgana too. Are you sure you don't want an extra blanket?"
"I'll be fine," Merlin says.
"Make sure you are. I don't want you coming home with missing fingers." He thinks for a moment. "Actually, forget that. I can work with no fingers boy. Come back alive. There's bugger all wrong with running away. Remember that. Cheerful cowardice has saved my arse many, many times."
Merlin gives him an affectionate pat on the arm but Gaius, who has seen many a young man like Merlin disappear in a fight, pulls him into a hug. You can't be too careful.
"They shouldn't't be here," Merlin's mother says as she and her son sit up at the camp fire that night, watching over Gwen and Morgana.
"Oh, I don't know. I've fought beside Gwen before and she's actually quite lethal."
"I was thinking more about that Lady Morgana. Isn't she the king's ward?"
"That would never stop a girl like her," he says cheerfully. "She's the only person I know who isn't afraid of him, and still has leave of most of their senses."
"It won't make any difference to Kanan whether they're women or not," his mother says.
"I know. But thinking he's a chauvinistic wanker might encourage them. They're into that sort of thing. I'm going to make him pay for what he did to you," he says, looking at the bruise under her eye.
"You've got to be careful though," she tells him. "No one can find out about you."
"They won't. They never do."
His mother knows that Merlin couldn't fight his way out of a wet paper bag, and so she worries and does the only thing a mother really can do. She tells him to get some rest.
He doesn't though. The warlock lies awake, tossing and turning, until he hears a cracking noise in the woods behind them. It doesn't occur to him to wake someone who can actually fight and so he staggers into the dark with his sword.
He feels a knife pressed up against his back.
"I'd ask you for money," a suspiciously posh, familiar voice says. "But I know you haven't got any."
"Arthur! Shitting hell, you gave me a fright!"
"Put the sword down Merlin, before you hurt yourself. And I wasn't aware that cussing in front of royals was allowed."
It's dark, it's cold and they're not in Camelot. Merlin can be blissfully blasé and ever so slightly witty.
"You don't mind when Gwen does it," he points out.
"Gwen is a necessary evil. Have you got any food?"
The two of them sit and talk strategy by the fire. Kanan looks like he outnumbers the village by a lot, and the appearance of two royals, a warlock and a woman with scary hair doesn't look like enough to put him off slaughtering the village to teach them a lesson.
"You should get some rest," Arthur says. "It's going to be a long day tomorrow."
"Cheers, by the way," Merlin says happily. "I know you didn't have to come."
"Get some sleep." Some things don't change. Arthur still dislikes the idea he might be doing this because he cares for his servant.
Back in Merlin's village, Kanan's men are ransacking it, looking for the food they have kept back. They find the food and prepare to take it when their re-enforcement from Camelot arrive. The sight of a gallant blonde prince arriving in the village is enough to confuse Kanan, just for the moment.
"Kill them!" he orders, as Arthur knocks one barbarian out with a well aimed blow to the back of the head. One runs straight at Merlin, who engages him in combat with swords. Fighting someone twice his size, the warlock adopts dirty tactics, making his opponent's sword so hot he drops it.
One man goes flying at Arthur, but is battered out the way with a well aimed shoulder slam and a slash of Morgana's sword.
"Remember when I used to beat you?" she gloats, running to catch some more of the action.
"That never happened!"
"You'll pay for this, with your life!" Kanan declares, getting up onto his horse. "All of you!"
"Still up to the same old tricks, Merlin," a boy says, sidling up in the best tradition. "I thought we said we didn't want your kind around here."
"I missed you too Will." They jump into vaguely heterosexual man-hug.
"Where've you been? Last I heard you were skivving for some prince," Will says.
"Well, about that-"
"Merlin," Arthur calls, "gather the villagers, I need to talk to them."
"In a minute, I'm just-"
"Now, Merlin." Will look unimpressed.
"It's alright," Merlin says. "I balance it out."
Arthur stands on a well and prepares to rally his troops. However, when the average age of your troops is forty-one, and that's brought down by the odd number of children under the age of twelve, things don't look good.
"I know Kanan's kind," he says. "He'll be back and when he is, we must be ready for him. First of all we have to prepare-"
"Am I the only one wonder who the hell you are?" Will asks. Arthur's quite taken aback by this. He doesn't get heckled at home.
"I'm Prince Arthur of Camelot."
"Er, yes mate. And I'm Prince William of Ieldor ."
"Shur'rup you," Merlin mother says. "He's actually a prince, and he's here to help us."
"He's made things worse. Kanan'll be back and he'll kill us all." This isn't going as smoothly as Merlin had wanted. "You've just signed our death warrant."
"He save Mathew's life," Merlin's mother says, sticking up for the prince.
"It's alright," Arthur says. "It's his village. What would you have us do?"
"We can't fight against Kanan. He has too many men."
"So what's the alternative?" Will feels like he's being played as the fool.
"Give him what he wants," he says quietly. The village bursts into muttering of dissent at this idea.
"Then what?" Arthur calls out. "Those of you that don't starve to death will face him again next harvest. And the harvest after that. The only way he can be stopped is if you stand up to him."
"No!" Will says crossly. "You just want the honour and glory of battle. That's what drives men like you."
"That, and sexual prowess!" Gwen calls out cheerfully.
"Look, if you want to fight, go home and risk the lives of your own people, not ours," Will says. He strides off. Merlin follows, in an attempt to pacify him.
"I'll follow you," Merlin mother says. "If I'm to die, then I want to go out fighting." Growls of assent appear from all the villagers and Arthur gives them his princely look. It's good to be back in control again.
Will seeks solace in the company of chickens, as Merlin tries to persuade him to follow Arthur.
"He knows what he's doing, you've just got to trust him," he says. "When I first met Arthur, I was exactly like you. I thought he was a complete knob with no respect for anyone." And then I saw he was lovely, abided anarchists and was absolutely gorgeous, he thinks.
"Well, nothing's changed there," Will snaps.
"But then I came to respect him for what he stands for and what he does."
"I know what he stands for. Princes, kings, all men like him."
"You'd be surprised," Merlin says earnestly. "He stands up for Morgana what she has her crazy moments, and he's never once said a bad word against Gwen, not a really bad word, and that's hard. Will, don't bring what happened to your father into this."
"I'm not!" he snaps, but we can blatantly see that whatever happened to his father has great bearing on Will's opinion of Arthur. "Why are you defending him so much? You're just his servant."
"He's also my friend."
"Friends don't lord it over one and other."
"He isn't like that," Merlin says.
"Let's just see, when the fighting starts, see who he sends in to die first." Merlin thinks Will's got the psychology of Arthur all wrong. His princely, honourable type burst in ahead of the troops, waving swords. Arthur's type are the knights and fighters that have to be restrained.
"I trust Arthur with my life," he says.
"Is that so? So he knows your secret then?"
"Well, to be honest, he hasn't asked yet-"
"Face it Merlin," Will says. "You're living a lie, just like you were here. You're Arthur's servant, nothing more, otherwise you'd tell him the truth."
Sometimes, village boys can be so cruel.
That night, from their position in sleeping bags behind the curtains in some long house, Morgana and Gwen observe their men conversing.
"I've never slept on the floor before," Arthur says.
"Rich kid," Merlin chuckles. "Camelot beds are a luxury in comparison."
"It must have been hard."
"Well, yes, it's a rock."
"I didn't mean that," Arthur says. "I meant, for you, it must have been difficult."
"Not really. Hard floors are good for the back, and all that jazz. You don't know any different. Life's simple out here. As long as there's food and a roof, you're happy."
"We're all on the same level. You'd hate it."
"I'm sure I would," Arthur says mildly. "Why'd you leave?"
"Things changed," Merlin says carefully.
"How?" He pokes Merlin's face with his foot.
"Did – what was that?" Gwen giggles.
"I think that was Arthur groping Merlin features with his toes."
The anarchist breaks into giggles which she tries to muffle in her blanket.
"Stop pretending to be interesting," Arthur says. "Tell me."
"I just didn't fit in anymore," the warlock shrugs. "I wanted to find somewhere where I did."
"Had any luck with the freedom fighters?" the prince laughs. "I don't blame you for moving on. I mean, what is there to do around here?"
"If you're going cow tipping, can I come?" Gwen calls.
And so it comes to pass that Merlin, secret warlock and wanabee lover of the crown prince of Camelot, leads said prince of Camelot, an anarchist and a king's ward out into a moonlit field to demonstrate the noble art of cow tipping.
"What you have to do," he says, "is find a sleeping cow."
"What the fuck have I just trodden in?" Arthur curses.
"I think I can see one," Morgana whispers.
"Why are you whispering?" the prince asks. "Cows can't hear anything."
"Who told you that?" Merlin says.
"Yes, but I'm guessing this is the same Gaius who says dogs can't look up," Gwen says quietly.
"Can dogs look up?"
"Sodding yes!" Merlin snaps. "Are we going to do this or not?"
"Find us a cow and I'll tip it," Arthur declares.
"You don't know how to tip a cow, and you certainly can't do it on your own," Gwen says. "There!" Like a mythical creature in the centre of a stone circle, the four of them surround the cow.
"I'm having second thoughts," Morgana says. "What if it hurts the cow? I mean, surely it doesn't like being tipped!"
"You can't bottle out now," Arthur says.
"Bloody women," he sighs.
"I'm not doing anything that'll upset Morgs," Gwen says.
"We can't tip a cow with two of us," Merlin says.
"Oh Morgs," Arthur wails. "I only wanted this. It's not asking much. It's just a cow!"
"I care very much for cows!"
"Shh!" Gwen says. "Look!" The four of the watch in silence as a grumpy, sleepy cow wakes, snorts and shuffles a little further up the field, leaving the four of them in stunned silence.
"Cow can hear after all," Arthur says in awe.
"Please tell me, crown prince of Camelot, that you knew that," Morgana says. There's a pregnant pause. "You know, Arthur, I fear for the day you come into power."
"Shut up Morgs." There's another pause as they stand there, under the moonlit sky. "Does that mean dogs can see up?"
Merlin hopes that the girls' laughter can't be heard down in the village below.
"Still haven't learnt how to dress yourself?" Morgana teases as Merlin helps Arthur into his jacket.
"Why fetch the stick when you've got a dog to do it for you? No offence Merlin."
"Prince Arthur, you didn't finish your breakfast," Merlin's mother says, waving a bowl of porridge at him.
"Come on now, Artie," Morgana smiles. "Eat up." He waits until she's gone before throwing the bowl to Gwen, who will eat anything, but gives the prince a dirty look as he bustles out with Morgana, looking busy.
"Arthur said it was lovely," she says, handing back the bowl to Merlin's mother. "You don't have to feed him, you know. He can be lovely, but he's a right tossbag sometimes."
"He must care for you a great deal," she says to Merlin once Gwen has left.
"He'd do the same for any village. Ignore Gwen. It's the way he is."
"It's more than that. He's here for you."
I bloody hope not, Merlin thinks. And so would you, if you could read minds. I bet you still think I'm going to give you grandchildren.
"I'm just his servant," he says mildly.
"Give him more credit than that, he likes you."
"That's because he doesn't know me," Merlin says sadly. "If he did I'd probably be dead by now."
"You don't really believe that do you?"
No, the warlock thinks. No I don't. I haven't yet mastered the ability to read minds yet, though, so I'm not planning on finding out any time soon.
Merlin heads out to get some wood for Arthur, where upon he meets Will.
"We both know that you don't need an axe to fell a tree," Will reminds him.
"And we both know the shit it got me into."
"Someone's got some townie language on them now," he tease. "Next thing you know you'll have a Camelot accent." There's a pregnant pause.
"Why are you being like this?" Merlin asks.
"You know why," Will tells him. "Why did you leave?"
"It wasn't what I wanted. My mother was worried. When she found out you knew, she was so angry."
"I wouldn't have told anyone."
"I know that."
"You'd be able to defeat Kanan on your own," Will says. Merlin looks a bit daunted by this.
"So what's stopping you? So what if Arthur finds out?"
"I don't expect you to understand," Merlin snaps. And it's not like Will would understand. He's never fancied a prince. "One day, Arthur'll be a great king but he needs my help. If anyone ever found out about my powers, I'd have to leave Camelot for good."
"Are you saying you'd rather keep your magic a secret for Arthur's sake than use it to protect your friends and family?"
Really, that's not a nice thing to ask a sensitive lad like Merlin. Sensitive lads don't react well to dilemma.
Arthur, meanwhile, has taken it upon himself to teach the men how to fight while Gwen teaches Morgana how to make weapons.
"I mean, anything can be used as an offensive missile if one puts one's mind to it," she says. "But not many people would know how to take a man out with three coins and a piece of string."
"They're never going to be able to hold Kanan off," Morgana says.
"Well, they're not the only ones who can fight."
The two of them confront Arthur on this.
"You need the women to help," Gwen tells him. "You're outnumbered."
"It's too dangerous," he says.
"I do respect your notions of gallantry, but this isn't the time. Let them fight." Arthur doesn't want to have this conversation any more and walks away. Gwen and Morgana exchange glances.
"Give him a couple of hours," Morgana says. "Then he'll see we're right."
Later that night, Gwen and Morgana talk battle tactics in their sleeping bags.
"We don't stand a chance," Gwen says.
"Arthur can't see that. He's too stupid." Their chatter wakes Merlin, who dips into their conversation in his groggy stupor.
"I do wonder why he came," Gwen says.
"Same reason we did." Both girls share a knowing look. "Merlin."
Arthur also needs to think tactics. He calls a meeting of the men together, so they can figure out a way of limiting the barbarians' movement. He is in the midst of explaining how important a trap is when there's a scream from outside.
Mathew, that bloke who stood up to the barbarians the first time they turned up, has been killed, and a note nailed to his back. The whole village gathers around.
"Look at him," Gwen says morbidly, nodding to a rather upset looking Arthur. "You'd think he'd never seen a corpse before."
"What does the note say?" Merlin asks.
"Make the most of this day, it will be your last."
"Mathew!" Arthur then has to control a wildly hysterical widow and an accusing Will. Luckily, he has Merlin to stick up for him.
"It wasn't his fault," the warlock says.
"These men are brave enough to fight for what they believe in, even if you aren't." Arthur declares.
"You're sending them to their graves! How many more have to die before you stop? When Kanan comes, you're all going to be slaughtered. You haven't got a chance." Arthur looks quite wide eyed and gorgeous and Merlin looks quite hurt.
"Seriously," Morgana says. "He can't come back to some angry peasant kid? He's going to make a crap king.
A little while later, we rejoin Merlin as he get angry at Will. He accuses Will of abandoning his friends in their hour of need. Will says the warlock did exactly the same thing.
"I'm back now!" Merlin says.
"Yes, you are and if you used your magic then no one else would have to die."
Merlin tries to tell him he can't. He doesn't want to make the choice between Arthur and his village.
"I'm not the one abandoning these people," Will says, packing his bags. Yes you are! We cry. And you're abusing our lovely sensitive warlock while you're at it. Bastard.
Still, in an attempt to get Arthur to better understand Will's heckling and all round angriness, Merlin tell the prince the lad's life story. Apparently, his father was killed fighting for some lord.
"Do you think the villagers believed him?" Arthur asks.
"Well, as Gwen might say, there's nothing someone can say that you can't put right with your lovely eyes." The prince looks rather bemused.
"Why aren't you like this in Camelot?"
"I'm employed to be polite in Camelot. Here I can be antisocial. It's one of the joys of coming home."
"He's right though," Arthur says glumly. "We're doomed."
"We're not. We've got you in command. It could be worse."
"How? How could it be worse?"
"Well," the warlock ponders. "I could be leading them into battle. All you've got to do is believe in them, and the rest will take care of itself."
Merlin's mother, who has been listening in her house, hears this and panics. Her son is about to do something phenomenally stupid, and all for love.
"Tomorrow morning," Arthur tells a waiting crowd, "the women and children should gather what they can carry and head for the woods."
"My arse are we doing that," Gwen says. "We're not going anywhere."
"I know you want to help-"
"Don't patronise me, mate," she warns.
"None of you know how to fight."
"Don't make me pull the coin and string trick on you, Arthur," she says darkly. The prince sighs.
"This is your home," he says. "If you want to defend it, it's your choice. It'll be an honour to stand along side you." Except I might not fight next to Morgana, he thinks. She's pretty lethal. Arthur then proceeds to deliver a throughrally rousing speech to the villagers. He tells them they're all equals, something a noble's never told them before. In hindsight, Merlin thinks, the prince could have left out the bit about agriculture. However, the way the firelight just dances all over his skin covers it well.
Gwen looks on with pride. This boy, she thinks, is going to serve the revolution well.
Merlin's mother thinks she's done something very bad in summoning her son. She tells him she knows what he is planning to do.
"If it comes to a choice between saving people's lives and showing Arthur what I really am, there is no choice."
"You daft, daft sensitive kid," she chides.
"If Arthur doesn't accept me for who I am, he's not the friend I thought he was."
Oh dear, we think. That's got a bit of an ominous ring to it.
Gwen doesn't like bring people breakfast. She considers it snobby. Morgana's different, of course, because she lets her eat her breakfast with her. Arthur's just a prince though, and Gwen doesn't like that.
"Arthur, Hunith  made you some food." He pulls a face at the porridge. "Look here sourpuss," she says. "Food is scarce for these people. Bloody eat it."
"Especially with a shortage on."
"You might be a prince, but it doesn't give you the right to lord it over these people."
"Thank you. I'm sure it's delicious."
"If you don't eat it, I'll fucking castrate you, Pendragon or not."
"You're right." Gwen almost faints. She's never been told she's right by a royal before. It's quite nice really. "And you and Morgs were right too. I should have listened to you."
"I know. We'll be fine."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I have faith," she says carefully. "And because I've been giving the girls some basic guerrilla warfare training."
"Um," he says. "Thank you."
"For once, Pendragon," she smiles, "you're welcome."
This little tirade seems to have an effect on Arthur. When Merlin comes to help him with his armour, he tell the warlock to put on his own.
"Bitchin' wristguards," Merlin curse.
"Here." The warlock is then treated to one of the best moments of his life so far, having his hand held by his handsome prince. I don't care about doom and death, Merlin thinks happily. I'm pleased enough as it is.
"You ready?" Arthur asks.
"Let's hope so."
"It's been an honour," the prince says, holding out his hand. Merlin takes it.
"Whatever happens out there, please don't think any different of me."
"It's alright to be scared, Merlin."
"That's not what I meant."
"What is it? If you've got something to say, now's the time to say it." Merlin gets so, so close to admitting the two things so close to his heart. So very close. Then Morgana interrupts, and it all goes to pot. So much for dying with all his sins confessed.
Arthur checks over the troops. He and Merlin do seem to be the only ones in armour, and most of the village, despite Gwen's words on weapons, seem to be fighting with brooms.
Merlin's no expert in weaponry, but he suspects that the fighting qualities of a broom don't quite match up to that of a sword.
"You frightened?" Arthur asks Gwen.
"Fuck no. I've done far worse than this," she grins. She leaps over a fence and adopts her position as the resident pyrotechnic expert.
Out of the bushes jump the barbarians. They make their charge into the village, where the fighters lie in wait.
"No one moves until I give the word," Arthur says.
On one side of the village, Gwen and one of her girls pull up the drawbridge, having left Morgana to handle the fire. This is a mistake. Morgana is not a trained arsonist.
"Something's gone wrong," Arthur says, and Merlin jumps into action.
"There's one!" Kanan shouts, spotting the warlock on the run. "Kill him!"
"Give me the flint," he tells Morgana. Waiting until she's distracted by the approaching hoards, he magics some fire up, trapping the barbarians in the village.
"Where did we get the fuel for that much fire?" Merlin ponders aloud. Arthur promptly gives the order for the attack, and the fighting commences.
For a bunch of thirty odd rural folk with three days training and a selection of sticks, they fight pretty well. Morgana proves that she's still hot to move with her sword, and Gwen takes out several barbarians with a paddle.
Just as it looks like Merlin's going to be taken out by an axe wielding man on horseback, Will appears, and takes him out with glorious precision.
"I didn't think you were coming!" Merlin says cheerily.
"Neither did I."
But the tables have turned on the villagers. The element of surprise is no longer theirs, and they appear to be being beaten back by the evil barbarians. The warlock spots his prince engrossed in fighting.
It's time for Merlin to jump into action.
With his immense magical powers, he casts up a tornado which terrorises the evil fighters, and pushes them away. People, good and bad, go flying into house, with the exception of Will, Merlin and Arthur, who remain upright to witness this feat of magical power. The barbarians make a run for it.
"Fuck yes!" Gwen shouts, leaping onto Morgana, who looks quite faint.
"Sorry. Fuck yes, milady!"
Oh, but this isn't over. Kanan comes striding through the village, demanding a fight with Arthur, which, what with him being all noble, he accepts.
It does actually turn out to be the best fight of the series. Both men, angry and full of testosterone and endangering, just run at each other with metallic instruments of death. Arthur disarms Kanan, but the barbarian just kicks him square in the stomach and grabs another sword. Now, this isn't fair fighting!
"Kick him in the groin," Morgana growls.
Arthur prevails, however, because he is heroic. He stabs Kanan in the chest, and he goes down quite quickly.
Too quickly, in fact…
Arthur then strides over to Merlin and Will and demands to know who conjured up the gust of wind that has, in fact, saved the day.
"I know magic when I see it," he snaps. "Which one of you did it?"
"Arthur," Merlin starts, but it cut off.
"Look out!" Will shouts, elbowing Arthur out the way of Kanan's crossbow. It hits him square in the chest.
"You saved my life," the prince says in awe.
"Yes," Will says. "Don't know what I was thinking." They get the lad inside, and position him on a table. "That's twice I've saved you now," he says to Arthur.
"It was me. The magic. It was most definitely me."
"Will don't!" Merlin says.
"It's alright. I'm not going to be alive much longer. You can't really do anything else to me. I saw how desperate things were becoming. I had to do something." In the depths of his heart, Merlin suspects Will's enjoying this. He always did have a taste for the dramatic.
Gwen tries to get Morgana to leave, fearing the impact of this soliloquy on her lady's long term health, but she isn't having it.
"You're a sorcerer?" Arthur asks.
"Yes. Most definitely. What you going to do, princy? Kill me?"
"No," Arthur says. "Of course not." He gives Merlin a look. "Do what you can for him." Will receives the royal pat on the shoulder, and the prince leads the Camelot locals and Hunith away, leaving Merlin with the dying boy.
"I was right about him," Will says. "I told you he was going to get me killed."
"I'm not going to let you die."
"Yes you are. I'm giving you full permission to let me go, and to continue going on being marvellous and a great servant to a great king. It was good to see you again Merlin." Will starts to splutter with death now. "Promise me you'll listen to that Gwen girl. She's got the right idea." Merlin has always been taught to agree with dying men, so nods. "Merlin, Merlin I'm scared."
"Don't be," the warlock says. "It'll be alright." He strokes the lad's hair and soothes him with kind words as he passes away.
They burn Will on a pyre that afternoon. Really, the pyre isn't big enough, but that's not the point.
"I'm sorry," Arthur says. "I know he was a close friend."
"He still is," Merlin says.
"You knew he was a source," the prince continues. Merlin doesn't want to have this conversation, because it means he's going to have to lie. "That's what you were going to tell me, wasn't it?"
"Yes. It was."
"You know how dangerous magic is. You shouldn't't've kept this from me, Merlin."
The prince walks away, and is replaced at Merlin's side by his mother.
"You better be going," she tells him.
"I don't have to go."
"Yes you do," she says. "I know about Arthur and I know the best place for you to be is by his side."
"If anything were to happen to you-"
"I'd know where to go. You've got to go. I've seen how much you mean to him, and how much he means to you. You're like two sides of the same coin." This makes Merlin jump a little.
"You're not the first person to says that." Though you are the first person without scales to say something about it, he thinks.
"When you left, you were just a boy. Now look at you." That, Merlin thinks, is what living with a raging alcoholic does to you. "When the time is right, you can let Arthur know your powers. Until then, it is best your talents remain hidden."
And the four of them from Camelot ride off into the sunset, back to Camelot.
Coming next time…
Is this a unicorn I see before me? Is it Arthur going to pay the price for shooting harmless animal? And the question we all want answered, is Merlin a closet vegatarian?
Tune in next time to find out...
 Damn right, women's lib was alive and well and living in Camelot.
 Or some place with too many vowels, that looks like it's been stolen from Lord of the Rings.
 That's Merlin's mother, according to Wiki.
LONGEST CHAPTER SO FAR! If you review, I'll give you Bollie. Celebrations all round.