Wow. I didn't even know I'd been sitting on this one. Don't hate me, kay? ^_^;
Gwen ran after her friend, who was storming up the market's street, fuming about something. She caught up with him, ignoring people's indignant stares as she pushed past them. Grabbing Merlin's arm, she turned him to face her.
"Merlin! What's wrong?" Merlin's normally smiling eyes were cold and hard, making Gwen pause slightly before pushing further. "Is it Arthur?"
If she hadn't known better, she'd have thought she'd seen Merlin's eyes glow the faintest gold for a split second.
"No." His demeanor, however, told her quite the opposite. Merlin was so happy-go-lucky…what could possibly make him act like this? Gwen knew that Merlin liked Arthur (perhaps even more than Merlin knew himself), so what kind of argument would have him this livid at the Crown Prince?
"Merlin. C'mon, what happened?" Merlin wrenched his arm from her grasp, glaring at something over Gwen's shoulder before turning and stalking off.
Still slightly nonplussed, Gwen turned around to see Morgana pleading with a livid looking Arthur, tugging gently on his arm and gesturing towards the castle. Eventually Morgana, like Gwen, lost her fight, and the prince wrenched his arm from her grasp and stormed away, brushing past Gwen without so much as a glance.
Morgana rushed to Gwen's side.
"What happened? You were talking to Merlin, what did he say?" Gwen shook her head regretfully, watching as the people around them slowly recovered from the shock of having their prince pass through them in an obvious rage.
"Nothing, milady." Morgana was being worked into a state as well, biting her lip and gazing off towards where the boys had disappeared. Suddenly her expression darkened, and without so much as a warning, she stormed off to the castle, grumbling something about Arthur and how he could "fix his own problems." Gwen followed, subdued in thought.
Arthur felt…watched. He'd travelled in the woods alone plenty of times in his youth, tracking small animals such as rabbits and squirrels, waiting eagerly for the day when he would become old enough to track bigger game. But even with cockatrices and Questing Beasts, never had he tracked such formidable prey as this.
The hair on the back of his head stood up, and Arthur clenched uneasily, feeling as though the hunter was slowly becoming the hunted.
He would never admit it, but it was pure coincidence that Arthur had decided to turn in the exact moment that he was attacked. Instinct and reflexes had him reaching to grab his foe before his mind had even registered that he was, indeed, under siege.
Fortunately, the young prince was the stronger, and he had no trouble in getting his attacker pinned against a tree, forearm pressing into the soft skin of a neck. He almost backed off when he realized just who his attacker was, but remembering that THIS had been his intended prey, he pressed harder. Merlin's eyes glowed gold for a split second before—
It really wasn't fair, Arthur thought as he flew through the air and landed with a thump on the hard ground. Merlin had an unfair advantage now that Arthur (accidentally and unwillingly) knew about his magic. Knew that his best friend (and more, his heart whispered, unheard) had betrayed his trust.
"I told you not to follow me." Arthur glared at the sorcerer now standing over him.
"You've never followed my orders before, and I'm the prince. Why should I follow the orders of my own manservant?" His defiance was going to get him killed, Arthur knew, and the look in Merlin's eyes confirmed it. He was going to die by magic, just like his mother. 'Well then,' he thought grimly, 'an honourable death.'
"You just don't get it, do you?!" There was a giant 'crack' as Merlin moved suddenly, and Arthur was now staring up at a giant tree branch headed straight for him from the heavens. His instincts, every pore in his body, was telling him to move, but his body itself…it wouldn't move…he couldn't move…
The branch stopped inches away from Arthur's pale face.
"You don't get it." Merlin's voice wasn't exactly calm, but it was quieter. "I could kill you. I could snap that pretty little neck of yours and put your body where no one could ever find it." Arthur was beginning to shake; was it getting harder to breathe? "And then, Arthur, after you were dead and gone, I could wipe you from existence." Yes, it definitely was getting harder to breathe now. "No one would remember the poor, misguided prince who went on a suicide mission and ran after a sorcerer. What did you hope to accomplish, Arthur? Did you think that you could kill me? Did you think that I would listen to you beg for me to come back? Maybe I should teach you how to walk on your knees before I kill you." He would. Arthur could see it in his eyes. Where was the innocent Merlin that he'd (fallen in love with, his heart supplied, still ignored) been landed with three years ago? That damned magic had done this to him; had turned sweet, caring little Merlin into this…this…
"Monster." It took every ounce of strength he had to force the word from his throat, but it was worth it to see the shock on the sorcerer's face. The pressure on Arthur's throat grew heavier.
"No, Arthur. I'm not the monster. I…I am a God." The branch was flung away, 10, 20, 50 metres. "You and your father…you think your arrogance is enough to get you through life. You think that because you wear a crown, you have power." Arthur gasped as the pressure was released, white stars popping into his vision. He closed his eyes and tried not to be sick.
"You know nothing of power."
Arthur knew no more.
"Arthur?" His head was pounding. He moaned. "Arthur! Gaius! He's waking up!" The prince moaned again.
"Shut up, Merlin." He opened his eyes to see his stupid manservant smiling down at him with that stupid, goofy, utterly adorable grin. "Wha' happened?" His mouth felt like he'd been chewing sand, and Gaius came and lifted his head, pouring a cool, sweet liquid down his throat.
"Merlin found you in the woods. Seems you went for a walk without telling anyone and didn't come back." Merlin looked concerned.
"You were gone for a while, and you had that State Dinner tonight, so I thought I'd go look for you. Morgana and Gwen said that they'd seen you heading for the woods, so I went to check there first." He brushed Arthur's fringe from his eyes. "You looked like you'd been hit." Arthur shook his head, then groaned. Merlin laughed. "Idiot."
"Prat." He narrowed his eyes, confused. "Shouldn't that've been the other way 'round?" Merlin grinned at him, and Arthur thought about what he and Gaius had said.
The story didn't match. It just didn't sound like him. Arthur had always had someone tailing him these days, hadn't at alone time in years; if it wasn't his knights, it was Morgana. If it wasn't his father, it was Merlin.
He gazed at his manservant, slightly uneasy. There was something…something he should remember…
But as Gaius walked out to deliver a potion and Merlin's eyes met Arthur's, he pushed that thought aside. Surely whatever it was couldn't have been that important, and especially not now, as Merlin was leaning in and brushing his mouth against Arthur's and it was perfect and then Merlin was reaching down and cupping him and squeezing him and Arthur groaned and Merlin laughed and whispered something in his ear and it was all too much and he was agreeing over and over and…
Arthur never remembered what his manservant had said in his blind moment of passion; never heard what he'd been agreeing to.
"We are going to rule the world, Arthur."
And so began the legend of the Great King Arthur and his trusted advisor Merlin. If any of Arthur's closest friends (he had very few) noticed that the duller Arthur's eyes were, the brighter Merlin's were, they didn't mention it.
If anyone noticed that when Arthur seemed lost, dazed, or confused, no one made the connection between it and the moody persona of his almost overbearing consort. Or if they did, they didn't mention it.
If anyone realized the look in Merlin's eye was not, in fact, pride (or love, as some speculated) as Arthur and Camelot conquered more and more of the continent, they didn't say anything. They especially didn't mention that the glint looked more like greed and power.
If anyone recognized the blade in Arthur's back the day he'd been coronated as King of all the lands of Camelot and beyond, no one mentioned it. Especially not when Arthur's best friend was named next in line by way of Arthur's will.
No one mentioned it.
Because those who did notice never survived.
And as the crown was placed on Merlin's head, the hall rang out,
"The king is dead. Long live the king."