Alaia Skyhawk: After chatting to my friend, Sparkling Moon Phoenix, about what was an idle speculation for a possible way to end ep 2 of season three, she asked me to write this since she thought it was good. This is a oneshot for now, but I might continue it depending on what people think of it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin.
A Question of Motives
Summary: As he lay there, bearing witness to the battle before him, he could scarce believe what he was seeing. What was he to believe? What should he do? How are you supposed to react when the man you saw as your closest friend turns out to be a sorcerer? (Set at end of SE3, Ep2, and written as speculation after Ep1 aired)
A.N (added 18/9/10) I've edited this chapter so Morgana stays in Camelot, having just watched Ep 2. This would be assuming that Morgause actually enters the city with the intent of retrieving Morgana, rather than sitting with Cenrid outside.
Chapter 1: A Question of Motives ~Part 1~
It was like hell on earth...
Running through streets littered with the smashed remains of the walking undead, yet more of the skeletons shambling towards knight and civilian alike, Arthur could barely believe that something like this would happen. Merlin had shown up after going missing for over a day, bruised and wounded, barely a handful of hours before Sir Leon and his patrol had arrived back at the citadel as if the demons were at his heels. The news he'd brought had been dire, and forced him to step into command in order to defend Camelot from the impending seige. to make matters worse Gaius had discovered the cause. An enchantment of darkest malice, aimed at making Uther go mad, aimed at leading Camelot to fall into ashes and ruin.
It was hard to take... Hard enough that Arthur had to wonder if or not he would lose his mind as his father had under the influence of the spell planted in his chambers.
The king had regained his senses, although he was still in no real condition to fight. The truth that his illness was due to magic had been a relief, but at the same time he was still too weak to lead the battle. King Cenrid's forces would not wait for the king to recover his bearings, and so it fell to his son to ensure the defence of Camelot.
Swinging his sword and smashing yet another skeleton to shards, Arthur entered the castle courtyard and glanced back to the battle in the city outside. Cenrid's forces were successfully being held at bay, but the undead that had risen within the walls had been a blow to the defenders' will. He needed to get onto the battlements, to better coordinate his men and rout the skeletal minions before they ripped the backlines apart.
He headed for the nearest stairway, his mind on what he had to do... totally unaware of the threat that had entered the courtyard behind him until the voice of the woman split the air like an angry hiss.
"Ic can stanas tobrytan! Hiersumie me!"
He stopped near the foot of the stairway, turning to face the woman, eyes widening when he saw her face. Her spell slammed into the wall above him, ripping stones from the structure to topple down on him. Moments later he was pinned beneath the fallen masonry, the blond-haired sorceress smirking at him.
Biting back a gasp of pain, he growled at her under his breath.
She tilted her head, amused.
"Oh how the mighty do fall in the face of magic, not even the valiant Prince Arthur is a match for it. This is Camelot's end, and there is naught you can do to stop it."
With a wave of a hand her next spell flew at him, the words lost amid snap of exploding air as it hit the stone mere inches from the prince. Arthur blacked out for a moment, limp where he lay, his mind just registering the horrified shout that reached his ears.
It was Merlin... That damned idiot was charging across the courtyard like the suicidal moron he was. Didn't he have common sense? He should be running away from this, not towards it. But then, when did Merlin ever have any sense?
He felt Merlin's hand touch his head to check he was alive, but he was still too dazed to move. His master apparently unconscious but alive, the servant then stood up and strode a short way towards the sorceress. What on earth did he think he could do? Sure, he appreciated and admired Merlin for his loyalty and determination, but he was walking to his death!
The next moment left Arthur in confusion, blearily opening his eyes in time to see the surprised expression on Morgause's face... Wait, surprised?
She spoke, as if confused as to why Merlin should be standing before her.
"You escaped? ...How could a mere serving boy have broken free of my chains? The creatures of the forest should have slain you."
Merlin, that smug and cocky Merlin, let out a short laugh before his sarcastic reply.
"Oh wouldn't you like to know?" His voice then hardened, his posture tense and ready to act. "Leave now, Morgause... I'm warning you, I will not let you destroy Camelot, and I will not allow you to hurt Arthur. Leave now and I will let you live."
Arthur's thoughts froze. Did his servant really just say that? It was official; Merlin had lost what little intelligence he had if he believed he could bluff her into ceasing her attack.
Morgause seemed to think so as well, because she burst out laughing.
"You? You seriously think a pathetic little serving boy could defeat me?" She shook her head in arrogant disbelief. "I've had enough of this foolishness. Acwele!"
A bolt of pure power lanced from her fingers, heading straight for Merlin who just stood there and watched it. Arthur wanted to move, wanted to scream out to his servant to run! But he couldn't find his voice, couldn't do anything but look on in horror as his best friend was about to die... Then it happened, the moment after Morgause cast the spell, Merlin regarded it blandly and threw up a hand in front of him.
A barrier appeared in front of him, Morgause's spell shattering harmlessly on its surface. Arthur could only gape in shock at what he was seeing. Was that magic? Did Merlin just use magic?
Morgause was also shocked, but she remained stunned only for a moment before she began to smile.
"Well well, what do we have here? So that's how you escaped. All this time, and dear Prince Arthur's pet serving-boy was a sorcerer. I wonder, if he were awake right now, would you be so willing to use that power of yours so openly? If Camelot's defenders were not busy out in the city fighting Cenrid's forces, would you be standing here confronting me like this? I think not."
"You're wrong." Arthur saw Merlin clench his fists, the young man's next words fervent and sure. "Even if stopping you here and now meant revealing I'm a warlock to him, I would still do it. Even if it led to me being executed, it's a price I'm willing to pay if it's what it takes to make sure Arthur lives to become king! He will be the greatest king that Camelot has ever known, and it's my destiny to make sure he lives to achieve it! Forbearne!"
A massive fireball blasted outwards from his hand, Morgause flinching in shock at its size before barely raising a shield in time. She stood there, her armour smouldering a little, not quite as arrogant but still confident.
"'Destiny'? What makes you so sure? Why waste your power protecting the son of a murderer like Uther? Like father, like son... Arthur will persecute magic as surely as his father does."
Merlin shifted a little, glaring at her with a hint of amusement.
"Do you know the Druids have prophecies? Tales of foresight pertaining to times to come?"
Puzzled, she regarded him warily.
"Of course I do, but I fail to see what it matters."
Merlin's voice was smug, as he uttered his next words.
"Then perhaps you may have heard of me... My name may be Merlin, but the Druids' prophecies call me by another name... I am Emrys."
Silence fell, broken only by the screams of battle outside the castle walls. Here, within them, there was only a feeling of distorted reality. Was he, Arthur Pendragon, really seeing this? ...Did Morgause, the powerful and confident sorceress, really just take a step back in fear? Arthur stared, unable to comprehend it. She was afraid of him, afraid of Merlin. Just what did these 'prophecies' say about 'Emrys' to make her so suddenly uncertain?
She seemed to steady herself, before snorting in derision.
"Do you honestly expect me to believe that? Emrys is prophesied to be the most powerful sorcerer that will ever have existed. You're just a petty little warlock with a few tricks up his sleeves. Prepare to die! Die with Camelot, Merlin!"
With a wave of her arm she her summoned some of undead into the courtyard from where they had been outside. She sent them towards Merlin, who simply shook his head.
"Don't say I didn't warn you..." He tilted his head, smiling. "I know these were raised by Nimueh's staff, did you seriously think I wouldn't be able to trace it when it's right under my feet? Foireann de an Rowan... Le an scathan de beatha agus eag, hiersumie me! Rud a fhagail!"
For a moment the air seemed to shudder faintly, a distant female scream echoing as if from afar, followed by the strange sense of something having just been irrevokably broken. The skeletons that advanced on Merlin fell apart and turned to dust... as did every other of their like out in the city.
Morgause gasped, trembling in aftermath, before she gazed at Merlin once again with a fear barely hidden within her eyes.
"The staff... How? How can you...? How can you, just a boy, know such powerful magic?"
Merlin folded his arms, confident.
"...Wouldn't you like to know..." He pointed, off to the distance. "Raising the dead is a tricky business, the balance doesn't seem to like it much... Now go, before I change my mind, and take Cenrid's forces with you. You might be willing to kill in cold blood to get your way, but I'm not a murderer like you are... Think twice before considering attacking Camelot again, because I can assure you that you haven't even begun to see all the 'tricks I have up my sleeves'." His voice hardened. "And be warned, I'll be keeping my eye on your sister..."
Morgause hesitated for a moment more, before scowling.
"This isn't the last you've seen of me." She lifted her head, her voice carried by magic to the attacking forces. "Retreat! Fall back and retreat!"
Then, in a blast of wind, she vanished. Merlin stood there in silence, staring at where she had been, while behind him Arthur fought back the feelings of revulsion and terror now raging through him. Merlin was a sorcerer, a powerful sorcerer, so powerful that he'd reduced Morgause's spell to nothing with just a few murmured words. He'd done it so easily, and then stood there and implied he could do more than that.
Arthur couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it, even as in his mind he knew that by the laws of Camelot Merlin was condemned. What was to stop Merlin from turning on them all, even if what he'd said to Morgause was true? How could he trust someone who had hidden such terrifying power behind such an innocent and clumsy facade? How could he have considered this... this fraud to be his friend?
All further conflicted thoughts stopped, when he saw Merlin sway where he stood and stagger. It was only then he saw what Merlin had hidden behind bravado... His apparent ease in stopping the army of undead had been a bluff, he was barely able to stand! He had bluffed Morgause into fleeing, tricked her into thinking he would obliterate Cenrid's forces the way he'd obliterated her spell.
Merlin started to turn, still staggering as he began to stumble towards where he lay. Arthur stiffened, unsure what to do. What would he say to Merlin? What could he say? Things would have been so much simpler if Morgause's spell had knocked him out as both she and Merlin had believed. That was it!
Arthur closed his eyes before Merlin could get close enough to see he'd been awake, pretending to be out cold. He could judge Merlin by what he did now. How would this sorcerer act, and what would he do while he believed the prince before him was unaware of what was going on?
The first thing Merlin did almost made Arthur flinch, it near rent him to his heart. He heard Merlin pause, as if taking a closer look at where Arthur was, before a sharp intake of breath heralded his unsteady scramble to the prince's side.
Arthur felt hands fumbling to heft pieces of stone aside, dragging others clear as half-panicked gasps of breath revealed that Merlin was frantically trying to get him out from under the fallen masonry. After a few more moments of physical efforts, the young man hissed in effort just before the prince heard the sound of stone being violently flung away from him, the weight disappearing from the leg that had been pinned. Thankfully most of it had missed him, pieces wedging over him like an unsteady tent of stone. Only his left leg had suffered any real injury, and that was addressed a moment later much to his surprise.
Merlin's voice was hoarse with exhaustion, the pain in the leg fading to a dull ache after the spell was cast. Arthur now regretted his charade. He wanted to tell Merlin to stop, to rest, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead he remained limp as his barely upright servant started to drag him into the castle, to Gaius' chambers... The servant who steadfastly refused to leave his side, even when some of the knights arrived and carried them both there.
Alaia Skyhawk: Well there you go, Sparkling Moon Phoenix, I hope you like this. I've decided I'm going to continue this, and follow the path of Season 3 as it airs as close as I can with the changes I've almost certainly made from the actual plot of which we currently can only guess XD
Note, the new spell I edited in means this. "Staff of the Rowan... By the mirror of life and death, obey me! Shatter!" If you read up on Merlin's character, in part of it it's mentioned that he comes to master the power over death (when Nimueh goes splat). So that's where I got the idea from. The staff from the Isle of the Blessed would have belonged to Nimueh before he killed her, so I decided to have him use the power to take life to counter the staff's magic which was giving "life" to those skeletons. Throw opposites at each other and, boom... Bye bye staff, hehe.