Author's Note: Second and final part of "Black, White and Gray." Please read previous chapter if you haven't already done so.
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin. I do not own its characters.
Black, White and Gray (continued) – by AudiRox
Later that day, Arthur is seen in the throne room attending to matters of the court with Geoffrey of Monmouth standing next to him. It has been a long and tiring day for the prince. Problem after problem had to be solved or dealt with, and the day was starting to wear him down. He hadn't had time to do things he enjoyed. He rarely got to train with his men or walk the corridors of the castle as he had done before. Nor has he been able to spend a few moments alone with the woman he loved. "Guinevere," he thinks to himself, "when was the last time I saw her?" He quickly dismisses thoughts of her as there were a lot of problems to be solved and parchments to be signed.
A middle-aged man in decent attire steps forward with the final matter of the day. Next to him, a frail yet younger man stands silent.
"My lord, I, Gordon, am here today to speak on behalf my younger brother, Cedrick, and his family," he says. Instantly, a woman and three children step forward. "My brother has been struck with bad luck this month, sire, and is unable to pay his taxes, no matter how low it may be."
"Bad luck?" inquires the prince. "What of this bad luck? And why does Cedrick not speak?"
The older man speaks in a sad tone, "My brother lost his voice when he was just a young boy, sire." He continues, "He fell ill earlier this month and was unable to tend to his crop."
"Ah, I see." He looks at Cedrick, "I hope you're feeling better?"
The man nods.
The prince nods as well, "Good. I'm glad. But I'm sorry to hear about your crops. Do not worry about taxes this month. In fact, I will wave your taxes for the next three months as well."
Geoffrey looks at his master in surprise.
Gordon, Cedrick and his family are stunned.
"You are most kind, sire!" says Cedrick's wife. "I thank you with all that is good."
Arthur nods at the gentle woman, "No worry." And then he asks, "Have you enough food to last until the next crop?"
"Yes, my lord, we've saved enough," says the woman.
"Good." He looks at the mute man, "Now go and spend time with your family. Have a nice meal. You need not worry anymore." He looks at Gordon, "Thank you for representing your brother."
"No, thank you, sire," says Gordon.
The family bows and takes leave.
Arthur gets up from his throne and looks at Geoffrey, the court historian and sometimes, Uther's adviser. "What is it Geoffrey? I saw your look of disapproval."
With his brows raised, Geoffrey shakes his head, "Oh no, sire. It wasn't a look of disapproval at all."
Arthur smirks, "Good." He looks around for his manservant. "Where's Merlin? I'm starving."
Arthur enters his chambers a few minutes later to find Merlin tending to the prince's meal.
"Ah, Merlin," says Arthur as he closes the door behind him.
"How did it go?" asks Merlin.
Arthur sees a bowl of fresh water by his bed, and so he takes a moment to freshen up before he answers Merlin's question. "Fine. I guess," he says as he dabs his face with a towel. "It's a lot of work. Tiring, even. There are a lot of people in need of help in this kingdom."
Merlin nods, "Of course, but here's your chance to help them."
Arthur walks over to the table and takes a seat. "I don't know if I'm doing enough."
"I'm sure you're doing as much as you can. Uther will be proud."
Arthur responds as he stares to his side, "Don't think Uther will approve of some of the decisions I've made."
"And what decisions do you mean?" asks Merlin.
"Knighting Lancelot, Gwaine, Percival and Elyan, for one."
"He knows of their knighthood now. Besides, they earned their title. The king has no choice but to honor your decision."
"I suppose," says the prince. "This isn't the first time, but it's definitely the longest we've gone without Uther making decisions for Camelot. And I've realized something…"
"And what is that?" asks Merlin as he sets a plate full of food in front of Arthur.
"We couldn't be more different. I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't truly his son."
Merlin laughs it off, "Of course you're his son." He sees that Arthur is serious. "I mean, you both have that wrinkly thing on your forehead when worried. It's uncanny. There's no mistake, Arthur. You are Uther Pendragon's son."
Arthur smiles a bit at Merlin's idiotic logic. A knock on the door distracts them.
"I'll get that," says Merlin as he jumps to get the door. As he opens it, a smile appears on his face. "Gwen," he says softly.
Gwen smiles back at him and asks just as softly, "Is he in?"
"Who is it, Merlin?" asks Arthur with a raised voice.
Merlin slowly opens the door to reveal their visitor. The beginning of the violin solo very softly starts to play in the background.
A smile appears on Arthur's face and instantly, he gets on his feet and walks towards her. "Guinevere."
Gwen enters the chambers and inquires as she sees a spread of food on the table, "I hope I'm not interrupting your meal?"
Despite wanting to take her in his arms, Arthur restrains himself to just standing a few feet away from her… at least until Merlin exits the chambers. "No, of course you aren't interrupting a thing."
There's an awkward moment as the three of them stand in the chambers and look around.
Merlin speaks up and gestures towards the door as he looks at Arthur, "I should go, I guess?" Gwen looks over at Merlin.
Arthur nods ridiculously.
Gwen watches Merlin as he closes the door behind him. Just as he does, she turns around to face Arthur only to receive a surprise kiss by the prince just as soon as his servant leaves the chambers.
The volume of the violin solo gradually increases to set the mood for the passionate gesture.
The kiss lasts longer than usual. At first, Gwen receives it with surprise, but a moment later, she lets herself get lost in it.
Arthur releases her lips but gives her a hug before he pulls away. "I've missed you."
Gwen blushes but responds, "You saw me in the market just the other day."
"But when was the last time we spoke?"
Gwen nods in agreement. It has been a long time since they were alone together.
As sweet as the kiss was, Gwen quickly moves onto the real reason for her visit.
"I've come to ask you a favor, Arthur."
Arthur starts to walk towards the table, "Anything."
The young woman follows him, "Will you come visit your father?"
Arthur turns around and sighs. He leans against the table and responds, "I've been very busy with…"
But Gwen cuts him off, "I know. But can't you take just a few moments off and see your father?"
Arthur struggles to find words, and so he shakes his head.
Gwen nods, "I know, it hasn't been easy on you. And I understand why you're staying away from him."
"You do?" asks Arthur.
"You're angry at him?"
"I guess, I am," he nods.
"You're angry at him for lying to you almost all your life. About your mom… Morgana…"
Arthur nods again. "I thought time would help me get over the lies, but the further away I get, the angrier I am."
Gwen steps closer to the prince as she had done many times before. "I understand Arthur, but you mustn't run away from him. You must face him."
"I wouldn't know what to say to him."
"Give your father a chance to explain himself." Gwen urges.
Arthur looks directly at Gwen and sees how genuine her concern is.
"Please?" Gwen asks.
Arthur can't help but nod and accept her request.
Later that evening, Gwen is on her way home when she runs into Merlin and Gaius walking hurriedly out of the castle, following a local man.
"Merlin? Gaius?" calls out the young woman. Merlin looks behind and sees that it's his good friend.
"Is something the matter?" asks Gwen as she hurries herself to keep up with the men.
"A tradesman in the lower town has fallen gravely ill and we were called upon by his neighbor," says Merlin as he carries Gaius' satchel of medicine.
Gaius walks a couple of steps ahead.
"Oh no. Let me help?" Gwen raises her voice so that Gaius hears.
The court physician briefly looks behind him and nods. "Thank you, Gwen."
Gaius, Merlin and Gwen are in the small home of the tradesman and his young son. The man, known as Donald is in bed covered in half a dozen sheets, trying to keep him warm.
"He's got all sorts of boils all over his body," whispers Merlin to Gaius.
Gaius nods and looks at Donald. "When did you start feeling ill?"
The man starts to speak softly, "Earlier this morning. I had just returned home from visiting my brother in the kingdom up north. My son stayed with our neighbor the past few days."
Gaius takes a seat beside him and starts to examine his skin.
Gwen looks at the boy standing in the corner of the room. She walks over with Merlin just a couple of steps behind her. "What's your name?" she asks.
"Donald, like my father," he says. "But everyone calls me Donnie."
Gwen faintly smiles. "Donnie, where's your mother?" she gently asks.
The young man of not more than ten or eleven years of age answers, "My mother passed away when I was very young."
Merlin and Gwen look at each other.
Gaius stands up and walks over to his young assistant. "He needs something to ease the pain," he says as he takes the satchel off of Merlin's hands. And then he softly continues, "I fear we may be too late."
Gwen quickly looks back at the boy, "Have you eaten?"
The boy shakes his head. "Not since last night."
Gwen sighs, and then nods and figuratively rolls up her sleeves. "Then I shall prepare some food for you."
The boy is thankful, but he suddenly grabs Gwen's arm. "Please don't let my pa die. He is all I have."
Gwen can't help but feel sorry for the young man holding her arm so tightly, so she takes his hands in hers and calmly explains, "Gaius is doing everything he can. I'm sure he'll find a way to cure your father."
The boy nods, but Gwen looks up at Merlin, who has a tentative expression.
Later that night, when most of the kingdom is asleep, voices outside wake the neighbor of the tradesman and his son.
He looks out his window to find a caped man in the dark talking to the boy next door. He sees the man hand the boy a little pouch. Curiously, he keeps watching until the caped man walks away.
The next morning, like every other morning the past few weeks, Arthur is seen in court attending to the kingdom's various needs.
With a serious expression on his face, Arthur asks, "And you're sure?"
"Sire, I know what I saw," says the man standing a few feet from the prince, revealing the man to be none other than the neighbor of Donald and his son.
Everyone in court looks at the boy to the right of the man. Next to him is his father looking a lot better than he did the night before.
"Please my lord, my son did nothing wrong," says Donald.
"How else do you explain your sudden recovery?" asks the neighbor. "Sire, please ask the physician," he gestures at Gaius standing on the side. "He saw how ill Donald was… just last night."
Arthur looks at the court physician. "Is this the truth, Gaius?"
Gaius knows he's going to regret it, but he nods. "Yes, sire. He was in fact gravely ill."
Arthur looks at the boy. "Did you consort with a sorcerer to help cure your father of his illness?"
The boys shakes but is held firmly by two guards on either side. "I did not seek him, sire."
"I saw him!" says the neighbor. "I saw him talking to the sorcerer and taking the poultice!"
Donald, the tradesman, frowns at his neighbor. "How could you?"
"Yet you did not see the face of this sorcerer?" asks the prince.
The man looks down. "No sire, I'm afraid I did not."
Arthur looks at the poultice that one of the guards is holding, and then he looks at the boy. "I need more information to make a decision."
Geoffrey of Monmouth steps forward from behind him and speaks softly. "If I may sire, Camelot's laws very clearly state that consorting with sorcery is punishable by death."
Arthur rolls his eyes, "Yes Geoffrey, but I still need more information. We don't even know who this sorcerer is."
Gaius sighs since he has a good idea who it might've been.
Geoffrey nods, "Of course, my lord."
Arthur looks at the guards, "Arrest the boy."
The boy's farther steps closer and shouts "Sire!"
The prince looks at him, "I'm afraid your son is going to have to spend the night in the stocks until I make a decision."
Merlin and Gwen are seen at the end of one of the castle corridors talking. Gaius walks hurriedly and intently towards them.
Seeing the expression on the physician's face, Merlin says in surprise, "Gaius! Is everything alright?"
Gaius nods at the woman standing next to his idiotic assistant, "Gwen."
"Gaius," she nods back.
The old man turns to Merlin, "Remember the tradesman that was gravely ill last night?"
Merlin suddenly realizes Gaius' intent. "Umm, yes?"
Gaius looks at Gwen, "Well, it would seem that the man was miraculously cured."
Gwen is genuinely please, "Oh, thank god!"
Gaius slowly turns to the grinner, "And guess what his neighbor just did?"
Merlin is confused, "His neighbor?"
"He just accused Donnie, the tradesman's son, of consorting with sorcery. Says he saw it with his own eyes."
Merlin's expression drops.
Gwen gasps, "What? No! Where's Donnie?"
"Arthur has just arrested the boy but hasn't passed judgment on him yet."
Without another word, Gwen rushes away.
Gaius looks back at Gwen as she runs down the corridor and then he turns to Merlin with a stern expression. "What have you to say, Merlin?"
"I'm sorry, but I had to do something! You saw how worried the boy was for his father. His father is all he has. And clearly, their neighbor is a rat!"
"None of that matters anymore, Merlin. You know that using magic or consorting with sorcery is punishable by death. I thought you learned after what happened to Gwen when Tom was miraculously cured all those years ago."
Sincerely worried, Merlin shakes his head, "I didn't mean for this to happen… not again. I promise I'll fix it, Gaius."
The physician sighs.
Merlin takes a moment to look at his mentor, and then he rushes down the corridor as well.
"But what the boy did, was it really a crime?" asks Gwen in earnest.
"Guinevere, you know it's Camelot's law," says the prince standing near the window in his chambers.
Gwen urges, "I was accused of the same thing not too long ago, remember?"
Arthur tries to speak, but Gwen continues.
"Is it really a crime? All the boy wanted was for his father not to die." Her voice breaks as she continues, "He is all that he has."
Arthur sympathizes but sighs. "You have to understand, I'm not yet king, Guinevere. It is the law of Camelot and my father is still the king, and until he regains his strength, I have to carry out the law as he would."
"Arthur, but you forget…"
"You are not your father. You have your own set of beliefs."
Arthur looks at the woman in front of him and watches her passionately continue.
"Govern as you would if you were king. This is your chance to show Uther what a fair and just king you will be."
Arthur sighs but explains, "You and I both know the evil that magic has brought this kingdom. You of all people should know the destruction it brings."
Gwen nods, "I know." But she takes a step forward and explains calmly, "All my life, I've been told that magic is bad, yet I see magic that cures people." She shakes her head, "Arthur, I cannot go on believing that it is only bad when I see there is also good."
Arthur is left speechless.
In his quarters, the young warlock flips through his book of magic in panic, looking for a way to help the tradesman's son.
"What have you done?" he asks himself as he flips through page after page.
Just then, the door opens and Gwen hurries in, leaving Merlin a little surprised, he forgets to close his book.
"Sorry to storm in, Merlin, but we have to do something!" Gwen says hurriedly as she inches closer to her dear friend.
"G-Gwen!" stammers, Merlin.
"Do you have…" Gwen gets distracted by the open book in front of Merlin, and so she tilts her head, "What is that you're reading?"
Merlin's eyes widen and he hurries to close the book and cover it with his arms. "Oh nothing."
Gwen isn't convinced, especially after seeing Merlin's reaction to her question.
Merlin tries to distract her, "Any luck with Arthur?"
Gwen looks down at him quizzically, but decides to respond, "No. I don't know." She sighs, "But I tried to convince him to pardon Donnie."
Still nervous about Gwen having seen the book in his possession, Merlin doesn't move from his position. He shrugs a bit, "Well, you tried."
Still curious about the book Merlin is hiding from her, she forces herself to walk to the exit. "I need to tend to Uther."
Merlin nods like an idiot, "Of course."
Gwen opens the door, takes another quizzical look at Merlin and exits the quarters.
Having dodged the arrow, Merlin takes a deep breath and returns to his book of magic.
Later that evening, Uther is seen sitting up in his bed staring at the window to the right. The sunlight is slowly fading, and so Gwen goes about the room lighting the candles throughout his chambers.
Still staring out the window from his bed, Uther asks, "How long has it been?"
With a lit candle in her hand, she looks back at her sovereign, "Since?"
The king turns to the young woman, "How long has it been since Morgana went missing?"
Gwen turns around and sighs, but hears the pain in Uther's voice as he mentions her name. In fact, it is the first time in many days he has mentioned her. Gwen replies, "It has been well over the month, sire."
"I have been in my chambers for well over a month?" Uther asks, surprised.
Gwen nods, "Yes, you have, sire." She goes about lighting the rest of the candles.
Uther looks down at his hands. "Maybe tomorrow…" Gwen turns around again, hoping to hear what she thinks he's about to say, "Maybe tomorrow, we may go for a walk in the courtyard."
A smile appears on Gwen's face but she forces herself to hold her emotions, and so she nods, "As you wish, sire."
There's a knock on the massive doors. Both Gwen and Uther look over.
Gwen blows out the candle in her hand, walks across the large room and opens the door.
"Arthur," she softly says in surprise.
Arthur is pleasantly surprised to see her still in the castle. "Guinevere…"
Realizing that Uther's eyes are on them, Gwen opens the door wider to reveal to Uther his visitor. "My lord."
Arthur realizes that Gwen is most probably still upset over their mild exchange earlier that day, but sees the need to put on a face in front of his father.
"Arthur?" says the king in a surprised tone. A subtle smile appears on his face.
Gwen decides to leave father and son alone and so she curtsies, "Good night, my lord." She looks over at Arthur and nods, "sire."
Arthur looks behind him for a moment as Gwen closes the door behind her. He turns around, "You're looking well, father."
"It seems as though I haven't seen you in so long, my son."
The prince walks towards his father and nods, "I'm sorry but duty to Camelot has kept me from visiting."
"My chambers aren't so far away from yours, Arthur," the king says frankly.
Arthur takes a seat in the carved chair to the left of the king's massive bed. "Yes, you're correct…" Arthur sighs, "I haven't made an effort to see you, but you have to understand…"
Uther is determined, "Understand what? Why his own son doesn't want to visit his father when he is in a … a depressive state?"
Arthur leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees and proceeds to look down at his hands, instead of looking directly at his father. "I don't know how to answer that."
Uther decides to let it go. "What of the state of the kingdom?"
"Everything's going well. The rebuilding is going smoothly."
"Any word of… of Morgana?"
Arthur briefly looks up at his father at the mention of her name. "None, but Lancelot is determined. He sends word from every kingdom he reaches."
"Lancelot," the king repeats.
Arthur sighs. "I know you do not approve of his knighthood… or Gwaine's, Percival's, or Elyan's, but they've earned it."
Uther looks away, "I'm not questioning it."
Arthur surprises himself by speaking up, "Then what is it that you're questioning, father?"
Uther looks at his son, "What?"
Arthur shakes his head, "Nothing."
It is clear that Arthur wants nothing but to come out and tell his father what he really thinks or feels, but he restrains himself.
"Any matters of the court? Anything of significance?"
Though he was hoping he didn't have to, Arthur decides to share the recent events in his court. "There was a boy brought in… he is accused of consorting with a sorcerer."
The mention of sorcery makes Uther quickly look up at his son. "Was the sorcerer caught?"
"You have sentenced the boy, I assume?"
"You must as soon as you can."
Arthur looks up at father and makes a disgusted expression, "That's…"
Arthur gets up from his chair and throws his hands in the air, "That's ridiculous!" Uther is caught off guard, "You did not ask me the circumstances of the whole thing. Did not ask me about the evidence or any of that, yet you were so quick to pass judgment on the boy. He is eleven years of age!"
Uther is firm, "We have laws. Using magic or consorting with those who do… is…"
Arthur nods and cuts him off as he paces, "Yes, yes. Punishable by death! But do you know why he apparently sought out the help of a sorcerer? So that his father wouldn't die of an illness he caught while travelling. An illness that Gaius couldn't find a cure for."
"The law stands." Uther says with no hesitation.
Arthur shakes his head, "Unbelievable."
"Why is it that you are suddenly dismissing my rules? You know what magic has brought us. It has ruined many lives. Look at Morgana. Look at what has happened to Camelot. If not for these laws, Camelot would've been far worse. Magic is ruining everything… it's even ruining us," the king gestures at the two of them.
"Us?" Arthur shakes his head, "It is not magic that's ruining us father, it's all the secrets you keep."
Uther is surprised at his son's frankness. Yet he realizes that he has to deal with what he had done many years ago and the secrets he had kept for so long are now surely exposed.
"How could you go on for so long hiding the fact that she is my sister?"
"Half-sister." Uther corrects.
Arthur shakes his head, "Secrets… five and twenty years worth of secrets are what's ruining us." The hurt in his heart is clearly visible.
Uther closes his eyes, "Whatever I kept from you was to protect you."
Uther opens his eyes and looks up at his son, "Arthur… my son," he continues earnestly, "I promise that in time, I will share everything with you."
Feeling exhausted, Arthur sighs and nods. "I should go, father."
Uther nods and watches his son walk across the room. Just as Arthur opens the door, Uther asks, "I know I do not have the right to ask this of you, but one day, before I die, I hope that you share your own secret with me."
Arthur freezes and refuses to look back at his father as his heart starts to rise a bit. Deciding not to pursue it any further, he closes the door behind him.
Uther sighs and looks down at his hands.
The next morning, like the morning before opens with Arthur in court. Donald and his son, with his hands tied in the back, are standing to the prince's left, and their neighbor to his right.
The prince takes a moment and looks directly at the boy. "Guards…" he calls out.
Donald winces and hopes that his boy is saved. Merlin, who is standing next to Gaius, hopes the same.
"Release him," says the prince. "Release the boy."
Merlin, Donald, and his son are surprised.
"But sire?" says the neighbor.
"There's no evidence that the boy used magic to cure his father's illness. The poultice, as we found out, consisted of local herbs that could've help cure his father. Can you confirm, Gaius?" He looks at the court physician.
With a very faint smirk, Gaius nods, "Yes, sire."
"The only thing the boy is guilty of is to have such unfriendly neighbors." With this the prince looks to his right at the neighbor. "I should punish you for wasting our time, but I will not. Instead, I ask that you…" he looks at the boy again, "find it in your heart to forgive him."
The boy smiles and nods. "Thank you, sire"
"Now go home and enjoy the time you both have with each other." The prince looks on as the boy embraces his father.
Later that afternoon, having heard the good news, Gwen walks towards the prince's chambers. Instead, she runs into him in the hallway. A hallway that is busy with servants, knights and guards. "Arthur," she smiles discreetly.
"Guinevere," he smiles back.
She is speechless. Though she is extremely proud of her prince, she can't find the words to articulate it. Instead, she reaches up and gives him a kiss his cheek.
Arthur is pleasantly surprised at the gesture.
A couple of guards turn the corner and start heading in their direction, so Gwen nods, "I should go."
Arthur observes her pleasantly as she walks past him without a care in the world as to who might see his affections for the woman in the lavender dress.
Later that day, Merlin and Gwen decide to pay a visit to Donald and his son, Donnie.
Humbled by the visit, Donnie and his father quickly tidy their home.
"It is very nice of you to visit," says the tradesman.
"We just wanted to make sure you both were alright," says Merlin.
"We are," nods the older man. "I'm slowly regaining my strength. Of course, I don't know what I would've done without my boy here."
Gwen smiles at Donnie and takes a seat across from him at the small supper table.
"Would you like something to drink?" asks Donald.
Gwen politely accepts the offer, "A bit of water would be lovely."
Donald checks the jug and shakes his head, "Silly me, I forgot to fetch water from the well this morning."
Gwen shakes her head, "Oh, that's alright."
"I will go and fetch some straight away."
Gwen tries to protest, but the older man rushes to the exit.
Merlin follows, "I will help!"
Gwen sighs as she finds herself alone with the young boy. She smiles, "You should be proud of yourself. Not very many young boys are as strong as you."
"I eat a lot," claims the boy not knowing what Gwen meant.
Gwen chuckles and shakes her head, "And that's good, but what I meant was that you are very strong of mind and heart. Your father must be very proud of you, I'm sure."
The boy faintly smiles, but he confesses. "The man in the cloak…"
Curiously, Gwen encourages the boy, "What about him?"
"The poultice he gave me was made of magic."
"How can you be so sure?" Gwen inquires.
"It was glowing. I did what the man in the cloak asked me. I put it under my father's pillow, and I saw it glow."
Gwen remembers a similar poultice that was found under her father's bed years ago.
"So you spoke with this man?"
Donnie nods, "Briefly. I couldn't see his face because it was dark and the hood of his cloak was covering it. But I remember his voice."
"What did he sound like?"
The boy thinks. "Didn't sound old."
"Did it sound like your father's voice?"
The boy shakes his head, "No, though it did sound familiar."
"Familiar? You've heard it before?"
The boy nods, "It did make me think of Merlin, when I first heard it."
"Merlin?" Gwen thinks to herself.
The boy shrugs, "I don't think I'll ever see him again."
Gwen faintly smiles, but her attention shifts to the doorway. "Could it be?" she thinks.
End Notes: Thank you so much for reading. I really appreciate your reviews. Please let me know what you think of this one. Also, if I were to continue, the third episode would be a separate story.