Title: On the Wings of Magic
Author: Chaney (iichristinll)
Warnings: Character death (major), not OT4
Summary: For the prompt "Evil Merlin turns good." Merlin had just arrived in Camelot when he felt the magic in the land pulsing with a great hurt. He decided things would be better if he were in power, he could fix the damage Uther had caused. So he decided to take it.
Merlin hadn't known when he arrived in Camelot than Magic had been banned there for many years. The thought of it made him shudder. Who would have the audacity to contain such a pure force of Nature, to tell It, It was not allowed to be? Of course it would have been a king, a royal, someone whom assumed his word would be sovereign over even the Earth itself.
His mother, Merlin thought bitterly, his mother had sent him away from home to this place. She was in conference with people in Camelot; she must have known its laws. She had willingly sent him away to this land under a king who would take his head were he to show his deference to Mother Earth's elements. He had known she was uncomfortable with what he could do; he had known she never wanted any of the townspeople to know what he could do. Still he was surprised at her willingness to send her only child to an almost certain death.
The many years the king spent beating Magic down, suppressing It all he could, had left an invisible wound in Camelot. Merlin had felt it as soon as he neared the city walls. This place, where so many conduits of Magic had been slaughtered, this was where the Earth pulsed pain. It hurt Merlin to be near, though obviously it did not affect those casually walking to various destinations all around him.
He already hated this place. Things were going to have to change if he was expected to live here; he was not going to allow the Magic to remain unhealed. Sooner or later It would rebel against Its prisoners and all in the area would be caught in its wrath. If Merlin did not help It, It would show no mercy to Merlin either.
He was supposed to be on his way to a man named Gaius, a distant relative or acquaintance of his mother's, not that Merlin had ever heard his name before being sent away with instructions to meet him. Well, that simply wasn't going to do now that Merlin feared his mother's alternative motives. He had other work to do now as well, having decided to heal Camelot's magical malady. He wondered how he should be go about starting the process of fixing this horrible place when he noticed a crowd amassing in the area in front of him. Curious, he approached.
"As the charge is sorcery and the verdict guilty, I have no choice but to condemn this man to death," a man high on a balcony above the crowd called, his bright robes and crown identifying him as king. He had his arm raised, ready to signal to the executioner below him. On a platform yards in front of Merlin anxiously rest a young man. His neck was displayed for the crowd; a bag had been haphazardly placed over his head, presumably to protect the crowd.
Merlin saw the king begin to lower his arm. "This won't do," Merlin said to himself. Letting another magic user die would bring yet more harm. If he were going to fix things he might as well start right then. He pitched his gaze to the man waiting for death. With a quick thought and jerk of his head, the man fell violently out of the guard's hold, missing the executioner's axe.
"Guards!" the king began to yell.
Merlin called, voice strong and proud, "No, you will not kill again."
The king's eyes searched for voice in the crowd. Worried blame would be cast upon them, the peasants quickly moved away from him, isolating him to the king. "You will not speak to your king without command. Magic sympathizers are as guilty as those who practice it." He called to the sentry near Merlin to arrest him.
"I said no." Merlin waved his hand at the approaching guard and they abruptly dropped to the ground, looking dead for all could see. The king's eyes widened briefly before narrowing.
"I shall see you hanged, sorcerer."
"Your lack of reason and remorse has scorched this land, king. You have nearly brought it to ruin. I see no reason to defer to your rule. I am more powerful than you, and I seek to repair your breaks." Merlin cocked his head to the side as he boldly spoke plainly to the royal above him. He called to Magic, bringing Its power into him. He knew that power was beginning to physically manifest when the king took a startled step backward. "In fact, I think this shall be the last day you are called king."
Merlin's eyes flared with a gold-bright power. The king took another step backward before finding himself unwillingly jerked forward toward the balcony. His movement was too quick for the men behind him to intercept, too powerful for them to keep his weight. He fell forcefully to the hard cobblestones below. A loud crack followed by utter silence and stillness made his death apparent.
A cry rang out from the windows to the side of Merlin. He looked over to see a beautiful woman's astonished face glued to the body of the king. "Fear not, woman," Merlin called to her. "Your king is dead, but I am here."
In the wake of the former king Uther Pendragon's death, Merlin quickly took the power of the throne. Loyalists fought back around every corner, but Magic was grateful to Merlin for the blood he had spilled in penance. It filled him with the power he needed to overcome every enemy. Every life taken was blood spilled to heal the scars Uther had given the land. Merlin accepted their deaths as payment, willing to take as many as the land saw fit.
Merlin was the same to those without Magic as Uther had been to those with Magic. His actions were swift and done without much care. As long as he was one step closer to the ultimate goal, whatever obstructed his path needed to be done away with. Magic users across the land heard of the change in power in Camelot and came to assist the new great ruler who had freed them.
The woman he had addressed in the courtyard, whom he had come to know as the Lady Morgana, accepted his reign with only slight reluctance. Once he revealed to her all that he saw in her core, the power she would be granted access to if she accepted It, she quickly gave Merlin her vows of honor. She told him of another threat that may be laying in wait for him: the former prince, Arthur.
"Arthur will have been deeply hurt by your actions, my king," she told him. She was kneeling near the throne he had taken, looking up at him cautiously. "He is young, misguided. He loved his father dearly."
"Did you not, woman?" he asked her.
"Uther cared for me as he was able, but he knew little of me. You have shown me truth, my lord. You have allowed me to live without fear of my gifts." She gave him a small smile before her eyes clouded. "But Arthur is his father's son. He will be angry. I have no doubt that when he has moved on from his grief, he will attack my lord."
Merlin smiled and lifted her chin with his fingers. "He may try. He will not succeed."
In all of Merlin's reign, which had lasted sixty-five days to that point, he had not seen the man his mother had sent him to. He knew the man to be old, too old to have weathered the forest if he had managed to hobble out of the city. Merlin assumed the old man was still around somewhere. "Gaius," he said out loud while sitting on the throne one morning.
"Sire?" a knight nearby questioned.
"There was to be a man named Gaius when I arrived here. I believe he was the physician."
"Yes, My Lord," the knight confirmed.
"Well where is he? Have we not had some injuries he would need to attend to? I should meet this man."
The knight conferred with a guard outside the throne room doors. "Sire," he said. "Gaius has not been seen since your arrival."
Merlin frowned slightly. "No matter," perhaps he had been a casualty of Magic after all, "we have plenty of healers now."
On the eighty-first day of his reign, Merlin's mother, Hunith, arrived in court. Merlin had barred the woman Hunith from being allowed in court, but all magic users were equal in the land now. All Hunith had to do was lie to the sentry about her name and tell them she was a powerful magician, granting her an audience with the king.
When she entered the hall and Merlin met her gaze, thunderclouds rolled into the sky. When she furrowed her brow at him and frowned, loud claps of thunder filled the air. When she opened her mouth and disapprovingly cried, "Merlin," the skies opened and it began to rain.
The storm was violent as mother and son argued.
"How could you become this, Merlin?" She wailed at him.
"You sent me here, mother! You condemned your son to this wrecked and wretched land! You could not expect me to sit idly as my people died, as I would be hunted." Emotions Merlin had suppressed since he had attacked the former king bubbled to the surface.
"I never sent you here to be killed, to kill!" She yelled.
Merlin turned away from her. "Then why? Why did you push me here?"
"Gaius," she answered.
He turned back around, "The physician has been missing since I arrived."
She shook her head. "He ran when you began killing people, Merlin. Killing people. You were to meet him; he would help you learn more of your powers. He used to be a magician in the court. I wanted him to help you, Merlin, to calm your soul and tame the restless beast I saw in you."
"I need no teaching, mother. Magic has given me control. If Gaius had stayed he would have been granted clemency if he deferred, especially so as a magic user. What became of him?" Merlin asked.
"He came to me."
Crashes of thunder were matched only by loud snaps of lightening plunging through the air and connecting with the Earth below. They masked the sounds of fighting in the hallway outside.
"He brought friends."
The doors slammed open and in marched a strong man carrying a sword, chest heaving with the strain of the physical fighting he had just done. On his sides stood the old man Merlin assumed to be Gaius and a pretty young woman brandishing a sword of her own. Behind them, a small gathering of men outfitted in the old royal's gear.
Merlin spared a glance for his mother before he stood and strode toward the group. "Let me guess: Prince Arthur?" he smiled.
Arthur's mouth was set in a firm line. "None of your men are dead, I just sought an audience," he said.
That surprised Merlin. "The Lady Morgana felt sure you would be on your way to kill me."
"I was," Arthur replied. "As soon as my father fell I made to come after you. I was held back by my knights." He lowered his sword tip to the ground, resting against it. The woman by his side cautiously lowered hers as well, following his example, though the knights behind them were not so quick to drop their guard.
Arthur continued, "They saw your power for what it was. Blindly I would have attacked and fallen to you, they saved my life. The few of us gathered our wits somewhere safe while we listened to your slaughter."
Merlin frowned. "My slaughter? You are bold to think the lives Magic has taken as slaughter, while the lives taken from Magic by your father were good."
"I never said that," Arthur replied.
"I was told you supported your father fully," Merlin supplemented.
Arthur smiled sadly, "I had, once upon a time. I love my father truly, but in the wake of everything that has happened I can hardly stay ignorant of what he took. It has been explained to me that is why you are here."
Merlin was surprised at that. "Are you defecting, old-prince?"
"May I speak privately with the king?"
Merlin knew with Magic on his side this other man would not succeed if he chose to attack. Merlin was curious, as well, to know what the man was up to, what he had to say. He had wondered over this meeting for weeks.
He told the guard to stay aware with the group of the old-prince's knights and ordered more guard in to help. He stepped forward to Arthur and laid his hand upon the man's arm. Arthur blinked and the two found themselves in a new room with no windows or doors, empty of all the other people. "My private chambers," Merlin supplied. "Obviously, few can enter, and none without my say." A wave of his hand and he was relaxing into a newly made chair, Arthur having been pushed down into one behind him.
"Continue," Merlin invited.
"I understand," Arthur said. Merlin cocked an eyebrow. "I understand about the price of what my father did, how it was affecting the land. When you took the throne, I stole away from Camelot with the others. We hid in a cave in the borderlands for a week. I was inconsolable until Gaius came to me. He said he knew the name Merlin, he had been expecting you.
I was furious of course, thinking he had known what was going to happen. Instead he showed me a letter he had with him, from your mother. He read it to me, read where it asked if you could stay with him, learn from him. How your mother was scared."
"Scared of me," Merlin scowled.
"Scared for you," Arthur corrected. "She worried that someday the magic would overcome you. That you had never been trained, never been allowed to use it, and it was wild. She wanted Gaius to be a friend to you, a peer you could confide in. Gaius explained all this to me, how magic worked in people. He said he had felt the growing tension in the land. He told me about the hurt. Word reached us slowly, and it was bare, but we kept hearing the phrase 'healing the land.' Gaius explained it to us, what my father had done, what you were undoing.
"I don't like it, all the killing, but I understand it. We went to Ealdor from there to tell Hunith what had happened. We stayed there for a while. It took me a long time to figure things out. Hunith had her heart set on seeing you again so we came back to Camelot as a group, picking up a couple extra men along the way. They're all good people, even the ones who served under my father; they're willing to accept this new magical world. But they don't want another tyrant."
"I am hardly a tyrant. I let Magic flow through me for Its own deeds." Merlin found he had been leaning forward and sat back in his chair.
Arthur continued, "As we got closer to Camelot Gaius said he couldn't feel anymore what he had once. He said the hurt has gone." His voice was curious.
"Yes," Merlin conceded. "I have felt it as well. Or not felt it, rather. Things are balanced."
"Then why are you still spilling blood? This is a new reign, no one can take it from you. I would seek the Pendragons restored to the throne, but I know I could never overpower you. They said Magic has chosen you, you're the strongest of them all."
"They speak correctly," Merlin agreed with pride in his voice.
"Hunith told us all about what you were like growing up. She was stunned, horrified at what we told her you were doing here. She said you had only ever been a caring boy. Gaius thinks the hurt here affected you, took you over."
Merlin was affronted. "I am my own man."
"But you defer to the magic, you always have, she said. And the magic here was so strong, so broken, it went through you to make itself whole." Arthur explained.
Merlin narrowed his eyes. "I understand Magic better than you, Pendragon. Magic gives me allowance and I, It. I help It heal, It helps me in everything else," he responded.
"But it's better now!" Arthur cried. "What's left to do?"
Merlin thought for a moment. "Magic is balanced, but the people are not. For many years Magic users feared their death, now they are feared by others. It must be equal."
"Continuing to spill blood for something that no longer needs it only perpetuates this tyranny you are creating." Arthur voice was raised as he gained comfort in speaking plainly to the sorcerer in front of him. "You were not born noble. Magic raised you into this role for one purpose and now that it's complete you don't know what you're doing."
"Excuse me?" Merlin nearly laughed at his boldness. "I can still kill you."
"You won't," Arthur stated. "You are better than that. I've known your mother a short time but I spent that time learning of you, staying in your home, meeting your friends. Will says hi and to stop being an idiot."
This time Merlin did laugh.
"I know you are a good person and you wouldn't normally hurt anyone. This has all been the magic. It will recede soon and you'll be left wondering what to do with a court day-to-day. I can help you."
"You wish to be my advisor?" Merlin asked.
Arthur nodded. "I can teach you to be a king."
"No," Merlin sat back, thoughtful. "However I am in need of a manservant."
So it was the former prince of Camelot found himself scrubbing boots that had once been his. He was grateful to have gotten to the king, grateful he made it through their meeting alive, but he had not anticipated servitude.
"I have a banquet tonight, Arthur," Merlin called to him from behind the dressing screen. "I shall need a hot bath."
"Can't you just magic up some hot water?" Arthur yelled back.
"What would be the point of having you around then, hmm?" Merlin said.
After some mumblings and grumblings, Arthur retrieved the bath. Manservant he may be, but that meant he still found himself with the king's ear in these private times. While Merlin relaxed in the bath, Arthur would instruct him on banquet conduct. While Arthur cleaned clothes, Merlin would talk about a worrisome meeting approaching, to which Arthur would reply with information about the topic. It wasn't an official advisor role, but it was turning into something better than Arthur had expected.
It was some weeks after Arthur had been appointed his new position when Hunith took her leave. Merlin offered her comfort in the court of Camelot, being that she was the king's mother, but she refused. She had no desire to leave her simple life behind for this strange world he son had taken. As their relationship was stilted and almost broken since Merlin had been sent away, it was with little remorse he saw her off.
"Won't you miss her?" Arthur asked.
"I miss the way things used to be. I am different now, and I don't think either of us knows how to be around each other anymore," Merlin softly answered.
Arthur faced his new king. "I've never had a mother. I should very much like yours if she's available."
Merlin pouted, "I'm not giving her away, idiot! She's still mine."
Arthur grinned, "Can we share?"
The Lady Morgana skipped up to where the two of them had been talking in a garden, her newly reinstated maidservant Gwen behind her. "My Lord," she called excitedly. She held her cupped hands out to him as he peered into them. She opened her hands and out flew three-dozen butterflies, each a different color. They danced around the group's heads, kissing their faces with brushed wings, before disappearing into the sky.
"That was beautiful, my lady," Merlin praised her. "Did you just learn it?"
"I've never seen you be such a girl, Morgana." Arthur interrupted. "Butterflies? It wasn't that long ago those would have been beetles you'd send after me in bed."
Morgana glared at Arthur while Merlin laughed at the two of them.
Camelot was different now: a new king, new laws, and new friendships. Merlin had felt Magic kiss him the way the butterflies had, he felt it dissipate into the air above him with a tingle. He was a king in his own right now, and maybe he'd be able to figure it all out with these people by his side.
Endnote: This was written especially for the tumblr group FuckYeahMerlinFanfic as a thank you for having so many members. Unbetaed so as always leave me your concrit and reviews as they are much appreciated.