"What do you suppose they're waiting for?" Sir Leon asked Prince Arthur. "Why have they stopped firing?"
"I think … I hope that they're a little surprised that we're all awake and have managed to hold on this far," said the prince. "I'm not sure how long that will last though."
"We must do something. There must be something we can do," Uther insisted, his eyes wild. Arthur really hadn't wanted him up here but Gaius had said that he was getting in such a state downstairs that it would do him more harm than good to leave him out of it.
"It seems that Morgana has at least a couple of other sorcerers with her," Arthur explained. "That shimmer you can see over the enemy is a magical shield, nothing we throw at it can break through. They don't even need to conjure any more spells; their conventional weapons can hurt us, whilst ours just bounce off that dome."
"There is one last chance," said Uther with a conspiratorial whisper. "You," he said to Sir Elyan, apparently finding it difficult to look at the young man who was born a commoner in the eye. "Ask Gaius to meet me in the council room. Arthur, come with me … there is something I need to tell you." Elyan glanced at Arthur who gave him the barest nod to confirm the order.
"Father … I really think my place is here."
"It makes little difference, as you said. Come." Arthur sighed and followed his father down the stairs. As they entered the council chambers Uther paused, and Arthur saw him frown at the large, round, stone table that now had pride of place in the room but, luckily he said nothing about it.
"Why have you sent for Gaius now?" Arthur asked pulling his father's mind back to the matter at hand.
"Do you know how he knows so much about sorcery and the old religion?" asked Uther in a conspiratorial whisper.
"He is a learned man, with access to many books." Although Arthur had long since guessed the real answer.
"Yes, yes, but I have let him keep those books; many of them contain information which should, by rights, have been purged along with everything else but I let him keep them and his life, even though he used to practice sorcery in the past." Uther paused dramatically waiting for his son to show shock and seemed disappointed to note no obvious reaction.
"I suspected as much."
"How else would he have been able to break that enchantment yesterday? It was obvious from what Merlin said that some knowledge of magic was needed in order to counter it." He sighed dramatically. "Perhaps you should have kept a few more alive, Father," he continued calmly. "I'm not sure that one old man would have enough magic to counter the army out there, even if he had been allowed to practise regularly." Uther opened his mouth to reply but words failed him. Another voice filled the gap.
"I fear that your son is correct," said Gaius limping slowly into the room with a wry look on his face. Merlin was assisted him but looked terrified at the topic of conversation.
"Gaius," he hissed urgently, obviously concerned about his mentor admitting to something that might get him killed, but the physician waved his concern aside with the flick of a hand.
"You must know how we can break through that shield though?" said Uther determinedly. "Arthur told me how you discovered the enchanted diamond that froze the palace yesterday. You have the knowledge to solve this problem too, I know you do."
"The knowledge? Perhaps. What I do not have is the power. Even before the purge when I'd been allowed to practice, I would not have had the strength of magic required to defeat this army."
"Father, you know he's right and you have to accept that, by your hand, there are no other sorcerers in Camelot that we can use to form an army against this. All is lost." Arthur glanced back at Gaius to see him exchanging a significant look with Merlin. The young man returned his glance wide eyed before turning back to Arthur.
"I-if you would excuse me, Sire ... I'm needed back with the injured?"
"Yes, of course. Thank you, Merlin." His servant turned another significant, but nervous look towards Gaius and left.
"Come, Father, there's nothing else to do down here. Our place is on the battlements, defending Camelot, even if it means our death."
The King and Prince rejoined the knights outside, ready to face the imminent battle and Arthur immediately positioned himself amongst his new friends, his new knights. He turned shocked when he saw another familiar figure approaching his position.
"Guinevere, you shouldn't be here."
"Where else would I be, Arthur? There is no safe place in Camelot now."
As if to confirm her assertion, there was a blast of warm air and rush of sound and there, in front of them stood Morgana, dressed in her feminine battle wear. Gwaine made to grab her but there was nothing to hold onto and he landed on a heap in the floor.
"As if I would appear here in person," she scoffed.
"What do you want, Morgana?" Arthur asked. "Your pathetic magic trick didn't work and, as you can see, we are all now perfectly recovered and fully able to defend ourselves." He noticed a flicker of annoyance at that reminder.
"It would have been better for you if the enchantment had remained; far less painful if you had simply stayed frozen. I have come to ask for your surrender. You cannot hope to win this fight … brother." He growled, still reluctant to face that particular truth.
"We will not surrender. Last year I might have thought such a request the best option for my people, but your previous attempt at ruling here means that I now have no choice but to fight you."
Morgana looked briefly surprised at the prince's firm statement and her eyes quickly sought Uther. The king's eyes had glazed over, as if he did not see her, and she smiled as she realised just how much his mind had been affected by her actions and who now held the power here.
"So be it. For years I begged Uther to stop killing those with magic and he refused to hear my pleas. Now it is you that will suffer for not having any sorcerers on your side." She raised an arm dramatically to the sky, but this Morgana was only an illusion, and the lightening bolt that flew to the sky here was a pale imitation of the one they could all see lighting up the field far below.
"Fire!" She shouted and, shortly afterwards, hundreds of arrows and fire balls were heading towards Camelot, along with a few obviously magical bolts of power.
There were panicked shouts from all around him as soldiers readied themselves for the onslaught. Arthur heard another voice call out from behind him, but was not able to identify it or the words that were being shouted. Suddenly there was a strange feeling of warmth, a shimmer in the air and a flash of orange appeared to surround them. The knights instinctively ducked at the obvious magic contained within it, whilst Morgana looked confused. The various projectiles flew quickly towards them and then appeared to hit an invisible wall before disintegrating. Their impact allowed the true nature of that flash to be revealed.
There was now a magical shield protecting Arthur's army too.
"Impossible!" shouted Morgana's projection, looking around wildly. Her glance fell on the nearest tall tower and her eyes widened. Arthur, Uther, Gwen and the knights all followed her gaze.
A figure stood behind the turrets of the tower, his features in shadow. Despite this and the strange power that seemed to emanate from him, his tall, slim build was easily recognisable to those that knew him well.
"That can't be Merlin," said Elyan in a shocked whisper.
"Of course it's Merlin," said Lancelot with a proud smile. "Trust him to leave it to the last moment." Arthur turned a confused stare on the handsome knight who gave a slightly embarrassed shrug.
"But, Merlin?" said Leon just as shocked.
"Merlin!" Morgana snarled. "That is how you've always defeated me? Magic?"
"It really wasn't that hard to figure out, Morgana," he said calmly - his voice sounded as if he were standing right next to them. "Once you knew that I was responsible for defeating you all those times, you really should have made the next logical step." His voice had a different tone too. Slightly deeper and far more confident.
"You broke the enchantment? But, there was no power that could defeat something so ancient."
"There was me." Arthur felt a chill far colder than any ice travel through him at these words. Morgana looked equally unnerved.
"Has one of her sorcerers turned against her?" asked Uther bemused.
"No, Sire," Leon explalined. "That's Merlin and, apparently, he's on our side."
"Who? Arthur's servant?"
"Now what, Merlin?" Morgana continued. "Do you really expect to hold your shield over the whole of Camelot, when I have three sorcerers holding mine?"
"Three? Thank you, that's very helpful," the warlock replied lightly.
Morgana glared at him."That leaves two of us to work on bringing yours down," she reminded him.
Arthur could understand her confidence; Merlin might have brought him some time, but that was all. His mind raced as he tried to work out what he could do to help. One part of him was trying to scream at the other part about how mad it was that Merlin had magic but he ignored it, thinking instead of Camelot and how to use this latest weapon that had apparently just landed in his lap.
"All is not lost," Lancelot whispered to him. "I've known about Merlin for some time and that was no idle boast. He did overcome that enchantment yesterday and he's the one and only reason that any of us are standing here today." Again Arthur stopped himself for dwelling on the thought of any deceptions and simply nodded, adding that information to the rest of his new knowledge.
Morgana's projection gestured again and a large, blue magical flame arched it's way over towards the shield. Again, everyone on the ramparts instinctively ducked. The flame hit Merlin's shield and just disappeared. It didn't explode or spark in any way, it simply fizzled out. The figure of Merlin was still standing tall, seeming surprisingly intimidating for one so slim, with his head tipped to one side as if he were amused by the spectacle. Morgana screamed and yelled another order at her magicians. Two more magical flames, far larger than any of the previous ones soared through the evening sky. Again they fizzled into nothing.
Slowly, calmly, Merlin raised a long, thin arm towards the enemy and uttered a few strange words. His own bolt, blindingly white, poured out from his palm and through his own shield, proving that he was managing to hold that defence even whilst attacking. The light hit the enemy's shield with an enormous bang and multicoloured sparks, and the whole dome shimmered and sparkled before eventually managing to stabilise. A huge cheer went up from within Camelot as they realised that they stood some chance after all. Arthur looked at Morgana's panicked face and started to believe that Lancelot was correct and that Merlin's magic was indeed more powerful than all four sorcerers on the other side.
Uther grabbed hold of Arthur's arm. "We cannot allow this? Have you no control over your servant?"
Arthur struggled to prevent a manic laugh escaping at the irony of that question. "Apparently not. Father, now is not the time to question or accuse Merlin. He is here, using magic to save us. That is the only thing that matters."
Morgana turned to Uther with wide eyes. "You cannot allow that surely? A boy, a servant ... influencing your son all these years … and you know how close they are? Perhaps they are plotting against you? You are still King here, are you not? Send your men up there to kill him - That's what you always do, isn't it Uther? You cannot have a sorcerer in Camelot."
Light and life returned to Uther's dead eyes."That is all correct." He turned to the knights and his voice held much of the power that it once had. "Go up there, imprison him, that is what must be done." No-one moved. "I am your king, you will do as I command." A few glanced nervously at Arthur, whilst most simply ignored the older man and turned their attention back to Merlin.
"What now, Morgana?" The young warlock asked. "A few more of those bolts from me and your shield might fail but, if you use more of your sorcerers to attack, then I will bring it down easily. If all of you hold your magic to defend your army, then I'll just use the power I'm holding in reserve to attack you."
"In reserve? Now I know you're bluffing."
Arthur felt another shudder travel down his spine. That voice! So familiar and yet … so alien at the same time.
Morgana screamed in annoyance and her image disappeared from the ramparts. Within seconds numerous magical bolts and flames were flying through the air in both directions. Arthur thought he could see three from the enemy, whilst Merlin's single flames, brighter than the enemies, arched in the opposite direction.
There was another huge flash and the enemy's shield shimmered and failed. Arthur gave a cry of his own and all the soldiers on the battlements started to fire their more conventional weapons. Their own arrows slid through Merlin's protective shield with no effort, whilst every one of Morgana's weapons simply melted against it.
"Why have you stopped?" Arthur shouted up at Merlin who was apparently just surveying the scene dispassionately.
"You want to see more magic, Arthur?" He shouted back in a bantering tone that seemed far more familiar. "Are you sure?"
"Help us finish them off."
"I do have one more trick up my sleeve," he replied. Then he lowered his head and looked like he was going to yawn. Slowly he raised his head and his mouth opened even wider. A roar erupted from his lips as he chanted strange, powerful words in a voice that shook the castle.
"Ah, that first word sounded awfully like 'dragon'," Guinevere commented quietly. Arthur tuned to her wide-eyed before scanning the skies.
"He calls that a trick?" he asked pointing upwards. All eyes turned to see the Great Dragon swoop through the sky. Unsurprisingly there were a number of screams, as most people here remembered the last time he had visited Camelot - but this time it appeared he was at Merlin's beck and call. The creature flew close to them, making them all duck, circled Merlin's turret a couple of times - as if to leave no one in any doubt about who he was serving, before suddenly folding his wings by his side and plummeting down towards the enemy, breathing fire. Arthur yelled another order, reminding his men that they were to take some part in this battle, whilst Merlin simply stood there, using his magic to hold the shield that was protecting them all.
They had won.
No more magical attacks came their way and the enemy army quickly started to retreat. Arthur and his knights helped them on their way and, after a while, there was a shimmer in the air around Camelot and Arthur looked up at the tower to find it empty. Surprised and slightly concerned at Merlin's sudden disappearance, he quickly ran into the palace itself, closely followed by Guinevere and the knights.
Arthur eventually caught up with his servant in a corridor, wearing his blue shirt, red scarf and usual brown jacket and carrying a pile of sheets in his hands. The group all stared at him stunned.
"Merlin. W-what do you think you're doing?" the prince managed at last.
"I just realised that I forgot to make your bed this morning. Sorry about that." The muffled laugh from just behind Arthur probably came from Gwaine. Everyone else continued to stare.
"You're sorry about … not making my bed?"
"Yes, Sire." The next muffled giggle was obviously Guinevere's.
"Is there anything else you might have ... forgotten? Something perhaps you forgot ... to tell me?"
"Ah, well probably ... you know what I'm like?"
"I thought I did."
"Was there anything else, Sire? Only I really do need to get on with these sheets." There was a long silence during which the two young men held each other's gaze and everyone else held their breath. The pause was eventually broken by Uther's strong voice.
"You must arrest the boy, Arthur. No-one uses magic in front of me."
"Yes, Father," said Arthur sadly. "I was just doing that now. Why don't you let Sir Leon take you back to your chambers whilst I deal with it?"
He and Merlin exchanged another long glance; it contained fear and uncertainly but also … apologies and thanks; friendship and understanding.
"Well, hurry up with those sheets then Merlin, and turn that mattress over too will you? It was feeling a bit lumpy last night," Arthur said eventually. A small smile tugged at Merlin's lips.
"Of course, Sire, I shall do that right away."
A/N All over now. Aah!
By the way, that worry I had over this last chapter - if you hadn't already guessed - was the fact that I felt I had to switch to Arthur pov. I knew how I wanted the story to end and couldn't see any other way around it. I hope that didn't feel too weird to you.
Thank you, thank you for all your lovely reviews ... I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it.
Editor's note and apology: Sorry if you've received an alert and came here hoping for a new chapter. I've been spending the day editing this old fic and correcting numerous punctuation and grammar mistakes I made when I was still very new to writing. In my haste, I accidentally added a corrected chapter to the end rather than replacing the old one. Although it looks like that did get me a few new readers though! I hope you guys are pleased that I made that mistake? ;)