Disclaimer: Hm I'm running out of different ways to say I don't own Merlin. Good thing it is the last chapter. Right, so I only own my OCs.
The thank you section is empty? What is this blasphemy? Fear not! They are all at the bottom because there are a lot of names. It's everyone who reviewed in alphabetical order, you better appreciate it cause it took a while ;)
Oh yes, I edited all the chapters so they are squeaky clean (hopefully). As well as Just Desserts, AND I added a little bit to the 2nd chapter of that story too. So do you forgive me for not replying to reviews? *puppy dog eyes*
Secrets, Arthur decided, he did not like. He looked at Merlin surreptitiously out of the corner of his eye as the servant- prince-picked at the meat on his plate. After only a day, Merlin had improved drastically. He had laboured out of his room and down the stairs this morning and had been sitting on Gauis' bed ever since.
"I just don't understand how he knew so much," Merlin frowned. Arthur knew he was talking about Cenred. If the prince hadn't mastered himself long ago, he would have squirmed uncomfortably. "How did he know I was a dragonlord?"
Merlin had been trying to work this puzzle out and Arthur was going to tell him. That was, until every time Merlin had thought of Cenred he visibly recoiled. Every flinch wore away at Arthur's resolve to tell his friend the truth. How would Merlin react if he knew he was related to Cenred? Not well obviously.
And if he told him, unwanted memories might resurface. Arthur counted it as a blessing that Merlin was missing more than half a day of his time in the fort. What if he told Merlin and the boy would remember something horrible? He couldn't do that to Merlin, he couldn't.
The sun was setting behind the castle, gleaming through the physician's chambers and dying the room a stunning shade of wine stained amber. The waning day was cool but Arthur left the window wide open; the sounds of the people in the streets calmed Merlin no matter how much he said it didn't. Arthur knew how to read his friend. The prince was sitting on another hard chair beside Gaius' bed which Merlin was perched on. The servant-prince- was propped up by a horde of pillows and had been picking at his dinner for the past half hour.
They were equals now. Not prince and servant. They were both royalty, and both were meant to be king. Merlin should be getting the respect he deserved. Arthur didn't know how he felt about the words Merlin and Prince together. Prince Merlin. His lower lip jutted out slightly in thought. Idiot Merlin sounded better.
"Some help you are," Merlin spoke annoyed and jabbed at a wedge of cold potato on his plate.
"I told you what I thought. A sorcerer probably told him." Arthur replied and looked to his friend.
Merlin rolled his eyes and grumbled something unintelligible and Arthur nearly smiled. They were already equals; they have been for a long time. He just hadn't realized the true extent of that until Gaius told him, but he found it did not change much. At least until Merlin found out.
'But what if Merlin wants to be king?' A corner of his mind wondered. 'Then I'll eat my shiny gold crown,' was his immediate thought.
Merlin luckily did not see the smile flicker across Arthur's face and he frowned. "Cenred was going to tell me something... I think. I can't remember if he did."
"Cenred likes to hear himself talk Merlin. Most of what he says isn't important." Arthur said quickly. Merlin bit his lip and settled into silence to think. The prince decided he needed to remedy that, so he steeled himself and opened his mouth.
"And Merlin. Thank you."
"For what?" Merlin asked obliviously.
Really, this was hard enough without Merlin making it difficult. "For not giving in. It must have been hard not to... You have my utmost respect Merlin." The prince told his servant.
Merlin smiled slowly at him before bringing his gaze to his lap. "It wasn't hard," he murmured.
"What?" Arthur asked wondering if he heard correctly.
"I never once thought of betraying you Arthur. It was easy to say no. The hard part was...just..." Merlin trailed off and started to push around the scraps of food that he had yet to eat.
"Merlin?" Arthur encouraged softly. Where did he find such a friend?
"...The hardest part... was- was being unable to do anything. I couldn't get away and I couldn't fight back. That never- it's not-" Merlin sighed, "I just never knew I was afraid of being trapped, that's all."
"You never have to be again," Arthur leant forward and put both his hands on Merlin's shoulders. "You will never have to live caged Merlin- not as long as I live," he vowed.
Merlin smiled sadly and looked to Arthur like he wanted to say something. His mouth bobbed opened and closed but no words made it past his lips. Arthur was reminded of the time Merlin had told him that his father was the last Dragonlord.
"Isn't there a candle, I mean I can't see your ugly face." Merin gave a strained grin, and looked around at the darkness that settled upon them. The sun had turned in for the night.
Arthur blinked and normally he would have responded accordingly but something in Merlin's tone stopped him. The servant- prince- seemed a little too tense to be joking.
"Of course," he said and stood up. If Merlin wanted to tell him something, Arthur would not force it. No matter how infuriated it made him. So he strode to the table and grabbed the two candles in his hands. He cleared the shelf nearest Merlin and settled them upon it.
As Arthur lit them, he frowned. Merlin never used to mind darkness before.
"Arthur? Hey, prat!"
"What?" Arthur grumbled and took his head off the table. He was having a nice dream about Guinevere. Arthur registered the warm candlelight dancing about the room and yawned- he thought he had been sleeping for a lot longer.
Laughter came from the corner. "He responds," Gwaine said to Merlin.
"He does to dollop head too." Merlin grinned.
"I was asleep that time," Arthur snapped.
"And princes-" Gerrick was cut off by Arthur's indignant shout.
"I do not!" He glowered at the grey eyed knight sitting across from him who did not quite manage to adopt a chastised expression. "I can give you stable duty again Gerrick, do not forget." The lean knight immediately felt a very genuine frown pull down his lips.
Gwaine sighed from where he was gathering the last of his things. "I never thought you fellows would start to grow on me," he gave a small grin. "Next time you boys are out of the kingdom, we'll have to go to a tavern."
"Sounds like a plan," Eadric agreed loudly.
"I do not think it would be wise to endanger the prince for a night in a tavern," Leon said derisively. Eadric frowned at him and Aldwin who was beside him gave him a hardy shove.
"Who said it would be just one night?" Gwaine smirked. "Maybe I'll just take Merlin and you all can see to your important duties. Eh Merlin?"
Merlin only laughed and shook his head at the bearded man.
"I highly doubt Gaius is going to let that happen," Aldwin mused, "I do not envy you Merlin, he will not let you out of his sight from now on."
"He can hear you Aldwin," Gaius said shortly and the young knight raised his eyebrows innocently. The physician was making use of the candle light to pore over a considerably thick book. Gaius did not deny the statement causing Merlin to give a sulky frown.
Cadmon smiled at the warlock and handed Gwaine a misplaced dagger wrapped in a plain sheath.
He nodded to the knight in thanks and sighed wistfully. "You know, I wish I could have stayed for that tournament that's coming up. No rules sound like my kind of party!" Gwaine tightened the straps on his bag and hoisted it over his shoulder.
Merlin dragged himself off the bed and Gwaine grabbed his arm when he swayed a bit too far forward.
"It was good to see you Gwaine," Merlin smiled at him.
"You too my friend," Gwaine smiled and Arthur swore he recognized sadness flash in his eyes.
"Thank you Gwaine. For- well...thanks." Merlin scratched the back of his head.
"No thanks is necessary," he clapped Merlin on the shoulder. "Now, you stay out of trouble. If I hear that anything has happened to you, I will not be happy. Understand?"
"Yes, Sir Gwaine," Merlin drawled teasingly.
Gwaine stared at him and gave his shoulder a final squeeze. "Take care Merlin," he smiled before nodding to him and heading to the door. With a jaunty wave to everyone he strode outside, pulling on the hood of Aldwin's donated travelling cloak.
Arthur silently followed him and they stopped when they reached the courtyard. The moon did not reach them in the shadow of the corridor but the far off torch was just able to light them in a meagre light.
"You have my thanks Gwaine," Arthur said quietly.
Gwaine turned to him and leaned against the wall. "For what?" He asked causing Arthur to give a small smile.
"Where will you go?" He wondered already anticipating the answer.
"I'm thinking Cenred's kingdom," Gwaine smiled cheekily.
"Oh?" Arthur assumed correctly.
"My aim is to become outlawed by the time I'm done. And get a sizeable bounty on my pretty head." A cruel gleam lit the man's normally warm eyes.
Arthur nodded, "Be careful."
"Why? Are you worried princess?" Gwaine laughed and started for the gates.
"Gwaine," Arthur called, "give them hell for me." It sounded suspiciously like an order.
Gwaine nodded and gave him one last grin before disappearing into the shadows. He turned to head back to the physician's chambers and found himself hoping that he would see the rogue sometime soon. Arthur did not know his hope would come true in just a few months in a slave trader's domain.
Merlin frowned at the people swarming by. He was standing next to the apothecary just outside the door. This morning he had volunteered to go pick up some supplies for Gaius for the sole reason that everyone was driving him up the wall- Gaius especially. Not that he didn't appreciate their concern; it was just that he did not need the physician to cater to his every whim. It was embarrassing and he had no wish to be treated like a child. Admittedly he was rather tired from walking all the way through the streets but he was mostly recovered now. It was not like he meant to fall asleep in Arthur's antechamber last night- it was just that he was tired, nothing to do with the fact that the room was much bigger than his, or it was too dark to see where he was going, and most definitely not because it was very lonely in the shadowy halls . Nope, none of that.
He told his foot to start forward but it wouldn't listen. His eyes kept flicking to all the people. He had not thought of market time when he had set out. People were everywhere, so tightly packed- no space between them, no room to move, no place to go, no space to breathe. Merlin's own breaths accelerated at the thought of delving into the crowd. All the voices that would surround him, the monotonous loud clamour that was akin to every throng- pumping like a monster's heartbeat and keeping him trapped inside. Unable to move, unable to break free, unable to- 'Enough!' His mind shouted and he clamped his eyes shut to seek calm.
Merlin was not so much of a coward that he would balk at walking in a simple crowd- he had done it before, now was no different. With his eyes still shut he let his foot fall from the step and he sank into the mass. Immediately bodies jostled him and he was forced along with the aggressive flow. Unwarranted shock coursed through his veins, rendering him unable to pick his way past. All he knew was that he could find no room to manoeuvre, and as far as his mind was concerned he was slammed right back in a cell- only this time the bars were people. Coward! Suddenly, air could not make it to his lungs- he started to gasp it in but it made no difference. No air, no room, no freedom. Coward! His chest was burning, his eyes were burning, the world was spinning. Coward!
Merlin tried to break his way through the people but he couldn't even move his shaking legs. Coward! People shoved their way past him, bumping into him harshly and suddenly he realized he was on the floor. The noise lessened but rushing blood roared in his ears- he heard the fast beats of his heart against his chest and it only got louder and faster, and loud, loud, loud when he realized that the walls of his prison got higher. Coward!
Too close! Not enough room, he couldn't breathe! Coward! His vision was bleeding black around the edges and he vaguely realized that someone was grabbing his arm. He was being pulled roughly through the throng, past the walls and to freedom. Not near enough, he couldn't see through the colourful blur of people - black spots peppered and swelled in his vision rendering him unable to see. Coward!
His legs were like jelly and if it were not for the mysterious person hauling him along he would have crumpled to the ground. Coward! Merlin registered that they were panting heavily, they were panicked. He had half the mind to tell them to calm down before they fainted when he realized that it was him. A part of his mind also realized it was quiet but he was too busy trying to fight his way out of the darkness. No, no, no, no, no, no! Not again, it was too dark. He couldn't see! Not again!
"Calm down Merlin," a voice whispered in his ear. "You're safe. You are free."
The voice was calming. Was he free? He wanted to open his eyes, desperately so but was fearful at what he would find.
"Listen to me Merlin," the voice spoke louder. "You are in the forest, the air is cold and pine is in the wind. You are in the open Merlin, there are no walls."
Forest? He would like to be in the forest. He would like to feel the cold air and smell the refreshing pine. The air was cold. It flowed through his open mouth into his lungs. His nostrils flared as he tried to smell the pine but it was not there. He tried harder but after five minutes he was forced to consider the possibility that there were no pine trees here.
"Open your eyes now. Look around you Merlin," the voice said quietly.
Merlin swallowed and began to pry his eyes open to obey the friendly voice. Grass was the first thing he saw and then bushes, and flowers, and a fence. He craned his neck up to view the sky and he sighed in relief upon seeing a clear cerulean expanse.
"There, see? You are alright."
"Cadmon," he breathed after whipping his head to look at the knight. Merlin took in his surroundings to note that he was sitting on the dry grass and the old knight was kneeling next to him and keeping him upright. Merlin quickly set his arm back to support himself while his other hand leapt to brush away the water pooling in his eyes.
Cadmon sat himself beside Merlin and placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. "Not a forest, but I always found that thinking of one helped me when I needed it." He gave an understanding smile and gestured to the spacious enclosure they were in.
"Thank you," Merlin found his voice.
"It was no trouble my lord," Cadmon smiled at him.
Merlin felt his lips quirk in a small smile and he returned his gaze to his lap. Now why did he feel like he had forgotten something? He shrugged, not really in the mood to search for whatever he had misplaced. He figured if it was important he would remember.
Merlin looked around and recognized that they were in the garden near the training field. Cadmon must have dragged him quite a ways to get here. He hoped no one saw. Immediately his face start to burn and shame welled in his gut.
"I'm sorry," he said hollowly.
"Do not be sorry Merlin," Cadmon said harshly, "you have nothing to be ashamed of."
Merlin blinked at his very spot on insight.
"You are just like your father. I could read him just as easily as you," Cadmon explained.
Those words cleared away everything from his head except hope. "You knew my father?"
"We were friends," Cadmon said gently.
"Why did you not tell me?" Merlin yelled and vaulted up, only to fall on his behind when his legs decided they did not want to stand.
"I am sorry."
Merlin looked into his genuinely guilty eyes and immediately felt bad. "I didn't mean- I just-"
"I understand," Cadmon cut him off gently.
Merlin paused for a moment but the warlock could never keep his mouth shut for long. "What did you mean? When you said thinking of a forest always helped you?" Merlin glanced upward into the old knight's dark jade eyes.
Cadmon sighed softly and made himself as comfortable as he could on the ground. "We have a lot to talk about Merlin."
Arthur brushed the sweat off his brow as his eyes trailed after the retreating knights. The sun hung high in the sky and marked the end of morning practice. A faint thunk made his lips smirk and he looked at Merlin who was gathering up the last archery target across the field. Or trying to.
"Sire," Cadmon greeted and stood before him.
"Cadmon," Arthur nodded and his gaze turned expectant. "And?"
"I believe he is recovering well."
The prince glanced at Merlin. "No more attacks?"
"None since two weeks ago."
Arthur gave a satisfied sigh. The prince hesitated for barely a fraction of a second before asking, "Cadmon, how long did it take for you to get over it?"
"Merlin was there for considerably less time than I Sire. And he is strong. Far stronger than people give him credit for." Cadmon's tone was minutely clipped.
Arthur let the knight avoid the question and started on a new, but equally important topic. "You've been telling him about Balinor," his voice was hushed but his tone was accusatory. Merlin had just regaled him with a story about Balinor in his youth that Cadmon had told him.
"It gives him something else to think about Sire."
"But what if he remembers? We don't know if Cenred told him, Cadmon."
"And should I deny him a chance to learn of his father?"
"What made you decide to change your mind?" Arthur asked waspishly. The prince sighed and nearly winced at his heated comment. He was clearly spending far too much time around Merlin. "I apologize Cadmon. I just hate keeping all these secrets."
"As much as I dislike it, we cannot tell him yet Sire. It would cause him pain to reveal it so soon." The old knight said calmly.
The prince nodded, "You're right." That did not mean he had to like it. They fell silent as Merlin came back dragging the target on his back. He wandered into the armoury and when he came back out, he a suspicious frown on his angular face.
"Are you talking about me?"
"Don't flatter yourself Merlin," Arthur scoffed and dismissed Cadmon with a nod of his head.
"Sire. Merlin," Cadmon turned and strode toward the castle.
"See you later Cadmon!" Merlin called. He turned back to Arthur covering a fake yawn. "What a training session, you probably want a bath right? I'll go draw you up one."
"Not so fast," Arthur grabbed the back of Merlin's shirt to stop him.
"Oh, come on Arthur. I have it down now."
"You most certainly do not," Arthur said and readied the soft target that was standing next to him. He led Merlin to stand in front of it and he appraised his friend.
Someday people would know that they were equals. He would tell Merlin he was a prince eventually- one day. But for now he would teach Merlin how to punch with the best of them. He could not be having any friend of his hurting themselves while trying to deck someone- Merlin had told him that he nearly broke his fingers on Driscoll's face. And what kind of man would Arthur be if he didn't show Merlin how to properly hurt someone?
"Like this!" Arthur shook his properly formed fist in Merlin's face and then executed a properly formed punch to the cushioned target. He looked to Merlin who was rolling his eyes -this was going to take a while.
Aaawwwww, IT'S OVER! Good thing I have other stories lined up or else I would be in tears. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as I loved writing it- it has been awesome sharing this story with you guys.
Thank you so much to everyone who as ever left a review- 104Arianna, aigneadh, Airdria, asdf, BabyGlover, bookaddict27, catwomanswrath, cflat, chaosinretro, Chayiana, CJaMes12, CM, Coby, cooking-ninja18, Darian21, DakotaBeor, DarkSudi, david9999, Dirty Little Butterfly, DragonflyonBreak, DragonGem777, Dragon Mistress Syal, Drakan722, Emachinescat, EunHee Kim, Felicity P, Haley Renee, happieface03, hazelbunny, HELEN , hiddenworldwalker, Hiding in the Shadow, HighEmpress, Hummingfox, Ihni, ilovethestorys, i-luv-jazz-hale, Imagined Artist, irezel, Isabelle Eir, JAIMOL, Jissai, joosj, klester1987, Kez26, Kitty O, Kylie Potter, ladydhampir, ladydragontl, Lily, lilyplusjamesistotallove, Lunar Mimic, MamzelleHermy, MercurialInK, Mik, Mistress Helle, xXMistressMadHatterXx, Nai, Natasha, noreallyidontcare, NykSkyBlue, orangeLexi, Paralelsky, PrivetARec07, Ranger Maestro, , Rocky181, Recordatio001, Rowan-san, saafish, sasumis, SerialChick, sesshouluver, SiberianRavyn, SkyClimber, Something's Up, SpriteOfTheLight, Tagrea, TheRandomOneStaringAtYou, TheWeepingAngel, , White-moon-Xx, WolfAngelDeath, and Yuki no Ai. Whew!
And those who added King's Legacy to their communities :D
As well as everyone who read, alerted this story and/or added it to their favourites. Thank you!
GOOD NEWS- The sequel has a definite plan now so it will definitely be written sometime. I just don't know when.
And please review to share any final thoughts on the story. And if you have anything you want to see in the sequel just say so and I will see if I can put it in. I'm having trouble deciding on the name of the next villain so if you want to vote out of these two or if you just don't like them I would appreciate a vote Aralt or Lorcan. They are male names.
Also, to ease the pain of this story's end I will be posting a little one shot some time soon :)
THANK YOU GUYS! I MISS YOU ALREADY!