Last chapter! Thank you to everyone who has been reading and reviewing. This story, in six chapters, received 62 reviews and 82 alerts. We're extremely happy about that. Thank you everyone! You've made us feel cool :)
A safe distance. Morgana understood the need for it. They couldn't risk being seen. But she would readily confess to Morgause that she wanted a better view of Merlin's demise.
The sisters were positioned near where Merlin was making his greatest mistake. No, not near it, only within view of it. Several broken down houses away. Morgana could hear the shouting before and after Merlin threw the woman, but nothing quieter.
Merlin ran to the forest. Arthur and his knights followed. Morgana sighed. Now, not only could she not hear anything, but she also could only barely see the show. Her smirk faded into a slight pout. This wouldn't do.
"Morgause, let's get closer."
Morgause caught her sister's arm. "No, sister," she whispered, "we can't risk being seen."
"I won't get caught. I'm not going much closer," Morgana clarified. Not unless I find an opportunity to, she added mentally.
"It's too risky," Morgause maintained.
Morgana stared steadily at her sister for a moment. Then Morgana realized that she might have already missed seeing Arthur dispatch Merlin. She quickly turned her gaze back to the show. It hadn't happened yet. Good. A bad view was better than no view at all.
Morgana's relief fell as quickly as it rose. Why hadn't Arthur killed Merlin yet? Wasn't the prince just as prejudiced as his father? Morgana knew he was. So why hadn't he already disposed of the obvious evil before him? Answers. Of course, Arthur would want answers. Fortunately, there remained no good excuse for Merlin. No clever lies could help him this time. Arthur's interrogation wouldn't last much longer.
Arthur kicked Merlin. Morgana didn't expect that. It pleased her though. She didn't mind if Merlin was literally kicked around first, as long as it ended with the traitor's death. A little more pain would make this more interesting. Too bad she couldn't hear anything said. That would make the show even more interesting.
More talking. Morgana was nearly ready to creep closer no matter what her sister said. She wanted a better view and, if possible, a few snatches of the conversation.
Morgana's eyes widened. No. Arthur turned his sword away from Merlin. No, no, no, no. That wasn't right.
Then, before Morgana had a chance to do anything rash, Arthur was pointing his sword at Merlin again. That was better. But what was going on!
A minute later Arthur began walking away. Walking away! Morgana nearly screamed with indignation. Accepting was he? What could Merlin have possibly said to effect that! Obviously, she couldn't leave any decision up to Arthur. He would make an even stupider king than Morgana had thought. She was taking matters into her own hands.
As she grabbed the stones, her wonderful tools, the knights grabbed Merlin.
"Sister, no!" Morgause hissed.
"This is our last chance. Merlin is getting away with murder."
"The imprints will fade completely any moment," Morgause tried to reason with Morgana. "If that happens while their senses are being tricked, they will see the spell break. They won't be fooled again."
Morgana saw Merlin break free of the knights' grasp. Then, Lancelot punched the sorcerer in the back of the head. The other knight yelled something and pointed a sword at Lancelot. Arthur and the other knight seemed in favor of Merlin. And Lancelot did not. No matter. Morgana didn't need to know how anyone felt on this. She knew everything necessary to end this: Merlin was unconscious, and Arthur was out of everyone's sight.
Morgana dropped the stones with the imprints of Lancelot and the other knight. She didn't need them. Changing Arthur's appearance would yield the best results. But whom should she make him look and sound like?
"Should I make Arthur appear as Cenred?" Morgana suggested.
"No," Morgause resigned herself to Morgana's improvising, "make him look like a bandit, someone who would be in the woods." Morgause's voice took a frighteningly delighted tone, "Make him appear as Jarl."
"Hand me the stone."
Gwaine snatched up the blade that he had dropped in order to restrain Merlin. He pointed it at Lancelot.
"What was that for!" Gwaine shouted.
Lancelot lowered his gauntlet-clad fist. "That was for his own good," he replied.
"You let him go. And then you stab him the back!"
"I wasn't going to let him get himself killed."
"That's why I was holding him back."
"We wouldn't have been able to stop him. He's a sorcerer, remember?"
Gwaine glared at Lancelot for a moment longer. They wouldn't have been able to stop Merlin. But punching him in the back of the head? Surely... fine. At least Lancelot seemed to have Merlin's interest at heart more than Arthur did. Gwaine huffed in frustration and let his sword point drop to the ground.
"So," Gwaine said almost conversationally, "since you believe him too, how long so you think it'll take for princess to get killed?"
Arthur trekked a small distance from his knights and Merlin. He was searching for Merlin's murderous... trickster? And he had found a grand total of nothing. Arthur was beginning to think that he needed either more information on where to find this mysterious person or to accept that Merlin was guilty.
Now that Arthur wasn't busy threatening Merlin, he wondered if he should apologize. Apologize? He didn't even have reason to believe that Merlin was innocent.
Arthur closed his eyes in frustration. His mind flitted between the dead woman, and the look of shock and horror that coated Merlin's face. Part of Arthur felt terrified at the possibility that Merlin's sorrow was an act. If it was an act, then allowing Merlin to live would lead to more deaths. On the other hand, if he killed Merlin and Merlin was innocent... Arthur didn't want to think about that. What he needed was some proof or at least some very good advice. He wouldn't bring this up to his father. All his father would do would be order Merlin's execution and give a speech about the evils of sorcery. Maybe Gwen. Gwen gave good advice. No, Arthur refused to put her in that uncomfortable position. Abruptly, Arthur wondered if Gaius knew about Merlin's magic. If so, Gaius would certainly be biased in Merlin's favor.
Arthur sighed. This decision wouldn't be easy.
Maybe whatever Merlin was saying about being set up was true. For a short period of time Merlin seemed completely unaware of Arthur or the other knights. Merlin looked straight through Arthur. How was someone supposed to act that? But then, Merlin had obviously been doing some acting for a long while. He had been pretending to be loyal to Arthur and Camelot while committing treason the entire time. However, if Merlin was only pretending loyalty, why wasn't Arthur dead already? Why had a sorcerer saved the prince of Camelot's life more than once?
Arthur halted suddenly. Why wasn't his father dead? Merlin, a sorcerer, had stopped Arthur from killing the king, the king who ordered the destruction of all magic. Why?
Merlin didn't make sense! Well, he never did before, but now...
Arthur needed more information.
Arthur received a mild shock when he returned to where he had left Merlin, Lancelot, and Gwaine. Merlin was lying with his face in the dirt. Unconscious.
"What happened?" Arthur asked.
Lancelot didn't seem to recognize him. And Gwaine looked as though he had just laid eyes on the worst human being in existence.
Merlin's head hurt. Why did his head hurt?
He opened his eyes. He was on the ground. He was fairly certain that was a tree that he was seeing. But he wasn't quite sure. His brain felt fuzzy.
He heard someone speak, "You know this man?" Merlin recognized that voice. Who was it?
"You both know me, you idiots." Arthur. Merlin knew that voice. It was Arthur.
Merlin lifted his head slightly. He could now see Arthur coming toward him. Merlin tried to push himself up. His head throbbed and spun. Before he got knocked out he was going to help Arthur. Arthur was in trouble. Or was he? He was right there. At least Merlin thought he was. Merlin was so dizzy, it was hard to tell.
"I'm not fighting in your arena again." That was Gwaine this time. Where was Gwaine?
"What is wrong with you? What do tournaments have to do with any of this? Gwaine be reasonable," Arthur said.
"Not if I kill you first," Gwaine replied.
Kill? Kill who? Was someone else here? Merlin finally lifted himself onto his hands and knees. He closed his eyes, trying to dispel the vertigo. He could hear movement. Was that the sound of swords clashing? Merlin opened his eyes again. Everything was a bit clearer.
Arthur and Gwaine were fighting. Something told Merlin that this wasn't just a friendly competition. They were trying to kill each other. Merlin tried to stand. Somebody grabbed his arm. Merlin looked behind himself. It was Lancelot.
"Where's the rest of your friends? Not here to help?" Gwaine sneered.
"What has gotten into you?" Arthur shoved Gwaine away.
Merlin struggled to rush toward his friends. "No," he said. "No, don't kill each other. Arthur! Gwaine! Stop!"
Somewhere among the clashing of swords Gwaine found the opportunity to shout, "How hard did you hit him?"
Merlin kept trying to stand. Each time, Lancelot pushed him back down. Merlin had to stop the fighting. Should he use magic? How would he do it without being caught? Wait. Arthur already knows. There was nothing to hide.
Merlin's eyes flashed gold. A shock wave thrust the two warriors to the ground.
Arthur and Gwaine immediately lept back to their feet, readying their swords once more.
"Arthur!" Gwaine exclaimed. He reflexively lowered his sword.
"Yes!" Arthur barked. "What the h— were you doing!"
For once in his life, Gwaine looked at a loss for words.
Arthur spoke (rather, shouted) again, "Well! Was that some brilliant plan of yours? Attack Merlin and me? And then what? Run off with all the supplies?"
"That's not fair," Gwaine protested. "I didn't knock out Merlin. Lancelot did."
Arthur raised his eyebrows at Lancelot expectantly. The knight waved his hand, indicating that he'd explain later. Normally, that wouldn't have been enough for Arthur. He would have demanded an explanation immediately. However, this time, there was another explanation he wanted more.
"But you did try to kill me," Arthur pressed.
"You didn't look like yourself," Gwaine replied.
Merlin, still being held in the kneeling position by Lancelot, stiffened. Could it have happened again?
"So, you were trying to kill me because of a trick of the light? And not because you don't want to participate in tournaments?"
"Did he look like Morgause?" Merlin interjected.
A wry smile formed on Gwaine's face. "Did he look like a woman? No. He..." Gwaine hesitated. "I could've sworn you were Jarl."
"Jarl!" Arthur sounded taken aback. "I've had better days, but I don't look that bad."
"It's true, sire," Lancelot said. "Though I don't know this Jarl, I did believe you were a ruffian."
Arthur's brow furrowed. He looked as though he was deeply considering something. It was a moment before he spoke.
"Merlin," he said. "That woman. Did she look like Morgause?"
Arthur paled. He exchanged glances with the knights.
Then, Arthur sheathed his sword. He assumed his usual air of authority, "We're leaving. Now. Lancelot, stop pushing Merlin into the dirt. And you," Arthur pointed at Merlin. "You still have a lot to explain. I need some very good reasons not to punish you for treason."
Yes, it's pretty open ended. We're not sure how we feel about it. But if we continue this, it will be posted as a sequel. But there are no plans for a sequel in the immediate future.
The poll is closed! The winner is... *drumroll*... "I Feel Your Pain"!
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