A/N: Hey Merlin fans! Well, this is my latest story, something which has refused to leave me alone, prompting me to furiously write and write to try and cram all my ideas down on paper, even during class time...oops. This is gonna be a sort of angst-y fic, completly different to my last one. Be warned! If you don't like angst-y suffering Merlin who on occasionally verges on Dark!Merlin, I suggest you don't read. He's gonna go through hell! Just coz I'm that mean :) General info: Set after Series 3, so obviously massive spoilers if you haven't seen it yet. I'm not sure how this is gonna go yet, so there may be violence in later chapters (if I decide to continue). Pairings: Arthur/Gwen, with Lancelot added in to make it interesting :) Also I may be verging towards Merlin/Morgana in this fic, not entirely sure yet. So, anyways, after that long rant...I hope you enjoy it! :D The Dark Temptations The Calm Before the Storm
A/N: Hey Merlin fans! Well, this is my latest story, something which has refused to leave me alone, prompting me to furiously write and write to try and cram all my ideas down on paper, even during class time...oops.
This is gonna be a sort of angst-y fic, completly different to my last one. Be warned! If you don't like angst-y suffering Merlin who on occasionally verges on Dark!Merlin, I suggest you don't read. He's gonna go through hell! Just coz I'm that mean :)
General info: Set after Series 3, so obviously massive spoilers if you haven't seen it yet. I'm not sure how this is gonna go yet, so there may be violence in later chapters (if I decide to continue). Pairings: Arthur/Gwen, with Lancelot added in to make it interesting :) Also I may be verging towards Merlin/Morgana in this fic, not entirely sure yet.
So, anyways, after that long rant...I hope you enjoy it! :D
The Dark Temptations
The Calm Before the Storm
A full moon shone high in the sky over the Darkling woods, bathing them in an ethereal light, in which everything seemed incandescent. The forest was still, a dead calm prevailed. The trees themselves seemed to glow with a magical energy, and looked out, as though they were silent guardians of this word, and gatekeepers to the next.
A lone figure seemed to glide through these woods, a dark cloak billowing out behind it like a wisp of smoke, shining in the light of the moon. The figure was in no hurry. It made no noise as it passed, seeming as though it was a part of the forest itself, a spirit of the woods. It blended in well amongst the trees, moulding itself to the darkness. A darkness almost as intense as its own thoughts.
It emerged finally in a small clearing where it stood as a pillar, steeped in moonlight and shadow.
It lifted its head and stared with cold eyes at the sight before it.
The ground fell away before its feet, revealing a dark abyss, preceded by a tangle of roots and jagged rocks: the figure had come to the edge of a cliff.
It was here, that the figure had the first glance of the object of its musings and moonlit stroll. It was the perfect vantage point.
The city of Camelot sat proudly against the night sky, rising high out of the tangled mess of the woods. The moonlight seemed seemed to shine on it directly and reflect outwards, illuminating the strong walls.
The city was hushed. The city was asleep, unaware of the great evil that was brewing. The whole night was tranquil.
The figure smiled a cruel smile which lit up its eyes with a malicious sheen. It knew now that the time was near.
The One had been found.
The figure uttered a single word, in a low tone which permeated the heavy silence: "Emrys."
The Darkness was nigh.
"Merlin you clumsy oaf!" The voice of the future king rang out over the courtyard, but the passers-by did not even flinch. They had learned not to heed things like this, it was all too common: the clanging of armour hitting the cold stones of the courtyard and a sharp reprimand from the prince. It was now simply a part of the day.
So was the immediate protest.
"It wasn't my fault!" The skinny black-haired boy defended himself. "I tripped! That stone was wobbly!"
"Trust you to blame your own incompetence on a stone Merlin! Can't you even walk in a straight line?"
Merlin grumbled to himself: "At least I can walk. You have to strut and swagger around everywhere."
Arthur chose to ignore this however. He continued the well-worn path to his father's throne room, leaving Merlin to scramble around gathering up the armour he had managed to send flying over the ground, groaning inwardly as he thought about having to clean and polish it all again.
Arthur was out of sight by the time Merlin had managed to pile it all back into his arms, feeling the weight heavily on his already aching arms. He sighed and made his way towards Arthur's chambers, dragging his feet wearily.
He had been completely run off his feet by Arthur the last few weeks, barely having any time to sleep, eat, or even have a life outside of his job. Not that Merlin blamed Arthur for giving him so much work, life had been hectic since...since Morgana had seized the throne. Everyone was tired. No one was unaffected. Even Arthur, burdened with so much responsibility, he had begun to succumb to extreme weariness and stress.
He passed masons and carpenters as he entered the castle, employed in repairing the massive sections of the walls and ceilings brought down by Morgana as she fled with Morgause. Nothing had been heard of either of them since.
Merlin's heart weighed heavily and seemed to ache as he remembered, causing much more pain and discomfort than the burden of armour in his arms. He remembered, remembered Morgana's screams as she brought the castle down around her.
During the months Morgana had been infiltrating the Royal Court and doing everything she could to destroy it from within, Merlin had learned to harden his heart, hiding away the heavy burden that lay upon him.
He had thought he had managed it, but that momentary lapse of weakness she had displayed as her eyes had fallen on her sister's prone form haunted him. It made Merlin think there was still some facet, however tiny, of emotion and love left within her. That Morgause had not fully driven it out.
But he tried to push away these thoughts as soon as they came by reminding himself of all the evil deeds she had done. No one with anything but a stone heart could have committed such atrocious acts; betraying her friends and family, destroying everything she had once loved. Merlin had to remind himself of this every day. It was easier to think of Morgana as a cold-hearted monster than as someone good, who had been twisted by fear, hate and suffering into something monstrous she could not escape. Twisted by the suffering he had helped to cause, by his negligence and deceit. He was tormented by thoughts of what would have happened had he had the courage to tell her. To share his secret.
It was his biggest regret. He could not bear the guilt. It had been him who had turned her into what she was.
What if he had not been so weak? If he had just been strong enough to let her know. What if he had just let her die after her fall instead of seeking a cure; could this have been prevented? Or would Morgause have retaliated?
What if he had told Arthur? What if he had had the courage to kill her outright? Could the suffering have been prevented?
He had tried to ask Kilgharrah about it, but the dragon had simply dismissed his worries and fears. 'Morgana is evil,' and that was that. But Merlin did not, could not, agree. No one can go from being so good, to so evil without cause. These thoughts tortured him.
Merlin found himself lying awake most of the night, turning over the same tormented thoughts in his mind again and again: "What if, what if, what if..."
Camelot was now an entirely different place. The people were more subdued. There was no laughter in the streets, no joy amongst the stone houses. They were wary and cautious, many had lost everything. The streets were practically empty, with people only leaving the house for supplies, hurrying to their destination and hurrying back home again. There was no time to stop for idle chatter, no time for cheer, they had to be home, to be with their families. They had to stick together. The air was tense. The city was decaying, along with its king.
Gaius had spent many days and nights by the king's bed, exhausting his supply of poultices and potions to revive him, and it had worked, to an extent. The king's physical health had been restored, but nothing else.
The king sat on his throne, the crown sat on his head, and death sat upon him. His back was no longer straight and proud, he no longer commanded a royal presence, he no longer inspired loyalty or devotion, only pity. He was a ruin of the man he once was. The light was gone from his eyes, there was no life there. He was simply there, a statue.
The shock of his daughter's betrayal and all that had ensued had been too much for him. The people lost faith. Why should they respect a man who could no longer command his people? A man who had fathered an illegitimate child by the wife of his close friend? What example was that for the people?
These were the rumours Merlin heard on the streets, rushed conversations in doorways before people scurried back to their homes. They were afraid, afraid of what was coming.
Rumours flew across the city, ranging from the placid, to one hysterical woman claiming Morgana had used some extreme form of Dark Magic and her spirit was now possessing the king's body.
Merlin knew the people needed a leader, someone to bring them out of their time of strife. And he knew no one better than Arthur.
Although Uther was technically still king, he was in no fit state to rule. He served as the figurehead, to display to the people that their king was still strong and would see them through the troubles, however, Arthur was the one who was really running things. It was pretty pointless, Merlin thought. The people aren't stupid, they know how bad things are for the king, gossiping servants had told them so much.
But still, Arthur refused to usurp his father, as he had done when Uther had been driven mad by the Mandrake. This time was much more serious however, and Merlin cursed Arthur's stubbornness. He refused to even proclaim himself Regent, he was adamant his father would recover. He wasn't trying to deny his responsibility for the kingdom, rather, delay it for a while. If Uther had died it would have been different, but this lingering...
He tried not to show it, but Merlin could tell: Arthur had suffered as much as anyone. He did not display any form of emotion, he didn't try to hide away, but marched out every morning, determined to face the new day, to be there for his people. But Merlin could see the pain it caused him. To have to repair the damage and destruction caused by your sister as she tried to destroy the entire kingdom was more than enough for any man to bear. And Arthur bore it well.
Still, Merlin thought, it couldn't last forever.
He was so lost in his thoughts, he failed to notice the figure he rammed into in the corridor. Seeing the red tunic with the crest of Camelot on it before he went tumbling to the floor he immediately assumed it was Arthur and blurted out:
"It wasn't my fault!"
A short chuckle sounded above him.
"I never said it was my friend."
Merlin's head shot up, and saw Lancelot standing above him. He grinned foolishly.
Lancelot laughed again, and reached down to pull Merlin to his feet.
"You must have been in quite some day dream."
Merlin's grin faltered.
"Something like that."
Lancelot nodded, understanding.
Merlin felt the tiniest smidgen of comfort at this small gesture. Lancelot was the only one who he could talk to about this, the only one who could hope to understand anything of the turmoil he was suffering. True, Gaius was always there, but he needed someone his own age, someone who wouldn't scold him for being careless with his magic. Someone to be his friend. And although Gaius was very dear to him, he was more of a father than a friend, and there were some things Merlin just couldn't tell him.
A couple of Knights passed by them in the corridor and cast them glances which clearly spoke of condescension, and even enmity, directed completely at Lancelot.
Lancelot nodded to them coldly, and waited until they had turned the corner before looking back at Merlin with a resigned expression.
"They'll accept you eventually you know."
Lancelot let out a humourless laugh.
"I highly doubt they ever will Merlin. I am a commoner. They do not like to have me among their ranks."
"But you were personally appointed by Arthur himself!"
"That makes no difference to them. They see only blood, not worth."
Merlin fell into silence, unwillingly acknowledging the truth of this. While Arthur had decreed that the Knighting ceremony he had conducted before the battle was valid, many did not accept his decision.
He spoke again:
"It doesn't matter what they think. Arthur believes in you Lancelot, he would not have Knighted you otherwise. As long as you stay loyal and true to him, you need not please any others. They are fools if they think noble blood makes for a noble man. And one day, they will see that."
Lancelot regarded him curiously for a few moments before smiling and casting his eyes towards his feet.
"You speak the truth Merlin. I know it, for there are many who would say a mere commoner has no wisdom or honour. But you have proven that wrong." He looked up again and placed his hand on Merlin's shoulder. "Don't ever change Merlin. You are proof to us all that nobility can be found in the most unlikeliest of places."
Merlin tried to smile, but found he could not do so without feeling artificial. He did not feel wise, honourable or noble. If anything he was ashamed of what had happened. He did not deserve such praise, not from anyone.
He forced a grin on his face.
"Stop it, you're making me blush."
Lancelot laughed and Merlin found himself joining in. Then Lancelot stopped abruptly, his eyes locked on something behind Merlin. His eyes lingered for a moment, before returning to Merlin.
"I must go." He said swiftly, and hurried off in the direction he had come in.
Merlin was bewildered, and turned to look behind him, and saw Gwen coming down the corridor, dressed in a shimmering pink gown.
She approached him, and smiled kindly, before her eyes found the scattered armour on the floor.
Merlin looked down.
"I dropped it."
"I can see that."
She stood looking at him for a moment.
"Are you just going to stand there and watch it?"
He bent down and gathered it all up in his arms once again, with difficulty.
Gwen hesitated for the briefest of moments.
"Who were you talking to?"
Merlin invented wildly.
"No one. I-I mean, I was...talking to myself. Yeah, myself. Just reminding myself of the things I have left to do."
Merlin grinned hopefully. Gwen did not look convinced, but didn't pursue it. Merlin wasn't entirely sure why he was lying to her. But Lancelot's hurried exit and his desire to avoid Gwen's presence had to be important. Merlin knew of how Lancelot had once cared for Gwen; he supposed avoiding her was the only way of limiting his pain.
Gwen didn't say anything more on the subject however.
"All that armour looks heavy. Let me help you."
"No, no, it's all right. It's not too bad," Merlin lied, trying to shift the armour into a more comfortable position. "Besides, you shouldn't be doing servant's work any more, you're a Lady."
Gwen blushed and looked uncomfortable, fingering the hem of her sleeve.
"No, I'm not Merlin. I'm just a commoner who happens to be the sister of a Knight."
"It makes you a Lady in my books."
Gwen fidgeted uncomfortably again.
"I'm not sure I want to be a Lady. It's driving me mad, sitting around the castle all day doing nothing. I'm not like the other Ladies of Court. I don't enjoy sitting down and discussing dresses and the latest styles. I'd much rather be doing something useful."
Merlin grinned mischievously.
"You mean like scrubbing out a fireplace?"
"Oh, no, that part I won't miss. It's the sense of purpose that I miss. I despise feeling useless."
Merlin's expression softened.
"You're not useless Gwen. Just you wait till Arthur plucks up the courage to marry you. You'll have no spare time on your hands what with reigning in Arthur and his big head."
Gwen laughed again, her face aglow as she thought of Arthur. She looked down at Merlin's overly burdened arms.
"Please let me help you Merlin, I have nothing to do."
Merlin hesitated, then nodded. He wouldn't mind a little company. It took his mind off his own conflicted feelings.
Gwen relieved him of some of the weight, and together they made for Arthur's chambers. They walked in silence, side-by-side. The castle was eerily quiet. Merlin wondered briefly where Arthur was; in another 'meeting' with the Council? They were pointless, Arthur made all the decisions, all they needed was Uther's signature. Arthur didn't think he was ready to be king, but Merlin knew he was. He just had to discover that for himself.
The door to Arthur's chambers loomed closer, and Gwen, with the lighter weight, darted ahead and opened the doors. They made their way inside, and dumped the armour on the table inside. Merlin massaged his arms, knowing bruises would soon appear there, what with his falling on the armour twice within five minutes.
Gwen ran her hands over the burnished metal, her gaze distant and though thinking of a distant memory.
"Do you remember Merlin, when you first became Arthur's servant? You didn't have a clue about armour, I had to teach you."
"Yeah, I felt pretty stupid at the time. I would've been lost without you back then Gwen."
Gwen said nothing, just continued to look at the armour, almost with a melancholy gaze.
"Sometimes I wish we were back then. Things were so much simpler."
Merlin watched her, and saw the sadness etched on her face. Despite the fact he himself wasn't feeling particularly cheerful, he knew he had to do something to remove that uncharacteristic expression from her features.
"You mean, things were so much more boring back then." Merlin said with a wry smile. "Things change Gwen, we need to be able to use that to our advantage."
Gwen nodded, and a small smile crept onto her face.
"Things weren't always that boring. Before you and Arthur became close, you seemed to always end up in the stocks."
"I still end up in the stocks. So that was entertainment for you?"
"Of course, what else was there to amuse us?"
Merlin shook his head in mock offence.
Gwen pushed aside the armour she had been toying with.
"I should go, I said I would meet Elyan. He and Gwaine are having some big argument over a horse race. They've asked me to settle it. I have a nasty feeling it will be settled in a game of 'Who can drink the most without passing out'."
Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Trust those two to be concerned with a horse race when all of this is going on."
"We all need something to distract ourselves Merlin," Gwen said with a knowing look.
And with that, she slipped out of the room. Merlin stood stock-still for a few moments, listening to her footsteps echo down the corridor.
She was right, he decided. There was no point in brooding over what had happened, he had to move forward with life. He would only continue to torture himself, drive himself mad if he didn't. He wouldn't give in to self-doubt.
He picked up a piece of armour, and moved towards the cupboard in the corner to find cleaning supplies, when a sudden magical force hit him, resounding through his head, blocking out all of his senses, shooting through every part of his body.
He fell to his knees, his eyes watering, his ears ringing and heart thumping, breathing deeply trying to recover.
He closed his eyes, and tried to steady his breathing and his trembling hands. He had never felt anything as strong as that before.
He forced his eyes open and looked around, expecting to see some hostile sorcerer, perhaps Morgana or Morgause standing in front of him but saw no one else in the room. And judging by the lack of screams from outside, it had only been he who felt it.
He was immediately on alert, and stood up slowly, looking around him for danger.
It was then he saw it. A giant symbol burned into the floor, glowing with magic, smoke streaming from it. It looked rather similar to the symbol the Druids used, only it seemed to radiate evil and animosity.
Merlin found himself staring at it, captivated by its power. The immense power.
Someone had sent it here. Someone was trying to send a message.
Merlin had no doubt as to who it was for.
A/N: Okaay, so how was the start? I've got loads of ideas for this fic, mainly all angst-y, so characters will not be happy for some portions of this, though it won't be all doom and gloom!
I'm worried that as I continue writing this it may get kind of depressing so please tell me what you think of this and whether I should continue!
Love for life if you review! :D