A/N: Here it is, the final chapter! I'd like to thank those of you who've left reviews, kind comments and constructive criticism, especially Clio Ying, your reviews always bring a massive smile to my face :)
Pretty glad this is over now, it's been equally as fun as trying to write. I often gave up on it and I'm just glad now that it's over after two years. Hope you enjoy the final chapter!
It was now a week since the Portal had been closed, and Merlin was still in Camelot, miraculously, not having had his head chopped off yet.
Their homecoming had been joyous to say the least. The streets had been filled with admirers, throwing flowers on the paths of the Knights and crying their names with delighted voices. Many had whispered and looked afraid at the sight of Merlin, but Merlin hadn't cared because he'd seen Gaius practically sprinting down the street to see him, proud tears in his eyes.
Arthur had spent the last week trying to reorganise the city and regain the people's trust. The Knights had done likewise, heading to all the outer villages to announce the news, rebuild attacked garrisons and reestablish regular trade routes, now without fear of being attacked.
Merlin for his part had gone back once more to the land of the Wandrian. The Dark Magic already seemed lighter there, and the presence of the great tree of the Old Religion seemed almost to be rejuvenating the area. Still in the shacks in the village were the sorcerers who had not used Dark Magic, the ones driven into hiding by Uther and suffering under the rule of the Wandrian, almost driven insane by the Dark Magic. Gehola had been eager to help them all, and Merlin only too willing to assist. Those who were too ill to look after themselves were with the Druid clan Gehola had now adopted as his own to be cared for. Gehola spent a lot of time with these Druids, hearing stories about his parents, learning more about himself and the others. But one thing was certain, and that was that Gehola in no way missed his magic. The Druids had told him he could regain it if he wished and learn how to use it properly, but he had no desire to. He wanted to help others. It wasn't that he was afraid of magic, ashamed of it or fearful of its corrupting influence, he just didn't want it.
Merlin was happy for him, even though he didn't quite understand it. He'd even managed to find some distant relations, and Merlin could tell the boy had never been more thrilled. He'd barely stopped smiling since the Portal was closed.
Merlin felt nothing but relief after the end of everything. Hafela and the other Elders were dead and Dark Magic was no more.
One person however rested on his mind. Morgana had secluded herself as much as possible from the people, particularly after her own less than warm welcome from the citizens of Camelot. She holed herself up in Uther's chambers, holding onto his hand by his bed, but he didn't recognise her. Anyone could see by the look on her face how tortured this made her feel.
The others, save perhaps Arthur, were wary around her, but Guinevere alone had fully welcomed her back. She often sat with Morgana by Uther's bedside, holding on to her other hand, not even needing to speak. Morgana didn't say it, but Merlin could tell she appreciated it. It was going to take a while for Morgana to regain her former self, but Merlin knew it was only a matter of time. She had support this time; she had no reason to be afraid.
There was only one last thing that weighed heavily on him, filling all his thoughts as he stood by a window in the palace looking out over the city: Arthur.
So far, he had said very little about anything, preferring to devote his time and effort into making the city safe again, but Merlin knew the conversation was coming, and coming soon.
Almost as if his mind had been read, he sensed someone approach from behind. He smiled. "Hello, Arthur."
He turned and saw indeed, Arthur standing behind him. He frowned.
"How did you know it was me? Did you use magic?"
Merlin rolled his eyes. "No. Your chain-mail jingles as you walk."
There was a moment of silence between them, Arthur avoided Merlin's gaze.
"Have you … have you had any difficulty in the city since we came back?"
"A little," admitted Merlin. "Not many are happy to see me. But I can look after myself."
Arthur nodded, but looked disturbed. "You saved their lives. You and Gehola. They should be thanking you, not censuring you."
Merlin shrugged. "It's hard to overturn a lifetime of belief."
Arthur had now turned his eyes to Merlin's, looking almost tentative.
"You have?" Merlin asked quietly.
"Yes," said Arthur. "It's … it's been hard. I've always been taught magic is evil, but I've never fully believed it. Even before … this, I wasn't sure. And when I found out about you …"
Arthur sighed heavily. "Well, let's just say it made me reevaluate everything I've ever known. And I've discovered that I've acted like a complete idiot."
"A bit like me then?"
Arthur smiled. "Perhaps not as big an idiot as you." He watched Merlin carefully for a moment or two. "You really aren't any different, are you? You're just the same as you've always been."
Merlin nodded. "Yes."
"And you didn't tell me because …"
"I was afraid," said Merlin.
"I don't know what I would have done," said Arthur, "but did you really think I would execute you?"
"I wasn't sure," said Merlin, "and that wasn't all I was afraid of."
"Oh? What else was there?"
"That you'd never trust me again. That our friendship would be ruined."
Arthur was silent for the longest time. "It isn't ruined, Merlin," he said slowly. "Just … well, we've just hit a bump on the road."
Merlin felt a stirring of hope. "Then you forgive me?"
Arthur smiled. "Yes. I forgive the deceit and the lies because I know now you had no other choice. You shouldn't have had to live in fear for your life just for being yourself. It was Camelot and its stupid laws that forced you to live in secret. I can hardly blame you for that."
He paused for a moment, looking rather awkward. "I shouldn't really be the one doing the forgiving. Like I said, you had no other choice. It is I that should apologise."
"No, let me finish," said Arthur interrupting. "I was such a fool. I should have never doubted you, I should never have believed for a moment that you would betray Camelot. I betrayed you, Merlin. Can you forgive me for that?"
"Well," said Merlin, slowly, enjoying the look on Arthur's face. "I suppose …"
Arthur nodded, and looked relieved.
Merlin grinned, and found he couldn't stop. "But what about those stupid laws now? You're breaking the law by even talking to me."
Arthur smirked. "Not exactly." He moved over to the window and looked out over the city with Merlin. "Before you turned up here a week ago, I assumed the regency of Camelot, giving me the power in my father's stead. The moment we returned, I summoned the Council members into a meeting, and drafted some new laws. They weren't happy with them, but fortunately I'm very persuasive."
"Arthur?" Merlin asked, hardly daring to believe what he was hearing.
Arthur turned his head and smiled at him. "The news laws were officially passed this morning. Sorcerers, Druids and all other users of magic are now free peoples in the land of Camelot and free to practice magic where they choose, provided of course they do no harm to others."
Merlin's jaw dropped. "You're … you're joking! What about your father?"
Arthur turned and looked at him seriously. "He's in no position to argue. And besides, perhaps if it hadn't been for those laws in the first place we wouldn't have been attacked by so many other sorcerers. I'm taking charge, and this is what I want Camelot to be; a place without fear and hatred. It might take a while, but are you willing to work with me to achieve it?"
Merlin nodded dumbly, unable to say anything. Arthur smirked again.
"I thought up a new position for you, if you want. How does Court Sorcerer sound?"
Merlin's eyes bulged. "Uh … yeah … I …"
Arthur burst out laughing. "You don't have to look so much like a startled deer, Merlin. You'll probably be just as hopeless at this as you were a manservant."
Merlin nodded and looked away from him, still trying to comprehend all the mass of emotions he was feeling. Court Sorcerer, the laws on magic repealed … he could never have hoped for anything like this. He'd always thought that it would take years to bring Arthur around let alone convince him to repeal the laws.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, he could never have imagined.
Arthur came a little closer and had an amused smiled on his lips. "You're not crying are you, Merlin?"
"Of course not," said Merlin, immediately blinking several times.
But contrary to the normal him, Arthur didn't laugh. "That's why I did it," he said quietly. "This will change the lives of so many people, so many good and honest people who can be truly free."
Merlin turned to him. "You're a good man, Arthur," he said, completely honestly. "And it will be my honour to serve you until the day I die."
Arthur nodded, solemn for a moment, before cracking a smile.
"Come on, Merlin. I saw you kill powerful sorcerers with a single word! Don't go getting soft now!"
Merlin laughed. "No, I won't."
They looked out over the city together and Merlin, for the first time since arriving in Camelot felt truly content.
Arthur turned back to Merlin.
"Come on then, lazy! We've got a hell of a lot of work to do!"
Merlin nodded. "Yes, Sire."
A new era was beginning.
A/N: Please leave a review! I admit, this story isn't one of my better ones, but I'd like your comments all the same, constructive or complimentary, I welcome both :)
Thanks to those of you who followed from the beginning, I'm amazed you've stuck by it!