Author's Note: Hi guys! So, um...been a long time. *Ducks projectile and grins sheepishly*
I've been rewriting and rewriting and just realized that maybe I should probably post. So, um, yeah. Here you go.
Chapter 3: Magic, Merlin?
Bright light shone in through the window and Merlin groaned.
"Aw come on, Arthur!" He complained.
"You know, revenge is kind of gratifying." Arthur said. "I ought to do this more often."
Merlin sat up abruptly in disbelief before clobbering his head off the top of the bed frame. "Ow!"
Arthur frowned. "Hey! That's my head. Watch it."
"Yeah well I'm the one who feels the pain." Merlin quipped. "And anyway, I thought you weren't going to act the part of servant when it was just us."
The prince snorted. "I am waking you so that you aren't late to the meeting you stupidly agreed to attend. And I'll be going with you to make sure you don't do or say anything idiotic while you're there."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Merlin complained.
"When it comes to magic, one can't be too cautious."
That comment hit the warlock like the ton of bricks, and put him in a foul mood.
"I was born in Cenred's kingdom, Arthur, where magic is legal. I've seen a lot more of it than you know and understand it a lot more than you think."
Arthur was taken aback by this candid statement and had to consciously remember to close his jaw.
"That sort of talk borders on treason, Merlin."
Merlin grinned. "It's a good job I'm you then!" he said, pulling a tunic over his head.
Arthur sighed. "Just finish getting dressed and let's go."
"Excellent. You've arrived. We're ready to begin." Uther greeted as Merlin walked in.
Arthur stood nearby with the wine jug while Merlin sat uncomfortably in the chair next to Uther. Merlin was acutely aware of Arthur's death stare on him.
Uther glanced to Bayard, who nodded and began to explain. "In recent months, there has been evidence of increasing mischief and violence by traveling sorcerers and druids in my kingdom. Uther has given me some suggestions but has offered your advice as well. It is my hope to outlaw only certain types of sorcery. This is where your father and I disagree."
"To outlaw only certain magic is nonsense." Uther said. "All magic is evil, and the sorcerers who use it. What more evidence do you need?"
Merlin gulped. How in then name of the gods was he meant to address this? One issue that he actually knew something about and he couldn't comment on it.
"I am interested to hear your son's opinion." Bayard requested.
"Arthur?" Uther asked.
Merlin looked into those hardened eyes, and he knew what Uther was expecting. Whether out of respect or loyalty, it was usual that the son would support the father. But then, Bayard had presented such a logical suggestion, one that Merlin could hardly help but to support. If he didn't he would be turning his back on his kin…again. Could he really do that?
Merlin put a hand to his head. "I need a moment to think." He said.
"Then you shall have one." Bayard said.
Merlin glanced toward Arthur again, only to find a small shred of pity on his face, before turning back into the death glare. He sighed. Arthur knew this feeling well. How many times had the prince held back his own views out of loyalty to his own kingdom?
But Merlin was not Arthur. He was frank, candid, and could not pretend to believe something he did not. Even around Arthur his beliefs on magic had slipped through and he'd had to be careful to change the subject so Arthur never looked too closely. Now, it seemed, Arthur would learn Merlin's true mind on the matter.
He sighed. Arthur was not going to be happy. With a falsely reassuring glance to the prince, Merlin began.
"Your decision is not an easy one. Outlawing only magic used for killing, harm, and mischief may provide you with allies who will capture your enemies for you, but it may also draw more sorcerers to your kingdom. Outlawing all magic in a kingdom which has allowed it to run freely for so long may isolate those same allies. However, it would show a firm stance against magic. Consider the politics of both carefully."
Bayard nodded with respect. "You are wise, young Pendragon. I did not expect as such."
Uther's eyes narrow and his face went rigid and red with rage. "Arthur!" He said.
"You asked for my advice, father." Merlin said, his eyes narrowed with challenge. "And I gave it."
Uther stood angrily. "Get. Out." He said coolly.
Merlin stood. "Fine."
He turned to walk toward Arthur, who had a combination of fury and concern written on his face. They left the Great Hall and walked silently toward Arthur's chambers. As soon as they were inside, Arthur began his tirade.
"How dare you use my status to push your own views on Bayard! Do you realize what you've done? You were meant to support my father!"
"I know what I was meant to do, Arthur." Merlin said. "Bayard's kingdom is not Camelot, and his choices should not necessarily be the same. And anyway I didn't push my own views, I simply laid out both possibilities for him to make his own choice."
"Oh, and since when are you an expert on politics, Merlin?"
"I'm not as stupid you think." Merlin answered, folding his arms with annoyance.
"That doesn't answer my question."
"Oh?" Merlin responded. "How many speeches have I written for you about the conflicts between the neighboring kingdoms, Arthur? I'd say I know quite a bit, don't you?"
Arthur paused. There it was again: the wisdom and determination in Merlin's eyes
"Merlin?" he asked, for the first time wary of his own manservant.
"I just feel strongly about this, Arthur. Supporting your father was wrong. All it does is show a prince who follows his own father blindly without consideration. You need to show the other kings that you are your own man and have your own ideas about how things should work. Questioning what you have been told is the mark of a good king."
Arthur could feel his heart beating rapidly, something inside him reacting to Merlin's words: a strange feeling. He shook it off.
"To not support the king is to show that Camelot is divided from within. It's a battle strategy on its own, Merlin. Any opinions I might have that differ from my father must be raised with him in private, not front of kings. Perhaps you have a working knowledge of politics but you have no idea of the workings of court."
Merlin frowned. "Your father is the one who told me to leave! If anyone's actions made Camelot look divided, it's his."
"That is the king you're talking about!" Arthur exclaimed. "Watch your words."
Merlin somberly bit back a reply, realizing this had gone too far. He'd let himself get carried away with being the prince, with being able to say things and have them taken seriously. He'd taken for granted that his words wouldn't get him sent to the pyre, forgetting about the other consequences. "I just wanted to help." he said softly, "To use what I know."
Arthur sighed, his expression softening."I understand, Merlin, but you have a lot to learn." He said with a frown. "You'll have to deal with my father's wrath now. Apologize for offending his honor. Pledge to discuss grievances in private from today."
He could already see that Merlin was bothered by this. "I've told you that your words could be considered treasonous here. It would be a shame to have to get a new manservant." He said. "So, Merlin?"
"Be careful. Please."
Merlin looked forlornly at the wall, not saying anything.
"Merlin, you have to go and train the knights now."
"I have to what? Aren't you coming?"
Arthur shook his head. "No, I've been assigned to Bayard. You've seen me enough in the past. You'll do fine." He said, and left.
Merlin frowned. Just how was he meant to do this?
The sound of swords rang through the training grounds as Merlin approached nervously.
"I…um…" he began.
The knights stopped, looking at him curiously. Despite how foolish he felt, Merlin made a conscious effort to stand regally and confidently.
What would Arthur say?
"Knights." He began, and had to admit, it was quite lame.
Gwaine raised an eyebrow. "Yes, princess?" He said with a grin.
Merlin had to fight back a grin. He focused on Arthur's previous speeches.
Okay, here goes.
"You are all aware of the druids Merlin and I encountered yesterday."
"Yes, sire." Leon answered. "We have heard."
"Good. We will be leaving at noon to search for their trail. We will be pairing up to train for a shorter time today."
Merlin gave a nod for them to get started before catching Leon's piercing gaze.
"Will you be joining us?"
Merlin jumped. "I…uh…"
"I insist." Leon said with a measured grin. "You and I can spar."
"I…um…okay." Merlin said nervously.
He walked to the place where Leon stood and unsheathed Arthur's sword, standing in what he hoped was a confident ready stance. After all, Merlin had watched Arthur more than once during practice. He hoped he could be as convincing.
Leon swung suddenly and Merlin barely managed to hold his sword up in time to block. He pushed Leon's sword down and to the right causing Leon to move back a step and freeing him up again.
Leon struck low this time and Merlin shuffled backwards, nearly stumbling, but used the sword to right himself. He yanked the sword out of the turf and turned just in time to block another blow to the chest.
Merlin was nervous. He was a poor swordsman at best and without magic to help him, he could very easily be hurt. This was a dangerous exercise at best. He blocked again, unwilling to strike a blow at Leon, afraid of leaving himself open. Merlin ducked and then knocked Leon's sword away, but not out of his hands.
Leon suddenly stopped.
"What?" Merlin asked. He covered his mouth.
"Sire, your sword work is clumsier today, more defensive. Are you hurt?"
"No." Merlin said, "I mean yes?"
Leon took Merlin by the arm and headed to an area of the training ground where they wouldn't be overhead.
"Arthur." He said frankly. "You're not yourself. You haven't been since you returned. Have the druids harmed you? Have they enchanted you?"
Merlin gulped and glanced around, anywhere but Leon's eyes.
"Arthur." Leon insisted.
"I-I'm fine." Merlin said.
Leon frowned. "Arthur, I have known you since we were youths. You can't hope to fool me."
Merlin sighed. He couldn't win this one. He walked a little further from the knights, motioning for Leon to follow. The knight did.
"I'm not Arthur." Merlin said softly.
"Sire…?" Leon wondered.
Merlin shook his head. "Please believe me. Arthur and I went to find the druids and they cast a spell on us. Arthur ended up as me and I as him."
Leon's eyes widened. "This is madness."
The former warlock rolled his eyes. "You're telling me."
"Then where is Arthur?"
"Serving Bayard." Merlin said with a sigh.
The knight frowned. "I knew something was strange about you both when you entered the gates, but I never expected something such as this."
"Well it's obvious I know nothing about leading training. I need your help." Merlin said.
"Why not tell the King?"
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Tell King Uther? Are you serious? How do you think he'll react? It'll be another witch hunt. The people are scared enough."
Leon considered this. He had to admit that Merlin had a point. "I assume this search at noon will be to find and capture the sorcerer who did this to you both?"
"You'd assume right. Arthur isn't exactly enjoying being me. Not that I'm enjoying having to be prince prat either."
The knight could hardly help but heave a chuckle at that. "Very well, Merlin, don't worry. I will keep this from the others. Let me lead the training. Go and consult with Gaius. Perhaps he will be able to help you."
Merlin nodded. "Thank you."
With that, Leon headed back to training while Merlin left to search for answers.
"Gaius!" Merlin exclaimed, entering the physician's lab.
Gaius nearly hit the roof. He turned to scold the culprit but stopped himself when he realized it was Arthur.
"Sire! What brings you here?"
Merlin shook his head. "Gaius, it's me, Merlin. The druids did some sort of a spirit switch."
He closed the door. "Now I'm Arthur and Arthur is me. We're heading out at noon to try and find the sorcerers but I thought you could give us some information."
Gaius raised an eyebrow. "Is this some sort of trick?"
Merlin sighed playfully, idly tracing circles on the wood of the table. "I have magic. There's a spell book underneath my bed that you gave me to me the day I arrived. My father's dragon carving sits on my windowsill. He was Balinor. Is that enough proof for you?"
The physician's heart nearly stopped at the first admission, but noticed a certainly familiarity in Arthur's eyes.
"It is you." He conceded. "I might have known, given your entrance. Spirit switch, Merlin? There aren't many sorcerers who have powerful enough magic to do that."
He pulled a book off his shelf and handed it over. "Have a look through this one. I have another I will check."
Gaius suddenly paused. "If you are currently in Arthur's body then…"
He glanced warily at the door. "…what does that mean about your magic?"
Merlin frowned. "It's gone. Arthur has it."
"And does he…?"
"No." Merlin said, shaking his head. "He knows nothing, but he's been using it subconsciously. When he gets angry the magic appears and I have to calm him down before anyone notices the gold in his eyes."
"How you both get yourself into this kind of mess never ceases to amaze me!" Gaius exclaimed.
Merlin pouted. "It's not my fault! I wasn't the one who wanted to sneak up on the druids!"
Suddenly Merlin's face went white. Gaius paused.
"They knew." Merlin said fearfully. "The druids knew I had magic. They were manipulating the fight so Arthur had sight of me. I couldn't use my magic."
Gaius sighed. "That is worrying. Did they not know you were Emrys?"
Merlin shook his head. "No. They had no idea."
"Then they could not have been druids. All druids know the prophecy of Emrys and any true druid would have known your true nature. They must have been rogue sorcerers."
"They said they'd put a bad luck spell on Camelot. I'd check to see if it's still there but…"
The physician's eyes suddenly went soft. "I can imagine how hard this must be for you, Merlin. I will do what I can to help."
Merlin chewed on a pastry desolately. Gaius normally would have scolded him for wasting food before supper, but Merlin looked so lost he couldn't find it in him to scold the boy.
Gaius sat forlornly at the table, looking through the book. Merlin opened his, skimming. It was more difficult to read than before. His magic had always allowed him to understand the old language with ease. Now it was like reading Gaulish. He slammed the book closed with frustration.
"I feel so useless." He muttered. "I can't even read the Old language."
A knock sounded suddenly. "Yes?" Gaius asked.
"King Uther wishes to speak with the prince." A guard said.
Merlin sighed. "It's time for me to go." He said. "Gaius, let us know if you find anything, whether that means sending a messenger or…"
He glanced toward the door before lowering his voice. "…or speaking to Arthur using druid means."
Gaius nodded. "Good luck, Merlin." He said softly, and squeezed the boy's shoulder before watching him leave.
"How dare you oppose my judgment in front of King Bayard!" Uther exclaimed. "I taught you politics. I raised you to be a proper king. You know the laws concerning magic!"
Merlin glanced down. Uther mistook it for subservience.
"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"
Merlin opened his mouth to apologize, to repeat Arthur's words…but…they wouldn't come. He tried again. Nothing.
"Speak up." Uther said.
He took a deep breath. "Sire." He began. "I wasn't opposing you."
Uther began to turn a deep red.
"Camelot's laws declare sorcery to be a crime, but other kingdoms don't have those laws. You, as king, are aware of this."
"Of course I am aware. You insult my intelligence, Arthur."
"Then, sire," Merlin said, putting inflection on the word, "Don't you think to force Camelot's beliefs onto another kingdom might be to isolate that kingdom from peace with us?"
"I didn't oppose you. I gave Bayard two options. I told him to weigh them carefully. Didn't you raise me to think for myself, to show strength? You wanted me to be a capable king, didn't you, sire?"
Merlin fought back a grin at the look on Uther's face.
"A capable king can get others to follow him, to do what he wishes by giving them the illusion of choice." Merlin said, folding his arms. "I haven't opposed you. I've taken another strategy."
Uther's face changed from its awful red back into a calm peach. "That is…very wise, Arthur. I've yet to see that from you. How then, do you plan on making Bayard lean toward the same laws as our own?"
Merlin's eyes twinkled slightly, but he didn't speak.
The king frowned. "Very well. But you must not do this by surprise again. It is essential that I am informed, Arthur, so that we can display a united front."
"Understood, sire." Merlin said coyly, and headed out the doors of the Great Hall.
There he found a shocked Arthur just barely holding onto a water jug.
"Oh. You heard that?" Merlin asked.
Arthur took his arm and dragged him out of sight. He glanced away once before meeting Merlin's eyes. "How did you…I mean…my father…he never calms down without an apology."
Merlin laughed. "I told you, I know more about politics and court than you think, prat. I picked it up following you around."
Arthur made to throw the water jug but Merlin stopped him just in time. "Easy now, it wouldn't do for his royal highness to be walking around drenched, would it?"
The prince gritted his teeth. "You are enjoying this too much."
Merlin sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm just doing what I know."
Both began to walk toward the training grounds to round up the knights.
Arthur frowned. "I'm loath to admit it, Merlin, but that was impressive. You have to teach me that."
Merlin met his gaze sombrely. "What? How to manipulate people? I'm not exactly proud of it, Arthur. I try not to do it if I can help it."
"You're just full of surprises, you know."
A feeling of dread coursed through Merlin's gut. That statement had cut remarkably deep. He glanced warily to the prince.
They reached the training grounds, only to find that most of the knights had left. They found them ready to ride in the middle of the courtyard. Merlin had earlier asked a stable boy to saddle the horses to spare Arthur from the humiliation of having to do it himself. Both mounted their horses. Arthur nodded to Merlin and Merlin suddenly realized he would have to lead the knights.
Arthur brought his horse alongside Merlin's and sighed. "5 leagues, Merlin? West." He whispered. Merlin nodded and led the knights out of town, heading toward the forest.
They'd reached a campsite not long after entering the forest. Merlin dismounted.
"Whoever they were, they left not long ago." Merlin said, leaning down to feel the rocks underneath the fire. It was a very Arthur thing to do, and he was thankful he'd actually watched the dollop head while he was tracking in the past.
"Which direction, sire?"
Merlin walked around the campsite looking for footprints, anything, but whoever had been there had wiped the tracks clean. He sighed.
"I've got nothing." He said, glancing up to Arthur for help.
But Arthur had an odd twitch, and looked incredibly uncomfortable on his horse.
"Search the campsite." Merlin ordered, and headed for the prince.
"Arthur?" he asked.
Arthur's head perked up, his ear turned northward. He glanced toward Merlin.
"What's wrong with everyone?" he hissed. "Can't they hear that?"
"Hear what?" Merlin asked. "There's no one here."
It suddenly dawned on him exactly what Arthur was hearing. Oh no.
"Which direction?" he suddenly asked.
"Wait a second." Arthur said. "You didn't believe me and you suddenly changed your mind. Why?"
"Arthur, if you hear something, we need to act on it now." Merlin insisted stubbornly.
Arthur shook his head. "No. Explain to me why only I can hear this, Merlin."
"I have good hearing?" Merlin said with a sheepish shrug.
The prince looked at the expression on his own face. Despite how Merlin it looked, it was still Arthur's face, and he could still read his own expressions. Merlin's attempt to look innocent fell flat. "Why. Can. I. Hear them? Merlin."
"Sire! We haven't been able to find anything. No tracks, no broken branches. Nothing to indicate their direction." Elyan suddenly interrupted.
"Which direction?" Merlin hissed.
Arthur frowned. "North." He said reluctantly. "I heard them in the north."
"We have a lead." Merlin said, heading toward his horse and jumping on. "We head North."
The knights looked baffled but followed Arthur, or rather, Merlin.
Arthur led his horse to gallop at Merlin's side. "You will explain this, Merlin." He said in a cool whisper.
Merlin gulped. "Let's just find the sorcerers first?"
Arthur's eyes flashed golden with anger and Merlin felt dread cutting through his body for the second time that day.
"Arthur, if you don't calm down, then you won't be thinking straight if we do find these sorcerers. We need you to concentrate."
"I am calm." Arthur said. But his voice betrayed his lie. "And I am concentrating."
"I can read my own body language, Arthur." Merlin said with a sigh. "You're angry. I understand but just, for now, forget about yelling at me and help us."
Arthur sighed. He glanced down at Merlin's neckerchief before meeting the former warlock's eyes. "They've shifted." He said. "They're heading north, and…"
He paused, his face going white.
"Arthur?" Merlin asked softly. "Arthur!"
"They've mentioned an army." He whispered. "And Morgause."
Merlin swallowed back the bile in his throat. "It always comes down to her, doesn't it?"
"What?" Arthur asked. "How? Merlin, what aren't you telling me?"
Merlin shook his head.
"We're nearing them. We should slow down." Arthur instructed.
Merlin brought his horse to a cautious walk and the knights followed suit. He glanced to Arthur for instructions. Arthur rolled his eyes.
"We need to pursue them on foot." He whispered. "Motion for the others to dismount."
"I'd like to but, what's the hand signal for that?"
Arthur facepalmed. "You are hopeless, you know that? Just get off your horse you idiot."
Merlin frowned and dismounted, tying his horse to a tree. He gritted his teeth bitterly, knowing that if he had his magic he'd have used a staying spell to prevent the horse from running. Arthur had that now. Lucky prat.
Elyan raised an eyebrow as it appeared Merlin was the first to unsheathe his sword and creep softly through the wood. Merlin tried to copy the prince, but was sure he looked as ridiculous as he felt. The two crept toward the bushes, when suddenly they had to duck out of the way of a whirlwind. It felled two trees and razed several bushes before dissipating into the air. The leaves rustled with the leftover currents.
Arthur let out an angry cry as he stabbed his sword into the ground. A wave of something reverberated outward and Merlin's eyes widened in fear. He glanced back toward the knights before heading toward Arthur.
He knew what had the prince in a fury. They had been so close to apprehending the sorcerers, and yet they had disappeared, which meant Merlin and Arthur were stuck like this for an undetermined amount of time.
Merlin sighed. Thankfully the wind and wave were so close together he could explain them both away as the sorcerers escaping. Though, while that would convince the knights, Arthur must have felt the wave of power he'd sent, and that was another matter. Merlin had to think on his explanation for that one.
"Arthur." He said softly. "They're gone, aren't they?"
The prince's eyes said it all. "I thought this was over, Merlin." He said, dropping to his knees. Merlin knelt beside him, and motioned for the knights to check the clearing. He glanced up, making sure they were out of earshot.
"What was that, Merlin?" Arthur asked softly. "What did I just do? That wave…"
Merlin sighed. "I don't know, Arthur." The lie was so smooth; he regretted how easily it left his lips.
"You're lying." Arthur said. "You know what this is, don't you? I could see it in your eyes, Merlin."
"I…" he glanced up, knowing he had to tell Arthur something before this got out of hand. Merlin cleared his throat. "I don't know, I just…I have an idea."
"Well?" Arthur wondered.
"Remember how I said I knew a little about magic?" Merlin tried. "That wasn't a lie. It seems that when the druids switched us, they gave you some of their magic."
"What!" Arthur boomed.
"Shh." Merlin said. "The knights are nearby. They'll hear you."
Arthur sighed. "Why on Earth would they want me to have magic, Merlin? It doesn't make sense."
"It does, actually. They probably want you to know the fear of living with it in Camelot."
Arthur's eyes narrowed. "Sounds like you know more than a little about this, Merlin."
"I knew people." Merlin said noncommittally. "They told me things. The point is, you're showing signs of magic. Hearing things no one else can? The druids communicate through their minds. You could hear them, but they could hear you too. It's probably why they knew we were coming. And that wave of power you just let out, that's magic reacting to your emotions."
"Merlin…" Arthur said angrily.
"Don't look at me like that Arthur." Merlin chastised. "You know about Will."
Arthur frowned, remembering, while Merlin felt the guilt well up inside him. He hated lying like this but he couldn't tell Arthur the truth while in this predicament.
"So what did these sorcerers who you knew tell you about magic, then, Merlin?"
He glared, giving Merlin that 'I could actually arrest you right now for this' look which made Merlin more than a little nervous. Merlin swallowed but tried to look calm and collected.
"I've been watching you, Arthur. Those bags you carried to Bayard's room? They were too light. I suspected then. After that, every time you were angry with me, your eyes…they were gold."
Arthur suddenly had a realization. "So this restlessness I've been feeling…it's magic?"
Merlin sighed. "In short…yes. But I've got some bad news."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Worse than the fact that I have to be you for god knows how much longer and I have magic now?"
Merlin nodded. "You're going to have to use that magic."
"I will not! That is treason!" Arthur bellowed.
Merlin looked warily to the forest, where the knights were searching the area the druids had disappeared from.
"Arthur…not so loudly!"
"Merlin, I will not commit treason." Arthur said.
"If you don't use it, Arthur, that restless feeling will get worse until the magic just happens. Do you want magic to happen in front of your father? Because I would prefer my body keeps its head, thank you very much."
"But why would the druids give me something they consider a gift, Merlin? Why?"
Merlin sighed. Arthur was not as dumb as he seemed. "To show you empathy?" He guessed. "I don't know, Arthur. But we need to get out of here. If what you said about Morgause is true, we're vulnerable here. We need to get back to Camelot."
Arthur could hardly help but agree with that. He stood up, brushing off his trousers. Merlin motioned for the knights to return and they mounted their horses and rode back to Camelot.
Merlin had been looking at the ceiling of Arthur's four post bed for an hour now, gazing numbly at the patterns.
Lying. He'd had to do it again. Arthur had been strangely accepting of the fact that Merlin was from Cenred's kingdom and knew druids. Though, when Merlin considered it, Arthur had also been accepting that Merlin seemed to be friends with a sorcerer: Will.
Of course, being friends, knowing people was one thing. It was another for Merlin to be the fully fledged warlock named Emrys, whose power Arthur now had under his beck and command. It was getting difficult to keep up with all the lies and Merlin feared they'd soon unravel in the worst possible way.
He closed his eyes. Arthur had reluctantly agreed to use magic, sparsely, just to protect himself, which was a small victory. Sort of. Now Merlin just had to figure out how he would instruct the prince without revealing just how much he knew.
Not only that, but the druids in the woods had mentioned Morgause, which meant this plot involved Morgana. Again. That meant he had to sneak around and follow the witch to see if he could unearth anything. There were, however, problems with that. Without magic he was now exceptionally vulnerable. Not to mention that if Morgana caught Arthur out alone she wouldn't hesitate in killing him on the spot. He'd have to be even more careful than before. Merlin groaned with annoyance.
"Cheer up, Merlin." Arthur said. "It could be worse. You could be stuck in my situation, in a weak servant's body. You should be thankful you get my well-built form for this long."
Merlin frowned with distaste and flung the pillow at Arthur as hard as he could. Arthur ducked.
"Hmm. Your body is surprisingly good at avoiding projectiles." Arthur mused. "Nice to know."
"You've been in my body too long. You're starting to sound as cheeky as I am." Merlin complained. "And you're awfully happy for someone who just found out he has magic."
Arthur's face soured. "I was trying to forget about that."
Merlin snorted. "The magic has other plans. Look in the mirror."
Arthur turned to see golden eyes shining at him. They slowly faded back to Merlin's diamond blue.
"Merlin, I know I said I would…try…to use this magic, but I…"
He paused. "It's wrong. Yet, if I leave it to chance, it's going to use itself! And if my father gets wind of it, he'll have me beheaded."
Merlin rolled his eyes. Welcome to my life.
"And how the hell am I going to find a sorcerer to teach me?" Arthur muttered.
The former warlock fought back a smirk. "Well, this may have escaped your notice but Gaius used to practice magic. He'll help you."
"If he doesn't report this to my father first! Merlin, are you mad?"
"I think you'd be surprised." Merlin said dryly. "And besides, he's already aware of our situation. He hasn't told your father."
"You told him?"
"Yes, because I think he would have noticed. I have been living with him since I first arrived in Camelot. He's trying to find a cure in his books. Just…tell him Arthur. Actually, no. I'll tell him. He'll nearly have a heart attack if you stroll in ranting about magic." That part was true enough anyway.
Merlin got up from the bed and headed for the door but Arthur stood in his way. "No."
"No?" Merlin chuckled. "Arthur you're being silly."
"I said no. He'll turn me in, and being that I'm you I'm not very trusting of my father's reaction."
"You're such a clotpole." Merlin said. "Gaius won't tell your father."
Arthur refused to move.
"Oh, come on, what are you going to do? You can't even use magic properly."
"But Gaius could teach you."
"You are too happy about this."
"Of course I'm happy. I'm all for anything that makes you uncomfortable."
"Oh shut up, Merlin." He muttered. "Let's go find Gaius."
Gaius had stared daggers at Merlin for most of the evening but agreed to help Arthur, and not to tell Uther, to Arthur's relief.
"If I am to keep this from your father, and to help you, there is something you must also keep from your father." Gaius said.
"That's fair." Arthur agreed. "What is it?"
Gaius sighed. "Close your eyes." Arthur did.
Gaius motioned for Merlin to retrieve the spell book and Merlin did so discretely, placing it on the shelf as if it had been there all along.
Gaius removed it from the shelf noisily and placed it in Arthur's hands. He opened his eyes.
"It's a book of magic. Your father had them destroyed but given the amount of magical threats on the kingdom, sire, I thought it would be useful to have at least one, if for nothing but reference. It seems you'll need it, now. I trust you understand why I had you close your eyes."
Arthur nodded. "I am sorry, Gaius, to have put you in this position. My father trusts you implicitly. You have nothing to fear from me."
Gaius nodded. "You will find that if magic is resting in you, the old language will be easier to understand. Perhaps, start with something small. I hear that you are having to do Merlin's servant duties. A sweeping or polishing spell might be a good start. It would release enough energy to help you and also aide in your duties."
Arthur considered this. Surely using magic in that way couldn't be bad, could it?
"I'll try." He conceded. "Gaius, are you sure I must do this? Couldn't I…meditate or something to keep it inside?"
Gaius shook his head. "Magic such as that is restless, sire. You see, it…"
He glanced to Merlin, who shook his head.
"It was given by a druid, Arthur, and they are born with it. Which means it's more powerful than normal." Merlin finished.
Arthur looked to Merlin suspiciously. "Has Gaius been teaching you this?" he wondered.
"Knowledge is power." Merlin said softly. "It's helped you more than once to know what magical creature is attacking the castle. Knowing about the druids is no different."
Arthur sighed and looked forlornly at the book. It felt so wrong, even thinking of doing this, but what else was he meant to do? His mind kept going to that worst case scenario where his father caught him doing something that looked magical. His father would have no hesitation about burning Merlin at the stake. And furthermore, Arthur's cries about actually being the prince would be taken as madness, convincing his father of the truth.
Arthur shuddered. Was this how all magic users felt in Camelot?
"I want to get rid of it." Arthur suddenly said softly. "Can't you just…make it leave?"
"Arthur…" Merlin said, reaching out a hand. "It's okay. We'll protect you."
"No! I want it gone!" he exclaimed.
Merlin placed a hand on Arthur's shoulder. "Neither Gaius nor I can do that. Given the instability of your magic, I doubt if you could send it away either."
Arthur gripped the book tightly, glancing forlornly at the spells on the page.
Is this what he was reduced to? The prince of Camelot forced to use magic to prevent himself from burning on the pyre? He glanced down at his hands, a servant's hands now – a servant's hands with magic.
Had it just been a switch of spirit; just being Merlin for a while, Arthur could find a way to live with that. But why did the druids have to give him magic? Why?
"Merlin." He said, finally. "What would you do, if you were me?"
Merlin sighed. "I would do whatever I had to." He said honestly.
Arthur nodded and stood, placing a hand on Merlin's shoulder. "I trust you with my life, Merlin, and I trust you with this. I'll do it, but only if you'll help me as well."
Merlin's eyes widened. "I…"
He looked away as the guilt pierced through him. No. I can't tell him. There's no way of knowing how he'll react. He's only okay with this because he thinks both he and I will be without magic in the end.
He allowed his worry to morph into a cheeky grin, choosing to hide his feelings. "Let me get this straight. You want me to help you learn magic and risk the fiery pyre?" He mocked. "No, I don't really fancy it."
Arthur laughed and punched him.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
Merlin peeked around the corner, where Morgana, cloaked in green, was making her way out to the forest. He sighed.
I shouldn't be doing this. Arthur's going to kill me if anything happens to his body.
He shook his head with exasperation before following Morgana into the streets of the lower town. Luckily, Arthur was at least somewhat agile, with all the practice he'd had hunting. Merlin had also taken the liberty of borrowing Arthur's green cloak to hide his face.
Morgana was nearing the gates now, her hand out. The guards flew back and into the wall, out cold. Merlin rolled his eyes. At least I don't have to worry about getting out of the city.
It was tough to keep hidden on the open road but Merlin managed to make use of the low brush along the pathway. When they finally reached forest, he was relieved, though curious why Morgana had chosen such an obvious way to leave.
Though he used the forest to hide his presence, Morgana still looked back with suspicion. He silently congratulated himself for not stepping on any noisy brush or twigs, but suddenly realized that was probably due to him being Arthur right now. Merlin made a face. The rustling of leaves continued as Morgana made her way through the forest. Merlin nearly fell into a puddle on the way but stepped around it just in time, hiding behind a particularly large tree trunk as Morgana whipped around to face her stalker.
She frowned angrily. "Merlin." She said acidly. "It could only be you. Try to follow me with this."
There were old words and then Morgana had disappeared. Merlin could have cursed. Great. So I can't follow her, and I can't go back or she'll see me.
So Merlin did the only thing he could: he sat with frustration and waited for Morgana to head back to Camelot.
"Were you seen, sister?"
Morgana frowned. "That worm, Merlin. He always follows me. But I cast a spell so he couldn't see me."
"Well done." Morgause said. "You are learning."
Morgana smiled. "You said come urgently. What's wrong?"
"You recall the group I sent to distract Camelot?"
"Yes. It was amusing seeing everyone with so much bad luck."
"That was clever." Morgause admitted. "However, it was not of my followers' doing."
"No?" Morgana looked perplexed.
"They have been joined by a druid named Medea. I have not heard of her before now."
"Nor I." Morgana said. "Shall I contact Mordred to see if he knows anything?"
"No. Leave that to me."
Morgause paused, pacing. "Medea is powerful, but I am still unsure of her loyalties. She is against taking Camelot, and though I warned her, she was not afraid. "
"How can I help?" Morgana wondered.
"I need you to keep a close eye, sister. Tell me if anything changes. I will watch this druid, but I will also need to know if she attempts to contact any in the royal court."
"Consider it done." Morgana agreed.
"And watch Merlin. He is beginning to try my patience."
Morgana snorted. "Your patience, sister? He has been trying mine since I returned."
Morgause chuckled. "Very well. I trust you."
"It was good to see you again."
"Yes, it was. Until next time, Morgana."
Arthur frowned. What kind of royal had his servant still working at midnight? Arthur needed sleep, damn it! He sighed. It would only be another couple of days before Bayard left. Then he could go back to serving Merlin which would mean not having to be a servant at all. Besides, he just had to finish bringing this laundry to Bayard's room tonight and…
Arthur turned. The voice was unmistakable but he'd never heard it with that much malice before.
She roughly hauled him into the alcove before he'd had time to react, and Arthur felt a pang of dread moving through him. Oh no, this had better not be what I think it is…Merlin…
And then she'd scowled.
"You." Morgana said cuttingly. "I know you attempted to follow me into the woods tonight. Do I need to emphasize, Merlin, what sort of influence I have over the King? If you try this again, or if Arthur shows any signs of suspicion, I will not hesitate to inform the court of your treachery."
A wry smile came over her face and she shoved him into the wall with force, before letting him go and pointedly walking away.
Arthur blinked. What the bloody hell had that been about? What exactly had Merlin done? Merlin had followed Morgana into the woods? What exactly was going on around here?
And God, was that Morgana? He'd been so happy to see her he hadn't even thought that she might've changed. Or did she change because of something Merlin had done? One thing was for sure. He was going to get some answers. And he was getting them now, Bayard's laundry be damned.
"Merlin!" Arthur boomed as he threw open the doors to his chambers.
"Arthur?" Merlin asked, slightly fearful.
Arthur's chest heaved with anger. Merlin closed the door.
"Arthur, calm down. Magic, remember?"
It didn't help.
"Why does Morgana have it out for you?"
Merlin froze. "What has she done? Did she hurt you?"
Arthur frowned. "No; stop changing the subject. What treachery is she talking about? What have you done?"
"I…" Merlin whispered, looking down. "I can't tell you."
"If you've hurt her…"
Arthur's eyes lit, and Merlin took a step backwards. "Calm down." He repeated softly.
"No, Merlin! I will not calm down. I want to know why my servant is being threatened by the closest person I have to a sister. What treachery is she referring to?"
Merlin sighed. "Just remember, if you brandish that sword or that magic at me, you'll be hurting yourself."
Arthur's grip around the hilt tightened.
"I poisoned her." Merlin said softly.
"You did what!"
Merlin backed away slowly and it only increased Arthur's agitation to see himself looking so weak.
"Ihadto!" He blurted quickly. "She – she was the vessel for the sleeping spell, Arthur! That's why she wasn't falling asleep! There was no other way! Morgause used her!"
"Then why didn't you give her a choice?" Arthur yelled, advancing. "Why?"
"Because I couldn't trust her to make the right decision." Merlin exclaimed angrily.
Arthur stopped. "That's just ridiculous. Why wouldn't you trust Morgana to…"
…to put the kingdom before herself?
And then he realized…he really wasn't sure what Morgana would have chosen either. She'd shown her love for the kingdom on numerous occasions, but she'd also shown her hatred for Uther. And while a part of him hoped that she would choose to sacrifice herself, to do the same as he would have done for his beloved kingdom, Morgana was not Arthur. The prince shook his head. Morgana was his sister in heart. He couldn't be thinking of her this way.
Merlin saw the conflict in Arthur's eyes.
"It's true, Arthur. I can see in my own expressions that you doubt she'd do the right thing. She's tried to kill your father before…she's…"
"Silence!" Arthur bellowed.
Merlin raised his hands in defeat, and Arthur sighed, realizing how ridiculous he looked.
"Put your damn hands down, Merlin." He said, "and tell me everything you know."
Merlin reluctantly sat on the bed and began to explain. "The year I first met you, Morgana was put into the dungeons for standing against your father. That week she rode to meet a bandit leader, to help him capture your father and kill him. Then she went with your father to Gorlois' grave, where she'd planned the ambush, but changed her mind when he showed her compassion."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "And you know this because?"
Merlin sighed. "Because I tried to stop them. I saw the whole thing."
"And you didn't tell me!"
Merlin folded his arms. "Would you honestly have believed a word I said?"
Arthur sighed. "Probably not."
"Before that there was Mordred, who Morgana hid in her chambers."
"The druid boy?"
"The one and only." Merlin said bitterly. "Morgana later helped Mordred and Alvarr steal from the vaults."
Arthur frowned, trying to process all that Merlin was telling him.
"Then Morgause came. You remember that."
"How could I forget?" Arthur said bitterly.
"She left Morgana a bracelet to help stop her nightmares."
Merlin paused there, wondering if he should tell Arthur the truth.
"I can see you're still holding back. Merlin, tell me."
Merlin bit his lip.
"Stop it. You're ruining my face."
Merlin glared. "Prat." He let out a breath. "Morgana has magic, Arthur. I couldn't help her, so I led her to the druids. Then your father thought her kidnapped and sent you after her."
Merlin met Arthur's gaze with challenge in his eyes. "Is it?" he asked.
Arthur didn't respond so Merlin continued.
"Before Morgana disappeared, Morgause made a bargain with her in the forest, using her as a vessel to fuel the spell of sleep. Then Morgause attacked with the knights of Idirsholas. I watched them, Arthur. They would not harm Morgana. The only way to stop the spell from killing us and everyone else in Camelot was to kill the vessel. I didn't have time to find the antidote. Everyone was dying! It was the only way Morgause would stop the spell. Then Morgause took Morgana away in a whirlwind before I could do anything."
He paused. "I never wanted this, Arthur."
But Arthur had stopped listening.
"So all that time we searched you knew where she was?" Arthur exclaimed, furious. "How can ever I trust you again, Merlin? Morgana is my sister in all but blood! Your actions were treasonous!"
Merlin sighed. He didn't think it wise to point out that Arthur's eyes right now were treasonous. His attention was suddenly diverted to the roaring of fire from the cinders in the fireplace. Arthur dropped his sword, looking at the fire with fear. Merlin took action, pulling the prince away.
"Think of anything but how angry you are, Arthur!"
The fire licked out and around the room, scorching the desk and the table.
"Think of…me in the stocks!" Merlin attempted. "Think of hitting me with a goblet…think of anything."
Arthur knelt, picturing Gwen, thinking of the time when he'd cooked for her. The fire began to calm. He glanced to Merlin, his eyes stubbornly staying gold. Arthur thought of his mother, how much he missed her. The fire stopped. Merlin let out a breath of relief.
"Arthur? Arthur, are you okay?"
Merlin opened his mouth to suggest a restoration spell but remembered his knowledge was meant to be limited.
"So." He said instead. "Do you believe me, about Morgana? Or should I expect to sit in the dungeons for treason once this is all over?"
Arthur shot him an annoyed look before shaking his head. "No, Merlin." He sighed. "What you did was wrong, but necessary. As a knight, I can understand it, even if it's painful."
Arthur frowned. "Deep down, I think I knew Morgana was capable of this. She never loved my father. She always blamed him for Gorlois' death."
"Arthur…" Merlin blurted. "I never…"
"You wouldn't have known, but when we were younger, she told me everything." He said. "I wish I could make her see…"
Merlin sighed. "Arthur, I wish too, but…"
"And she has magic."
He turned to Merlin, an inner struggle visible in his eyes. "Is that why she changed so much?"
"No! Arthur, no." Merlin said. "She listened to lies; let herself fall into hate and resentment."
"If I had been there to help her, to understand, she wouldn't have needed to turn to Morgause."
"No." Merlin said sharply. "If anyone is to blame, Arthur, it's me. I…there were things I should have done. I was a terrible friend."
Arthur sighed. "Well, we can sit and blame each other all night…or we can get some sleep and attack this problem with a fresh mind in the morning."
"Are you staying in the antechamber?" Merlin wondered.
"No. Your room is more isolated, and I must get a handle on this...magic." Arthur said with disdain. "I can't be burning down my chambers every time I get angry."
There was a look of concern in Merlin's eyes. "Let me know if you need help." he offered.
Arthur nodded. "Goodnight Merlin." He said, and left.
Well, um, that was a lot longer than intended. But you guys kinda deserve it, waiting this long.
Let me know what you think?