WARNINGS: Dark!Arthur, descent into madness, murder, and suicide. This is the darkest piece we've ever written. (That includes "On the Enemy's Terms.")
Disclaimer: We don't own Merlin. Even if we did, this still wouldn't happen.
This story is kind of creepy. Just "kind of"? No, it IS creepy. Anyway, you all have been warned.
Merlin quickly gathered together the ingredients for the spell. There was no time to lose. Gwen's life was on the line. Merlin needed to frame his eighty year-old self.
He chanted the words while pouring the powder into the basin.
In that moment, Merlin knew something had gone horribly wrong. He didn't know how he knew. The warlock wasn't even sure what had happened. He didn't have time to ponder this phenomenon. Less than a moment later, Merlin's world descended into darkness.
Arthur rushed about the castle, knowing his every move was being closely observed. If something wasn't done, Guinevere would die. He couldn't let that happen. Arthur didn't care how far he had to go. Nothing would prevent him from saving her.
First, he intended on finding his idiot manservant. Arthur knew Merlin was willing to help. Unless Merlin also thought Gwen had taken to using enchantments (which of course he didn't), they could ensure her freedom.
Why couldn't that idiot, Merlin, be easier to find? After checking every place the manservant might be doing chores, Arthur's search brought him to Gaius's chambers.
"Merlin!" Arthur bellowed. In response, he heard hasty shuffles coming from Merlin's room. "There you are," Arthur muttered. He strode purposefully toward the small room. The prince swung the door open.
The sight inside the room killed the words inside Arthur's throat. Gaius bent over a very still and very much on the floor Merlin. The old physician looked up at Arthur. Gaius's face was lined with worry. Arthur felt sick. He didn't think it was possible for anything to get worse before tomorrow. Merlin looked exceptionally pale.
Unbidden, an irrational thought pushed its way into Arthur's mind. Had his father ordered someone to attack Merlin to prevent the servant from helping his master? No, Arthur thought firmly, that was stupid. If Uther wanted to prevent Merlin from helping, Merlin would be in the dungeons right now. Besides, Merlin was probably the last thing on the king's mind.
"Gaius," Arthur croaked, "what happened?"
"It looks as though he tripped and hit his head." Gaius's voice sounded eerily calm to Arthur.
"Is he—" Arthur couldn't help but notice that Gaius wasn't in the room when Merlin was att—knocked out.
"He's alive," Gaius said quickly. "Would you help me get him onto the bed?"
"Of course," Arthur quickly complied with the old man's request.
As soon as Merlin was in his bed, Arthur drew back. He stared at his servant in horror. How had things gone so wrong? Gwen, his love, was in the dungeons and sentenced to death. Merlin, his friend, lay still as death. Could things get worse? Yes, a nasty voice in his head replied, you could fail to save Guinevere.
"Will he be alright?"
"I think so, sire."
At that, Arthur sped off. He needed to save Gwen, with or without Merlin's help.-
Arthur made several attempts to release Gwen. He even made it to the dungeons once. In the end, Uther locked Arthur in his own chambers.
Arthur spent the evening beating against the doors. His hands bled. His arms and legs screamed. He didn't stop. He only stopped when his body wouldn't move anymore. The prince fell asleep slumped beside the door.
Arthur awoke to the sound of screaming. He stood despite his body's protests. It was now or never. He grabbed a chair and flung it against the door. The chair shattered. Didn't matter. Arthur grabbed the biggest piece of chair and hit against the door. He repeated this process again and again, until he noticed a knife on his table. He stabbed the knife into the door over and over. He kept stabbing even after Gwen screams had ceased.
Finally, his door was unlocked. Arthur opened the door to find a knight standing in the doorway. The knight didn't say anything. Instead, his eyes went round with terror and he promptly took his leave.
The door was finally open. Arthur was finally free. But now he didn't want it. Guinevere was dead. He walked numbly to the far corner of the room and slid to the ground.
Arthur didn't know how long he sat there, crying, grabbing his hair, and occasionally flinging his arm against the wall in anger.
When he stilled the prince stared across his chambers.
Prince. It was a word that struck most others with a sense of respect and humility under a greater power. A prince was above everything. He had no care, no love, for those born to serve. He was born to command all before him.
But what had that power ever done for this prince? Guinevere was dead. He had no power. What was left for him without her? The throne? It would be hollow and empty without her. Arthur had thought he would one day rule with her by his side. That was his desire.
But that could never happen. His actions had sentenced her to death. Arthur had known that his father would never accept love between a prince and a maidservant. Arthur had ignored the risks. Now Guinevere was dead. Arthur had sent his love to her death.
Arthur looked at the floor furiously. His fists clenched. He was a cause of Gwen's death. However, his father was still responsible for decreeing that she should die. His father ordered the murder. Even now, with innocent blood on his hands, he must be rejoicing over the "freedom" of his son. Uther had assumed that the "witch's influence" over his son was broken.
Arthur heard the door open. Perhaps the king wanted to give consolation, or what he thought was consolation. According to him, Arthur didn't need to worry. It wasn't his fault he got "enchanted." And, of course, the king couldn't be faulted for "saving" his son from the "enchantment." The lies. They both, father and son, were guilty of murdering Guinevere. But only the son was aware of this fact. The father would never lift his blindness. Arthur was in no mood to hear his father's empty justifications.
The prince broke his concentration from the floor. It was Merlin. He was conscious now.
"I..." The manservant struggled for words.
"Save it, Merlin," Arthur turned back to the floor. He didn't want pity. He didn't need pity. He didn't deserve pity.
"I'm sorry, Arthur." Of course, the idiot couldn't follow an order even now.
"It's not your fault."
Arthur clenched his jaw. He knew where the blame belonged. It wasn't with Merlin. Yes, Merlin was a klutzy idiot. But knock himself out? Wasn't it far too convenient that Merlin happened to be unconscious right when the prince would plan an unsanctioned rescue? Yes, the king could have simply thrown the servant into the dungeons. But why place him in the same vicinity with the "enchantress" when he has a knack for escaping the dungeons?
Uther had ordered an innocent woman's death. He even arranged for a servant to be attacked in order to effect his ends. And Uther expected his son to understand. Arthur shook with fury.
"Make yourself useful for once, Merlin!" Arthur snapped.
What was he doing? Why was he lashing out at an innocent victim of his father?
"I'm sorry," Arthur amended shortly. "Get me into my armor."
"Shouldn't we clean the blood out of your hair first?"
Arthur had forgotten that his hands had been bleeding. Merlin was right. Clean the blood, then train.
Arthur bashed the shield Merlin was cowering behind. The prince used maces, swords, hammers... He still wasn't satisfied. The prince had found himself imaging the shield was his father. The shield, like his father, was a barrier that needed to go, but never would despite the prince's best efforts.
Arthur threw aside another sword. It wasn't enough. He grabbed the largest hammer and slammed it against the shield.
"Ah!" Merlin dropped to the ground. He clutched his shield-bearing arm. Pain contorted his features. "Arthur... what... why..." He seemed to be looking for the right question.
Arthur dropped the hammer. He had struck when Merlin wasn't prepared. Now the boy's arm was surely broken. Arthur didn't want his manservant harmed. Merlin had already suffered at the hands of Uther. The prince didn't want vengeance taken on an innocent servant. He craved justice.
Arthur removed the shield from Merlin's grasp. Then the prince carefully pulled his servant to his feet. Just as Arthur suspected, Merlin's arm was broken.
"You need to see Gaius," Arthur said matter-of-factly.
"Arthur," Merlin said. Concern was painted in his every feature.
"Don't argue, Merlin." Arthur steered his servant toward two knights. "Accompany Merlin and make certain he gets to Gaius," Arthur ordered them.
Merlin tried to protest. Arthur didn't care to hear it. He had a duty to carry out justice. That's what a prince was born to do, wasn't he?
The prince scanned the weapons at his disposal. None of them fit his purpose. They were all too big. The perfect one was in his chambers, so that's where he strode directly to.
He flung open his banged up door. Arthur easily located his weapon of choice. He pulled the small knife out of his door. When Arthur had bought this knife he had intended on giving it to Morgana as a birthday gift. He was glad Merlin had talked him out of gifting it. The knife's purpose was now far better than any use Morgana could have given it.
Arthur concealed the knife in his armor. Now that he had the perfect tool, it was time to exact justice. His father was probably in the council chambers, glorying in his "victory." The fool.
Arthur approached the council chambers. The knights guarding the doors stiffened noticeably. The prince didn't bother requesting or ordering entrance. He shouldn't have to. The doors slid open at Arthur's push.
The air seemed to freeze as the "previously enchanted" prince stepped into the council chambers. Everyone stared at him as though expecting something. Arthur wasn't sure what. The tension and... fear in the room was almost palpable. Did they expect him to lash out at all of them? Arthur was past that. What would it accomplish?
It did not surpass the king's notice that his son had a strange glint in his eyes. Uther dismissed the gleam as nothing more than than his son dealing with the memories of the enchantment. The king refused to recognize it for what it was. Madness now shone in Arthur's eyes. Uther wanted to believe he had done the right thing for his little boy. He wanted it so badly that he was blind to the deranged monster he had created.
"Father, may I speak with you in private?" Despite the maniacal gleam, Arthur's voice was deceptively normal.
"Of course." Uther waved everyone else out, "The council is dismissed."
The room emptied fairly quickly. Arthur could have sworn he saw Morgana smirk as she left. He couldn't imagine why. Perhaps she thought he had something nice to say to his father. But Arthur didn't care what she thought. What he cared about was that he was now alone with his father. Arthur walked calmly to Uther.
The king clapped his hand onto his son's shoulder. "You understand why now?" he asked.
"Yes, father, I understand," Arthur agreed. "But now I need you to understand something." Arthur suddenly plunged his knife into Uther Pendragon's chest. "When I said 'I will never forgive you,' I meant it." Arthur pulled the knife out. "You." The prince's voice was venomous as he plunged the knife back into his father's chest. "Destroyed." He twisted the knife with one hand and clasped the other over Uther's mouth. "My heart." Arthur pulled the knife out, and then stabbed Uther one last time.
Uther slumped to the floor. Arthur looked at his hands. Blood. He knew should probably clean it off before leaving. He lifted his father's crown and wiped as much of the red fluid onto it as he could. He placed the crown on the table. Then Arthur wiped the remaining blood onto the corpse's cloak.
Arthur's work here was done. However, justice wasn't fully served quite yet. The next thing he needed to do... it just didn't seem appropriate in the same room as that fiend, even if it was dead.
The prince departed. He was careful to open the door only wide enough to allow his exit before shutting it again. He turned to the sentinel knights.
"The king has ordered that he does not wish to be disturbed."
And I really don't want to be interrupted, he added mentally as he left.
Merlin had never seen any of the knights so intent on a servant's well being before. Ever. Normally, the knights would have simply dropped Merlin off at Gaius's. It wouldn't have mattered if the old man wasn't home yet.
"I'll just wait here for Gaius," Merlin had lied when the knights didn't leave immediately.
"The prince explicitly ordered that we make sure you get to the court physician," one of them had answered.
As they had waited Merlin had tried to gently convince them that Arthur shouldn't be left alone right now. He had tried asking one of them to see Arthur if they wouldn't give the manservant the "honor." Merlin had even tried convincing them to accompany him to Arthur and then back to Gaius. Then they wouldn't be necessarily disobedient. Nothing worked. Each rebuttal the knights had given had something to do with their "explicit orders."
Each moment that had ticked away made Merlin more anxious. Arthur wasn't acting like himself. The mad glint in his eyes terrified his manservant. Merlin feared that Gwen's death had broken more than Arthur's heart. It had broken his mind. Merlin couldn't help but feel that his broken arm was proof of that. Arthur was usually careful during training, but today he had been erratic and Merlin had feared for his life more than once.
Finally, Gaius had returned. Merlin had wanted to apologize and run off without treatment. However, the knights wouldn't leave. They had insisted on ensuring that Merlin was completely cared for. It wasn't until then that Merlin realized that the knights were scared—no, terrified—of Arthur. They had been searching for every excuse to avoid the crazed looking prince. The fact that even the knights were aware of Arthur's deteriorating mind frightened Merlin further.
At last, Merlin was free. He was now bolting through the halls. He didn't much care whom he knocked over. Merlin had to find Arthur before the prince did something he would regret.
Merlin stopped in front of Arthur's door. Hand trembling, he reached for the handle. He pushed open the door.
"NO!" Merlin screamed.
Arthur lay on the ground. A rope was tied about his neck. He had managed to strangle himself.
Merlin ran to his friend and fell to his knees. "No, no, no, please, no..." Tears welled in his eyes. He untied the noose from Arthur's neck. "Somebody help me!"
But it was too late. The crown prince of Camelot was dead.
"Why?" Merlin croaked. "I've already lost one friend today! Why did you have to make it two! You selfish pig!" Merlin's voice broke into a sob.
He vaguely noticed the knights come in. Merlin's grief blurred his senses. He'd been trying to contain his sorrow the entire day. Why did Arthur have to double the pain? Merlin wanted to shake sense into the dead prince.
"We need to inform the king," one knight's voice rang out.
"Should we wait?" asked another knight who was numb with shock. "Prince Arthur said that the king did not wish to be disturbed."
"Prince Arthur is dead!" the first knight snarled.
Merlin's stomach dropped. The words 'Arthur said' worried him.
Merlin moaned, "You didn't. Please tell me you didn't do that. She wouldn't have wanted that, Arthur."
The knights surrounding Merlin looked at him as though he had gone mad.
The rest of the day continued in a blur. Uther was found with Arthur's knife sticking out of him. Morgana seemed to be having trouble containing her joy at the developments. Merlin thought her fake crying was poor acting.
Merlin was sick of it. He was sick watching that witch fake cry. It was her fault all of this happened to begin with. Merlin was sick of waiting around for her to take an opportunity to kill him. He was leaving tonight. He had no reason to stay. His destiny was gone.
However, he was going to leave Morgana a parting gift. Merlin couldn't let her gain from her treachery. He enacted a plan that would've never worked while Uther (or Arthur) was alive. Ironic really. In the dead of the night, Merlin crept into Morgana's chambers. He cast the same spell on her that he had on Aredian. Tomorrow, the Lady Morgana would cough up several toads. It would occur just late enough in the day to be a very public affair. With the anti-magic sentiment still strong in Camelot, she could end up dead or on the run. Frankly, Merlin didn't care.
He crept out of Morgana's chambers and left Camelot. Merlin never bothered to find out if his plan had worked.
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