This was an AUish prompt I did ages ago in which the theme was 'reverse'. I can't remember who posted the original prompt but I do know that it was, 'Arthur and Gwen are the ones who have magic.'
Arthur had always known that he had to keep his magic secret.
If his powers were ever to be exposed it would risk of undermining his father. Uther's stance against those who practised magic was irrational and unreasonable at the best of times. He heard the words 'magic' and he no longer listened. It frightened Arthur deep down as to what his father's reaction would be if he learnt the truth about him. He didn't think he would kill him – but he would feel that Arthur had betrayed him by choosing to use magic.
He would never believe that magic chose him.
Telling Uther the truth was not an option, but Arthur also knew he could do something for his people. Over the years he had used his position as the prince to try and quell his father's bloodlust towards the people brought before him for practising magic. Many of them were people Arthur knew and past over during the routine inspection of the 'Watch' list of people suspected of practising magic.
There were times when Arthur saw the criminals; dangerous men attempting to bring magic back to the kingdom through mass slaughter of innocents. That was when he was torn. He understood their pain... but there was nothing to justify using magic for such evil.
So Arthur never saved them. They deserved death just the same as any man, magic or not, who wished to bring havoc to the kingdom.
But this rarely happened and it was usually people being arrested for petty crimes. Using healing powers to cure a dying child, hanging magic charms in their windows to see off fairies and nightmares, using enchantments to bring an object towards them...
God, Arthur himself had committed all those crimes himself at one time or another!
"Thomas Collins is a gifted craftsman, father," Arthur protested when Collins the Carpenter was brought before the court for having cured his mother's apparently fatal fall from a rooftop. "He brings in good money which enabled him to buy a cure. That is all."
"Gaius said the fall was fatal," Uther growled spitefully down at Collins, and he turned to face Gaius. "What say you? Could there have been any cure to heal the woman?"
Gaius cast his doubtful eye over to Arthur, then Collins, and then across the room to the rest of the court. His eyes rested for a moment on Gwen, who stood with a sweet look of pity (and a tint of guilt) for the young carpenter. He made it look as if he were looking at the king's ward, Morgana, who sat yawning with boredom at the whole thing. This trial had been going on all morning.
He immediately played his role in the game.
"Science is a wonderful thing, my lord," Gaius explained to the king. "What one physician might call a fatal injury, another might be able to cure with just an administration of elder and aelfthone. I believe Mary Collins was given that."
Uther's expression did not soften. It made Arthur feel tense; his father was far from convinced.
"That still doesn't explain the witness," the king muttered, turning away to sit back down in his throne. Once he was there he leaned down menacingly over Collins and growled, "There are three witnesses who claim to have seen you taking a magical healing poultice... from the Aelfenáre *."
There was an audible gasp around the court as everyone looked at each other. Even Morgana started to wake up. She leaned to look down at Collins too and wondered whether the famed magic user would finally be revealed.
Arthur felt nervous and be immediately glanced over his shoulder to look at his sister's maid, Guinevere. She herself had bitten her lip and looked down.
Everyone was on edge.
"I could believe that Aelfenáre offered you this cure without you knowing exactly what it was," the king said slowly, about to offer a pact. "And as my son has pointed out to me on many occasions, there are times when a king should give the common man the benefit of the doubt. So, I will give you an assurance..."
Uther linked his gloved fingers together. The sound of the leather could be heard all across the stunned hall.
"I give you my word that no harm will come to you," he declared slowly, "if you reveal to me the identity of Aelfenáre."
There was a long silence.
Arthur knew this was a trick. It would to make or break Collins because Uther knew that if Collins was innocent of practising magic then he could reveal the identity of the allusive Aelfenáre in good faith. However if he himself was a sorcerer...
Collins refused to look Uther in the eyes as he muttered defiantly, "It is well known among my people that a promise from Uther Pendragon is not to be relied upon."
"You have my word," the king said again, very genuinely this time. "No harm will come to you if you reveal any information that may lead to the capture of Aelfenáre. I swear before the whole court now that you will be released immediately."
The carpenter looked up at the king... and smiled.
"You know very well I won't tell you," Collin replied with a sense of foreboding doom, staring him in the face. "You knew that as soon as you asked the question. It is considered the greatest crime of all to betray another sorcerer to a common enemy. Even if it means death."
Arthur sighed with an ambivalence of guilt and relief. Gwen looked up again and wetted her lips. Gaius closed his eyes briefly, waiting for the sentence. Morgana sat back in her chair again, disappointed.
The king also leant back nonchalantly and past sentence in the same manner.
"In that case you have been found guilty of consorting, aiding and abetting a known sorcerer," Uther muttered quickly. "You will be executed in the morning... to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Great Dragon's capture."
Uther turned to Arthur.
"Take him away," he ordered him.
The prince had no choice but to have the guards to take Collins to the dungeons. The two men exchanged looks as the latter was led away.
Across the hall Gwen watched Arthur go, and sighed. It looked like it would be another long night for both of them...
Uther smiled and leaned over to Morgana, "I apologise for that taking so long. Arthur does like to drag these things out. It was obvious the man was guilty."
"I just don't understand why none of them will surrender the name of Aelfenáre when it's the difference between life and death," Morgana muttered back in surprise.
The king smirked, "It's a loyalty thing. They actually consider it a type of honour to protect their own."
Morgana shook her head and looked up to Gwen, "I think that's enough of court hearings for one day."
Gwen forced a smile, "Yes, my lady."
The lady saw her maid's expression and nodded sympathetically, "Did you know him?"
"Yes, my lady."
Morgana sighed, "Poor man. It is sad but... he should have known better than to deal with sorcerers. You do know that, don't you?"
"Of course, my lady."
Arthur knew that magic was not innately good or bad and that it depended on the person, although his father has always tried to teach him it was the latter, and it was through Gaius's influence that Arthur stopped himself from believing it to be truth.
It was a difficult secret to keep, and Gaius had been helping him keep it ever since he was a child. When he was about six-years-old and starting to notice his powers, such as the ability to move objects and command basic enchantments without realising. Gaius had explained to him that magic isn't always something chosen by people. It chooses them.
"You never would have told me I had magic if I hadn't asked you straight, though," Arthur used to always say to Gaius.
To which the old physician replied, "No I wouldn't have. I won't lie about that."
After Collins had been taken to the dungeons, Arthur went straight to Gaius's chambers. Now that the sorcerer had been sentenced to death, they had to try and help him escape. This happened every so often when there were witnesses who had claimed to have seen some use magic or consort with those who practise magic.
It usually worked too because they had a system.
Arthur burst in through the chamber door and locked it behind him.
Standing there already were Gaius and Gwen.
"So, obviously we're going to have to help him escape," Arthur began immediately.
Gaius was wearing his eyebrow of doom. "Before we start plotting Collins's escape I'd like to know which one of the two of you was stupid enough to have been seen giving him the poultice."
Arthur glanced at Gwen, who returned the look of shame.
"That doesn't matter right now..." the prince replied. "What matters is that we all work together to fix it so that Collins has an easy escape from the dungeons. Hopefully he'll be far away from the castle before the guards realise he is missing—"
"I assume this was a cock-up by both of you then," Gaius said moodily.
The two young sorcerers exchanged looks again but said nothing. It frustrated the old man to no end.
"One day," the old man warned them. "Gwen will get caught using magic and no amount of your 'escape' plans will be able to help her. Especially if Uther discovered that she is Aelfenáre..."
"We're both Aelfenáre!" Arthur corrected him. "That's the whole point. No one outside the circle knows who Aelfenáre is because as sorcerers we are sworn to secrecy. That's the way it's always been."
"Ever since we started helping people of our kind," Gwen added.
"Who did the spell and who delivered it?" Gaius asked firmly.
Arthur sighed, "Gwen made the spell and I delivered it. Collins knew it had come from Gwen; it was her he had asked for help. But the celebrations over the outlawing of magic are starting to get underway, so I insisted on delivering it to Collins in order to avoid detection. I wore a cape, obviously, but I had no idea I was being watched."
"I'm very grateful to you, Arthur," Gwen said quietly.
She offered the prince a soft, thankful smile. He returned it graciously with an uncommon kind of warmth. Then they realised they had been staring at each other for more than five seconds and quickly looked away. Gaius noticed, of course, as he always did.
He watched carefully as Arthur and Gwen came to the workbench and began to each work on a spell. Arthur was making a powerful sleeping spell that would knock out the guards, long enough for Collins to get past them. Gwen was working on an enchantment that, when worn around the neck, it would offer Collins come never of invisibility. As long as he didn't draw attention to himself, he would be fine.
"We need you to make some ordinary sleeping draughts for Morgana and George," Arthur reminded Gaius after a while, and he looked to Gwen. "The last one worked on her, didn't it?"
Gwen smiled, "I slipped it in her wine. She slept the whole night through and didn't notice I was gone... or at least, I assume so because she never mentioned waking up and me not being there. What about George?"
"He barely drank any of the stuff and he was out like a light!" Arthur chuckled.
They both had pots with powder in front of them and began to whisper enchantments into them; déopeslæp was the sleeping spell and hæleþhelm was the invisibility spell.
Gaius watched carefully.
"Just remember," the old man warned them carefully. "If Uther or even Morgana discover the truth about one or both of you... it's over."
They continued to work, apparently not heeding his call.
The physician stood fast, "You'd almost certainly be parted forever."
At that, both Arthur and Gwen seemed to hesitate in their work. They both glanced at each other again but began working at their spells again. They had to get this done by midnight tonight else they would not be able to gain access to the dungeons to give Collins the key to escape the palace.
Both of them always lived with the fear and knowledge that one day they might be exposed. Arthur would survive the ordeal although he would be forever tainted in his father's eyes. Gwen on the other hand would be shown no mercy. She would undoubtedly be executed.
The thought worried Arthur on many levels; he had known her so long and they had known about each other's magic since they were children. But there was another feeling bugging him, one that he had only started to notice over the last year. As time had gone on the pair of them had become closer and closer, not least because Gwen was keeping her magic secret from her father in a bid to keep him out of trouble.
"Done," Arthur suddenly announced, bottling his potion.
"Finished," Gwen also said proudly, placing the enchantments around her neck. "These should give us easy access to the dungeon. It won't make us invisible, just unnoticeable."
"Great," the prince nodded. "We'll meet at my chambers at half past ten, after we've knocked out George and Morgana. Then we can administer this to the guards."
Just before they went, Gaius made an announcement of his own.
"I thought you should both know that I'm getting an apprentice," the old man explained. "So you two won't be able to do your magic at my workbench anymore."
Arthur pulled a face, "An apprentice? Why on earth do you need to have one of those?"
"I am old," Gaius replied bluntly. "I need to pass my greater wisdom onto someone and you two are too preoccupied with your own lives. This boy is from the countryside in Cenred's kingdom; I'm a friend of his mother."
Gwen smiled, "What's he like?"
"I haven't met him yet," Gaius muttered as he passed the sleeping draughts over to her and Arthur. "But if he's anything like his father, he'll be one to watch out for. I think you'll both like him."
"What's his name?" Arthur asked.
"Merlin," Gaius said simply.
The escape of Thomas Collins met with limited trouble. Arthur and Gwen were quite used to duping the palace guards and sneaking people facing execution out of dungeons and off for a new life beyond Camelot's walls. There were people outside the kingdom who could help the people who Uther had sentenced to death, who helped them escape north where the armies of Camelot could not venture.
And the best thing about it was that the escape could be blamed on use of enchantments. Arthur didn't know why his father didn't use that as a way to tell who is a sorcerer and who isn't. Surely if someone truly had powerful magic, they would use it to try and escape?
That was Arthur's experience in any case. Last time when they caught a real villain, a renegade sorcerer who had been trying to use magic to kill the king, he had tried to escape using magic. Thankfully Arthur had been on duty at the moment and had been able to restrain him before he made it out of the castle.
From then on he made sure to stick an ísenbend geat on the dungeon lock in order to repel any who tried to escape.
The problem with that was that Arthur needed to be there in order to lift his own spell as he kept it on the dungeon gates at all times. It was useful to deter even petty criminals who had been sentenced to a few months down there. Many of them tried to pick the pockets of the guards and since the guards weren't too bright, it sometimes worked.
Arthur's spell meant that the key would fling itself out of the lock whenever anyone from inside the dungeon tried to open the door.
The problem with that was that the key could sometimes be sucked in and jam from the outside too if it were unlocked by anyone other than him.
"I'm working out the kinks in that spell," he explained to Gwen as they made their way down there with the invisibility charms.
They managed to slip the sleeping spell into the wine and dinner of the guards on duty earlier that evening. It was enchanted to start working at midnight so by the time Arthur and Gwen reached Collins in his cell all the guards were asleep at their posts.
"I put the sentry to sleep," Gwen added as she and Arthur handed over the invisible charms and supplies over to him. "Hopefully it'll last until you get out of the city. We can lead you to the back of the castle but from there, you're on your own."
Collins nodded, "Thank you, Guinevere... and thank you for agreeing to heal my mother's illness. She will be eternally grateful to all of you."
"You must take her with you," Arthur told the sorcerer. "Once my father finds out you have escaped, she will be in danger. She is already waiting for you outside the city. We packed enough supplies for both of you."
The young man didn't know what to say other than, "Thank you."
At the grid at the back of the castle, which they had already removed for him to escape through, the two helpers parted ways with Thomas Collins. Just before he left he had one more thing to say to them, especially Arthur:
"You have been doing this for about three years now," he said. "You have helped many like me escape death at Uther's hands, and you in turn have also used magic to help the common people, risking incurring his anger... why not just come clean to him? He surely could not hate someone as close to him as his own son?"
Arthur swallowed hard, "I don't tell him because my father is a stubborn man who will never change. His hatred for magic goes beyond reason. I can't reach him on any level. I've been trying since I was a child but... nothing."
"I know it seems selfish," he went on. "But I'm frightened that if my father ever found out about me, he would disown me or feel I have betrayed him. It would stop me being able to change these laws when I become king myself and finally being able to be honest about whom I am. That's why."
Collins nodded, "I understand, my lord."
Arthur went on: "Go now, Collins. The enchantments we created won't last much longer – and remember not to draw attention. If one person sees past Gwen's enchantment, it will be broken to everyone."
The man turned to run off, but stopped again.
He then turned to Gwen, "One last thing. I've always wondered, though – why do you work together? I mean, you're a prince and a handmaiden teaming up to aid the underworld of magic users here in Camelot. You risk a lot more than he does – your very life – why do you put yourself at risk?"
Gwen looked to Arthur, "Because I have faith in the future."
The next day Uther ranted and raved about the pathetic failure of the guards to stop 'that simpleton sorcerer' from escaping the dungeons last night. The labourers of Camelot had to take down the scaffold as there was no one to execute that day. It was something of a disappointment to the king who had already prepared his speech to mark the anniversary of the capture of the Great Dragon.
Still, he decided he would say it at the great banquet in a few days. It just needed to be reworded a bit.
That very same day, young Merlin wandered into Camelot with nothing to spoil his view at the beauty of the city. He had never seen anything quite like it having lived all his life in a small village. Even the capital of his kingdom, which he visited once when he was six, was nothing to Camelot's splendour.
He walked into the courtyard where he saw the peasants taking down a scaffold and going out about their merry business. There was no sign of blood on the straw, so it looked like no one had been executed.
It gave Merlin a good feeling.
He made his way towards the side of the castle, asking people the direction to the chambers of Gaius the Court Physician. His mother said that it was around the west wing of the castle, presuming he hadn't moved, but Merlin couldn't tell left from right.
He walked up to two guards to ask directions.
"Where would I find Gaius the—y-ow!"
At that moment someone bumped into the back of him, pushing him to the ground as they too fell down. She had been in such a hurry (and had also been looking at the scaffold) that she hadn't been looking where she was going.
Merlin eventually caught sights of the girl; it was a young maid.
It was Gwen.
The moment she saw him, she blushed and smiled. "Oh, um... excuse me!"
Merlin chuckled, "No, it's alright. I was probably in your way—"
"No, no, it's my fault," Gwen replied. "I'm so clumsy..."
"Well, I don't know where I'm going so I was bound to get in someone's way eventually," the young man assured her and helped her back to her feet. "I'm Merlin, by the way."
Gwen's eyes lit up with realisation.
"Gaius told me about you," she said, glad to have finally met this new apprentice. He was much better looking than she had imagined for some reason. She could feel her cheeks blush again at the thought.
Merlin held out his hand to shake it and Gwen made with her introduction also.
"I'm Guinevere, but most people call me Gwen. I'm the Lady Morgana's maid."
Merlin grinned back, "Nice to meet you. I was just looking for Gaius's chambers now, actually."
"Oh," Gwen said cheerfully. "I'll take you there. I was just on my way there too. You know, to say hello."
Actually she had gone there to tell him how the escape last night went but now it seemed that would have to wait. She wondered how she was going to cope with having Merlin around. It meant that she and Arthur wouldn't be able to discuss their magic at his chambers anymore...
But she needn't have worried.
The guards watched as Gwen led Merlin the way.
She opened the door that led to Gaius's chambers and pointed to a sign on the wall reading, 'COURT PHYSICIAN.' "When in doubt," she told Merlin with a giggle. "Follow the signs."
They both laughed and walked up, and then down the dark corridor towards the physician's quarters.
Gwen and Merlin went through the door but the room appeared to be empty.
"Gaius," Gwen called, confused as he wasn't due to be doing his rounds yet.
"Hello?" Merlin called as well, glancing around the room. "Hel-lo?"
The young man looked up around the room before he finally spotted the physician putting some books back on one of the top shelves. He cleared his throat to get the old man's attention. "Gaius?"
Gaius leaned over upon hearing his name called, but he leaned over too far. The frail banister behind him snapped. Immediately he cried out as he began to topple to the ground—
The moment she heard the sound of wood breaking, Gwen span around from where she had been looking at Gaius's herb samples (Looking for anything she could 'borrow' from him for her spells) and reacted instantly.
Not caring for Merlin's presence, she outstretched her arm, lurched forward and cried out, "Lyftfæt beon stede!"
On her word Gaius halted in mid-air with a painful stop. He cried out at the shock of it. It almost felt as if he had fallen backwards and hit the floor, only not having hit something hard meant he didn't break his back or neck.
Yet holding Gaius up in the air with the still weak power of her magic was still difficult. Merlin watched in shock as she strained at slowly lowering Gaius to the ground, steadying his fall until it was no worse than if he had slipped over backwards. At that point she couldn't take the power (or Gaius's weight) anymore, and the spell was broken.
Gaius smacked back against the floor when he was an inch or so from the ground. It hurt but at least he was alive.
Crippled and tired from having to hold someone up in the air against the laws of physics, Gwen also fell to ground face down in her weariness.
Merlin stood between the pair of them, not knowing how to react.
Gaius scrambled to his feet to scold Gwen, and completely ignoring Merlin.
"What did you think you were doing?" he snapped at her. "Crying out the words of a magic spell with the door open and where half of Camelot could have heard you. Stupid girl!"
Gwen wearily pulled herself up on her hands, "So I was supposed to do nothing and let you fall and break your neck?"
"That's really beside the point," the old man said, helping Gwen to her feet.
"It is the point!" she retorted.
"The point for me is that if anyone had heard you and walked in just now, Uther would have someone to burn on that pyre after all. You would have been arrested for witchcraft on the spot. Arthur wouldn't have been able to protect you," Gaius reminded her, as if he had to. "And who would look after your father then, if anything happened to you?"
Gwen sighed and nodded, "I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you and I could have stopped it..."
"Your magic is still weak, Gwen," Gaius reminded her. "You still have a long way to go before you will be able to do magic against the natural forces without it draining you completely. That's why you and Arthur always work together—"
Gwen cleared her throat as she realised Merlin was still standing behind him.
"What is it, my child?" he asked, the fall clearly having shook his senses a little.
"You know how you said anyone could have seen?" she asked carefully. Gaius nodded, and she slowly pointed behind him, "I found Merlin for you."
The old man blinked and then turned around to see the thin, baby-faced young man standing behind him. Merlin seemed un-phased by anything he had just seen and waved cheekily at him.
"Hello there, Gaius."
Gaius gasped, "Merlin..."
He rushed up to the boy in confusion as the young man removed his backpack to take out a letter from his mother. She had told him to give it to Gaius as soon as he met with him.
"You weren't supposed to be here until Wednesday!" Gaius said, flabbergasted.
Merlin tilted his head, "It is Wednesday."
He handed Gaius the note.
"Mother asked me to give you this."
Gaius took the letter, still a little disorientated. "I don't have my glasses," he muttered, only to have Gwen suddenly appear at his side with them in her hands. He looked to her a murmured, "Thank you—"
Gaius's mind finally snapped back into action. Merlin had seen Gwen use magic. He had only known her a few minutes but had already witnessed her greatest secret. Not that he was surprised; she and Arthur were both very foolish, but even then he had always believed Gwen was too sensible to get caught. Then again, it wasn't like she had a choice but to reveal herself in that moment.
Gaius turned to Merlin, "I should probably explain to you—"
"Well, it isn't that hard to figure out," Merlin said with a knowing chuckle. "Gwen is some kind of witch."
"Actually I'd prefer it if you called me an enchantress," Gwen jumped in perkily, saying it as if it were just a simple correction. "Witch make me sound like I practise dark magic and I'm not quite powerful enough to be a sorceress..."
Gaius gave her the eyebrow, "Now this is beside the point."
He turned back to Merlin.
"Merlin, you must understand that you can't tell anyone what you have just seen," the old man explained to the boy. "I know you've only been here, well, less than half an hour but this is vital. Magic is outlawed in Camelot and if Gwen were suspected of practising enchantments, she would be burned at the stake."
Merlin stared at Gaius before glancing at Gwen. She stood beside him, seemingly unconcerned but secretly worried that this boy would turn out to be one with a running mouth. Given the amount of time she and Arthur spent with Gaius, he had to have come across something sooner or later.
"In case you're wondering," Gwen said to try and lighten the mood, "yes, Gaius is always this cheerful."
Merlin smirked, "I promise I won't say anything about what happened. Mother told me what Uther is like with those that practise magic. Your secret is safe with me."
Gwen nodded and smiled gratefully back.
Gaius sighed and pointed Merlin in the direction of his new room, "Right, well, you better put your bag in that room up there."
The boy turned to take his leave of the pair of them.
Suddenly, Gwen called after him, "Merlin!"
He turned to face her.
"I should say thank you."
After a night of wondering whether or not to tell Arthur that Gaius's new apprentice was now aware of her magic, Gwen decided to get to know Merlin first. Even if he was a blabber mouth he would be less likely to give the game away.
He had seemed like a nice person and Gwen felt a strange sort of bond with him the moment she met him. They were about the same age. So she decided, after she had finished her duties for Morgana, to head over to Gaius's chambers to see how Merlin was settling in.
She would probably have gone there anyway whether he was there or not. Arthur would probably be there too, so she could kill two birds with one stone.
Elsewhere Merlin was getting the same advice from Gaius.
"We will start on your education once you have settled in a little more," the old man explained to his young ward. "For now you can deliver some of my rounds about the castle while I try to find you some paid work here."
Merlin smiled as he tucked into his porridge, "Thank you, Gaius."
Gaius nodded. He then brought up the subject of Gwen;
"I'd advise you to become friends with her," he told Merlin. "She's about the same age as you... how old are you?"
"I just turned seventeen," Merlin replied.
"Gwen is just shy of it," Gaius informed him. "So she is your peer. She is also Lady Morgana's maid so she can help you ease yourself into Camelot. Once I find you some work here it will be servants work; she can 'show you the ropes'."
Merlin nodded; he wasn't very interested in Gwen's job in the castle. He was more interested in her secret.
"Do many people know Gwen is an enchantress?" he asked straight.
Gaius thinned his lips, "No one outside the sorcerers' circle, no."
"Apart from me," Merlin pointed out.
"Apart from you," Gaius agreed. "The truth is even those inside the circle don't know for certain that Gwen practises magic."
"So you're the only one who really knows?"
"There is me, and someone else."
"This Arthur," the young man asked. "You mentioned him when you were talking to Gwen about her magic. You said they practised magic together..."
"Yes, Arthur knows too."
Merlin nodded, still tucking into his food. It was much nicer than anything he usually got in Ealdor; coming to Camelot was a big step up. He wondered whether he would be able to cope with this city life.
He looked to Gaius and spoke with all seriousness, "I won't speak a word of it, I promise."
"That's very reassuring to know," Gaius replied.
He picked up the things he wanted Merlin to deliver. Although he had only known this boy for a day there was something about him that made him feel his word was golden. In her letter Hunith had told Gaius that he needed some to guide him, to prepare him for 'the inevitable task set ahead of him'. He knew exactly what she meant... but he had a feeling Merlin was completely unaware.
He handed Merlin the things to deliver and a sandwich.
The pair exchanged a smile.
"Off you go," Gaius said affectionately.
That afternoon Gwen slammed the door as she entered the physician's quarters, alerting Arthur and Gaius to her presence immediately. She had the look of thunder in her face – which for Gwen was more than out of the ordinary – and she was channelling all of her clear annoyance at Arthur. Yet she said nothing.
Arthur was surprised at how much her disapproval cut through him.
"You seem ebbing with delight as always," Gaius said sarcastically. "I assume you heard that Merlin is in the dungeons."
Gwen lowered her eyes at Arthur even more.
"Better than that," she snipped at him coldly. "I had the best seat in the house to watch the performance of you acting like a big... ugh!"
She flumped down into a chair and refused to look at Arthur.
He wanted to chuckle nervously but the moment he breathed in that direction, she looked over him with a look of disappointment. Again, the hammer hit the nail right through his heart.
Arthur turned to Gaius.
"I might be able to find some moron willing to give him a job," he said, trying to sound less disturbed by Gwen's pout than he was. "But the only person I can think of now is Old Olwen. He's deaf as well as blind. He wouldn't mind him."
Gwen made an audible tut.
Arthur glanced at her, starting to lose his rattle. "Alright, fine, tell me what it is that I have done to upset you so damned much instead of sitting there gritting your teeth. If you have something to say, don't let me stop you."
She turned to look at him finally.
"You're an arrogant pig," Gwen retorted shortly.
Arthur sighed, "So, now we're getting somewhere—"
"I saw everything from the opening act of your throwing knifes at poor George, to the middle where you and Merlin exchanged retorts, to the finale where you nearly snapped his arm off and threw him in the dungeons," she informed him sharply. "And I'm sorry if you're offended that I called you a pig, but you are one... my lord."
Arthur nodded. He tried not to smirk at the way Gwen had stuck the words 'my lord' at the end, as if doing that made her miniature outbursts more polite. He liked her for it. A lot.
"Anything else?" he asked.
Gwen bit her lip, "No, I think that's it. Unless you did something else that I didn't see – which you probably did knowing you."
The prince chuckled under his breath. "You're right, I'm sorry. What can I do to make you feel better?"
"Let Merlin out of the dungeons," Gwen replied.
Arthur cringed, "Is there anything apart from that?"
Gwen gave him a straight face again.
"Can I at least leave him there for a little while longer?" the prince asked, uncommonly trying to win some ground back from the maid servant. "He was rude to me and, if he's to keep a job in this place, he needs to know he can't do that."
"It was unfair of you to egg him on the way you did," Gwen said quietly, looking away from Arthur yet again to think of what she had seen. Just when she thought that Arthur was starting to mature, he goes and acts like a big royal twat. He only did it to impress his friends and it disappointed her to no end. "He's not from our lands. He wasn't to know who you are."
Arthur placed his hands on his hips, "Why do you care so much about him? You hardly know him."
She smiled for the first time since she walked into those chambers.
"I just like him," Gwen said simply.
The Prince felt another stab through his heart; this time it was the tinge of jealousy.
Gaius stepped forward, "Merlin should be taught to know his place, yes. But his actions are beside the point. It's what he knows."
"Not a lot as far as I could tell," Arthur said.
He then laughed.
"Merlin knows I'm an enchantress," Gwen said bluntly.
She wanted to bring him crashing down to earth again, and it worked. Arthur stopped laughing immediately.
"What? How did he find that out?"
"It's a long story," she said. "I think he knows you have magic too. He overheard Gaius and me talking, and he saw me using magic to stop Gaius falling and hurting himself—"
Arthur jumped out of his chair. Now it was his turn to lose his temper at Gwen. "So after four years of us working covertly to liberate the unjustly accused prisoners of magic you're true identity is ultimately tumbled... by a prat from the countryside?"
"There is more," Gaius said lowly, trying to get their attention squarely on him. Arthur and Gwen could battle with their raging hormones in their own time but right now he was talking. "There is something you should both know about Merlin and why it is significant that he has come to Camelot now..."
Later that evening Arthur went to the dungeons to confront Merlin. The dejected boy seemed surprisingly willing to have another battle of 'wits' with the prince... but that wasn't why Arthur was there.
"Alright," the prince declared once the guards had left them alone. "Clearly you and I have got off on the wrong foot. I'm willing to let you out if you promise me a few things."
"If you're worried about your secret you need not worry," Merlin retorted spitefully but honestly. "I won't tell anyone."
"No, you won't," Arthur replied cynically. "Not because you're an honest person who doesn't grass but because no one would believe you because I'm the bloody prince and you're a commoner. It would be your word against mine."
"And I'll keep your girlfriend's secret too," Merlin added. "She actually deserves not to get into trouble."
The prince felt his cheeks blush and his heart skip a beat at the boy's suggestion that Gwen was his 'girlfriend'. He was instantly reminded of the pleasant way Gwen had talked about Merlin earlier and it made him feel that tiny ounce of jealousy again. Clearly he had to keep an eye on this country bumpkin.
Arthur folded his arms. "You're a right little firebrand, aren't you?"
Merlin inclined his head to the side and smile with a positive response.
"You realise that now you know the truth about Gwen and me, that you have to be considered in the loop and one of us," Arthur told him seriously.
"So if I get captured I must take your secrets to my grave?"
Merlin pulled himself to his feet.
"Why are you really here, 'my lord'?"
Gaius had told Arthur and Gwen not to tell him the truth as the truth would soon be revealed to Merlin by the Great Dragon beneath the castle, whose capture was what all of Camelot was celebrating. It was up to the dragon to lead young Merlin to his destiny to become the Last Dragonlord. All Arthur and Gwen could do for now use their magic to ensure he met this destiny so he could help them in the future...
So instead Arthur moved straight to his final point.
"I came here to offer you a job."
"Gaius said you were in need of one," Arthur explained generally. "It just so happens that my current servant has handed in his notice."
"The poor sod you were throwing knives at? I'm not surprised."
Arthur smirked in response. This arrangement could be more ideal than he originally thought. Not only could he help Merlin towards his destiny to tame the Great Dragon but he could keep tabs on him. He could make sure that he kept their secrets, as well as his own, secure. He could also keep tabs on his relationship with Gwen...
Though the Prince was still unwilling to admit that was an issue for him.
"I think you will be ideal for the job," Arthur said. "Don't you?"
Merlin just rolled his eyes. What had he got himself into?