Here is the last and final installment in this story and I'm almost sad to see it go. Please, remember to review and tell me if you think it was a good ending since I will not be telling you this at the bottom. Have fun.
Merlin was relieved. Things were finally going back to normal. He had returned to work just two days ago—though Gaius had insisted that it be very light work and that there was to be no lifting of heavy objects whatsoever, with or without his magic—and it had been just over three weeks since being brought back home.
He'd even gone to see the Great Dragon yesterday. On the second day after waking up from his near-deathly coma he had heard the annoying and persistent voice in his head. 'Merlin. Merlin.' At that point he had been exhausted and in a great deal of agony despite Gaius' painkillers and had just simply snapped at the voice to 'go away.' And strangely enough it had.
But though the voice had left him alone, the presence in his mind had not. During his nightmares he would feel the slightest warmth against his mind that would increase when the dream had become too much for him to bear. The nudge in his mind would often be enough to wake Merlin up.
That warmth had stayed in mind all throughout his convalescence, but it had never felt violating or intruding even once in that while time. And only yesterday had the voice returned. Merlin had gone to see the dragon and they had talked. As usual the Great Dragon had known that something bad had happened but hadn't known all of the details. Even though Merlin still wasn't comfortable talking about it, the beast had been there for him the past few weeks, and so the warlock felt like he owed it to him.
Instead of getting some kind of lecture or being told that he was young or foolish or that he had much to learn, which was normally happened when he went to see the dragon, the creature had been comforting and understanding after hearing Merlin's tale. He had said,
"You have suffered greatly, Merlin, and have endured much. But I think, in this case, the good that comes from such a great evil will far outweigh the bad. Your bond with the young Pendragon has been made stronger by these events. That may end up saving both your lives one day. And, if I am not mistaken Merlin, what has occurred has helped to heal an old wound. The reward for your endurance will be great."
Merlin had never heard the dragon be so kind to him. The creature had truly sounded as if he was sorry for his pain and was trying to cheer him up.
Not that he needed cheering up when was still so happy just to be let out of Gaius' chambers. Of course, he had been disappointed that Arthur's room hadn't needed as much cleaning up as usual—apparently the temporary servant that the prince had gotten had been a horrible bootlicker—but it was enough for him just to return to work.
Most of his old banter with Arthur had returned, too, and he only rarely caught the concerned looks the prince was sending his way. In all truth, Merlin believed that he was currently feeling better than he had since before the poisoning, and everyone was certainly telling him that he looked it. Soon Arthur may not be concerned about him at all, which would be good since Merlin was tired of making the people he cared about worried.
Merlin had even regained most of the weight he had lost, which in itself was a miracle since it was far easier for the warlock to lose weight than to put it on.
Things finally seemed good. And normal. The only thing that still bothered Merlin was the occasional glance he saw Arthur throwing his way. These were different than the concerned looks. No, it was the kind look someone gave you if they were trying to see how strong you were, or what you could take. Knowing Arthur, he was probably just waiting until he deemed his servant well enough to be given whatever harsh and ridiculous chore that he had in mind.
Still, it was disconcerting. Merlin had figured that Arthur would probably stick him with a week's worth of stable-mucking duty as soon as the prat could, but the look didn't quite fit with that. The prince was hiding something, and rather poorly, too.
But Merlin really didn't care what it was. The nightmares were finally starting to fade, his appetite was growing every day, (much to Margaret's delight,) no one he cared about was in life-threatening danger, and Arthur had even lobbed something at his head this morning, even if that something was only a pillow.
Merlin smiled to himself as he finished straightening up Arthur's room. He sighed in satisfaction. All is right with the world.
Suddenly Gwen rushed hurriedly into the room. The maid practically ran into him.
The first thing Merlin noticed was the worried and anxious look on her face. "Gwen is something wrong?" he asked, already cursing himself for jinxing his normal day with his earlier thought.
"Merlin, the king has just sent for you in the throne room. I came to fetch you. Merlin, you haven't done anything stupid, have you? You didn't call Arthur a prat in front of Uther or something like that?"
"What?" Merlin asked, shocked. "No, of course not. Despite what Arthur thinks I'm not that stupid. What is this about?"
Gwen looked more worried than ever, even with Merlin's reassurances. "I don't know, Merlin, all I know is that the king wants to see you in the throne room right away."
"Well, then we shouldn't keep him waiting." Gwen nodded and they both left.
It was little wonder, Merlin thought, that Gwen was so scared for him. Not only had she had a bad experience of being called in front of Uther, but no one really enjoyed it. Even Arthur rarely came away happy from his talks or meetings with his father.
And Merlin had to admit that he was a little scared himself. Nearly all of his experiences with Uther were not pleasant. Of course, that wasn't always Uther's fault, but it didn't change the fact that Merlin felt like he had very little luck in the king's presence.
He and Gwen stopped outside the closed courtroom doors. The guards recognized him and let him and Gwen, who had fallen behind him since Uther didn't wish to talk to her, in.
The great throne room was filled with people gathered at the sides. There were nobles and peasants and even servants who didn't look like they were there to be serving anybody. Apparently Uther wanted everyone to hear whatever it was that he was going to say to Merlin.
Merlin could pick out Gaius, who Gwen was now standing next to, Margaret and several other people he knew in the crowd. He even saw Leon, who looked quite happy, which brightened his mood a bit since he didn't think that the knight was likely to be glad about anything that would be unpleasant for Merlin.
In the front of the room Uther was sitting in the middle throne with Arthur and Morgana at his sides. The king looked quite solemn, which wasn't unusual at all for him, while Arthur just looked smug. Morgana looked confused and worried and, if Merlin ventured a guess, he would say that she was as much in the dark as he was.
He wanted to see what Gaius' reaction to all of this was, but he was unfortunately in the middle of the room with every eye on him. He couldn't afford to let his own stray from the king's.
He bowed to Uther. "My lord," he said in the most respecting tone he had.
"Merlin formerly of Ealdor and now of Camelot," Uther addressed him. At least he didn't sound angry, a good sign. "When you first came to this land you saved my son Arthur. For that deed you were made his servant. It has been brought to my attention that recently you performed a great service to Camelot. You refused to give important information to an evil sorcerer even under torture, and by doing so you not only protected Camelot, but spared Arthur from the same fate as well. You protected this kingdom from its enemies at a great personal cost to yourself."
The whole room seemed to be awed by what Uther had said, much to Merlin's embarrassment. And the boy certainly hadn't missed the way many people had gasped when the king had mentioned the torture. The warlock still didn't know what this was about, but he was starting to think that this was all some sort of weird dream.
"For these deeds, and for your loyalty to my son that goes above and beyond anything that was ever expected of you, it is only fair that you shall receive a reward. No gift can make up for what you have suffered, but maybe it can ease the pain of the scars that are a testament to your bravery. And so, your reward shall be a hundred gold coins to spend how you choose."
Everyone in the room clapped and cheered. Merlin just stood stunned. He had never had anywhere near that much money before. Not only that, but he had never expected to get praise from Uther of all people. He looked over and saw Gwen clapping and grinning wildly and he found that her joy was infectious. A big smile slid over Merlin's face. He gave a head-bow to the king and said, "Thank you, sire." The king simply nodded.
He glanced at Arthur and began to realize what the smug look meant: he was proud of himself, he had arranged this. The prince met his gaze and a silent and mutual 'thank you' passed between them.
Arthur got up from his chair and walked over to Merlin. "Here," he handed the warlock a bag of coins.
Merlin took it and headed out of the throne room, his friends following behind him. Once they were all out of Uther's sight and hearing range they all crowded around him.
"Congratulations, Merlin, you deserve it," Gwen said, still beaming.
"I'm happy for you, Merlin, it's about time you got some respect," Morgana said in one of the kindest tones he had ever heard from her.
"Well done, my boy, you've earned it," Gaius exclaimed, a twinkle in his eyes that Merlin hadn't seen in over a month.
"Maybe you can use some of those coins of yours to fatten yourself up then. You won't have any excuse to be thin if you're rich," Merlin heard Margaret say in a husky tone that told him she was trying to prevent herself from crying.
Merlin looked all around him and saw almost all of the people in his life that he cared about. And in a way his mother and Will were there, too, since they had both seen him off and given him their blessing to do—as Will put it—"great and mischievous things." Seeing all his friends around him and sensing their joy it was impossible not to get caught up it in. And even though Merlin didn't value gold the way other people did he still felt some happiness at the gift.
Merlin was still more than a little embarrassed by the praise he had received and being formally called in front of the king to be given his reward, but the elation he felt overshadowed all of it. In fact, he was so distracted by his friends and his own happiness that he didn't notice that Morgana had drifted away from the group with a confused and terrified look on her face.
Morgana backed away from everyone when she caught sight of the bag in Merlin's hands. Up until that point she had only witnessed minor glimpses of it, but once she had gotten a real look she recognized it for what it was. It was the same bag of gold that she had seen in her nightmare the night she went to see an unconscious Merlin. Morgana wasn't sure how, but somehow she knew that the fulfillment of just one of the many things in her dream had just come to pass. And as she gazed at the smiling Merlin and all the people gathering around him she felt something she had never felt before, not during the day, that is.
Her vision left her and in her mind she saw dozens of images, both clear and yet fuzzy and confusing at the same time. She saw Merlin pulling Arthur out of the way of a knife, Merlin handing Arthur a snakehead, Merlin drinking from the poisoned goblet, Merlin and Arthur talking in a clearing with the words "true friend" on his lips, Merlin being whipped horribly, Merlin convulsing on a bed—just like she had seen before—, Arthur standing in Merlin's bedroom with the servant's hand on his shoulder, the gold coins, Merlin and Arthur standing on a balcony and talking. Abruptly the images stopped and two words rang in Morgana's head. "The Foundation."
For what seemed like hours more pictures swirled in Morgana's head. And after each set a new name would be given to them. Finally she reached a single picture that slowed its movement and didn't make her dizzy like the others. Arthur and someone Morgana couldn't see were fighting back to back in a bloody and gruesome battle. The sky overhead was crimson, and creatures all around them fought with an intense viciousness. The monsters were more frightening than anything Morgana had seen in her nightmares before; they looked to be the very embodiment of evil. In the distance a dragon flamed and roared. Morgana could tell by the way the two men moved and fought in perfect harmony that they knew each other very well. One would protect the other from whatever danger he was too busy to meet, and the other way around. They were an unstoppable force.
The final words flashed in her mind and her sight was returned to her. She looked around her, gasping for breath and trying to regain her dignity. Morgana had never had a nightmare or vision during the day before, and what she had seen had frightened her more than anything ever had. It was both so powerful and so terrifying that she was overwhelmed. She knew that what she had just seen was a powerful and wonderful and scary future.
She tried to re-orientate herself and pretend like nothing had happened, but it was so hard with those words hanging in her mind. At the end of every set of images words would reverberate through her. She couldn't help but listen to their daunting power.
The foundation. The Growth. The Calm Before The Storm. The Tempest. The Aftershock. The Legend.
Morgana knew that those words signified something of immense importance and greatness. They were far bigger than any one man. They were a legend.
But even though she knew all that she still had no idea what all the images truly meant. She would have to think more on it later. Perhaps ask Gaius about it.
Suddenly Morgana jumped nearly a foot in the air as someone's hand landed on her shoulder.
"Lady Morgana, are you all right?" asked Sir Leon.
Confused, for she couldn't remember what she had been thinking, she replied, "Yes, I'm fine." And with that she walked away from her still-laughing friends and went back to her chambers, all the while trying to remember what she had forgotten. She had been doing something while she was standing in that corner…she had been seeing something, something important. What was it?
It would be a long, long time before the Lady Morgana would remember. And when she finally did it would be far too late. For the day that her memory of the powerful warlock and the mighty king would return would be the day that Emry's killed her…with his love.
As Merlin's friends began to disperse he looked and saw Arthur standing by himself on a small outdoor balcony watching him. The prat looked way too smug for his own good, so Merlin decided he would have to change that.
He walked towards Arthur and together they looked out over the beauty of Camelot, the wind gently blowing their hair. They stood in silence like that for a while until, eventually, Merlin asked, "Why?" At Arthur's questioning glance he elaborated. "It's not that I don't appreciate it, but I…don't' really understand the why…or the how, for that matter. I would have thought that it was impossible for you to overcome your pride long enough to hear your father say that I saved you."
Arthur thought about his answer for a moment, despite Merlin's jibe he was going to answer honestly. "Well, if it helps you to understand I suppose you should know that I didn't arrange this whole thing to give you gold. I know you don't care about money the way certain, stuffy lords do. I did this so that the people of Camelot could see you getting the gold."
Merlin stared at him, obviously confused. "So…you did this for Camelot?"
Arthur had to hold back a laugh at the puzzled expression on Merlin's face. His manservant really could be thick sometimes. "No, Merlin, you don't care about riches—that was just for pretense. What I really wanted was for everyone to know what you did. I know you, Merlin; you don't expect praise or recognition for anything that you do—and most of the time you don't even deserve it for being as lazy as you are. But you sacrificed so much because you wanted to, not because you thought you would be rewarded. And I thought that everyone should know that. This was about you getting the praise you deserve, because…Morgana was right, you have earned it."
Merlin just looked at Arthur, a warm feeling settling in his gut. There had been more sincerity in the last month than either of them were comfortable with, but Arthur had reached past that and had done something nice for his servant. Merlin had to admit that the praise had felt good—it had also been embarrassing, which Arthur had no doubt enjoyed—but good.
Arthur was right, praise and recognition weren't two things he received very often. Most of the time Merlin saved Arthur's life without ever expecting any sort of acknowledgement for it. And he had a feeling that he would be do that for years to come. But for now, the praise was all that he needed.
He looked at Arthur. He had not only given his servant a gift, but had also given many others gifts as well. Merlin had seen the looks of pure joy on the faces of his loved ones, looks that he hadn't seen in over a month. Their happiness alone was enough to make all of this worth it.
That mutual and soundless 'thank you' passed between them again as both boys felt an immense gratitude at what the other had done for him.
Silence reigned supreme for a while as the young men who would grow up to be powerful and wonderful people stared out at Camelot. Merlin, for one, marveled at how lucky he was that this beautiful kingdom was his home.
Suddenly, a thought sprang into Merlin's mind. "Hey, Arthur, how did you get the king to agree to this? It could just be me, but I didn't think he had a very high opinion of servants."
Arthur chuckled. "You'd be surprised at the powers of persuasion I can have over him when he's in a good mood." He chuckled again. "But it wasn't just me. Despite what you may think, Merlin, my father firmly believes in rewarding people for their good deeds. He has a sense of honor about that. He's not as cruel as everyone thinks." Merlin could hear the slight sadness in Arthur's tone at that. The servant knew how hard it must be for him, being the son of a man so many people hated and judged.
But the spark returned to Arthur's eyes when he continued, "Also, it doesn't hurt to remind him that by rewarding you for your service to Camelot, others might be more inclined to follow in your footsteps. He thinks he can by the peoples' loyalty."
"Only the people whose loyalty isn't worth buying," Merlin said. Unbidden, both minds flashed to some rather prattish nobles. "Still, though," Merlin said thoughtfully, "I have no idea what I'm going to do with all of this money. It's not like I have that many needs."
Arthur smirked. "Maybe you could use it to buy yourself some new clothes. It's like you only have one extra pair! You can't imagine what it does to my image, having a servant as poorly dressed as you following me around. Or maybe you should listen to Margaret—people might actually take you seriously if you weren't as skinny as a broom. Or is that just common where you come from?"
Merlin looked like he was about to retort, but then an idea seemed to spark in his head. A huge grin spread over his face. "I could give it to the people of Ealdor!" Merlin looked ecstatic. "They need it far more than me. This money could do wonders for them. So many of them can't afford the things they need." Merlin beamed at Arthur. "Thank you, this is brilliant."
"It's a good idea, Merlin, but you should keep a few coins for yourself, you never know when you might need it. Especially with your luck."
"Yeah, sure," Merlin said distractedly, "I should really go and prepare to send this to them." He made to leave but then looked back at Arthur uncertainly.
Sensing what the boy needed, Arthur said, "Go on, you can have the rest of the day off, but I expect you to bring me breakfast on-time tomorrow. And if you don't I'll stick you with stable-mucking duty for a week."
Merlin huffed loudly. "Gaius will never stand for that," he replied, but secretly got the message that the prince had been trying to send. Tomorrow everything would go back to the way it was. Tomorrow would be normal.
But as Merlin ran back to Gaius' chambers in the hopes that the old man could tell him exactly how one sends hundred gold coins to a small village, the warlock wondered if maybe it wouldn't be quite the same. Sure, Arthur would call him an idiot and Merlin would tell him that he's a prat, but it wouldn't be the same. Arthur had gone through a lot of trouble, time, and had discarded his pride more than once for his servant. The bag of gold in his hand Merlin couldn't care less about for himself, except that it symbolized something greater. The Great Dragon had told him that his reward would be great, but Merlin was starting to realize that that had nothing to do with money. The reward was something that would last much longer. Arthur, though for now they would both deny it, was a True friend. They had gone through so much recently, and now, perhaps, they were both receiving their rewards.
No, Merlin thought, things won't be the same. He didn't think that it would be greatly noticeable, just subtle. Their friendship had been strengthened and that could never be undone. Merlin had seen it in Arthur's eyes: they were now so much more than master and servant.
Merlin had gone through that torture for many reasons, to save many futures. But now he had the strangest feeling that it had had an effect that he had never imagined. His actions, along with Arthur's, may just have laid the foundations for something bigger. A legendary friendship.
Merlin smiled as he entered his room. He set down the bag of coins on a table and felt that a chapter in his life was over. Now it was time for a new one to begin.
Chapter one: "The Foundation" has ended.
This story shall be continued, though when I do not know. If anyone has any questions about this series then PM me.
Firstly, I want to thank you all for all the support and love you have given me and this story. I could not have done it without you. And a great big thank you to all the people who reviewed regularly or semi-regularly, I owe you all so much. Thank you for the feedback and the praise, I don't think anything I've ever done has been loved quite as much as this.
Next, I wish to tell you all that my next story in the "Chapter" series is either going to be a short story about Merlin and Arthur's friendship growing, or I'm simply going to skip that and move on to the story "Gathering Clouds." Almost every story in this series will contain whump, definitely bromance, hopfully some plot twists and ideas you've never seen before, and will feature Merlin and Arthur as the main two people we see. After all, it's about them. So look out for these stories even if I have no idea when they will be out. Oh, and if anyone wants to find out more about the next story there is a summary on my profile.
And you all should know that I am not EVER going to do a Morgana/Merlin fic. There's no romance between them.
So, I really would love some feedback about what your favorite parts in this story were and maybe what you think could use to be changed. I have gone back and I realize a bunch of typos and such and I plan on fixing them one day. Also, if there was anything that didn't make sense then I will try to explain it to you as long as you tell me. And I wish to know if everyone seemed mostly in-character. This story dealed with a lot of things that I believe the show will never do, so it's bound to be a bit out of character.
Thank you for all of your support and I will see you all in some of my other stories, and believe me, I have many ideas. "Until then...just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine." See if you can figure out what that is from. (:
"Take heart...I have overcome the world."