Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin! But last nights episode was brilliant so I really wish I did!
Summary: A druid camp is captured and so, to save Arthur from making a terrible choice, Merlin makes a pledge.
There were lines upon lines of them, some looking afraid, some unrepentant, some almost daring. From where he stood in the crowd watching, Merlin felt a shiver of terror race through him at what he was about to do.
At what he had to do.
Arthur had spent the entire night trying to come up with a solution. What were you meant to do when you captured an entire druid camp and the law insisted you were meant to put them all to death, children and all? Merlin could still see the look on Arthur's face as he had stood, hands on the table, gripping the edge for dear life and hunched over as if his back was breaking with the weight he carried. Merlin had remained utterly silent as debates had whirled across the room, Gaius reminding Arthur that if he truly wished to revoke the law when he became King then he could not sentence these druids to death. Geoffrey arguing that to not do so would be to shake Camelot too severely at this point in time, that the people would feel unprotected.
Arthur had tried that night. He'd walked down, hand in hand with a determined looking Gwen, accompanied by a pale Gaius, to ask the Druids to pledge an oath to him, a compromise of sorts that would allow Arthur to free them without horrifying Camelot too severely. But they didn't trust the Prince whose power to protect them could vanish in an instant should Uther choose to reclaim the throne. They didn't trust the young man who had hunted down sorcerers and stood by his fathers side as so many had burned.
Merlin supposed he really couldn't blame them.
And so it was that they stood in the courtyard, the druids on the wooden stage as Arthur asked them one last time to pledge themselves to him. Although the Prince's voice was strong and steady, Merlin could hear the desperate plea in his voice, the anger at the helpless position he was in. A quick look at Gwen's face showed that she could hear it too.
Arthur stood and waited for their reply, his scarlet cloak catching the wind and streaming it out like a banner. Yet the Druids still remained silent; whatever their feelings and thoughts on the Prince's offer they stood together, not a single one breaking rank and taking the chance that Arthur was offering them.
Heart thudding in his chest Merlin stepped forward, weaving his way through the crowd. No-one paid attention, they were all staring at the sight before them. This wasn't like the normal executions that had happened under Uther's command. It wasn't so much about ridding Camelot of an enemy and showing the power of the Pendragon line but more about will and trust and no-one was quite sure how to act.
The silence stretched on and on and Arthur's shoulders slumped fractionally in defeat, his head bowed.
Merlin's feet climbed the wooden stairs, the sound echoing throughout the quiet courtyard, sounding in Merlin's head like a drum beat that matched the wild thumping of his heart and the fear that throbbed in his head. As he stood on the stage Gwen shot him a relieved look, probably thinking that he would stand for Arthur, wait until Arthur could go and take him to his chambers, steadying him as he went.
But it could not be.
Gaius stood to the side and watched with a suspicious gaze as Merlin stepped forward again, closer to Arthur and the centre of the stage, drawing attention to himself. The last thing Merlin saw on Gaius' face was worry turning to sheer panic.
"Merlin" Arthur hissed, voice low enough to not be picked up and carried to the assembled crowd, "Get out the way."
Merlin ignored him and walked towards the Prince, watching as Arthur blinked away annoyance and a baffled expression lit up his eyes and firmed his mouth into a narrow straight line.
It felt so wrong. It went against every rule that he had made for himself to do this.
And, as much as he wanted to flee, turn and run and never return, he couldn't look away from Arthurs now rather concerned blue eyes as the Prince stepped forward as if to ask what was wrong.
His hand wouldn't stop shaking as he held it out to Arthur, clenched in a fist. His nails bit into the skin as if trying to remind him that he was still alive and could still feel, despite the numbness that was threatening to overtake everything.
Out of the corner of his eye a knight started in surprise and called his name.
"Your highness, he's sick I should_"
Lancelot. The brave, foolish knight was trying to defend him. There would be a way of explaining that away later if this went...when this went wrong and Arthur...
There would be a way. Merlin had lied to Arthur before. He could do it again.
He opened his fist as Arthur's eyes widened with so many emotions it was impossible to distinguish them. Arthur saw what the crowd didn't, a second before fire sprung up from his palm, burning steadily like a candle's flame.
Arthur saw his eyes flash gold.
There could be no mistaking it now. No arguing that another had used him, had placed the fire in his hands.
The crowd had been buzzing in confusion as Merlin approached Arthur and he could hear the surprised gasps, the mutterings, the stony silence.
He could hear Arthur's lack of breath as his Prince stared at him as if he'd never seen Merlin before.
He let the fire fade away, dropping his hand uselessly to his side.
And then eyes remaining on Arthur he knelt, slowly. It seemed an age before his knee hit the wooden planks.
Unable to look into that heavy blue gaze any longer, Merlin dropped his head, as if offering it for the executioners axe. His mouth was dry and his tongue felt stuck to the roof of his mouth but somehow he managed to get some saliva to force the words past his lips.
"I pledge myself to Arthur Pendragon. Whatever his will, I will submit."
It wasn't loud or steady, but it was enough to be heard and understood.
Merlin kept his eyes focussed on the wooden plank before him, unable to even get a glimpse of Arthur's feet, forcing himself to wait for judgement.
And then there was a sound of knees hitting the planks. He tried not to look but his neck turned of it's own accord to the Druids.
Most of whom were now kneeling.
And the silence went on. A few more Druids joining them as Merlin knelt, seconds away from Arthur's blade, and remained unscathed.
"I acc...I accept your pledge." Arthur's voice croaked out, hoarse and cracked.
Merlin closed his eyes, still terrified of what he would see if he looked up at Arthur.
Sorry, that idea wouldn't leave me alone! Hope you enjoyed x