Author's note: Even thought the chapters of this story haven't been that tightly knotted together, I wanted to tie everything together with a proper ending or else I'd never be able to finish this story, and I've got another project (or really more like four, or five projects in total) that's screaming for attention. It's saddening to see the story go though, it's been an awesome journey. Thanks to all of you who have so patiently followed me from start to end, read, reviewed, or added to faves and alerts! You awesome people have made my day! I've never had this many review on one single story before and every time I see that somebody's taken such note to my story, I'm literarily bouncing on my seat in happiness! Since you're too many to make a list - there'd probably be complaints about a too long author's note if I did - I'm giving you all a big thank you for your support. This is dedicated to you.
(If anybody's interested, my next story is also in the Merlin category and A/M but with a lot more serious plot than this.It should be up soon, unless I'm stalled by unexpected events.)
But now, to the finale:
Things That Merlin Isn't Allowed To Do (According to Prince Arthur)
(Actually now it's According to King Arthur to be quite honest)
(or The List or even The Beginning of the War of Lists)
Sometime in November, Camelot goes through a number of drastic changes. There's one or two battles and painstaking betrayal and Merlin tries to be a hero again (and succeeds even if there's credit lacking and he's still being called an idiot) and Arthur at some point gains donkey ears, again (and this time it wasn't Merlin fault, honest!).
A lot of other things happens in-between as well, like the event with the obviously aggravating impostor Uncle Agravaine who appeared out of nowhere after many long years' absence - even if it takes awhile for Merlin to convince the rest of Camelot that the man isn't to be trusted and that riding off into the woods all alone at odd hours isn't normal behaviour.
Morgana sort of liked him though, because of his mysterious nature and dark, creepy eyes, but she's going through a period where she's redecorated her room to look like some candle-filled shadowy hut or cave with rabbit-feet, old books and weird stinking herbs on every available space and a giant pot with some yellow, sinister-looking stuff. There might be magic involved too but no one sees that, except Merlin, until it's too late, when a visiting voodoo-man notices that she's as light a duck i.e. made of wood and floats on water, and thus decidedly a witch, and then Camelot's gossiping mill goes wild and everyone knows.
King Uther is, naturally, less than pleased.
So Morgana decides to rebel and leave altogether and there's her blonde half-sister of hers appearing as well, having a part of it all. Merlin thinks they might, might have something to do with that tear in the veil two months ago (which was quickly remedied of course thanks to Arthur being such a sefless prathead who never listens to Merlin's advice and just throws himself headlong into danger).
Arthur isn't that happy either, he kind of liked Morgana even if she had her moments of wierdness - Merlin assures him that they'll make her see sense in awhile, she just needs to vent her anger; it's best if they simply leave her be.
At the end, King Uther can take the craziness no more, and decides to retire for good and moves to a nice little summer castle somewhere in Northumbria and Arthur becomes king, finally, with a ridiculously huge crown that keeps slipping past his eyes. The crowning is followed by a grand feast and some sparkly fireworks in gold and red and blue that lights up the skies.
Immediately, he makes to change some of Camelot's famous laws, like that one about magic - everyone's happy about that, including Morgana who decides to come back, even if the Evil Uncle by then is long gone (after that incident in the caves near Ealdor, caves which suddenly seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere, he appears to have gone missing. Everytime that moment is mentioned Merlin looks entierly innocent, but Arthur still keeps glancing at him suspiciously). Soon enough the ban is lifted all-together.
Well ... nearly everyone is happy abou the rapid changes. Geoffrey, the librarian, not so much.
And even if Merlin is rejoicing that the main part of his destiny is dealt with and that the dragon no longer is nagging at him about that (but now had started nagging about marriages, and more coins, and hatchlings, all of which Merlin can't really understand what he's talking about) and that the magic ban is gone (albeit he wonders when Arthur'll come to his senses and promote him to Court Warlock or something. Because he definitely deserves a promotion) – there are some sides of these events that Merlin is less pleased with, when he hears of them.
"See to that these are distributed among the knights, guards and courtiers," the newly crowned King says a regular Monday morning to one of his most trusted knights. "And set up a few copies in the mostly used hallways and by the gates as well when you're at it."
"Yes, sire," sir Leon respond and looks down at the parchment in his hand, scanning the page. His eyebrows rise almost to his hairline as he reads. "Sire – are you certain it's ... ah, appropriate?"
Arthur gives him a sideways but stern look, as if the man had just suggested something awfully foul and the man quickly takes back his words. Obviously it's not the right thing to ask. The knight rolls up the parchment and makes sure the prince can see how he holds it like a very important fragile treasure, and bows his neck.
"… I'll see to it right away, sire."
The King starts humming a victory tune as he walks out of the hall.
Merlin is trying to carry a large laundry basket through a thin corridor full of other busy servants when he runs into Gwen. Or she runs into him, more like, causing them both to stumble and the basket topples over.
"Oh, I'm so, so terribly sorry!" Gwen cries, kneeling beside him to hurriedly collect the spilled items. "I was in such a hurry and didn't see you, I'm sorry. Here - I'll help."
"Hi, Gwen," Merlin says with a smile. "It's all right, don't worry."
"Let me help you carry these," the girl says to make up to the blunder. "Nothing seems to have caught any dirt. These are for Arthur, I guess?"
The servant boy nods as he grabs one end of the basket, Gwen the other, and they stand. It's considerably easier to carry it between the two of them, and people give them a wide berth. "I thought you were in a hurry," Merlin says, glancing at her.
The girl looks a little flustered. "Oh, well, lady Morgana will understand, I'll explain to her. Especially when taking the List into consideration."
"The ... List?"
Gwen glances at him, her mouth making an 'O' motion. "You don't know? It's being put all over the citadel as we speak; I passed by one in the kitchens."
"No, I haven't seen any lists ..." Merlin frowns, looking around. Come think of it now, people have been acting strange (again). Doing that eyebrow thing at him a lot. And Sara the Cook hasn't chased him around with a rolling pin trying to break his fingers, yelling at him to stop stumbling about and break the china, a single time today. "What kind of list?"
"Perhaps it is best if you find out yourself..."
"Yes," Gwen nods and speaks just a bit too quickly, "it's better if you just asked King Arthur."
Merlin takes her advice into consideration. Half an hour later, he appears at the King's doorstep with eyes wide and jaw dropped. "Arthur - why are these all over the castle?" he asks, incredulous, and hold up a piece of parchment. It's obvious the text on it has been revised quite a few times: things have been erased then put there again, and there are little notes in the margin, and the 'Prince Arthur' bit has been over-lined and had big bold red letters saying KING ARTHUR put above them, evidence that the text is several months old and has been edited over time. But it is very readable, and Merlin did a double take when first seeing the List.
The King looks up from his desk.
"Ah, Merlin. Good, you're back. I started to wonder what was taking you. My floors needs a good scrub, just flick your wrist or something, then you can -"
"Arthur," Merlin cuts in, waving the parchment for extra measure. "Why have you put up lists with stupid rules concerning me?"
"Oh you know, I need some help looking after you," Arthur says in a completely neutral tone, making a sweeping gesture with his hand. "Clearly, you need it: you stumble on air and will one day probably fall down a stair or go on a stupid mission to save my life, which is unacceptable because I need you to be safe and sound for the safety of this Kingdom and Albion as a whole. And half of it for my own sanity –"
"But, this is ridiculous! I can't see the harm in letting cute animals into Camelot! Or using a bit of magic now and then! Or talking to dragons! Or anything else on this list!"
"Really," says Arthur and raises an eyebrow.
"Yes. I mean, no! I – all right, yes, there might be some stuff on it that's … logical. But a lot of it isn't! There's no need to remind everyone of all of those awkward moments like with the dresses and stuff, and either way, that's not the point!"
"Please inform me of this point then, Merlin."
"The point is, I can take care of myself."
"Of course you can. But sometime you could use a pair of extra eyes on you, to make sure that you don't do anything stupid. You're so incredibly selfless and reckless, Merlin."
"Am not! Stop saying my name like that, it's creepy when you're making that expression!"
"What, this?" Arthur tries his best imitation of Gaius (or maybe it's Uther, Merlin isn't sure, it doesn't matter: they're both equally fearsome.)
"Yes, that! Stop doing it!" the servant cries, making wild gestures with his hands. "And now you're avoiding the topic. This topic," he emphasizes, holding up one of the copies of the infamous List. "I want you to put these down and destroy them, burn them, or I will!" His eyes glow golden warningly.
"I had someone place a magic shield on them. I won't tell you who thought," explains Arthur when Merlin furiously starts spluttering, absolutely nothing happening to the parchment no matter how many spells the warlock throws at it.
"Did the dragon do it? Or one of the druids? Or Morgana?" Merlin growls and Arthur just smirks. "It was the dragon, wasn't it!"
He knew it was going to sidle with Arthur one day!
The smug smirk appears to be plastered permanently to Arthur's face. "It's fire-proof, water-proof, Dragonlord-proof … whatever; you name it. I am the only person ever who's able to make changes, ever, during whatever circumstance. This List has been made to last. But you can try all you like. Oh! Wait. I've got one last thing to add."
The King reaches up and grabs it, ignoring the servant's widening eyes. "What now?" Merlin gasps horrified.
He dips the quill in the inkpot and places the tip against the parchment, carefully choosing his words as he writes and deliberately bending the remaining parchment so that Merlin won't see yet what he's writing, and Merlin makes a slightly pained, distressed noise at that, insane with curiousity. "What is it? Arthur, tell me you prat!"
With a pleased grin at his creation, Arthur calmly puts back the quill and waits for a moment for the ink to dry, smirking knowing that the magic in the parchment immediately will spread the word to all other copies. Then he rolls the parchment up again and hands it over to Merlin.
"There. You can go and put it back wherever you took it from," he orders and stands, putting on his favourite red jacket, the one with the studs which Merlin so patiently and carefully had polished this very morning (all right, Merlin admits that he used magic and it took about two and a half seconds).
Still with that grin on his face Arthur exits his chambers, his manservant scowling after him. The young King like to have a word with sir Bors about the arrangements of the upcoming tournament now on the meeting, which is to start in just a few minutes; and you can't be late to those, especially if you're King. Hopefully that round table he ordered last week from the royal carpenter has arrived …
"Arthur!" Merlin cries after the prat's back. "Come back, you dollophead! We've not finished this discussion!"
Arthur doesn't, of course, the stubborn prat he is, albeit the servant thinks he can hear the echo of laughter further down the corridor.
Reluctantly, Merlin goes back to the great hall, to one of the pillars on which the note had been stuck and the puts it back on the peg, glaring at the thing murderously. During the walk back here, he's tried practically any spell he knows on it: using fire, water, storm winds, tried breaking it apart, tried sending it to another dimension or through time, tried editing the text through telepathy – anything, everything.
And nothing worked. He tried destroying it without magic, tearing it apart (it sew itself back together) and throwing it away through the nearest window (somehow it just landed in his hands again) and stubbornly trying to burn it over a non-magic torch (it refused to be set on fire).
So, he has no choice but to put it back - for now. When doing so, Merlin lets his eyes sweep down over the parchment, reaching the last few lines, which Arthur so recently had added. And they state thusly:
#40. He Mustn't Protest To the Reasonable and Very Logical Rules That Arthur Has Made Up To Protect His Reckless Backside. Most All Arguments Are Invalid (unless they involve a bed and no clothes and seriously Merlin don't you see that I'm only doing what's best for you? So stop whining now and quit calling me a dollophead. I am NOT a dollophead.)
Signed, His Glorious Highness Arthur Pendragon, King of Camelot, Most Awesome Pendragon Ever, Best Fighter in Albion, etc etc. during the 1st Year of His Reign.
Yes, he's a stubborn prat! thinks Merlin as he glares at the paper, but he'll see! Once I figure out what kind of spell that's been put on that piece of paper, I'll break it or better yet, make up an own list! A list of rules about Arthur and -
"Ahem, ahem," sounds behind him and Merlin twists his head, to see a dozen or so of the councilors and knights having a meeting sitting by a round table 8which appears to have grown over the last few months and there are now some thirty chairs around it, and it still has room for elbows). Gwaine is happily chewing on an apple and waves in greeting. Arthur is sitting next to Leon, the first looking smug, the second tentative.
"Once you've finished glaring at that defenseless piece of paper, why don't you sit and join us," says the King and pulls out the empty chair on his right. "We were just about to start discussing something very important that I think you want to hear."
"Really," says Merlin, not really believing him. And not that willing to either, considering the List. As soon as he can, he's going to turn Arthur into a donkey (just temporarily - otherwise Albion would go haywire - but then Arthur would get his point. Hopefully).
"Yes. Now come, sit. Don't be shy."
Merlin scowls at him, and crosses his arms once he's seated.
"All right. I'm sitting. What is it now?"
"I'm suggesting a promotion."
This makes him straighten up immediately. A promotion? At last! He'll finally be able to let someone else clean the prat's dirty socks and muck out those damned stables, and instead do fun and interesting things, like-
"Which is to make Morris Chief of Staff." The council nods approvingly and a note is signed. "And sir Lancelot to my Second in Command." More approving nods and murmurs.
Merlin has no clue who this Morris guy even is. Disappointed, he sinks back in his chair.
"And of course I'll need someone to oversee the drastic changes as of late, now the magic ban is lifted. Someone with a head on their shoulders," the King continues and someone snickers behind their hand. Merlin's frown deepens and he's nearly pouting now.
It doesn't sound like it's going to be him, no, it's probably going to be some old druid from far off who's less clumsy and more reliable and things like that which Arthur values. Of course it's not silly little Merlin, who can't walk in a straight line without tripping on air.
"They need to be skilled at what they do and not just do fancy tricks. And of course, they need to be loyal and trustworthy."
Or maybe it's Gaius. Gaius is kind of good at magic and he's been at the court forever and Arthur trusts him. It might even be the bloody dragon for all he knows, Arthur's snuck out of the castle some nights and had these hour-long conversations with it for some reason Merlin cannot comprehend. Kilgarrah has surely been a bad influence, with the coins and destiny and everything and, lastly, the List.
"So what'd you say Merlin?"
For a moment there's silence. Then:
"You giant prat!" the warlock cries, nearly falling off his chair, arms flailing. Red in the face and breath puffing, he gets to his feet and faces Arthur making wild gestures. "You had me thinking you meant Gaius or someone else, not me, you – you – you complete cabbage-head! You're such a pain in the backside! I've been waiting for weeks for that and there's been no sign, I thought you were perfectly happy making me a servant forever while someone else got the glory and everything!"
"Really, Merlin, I'm starting to think promoting you to Court Sorcerer is a bad idea," Arthur says and everyone in the council are smirking now at the bickering pair (they're all expecting a further promotion of the now Court Sorcerer sometime in the future, and have already begun to make plans, the King only needs to okay it). "You'll probably make a mess of yourself anyhow. God knows I'll need to keep a close eye on you."
"I can do my job just fine!" Merlin protests. "Don't you dare taking that promotion away from me!"
"So you remember the last rule, then?" Arthur asks amusedly.
"As if you'd let me forget it!"
"Very good, Merlin. Everything is already planned, you'll officially receive your promotion during the feast tonight. And you'll get your very own tower where you can sit and do magic-y stuff that Court Sorcerers do, and equipment and stuff - yes, Merlin, including space for all the stupid owls. Not to mention the great influence you'll get on the court."
Merlin's eyes lights up he's a child in a candy store. "Really?"
"Yes. Really." Then, struck with a thought, Arthur raises a warning finger. "But no magical creatures running loose! The guards are already finding it difficult with the dragons dropping by as they see fit, not to mention those ridiculous unicorns last week."
"... The unicorns weren't harmful and I didn't call for them! They just appeared on their own! That had nothing to do with me!"
(He has plans of raising a baby wyvern though, they're just so cute and they'd surely be great help guarding the city ... plus he's already caring for Aithusa and - well, surely there must be a way to convince Arthur! If anything else fails he can always use the pout-and-look-cute tactic.)
The King of Camelot just sends him a look, and Gwaine smirks, and the rest of the council is awkwardly quiet after the warlock's outburst. It's as if they know something he doesn't, and Merlin would question that if he wasn't so annoyed at Arthur and now caught in a staring contest with him.
True to his word, as soon as he's out of this chamber Merlin grabs the nearest quill and starts writing his own List concerning His PratlinessArthur Pendragon. And the first line of Things That Arthur Isn't Allowed To Do (According to Merlin) is #1: Don't make those stupid lists and spread them around! No matter what you think you are still a Royal Dollophead and I can still magic donkey ears onto your stupid head, Sire.
Signed, Merlin son of Hunith, mostly known as Emrys, Greatest Warlock of All Time and Court Warlock of Camelot.
Using his magic it's not hard at all to spread word across the whole of Camelot and beyond, and he walks around town afterwards with head held high and smug. It's fully legit. (Upon seeing the counter-list, Gwen can't for some reason stop giggling.) If the castle staff's gossiping is refueled, he's too wrapped in annoyance at Arthur to notice.
The reply is stuck to his door the following morning:
#41. He Mustn't Make Lists Like These - Making His Own List Only Makes Him Look Completely Ridiculous. From Now On, as Camelot's Court Warlock, He Shall Always Wear a Pointy Hat, as Decreed by His King Arthur Pendragon.
And this is why it became highest fashion from that point on among all magic folks to wear long robes and pointy hats. Preferably with long white beard to them, albeit Merlin shall always protest that the rather famous Beard was not his idea, but Arthur's, since it's utterly ridiculous and Arthur is a prat.