See No Arthur, Hear No Arthur...
Summary: Arthur is cursed and becomes invisible to the whole of Camelot – no one can hear or see him, except, of course, for Merlin.
Timeline: Set in season 2
Spoilers: Up to and including season 2
A/N: And here it is, the final chapter! Thank you so much for reading and for the great comments throughout. I really hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
Oh, and happy new year!
It was nearing dawn when Merlin returned to greet a somewhat well rested Gaius back in his chambers. The energy from the earlier events and excitement was quickly draining from Merlin as his body begun to realise it had been cheated of its usual sleep. Even his mind felt fuzzy around the edges, but it was buzzing too much and too loudly for it to truly notice the lack of much needed rest. After all, sleep was the last thing on Merlin's mind.
"Merlin!" Gaius greeted, worry coating the name. He pushed up from where he sat before his breakfast and moved across the room to meet Merlin halfway. "You look dreadful."
"You would too if you hadn't slept all night," Merlin answered, allowing himself to be led to the table and placed before the bowl of porridge that sat there.
"What on earth have you been doing all night?" Gaius questioned. He poured himself another bowl from the pot and moved to take the seat opposite Merlin.
Merlin picked up a spoon and prodded at the porridge before dipping into it and filling the spoon. He tasted it experimentally and then, deciding he was a lot hungrier than he had first thought, dug straight back in. He only stopped between bites long enough to fill Gaius in. "We went to Alaric's room," he explained, filling the spoon again. "And Arthur said he saw something."
"Saw something?" Gaius questioned, taking his time with his own porridge.
"Yes," Merlin continued, "he said that Alaric had a small glass vial with some kind of twig inside and something that looked like hair." Finishing what was in the bowl and feeling a little more awake, Merlin lifted the bowl up a little. "Have you got anymore of this?"
Gaius breathed out and shook his head, not in answer but in light frustration. Instead of filling Merlin's bowl, he swapped it for his own. "Go ahead and eat up, you need it more than I do."
A grin slipped onto Merlin's features. "You're the best, Gaius," he managed to say around another mouthful before swallowing and continuing on. "We waited to see if we could get back in once Alaric went to sleep but we never got a chance."
Gaius nodded. "Well, that sounds like it could very well be the cause of all this mess. The twig is most likely hawthorn. Having a powerful natural energy, the use of hawthorn was often used in the old days to increase the power of a spell."
"So how do we destroy it?"
"Only magic will destroy a magical enchantment such as this," Gaius answered, pushing back a little from the table. In his next movement, he pulled the bowl away from Merlin and motioned toward the back of the chambers, toward Merlin's room.
"Fetch," was all he said. It was all he needed to see and meant in playful jest.
Merlin stood and headed toward the steps up to his room. Once inside, he moved straight for the spell book Gaius had given him. It was buried beneath a pile of clothes under his bed. He pulled it free, dusted it off, and returned with it to the room where he handed it to Gaius and took his seat once more.
Gaius flipped through the pages, stopping occasionally to get a closer look at the spells written there before continuing on again. When he did seem to decide on the right spell, he turned the book around and handed it to Merlin. Merlin's eyes took in the words written there and his lips twisted around the spell under his breath as he repeated it over and over again, testing it, tasting it, remembering it. When he was sure he had it, he pushed up once more and was already moving back toward the door.
"Where are you going now?" Gaius called out after him.
"I'm going to finish this," Merlin answered, pausing at the doorway to look at Gaius.
"Surely it will wait until after you've finished your breakfast first?"
But Merlin shook his head. "I don't think Arthur has that long. The spell's even stronger now."
"Then, Merlin," Gaius implored, "be careful."
"I always am." Before he could move out again though, he swallowed and looked back too Gaius. "What will happen to Alaric?"
A small twitch played at the corner of Gaius' lips, uncertain and wary. "Now that is the question."
"Can't we tell Uther?"
Gaius raised an eyebrow, head tilted gently to the side. "And tell him what, exactly? That his old friend's son possesses magic? That will do more harm than good. Camelot needs to be in good relations with Lord Kenward or conflict will follow. Not to mention that if Uther found out, he would want to know why you of all people could still see Arthur."
"So there's nothing we can do?"
"I'm afraid it's out of our hands, Merlin. The only thing we can do is break the spell, and that is up to you."
Merlin moved quickly through the corridors, dodging passing guards and maids with more grace than he was sure he would have managed had Arthur been there. He had been thinking more and more of Gaius' warning and after Arthur's brief vanishing act the night before, he grew increasingly worried. How much longer did Arthur have? How much longer before Merlin wouldn't be able to see him?
"Merlin!" that familiar voice called out, breaking into his thoughts.
He came to a stop and span on the spot to search back down the corridor in search of that prattish prince of his. His eyes roamed over the two guards passing at the very end and the young maid carrying a basket filled with cloth. There was no prince. There was no Arthur. But there had definitely been a voice, Merlin was sure he had heard him.
He turned away, taking in where he was before moving off once more but at a much slower pace. There was an open door up ahead that led to the armoury. It was usually empty that time of day, at least Merlin hoped it would be. With one last look about the corridor, he ducked into the armoury and waited a moment before closing the door behind him.
The room was empty of people but filled with an assortment of weapons. Several different shields lined the wall and several swords stood in front of them, polished and sharpened, ready for use. Merlin knew because he had been the one to polish and sharpen them.
He took a deep breath and leaned against the back of the door. "Okay, Arthur," he forced out, "either I am really being an idiot and talking to myself or you're here..."
The room was as silent and still as when Merlin had first entered it.
"C'mon, Arthur," he pleaded to the thin air. "Give me a sign... just one sign to say you're here."
Silence was his response. Silence followed by the rattle of a shield on the wall. It slipped from its place and crashed to the floor, metal clashing against stone. Merlin looked to it, watching it warily. It moved no further.
"I really hope that wasn't just a coincidence."
As if in response, a gauntlet flew across the room and crashed into the wall beside Merlin's head. Merlin nodded and swallowed once more. Definitely Arthur then.
"I'm going to fix this, Arthur," he called to the empty room, "that vial is the key, Gaius is sure of it. So just stay out of trouble until then."
With that, he opened the door once more and pushed out of the armoury and back out into the corridors. If possible, his feet pounded even harder against the stone floor as he sped toward Alaric's room. He only slowed when he drew closer and closer, until his footsteps were almost silent. The door was ajar and Merlin pushed it open enough to find the place empty and to him, that was an invitation to creep inside.
Arthur had told him that Alaric had taken the vial out from the chest. Bottom corner, he had said. So that was where Merlin tried first. He dropped to his knees before the chest, raised the lid, and dug his hand inside. Where he had had no luck the night before finding anything, this time his fingers touched on glass. The vial was small enough to fit entirely in his hand as he took hold and pulled it out.
"Got you," he said, smiling triumphantly at the vial. The spell flashed across his mind briefly, the word ready on his tongue, but he never had time to let it form. He was never given the chance.
"You!" Alaric's voice came from the doorway, the young boy already closing the door behind him. "What do you think you're doing here?"
Merlin looked up and saw the boy's eyes widen when he took in the vial.
"That's private!" Alaric continued on, his gaze darting to the sword and sheath that hung on a chair mere feet away.
Merlin could see the intent clearly. He pushed up from the floor, keeping tight hold of the vial. "I know what you're doing and I know why. Prince Arthur can be a prat... but he is a good man."
Alaric didn't argue, at least not with words. He darted toward the chair, hand snaking out to grip the sword that had been there mere moments ago but gripping thin air instead. The lack of sword only slowed him down briefly though and he reached for his dagger instead. He shifted and made to lunge forward, but before he could, a slice of red appeared on his cheek and he paused.
His fingers rose to press against his cheek, blood from the cut staining them, and he froze completely. Even his Adam's apple didn't bob within his throat and though Merlin couldn't see, he knew. Arthur was there and he had Alaric's sword.
The door behind Alaric swung open and Merlin understood the message clearly. Go.
So he did.
He pushed himself forward and out of the room. Pace fast but no longer a run, he continued on, turning down corridor after corridor until he found an empty one. Half of his mind on Arthur and Alaric, his other half focused on the spell and the vial in his hand.
He came to a stop, huddled up against the wall and looked up and down the corridor to double check it was deserted. Then he raised the vial and took a breath.
"Geændung," he whispered. A small flicker of a flame started within the vial, taking hold of both the twig and the lock of hair wrapped around it, until both had turned to ash.
Arthur knew immediately when Merlin had broken the spell. He could tell by Alaric's widened eyes and sudden panicked expression, mouth agape. He nodded and offered up a tight smile to Alaric. With one swift movement, he knocked the dagger out of boy's hand and bent to snatch it up from the ground.
"We wouldn't want you to hurt yourself, would we?" he questioned, returning to the chair to resheath the sword. He kept the dagger though, toying with it as he regarded to boy pretending to be a man in front of him.
"The use of magic is forbidden in Camelot," he continued on, pointing the dagger to Alaric. "I could have you executed for what you did."
"You have no proof," Alaric answered, his voice weak, his gaze falling to the floor. He looked like nothing but a child to Arthur. Too young, forced into growing up before his time, and Arthur knew what that could be like.
"No, you're right, I don't," he conceded before continuing on. "I do not wish to make enemies with you, Alaric. Nor do I know what I have done to make you hate me so. This time I shall be merciful. This time this shall remain between us, but be warned, next time I will not be so gracious."
He thrust the dagger down and into the table top, embedding it in the wood and leaving it there, then turned to leave. He only stopped when he reached the doorway, his head bowed.
"I envy you," he breathed out, meeting the boy's eyes briefly. "I have seen your relationship with your father. I have seen the way he looks at you, with an equal measure of both love and pride. It is a look you should cherish... a look I wish my own father would spare me once in awhile."
He said nothing further and left the room in silence, left Alaric alone with only the echo of the words and their meaning.
Door shut behind him, he breathed out. He had thought that when the spell had lifted, he would feel lighter. He had thought he would feel different. He didn't.
"Arthur!" Merlin called toward him, voice light and cheerful, tone bright and hopeful. "You're back."
Arthur looked to him and took in the idiotic grin on his manservant's face. He refused to offer a smile back even though one twitched at the corner of his lips, threatening to break free. But he fought against it and pushed down the corridor toward Merlin. "Back?" he questioned, "I never went anywhere."
"Well, technically," Merlin drawled out, matching Arthur's pace as he swept passed the manservant on onwards toward his rooms, "you've been out hunting, remember?"
Arthur paused in his steps and grunted. "Yes," he answered, with a tight smile and brief nod, his eyes meeting Merlin's, "and because of your idiotic lie, I now have to explain to my father why I have returned empty handed from a three day-"
"What?" Arthur snapped, narrowing his eyes on Merlin.
"Well, you've only actually been gone for two days," Merlin answered. "Today would have made three."
Arthur snorted but conceded all the same. "Two day," he corrected through gritted teeth, "hunting trip."
"Oh, I'm sure you'll come up with something," Merlin went on, the grin never dying from his features no matter how much Arthur stared at him with the promise of murder in his eyes.
Turning away and continuing in his walking again, Merlin keeping pace with him, Arthur shook his head and glanced back the way they had come. Alaric's head poked out from around the corner, his eyes meeting Arthur's briefly before he scurried away, off in the direction of the council chambers. With a solemn heart, Arthur knew then exactly what he would tell his father.
"Merlin," he started, tone sober and unguarded.
"Yes, I know," Merlin answered, rolling his eyes. "You want me to think of something that will no doubt end up with me in the stocks... again."
The smile finally broke free to play across Arthur's lips. "Thank you, Merlin," he went on to say, "for everything you've done."
Merlin narrowed his eyes at him, tilting his head back a little as his lips thinned, dubious. "O-kay..."
"But," Arthur added after a moment, his smile turning more sinister and the murder returning to his eyes, "if you ever ignore me again, I will make sure that you're put in the stocks for not just week... but a whole month, and I'll ensure that the people have enough food to spare in order to keep you company the whole time."
"Oh, well that's just great. I help you out and that's the thanks I get? Maybe I should have told Gwen about what you talk about in your sleep."
"Merlin," Arthur answered, the name as tight as his smile, "shut up."
Lord Kenward and Alaric were already in the council hall when Arthur and Merlin arrived. Uther and Kenward sat opposite each other, pouring over a large parchment, an agreement of sorts most likely. Looking sheepish, head bowed, Alaric stood behind his father raising his eyes only briefly to meet Arthur's and Merlin's as they entered the room.
"Father," Arthur called, announcing his arrival. He came to a stop at the end of the table, looking out across his father and their guests.
Merlin stopped just short behind him, glancing briefly to Alaric before lowering his head. On their way to the room, Arthur had told him he knew what he would tell his father but had he felt like enlightening Merlin? No... Which meant no doubt he would blame Merlin for everything.
"My son!" Uther called back, a grin spreading across his face as he rose from his seat to greet Arthur. "You have returned from your hunting trip."
Arthur bowed his head. "Yes, Sire."
"And what of your prey? Where is it?"
"I am afraid, Father," Arthur continued on to explain, head still bowed, "that I could find no prey worthy of our guests. So it is with the utmost sorrow and disappointment in myself that I return home empty handed."
"The Great Prince Arthur?" Kenward questioned, a hearty laughter on his tone and echoing in the depths of his eyes, good natured and friendly. "Returning from a hunting trip with nothing to show for it? Why, this goes against all the stories I have heard... and a few I have passed on myself."
"Yes, indeed," Uther agreed, but his tone was much more solemn, his brow furrowed lightly in confusion, "it is most unlike you, Arthur."
"I'm sorry, Father. Perhaps next time I will have more luck."
Alaric scoffed and Merlin raised his eyes to the boy, expecting that familiar look of distaste to be present on his features. But the boy's eyes were softer, the turning up of his lips more friendly than angry and bitter. It left Merlin with the feeling that he had missed something.
"I must admit," Alaric stated, eyes meeting Arthur's, "that it is a relief to discover that the perfect Prince Arthur is not so perfect, that he is instead just a man."
"I would not claim any different," Arthur answered, words strong and reassuring.
"Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgement of you."
"It is all too easy to judge others based on mere stories we have heard."
"Wise words!" Kenward chortled, beaming at both Arthur and Uther. "Wise words, indeed. You have raised your boy well, Uther."
Uther nodded, a small smile faltering at his lips as his questioning gaze moved away from Arthur and to Kenward instead, where it melted away, his smile growing, though still slightly strained. "And you yours, Lord Kenward," he offered in return.
"If you excuse me, Father... Lord Kenward, Alaric," Arthur called, breaking into the silence that followed his father's words, and bowing his head to each in turn, "I have duties I must attend to."
"Of course," Uther replied with a smile and a nod. "You are dismissed."
Arthur was halfway toward the door before Merlin remembered he was supposed to be following him. He was too busy keeping his eyes on Alaric, questioning as he tried to figure out what it was he had missed. Only when Arthur cleared his throat did Merlin spin on the spot and hurry after him out into the corridor.
"What just happened?" Merlin questioned, quickening his pace to match Arthur's strides.
"Whatever do you mean, Merlin?" Arthur asked right back, raising an eyebrow at Merlin, all too innocent for Merlin's liking.
"First he uses magic on you and now he wants to be your best friend?" Merlin stopped in his tracks, eyes narrowed on Arthur. "What did you say to him?"
"Honestly, Merlin, I haven't a clue what you're blathering on about." When he turned to face Merlin, his smile was wicked, devious in the way that it always was when he was about to give Merlin a long list of tasks to complete. "Now, if you're quite done wittering on, I believe my stables still need mucking out, and my chambers are a disgrace, not to mention that I will require I nice, warm bath to relax in after such a tiring hunting trip."
"What happened to 'thank you for everything you've done, Merlin'? And 'thank you for helping me to break the curse, Merlin'? You know what would really be a nice way to thank me? A day off... I don't even remember what one of those feel like."
"If I recall, I gave you a night off just a few days ago."
"Because I was ill!"
"And you can repay my generosity by working to your full potential."
Smile tight, Merlin narrowed his eyes on Arthur briefly before pushing on passed the prince and onwards down the corridors.
"Where are you going?" Arthur called after him, receiving no answer in return. "Merlin!"
"I'm sorry!" Merlin called back, nonchalant. "I can't hear you!"
But Merlin said nothing, continuing on, smile growing on his face as he heard Arthur set off once again after him, his tone growing increasingly frustrated.
Thanks for reading!