AN: Here comes the 'magic reveal chapter'!
I've read many magic reveals. Some of them sad, some of them violent, some of them fluffy and some of them are downright ridiculous and while I enjoyed reading them and some of them 'almost' felt in character, I still haven't found one that felt authentic. Like it could actually be the way things turned out. Which is weird since, between all those fics, I think we've almost run out of possible scenarios. This is one of the reasons (the other being simply that I have NO IDEA how Arthur would react) that I almost (not quite) swore to myself that I WOULD NOT WRITE ANY MAGIC REVEAL FICS! And yet, here we are. I'm deeply ashamed of my lack of resolve. :(
It'll likely lack every bit as much authenticity as the next reveal but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway. :)
Sorry for the delay, I had some trouble at school and then there's the fact that this is the first episode. This episode, with all its reveals and confusion, will likely be much longer than the average episode,
but what matters that IT'S MY BIRTHDAY and I'm updating!
Chapter 1x01 (part 1) - The Dragon's Call
There was no strength left in his body and he was just so very tired. It the abyss of sleep beckoned him down. He could sleep couldn't he? It was all out of his hands now. Arthur had whispered to him and someone strong had carried him and put him down somewhere so soft that Merlin might as well be resting in the clouds. Somewhere, seemingly far away, he could hear Kilgharrah's voice. He resisted the pull of unconsciousness, just for a bit longer, to hear what he had to say and a soft smile made its way onto his face. He recognised what the dragon was doing; telling him his worth. This was Kilgharrah's form of support and Merlin was thankful. Then he let go.
Arthur, Gwen, sir Leon and sir Percival all looked with wide eyes as the image took shape.
Seventeen-year-old Merlin was walking upbeat down a mountain path, still very much a boy with a traveller's backpack on his back.
Most of the tension was drained out of the group. Arthur looked, in fact, slightly put out with the fact that he had some sinister floating magical screen in his room, only for it to show him… well… Merlin. Whatever Merlin had told him, it was still disappointing in his opinion.
"Where's the music coming from?" whispered Percival. "Merlin doesn't look like he has any instruments."
"Whoever made it must have thought it added to the mood," offered Arthur sarcastically.
"We'll ask Merlin when he wakes up," said Gwen, her eyes not leaving the screen.
"No young man, no matter how great, can know his destiny."
Merlin had reached a wider road, a rider passed him.
"He cannot glimpse his part in the great story that is about to unfold. Like everyone, he must live and learn."
Looks of intrigue were starting to appear on the four faces.
Merlin pushed aside branches as he made his way through the forest.
"And so it will be for the young warlock arriving at the gates of Camelot."
Most everyone looked uncomprehending but Arthur noticed sir Leon frowning.
"Sir Leon, do you know the meaning of this word?"
The knight shook his head. "I know I have heard it mentioned before sire, but it was a long time ago and the meaning escapes me."
He almost added that he thought it might have had something to do with Magic but he refrained. He wasn't sure and it would be dishonourable to incriminate the young servant with speculation.
Arthur muttered a bit to himself. "That's great. The first thing we've found out and it tells us absolutely nothing."
He reached a clearing and looked ahead at the view, grinned and walked into the forest again in the direction that he'd watched.
"A boy that will in time father a legend."
The whole table looked highly doubtful at that.
There lay Camelot, clearly visible above the trees and Merlin had just laid eyes on it for the first time.
"His name, Merlin."
Arthur smiled slightly at the sight of the younger Merlin getting his first sight of Camelot. He'd never say it but this wasn't something he minded seeing.
This was Merlin before he became his servant, before he had met Arthur at all. This Merlin looked at Camelot and saw an adventure in the making.
Merlin entered through the gate of Camelot.
"When was this?" asked Percival. "Merlin does seem younger, doesn't he?"
"This is how he looked when he first arrived in Camelot, so about six years ago." Guinevere smiled as she watched the young Merlin. "He hasn't changed much has he?"
Arthur scoffed. "He's hardly changed at all! The same clothes, same height, same face. If I didn't know any better I'd say someone froze him in time." He focussed on the screen.
"There is something different though…" sir Leon pondered. "You can tell he is younger than he is now."
He made his way through the busy lower town, people were everywhere and a bright eyed Merlin spend his walk looking around, he seemed full of wonder and curiosity.
"It's in the way he holds himself."
Everybody turned to Arthur at the sudden statement. Sharp blue eyes were now steadily studying the boy on the screen the way they rarely studied his servant.
"He holds himself differently now," he added, when he noticed his companions' attention, but didn't elaborate further.
While he entered the citadel two guards start blowing their horns.
Merlin had reached the courtyard, still looking around in interest he approached a whispering crowd.
"Just great. Merlin enters Camelot and a commotion is made. Why does this not surprise me?" asked Arthur rhetorically.
Percival and Leon snickered slightly at that. Gwen smiled fondly.
A drum could be seen and under its steady beat a poorly clothed man with a bowed head was led onto the courtyard by two guards.
The smiles fled. Guinevere's hand flew to her mouth and Percival frowned uncertainly.
Merlin looked on, now slightly confused, as he found his place between the audience.
"He's never seen an execution before, he doesn't know what's going on!" Guinevere whispered horrified.
The man was led to a square platform at the centre of the crowd.
Arthur swallowed. The executions were necessary but he wished that this hadn't been the first thing that to greet Merlin when he'd arrived.
A harsh, determined voice echoed through the courtyard and the crowd, including Merlin, looked up at the balcony overlooking the courtyard.
"Let this serve as a lesson to all."
Arthur's eyes widened. "Father," he whispered.
Uther Pendragon stood there, strong and in control, looking out over the crowd.
Arthur drank in the image of his father, the way he had been before Morgana's betrayal, as a man dying of thirst. Guinevere softly laid a hand on his shoulder.
"This man: Thomas James Collins, is adjudged guilty of conspiring to use enchantments and magic."
The condemned man, Thomas Collins was made to stand on the platform. Merlin no longer looked curious. He swallowed and continued to watch.
Uther, from the crowds point of view, seemed very distant but his voice boomed down as he addressed his people.
"And pursuant to the laws of Camelot, I, Uther Pendragon, hath decreed that such practises are banned, on penalty of death."
Leon respectfully didn't look to the other side of the table as Arthur was overwhelmed by the experience of seeing –and hearing– his dead father again. Percival however, was looking at Arthur with a hesitant look on his face.
It seemed that Merlin had become an afterthought in the memory. Arthur focussed on the image of his father, Gwen on Arthur and Percival on the execution.
Merlin now looked pale.
Sir Leon though, was still paying attention.
Uther looked unbending.
Morgana looked on from a nearby window.
"Morgana." Gwen whispered.
"I pride myself as a fair and just king, but for the crime of sorcery there is but one sentence I can pass."
"Why was this execution made into such a spectacle?" Percival only seemed to realise that he had spoken when the words had already left his lips.
Arthur looked at him sharply with a cold hostility burning in his eyes.
"It is not for you to question my father's reign."
His father was dead, he wouldn't let anyone dishonour his memory.
Uther nodded and the whole crowd, including a now faintly sick looking Merlin, looked as Thomas Collins was forced onto his knees.
"Forgive me, sire." Percival bowed his head but the uncertainty didn't leave his face.
Morgana looked down, her hands gripping the edge of the window.
Thomas Collins now had his head on the chopping block and the executioner came forward.
As he raised his axe Morgana looked away. The drumbeat continued as Uther raised his hand further. Merlin looked at it all in disbelief.
Uther dropped his arm and the axe fell.
Many in the crowd looked away at the last second but Merlin didn't turn his eyes.
"He didn't look away." Leon whispered, seemingly not quietly enough. Arthur looked at him questioningly but it was Gwen who answered.
"You were the prince, Arthur. When you attended it was expected of you. Almost everyone looks away in the end. I've been to executions before… People I knew-"
She took a deep breath. Arthur softly took her hand. It had been necessary, but even he had to admit that his father had been a bit overzealous at times.
Morgana's eyes closed and her breath hitched, still turned away.
"-In the end, you always look away." Gwen looked straight at the image of her former friend.
"When I came to this land, this kingdom was mired in chaos,"
Uther was talking again but Merlin seemed to have trouble pulling away from what had just happened.
"I've never known Merlin to attend a single execution." Arthur mumbled. "For a moment, not focussed on his father's well known words."
"but with the people's help magic was driven from the realm."
The people of Camelot were looking calmly up at their king. Merlin didn't seem so unaffected.
"So I declare a festival, to celebrate twenty years since the great dragon was captured and Camelot freed from the evil of sorcery."
Arthur still seemed somewhat inspired by his father's unwavering resolve, but he was the only one in the room.
Uther looked satisfied and his arms were raised as if in victory.
Sir Leon sighed and turned to Percival who's frown had only deepened during this speech. "When you came to Camelot, Arthur was already ruling in his father's place. Of course, magic is still punishable by death but under Uther there was more of a… witch-hunt going on."
Percival nodded, a closed expression on his face as he looked at the former king.
Arthur didn't immediately react.
"Let the celebrations begin!"
"My father was a great king." murmured Arthur finally.
He turned to walk away but a loud wail from the crowd, which was now at the point of breaking up, halted the king.
An old woman, with diseased skin and dressed in rags was crying out. The people around her moved slightly backwards until she clearly stood apart from the crowd.
Arthur frowned. "I wasn't in attendance, probably on patrol, but I get the feeling that I should recognise her. It shouldn't be hard with a face like hers. "
"I spend most of that year at the borders," said sir Leon. "So I wouldn't know."
"There is only one evil in this land and it is not magic."
She slowly moved forward and the entire courtyard was silent.
"It is you! With your hatred and your ignorance!"
Grief was clearly audible in her tone now.
Arthur looked slightly taken aback.
Merlin just watched, as did the crowd. The woman bowed over in grief and pointed to the chopping block, chocking on her tears as she continued.
"You killed my son!"
"Most of those that were burned in that courtyard had friends and family," mumbled Gwen.
As she cried, Uther just looked.
Sir Leon shook his head slightly. "Most of those would have been arrested as accomplices. No offence to your father sire, it may have been necessary at that time, but under his reign far less evidence was necessary to condemn a man to death."
Arthur merely nodded, his eyes on the old woman. Even he couldn't deny that.
With a hiss, her tone changed.
"But I promise you-
A shiver went through the group.
-before these celebrations are over you'll share my tears!"
The woman now stood straight and a vengeful anger had taken the place of grief. Her voice sounded ominously determined.
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a son for a son!"
Guinevere moved closer to Arthur.
Percival's hand had gone to the hilt of his sword, ready to defend his king before sir Leon grabbed his wrist. When he noticed what he had been doing he looked slightly embarrassed.
Uther pointed at her.
The woman immediately grabbed the pendant around her neck in one hand and began to hiss at it. The crowd and Merlin tried to retreat as far as possible, holding their hands up for cover as the woman disappeared in a vortex of dust and wind.
Guinevere was now shivering all over at that display and Arthur put his arm around her.
"So she was probably involved in an attempt on your life," said sir Leon while releasing Percival's arm.
Arthur nodded, more certain now. "she was. Another example of how magic corrupts."
He almost sounded sad at that conclusion.
Uther abruptly left the balcony.
Morgana bowed her head and closed the window.
Guinevere sighed and turned to Arthur. "I don't really disagree but Arthur… If you and I were to have a son and if someone were to execute him, regardless of what he'd done. How would you react?"
Arthur pressed his lips tightly together but didn't answer.
The crowd dispersed and Merlin looked around uncertainly.
"Well, at least you can't say it wasn't a memorable entrance." Percival mumbled.
"I tell you, Merlin never tells me anything!" Arthur complained, the awkward atmosphere dissipating. "Did any of you know about this?"
The others shook their heads.
"You would think it'd make an interesting story; how when he first arrived here, this old woman defied the king and disappeared into thin air!"
He walked to the side of the courtyard and entered the castle through a small stone portal. Inside stood two guards,
"We need to know what these sorcerers are capable of, but does he tell me? No." Arthur continued muttering good-naturedly.
Merlin looked at one of them.
"Where would I find Gaius, the- the court physician?" he asked.
The guard pointed backwards to a hallway and Merlin entered a darker part of the castle.
Well, at least he probably won't get lost," said Percival.
"This is Merlin," disagreed Arthur. "he definitely could."
He found a small sign saying: COURT PHYSICIAN, with an arrow underneath.
Gwen smiled. "Now he's going to meet Gaius for the first time. How do you think it'll go?"
He climbed a narrow stairway towards a door.
"Merlin will drive him crazy!" said Arthur without a second thought.
The door stood slightly open. Merlin knocked quietly and peeked inside by poking his head through the door.
He called out with a soft voice: "Hello?"
The door squeaked as Merlin entered. He looked around the room, at all the bubbling potions, books and strange instruments. It seemed like there was nobody present.
"Do we want to know how much damage Merlin could do, alone in a room, with those?" asked Arthur. "It's been there for as long as I've been alive and I still have no idea what Gaius uses most of that stuff for."
Merlin walked further into the room and looked around. He looked up and saw someone working on a small higher level, looking similar to a wooden balcony, with his back to Merlin.
"It might be a good thing Gaius is there then," Gwen smiled.
Merlin cleared his throat.
Gaius stepped backwards in surprise and fell straight through the wooden fence bordering the balcony, plummeting towards the stone floor.
Guinevere screamed. "No!"
Arthur clenched his fist.
Percival and Leon didn't move but one thought flashed through all of their minds simultaneously.
"How had Gaius survived this?"
Merlin's eyes lit up, turning a pale gold.
They froze. Every thought died.
Gaius' fast decent slowed drastically.
Gwen's eyes were wide and her mouth was open in a soft "Oh."
Merlin didn't seem affected by the fact that the world had suddenly slowed down to a crawl and he hurriedly looks around, his eyes falling on a bed in the corner.
Sir Leon had the fleeting thought that he should have mentioned that possible meaning of the word 'Warlock' earlier after all.
Merlin stared resolutely at the bed and the bed moved.
Sir Percival's surprise was etched into every line of his face.
Another flash of gold flared through Merlin's eyes.
A hand darted forward and turned the stone, the source of all this, back to its blue side but the screen didn't disappear. Instead, it froze in the image of Merlin's golden eyes.
Arthur's hand didn't move from the stone. His shoulders had slumped and he was staring at the table.
"Leave." Arthur's emotionless voice rasped through the room.
Without thinking, Guinevere, Percival and Leon stood up and headed for the door. Normally, Gwen would have stayed with Arthur but what she had just seen had left her incapable of responding.
Only Leon didn't immediately leave.
"Sire, are you sure that it is safe-"
In the face of the pure anger in his ruler's voice, Leon hurriedly closed the door behind him.
Arthur was breathing heavily now, staring unseeingly at the stone on the table because this couldn't be possible!
"They're everything… A secret. A great many secrets actually."
Slowly, he stood up, his entire body shaking. Only two times before -or had it been three?- he had felt like this and both times Merlin had been there, next to him, to pick him back up. To stop him from attacking blindly, completely disregarding whatever odds he were up against.
"When you mentioned the people who you did misjudge… Morgana and Agravaine… My name should probably have been among them."
If Merlin were a sorcerer, had been one all this time, than he would have long since been corrupted. But it couldn't be. He stared at the golden eyes on the screen. This was… This is…
"The truth about me."
Arthur grabbed for his sword, the sword of kings he'd drawn from the stone, his confusion turning to rage. He stalked towards his bed, blade at the ready…
But the moment his eyes fell onto Merlin his strength left him. Merlin was sleeping the sleep of the exhausted. Curled up on Arthur's bed like a child. Arthur could grab him by his hair and yank him thusly from the bed, bear his throat and execute him on the spot. He could do whatever he wanted to Merlin because, however strong or weak a sorcerer Merlin may be, he could hardly stop Arthur while he was unconscious.
But that wasn't what stopped him. Arthur had turned his blade against the defenceless before and had done so for the sake of his kingdom.
Arthur slowly sat down on the edge of the bed and reached for Merlin with his free hand, his fingers grasping the boy carefully by his dark hair and turning his face towards him. Merlin whimpered slightly in his sleep, completely helpless in Arthur's hands.
What stopped him was that this was Merlin and he had known, had put himself into this situation. Merlin was the one person who knew first-hand how Arthur reacted in the face of betrayal, he knew that the young king tended to go for his sword first. And yet, Arthur now knew of his magic and Merlin lay defenceless before him.
Arthur wanted to shake his servant and scream in denial. Wake up you idiot! You're not a sorcerer! You of all people. Wake up and tell us it's a lie! He didn't. Instead he stared blankly at his trusted friend, noticing idly that he was wearing his blue neckerchief.
He swallowed and looked towards the table and the screen.
"Watch them. Please? Afterwards… you can do with me what you will."
Arthur nodded slightly and stood up, sheeting his sword and heading for the door.
He opened it without a word. Outside, in the corridor, stood his knights and Guinevere, who looked like she'd been crying. They hadn't left. With a simple head motion, Arthur bade them back inside, his face unreadable.
Once inside both knights glanced at Merlin, before relaxing their stance slightly. Percival even uttered a breath of relief. Arthur didn't reprimand him. He knew what they had thought.
He turned to his wife and embraced her. She returned the embrace, moulding her body into his and putting her head on his shoulder with a sigh.
They held each other tightly for more than a minute, like the world would fall apart the moment they let go, but then Arthur turned his head to look over her shoulder to Sir Leon and Percival and started to talk in a rough, business-like voice.
"If Merlin is a sorcerer, we can only guess at the extent of his b-betrayal until we continue watching those," he send a look full of disgust at the table, "things. Afterwards, I'll-" Arthur closed his eyes tightly, "decide what is to be done with him."
The two knights nodded.
Arthur slowly untangled himself from Guinevere, keeping his hands on her shoulders he gazed at her.
"Do you want to leave? You don't have to see thi-"
There were still the traces of tears left on her face as well as in her voice but it was strong nonetheless. It was the voice of a queen.
"Merlin may have magic and he may have betrayed us but Morgana is out there right now, hating us, and Merlin is still here." A tear ran down her cheek. "I need to know why! And I think these memories might hold the answer. "
Arthur nodded. Nothing more needed to be said.
They all took their former places at the table and Arthur looked straight into the golden eyes on the screen as he turned the stone around.
The bed stopped underneath Gaius.
Gaius crashed into the bed with a yelp and took a couple of hard breaths. Time seems to have returned to normal and Merlin let out a sigh of relief.
Gwen unconsciously mirrored the Merlin on the screen.
"What… what did you just do?" Gaius said perplexedly as he scrambled off the bed.
"Well, at least we know how he survived," muttered Percival.
Arthur's stony glare silenced him.
"Emmm" Merlin was looking everywhere but at Gaius.
"Tell me!" Gaius sounded irate.
"I- I eh, I have no idea what happened."
"You're joking!" said sir Leon incredulously.
Arthur glared again at this highly uncharacteristic outburst. Leon was normally the one who knew when to be quiet.
Gaius looked at the bed. It was a mess and everywhere were pieces of wood.
"Forgive me sire, I just thought that… If he's been a sorcerer all this time, that he would have been a far better liar than I gave him credit for. But this…" Leon, gestured at the screen.
"If anyone has seen that!
"Eh no! Emm, that was… That had nothing to do with me, tha- that was…" Merlin blabbered.
"You have a point." Arthur's blue eyes locked themselves on the Merlin on the screen. With all the confusion, he hadn't really thought too deeply about his servant's lying prowess yet.
Regardless of everything else, Guinevere was now having trouble not giggling at Merlin's predicament.
"I know what it was!" Gaius interrupted. "I just want to know where you learned how to do it!"
"Does anybody else think that Gaius' priorities aren't quite right?" asked Percival.
Leon nodded, but Arthur ignored them in favour of listening to Merlin's answer.
"Nowhere" Merlin shook his head.
"So how is it you know magic?" Gaius wouldn't be deterred.
"I don't!" Merlin was now breathing hard.
"All right!" exclaimed Arthur finally, superficial calm broken, "sorcerer or not, It obviously didn't stop Merlin from being an idiot. This is pathetic!"
"At this rate, the moment someone asks him if he's a sorcerer, he'll be caught." Agreed sir Leon. "How exactly did he survive these last six years?"
Gwen couldn't contain her giggles any longer.
Gaius looked at him closely
"Where did you study?"
Merlin didn't immediately answer.
Arthur's eyes turned serious again. "Of course this means that either Merlin came up with a surprisingly convincing story, or Gaius knows."
The little bit of humour in the room immediately evaporated.
"I-I-I've never studied magic o-or been taught." stuttered Merlin.
"Is he really going to keep this up?" asked Percival in disbelief.
Gaius advanced on him.
"Are you lying to me boy?"
"Probably," nodded Guinevere.
"What do you want me to say?" Merlin asked in return, now more calmly.
"The truth!" Gaius immediately replied.
"The truth would be nice, yes," said Arthur, anger shimmering under his tone.
"I was born like this."
Four pairs of eyes widened.
Arthur turned the stone around. The image froze and the room was silent and stayed that way as its occupants weighed this new piece of information.
"It doesn't seem very likely does it?" Said Guinevere finally. Her voice shaking slightly.
The young king seemed to stare at nothing for a couple of seconds before turning his eyes to the senior knight sitting opposite to him.
"How likely is the truth of that statement? Are people actually born with magic?"
Sir Leon looked taken aback. "I'm not an authority on such matters your highness. It would be better to bring such a question to Gaiu-." Leon broke off the sentence at the dark look that appeared on Arthur's face and started over.
"I know that some people spontaneously developed magical powers during their late teens, sometimes even earlier. Older knights talked about having watched teenagers for signs during the purge."
Guinevere nodded, thoughtfully. "I'm not completely sure but that may have happened to Morgana."
"Outside Camelot I've heard about people like that," added Percival. "It's supposed to be rare though, even among sorcerers.
Sir Leon continued: "I think that might be where I heard the term 'warlock', though I'm not sure. I think it may be the term for males who develop magic like that. But-"
Leon looked his king nervously in the eyes.
"I'm fairly certain that nobody ever spoke of baby's being born with magic."
Arthur just nodded. He gave no further indication what he thought about this information.
He reached out and turned the stone back to its gold side.
Then Gaius took another look at Merlin.
"Who are you?"
"Let's see if I get this straight," said Percival with the air of a man needing to get something off his chest. "A sorcerer appears in his chambers and after asking question after question about the sorcerers magic Gaius finally asks for his name. I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to go. I haven't met many, even outside of Camelot, but still..."
Guinevere slowly raised her eyebrow at the bumbling Merlin being interrogated by Gaius on the screen. "Now that you mention it, he doesn't look very fearsome does he? I mean, not that Merlin would be fearsome of course but... Sorcerers usually are, aren't they? Maybe he should at least pretend to be?"
Arthur's eyebrows had been slowly raising during this entire speech.
Gwen didn't seem to know what she wanted to say anymore and just gave up.
Merlin took his backpack from his back and fished a folded piece of paper out of it, giving it to Gaius.
"I have this letter."
"And it says: My name is Merlin," snorted Arthur softly.
He had trouble keeping it up. Being suspicious and studying Merlin for traitorous, magical activities was hard when the idiot was being such an idiot. That Merlin had magic shouldn't necessarily have to mean that Arthur had to stop mocking him when he obviously deserved it.
Gaius looked between Merlin and the letter.
"I don't have my glasses."
Merlin was now calm.
"Yes," Arthur gritted his teeth, "and he is Gaius, the old man who you only just met and who now knows what you look like, that you are a sorcerer and your name to boot!"
He turned to his wife, aggravated. "Are we absolutely sure that this isn't just Merlin's twin who just happens to have the same name but was executed years ago?"
The two knights coughed covertly.
Recognition appeared on Gaius' face.
Merlin smiled widely.
"But you're not meant to be here till Wednesday!"
Merlin's smile disappeared and he said slowly: "It is… Wednesday."
Gwen couldn't keep a giggle from escaping.
"Maybe he forgot to report Merlin too?" suggested sir Percival. He didn't know Gaius very well, though he seemed like a kind old man, and if he really was this forgetful...
The others looked at him incredulously.
Gaius' mouth hung open for a few seconds.
"Ah. Right then. you better put your bag in there."
Gaius pointed towards the door in the back. Merlin walked towards the door but before he entered it he turned back to Gaius nervously.
"And now he gets nervous," said Arthur silently, his blue eyes intent.
"Eh, you won't say anything about… emmm.""
He pointed toward the bed and the mess.
"Well, he did just witness an execution," said sir Leon, but nobody paid much attention to him. They all wanted to know Gaius' answer.
"No…" said Gaius dryly.
"I guess he didn't forget," said sir Percival softly.
Arthur's fists clenched as feelings warred in his head. If Gaius' answer had been different the only time he might have ever set eyes on Merlin would have been at his execution. But, just how much betrayal was going on under his nose?
Merlin turned back around, heading again to the backroom but Gaius called him back.
"Although Merlin? I should say thank you."
And that stopped everyone short.
Thank you? Why…
"He saved his life," whispered Arthur, sounding slightly baffled by the realisation, and the others looked at each other in astonishment.
Because of the shock of Merlin's use of magic, each and every one of them had completely overlooked what the boy had been using the magic for. He'd saved Gaius' life.
Gaius smiled slightly while merlin looked like he wasn't sure what he should think of all this and he disappeared in the room. Gaius looks after him with a baffled expression on his face.
"For Gaius to have handed Merlin over to be executed just after he just saved his life would have been highly dishonourable, no matter how the boy saved him," said sir Leon quietly. "Especially since it seems Merlin was the son of a friend."
Arthur nodded. It didn't explain why Gaius still hadn't said anything even after all these years –except, Merlin was important to the physician, wasn't he?– but it was understandable. It probably would have been better if he'd immediately sent the young Merlin away but what was done was done.
Arthur glanced at the bed where Merlin still slept.
"Maybe," he said slowly, "If Merlin really didn't know anything about magic, he may have managed to stop using it. Like Gaius did, years ago."
The others all got looks of growing understanding on their faces. Of course! Merlin lived with Gaius so the old physician could have helped him with that.
But, though it was he who had voiced the possibility, Arthur himself didn't believe it.
Merlin hadn't come to him that morning as a man who had stopped using magic years ago. With the things he'd said, it just didn't fit. But there were many things that didn't fit. Like the idea that his manservant, the man who followed him everywhere, could have been an undiscovered treacherous sorcerer for six years with Arthur still emerging alive at the end. Merlin had, on a few occasions, actively saved his life and Arthur had, at times, awoken after being knocked out or severely wounded, far from Camelot with only Merlin for company. It didn't make any sense!
And if Merlin saw Gaius fall tomorrow, the same way he had fallen all those years ago, Arthur didn't think that his servant would hesitate to use that same power to save him. Arthur may have misjudged Merlin to an extend that was as of yet unknown, but he didn't think he was wrong about that.
It was night and Merlin sat on the small bed in his room. It was obviously previously used as a storeroom since it was full of wooden boxes and several candles were burning.
Arthur, trying to distract himself from his chaotic thoughts, wrinkled his nose
"Does he really sleep in a place like that? I haven't seen it in years but this looks more like a storeroom than a bedroom," said Arthur.
Guinevere, as the only person who had, at one time, semi-regularly visited Merlin's room, shook her head.
"I think it was a storeroom before Merlin moved in. It was improved pretty soon after, they moved most of the boxes out I think. And for a servant it isn't such a bad room at all."
Merlin seemed to be taking in his surroundings. He walked to the single closed window in this room and opened the shutter, climbing on the table so he could look outside.
"And Merlin's room does have a beautiful view," sighed Gwen.
He looked out over Camelot in dusk, full of flickering torches and life. The moon shone on the scene
"Definitely better than mine," said sir Percival with a whistle.
"And mine," added sir Leon.
Arthur gritted his teeth. "And mine. How was this allowed to happen!"
and Merlin leaned over the edge of the window, taking in everything and smiling in excitement and awe at the view.
The look on Merlin's face as he looked at the view of his beloved Camelot quieted Arthur's mock-rant.
How could this Merlin be a sorcerer?
Someone was writing a letter with a feather. A soft female voice spoke along:
"My Dear Gaius, I turn to you for I feel lost and alone, and don't know who to trust."
"Hunith," said Gwen softly.
The two knights looked at her strangely, it took them a couple of seconds to place the name as one that Gaius had mentioned only minutes earlier.
"Merlin's mother," said Arthur. His eyes now reflected a slight softness and even worry.
Why had Hunith sent her magical son to Camelot?
Gaius sat down to read the letter Merlin had given him.
"It is every mother's fate to think her child is special and yet I would give my life that Merlin were not so."
"Is she talking about his magic?" asked Percival.
Hunith was writing the letter. It was night and she looked tired and worried.
"I think so," answered Gwen.
Arthur looked at Hunith with slight confusion.
"Ours is a small village and he is so clearly at odds with people here that, if he were to remain, I fear what would become of him."
And just like that, Arthur found himself on the other side of the line. The side where there were no 'dangerous sorcerers' with their treacherous spells that needed to be dealt with for the good of the kingdom.
Just a child born with magic into a world full of enemies and the fear that someone would put him to death if anybody found out.
An icy feeling crawled into Arthur's stomach as he whispered to himself what Leon had already figured out earlier. "And Merlin entered the city to witness an execution."
Guinevere grabbed his hand, her thoughts seemingly having followed similar paths.
"Did you notice anything while you were living in Ealdor?" Arthur asked his wife.
He'd only ever seen Merlin talk to Hunith while they were there… And Will, years ago. But maybe that was the problem.
Gwen shook her head. The last time they'd been in Ealdor she hadn't really spent much time with Merlin, and Hunith had never let anything slip.
Hunith looked down at her only child who was sleeping on the floor. Merlin's dark mop of hair was clearly visible as he slept under a couple of threadbare blankets with his head on his backpack.
Gwen looked at her friend with a soft look in her eyes, for the first time forgetting about the boy's magic.
He looked young. Percival thought, looking at the exhausted Merlin, sleeping on the royal bed as if by reflex. It was suddenly incredibly easy to tell which one of the two were older.
Gaius continued reading.
"He needs a hand to hold, a voice to guide, someone that might help him find a purpose for his gifts. I beg you, if you understand a mother's love for her son, keep him safe. And may god save you both."
Safe… That touched something in Arthur. Safe in Camelot. As a king, and previously as a prince, it was his responsibility to keep the people of Camelot safe. Safe from people like Merlin? The idea that Hunith had to ask Gaius to keep her son safe while Arthur was one of those he needed protection from felt incredibly wrong
Hunith finished the letter and signed her name.
Gaius put the letter down and took off his glasses. He looked gravely in the direction of Merlin's room before folding the letter.
A sad sigh came from Guinevere. "Well, now we know why he came to Camelot. I've never really thought to ask before."
It was still night and Morgana stood in a badly lit corridor, looking out a window at the chopping block in the courtyard. The sight seemed to pain her.
Gwen and Arthur's reaction seemed just as pained while Percival's eyes had turned dark with anger.
"She was still our friend back then, I know she was." Said Gwen. "She hated the executions long before anything changed."
"Morgana." Uther entered the corridor and stepped up to her.
"Yes?" Morgana's voice sounded faint.
"What is this? Why are you not joining us at the feast?"
Morgana moved to stand in front of him and said coldly: "I just don't think that chopping someone's head off is cause for celebration."
Arthur smiled faintly.
"Is this really the same woman?" asked Percival with a strange tone in his voice, as he heard his earlier sentiments echoed back at him.
Sir Leon nodded but it was Arthur who answered: "This is the Morgana we knew."
She looked out the window again, her voice sad.
"That poor mother."
"Simple justice for what he'd done." Uther dismissed her.
Everybody in the room winced.
Morgana frowned, looking back at him indignantly with slight hysteria in her eyes.
"To whom? He practices some magic! He didn't hurt anyone!"
Arthur closed his eyes. He still wasn't sure he disagreed with his father in this but to see in front of his eyes how much Morgana had once cared about people's lives, hurt.
"You were not around twenty years ago. You have no idea what it was like." Uther cut her off with a growl.
A few glances were thrown to sir Leon, the only one who should be able to remember that far back, but he shook his head.
"I don't know. When I was old enough to come to Camelot the purge was already going on. I don't remember any major chaos where I lived"
The dismay lay thick in her tone as she asked in return: "How long are you going to keep punishing people for what happened then?"
The king raised his voice.
"Until they realise there is no room for magic in my kingdom!"
"And yet, now she's punishing people for what king Uther has done." growled Percival, in a strange mix of anger and perception. He looked at Arthur but the royal's face was closed and this once the young king didn't give a sign that his knight had gone too far.
Morgana looked up at him stubbornly.
"You will be with me when I greet lady Helen." said Uther, turning to leave.
"I've told you I want no part of these celebrations." Morgana argued.
"I remember that she had some fun with them though," smiled Guinevere, suddenly. Her tone strangely nostalgic and lacking any bitterness. "She had a temper, but back then, I can't remember her ever staying mad for long."
Arthur's face allowed a slight smile. "Her anger was always something to watch out for though."
"I wouldn't know sire," Guinevere gave him a mischievous smile.
"That's because she was never angry with you." Arthur smiled a little wider.
"I'm your guardian!" Uther snapped, turning back towards her. "I expect you to do as I ask. If you show me no respect at least respect our finest singer."
"I guess we know where she got her temper." All humour had once again left Arthur's voice.
Uther walked away this time with Morgana calling after him: "You know, the more brutal you are the more enemies you'll create!"
"And she always had to have the last word." Said Arthur.
"That sounds almost like a prophecy," mumbled sir Leon. "A warning of things yet to come."
"Morgana used to have these dreams," confessed Guinevere softly, "Nightmares. I'm not sure when, but at one point she feared that what she saw at night was the future. It scared her something terrible. "
Uther disappeared in the room where the sounds of the feast could be heard. Morgana turned again to the window.
Arthur nodded softly. Though she had never confessed this to him, he did remember the nightmares. He also remembered that at times Morgana had seemed scared for seemingly no reason. He'd usually laughed at her for that.
It was the dead of the night and deep in the forest stood a tent. Next to it the guards, wearing the Pendragon crest, who are not patrolling were warming themselves by the fire, their horses bound to nearby trees.
The eerie musical tone in the background immediately put the whole group on edge. Arthur let his eyes flash around the room out of pure instinct, looking for a threat and Guinevere moved slightly closer to him, shivering. Leon and Percival sat on the edge of their chairs.
Inside the tent, a woman was humming as she braided her long dark hair.
"Lady Helen." sir Leon recognised her. "Some years ago the most famous singer in all of Camelot. She went missing, or so I heard."
"She was there," said Arthur, pulling the other's attention towards him as he wrinkled his face, trying to remember. "During the feast where Merlin became my manservant. She was singing that night. Then someone put a spell on the entire room and the next thing I knew Merlin was pulling me out of the way of a dagger."
Guinevere nodded. "She wasn't there when everyone woke up though. I wonder what ever happened to her."
From outside came the sound of breaking branches.
The woman startled and looked from side to side nervously.
"Hello?" she called.
A shadow could be seen approaching through the wall of the tent.
Arthur and the knights tensed as the music grew more eerie and pronounced.
"Gregory?" the woman nervously called again.
A guard appeared at the opening and greeted the woman with a calming voice.
The tension seeped from their bodies. Arthur's mouth fell open with indignation as he realised what just happened.
"That music tricked us!" he uttered, disbelieving.
Sir Leon nodded, utterly serious. "Sire, now that we know, it won't get the chance to do so again."
The other men nodded with equal seriousness, committing themselves.
Lady Helen let her breath go.
"Is all well?" she asked.
"Yes, M'am. With luck we should reach Camelot late tomorrow."
Lady Helen smiled.
Guinevere smiled. "She seems nice."
"I'll be outside if you need me" reassured the guard.
Lady Helen nodded back but as the guard left the smile left her face. She sighed.
Percival looked at Arthur. "Well, it was not just us."
Arthur glared ad him,
"As a knight of Camelot I'd hope that I can hold your nerve to higher standards than I do the nerve of lady's."
Outside the tent, a sound was heard coming from the forest.
The guard, Gregory, drew his sword and slowly moved in the direction of the sound.
"Who's there? Who's there."
In the dark forest whispers could be heard.
"The knights and their king narrowed their eyes."
Back in the tent lady Helen was drying her face while looking into a hand mirror.
Another branch was stepped on outside her tent, making her jump.
Another shadow approached.
As the music built to indicate danger, once again everyone tensed.
Then Arthur laughed.
Lady Helen faced the entrance of the tent, looking just as scared as the first time.
"It's just that music! I'll not be fooled a second time by-."
The gnarled old woman from the execution appeared in the opening of the tent, slowly approaching the younger woman.
They all froze. Sir Leon swallowed. A fleeting thought that the music might be more truthful than they thought as it heightened their shock.
Lady Helen's eyes widened and she stood up as if hypnotised.
The old witch started chanting in a harsh, hissing, horrible voice.
"Akwele seo magdp!"
Repulsion at the strange hissed words and what they represented swelled in Arthur and if he had looked he would have seen the faces of his companions scrunch up with horror and disgust.
She stabbed a dagger into a small straw doll. Lady Helen made a choking sound and bent over as if she were the one stabbed.
This was magic. This was evil.
Arthur's face wasn't moved by what he saw but his eyes burned in anger.
"Akwele seo magdp!"
Again the dagger stabbed into the doll and the lady's eyes began to bulge.
Next to him, Guinevere choked on a sob and she turned her head away from the screen.
"Akwele seo magdp!"
With the final stab, Lady Helen collapsed backward on her bed, staring blankly upwards, dead.
The hand of every knight was on their sword. Anger on their faces, that they could do naught but watch as a murder was carried out in front of them.
The old witch yanked the dagger out of the doll and proceeded towards the table where Lady Helen had been washing earlier, not sparing her victim another glance.
"How could she…" mumbled Guinevere.
"She has no conscience…" From the sound of Arthur's voice, any sympathy he might have had for this woman had been wiped away.
She sat down and held up her pendant, whispering another enchantment in her harsh voice.
"Ghefrolinz grimpoxin kouata"
Her pendant shone with a golden light and she began to change.
"The way she uses it, I seems impossible that magic can be anything but wrong," said Gwen, looking at the screen as if she wished nothing more than to turn away from it.
Her diseased, wrinkled skin smoothed out and her knitted, grey hair darkened.
The lookalike of lady Helen touched her own face, unfamiliar with it, still dressed in her ragged dress, with her mirror image lying dead on the bed behind her.
Sir Leon and Percival nodded at their queen's words. Repulsion was the only thing they could feel with this display.
She picked up the mirror and from it the old, vengeful face of the mother of Thomas James Collins looked back.
Arthur's face darkened at the sight.
The knight looked at his king who made no move to turn away from the screen.
"Grab a scroll and writing materials from my desk. I have a feeling we are going to need a list of all the things that'll need attending to after this."
"Yes sire," sir Leon stood up, looking slightly confused.
"And the first thing you'll note is that the family of lady Helen of Mora is to be contacted about the circumstances of her passing."
Every other head in the room bowed, in mourning of the woman who had passed simply because she had ended up on the path of a magic-user.
The king remained unmoved.
Then, an echoing voice pulled their attention back to the screen.
Merlin's blue eye opened to the sound of the otherworldly voice. His room was dark but a small ray of light fell onto the bed. He wore and old nightshirt and his hair was ruffled from sleep.
Seemingly for no reason, king Arthur's breath hitched and his blue eyes widened. Just seconds ago he'd been staring in the face of that evil witch, who seemed to represent everything that he knew magic to be, but this…
The boy looked around, slightly confused at where he was before he sat up in bed.
He couldn't do it. The contrast was too great. While the faces of the others – even Guinevere's –seemed to have gained more suspicion after the last scene, he couldn't put that sleepy, seventeen-year-old Merlin side-to-side with the evil they'd just witnessed and deem them the same. It was impossible.
Merlin came down from his room wearing his usual garb and was pulling on his jacket.
Gaius pored some watery porridge into a bowl, saying to Merlin: "I got you water. You didn't wash last night."
He pointed and Merlin sat down at the table.
Arthur looked at his knights but it seemed like they, especially Leon, were now watching this simple, everyday ritual with the utmost suspicion.
"Help yourself to breakfast." Gaius put the bowl of porridge down in front of him.
Merlin played with his food. It didn't look like he was very eager to eat it.
Arthur sure wouldn't like to eat it. He looked at Guinevere, who had once told him off for that, but she only looked at the screen with a face full of uncertainty.
Gaius glanced down at his ward before slyly knocking the bucket with water from the table.
Merlin glanced up and immediately his eyes flared.
The buckets and hundreds of drops of water froze in the air.
And telling himself Merlin didn't have evil, illegal, Magic might have worked better if his dollophead servant would stop using it!
They looked at each other, Gaius in shock, before looking back at the bucket.
But even this power felt different.
At that the bucket completed its fall and the water splashed on the ground.
Like something pure and silly, like a reflex. Arthur had never thought he'd ever connect either word with magic. The knights and Guinevere, it seemed, had nothing more to say on the subject.
Gaius rounded on Merlin.
"How did you do that? Did you incant a spell in your mind?"
Merlin immediately shook his head.
"I don't know any spells."
The suspicion on the faces of the others at that statement was starting to irritate Arthur. It didn't necessarily make sense but then, he was the king so he didn't need to make sense. Merlin might have lied to him – and he'd definitely get back to that later – but if he knew spells they probably would have seen it by now.
"So what did you do?" Gaius asked, "There must be something?"
"It just happens."
"If that's the case than the fact that he wasn't caught and executed in his first week seems to become more and more of a miracle." Said Leon finally.
Arthur nodded. Whatever he was now, the young Merlin was definitely still a horrible liar and seemed incapable of hiding his magic for very long.
Merlin turned to get a mop and went to mop up the water from the floor.
This Merlin hadn't even met Arthur yet and beside the magic he was exactly the person Arthur had thought he knew.
Arthur nodded slightly and reached out. Turning the stone to its blue side.
The screen froze, but he paid it no attention, turning to the others, words coming to him as if he'd been waiting to say them from the moment he first saw Merlin's eyes turn gold. The room was silent but for his words, the words of a king.
"If Merlin has magic," he stated, softly but firmly, "that makes him a sorcerer."
Arthur gave each of his companions a burning look.
"I don't trust magic. However, this stone hasn't shown us evil, or any kind of corruption yet."
Arthur's eyes finally came to rest on his bed where Merlin was still resting.
"For me to call him a traitor I'll first have to see Merlin betray us. Until then, he may have magic, but I won't see him called what he is not."
Arthur's clear blue eyes were impossible to turn away from as he once again turned to the others.
"Is that understood?"
The knights nodded. Sir Leon seemed a bit uncertain but Percival seemed more relieved, like he'd been reminded of something he'd forgotten.
Guinevere just reached for Arthur's eyes with hers and nodded. Warmth and love on her face. He'd known that he'd have her support.
He was still confused but Merlin would not be replaced in Arthur's mind by some evil sorcerer until he actually proved that he was one. The idiot couldn't get rid of him that easily!
Arthur reached for the stone, his face still serious but a glimmer that had been previously absent had returned to his eyes.
He'd keep his word. He'd wait and see. And now that he'd decided this he might be able to freely enjoy ridiculing Merlin for all the idiotic things he must have done in the last few years.
"Now, we better keep you out of trouble" Said Gaius.
A snort couldn't be kept from Arthur's lips and a glimmer of laughter now reappeared on the face of the former serving girl.
The knights relaxed further. A small smile appeared on Percival's face.
He turned to a table and picked up some flasks.
"You can help me until I find some paid work for you. Here."
"If he'd hurried with that I wouldn't have had to put up with him for this long," muttered Arthur, somewhat pleased with blaming Gaius for his misfortune.
Gwen send him a small knowing smile.
Merlin paused in his cleaning to watch him as Gaius put the flasks down before him.
"Hollyhock and Feverfew for lady Percival; and this is for sir Olwin. He's as blind as a weevil so warn him not to take it all at once."
Merlin picked up the flasks.
Gaius grabbed a plate with a sandwich with meat on it and offered it to Merlin who grinned.
Arthur was slightly disappointed. He never bored of forcing Merlin to eat disgusting things.
He grabbed the sandwich from the plate and Gaius motioned with his head, smiling slightly.
"Off you go"
"And Gaius just set him loose in the castle!" Arthur said, seemingly outraged. "Without me there to keep him busy that idiot is definitely going to cause trouble."
The two knights nodded dutifully, Percival slightly hesitant but sir Leon in definite agreement. Gwen though, seemed to have remembered something because she covered her mouth to keep herself from laughing.
Merlin made for the door but before he could leave Gaius called after him with a serious voice.
"And Merlin! I need hardly tell you that the practice of any form of enchantments will get you killed."
Arthur nodded. Merlin would need the warning. It was still strange. He'd searched houses for magical items, had seen the fear of sorcerers as they were led to their deaths, sometimes he'd even felt the need to save them as it seemed like they'd done no harm and his very self, his sense of justice had once rebelled against it.
But he'd never felt this empathy, nor feared for them, gotten a hint of how it felt to be on the other side of the line.
Merlin nodded and left.
"I wonder if he could actually do that," wondered Percival's soft voice. He'd been silent for a while. "It doesn't seem like he had much control over his magic but he had to have had some if he wasn't dead yet."
Guinevere now looked worried.
Sir Leon didn't seem like he thought much of it either way. He'd been given an order by his king and since it was Arthur he would obey. He was fond of Merlin but if the boy was a threat…
All the while eating his sandwich, Merlin made his way through the castle to a wooden door. He knocked and a bald man with swollen, scrunched up eyes opened.
"Em, I brought you your medicine." Merlin said, holding out a flask with a yellow potion inside.
"He's blind Merlin, remember?" smiled Guinevere. She had served that particular former knight more than once.
Arthur looked at her, wondering what she was on about. He had little to do with the knights who had stopped serving before he was born.
The man held up his hand, next to Merlin's
"Ah," said Arthur, feeling stupid. Sir Percival snickered and sir Leon looked rueful. It seemed that he too had some experience in this area.
and the boy awkwardly put the potion into it, then he turned to leave before remembering.
"Oh, Gaius said don't drink it all- "
The man gulped the potion down and then, smacking his lips, he turned his face back to Merlin questioningly.
Sir Leon just shook his head disbelievingly as the rest of the table burst out in laughter.
"It might be good that he didn't do this fulltime for long," said Guinevere as she muffled her laugh.
"I'm sure it's fine…"
"I'm sure our honourable subjects are grateful for my sacrifice," said Arthur grinning. "Did that knight survive?"
Guinevere nodded with a small giggle.
Merlin hurried away and ends up outside.
"And… he runs," Muttered sir Leon.
While he's walking there a loud mocking voice can be heard.
"Wheeere's the target?"
Arthur's grin dimmed somewhat as he tried to place the mocking voice. Everyone else focussed stronger on the screen. Percival seemed particularly curious.
Twenty-year-old Arthur stood in the sun, wearing a simple red tunic and pieces of armour, a dagger and a sword at his waist. Off to the side stood a couple of snickering nobles at about the same age, maybe a bit older.
Arthur looked slightly confused as he studied himself.
Gwen sighed a bit and sir Leon seemed somehow resigned.
"There sir?" his servant –the target of the nobles' amusement- replied. He looked simply dressed and unremarkable, his arms were full of weapons. More than one commoner walked by, ignoring the spectacle, but Merlin stopped to watch.
"Just keep on walking." urged Arthur.
He remembered this and it wasn't something that would impress either his wife, or his knights. Besides, he didn't think he'd ever gone quite as far as during this occasion in front of sir Leon.
"It's into the sun." said Arthur.
The servant looked up.
"But, it's not that bright."
"A bit like you then!" Arthur said with a carefree grin.
That the joke had seemed much funnier when he said it, mused Arthur
The nobles laughed and the servant looked put upon.
Percival looked distinctly unimpressed.
He'd seen Arthur say and do similar things to Merlin but the insolent servant always gave as good as he got, which was what made it acceptable but Percival only had to glimpse the servant on the screen to see that this servant clearly had no such backbone and was nothing like Merlin.
"I'll put the target at the other end, shall I, sir."
The servant went to haul up the wooden target. It looked heavy and covered his entire upper body. He breathed heavily as he carried it.
Arthur turned conspiringly towards one of the other young nobles.
"This'll teach him."
Sir Leon frowned. Even though he was almost ten years his senior, he looked up to Arthur as his king, and even back then as his prince, but he'd known that the boy wasn't perfect. It seemed though, that in recent years he'd forgotten just how far from perfect his prince had been.
He looked at the king sitting across from him with a respect in his eyes. He was almost unrecognisable from the arrogant bully on the screen. Part of him wondered how this had come to be.
Next to Arthur, Guinevere's mind was wondering about similar mysteries. The Arthur on the screen would never have noticed her, never have married her. Back then that hadn't mattered to her at all but at some point, this had all changed. She had a feeling that at some point she'd known what had caused this change but she'd forgotten. She and Morgana had both known.
Arthur flung a dagger. It hit the target, still being carried by the servant, with a thud, almost at the centre.
The nobles laughed. The servant lowered the target and looked at the dagger in shock.
"Hey, hang on!"
Guinevere hit Arthur on his arm, with her fist. Not hard enough to hurt – not that she really could - but hard enough to be felt.
"What was that for!" Arthur looked startled.
"You deserved it!" Guinevere exclaimed with a firm nod.
Arthur looked at his knights but sir Leon didn't even turn away from the screen while sir Percival nodded in agreement with Gwen.
He turned back at the screen with a huff. The Merlin on the screen didn't seem like he was going to back him up.
"Don't stop!" yelled Arthur, laughter in his voice.
The servant helplessly took a couple of steps to the side.
"I told you to keep moving!"
From a nearby window, Guinevere, who was airing a curtain, had a clear view of what was happening.
Arthur now looked distinctly uncomfortable.
Guinevere looked at him. "Well, I've got a better view now. I could hardly hear anything from there."
Arthur didn't look like he was happy with that news.
Arthur readied himself for another throw and the servant hurriedly hauled the target up again to cover his face. The dagger hit dead centre. The servant was panting now.
"Aaaand-" said Arthur, "I guess you weren't impressed with my throwing technique?"
"No Arthur, I wasn't," said Guinevere. But the small smile had climbed back onto her face.
"Come one," called Arthur, now grinning from ear-to-ear, "run!"
"If I'd been there I probably would have challenged you," said Percival, voice soft and intent.
Arthur bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement.
The servant started moving as fast as he could with the heavy target.
Guinevere stopped her work to watch.
"Do you want some moving target-practise?" called the prince.
"If I saw one of my knights acting thus right now I might actually do so myself," said the king, and then he grinned slightly, "except if it was Merlin of course."
The other's grinned but Gwen disagreed.
"You'd have let someone, other than you, do that to Merlin?"
He kept flinging daggers at the target until the servant couldn't hold it anymore and his knees buckled.
"Perhaps not," Arthur mumbled.
The target rolled away, stopping right at Merlin's feet and before the servant could pick it back up Merlin put his foot on the target.
"Wasn't he supposed to stay out of trouble?" asked Percival.
Leon now had a slightly tense look on his face as observed the first meeting between prince and sorcerer.
The servant looked up at Merlin in surprise as the boy looked at Arthur, a smile on his face.
"Hey, cmon that's enough. "
"He tried to be nice." Said Gwen, mocking her husband with a slight smile. "He definitely wasn't trying to pick a fight."
Arthur looked at Merlin as if he was mad.
"Only that idiot talks to me like that!" said Arthur.
"It was brave of him," said Percival softly. "He didn't know anybody and you were armed and had a group of friends for backup."
"You've had your fun my friend" said Merlin, friendly smile still on his face.
Arthur walked up to him.
"Do I know you?"
"I'm not sure," Arthur silently answer to his own question. "But I do know that you should be more careful."
"Ah, I'm Merlin."
Merlin held out his hand.
"So I don't know you."
Arthur stopped in front of him, looking at him challengingly and Merlin pulled his hand back.
"Did he always treat commoners like this?" mumbled Percival to Leon.
Sir Leon nodded slightly. "Not always but it was fairly common."
"Yet you called me friend?" mocked Arthur..
Merlin nodded, seemingly serious.
"That was my mistake."
"Yes, I think so" smirked Arthur.
Merlin shrugged his shoulders with a small smile and started to walk away.
"I'd never have a friend who could be such an ass!"
"He didn't know who you were, did he sire?" Asked sir Leon, slightly amused.
"No he did not," Arthur grinned.
"Or I one who could be so stupid!" said Arthur, putting a hand on his sword.
"But it seems we were both wrong," said Arthur softly, too low for anyone to hear, but it wasn't meant for them. He glanced at the form curled up on his bed. "Were we not? Merlin?"
Merlin stopped walking.
"Tell me MERlin," said Arthur, swaggering closer, "do you know how to walk on your knees?"
Guinevere's hand flew to her mouth. She looked at Arthur. "You didn't. Did you?" She couldn't remember.
Percival was wondering how things had ever come to the point where he was knighted almost the same day that he met Arthur, if this was where the prince had once thought a commoner that challenged him belonged; on his knees.
Arthur was now looking over Merlin, grinning. Merlin simply stared back with squinted eyes, looking very unimpressed with what he saw. .
"Well, you made a great first impression on him." Said Guinevere.
"I wasn't trying to impress him," muttered Arthur.
"Would you like me to help you?"
"I wouldn't if I were you."
"Why?" Arthur grinned, "What are you gonna do to me?"
"I just had to ask, didn't I?" said Arthur rhetorically, but it did bring up an uncomfortable question. Did Merlin use magic on him while he didn't notice? He leaned forward slightly.
"You have no idea" said Merlin seriously.
Sir Leon tensed at the implied threat.
"Be my guest!" said Arthur, spreading his arms.
"Cmon! come on?" Arthur egged him on, taking a step backwards.
"Sire," said sir Leon, "Might it not be wise not to goad people until you're absolutely certain that they're not sorcerers in disguise? Just as a precaution?"
They all grimaced.
There are now people watching everywhere and Merlin looks away before looking back at Arthur with a face full of contempt.
A pang went through Arthur. While it was true that he usually didn't pay close attention to his servants moods, he did know that he hadn't seen that expression on his face for a long time. Though, if Merlin had magic he probably shouldn't care how he looked at him.
Merlin threw a punch which Arthur caught. A moment later Arthur has twisted Merlin's arm to his back.
Merlin had restrained himself and Arthur had lorded his power over him. Arthur 's face remained unmoved but it put the whole thing in an even more unflattering light.
Guinevere cringed in sympathy.
Guinevere acted similarly.
"You're in jail for that." Said Arthur, sounding smug.
He twisted Merlin's arm higher up his back and Merlin hissed in pain.
Percival had tensed. Using his greater physical prowess against others who did not deserve it was something he'd sworn to never do and the young prince in this display wasn't someone he could have followed.
Next to him, sir Leon's tension was lessening. It didn't seem that Merlin was going to do anything
"Who do you think you are, the king?" he spat defiantly.
"Yes I am," said Arthur softly.
"No, I'm his son," the older said, "Arthur!"
And Arthur forced the younger boy down.
"Did he actually end up on his knees?" asked sir Percival, his voice pleasant but his face void of anything.
Arthur nodded, his eyes unreadable. He thought of his father. Should he be proud that he'd forced a sorcerer to kneel before him?
Two guards dragged Merlin down the stairs to the dungeons.
Once there they threw him bodily into a cell. Merlin landed on the straw covered floor, sat up and sighed.
Sir Percival and sir Leon tensed slightly. All training exercises – and now it seemed, magic – aside, being that rough with Merlin, who was always there but couldn't fight back, was just something that wasn't done. It seemed that the revelation that he was a sorcerer hadn't quite changed that.
"In the dungeons on his second day," said Gwen with a minor wince. "At least you can't say that Merlin's life is boring."
Arthur wasn't listening.
The way his first meeting with Merlin ended hadn't crossed his mind for a very long time and now, instead of triumph for putting the idiot in his place, all he felt was faintly sick. Yes, it was still a bit funny but in all the years he'd known him he'd never seen Merlin willingly kneel before anyone. The only times he knew of that Merlin ended up on his knees was either when doing his chores or when he was forced.
The fact that he'd once thought it a decent place for Merlin to be, walking on his knees, only made him feel sicker.
The last time, he remembered, was in that tent with queen Annis when the idiot had followed him into an enemy camp. And, Arthur's eyes filled with resolve, regardless what he'd find out next and what would happen afterward, he didn't think he'd see Merlin forced to do so ever again. Arthur wouldn't allow it.
At night, a lady and three guards arrived in Camelot's courtyard. There were a couple of torches outside, though not enough to really chase away the darkness and it had seemingly rained earlier since there were puddles of water on the floor.
The woman who looked like lady Helen, was helped from her white horse by a guard.
"It's the imposter," said Guinevere, leaning against Arthur, "the old woman."
In a nearby puddle, the reflection of the angry old witch could be seen.
They all tensed, even though they already knew.
The woman walked into the castle.
Sir Leon nodded, his eyes alert and grave. "Lady Helen never made it to the castle."
Arthur agreed with a single nod. "All this to see me dead."
Guinevere shook her head, her dark curls moving against Arthur's shoulder.
"All this is for revenge. For your father to see you dead."
The doors of the throne room were opened by two guards and the look-alike strode in wearing an elaborate purple dress.
With the witches motive named so blatantly, two hands once again unconsciously sought their swords as the eyes of the knights followed the witches path.
The wide room was only dimly lit at this time of the night and the visitor was awaited by the king, the lady Morgana, her maid and several council members.
As she approached, a small smile on her face, the king stood up from his throne, his arms wide in welcome, smiling widely.
"It might be a good idea to put a couple of mirrors in the throne room if all such spells work like that," suggested sir Leon.
Arthur nodded, his eyes on his father. "Make note of it."
"Lady Helen. Thank you so much for coming to sing at our celebrations."
The woman curtsied before the king and smiled up at him.
"The pleasure's all mine."
"Well, at least I'm not the only one who can be deceived," said Arthur. The words had no tone and little volume. Guinevere sat up, looking at him, her dark eyes worried.
"How was your journey?"
"Oh, the time it took sire" she sighed.
Uther took her hands and kissed them.
Arthur looked down at the table. Seeing his father flirting with that imposter was a bit much.
The knights just looked tense.
"Well it's always worth the wait."
"It will be" the woman answered, one hand going to the pendant around her neck.
"It won't be," disagreed sir Percival, speaking the words as a solemn promise to the woman on the screen.
Guinevere and sir Leon nodded resolutely. They weren't sure what had happened. But they did know what Arthur was still with them. And they would keep it that way.
Arthur didn't notice. His eyes were back on the screen. Magic users trying to kill him were really nothing new. He could have - and had - dealt with those before. He wanted to know about Merlin, the sorcerer who seemingly had spent his second night in Camelot in the dungeons.
He wanted the confusion gone. Merlin had stood behind him all these years, paying attention to Arthur but if he could miss something like magic in his servant it seemed that he hadn't done the same in return. But now…
Arthur's eyes burned.
Now the urge to find out what secrets his servant held was strong. Arthur would know everything. Merlin shouldn't have kept this from him.
AN: If the flow isn't very strong I apologise. This is my first time writing a reading/watching fic. It's harder than I thought and I'm still very much getting used to it. I've decided that I'll cut all my episodes in half since some of them (like this one) are likely to become very long. This is the longest chapter I've ever written by a mile.
EMERGENCY: Last time I updated just before the 'login' and 'review' options of this site went down for quite a few hours… Lots of people on my hit counter (thnx for reading btw) and no reviews! It was tragic! Please review? We've got to make up for those lost reviews!