A/N: So, this is the companion fic to A Journey Destined A Journey Forgotten… though it can be read as a standalone. It is set about 2 years after season 4. The reveal has happened. I hope you all like it!
I want to thank my beta, Arwyn-t for her help. She is brilliant!
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin, BBC and Shine Limited does
A tale of legendary warlocks
The young warlock strolled down the pathways of the castle, whistling a happy little tune that he had caught up the other day when Gwaine had dragged him to the tavern. It was a lovely morning for herb picking in Merlin's opinion. Spring had finally arrived, the weather was beginning to warm up, the flowers and trees were blossoming. No better time for him to take a small break and spend a few hours out of the castle in the calming surroundings of the woods.
He turned left to enter the main hallway. Servants were busy coming and going, but nobody paid the warlock any attention. Queen Guinevere had decided the palace could do with a spring cleaning, and thus almost every single member of the king's household was occupied with scrubbing the floors, dusting the furniture or polishing wall-decorative armor whilst hanging precariously from said walls.
Though, to be honest, their not noticing Merlin might have something to do with the fact that currently the warlock was in disguise.
He was wearing a simple worn red tunic, brown breaches and a dirty blue neckerchief, with more holes in it than cheese. Adding an old torn leather satchel that hanged from his left shoulder and his outfit was complete.
As Arthur would say, if he caught glimpse of him now, he was in his manservant's costume once more.
Merlin resented that notion. His old clothes were definitely not a costume. They were in fact very comfortable and practical. The added advantage of helping him blend in with the castle's staff was of minor convenience.
It had been almost six months since he had last got the chance to dress according to his own will. Ever since that fateful day, the one Gaius liked to call as the day that prophesies finally came true, Merlin was required to concur with the proper attire of anoble man, much to Arthur's amusement and Gwen's genuine delight. The Queen found great joy in dressing up Merlin in a different official court sorcerer's tunic almost every week. He was fairly certain he now possessed the largest wardrobe any other sorcerer had ever had.
Only a few months and yet the differences in his everyday life were so colossal, that it could have easily been years.
But it was only one year ago when it had happened. One year since Arthur had discovered his secret and reacted in the worse way possible. By arresting and sentencing him to death by pyre. Merlin still shivered when he remembered those dark days of his imprisonment. It was only the memory of their journey to the future that had kept the warlock from losing his mind and helped him survive the ordeal. It had taken time, a lot of effort and even more tears, but in the end, Arthur had agreed to listen. For nearly three days, Merlin had sat on the cold stones of his cell's floor and had recounted every single time he had used his magic. Eventually, he was left with a hoarse throat and a broken friendship, but at least no death sentence. It took months for them to come close again, with Merlin being wounded from the way he was treated and Arthur being sorry for his actions but letting his king-sized ego get in the way of his apology. Ultimately, it was the surprising and life changing decision that Arthur had made to lift the ban of magic andhave Merlin promoted from manservant to first advisor and official sorcerer of the court that sorted the matters between the two. After that, they had slowly started going back to their normal, and rather co-dependent, relationship.
Some days, Merlin still woke up startled in his new quarters and had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn't still in a dream.
He went out through the main entrance, giving a brief nod of acknowledgement to the guards that were standing on either side, and then trailed down the path towards the outer walls.
Again, thanks to his old clothes, the court sorcerer of Camelot was able to pass discretely through the buzzing lower town and exit from the southeast gate almost completely unseen.
He kept walking, heading towards the tree line of the woods, revering in the calming sounds of the forest and the warm feeling the sun left on his skin. The forest trail wasn't very clear, having been left almost completely undisturbed throughout the past months of winter, so Merlin ended up strolling, lazily exploring the grounds, stopping from time to time to pick a herb or a root that he thought he could use for his experiments.
It was the most serene he had been in the last six months. Almost immediately after his promotion, Merlin had come to realize that being manservant to the king of Camelot and the court physician's apprentice while simultaneously saving everyone with his hidden magical talents was actually a lot easier than his current position at court.
Now, not only was he in charge of every magical mishap that ever befell the kingdom, but he also had to deal with dozens of new laws being written, with old peace treaties being revised, with endless rows of emissaries from all across the land. And of course with almost every council member that was there from the magic-hating times of Uther and still treated him like he was about to turn the whole of Camelot into toads and then eat them raw or something equally disgusting.
Still, he wasn't one to complain. He knew very well how deeply Uther's hatred and fear for everything magical had been rooted in the minds of Camelot's people. The nobles were by far the worst. Where simple folks had been willing to give him a chance to prove to them that magic could be a force of good and came to gradually accept him, most nobles had and still did regard him with either fear or distain. Or both. Nothing that he did, no matter how much it was to the benefit of the kingdom and its people, was good enough for them. In their eyes he was an intruder to the court, a peasant sorcerer and a dangerous one at that.
Merlin was glad he was at least winning the hearts of the common people. They were the important ones, in his humble opinion. Not these arrogant old men that lived to lick the king's boots.
Arthur had noticed everything. He had managed to stay uncharacteristically calm about the whole issue for the first couple of months. In the end, it had taken a rather vulgar comment about Merlin's mother, coming from the mouth of one of the most powerful lords in the land during a council meeting, to make Arthur finally snap. After two days in the stocks, said nobleman was ordered -while he was still covered in rotten vegetables- to apologize to a newly titled Lord Merlin, in front of the entire court. From then on everyone in the castle was obligated by law to address the young warlock as Lord Merlin. Merlin had yet to forgive Arthur about that.
That was why he needed this walk in the woods so desperately. He had claimed to be short of his stash of herbs, but in truth he could always buy them from the market, or borrow some from Gaius.
No, what he was actually short of was a break, a few hours of sleep and a good deal of unwinding.
By mid day, he reached a small clearing. He decided to rest under a tree for a while, before starting his way back to the castle. He made himself comfortable, took the meat pie he had managed to steal from the kitchen out of his pack and enjoyed a delicious snack.
He had just finished his meal when he heard the voices. The sounds came from his left and not from very far. Merlin had recognized his surroundings and knew for a fact that the main road to Camelot, at least the one that the merchants used more frequently, passed through a clearing not far from where he was.
Though they weren't alarming, nobody was screaming for help, Merlin could tell that there was something wrong with the travelers. Being his normal extremely curious self, he hurried up and followed the voices, making sure he stayed fairly hidden from their view.
He hadn't been walking for a minute when he came upon the clearing and the travelers.
It was a rather amusing sight. In the middle of the road was a large wooden carriage, with its left rear wheel stuck in a great puddle of mud. Two rather tired horses were tied to it, struggling to lift their heavy burden out to continue the journey. There were five men surrounding the carriage. Two of them were clearly servants and had the task of pushing the back of the coach, while the other three were obviously noblemen.
One of them was an older man, very short and with a long white beard that reminded Merlin of his Dragoon the Great escapades. He was talking rather vividly to a young boy, no more than fifteen years old, though from his hiding place Merlin couldn't make out what they were discussing. The last of the noblemen was obviously the man in charge, a middle aged gentleman who wore rich clothing and kept ordering the two servants to push, while he was trying to coordinate their efforts with the horses. If there was anyone else inside the carriage the young warlock couldn't possibly tell, for the doors were closed and small drapes decorated the windows, making it impossible to see inside.
After spending a minute to consider his options, Merlin decided to reveal himself and respectfully offer his assistance.
He stood up from where he was hiding behind a thick shrub and approached the party slowly, adopting his most innocent of expressions.
The two servants noticed him first, but did nothing more than nod in greeting. He dared to move closer, reaching the two arguing noblemen, the boy and the old man, who still weren't aware of his presence.
"Come, uncle. That is enough. It clearly isn't working…" said the young boy to his uncle.
"I am telling you, it should work. I have no idea what went wrong. It is a perfectly simple enchantment; anyone with my experience should be able to…"
The old man didn't have time to finish his sentence when the other noble, the middle aged man, approached them and raised a hand to gesture towards Merlin.
Merlin noticed that the old man's eyes went wide the minute he saw that they weren't alone. The young boy had also turned pale. Quickly, Merlin offered his hand, smiling, a universally known friendly gesture. The middle aged noble man regarded him composedly, taking in the poor state of Merlin's clothing and the bag of herbs he was carrying, but didn't make a move to take his -dirty- hand in greeting.
"Can we help you, stranger?" the nobleman said coldly.
"I was about to ask you the same, sir." Merlin answered him a little confused.
The nobleman raised his eyebrows indignantly while he replied.
"I am Lord Aegrid of Longsdale, and no, I doubt someone like you could be of any assistance whatsoever."
It was an obvious dismissal from Lord Aegrid, so Merlin merely bowed to him, eyes full of amusement, though thankfully no one noticed. The young boy was watching him, certainly a lot calmer than before and the boy's uncle, the old man who had spoken of sorcery was once again concentrating on the wheel, mumbling incomprehensible strings of words under his breath.
It was clear to Merlin that they thought he was an ordinary peasant; well he was a peasant until quite recently, though he had never in his life been anything but extraordinary. He considered the situation carefully. He could tell them he was the Court Sorcerer, by then the news had surely reached every corner of the five kingdoms, but then again he could act like the fool they took him for and have some fun while he was at it.
It wasn't that much of a choice, really.
Merlin decided to take his chances with the boy first.
"Hey, you lot going to Camelot then?" he asked.
The boy looked towards Lord Aegrid, who wasn't paying any attention but was struggling with the horses once more, and answered eagerly.
"Yes, we are. We have been traveling for almost two days and now this happens. Do you happen to know how far away the Citadel is?"
"Well, actually I do."
"You do? That is excellent! Is it very far? How many hours do we have? I am Henry, by the way. Lord Aegrid is my father. And this is my uncle, master Driory."
The old man raised his head when he heard his name.
"Uncle, this man says he knows the way to Camelot!"
"Well, that isn't very impressive, my boy, considering that we are currently standing on the road to Camelot," Driory replied. He looked towards Merlin with a bored expression. "I suppose you are from Camelot, boy?" He asked.
"I am living there…" Merlin replied, avoiding the fact that he wasn't originally from Camelot.
That made the boy jump with enthusiasm.
"You live in Camelot? Have you ever been inside the palace? How is it? Is King Arthur the most fearsome warrior of all? Have you ever seen him fight? I wanted to go to last year's tournament but father wouldn't let me. Have you seen the Queen? Or perhaps the Sor…" the boy stopped his excited chatter, eyes widening as if he'd almost let some secret slip.
The boy's uncle stepped in. "What Henry wants to ask but is unreasonably afraid to, is if you have seen the Court Sorcerer of Camelot. The one who claims to be Emrys."
It was Merlin's turn to be surprised. The old man knew his Druid name. Now he was certain the man was indeed a sorcerer. No one would question his right to that name but those who understood what it meant, who knew exactly what Emrys was destined to achieve.
"Well, I have seen him," that wasn't a lie. "And it is quite near, the castle I mean… No more than an hour if you manage to get that wheel out of the mud."
"You say we are so close to Camelot?" It was Lord Aegrid who interrupted him.
"Can you tell us if there is a shortcut, one we could take on foot, if all our efforts fail?"
Merlin pretended to think really hard. He was actually distracted for a moment by a move on his right. One of the curtains in the carriage was lifted briefly.
So there is someone else with them.
He lifted a hand up and gestured vaguely behind him towards the trees.
"There is a route through the forest. It can take you to the castle in about a couple of hours. But it is rather tricky, mind you…"
Lord Aegrid nodded stiffly.
"Well, we shouldn't keep you any longer. Good day, stranger."
This time Merlin decided to comply with the dismissal and start his way back to Camelot. He turned to lower his head to Henry and master Driory, a sign of respect to the both of them and then turned merrily towards the edge of the forest. In a final moment of inspiration he muttered a spell to push the carriage, just enough for it to get out of the puddle, and left the clearing, disappearing behind the bushes.
Driory couldn't believe it.
"Ha! I told you, didn't I? I said it was a piece of cake enchantment. There, out and ready to leave…"
Henry watched amazed as his uncle bounced around the puddle of mud, the very embodiment of joy and pride for his accomplishment.
Lord Aegrid wasn't very impressed.
"Driory, for the love of all that is holy, would you stop behaving like a toddler? Yes, your spell seemed to have miraculously worked. No need to make a fool of yourself, my dear man…"
Andria stuck her head out of the carriage.
"Are we finally ready to go? Who was that, father?"
"Nobody Andriorella, get back inside, my dear. And the rest of you… Let's go, we are already late as it is."
Henry smirked at his older sister.
"Why yes, Andriorella, get in."
Andria's shot him a murderous glare.
"You, Henry, are impossible. Father, how can you expect me to survive even one day in Camelot when you inflict these two on me, I truly cannot fathom…"
Lord Aegrid dismissed his daughter's words and climbed inside the coach.
Soon, they resumed their journey towards the beautiful Citadel.
While Driory and Henry were busy commenting on every little detail of Camelot's countryside they could see, Lord Aegrid regarded his dear daughter.
Andria was so much like her mother. Same expressive brown eyes, light red curly hair and lovely pale complexion. His daughter was certainly a rare beauty.
When Aegrid was young, he had married from love. His wife, Sarah, was of a noble family, a beautiful and incredibly clever woman that everyone respected and loved.
And she was also a sorceress.
When the Great Purge had begun, his wife and her elder brother Driory were lucky enough to escape the death sentence. Aegrid had played a great part in ensuring that. He had paid to get their names off the list of alleged magic users and had left the kingdom's capital swiftly, retiring to his small estate north of Camelot. As one of Uther's lesser Lords, he was able to avoid visits to the palace. He paid his taxes and made sure never to bother the King, and in turn he got to keep his family.
Sarah gave him two healthy children, but alas, she died not long after giving birth to the second. It had been almost fourteen years since his wife passed away, and not a day went by when he didn't miss her terribly. But he had other, very important matters to keep him occupied. His eldest daughter hadn't been nine when she'd first shown signs of magic. From then on he made sure that Andriorella never left their home, nor made any contact with strangers. Her uncle Driory tried to teach her how to control her power, but he was never a strong sorcerer, nothing like his late sister. So, Aegrid guarded his daughter's life dearly, though it pained him that she couldn't have a normal childhood or even friends for that matter. Instead, he had told everyone who asked that she was ill and too weak to even get out of the house.
That was her life for nearly ten years. Then, a few months ago, word came that the ban on magic had been lifted, by order of the new King, the young Pendragon. In the beginning, both he and Driory were reluctant to believe the news. They had been too afraid, even thought it was a plot to lure magic users to a trap, but as time went by and the rumors became actual facts, Aegrid decided it was time for them to visit Camelot, the new King and apparently his new Court Sorcerer. Driory, after hearing the man's name, Emrys, had brightened up, and kept searching the few writings he had salvaged from the Purge for some kind of prophesy. He told them that Emrys was the name of the most powerful of all sorcerers and that it was foretold he would bring a new era of peace and prosperity throughout the land.
Thus, the small family had began their journey. Aegrid had sent a letter to inform the King of their visit. He would finally see for himself if magic was indeed once more accepted. If that was the case then, according to his plan, he should be able to get Henry to stay as an apprentice of the Court's physician. The boy loved reading about plants and remedies. Unfortunately, his son's build wasn't that of a knight, but a nice education from the best physician of the land should be of an equal standing. If Henry were to stay, then Driory and Andria would remain in Camelot as well as his guardians, and perhaps, in time, his daughter could reveal her talents and become a student under the Court Sorcerers tutelage.
Sighing loudly, Lord Aegrid reached for Andria's hand. The girl pretended she was too busy admiring the landscape to notice her father's emotional gesture.
"Look!" Henry shouted. "We're here! We are finally in Camelot!"
There! What do you think? Good? Bad?