It really annoys me that in lots of stories I read Merlin doesn't run away from his own execution because 'Arthur ordered it'. So this is basically a story to mock that :)
Merlin curled up on the floor of the dungeon, the morning light was streaming through the window.
They'd be coming for him soon.
He had been so stupid! Finally telling Arthur about his magic only to be chucked in a cell. He had thought he was ready but evidently he was wrong.
Outside he could hear the crowds gathering, they must be waiting in anticipation around the pyre. No matter that Merlin was their friend, always there ready to help anyone out. He was no longer the charming lad happy to help an old lady with her shopping even if he was meant to be doing something. He was no longer the boy that would sit with them when they visited the physician chatting and taking their mind of whatever reason they were visiting Gaius for.
He was a sorcerer. Plain and simple. And what better family entertainment in Camelot than seeing someone burned alive?
The trial hadn't exactly gone to plan, Merlin had been dragged in and thrown before Arthur determined to make the king see sense. To tell him exactly what he had done for Camelot.
But Arthur had asked the wrong questions and not given Merlin time to do anything but answer them.
"Are you a sorcerer?"
Well yes, he was.
"Have you ever done anything to harm the people of Camelot in anyway?"
Of course not! He would never - oh wait. Dragon.
"Have you ever plotted against the crown or royal family?"
Now why would he do that when he was meant to protect - wait. Morgana's part of the royal family isn't she? And technically so was Agravaine...
"Then you shall be purged of your magic by being burned at stake until dead."
Merlin could've sworn he heard Arthur's voice crack a little.
His friends had tried to help him of course, Gwaine had tried to break him out so many times that he had eventually been locked in his chambers. Gwen... Well Gwen wasn't proud of what she had done to try and free Merlin but all it had done was led to the discovery that Arthur ruled with his head - and not any other body part. Gaius had gone on strike - which lasted all of three days until Leon came down with a fever.
But it was futile anyway. Even if one of them had managed to free him Merlin wouldn't have left unless Arthur himself said he could. If he was anything he was loyal so if his king ordered him to die he would do so.
It's not as if he couldn't break out anyway, if he wanted to it would take him about thirty seconds to knock the guards out and unlock the door.
From somewhere above him the bells began to toll.
Merlin knew what time it was already.
His execution was set for six rings and he hadn't slept since the bell rang once a whole five hours ago.
Outside a drum began to beat.
Footsteps came down the dark corridor towards his cell, faster than the drum. Slower than his heart.
Two guards appeared at the door and unlocked it. They pulled him off up the floor and dragged him out.
The brightness of the sun blinded him for few seconds when he emerged from the castle.
By the time he got his vision back he was being tied to a wooden stake his wrists chafing on the rough rope. He looked up at the castle, from one of the windows he could see Gwaine peering out looking utterly hopeless. He knew that once he was gone the knight wouldn't stay in Camelot, he wouldn't want to serve Arthur.
He looked over at the window into Gaius' chambers and saw an ill looking Leon looking out swaddled in a blanket. Painful realisation struck him, he would never be in there again. Never again stand where Leon was standing. Never again stand in his home.
He looked out across the crowd below, he noticed Percival supporting a sobbing woman.
"Mother?" He whispered but was not heard. It looked like the knight was the only thing preventing her from collapsing to the floor in a heap.
He saw Gaius, his mentor was standing tall but Merlin could see the pain in his eyes running deep. The young warlock was like a son to the old man. Elyan hovered a little behind the physician ready to do the same for him as Percival was for Hunith if need be.
The drum was in exact rhythm with his heart now.
It was only now that he turned to look at the balcony.
Gwen stood there looking every bit the queen that she was. The only thing giving away her emotions were the silent tears running down her face, if it wasn't for Camelot's demand that their monarchs remain dignified at all times the tears wouldn't be so silent.
And there he was. At the front, slap bang in the middle stood the king. Arthur Pendragon. He opened his mouth, the whole crowd seemed to hold their breath. This was the first execution he had ordered, what would the young king say?
"Merlin what are you doing here?"
All of Camelot frowned in confusion at the statement.
Merlin gaped up at him, "I was led to believe that it was mandatory to attend my own execution." He said after a few tense seconds.
"But you have magic!"
"Arthur we've been through this, of we hadn't then I'd probably be off polishing your armour or doing some equally mundane task right now."
A few people in the crowd chuckled.
"You. Have. Magic."
"Yes. I. Know."
"So why didn't you escape?"
"Because it's illegal?"
"So's sorcery but that didn't stop you."
"You ordered my execution and so I'm going to be executed."
"You didn't escape because I ordered your execution?"
"You idiot. You mean to tell me that the reason you're here is... Loyalty?"
"And you didn't think that maybe survival was more important?"
"Because... Well... I mean... I think I may have misunderstood some of the dragon's riddles."
"The dragon's riddles?"
"He can't give straight answers. It's kind of his thing."
There was a moment of silence. A small part of Merlin's brain realised that the drum had stopped beating.
"So what happens now?" He asked trying to shift his wrists into a more comfortable position.
"Well... I dunno. I was kind of counting on you escaping, the only reason I sentenced you was so that I wasn't seen to show favourites."
"That has got to be the worst idea I've ever heard! And I know Gwaine!"
"Well if you have a better plan..."
"Why not just lift the ban on magic?" Merlin suggested as though it were the most obvious thing in the world (which it sort of was really).
"But then people like Morgana will have free reign!"
"Not if you if you impose a ban on evil magic."
"And how am I meant to tell which is which?"
"I think it will be pretty obvious when an evil sorcerer attacks you. They're not going to start making flowers and healing people."
An awkward silence fell on the courtyard.
"So..." Said Arthur.
"So..." Merlin echoed, "Going to untie me?"
"Merlin we both know that you can untie yourself."
"Yeah... But there's something ultimately more satisfying about being freed rather than escaping."
Arthur just shook his head in exasperation and motioned for the guards to take the rope off.
Merlin climbed down from the pyre rubbing his sore wrists.
There was a smash from the castle and they all looked round to see a figure begin to abseil down the side of the building with a rope made from bed sheets.
It seemed that whilst Merlin preferred to be freed Gwaine believed that the real satisfaction came with escaping.