A/N: Set Post S4. Mild spoilers. At this point, Arthur's already brought in the round table for his inner circle.
What's In a Name?
Three days. The king and his manservant had been gone for three days. They were only supposed to have been gone for two. Leon stood staring out over the parapet at the fields before Camelot, the direction the two had disappeared too.
It wasn't entirely unusual for them to take longer than expected, he reminded himself firmly. Especially on hunting trips. After all, Merlin almost always ended up scaring the game away, and Arthur had been a bit on edge lately, so he was probably loath to come back before they'd actually caught something.
But it had been three days. What if something had gone wrong? As the king's first knight, it was up to Leon to make the decision: should they send out a search party?
He turned from the view to begin the descent down the steps, the bad feeling in his stomach only growing. It was time to organize a search. But before he began his descent, he once again looked out over the fields.
Immediately, he ran back to the wall, as two figures emerged from the distant trees. They were too small to be recognized, and they were both on foot (while Arthur and Merlin had left on horseback). Leon strained his eyes over the distance. He could just make out one blonde head of hair and one black. His face broke into a relieved grin and he couldn't help the little nervous laugh that escaped him. It was them.
He once again turned to go down the stairs, this time his heart feeling much lighter.
By the time he made it to Camelot's gate to greet his king, the two were nearly there, and now clearly recognizable as the missing king and servant. Both of them appeared completely unharmed—if a bit dirty—despite their mysterious lack of horses.
Leon's relief faded, however, when he caught the look on Arthur's face.
Arthur's jaw was set into a stiff line and his eyes appeared to be boiling in anger.
"Sire?" Leon asked when they at last came through the gate. "What happened?"
Arthur stalked passed with heavy footsteps. "Round table. Now." Was all he said.
Leon, utterly confused and getting another bad feeling, turned his eyes to Merlin, but he didn't offer any answers either.
In fact, Merlin didn't even look at him. He kept his eyes fixed to the ground and followed in Arthur's heels, looking very much like a scolded puppy.
Pushing his confusion aside, Leon obediently went to gather the king's trusted circle.
Arthur stormed into the council room, the doors opening dramatically and unnecessarily wide. He practically stomped to his place at the round table that stood in the center of the room, but couldn't bring himself to sit. Instead, he continued to pace angrily around the room, absolutely refusing to look at Merlin.
"Don't talk to me."
"If you would just—"
"I said don't!" he rounded on Merlin just briefly enough to make his point known before he continued his pacing again, once again pointedly not looking at him. Merlin fell mute, and quietly tucked himself into a corner where he stood and waited.
One by one the knights arrived. First Leon, who had no doubt passed the message along through various servants. Gwaine was next. His eyes darted between Arthur and Merlin with a frown, but for once he was wise enough to hold his tongue. Next came Elyan and Percival. Gwen came running in shortly after that, positively brimming with worry when she felt the tension in the air. Lastly Gaius arrived.
When everyone sat at their appropriate places, Gwaine at last decided to speak up. "You two planning on joining us?" he asked bluntly, eyeing the still-pacing Arthur and the unusually-quiet Merlin who still stood in the corner.
Arthur scowled, but at last stopped his pacing and took up a stiff stance behind his designated chair, still not nearly calm enough to sit.
Merlin knew better than to move.
Everyone's eyes shifted to Merlin. Arthur, correctly interpreting their glances, answered for them. "No," he said firmly. His voice shook with the effort to remain calm. "He will not be joining us."
"Merlin, mate, what did you do this time?"
Arthur's pseudo-calm shattered. "His name's not even Merlin!" he shouted, rounding on his servant again, jabbing a finger in his direction. Merlin flinched. "It's bad enough you've been lying to us but I didn't even know you're name!"
"Sire, what is going on?" Gaius interjected, sounding rather nervous.
"Go on!" Arthur continued to shout. "Tell them! Tell them how everything you've ever told us has all been a giant lie! Tell them what you are! Tell them your cursed name!"
"My name, is Merlin," Merlin responded firmly, finally growing angry. He'd been worried sick the entire trip back to Camelot. He was sick of being scared, and shamed, all the while Arthur being a prat and refusing to listen to a single word he said.
"Ha!" Arthur laughed incredulously.
"Merlin is the name my mother gave me," he insisted. "It is my name."
"Then I suppose you just decided to pick up an entire new identity among certain groups of people, is that it?" Arthur spat.
"It's like a title," Merlin attempted to explain. "I call you Sire, they call me—"
"Sire is right!" Arthur suddenly shouted again, getting a whole knew momentum of anger. "You're not even really a peasant are you? You're like their bloody king!"
"King?" the small word escaped from Elyan's confused mouth before he could stop it. The others around the table glared at him for interrupting, but Arthur seemed only fueled by the question.
"They don't even have kings," Merlin insisted before Arthur could shout again.
"They bowed to you!" Arthur's anger could not be deterred. He was in a full out tantrum. "They swore fealty to you! They did everything but hand you a shiny gold crown!"
"And if you recall, I publically swore fealty to you, Arthur," Merlin took several brave steps out from the corner. "They're now yours. I'm yours! My loyalty is to you! Or have you forgotten how I became your manservant to begin with?"
"How did you?" Elyan interrupted.
"I saved his royal arse by pulling him away from a dagger! Uther was so grateful he thought the only fitting reward would be to wash Arthur's dirty socks. What an honor," he added sarcastically.
"That is beside the point—"
"And I might add," Merlin cut Arthur off, "that I used magic to do it!"
The whole circle, with the exception of Arthur, gasped at the confession.
"That's right!" Arthur told the gaping audience. "He has magic! He's a bloody sorcerer!"
Arthur threw up his hands in frustration. "What's the difference?" he asked defiantly, no desire to get an answer.
"There's a huge difference!" Merlin answered anyway. "You want to know why I've been lying to everyone? I've been moving things without touching them since before I could talk! Damn near drove my mother crazy trying to keep my magic a secret. I was born with magic, Arthur. I've been hiding my entire life! Do you have any idea what that's like?"
"You grew up in Ealdor," Arthur pointed out. "Magic was never even illegal in Cenred's kingdom."
"That didn't save my father!" Merlin took a step back and bit his lip. He hadn't meant to let that part slip.
Arthur, for the first time since this shouting match had begun, paused. "You're…you're father was executed for sorcery?"
Merlin sighed. "No," he admitted, much more softly. "But Uther tracked him to Ealdor, he was forced to flee or risk putting my mother in danger."
"So…he's alive?" Arthur looked almost…relieved?
Merlin, however, grew quiet again. This was not a conversation he had planned on having now, of all times. It was several long moments before he answered. "No," he said at last. "He died a few years ago."
"When?" Arthur demanded.
"Arthur, why does it even matter—?"
"Damn it Merlin I'm tired of secrets! For once I want the truth! Who was he?"
"Balinore!" Merlin finally shouted. Arthur was taken aback. Merlin bit his lip again and looked down. An awkward silence stretched across the gap.
"Balinore was your father?" That was Leon. Merlin steeled himself, then looked up defiantly.
"Yes," he answered firmly. "Balinore was my father."
"Died saving me?" Merlin finished Arthur's stammered statement. "Believe me. I know."
Arthur seemed at a loss for words for a while, his anger seeming, at least temporarily, diminished.
"Why didn't you say something?"
"What was I supposed to say, Arthur?" Merlin finally demanded.
Arthur seemed almost defeated, but then his eyes hardened again. "You could have told me the truth!" He shouted. "Instead of all these extra lies!" He paused for breath. "You could have told me the truth," he finished more softly.
"Could someone please tell me who this Balinore was?" Gwaine put in.
"A dragon lord," Leon responded. "We sought his help when the Great Dragon attacked Camelot, but he was killed before…" his eyes widened, and he once again looked at Merlin in awe. "Merlin," he asked slowly, "who really killed the dragon?"
Arthur's eyes snapped to Leon at the question, then back to Merlin. When Merlin hesitated, Arthur threw up his hands once more. "Have you ever told me the truth?" he asked. "About anything?"
Merlin ignored the rhetorical question. "The dragon's name is Kilgarrah," Merlin said at last. "And…he's still alive."
"I ordered him away," Merlin said firmly. "He will never again attack Camelot. I told him if he did, I would kill him." The silence rang. That statement would have seemed ludicrous just a short while ago, Merlin killing a dragon. Now, they all wondered just how easily he could do it. "In fact," Merlin added as an afterthought, "he's now a rather powerful ally."
"You really have magic?" Merlin turned to face Gwaine, his closest friend among the knights, except for Arthur himself. He nodded mutely.
"And you're a dragonlord," Leon inserted. Merlin nodded again.
Gwaine let out a long, low whistle. "Well, that was unexpected." He thought for a moment. "Although I suppose a lot of things make much more sense, now."
"Merlin," he turned and faced the timid voice. Gwen took a steadying breath before she continued. "What's your other name?"
The whole room waited, even Arthur and Gaius, who already knew the answer.
"Emrys," he answered at last. "The druids call me Emrys."
There was a strange choking noise from the table, and they all turned to face the only man who hadn't yet said anything.
Percival stared at Merlin in absolute shock. "Emrys," he repeated slowly. "Thee Emrys?"
Arthur once again looked thoroughly confused. Merlin couldn't help but feel that was at least a step better than the blazing anger that had seized control since they left the druid encampment.
Merlin, however, was also confused. "You know of the prophecies?"
Percival slowly shook his head. "Very little," he admitted, "But…Emrys is a rather famous name. In my travels, I gathered bits and pieces."
"What prophecies?" Arthur demanded, not happy to be missing yet another piece of the puzzle.
Merlin hesitated again, but Percival answered for him. "The druids have prophecies of a rather powerful warlock. They've been waiting for him for centuries."
Merlin resisted the urge to sigh. But really, there was no point in hiding anything anymore. "The prophecies speak of two individuals. A powerful warlock named Emrys," he looked squarely at Arthur, "and the Once and Future King."
Arthur's face paled as he realized the implication. "And…this king…"
"Will unite the lands of Albion and lead her in a new golden age of prosperity and peace."
"And…and you think that I'm this king?"
Merlin snorted. "Well you certainly aren't the warlock."
Arthur let this knew knowledge sink in for a moment. The druids had prophecies about him, too?
There was still one thing he had to know, though. "Merlin, just how powerful are you?"
Merlin did sigh this time. "It's not important," he answered, not meeting Arthur's eyes.
"He is supposed to be more powerful than anyone to come before him," Percival inserted, "or who will come after." Merlin glared at him. Percival didn't look too perturbed.
The heavy, stunned silence was suddenly and completely broken by hysterical laughter for a certain individual. All eyes turned to Gwaine, who stood up and made his way towards Merlin.
"Merlin, you sly dog!" he said, finally getting his laughter under control. "How on earth you managed to keep such a big secret is beyond me, but this is brilliant!"
"I hardly see anything funny about this, Sir Gwaine," Arthur scolded.
"Don't you get it?" Gwaine asked, still looking highly amused. "You have the most powerful person to ever live polishing your boots and mucking out your stables."
Everyone around the table started at that. The thought had not yet crossed their mind.
After a long pause, Merlin couldn't help but chuckle at the look on Arthur's face. Arthur only glared at him, which just made Merlin laugh harder.
"Can you show us something?" The laughter died in Merlin's throat, but everyone perked up significantly at Gwaine's request, thoroughly interested. Everyone that is, except for Arthur. Merlin looked at Arthur hesitantly. He wasn't about to do anything without the King's permission.
Arthur looked equally hesitant, but at last, he gave the tiniest of nods.
Merlin nodded in return. Then he held out his hand before him and muttered a few words.
A small ball of light formed in his palm, and with a silent decree, Merlin sent it hovering over the table, where all eyes were transfixed.
Merlin didn't take his eyes off of Arthur, but Arthur's eyes were glued in shock on the blue orb. Eventually, the king's eyes tore away from the light to fix on Merlin instead, mouth still hanging slightly open. Merlin nodded again, this time more firmly, confirming Arthur's silent question. Arthur looked back at the light again, then once more at Merlin.
"You idiot," was all he said.
A week later, Merlin was sworn in as Camelot's official Court Sorcerer.
A/N: I am not particularly in love with this ending, but the rest of this story just wrote itself, so I had to post it. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. I'm thinking about writing a companion fic to this one. It would be a prequel about when the druids bowed to Merlin and swore fealty. Let me know if you'd enjoy that, otherwise I might just leave this here.
Also, for those following Of Walls and Scars, have no fear! I'm still continuing on that. This fic did not significantly distract me. (Although school is another matter entirely…)
As always, lots of love to my readers!