A/N: Set during The Sword in the Stone, Part Two. Slight spoilers. Slight AU.
So when I saw this episode I kept waiting and waiting for something along these lines to happen, and it never did! Argh! I was so frustrated. So I decided to write this. Enjoy!
The Sword's Tale
Gwen looked on in awe as Arthur pulled the sword from the stone. Despite Camelot's desperation, she couldn't help the hope that swelled in her heart. Despite knowing Arthur could never forgive her, despite knowing he was no longer hers, she couldn't help the pride that grew as well.
Arthur would lead them through this dark time. Arthur really was Camelot's true king, he really was meant to save and lead them all. She'd already known that, and Merlin had already known that. But now, Arthur knew it too. She could see it in the stunned expression on his face, gazing at the sword he'd just pulled from solid rock.
Sir Leon's voice rang in the awed silence. "Long live the king!"
Gwen watched as the rest of the nights picked up the cry, followed closely by the commoners who had escaped the terror of the city. Gwen was taken slightly by surprise when the woman standing next to her took up the cry as well, and turned to see if her ears deceived her. But no, Isolode was hailing Arthur as her king as well. Tristan said it once, quietly, but firmly, eyes never leaving Arthur.
Gwen let her voice join the group.
He may not be her love anymore, she had lost that right. But he would always be her king—no matter where she ended up after this.
"Long live the king!"
It was some time before the call gave way to heartfelt, wordless cheering. Arthur held up the sword for all to see, and eventually, those gathered quieted to hear what he would say.
No one else would notice, Gwen was sure—except perhaps for Merlin—but she could see the emotion in Arthur's eyes. Five minutes ago he had been ready to give up, but now…he was overwhelmed by the loyalty and the trust of his people.
"Not for me," was all he managed, "but for Camelot!"
The wordless cheering began again. He remained in that pose for a long moment, and Gwen let her eyes travel up to the sword he held, a symbol of hope for all of them.
Her eyes widened.
Arthur left after that, most likely to process in private everything that had just happened. The people continued to cheer long after he left.
"Are you all right?" Isolde asked beside her. "You look like you've seen a ghost."
"I'm fine," she said quickly. "I'm just…overwhelmed, I guess."
Isolde gave her a knowing look. "Don't give up hope," she advised her. "Love is stronger than anything. I know."
Gwen was startled. She managed a hesitant smile before looking back to where Arthur had disappeared. Isolde just left with a smile.
The words helped loosen a knot in her stomach, but they did not address what was currently eating at her mind.
She let it go for about a half hour, but the thought did not go away. She knew what she had seen. And there's only one person who could explain it.
Merlin turned to face her, his face broke into a grin when he saw who it was. "We're going to win," he told her immediately. "I don't care what Morgana has up her sleeve. Arthur's ready, and now he knows it."
Gwen forced a smile, Merlin seemed completely oblivious to the conflict going through her. "Neither of us needed a sword to know that."
His grin widened and he shrugged. "No, we didn't."
"But he did." Merlin looked off in the direction he knew Arthur had disappeared to. "Merlin, how did that sword get in the stone?"
His head snapped back to her. Merlin adapted a clueless look on his face and shrugged again. "According to legend, one of Arthur's ancestors put it there, to await the time Camelot most desperately needed it and the true king could claim it."
Gwen shook her head. "But that couldn't have happened"
His smile faltered. "Why do you say that?"
"Because that would have been hundreds of years ago. But that sword…that was my father's sword."
There was a long moment of pause. "Gwen, how could your father's sword end up way out here, stuck in a stone?" he asked carefully. "I'm sure it just looks like one of his swords."
Gwen shook his head. "No," she said firmly. "No, Merlin, I know that sword. That was his best work, he said so himself. It's the same sword I gave to you, when you said Arthur needed one. Six years ago."
For a split second, Merlin's face froze, completely grin-less. And Gwen knew that look. That's the look that Merlin always had right before he gave her some ridiculous excuse for whatever bizarre situation she had caught him in.
"Merlin, what happened to that sword?"
Sure enough, his grin was soon firmly replanted, with a certain level of caution added in his eyes. "Gwen," he said, as though the answer was obvious, "I told you back then, that sword ended up in Camelot's armory."
Gwen studied him carefully. "So when we take back Camelot, if I were to go into the armory…"
"It would be sitting right there, among about twenty other swords," he insisted.
Gwen continued to eye him. Over the years she'd known Merlin, she couldn't count the number of impossible situations she had caught him in or the number of ridiculous excuses he had offered her. She always knew when he was lying. Sometimes she found out why, usually she didn't. But she never felt a particular need to call him on it. She trusted him. Whatever he was up to, there was a reason he was trying to keep it secret.
She knew he was lying now, just as she always did, but for some reason, she couldn't stop the words from tumbling out of her mouth.
"I don't think it would."
Merlin's face paled, but he continued to grin and shook his head. "Really, Gwen, just wait until we take back Camelot, then you'll see." She could see his brain scrambling, probably trying to come up with a way he could get a duplicate sword into the armory. But for once, Gwen wanted the truth.
"Please, Merlin," Gwen said softly. "If Arthur really does have my father's sword, if my father can have just a small part of what we're doing today, then I want to know."
Merlin's forced grin slowly faded, a look of sad understanding took its place. Gwen was more than a little shocked at just how much understanding was held in his eyes, and for the first time she found herself wondering if something had happened to his father. After all, there had been no father when they traveled to Ealdor together.
He looked away from her to the people who passed nearby, all oblivious to their conversation, his options playing through his head. When he looked back, he nodded slightly, more for himself than for her, took her arm, and led her farther away from the camp.
And then he told her. Everything.
Gwen listened, eyes growing wider with every new bit of information. When Merlin at last finished, he shuffled from foot to foot in his uncertainty. So Gwen did the only thing she could. She hugged him, silently thanking him for everything he'd done without any of them knowing.
Maybe she should have called him on one of his lies years ago.