"Merlin, could you please saddle my horse a little slower, you're working a little too quickly for my tastes," Arthur nagged sarcastically as Merlin finished buckling the saddle onto Arthur's steed. He rolled his eyes at Arthur.
The witch wandered into the forest almost carelessly. Anyone watching would think she was strolling aimlessly through the woods, unaware of her surroundings, but in actuality she knew exaclty where she was going and she was very aware of her surroundings.
"I could, Sire, but I don't want you to be late for your visit, I know how much you're looking forward to spending this day with the council," He replied snarkily. Arthur narrowed his eyes at Merlin and Merlin just smiled back.
The castle was discreet, and well hidden. Most people who found it stumbled upon it completely by chance, but the witch found it with the intent of finding it. She entered the moss covered castle with her head high, the air of royalty about her.
Merlin finished saddling the horse and began to saddle the horse that he usually rode when accompanying Arthur out of Camelot when Arthur stopped him.
"And why should I help you?" The man from the forest asked. He was old, old as the trees in this forest.
"Because if you don't help me, then I'll burn your forest into ash." She responded coldly, a wicked grin on her face. The old man regarded her with a look of stern resignation.
"Very well then. I will kill the young king for you," He said indignantly. The witch turned to leave, her cloak billowing around her. "On the condition, Morgana Pendragon," she turned again, "that you never step foot into my forest again."
"Very well then."
"Actually, I thought you'd rather ride Old Beth today," Arthur said, a wicked grin on his face as he walked his own horse out of the stables. Merlin gaped at him.
"You can't be serious, Arthur," he said, completely dead voiced.
"No, I'm completely serious. I wouldn't want you to be bored on this trip," Arthur said. He left the stables, leaving Merlin eye to eye with Old Beth. The crippled mule.
Merlin ran before he even registered that the scream he heard was a scream.
He was sprinting next to Arthur headed towards the source of the scream, the horse left standing alone in front of the stables.
They turned a corner to see a crowd gathered around the middle. They pushed their way forward, past the citizens of Camelot to find themselves looking at an old man. What had even happened?
Merlin could feel the magic pour off the old man. He was wearing a long, white cloak and carried a cane that appeared to be growing vines with bright red flowers.
"Who are you?" Arthur asked, authority rippling through his body, his voice. It never failed to impress Merlin.
"My name is Gwydion," the man said, matching Arthur's authority in his own voice. "And I've come to claim the throne."
The other knights laughed, but Arthur held his ground. He knew that appearances made no difference to a person's strength or danger. He kept his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready for anything.
"You can either step down now, or die by my hands," Gwydion continued. Maintaining direct eye contact with Arthur.
"I choose death, if you can deliver it," Arthur said, taunting now. There was silence and then there wasn't.
The world was ripped in half.
Merlin was thrown backwards almost clear across the courtyard and he hit the ground hard. The wind knocked out of him. People were screaming all around him and he struggled to his feet, trying to breathe. The air forced it's way in and he gasped, then. He looked around, eyes watery and was confused by what he saw. There was a tree sitting in the middle of the courtyard, where none was before, Gwydion was not in sight.
The roots of the tree were moving. That, Merlin could see and they were pulling people under the ground. Throwing them across the courtyard. The knights were doing their best to stop them, but for each root they cut, another one took it's place. Arthur was standing in a ring of vines. Slicing his way through to the tree. Merlin ran forward.
Merlin muttered a word and his eyes flashed golden. A root became immobile. Holding a struggling victim by the ankle, mid-throw.
"MERLIN!" He turned, cold-blooded at the sound, the blood-curdling scream. Arthur was midair, vines entwining about his entire body. One snaked up his neck and into his mouth. Merlin was too far to help him.
Arthur screamed out Merlin's name. He'd lost his sword when it was pulled out of his hand by the tree's branches. The vines had snapped around his wrists first and pulled him into the air by his torso.
Arthur screamed out Merlin's name as he felt a vine wrap around his throat, not for help, but because he never told Merlin how he felt. Never told him his biggest secrets. And he didn't want to die without Merlin knowing something about Arthur.
I have no choice, Merlin thought as he held out his hands. It was bound to happen eventually.
And he hoped Arthur could forgive him.
He hoped Arthur wouldn't kill him.
Merlin's eyes flashed golden as fire shot out of his hands. The flames targeted only the tree. People stopped where they were and watched. Knights stood in shock and lowered their swords.
Only Arthur was still screaming.
"MERLIN!" The fire burned up the trunk of the tree and the vines around Arthur stopped moving, He kept struggling as one by one the vines snapped and Arthur fell to the ground. Merlin ran to his side and pulled the broken vines off of him with magic as he ran up.
"Arthur, are you okay?" He asked his voice shaking with fright. Arthur sat up and looked him in the eye. Merlin felt relief not to see hatred there. He didn't know what it was, but at least Arthur didn't hate him. "I-" What do you say to a close friend when you've been lying to them for four years? "I'm sorry." Merlin whispered, looking at the ground. His eyes filled with tears.