This Merlin-royal AU was originally created by Versastyles (3625970) for his story 'A play of Dusk and Dawn' (id:7745585). I have his permission to use it.
A (slightly modified) explanation:

"This story is set in an AU, where the Five Kingdoms are two nations. One is the Alliance of Dawn, ruled by the King Uther Pendragon, his son Arthur (crown prince) and Morgana (princess). Opposing to his great power stands the Forge of Dusk, governed by Queen Morgause and her younger brother Merlin Emrys (prince), known to the people only as Emrys. Since magic got banished from the lands of the Alliance and is now punishable by death alone, Uther strives to conquer the Forge which is infested by magic and its 'corrupting' influence."

Please read the first 2 chapters, it'll make more sense.

Blood and death

Nothing could compare to the sight of dead bodies littering the battlefield. To Morgause it wasn't beautiful or horrible, the real trouble was the outcome of the battle. It was a draw.

The armies of the Forge of Dusk had suffered the most losses because they just weren't battle-ready. For years their father, Balinor, had forced a stalemate between them and the Alliance of Dawn. That stalemate had become something of an unspoken truce which became cracked over the years. There was surprisingly little reason to break the truce other than King Uther's narrow-mindedness. After being quiet for so long, he began speaking out against magic again after the birth of his eldest, Morgana, and even more so after the birth of Arthur.

King Uther played a foul game by obstructing the roads leading to the Forge of Dusk and did everything he could to cripple them. King Balinor had gone abroad to fight the Saxon threat and Queen Hunith remained passive towards it all to avoid conflict. But when the Queen passed away due to ill health, the court of the Forge decided to make Morgause Queeen and Balinor did not disapprove, until Morgause fought back.

The unspoken truce had made them lazy and despite there being an army, they now lacked capable sorcerers. Most of the powerful sorcerers in the days of the First Twilight War had grown old and weary of fighting. The Queen, Morgause, found their words desertion and betrayal and part of them were executed.

This battle was the first one of what would be known as the Second Twilight War. At dusk they would recover the dead to burn them. This draw would be the first of many battles to be fought. Morgause didn't know the numbers yet but it seemed both had lost over half their forces. The Queen wouldn't have called for retreat unless her advisor, Knight-Commander Valiant, hadn't advised her to do so. With their retreat, so did the forces of Camelot and it seemed that the next battle would take place on a different date.

"My Queen." A man greeted her on top of the hill.
"Valiant." She returned. The Knight-Commander was a ruthless man but he knew when a battle was lost. His position as Commander of the Black Sword Order, a knights' order, was by the graces of the court, or rather his father's influence with them.
"Some of the villagers offered to help collect the dead. When do we do so?" He asked. The villagers he spoke of came from Kingsbane, named after the last battle of the First Twilight War which ended in a draw and both Kings balanced on the line between life and death. Kingsbane was he place where they had made camp.
"Now, just don't let my idiot brother help." Morgause replied obviously annoyed with her little brother.
"Why not? So what if he gets himself killed? I know you want him dead." Valiant spoke callously. To him it didn't matter who lived or died as long as they got results.
"My father is still out there and if he found out, there would be hell to pay." Morgause replied.
"You succeeded him so he could fight the Saxons, it wouldn't be difficult to prevent his return."
"Valiant!" She sneered. "You speak treason and I'll have none of it!" The Queen berated him. The knight just shrugged it off and walked back to camp. Morgause blamed her father for leaving them behind and she had little love left for him. Then there was her little brother, Merlin, five years younger than her. She didn't feel much kinship to him. He was too soft for his own good, compassionate when he should condemn and it would probably get him killed, clumsy little pest. He had such shortcomings and still their father loved him. He was a disgrace, a stain on their royal heritage, "The Plain Prince", the first in their lineage without magic. The only thing that kept him special was that the gift of a Dragonlord, their father's gift, was passed down from father to son. Perhaps then he might serve a purpose.

Morgause did her best to keep him from sight, excluding him from royal events. She was Queen, she ruled, she had the power, the people were her subjects and she wouldn't share them with anyone. People would recognize her on the streets, Queen Morgause Belisent, but he went unnoticed. He wore the clothes of a commoner and she was glad he did. Even if he would tell someone that he was Prince Emrys, no one would believe him. The name 'Merlin' didn't leave castle walls because Morgause refused to use his 'common' name. Merlin used his common name to lead a life in the shadows. What absolutely infuriated her most of all was the he undermined her authority by forgetting his place. He would fraternize with castle servants and even some of the knights did more than tolerate him, knights other than Valiant.

The Knight-Commander told the people of Kingsbane to help collect the dead but didn't bother to keep an eye on Merlin. If the Prince died, it would be of no importance. There were rumours that pretty much everyone had fallen on the field even Prince Emrys and he hadn't even lifted a finger.

Merlin liked being with the villagers, it felt like belonging. The castle in Namhilrok - the capital of the Forge - no longer gave him the feeling like he belonged, not since mother passed away. Even knee-deep in blood and death, it felt better than being home doing nothing or having to hear his tyrant sister's insults. But Merlin wasn't helping the other villages retrieving the dead, he was looking for survivors.


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