AN: Hello! So, the plan was to wait till I was done with Mirror Mirror to post this, but I couldn't contain it any longer, so here it is! My Thief!Merlin fic.
PLEASE READ FIRST! Some backstory to this AU: After the Purge begins, Uther decided that the High Priestesses were a greater threat than any remaining dragon lords, so he focused on getting rid of them first. This took about three years, ending in the death of Nimueh on the Isle of the Blessed. When they were all killed he switched targets surreptitiously, seeking out the dragon lords who had escaped him. It took him two years to find out Balinor was hiding in Ealdor, and when he did he not only killed Balinor, but destroyed the entire town, the only survivor being Merlin, who had escaped as he had been practicing magic in the forest with his father outside town when the fire started. Balinor went back for Hunith, and ended up dying himself. Merlin was found a few days later by the Druids, but I will talk about that and a few other character's backstory in the actual fic.
Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy! I had a great time writing this. I absolutely love this type of AU, so I thought I would give it a try ;) Just a few warnings up here as well. There will be a little whump in this fic, and this will be a Merthur fic. If either of those things bother you, you might want to turn away now. Sorry.
And I do not own Merlin. It would be strange if the actual owners of Merlin wrote fanfiction...
Chapter One: Dreams and Magic
Arthur felt stupid. He was in pain as well, but at the moment his shame was blocking out pretty much everything else. He had finally escaped the knights assigned to accompany him on the hunt, and he had managed to promptly fall off a ledge. When he hit the ground below, he heard a sharp snap. He was almost certain that had been his leg and that it must be broken as he couldn't really stand without being in extreme pain. His father would never let him out of the castle again. This was officially the end of his eleven year old life. Of course that wasn't enough, though. Someone seemed to really have it out for him as the brushes began to rustle and a beast that looked a lot like a scorpion except for the fact that it was nearly twice as large as he was crept towards him.
Arthur screamed. It was a very manly scream of course, but a scream none the less. He really hoped the knights were close enough to save him, even if it meant spending the rest of his life locked in his chambers.
Unfortunately, his knights weren't close enough to get to him in time. Fortunately, someone else was. The creature had been about to stab him with its horrid tail when a small figure jumped from the forest and blew the beast into a tree with a wave of his hand. This apparently wasn't enough to get rid of the monster as it returned, focusing its attack on the larger threat, the tiny black haired boy. Arthur would have slapped his forehead if he wasn't frozen in fear for that last thought, but he quickly got over himself and watched as the boy said some nonsense words and a burst of flames flew from his outstretched palm and succeeded in scaring the monster away. The boy then turned to Arthur and asked, "Are you alright, friend?"
This pulled Arthur from his trance as he scooted back from the hand the boy had offered, saying "I'm not friends with sorcerers."
"I'm not a sorcerer." the boy said, looking quite offended by Arthur's behavior.
"I saw you use magic! You can't hide it from me!" Arthur said to the boy. He was slightly ridiculous looking. He was definitely younger than Arthur, and he looked to be made of sticks instead of big manly muscles like Arthur, his father, and all the knights were. His eyes were blue and looked very large on his small frame, but they were nothing compared to his huge ears. They stuck off from the side of his head like saucers, which explained how he had heard Arthur's cry, he probably could hear for miles around with ears like that. He looked quite proud as he said, "I'm not a sorcerer, I'm a warlock. Iseldir says I'm special."
"I don't care what you call yourself, you still have magic, and magic is evil. My father told me so. If you leave now I will spare your life, but if I catch you doing magic again I won't hesitate to kill you."
"You prat!" the boy shouted, "I just saved your life and that's how you repay me? Maybe not killing me for now?"
"Well, it's your fault. You learned magic. That's against the rules." Arthur argued.
"I didn't learn magic." the boy said quietly, kneeling in front of Arthur so they were at eye level with each other. "I was born with it. And I'm not evil." he finished, crossing his arms angrily.
"You were born with magic?" Arthur asked confused. His father said only bad people learned magic. Could someone be born bad? This little boy didn't seem evil; he had saved Arthur's life by plunging into danger when he didn't even know who Arthur was.
"Yeah. Like I said, I'm special." the boy said proudly. "And magic isn't evil. Iseldir knows lots of it and he's like the nicest guy I know. He saved me when my parents died."
As the boy spoke he had crept closer to Arthur, and was looking at his leg curiously. Arthur watched nervously as he extended his hand and mumbled some more nonsense over Arthur's injured leg. Arthur would have moved, he really would have, if the thought of motion didn't make him slightly queasy. Whatever the boy had done definitely didn't seem evil as he felt a comforting warmth encircle his leg and the pain began to fade.
"What did you do to me?" Arthur asked as the warmth dissipated but the pain did not return.
"What does it look like, prat? I fixed your leg." the boy said.
"Stop calling me that!" Arthur said, standing up at last. Now he could use his full height to intimidate the boy.
"I don't know your name, and I think prat suits you quite well, so prat it is." the boy said happily, as if it made all the sense in the world.
"You can't speak to me like that. I'm the prince of Camelot." Arthur said, trying to look like his father did when speaking to the people. This apparently was the wrong thing to say as something dark passed over the boy's face and he backed away from Arthur.
"King Uther is your father?" the boy said, his voice barely more than a whisper. For the first time in his life, Arthur wished he could say no. He nodded silently, wondering if the boy would attack him. The boy was glaring at him with a hateful expression when he had looked so happy before. Arthur wondered if he would have still saved his life had he known who he was.
"Your father is the reason my parents are dead." the boy said, his voice still quiet.
"I'm sorry." Arthur said reaching a hand out to comfort the boy. He took it as a good sign that the boy didn't flinch away from his hand. "I'm sure it was an accident. My father only kills people who break the rules."
The boy looked up at Arthur, his eyes narrowed. "How can an entire village break the rules? My parents were good people. They weren't hurting anyone. That didn't stop the knights from burning down the town we lived in, without giving any of the people a chance to save themselves. Maybe there should be a rule against that."
Arthur was startled by the coldness of the boy's eyes. He had looked so happy and carefree before this, but now he looked old, older than Arthur. Older than the knights who had been sent out to watch him. And Arthur couldn't help but agree with him. Would his father really have destroyed an entire town in his fight against magic?
"I didn't know. I'm sorry. I never knew my mother. I wouldn't wish that on anyone." As Arthur finished, he pulled the boy into a slightly awkward hug. He had only seen hugs happen, but they always looked like they helped. When he released the boy, he looked slightly happier which made Arthur fell slightly less awful. The part of his mind that sounded a whole lot like his father and was telling him that he definitely shouldn't be hugging a magic user was squashed by the good feeling he got from removing even a small bit of pain from this young boy's eyes. He was trying to think of anything else comforting to say when he heard people shouting out his name from the forest above them. The voices were getting closer, so he turned to the boy and said, "You have to leave. The knights will come looking for me. I don't want them to hurt you."
The boy nodded and turned to head back into the woods. Just before he reached the cover of the trees, Arthur realized something and called out, "Wait! I don't even know your name!"
The boy turned back and opened his mouth to respond and...
Arthur woke up. It had been ages since he had dreamed of his encounter with the black-haired boy in the woods. He always woke just before the boy told him his name. He was certain that he had said his name, but it was lost to the recesses of his memories. Unless he had made the whole thing up, which he doubted very much as he also remembered being locked in the castle for what had felt like an eternity to his child's mind after he had snuck away from the knights.
It was appropriate the young warlock had haunted his dreams last night. Today was the beginning of the celebration of his father "saving the land from the evils of magic" as the king put it. It would start with the death of a convicted sorcerer this afternoon. Arthur didn't really know how well his father had saved the land. The people were suffering; even from his fancy castle chambers he could see that. They had begun to rally behind a magic user named Emrys who was currently infuriating the king. He had broken into the coiffures of Camelot three times now, taking most of the gold and only leaving notes explaining how "Uther had taken more than his share" and that "the gold would be given to those who truly needed it."
He had been spotted a grand total of twice, and both those times he had been wearing a cloak so his identity was unknown. He seemed to have a couple of associates helping him out, as an unfortunate tax collector had learned on one occasion. He had been jumped on his way to the castle and his entire months work had been taken from him, leaving him with only a message from the thief and slightly soiled trousers. Instead of responding to the messages by accepting Emrys' terms and taking less, Uther had increased taxes tenfold, saying it was repayment for the amounts stolen. Arthur had been put in charge of catching said thief which was proving rather troublesome as the man was like smoke. He left absolutely no trace besides the notes, and no one had any idea of who he was or even what he looked like. There were rumors he was an incredibly old man and others that he was in fact a she, a beautiful woman who had seduced her way into the castle. The only clue they had was the name Emrys, who was apparently a character from Druid legends who was supposed to unite the lands of Albion under the Once and Future King. He also was supposedly the most powerful sorcerer of all time. So, either this man was trying to frighten them or was incredibly full of himself and genuinely thought he was this Emrys of legend. Whichever it was, it didn't really provide any clue besides possible Druid ties, but no one had seen Druids around Camelot for around seven years, which ruled that out. So, Arthur had nothing. No clues, no hints, only rumors that got wilder and wilder as time went on.
Arthur was about to get out of bed and look through all his notes on Emrys again when there was a light tapping on his door. He mumbled "Come in." and the door opened, letting his newest manservant enter. For some reason he couldn't seem to find a servant who would stay in his service for more than a couple weeks. His father was starting to get quite frustrated, threatening to leave him servant-less if he couldn't keep one for at least a couple of months. So, he put up with Geoffrey or Gregory or whatever his newest servant's name was. It definitely started with a G, he was sure of that. And in his defense, he had only had him for about two days now. He did all his work perfectly, Arthur couldn't fault him on that, but he was incredibly dull. And the way he acted around him, like it was an honor to simply be in his presence, was a bit annoying. Morgana was so lucky to have Guinevere, the two were practically inseparable.
"Good morning Sire" his manservant said with a bow, "I have brought you all your favorites for breakfast. The king would like me to remind you that your presence is required at the execution today, he would like you there in full armor to represent the knights of Camelot."
Arthur sighed and tried not to wonder how this new servant already knew what his favorite foods were.
"Thank you..." Arthur said trailing of at the forgotten name.
"George, Sire." George supplied.
"George, yes, I knew that." Arthur said, stumbling out of bed and over to the food laden table. "I think I will go down to train with the knights this morning, I will need you to fetch me at midday for lunch and to prepare for the celebration."
"Of course, Sire." George said as he pulled Arthur's clothes from the dresser. Arthur hoped that the training would get his mind off mysterious thieves and black haired warlocks before he had to see his father.
It was so hot. Arthur wondered why his father had decided that this celebration needed to happen in the middle of the summer. He also really wanted to know how Morgana had gotten out of this. If he was forced to bake in the sun all the day she should have to join him. A sizable crowd had gathered around the small platform that had been built to execute the sorcerer, a man named Thomas Collins. He had been caught using magic to fix a broken cart, and was now going to be killed for it. Arthur thought about what the boy from the woods had said about magic not being evil when Thomas was dragged up to the platform. He didn't look evil, just tired. And it wasn't like he was using his magic to hurt anyone, but his father had always taught him that magic was evil no matter what form it took and there had been attacks from sorcerers in the past. Arthur listened as his father gave a short speech about how magic corrupted and so on before raising his hand dropping it to tell the executioner it was time. As his hand lowered, someone from the crowd shouted "STOP!" and there was a flash of light. The executioner did not stop, but instead of chopping Thomas' head off, the axe burst into a flurry of feathers, leaving Thomas Collins completely unharmed. Arthur searched the crowd, trying to figure out who had stopped the execution, but all the townspeople looked just as confused as he did. He heard his father shout, "Guards! Catch the sorcerer!" as the people below tried to figure out what was going on. The befuddled guards sprang into action, two of them grabbing Thomas Collins and looking quite proud of himself until Uther shouted, "Not him, you imbeciles! The other sorcerer!"
This proclamation caused someone in the crowd to start laughing. Uther looked enraged, his face turning a terrible shade of puce as the crowd parted around the laughing person, revealing a figure in a dark cloak. Arthur wondered how he hadn't noticed the figure before as Uther screamed, "Seize him!"
The guards moved, scrambling through the crowds to attempt to reach the laughing man. As they moved towards him, he stopped laughing, and pointed his hand towards the ground. Suddenly all the guards stopped moving, and started sinking into the ground. As suddenly as the sinking had started it stopped, freezing each of the men up to their ankles in stone and the cloaked figure walked up past the struggling guards to the execution block unhindered. The crowds parted around him, watching with awe as he helped Thomas Collins to his feet and asked him, "Are you alright, Master Collins?"
Thomas Collins looked completely stunned by this sudden chain of events, but managed to nod to the man before he continued, saying "My name is Emrys, and I would like to take you somewhere safe, if you wish to come with me."
There was a gasp throughout the courtyard as the man revealed his identity. Arthur was leaning as far as he could off the banisters to get a better look at the man he had been trying to catch for the past couple of weeks while his father looked as if he could spit flames, he was so angry. Emrys seemed to be completely ignoring his father, which was something Uther definitely wasn't used to. "Neither of you are going anywhere!" Uther yelled, causing Emrys to look towards them briefly and wave his hand, causing Arthur to feel his legs freeze in place before returning his attention back to Thomas Collins and saying, "I can take you to a small village where magic is not feared but celebrated. I grew up there. The people are kind, and will help you set up a new life if that is what you wish. Or I could help you leave this kingdom if you prefer, I just don't believe anyone should be prosecuted for who they are."
He then turned his head back up towards Arthur and his father. Even though his face was hidden, Arthur could tell he was glaring at them. Arthur cringed slightly until Thomas spoke; causing Emrys to turn his head back towards the convicted sorcerer. "I can't leave my mother, Mary." Arthur heard the man mumbled.
"Of course not." Emrys replied. "She could come as well, if she wants."
Thomas nodded at Emrys, and he turned to the crowd saying, "Could Madame Collins please come forward? I would like to speak with you."
The crowd parted again as an elderly woman walked up to the platform, taking Emrys' hand to help pull her up. His skin was incredibly pale as it grasped her withered brown hand. Once she was on the platform she rushed forward to hug her son. Emrys let them embrace for a moment before saying, "I need you two to decide where you want to go. I believe Madame Collins has a device that may help with our get away if she permits me to use it. I need to speak with Uther briefly before we leave."
The mother and son pair nodded and began to whisper to each other as Emrys turned back towards the balcony saying, "Uther Pendragon, you ignored my letters. You cannot continue to steal from the people as you do."
"You cannot speak to me like that, you sorcerer-filth, I am your king!" Uther shouted. Arthur almost slapped his forehead at the ridiculousness of that statement. This man had broken almost all of Camelot's laws and his father expected him to address the royalty properly?
"I will not call you my king until you prove yourself worthy of the title. You murder innocents because of some ridiculous grudge against magic and your people starve as you bathe in their wealth up in your castle, spending your time finding more and more people to kill for crimes they did not commit. When you serve your people and prove yourself worthy of the throne, I will call you king."
"It is you and the other magic scum that have polluted his kingdom. I simply seek to save it. I swear I will make you pay for your crimes."
"And I swear, Uther Pendragon; that you will pay for yours." Emrys replied enigmatically. With that, Emrys turned away from the balcony and back the Collins family, saying, "I believe I am ready to go, have you made a decision?"
Thomas nodded and said, "We would like to go to the small village you spoke of, if you would take us there."
"Of course." Emrys replied. "Now, Madame Collins, if I could see that amulet you have?"
The old woman reached around her neck and pulled of a necklace with a yellow stone on the end and handed it to Emrys, who took it from her and said, "Thank you. If you would both grab my arms I will take you there."
The pair each held and arm as he said "The spells I cast will break once we are gone, except for the axe. That's not coming back." then with a few words the trio on the platform were surrounded with a rushing wind and vanished.