A/N So here is a sequel! Yay! Despite being labeled angst/suspense, it actually starts out humorous.
This is a sequel to a short, extremely angst filled story. In case you don't want to read the first one, I'll summarize it for you. Arthur rides out to help a village that was destroyed during Morgana's reign, and in the process, finds out that one of the girls has magic. Unfortunately, this consisted of the girl lighting Arthur's arm on fire repeatedly. He arrests the girl, and to Merlin's horror, everyone seems to follow his lead in hating magic. Arthur then sentences the girl to death, as he thinks that she tried to attack him, when in reality her bit of magic was an accident. Merlin gets angry and fights with Arthur over this, but Arthur doesn't see reason. Then, the girl's brother rushes in and tries to help her escape, but ends up with the same sentence. Merlin resolves to break them out, but in the process, the brother is killed by a knight. Before Merlin makes it to the woods with the girl, he is caught by Gwaine, who consequently helps them escape. Merlin takes her to the druids. The next day, Merlin finds that Gwaine found out about his magic, and the knight accepts him. Things are still strained with Arthur, but he finds out that Arthur regretted sentencing the girl's brother to death and was planning on changing his sentence. It ends with Arthur and Gwen going on a picnic date to get away from all the trouble. Merlin, wanting to know if Arthur is really as cold hearted toward magic as he seemed to be, disguises himself as a child and enchants a flower in front of him, and tells him to give it to Gwen. Arthur, mesmerized, obliges.
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin
Merlin jolted awake. Arthur was standing to his side, kicking him.
"Get up, you lazy daisy."
Merlin groaned. He had finally fallen asleep after two nearly sleepless nights. He stayed on the ground, leaning against a tree while Arthur continued to kick him.
"Arthur, maybe we should just let him rest. He's obviously tired." He heard Gwen's voice.
Arthur was still kicking him. "No, he's being a lazy daisy."
Merlin yelped when he felt Arthur kick a bruise on his arm. Why did he have a bruise anyway? He thought for a moment… Oh. For some reason, he thought it would be a good idea to transform into a younger version of himself to show Arthur some 'good magic.' And being small had made him extremely clumsy because he was not used to having to take tiny steps. Hence the bruises. He had begun to doubt the wisdom of his actions every time he tripped, and especially when he wanted to run away screaming after having showed Arthur and Gwen magic. But when Arthur didn't rush forward to kill him, he felt a little better. Gwen even seemed to like his not-so-sneaky display of magic. Still, that didn't make up for the terror Arthur had put him through, or rather, he put himself through. What on earth gave Arthur the right to kick him and call him a—
"Hey, that's my word," Merlin quipped, Arthur's statements sinking in to his foggy brain.
"So is clotpole," Arthur said. "And that's another one that describes you."
"You know, I'm thinking that goblin was right when it turned you into a donkey."
Arthur kicked him harder. "Donkeys? Merlin, you're being a child. That was a long time ago."
Actually, Merlin had been reminded of the incident just yesterday. By Gwaine. "Still a work of genius, though."
Merlin yelped at Arthur's next kick. "Arthur, calm down!" Gwen pleaded.
"And why is that?" the king demanded, ignoring her plea.
"Because you're being a royal ass."
Arthur tried to kick him again, but Gwen jumped in the way. "Arthur, I hate to tell you, but it's slightly true right now."
Arthur's eyes widened in astonishment. "You think…"
"No, no! Certainly not! But he's obviously tired, and you keep kicking him."
Merlin glanced up at Gwen, and grinned.
Arthur looked slightly lost. "Gwen, he's probably hung over or something. I saw him with Gwaine yesterday—"
"Arthur!" Gwen scolded. "This is what I meant! It's times like this that you're being a royal…" she trailed off.
Merlin couldn't help but inwardly cheer for Gwen. Someone needed to point out how much of a prat he was being.
Arthur gaped as his wife proceeded to hold her hand out and help Merlin up.
"What's this?" the king asked, annoyed.
"It's called showing compassion. You should try it sometime," Merlin replied.
"Merlin!" he protested.
Gwen and Merlin chuckled as the king glanced skeptically between the two.
"Guinevere, I hope you know that Merlin wasn't dead or anything…" he commented offhandedly, and looked as if he instantly regretted it.
Both Gwen and Merlin gawked at him.
"Never mind!" he exclaimed. "Back to the castle!" He threw the picnic blankets at Merlin.
Merlin begrudgingly folded them up and began to follow the king and queen. He noticed that the flower was no longer in her hair, but she still had it. He could feel its magic emanating from the picnic basket that she insisted on carrying.
Somehow, that made his insides swirl with excitement. If he was honest, it wasn't a huge step, but it was one. For a moment, he had the slight urge to tell them that it was him, to claim his work, but he knew better. And that feeling passed quickly as he added it to his list of things to share 'one day.'
"What are you grinning about?" Arthur asked him, interrupting his thoughts.
"Hmm. Certainly not the fact that you woke me up from my first chance of sleep in days. Especially since I've had so much work to do."
"Now I know you're just a lazy daisy, because I didn't give you any work."
"Arthur," Gwen cut in. "'I'm sure he was busy. I don't think you realize how much work servants actually have to do."
Arthur was speechless for a moment. Merlin took advantage of this and threw the blankets at him. "Never too late to learn," he said, grinning mischievously.
"Merlin!" Arthur's shout was muffled.
Merlin laughed and strode forward with Gwen. Today was a new, fresh day. Or maybe it just felt like that since he had a tiny bit of sleep.
"Did anything interesting happen while I was gone?" he asked.
Gwen turned around and exchanged a nervous glance with Arthur. "No," she said, her voice wavering, and she bit her lip.
Merlin raised his eyebrows. "Something tells me you two are keeping secrets," he said.
"Hmm, probably true," Arthur responded. "You see, normal, competent people are actually able to keep their mouths shut. Unlike you."
Merlin chuckled at his statement. It was just too ironic.
His laughter was abruptly cut off as a familiar tingle of magic hit him. He stopped, trying to identify where it came from. He felt a tug to his right. Emrys, he faintly heard. He wanted to scream in frustration. Who on earth was calling to him now? And something about the tone of that voice made him uneasy. Emrys, he heard again, this time pleading.
"Did you see a scary rabbit, Merlin?" Arthur teased.
Merlin stayed silent as the pull became stronger and made him feel slightly dizzy.
"You know, I would normally call you a girl, but Guinevere is here and she's not acting as if she's seen a ghost. So I'm not entirely sure what that makes you."
"Umm, I'm sorry about this, but I have to pee," he blurted. Arthur and Gwen froze, baffled, as he scrambled away.
This tug of magic was unusual. If he stopped, he began to feel dizzy, but he was fine as long as he kept moving forward. This is meant to be, Emrys, he heard. Which made Merlin want to dash in the other direction. He didn't want to deal with any destinies or prophecies or any predictions of doom right now. He paused, trying to ignore it. But once again, he felt dizzy when he stopped.
"Merlin?" he heard the concerned voices of Arthur and Gwen calling, far behind him.
He halted where he felt the pull of magic the strongest. "Who's there?" he called.
"It's me," an old voice called. Directly in front of him, a figure appeared out of nowhere. Merlin focused for a while, and felt a sense of dread at realizing who he was.
"You're Taliesin," he said. The old man smiled, and nodded. What was going on? They were nowhere near the crystal cave, and yet this old sorcerer had found him, and used some sort of magic to call him there, apparently. It felt strangely out of place. "But you're supposed to have been dead for three hundred years. How are you here?" Merlin heard a snap in the bushes behind him, but he was too focused on the magic before him to turn away.
"That is not important," he said cryptically. "What is important is that you were brought here in this very moment in time."
"No," Merlin protested, threateningly. "I'm not falling for that again," he tried to move away, but he cried out in pain and crumpled to the ground as his legs resisted. Wide eyed, he pushed himself to his feet. "What have you done?"
Taliesin smiled. "I have done nothing. It is you who tried to resist your fate."
Annoyed, Merlin snapped. "Listen. I don't have time for this, alright? I just watched as my best friends almost murdered an innocent girl, and they did murder her brother. I'm doing everything in my power not to blast them to pieces right now. So could you please not make anything worse?" Merlin heard a rather loud crash behind him, and a startled gasp. He instantly regretted his words, but said nothing else. He tried to turn his head, but his vision went black when he looked away. "And what on earth is going on back there?"
The old sorcerer chuckled. "That is not of any concern."
"It is certainly my concern! If we get attacked by bandits or something—"
"They are not bandits. They will not harm you. So long as you choose your words carefully."
Merlin gaped. How did that sorcerer think that was supposed to calm him?
"But this is not the moment for them to harm you. And they won't ever, physically. So there is no need to worry."
"Why does that not reassure me?" he mumbled.
"It is time for you to follow me, Emrys," Taliesin waved his hand, beckoning him forward.
Merlin stayed there, refusing to budge. He was not following that tricky old man ever again.
The old man sighed. "Very well." He held his hand out to the side, and Merlin jumped as a crystal appeared. Immediately, he felt an overwhelming wave of magic wash over him, begging him to move forward, and he recognized the crystal as coming from the Crystal Cave.
"What are you doing?" he demanded once again. Taliesin gave him a pitying look.
"Since you are not coming to fulfill your destiny at the Crystal Cave, I am bringing the teachings of the cave to you."
"Stop this," Merlin warned, the ground and trees beginning to spin as he resisted.
"Only you can stop this, by fulfilling the fate the crystals have planned for you since the beginning of time."
Merlin rolled his eyes. He really did not have time for anything like this right now.
"Look into the crystal, Emrys. See what is hidden to all but you."
"The last time I did that, I nearly killed Morgana and almost let her murder King Uther. Oh, and she found out that she was Uther's daughter and went even more revenge crazy. Do you want something like that to happen again?" Merlin could hear someone shouting in the background, but his mind was too fuzzy to make out whom.
The sorcerer gave him a sad, desolate look.
"Why are you doing this?" Merlin pleaded. He heard some more rustling in the bushes and tried to turn, but the magic kept him focused forward.
"Sometimes, the truth may sneak up on us, whether any of us are ready to face it." Taliesin held the crystal out in front of him.
"NO!" Merlin screamed, clutching his head as he felt its magic beckoning him to look, stronger than ever before. Why was one crystal affecting him so much? "Go away! I'll blast it to pieces before I look! I have enough m—" his throat tightened unnaturally and cut off his statement.
"Choose your words wisely, Emrys," Talesin replied.
Merlin's throat relaxed, and he began shaking. That was extremely unnerving. And why was this crystal calling to him so desperately? There was only one of them, not an entire cave. Either Talesin had cast some unusual sort of spell, or there was something even more unusual going on... He willed himself to stay put as the single crystal beckoned him, the rest of the world beginning to melt into a haze. He began to sway.
Then he felt someone grab him as he began to fall. "Merlin!" He froze at hearing Gwen's voice.
Then, to his horror, he saw Arthur hobbling up. "Merlin, who are you talking to?" he called.
Exasperated, Merlin pointed. "Him!" Although the world now seemed wavy and dream-like, he saw that Talesin smiled back and waved.
"Merlin," Gwen began cautiously, "there's no one there."
"That old man! Currently waving at us!"
Both Arthur and Gwen exchanged alarmed glances.
"You don't…" Merlin mentally slapped himself. He should have realized that normal people probably didn't see three hundred year old sorcerers back from the grave.
"I think we need to get you to Gaius," Arthur said. Merlin didn't object as Arthur hobbled over and tried to pull him away.
But his magic did. It recoiled on him on the inside, burning and wrenching, and his head snapped towards the crystal. His vision became spotted and some ethereal voice frantically whispered as he was forced to back away. He stared into the sorry face of Taliesin as his stomach dropped and the ground smacked him in the face.
The next thing Merlin was aware of was his feet dragging on the ground and someone holding him up underneath his arms. He was moving rather slowly.
"Arthur, I told you not to climb up into that tree." He heard Gwen's voice just above him.
"I wanted to see who he was talking to, and—" he winced, "I couldn't see anything from the ground. The grass was too tall."
"And, ahh!" Merlin felt Gwen stumble. He had concluded that for some reason, she was dragging him backwards through the forest while Arthur walked beside her.
"I'm sorry, Gwen, but I can't move any faster. Not without any horses."
"If I remember correctly, it was your idea to not take any. You wanted to 'stop and smell the roses.'"
"I did not say that!"
Merlin could feel Gwen's eyebrows raising at him.
"And besides, this builds strength of character. Argh!—" Merlin heard him trip and land on the ground.
"Arthur, you shouldn't be walking on that," Gwen said, soothingly. "You're going to make it worse."
"I don't have a choice," he responded. "How else am I going to get back?"
"I could have run back and sent out some knights, with horses."
There was a long pause, and they continued moving again, Merlin deciding to pretend to be unconscious for a little while. Besides, he did feel a little wobbly. "Gwen, you know how slow that sort of thing can be. There's usually tons of paperwork to declare someone missing, and then they have to have directions, and they have to prepare. Then they would have to find us in the first place. It can take forever."
"Arthur, it certainly wouldn't have been that much longer. You're the King of Camelot."
"Passing out is serious, Gwen. Especially when someone acts that disoriented. Even a few minutes could make a difference."
Merlin felt himself freeze when he realized what Arthur was saying. He was actually… worried about him. Albeit unnecessarily, since he was perfectly fine right now. His eyes just… felt better closed.
There was a long silence as they continued bumbling through the woods.
"He still blames us," Arthur said, limping along. "He thinks we're murderers."
"You did what you thought was right, Arthur. And I supported you."
"But I don't understand," he said, crying out slightly. Merlin deduced that he must have injured a leg, ankle, or foot. "Why does the right thing feel so wrong?"
Merlin felt a pang in his chest and felt sorry for the king. He wanted to say that he hadn't actually done the right thing, but Gwen spoke too soon.
"Maybe… you don't have to follow your father's path, exactly," she offered.
"Well, you already aren't completely copying it. You knighted some commoners. You married me. And Arthur, you've always been a better man than your father."
Merlin decided to pretend to be unconscious for the remainder of the trip. "But it's magic, Gwen. Getting rid of it was my father's life's work. Surely he didn't get that much wrong, did he?"
"I'm not saying that," Gwen said. "But maybe you could… banish them, instead. Or maybe, punishment isn't always necessary…"
There was a long pause before Arthur spoke again. Merlin slightly cracked his eyes, and thought he could see Arthur nodding. "I never told you what Merlin said."
"What did he say?" Gwen asked, kindly.
"He said that executing sorcerers was… genocide."
Merlin felt Gwen stiffen as they halted.
"What if he's right? There were all those children who drowned in the Great Purge, and even that little boy this morning." Arthur's voice broke slightly.
Merlin could hear the sounds of people out and about, as it was now well into the afternoon.
"But then it seems to corrupt so much. Like most of the sorcerers we meet. And…" he swallowed. "Morgana."
Merlin waited curiously to hear Gwen's response.
"I don't know that much about magic," she admitted. "So I probably shouldn't be one to judge. But I think in the end, you'll be able to tell who's innocent and who's not."
As they made their way up to the castle entrance, Merlin didn't know whether to be angry or thankful for her simple evasion of the topic.