"NO!" Cried Merlin, stepping in front of Arthur. "Merlin what are you doing?"
"Move boy. This is not your fight." Growled Atone, Witch of the Grove.
"I cannot let you hurt him."
You dare go against me? The high Witch of the Grove? I have magic you have never even heard of boy. I will rule Camelot. The old religion will RULE AGAIN!
Flames roared from Aisne's outstretched hands towards Arthur, towards Merlin. A look of glee plastered the witches face.
COMBA HENTH TIA MORTE!
Merlin's eyes glowed gold. Anthem flew across the great hall, skirts billowing. She looked like a bird. A loud crack filled the hall. Atone slumped against the wall like a rag doll and like a doll, never moved again.
Merlin lowered his hand slowly. The spell had drained him. He thought of what he had done. His secret was out. His magic was known. He looked over his shoulder hesitantly at the King.
Arthur's eyes were still fixed on the witch. He couldn't look at Merlin. His brain could barely comprehend what had just happened. Other's voice suddenly flooded into his mind. Magic. It said. Magic in Camelot will not be tolerated under penalty of death.
"Guards" whispered Arthur, "take him away..."
Two soldiers grabbed Merlin's arms, forcing him to walk the length of the great hall the ominous doors. Merlin tore his eyes from Arthur. He saw Gaius, standing silently by the window, a single tear rolled down his whiskered cheek. A sharp jab brought Merlin back. The great oak doors of the hall closed behind him with a noise that shook the castle. He had failed.
Merlin sat alone in the corner of his cell. Unyielding iron bracelets cut his wrists and bound him to the cold, damp wall. An icy breeze stabbed at his face like tiny daggers. Yet Merlin was unaware. He was lost in thought. He was not sorry for what he had done. He had done his duty. Saved the King from death. That was his destiny. Yet he had hurt a friend. Betrayed his brother. He was sorry. Truly sorry.
The iron cage creaked open and two guards in red cloaks entered. Percival and Gwaine. They looked down on him. Pity filled their eyes for the fate of their friend.
"The king will see you now Merlin."
Arthur sat on his throne, his crown in his hands. His best friend. His brother. He didn't know what to think. What do I do? Follow the law? Burn the warlock? Arthur cringed at the thought. He couldn't. Not after everything they'd been through together. Maybe it had been a trick? Maybe he was mistaken? Somebody else must have cast that spell not Merlin! Not the foolish man-servant who could barely walk three steps without falling over! Not his friend.
At that thought. Like magic (Arthur shook the word from his head) the great doors opened and Merlin, chained with two guards on his arms crossed the floor. The arms pushed Merlin to his knees in front of the King and bowed themselves out, leaving nothing but the boom of the doors. Arthur stared at Merlin. And Merlin stared at the floor.
"Is it true?"
Merlin looked up. "What?"
"Prove your magic." Arthur still clung to the thin hope of Merlin's innocence.
Merlin gazed at Arthur, then down at his bound hands. "Sinieth" he whispered. His eyes glowed gold and the chains clattered to the floor, echoing around the room. Merlin's hands froze, as if still bound.
Rage flared in Arthurs' eyes. "Why didn't you tell me Merlin? Am I not worthy of your trust? Do I need to prove myself to you?"
"No. I couldn't. You don't understand…." Merlin stammered under the tidal wave of questions and accusations.
"What don't I understand Merlin? What have I done to make you think you can't trust me?"
"I COULDN'T!" Merlin shouted, Looking up at an enraged Arthur. "I couldn't don't you see?"
Merlin got up from his knees and faced his best friend, his king. "I couldn't tell you. It was my secret, my burden. I couldn't let it get out. Uther would have burned me. You would have thrown me in prison. Keep the magic secret.
"I am not my father. I could have protected you…"
"It was not you job to protect me it was mine to protect you."
"I am the King of Ca…."
"I HAVE SAVED YOUR LIFE MORE TIMES THAN YOU KNOW"
Merlin roared. Years of pent up anger and frustration flooded out of him like an open wound. He could not control it.
Arthur stood silent, staring at Merlin.
"Have you never wondered why it was always so convenient that the building would collapse, or a gust of wind blow the torches over right when you had nowhere else to turn? That wasn't a coincidence Arthur. That was me. Me, saving your life, saving Camelot."
The tables shook under Merlin's rage. Arthur couldn't speak.
"And did I ever get any thanks? No! But I still stay by your side. I am your ever faithful servant Sire."
Sire. Arthur turned to face him. Merlin was shaking. There was a fire in his eyes. Arthur skimmed through the questions, swimming through his head.
"Sorcery in banned in Camelot…"
"I know." Merlin bowed his head. "Arthur I have never used my magic only to help you achieve your destiny…."
"What destiny?" Arthur roared, unable to control his anger.
"You are to become the Great King of Camelot. You are meant to make history, change the world Arthur."
"Who told you this?"
Oh crap. How could he say 'the dragon told me' without making things worse? Not that things could go much worse…
"Everybody. Nobody. Druids, ancients, it's your destiny Arthur. I'm sorry but you can't change that." (Trust me I know…)
"Who else knows?"
"Only Gaius. But don't punish him. He didn't teach me. I was born with this. I can't help what I am. I can't change what I was born to be"
Arthur froze. His mind flashed back. He had never chosen to be king. He had no choice but to bear the responsibility. He couldn't change who he was born to be. He collapsed into the chair.
"My Lord…" Merlin began
"Merlin don't. Just shut up ok?"
Merlin stayed silent. He looked back down at his hands. It seemed like hours before a word broke the heavy silence.
"Merlin I can't let you go. Not after this. The law must be up kept or you know anyone could just…." He was stammering.
"I know Sire." Whispered Merlin, eyes locked on his frozen hands.
"The guests who seen you. If I didn't do something they would…."
"My Lord. Its ok, I understand." Merlin looked up. Arthur's eyes were red.
"I'm so so sorry. If there was any other way Merlin I swear…"
The guard returned through the ominous doors. Their vice grip trapped Merlin's arms as they steered him from the hall. Merlin's eyes never left Arthur. There was nothing he could do.
Merlin had never been truly alone. It felt like a hole had been torn through his stomach. He felt empty of feeling. Empty of hope. He felt alone.
Night had fallen on Camelot. Huddled in the corner of his cell the boy tossed and turned in a vain attempt to put the day's events from his mind.
A familiar voice drifted into his mind.
He groaned, when you brain starts calling you, you know you're going mad…
"MERLIN! For Christ sake will you wake up before we both get caught!?"
That was a strange thing for his brain to say… He opened his eyes. Peering through the darkness he spied a hunched figure.
"Merlin I don't have much time. The celebration continues tomorrow in the Great Hall. All the guests will be back. That may be the only time to save yourself"
"Gaius how? Arthur can't accept magic what will I do?"
"Twelve noon. Don't be late. I have to go Merlin"
With that he turned and left. Merlin gazed after him. An idea had lit up his head.
Sunrise illuminated the kingdom of Camelot. It poured through the bars of the cell. Merlin sat waiting for it. His plan was in motion.
"Sinieth" the chains fell from Merlin's wrists. Only this time he caught them before they fell. "Oscaill" the iron door creaked open. Merlin had to protect Arthur.
The castle lay before him. Guards blocked every entrance. Thankfully his 'rewarding' job as the princes' lackey had taught him all the secret passageways, all the unused corridors. He could easily slip by unnoticed. As a servant should be.
He came to the side door of the Great Hall. It was used by servants and maids to bring the feast. "Oscaill" his eyes glowed gold. The door swung open and Merlin ducked behind a tapestry.
The Great Hall was full of honoured guests and there, sitting at the top table was King Arthur of Camelot.
The only way he could continue to protect Arthur was if yesterday had never happened. If Arthur had never found out of his powers. If he forgot everything.
"Dearmad tudo taibhse"
Liquid gold enveloped Merlin's eyes. The crowed fell silent. In Merlin's mind he saw the events as they had seen them. A young boy with a red scarf, eyes of gold, standing in front of the shocked King. A witch flying backwards.
Now he saw the world through Arthur's eyes. He saw himself on his knees. He saw the chains fall. He saw the rage and anger in his eyes. And then the pity.
"Amuigh" he said. The memories left Arthur and the guests. Merlin took a deep breath and found his strength. He had had no choice.
Arthur looked around. "Merlin" he called. "Where's the wine? You've been ages. Don't say you dropped it again Merlin honestly!" He saw the concern in his best friends' eyes. "Merlin, are you ok?"
It had worked. Relief and guilt flooded through Merlin's body. He knew he shouldn't have manipulated Arthur but what else could he have done?
"Coming, my Lord" he replied leaving for the kitchens. His secret was safe once again even though at a cost.
But he must keep the magic secret.